How to Loose It


“How to Loose It,” Digital Illustration (©2008 Liz Hager)

As I fanned the Oxford pink sections of the weekend Financial Times across the breakfast island, I unexpectedly discovered an edition of the newspaper’s glossy monthly supplement How to Spend It nestled inside. A moment of confusion ensued. Normally this section arrives with the paper on the first Saturday of each month, but wasn’t Thanksgiving just around the corner?  A moment later the subhead registered—“how to spend it special celebration edition.”  Mystery solved, serious senior moment averted.  

It was thoughtful of the FT editors to issue an extra measure of cheer this holiday season. I mean this with all sincerity.  

I used to derive good amusement from the rag’s round up of über-glitz trends in European (mostly British) fashion and design. I used it as fodder for my design scrapbooks.  Inevitably, while perusing pages of the magazine, my initial scorn at its joyous touting of the chic accoutrements of the ultra-wealthy would end in unabashed admiration for much of the design aesthetic displayed on its pages. There was something to like in just about everything there. 

In a perverse way, How To Spend It convinced me that my own life, although a trickle-down version of the opulent lifestyle conjured up on its glossy pages, was still pretty darn good. 

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that my interest in the magazine grew more tepid with each passing month of disarray in the global markets and inexorablew rise in the unemployment rate. By the end of October, nearly 40% of my own savings had evaporated. Like everyone else, I was anxious. I found increasingly less delight in scrutinizing the design elements offered up by HTSI and became ever more obsessed with the obscene prices of things— “bespoke” (custom-made) stationery at £587 ($869.52), a Hermès pocket watch (£995/$1473.89), or Pippa Small’s yellow gold and Tibetan diamond ring for £14,600 ($21,803). All that came to mind was whether the people who bought these things before the meltdown were still buying them. Do the ultra-rich cut back in recessionary times? Do they “do without” (albeit on their own level) like the rest of us? I was downing in the myopia of money or, more accurately, the loss of my money.  I could no longer contemplate design for design’s sake. 

Something induced me peak inside the cover of this Saturday’s issue. Maybe it was the “special”-ness of it—a free gift during hard times—or perhaps it was the cover model’s dress with her Elsa Lancaster-like hair. Once inside, I found a lovely feature pronouncing “Velvet is Back,” and had a look at the dashboards of antique Aston Martins (the DB4 GT is valued at£1m+). Before I knew it, I had ripped out the review featuring the new Flip Mino.  

No doubt the path to collective economic recovery will be years in the making.  Despite this disheartening thought, there was a small seismic shift in my life yesterday. As a result I’m back to being a peeping Tom in the world of luxury design. I’m confident I will never purchase the vast majority of things promoted in HTSI, but the joy of design consumption has returned.            

In an odd way How to Spend It taught me how to loose it (money), and ultimately how to find it (the unhampered joy in beautiful things). Now that’s liberating.

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