Monday, November 22, 2010

My Great Big Louis Vuitton Adventure

One evening my husband and I went to buy something from UB City. For those unfamiliar to Bangalore, UB City Mall is Bangalore's answer to L.A.'s Rodeo Drive and London's Bond Street. It houses big fashion names like Burberry, Stella McCartney, Lanvin, Salvatore Ferragama, Canali and some others. We were heading to the super elite Mont Blanc store, elegant as ever on the ground floor.

Now before you think we're one of those couples, let me clarify. We were going to Mont Blanc to get a refill which we hoped would not eat too much into our retirement fund. We popped in, chose the refill, enquired the cost, silently sighed with relief when we were told it was only Rs. 400 and after we got a bill in a fancy envelope for a skinny little refill we were on our way out.

Then something caught my eye.

The Louis Vuitton Store!

I had go in there, it was beckoning me. I was a moth to a flame. I was Gollum lusting after Frodo's ring. I was irresistibly drawn to the ever so familiar monogram and couldn't control myself. I told my husband I would meet him at the car and succumbed to the temptation.

And therein began my great big Louis Vuitton Adventure

I was immediately greeted by a smart young salesman, although he might be insulted by that description. He would probably prefer Sales Executive, that was far more dignified. He was a short and trim and about 28 years old, sharply dressed in an immaculate suit and understated tie.

"Good Evening Madam, how may I help you", he asked with a supercilious air.

"Oh no, nothing, I'm just looking around", I gushed awkwardly. Oh why did I decide to come in here, I thought to myself, this is so embarrassing. I should just go. This place is full of super expensive stuff. What on earth was I thinking.

As all these thoughts were going through my head, the little weasel said with barely hidden sarcasm, "Of Course".

Now that annoyed me. I knew I was out of my element, but he didn't have to insult me for stepping into these hallowed grounds. I put on my my most la-di-da, bordering on disdainful tone, "Actually, come to think of it  I am looking for something in particular."

"Yes Madam", his voice changing from condescension to potential respect.

"I'm attending an event shortly, and I need an evening bag, a clutch preferably, with shoes to match. Do you think you would have something along those lines?"

"I most certainly do", he replied. Now he was the one who was gushing. I was probably his first real customer of the day and it was eight in the evening. "But first, Madam, is this your first time to our store?"

"In Bangalore yes, but I am quite familiar with your stores in New York and Milan", I replied airily, fervently hoping he wouldn't ask me anything about them.

"I see. Well since this is your first time to our store here in UB City, would you mind if I showed you around?"

"Oh not at all"

"Certainly Madam, right this way.

He steered me to a section filled with wallets and ties.

"Here we have some of our smaller items. Our wallets are made of the finest quality leather. Would you like to see how soft it is?"

"Wow, that is extremely soft, what a treat to touch!" I replied gently running my hands over the wallet he had presented.

"Isn't it Madam", he countered, tickled to have received such a conducive response. He gestured over to the opposite counter. "And here we have some of our signature handbags. These are our traditional designs, the historic monogram and different styles of bags to suit varied tastes and preferences".

"Oh marvelous, simply marvelous. I've always been such a fan of the monogram"

Pleased as a pumpkin, he trotted down the corridor saying, "It's almost irreverent isn't it? A classic symbol of high fashion".

"Oh I couldn't have put it better myself", I remarked.

"And here you have the suitcases and luggage collection which was actually Louis Vuitton's primary focus originally".

"Oh is that so? I wasn't aware of that. Interesting", I remarked, appearing to be deeply consumed in his dialogue.

"Yes yes, very much. The pictures on the wall show some of the trunks that were specially made to order for some of the most famous names in the world. And this one here, is the trunk ordered by the Maharani of Jodhpur. You can see her name is engraved on the peice".

"You don't say!" I exclaimed incredulously. "The very same trunk used by Her Royal Highness herself".

"The very same", he replied proudly.

Feeling a giggle coming on, I had to turn away. Pretending to be a rich socialite was probably more fun than actually being one.

He wasn't finished. "Even today, Louis Vuitton takes orders for custom-made trunks but if this is not quite your style, we have a range of more modern luggage pieces as you can see here".

He waved his hand across beautiful suitcases, all arranged in height order with the monogram clearly recognizable on every one. I had seen those pieces dozens of times. Certainly not in real life of course. They were a common feature in movies, TV shows and magazines. The suitcases I was familiar with were slightly more battered, far more sturdy, bursting at the seams and usually just strewn around busy train stations.

"And finally here we have our collection of shoes, different styles for different tastes. Elegant and understated or youthful or trendy, we have it all".

