Believe it or not, but I can walk into any Fifth Avenue store and not immediately think about the financial markets, class warfare, the history of New York culture, or whatever connection the store may have to literary history. I can walk into Gucci's handsome newly-designed store, like I did this afternoon, hold a $335 wallet in my hand and think good thoughts about craftsmanship.
When I'm in the right mood, shopping becomes a process of critical thinking, an exercise in description, analysis, judgment, and interpretation. I can hold a Gucci wallet in my hand and examine the repeated logos, contemplate its grays, greens, and reds, compare it to others like it, and appreciate the craftsmanship. The wallet I picked up today, one of many nicely showcased as singular objects of desire, felt good. It had heft. The fasteners were heavy and hard, as if the wallet would not relinquish its contents without deliberation and thought. I contrasted the wallet with the ancient alligator Anne Klein in my purse, so worn that the change compartment is prone to spewing its contents all over the floor at the supermarket check-out line.
As discussed in the previous post, I came to Fifth Avenue this afternoon not for a Gucci wallet but for a jacket. I brought with me a vague idealization of what it should look like so that I would be open to variations on the theme. I also discussed in the post that the original fantasy stems from an experience I had in northern Italy, so it made sense to roam these blocks of pricey retail as they serve as home to stores bearing the names of Gucci, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Pucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, and coming in Spring 2009, Armani.
Other stores along the stretch of 5thAv between 59th St and 52nd St. include Bergdorf-Goodman, Fendi, Van Clef and Arpels, Henri Bendel, Harry Winston, Tiffany and Co., Abercrombie & Fitch, and also Gap, Brooks Brothers, a Disney store, a Lindt chocolate shop and an NBA store. I'm forgetting others, but I made my way into several of these places looking for my jacket. As I also discussed, I like to wear $44 jeans but I'm partial to the $444 jacket. I eventually found the very one I wanted. I walked into Brooks Brothers and asked an associate to show me what she had in the way of jackets in the "Brooks Sisters" section, as I called it, and there it was, a soft fitted light brown wool jacket with pleasing pockets and detail. All mine for $446. I didn't buy it, but I did appreciate it, just like I can walk into an art gallery and admire a painting without having to sit down and write a check.
I bought one thing on my excursion uptown this afternoon - a $24.95 leather case for my spouse's iPhone at the crowded Apple Store on 59th and Fifth. While checking out, I learned that about ninety percent of the customers at this particular Apple location are tourists, and they line up in long lines because they're paying in cash. (God bless 'em. Welcome to New York.)
After my trip to Fifth Avenue, I walked to the subway stop and got on the downtown E train for the ride home. After taking my seat and mindlessly reading the subway ads along the walls, my eyes came to rest on a well-dressed man seated further down the car on the opposite side. I was completely startled. I recognized the man as my spouse. After sharing our delight in this unusual happenstance, I had the joy of surprising him further by handing over the only item I bought this afternoon on Fifth Avenue, the phone case, a gift for him.
Images: above, Salvatore Ferragamo store, and below, Pucci and Bottega Veneta stores, Fifth Avenue, New York, New York.
Find out where I finally bought a jacket.