"Oh extraordinary stuff - simply fabulous. Such a pleasure to see such beautifully made footwear. Even from a distance, you can make out the superior workmanship", I remarked, secretly observing that nothing looked youthful or trendy and whatever was elegant and understated was better described as old and boring.

We both stood in silence, I imagine he was allowing me to take a moment to fully admire the works of art.

"Now back to the evening bag. I think I have the perfect piece and I am sure you will just love it, it's young and hip and very much in vogue"

He took me over to a counter near the entrance of the store and indicated to the glass. Inside I saw the most grotesque and horrendous looking thing I had ever had the misfortune of setting eyes on. It was pink and furry with big shiny sequins and beads all over it. I honestly couldn't make out if it was a handbag or some discarded half eaten piece of cotton candy.

"Oh no no no" I shook my head laughing. "This is certainly not me, perhaps more like Paris Hilton's Chihuahua!".

He giggled conspiratorially, "I have to admit, its really not one of my favourites either". He glanced at a purse hanging on the wall. "Is this more to your liking?"

"Yes it is, let's have a look shall we?" I answered feigning interest.

As he handed it over he said, "This is one of our most timeless pieces. Wine red and perfectly crafted, it would suit almost any outfit, traditional or western. It is extremely popular as well. And the discrete placement of the monogram makes it a favourite with fashion divas".

It was so unbelievably ordinary. It was almost as if the designer was in a hurry and created the most normal looking purse he could think of. Was this really the best they had to offer?

"Its really pretty but a little too understated for me I think. Is there anything in between the pink nightmare and this?"

He looked around despondently, "No unfortunately not, these are the only evening bags we have"

"Alright, well I suppose it will do for now. Do you have shoes to match?" I asked, discretely rummaging through the purse to see the price. No luck!

"Yes we have a perfect match. Shall we head over to the footwear section?"

"Yes lets"

He reached out and picked out a pair of shoes. They were as plain as the purse. Nothing spectacular, just wine red leather with a very high heel.

"Here we are, as you can see it is perfectly crafted with the finest quality leather. And the color is identical to the purse".

"They're beautiful, extraordinary workmanship."

"Oh you have such a sharp eye Madam, would you like to try them on?"

"Yes very much". I tried on the shoes and began to walk. The heel was incredibly high and I felt the shoes slipping off as I walked. "I'm not sure if the size is right", I remarked.

"Oh its designed that way, so that the leather doesn't hurt the back of your heel as you walk", he replied with utmost confidence.

Wow! Now that was really absurd. In an effort to make shoes that don't hurt, they make shoes that don't fit.

"How thoughtful of the designer, " I declared. "And it is a perfect match to the handbag. How much for the set?"

"The shoes are Rs. 46,000 and the handbag is Rs. 65000", he responded informatively.

I almost tripped over my heels on hearing that. Good God! Over a lakh for such ordinariness? My cellphone broke the silence that ensued.   It was my husband, impatiently waiting in the car. "I'll be there in a minute", I told him grateful to have a reason to leave. This charade had gone on long enough.

"I must go now, my husband is waiting and he's getting quite impatient. We're having dinner in the plaza. What time do you close"

"Nine thirty", he replied disappointed. He really thought he was going to meet his monthly sales target with my single purchase.

"Oh we should be done by then. Is it alright if I come back then?"

"Of course Madam," he replied eagerly, "shall I keep these aside for you?"

"Oh yes, please do, I would be most disappointed if I came back and they were gone.

At that point our eyes met and it seemed like the heavens had opened up and knowledge was shining down on us. He knew that I knew that the handbag and shoes and almost everything else in the store would remain exactly where they were for the foreseeable future.

And I knew that he knew that there was no way I was ever coming back and even less of a chance that he was going to meet his sales target.

And off I went, he followed me to the door. We graciously said our goodbyes and thank you's and I exited through the monogramed doors. The security guard jumped up and saluted as I walked away.

The adventure was over.

I was relieved.

Not because I had successfully gotten away with the pretense of being a well-to-do socialite with money to burn. No, I was relieved because I had seen the fabulous Louis Vuitton store and I didn't like anything, I didn't want anything and I didn't feel bad that I couldn't afford anything.

I rejoined my husband in the car and and retrieved my most precious accessory, my darling little baby boy. He squealed as I hugged him and giggled as I tickled him. As we drove out of the mall, I reflected on what I had learned that day:

A pair of wine red Louis Vuitton Shoes - Rs. 46,000

A wine red Louis Vuitton Handbag - Rs. 65000

A happy drive home with my husband and son - PRICELESS.