Part 1: Consumption Experience
This reflection will analyze my latest consumer experience through the lens of the ‘consumption’ practice in the consumer consumption cycle (Arnold and Thompson 2005). I purchased my commodity, a wool-blend coat from the boutique Club Monaco at the CF Sherway Gardens Mall in Etobicoke on January 22nd, 2018. This wool Eldise coat is a timeless piece from the current winter 2018 season collection.
The initial rationale for me behind the coat purchase was to invest in something from a mid-to-high end brand so that the product is trendy, classy, and timeless because of my love for aesthetic design and originality. I wanted the coat to have an auxiliary utility to make a statement, and not just encompass a protective shield for my body from seasonal weather elements. The material, craftsmanship, and quality of the coat were all details I paid attention to when making my purchase due to personal taste. In the end, I settled for the modern delicately textured wool shell felt, that is satin lined, and complemented by supple lambskin panels at the sleeve cuffs. This commodity can be explained by the consumption level because it provides sensory feelings. I feel comfortable and content when I wear this coat. The coating material is very soft, sturdy and durable because it is composed of natural fabrics like wool and cashmere, which also assess the warmth factor.
Part 2: Classical Theory and Application
George Simmel conveys in his written piece that fashion has a social and class relationship (Simmel 1957). Simmel articulates fashion as a constant state of flux and replication (1957). Primarily the elites initiate trends that are followed by the lower social stratum. When the elites are ‘imitated’ by the lower classes, the elites desert their fashion in a constant state of equilibrium (Simmel 1957). Simmel discusses how clothing personalizes us by grouping us into different social categories. Not all people who are in the working class attempt to imitate the upper classes, and vice versa (1957). Fashion trends evolve, and the elites according to Simmel try to keep timeless items so that they do not get penalized for infractions in their fashion sense (1957).
A sociological examination of my experience from Simmel’s view might explain my situation as a case of individualization of class, that distinguishes my style personality from other individuals. Simmel claims that the elites use fashion for status, and not for the sole purpose which is to shield your body (1957). This is true in my case. My coat serves a greater function than just being a shell of protection for my body from weather elements, it also signifies a status symbol. It is different in terms of craftsmanship in other coats from lower-end retailers. This coat garment also supports the fragmentation of fashion, because it is a timeless piece. And although I do not belong in the elite class, and I am from a middle class background, the fact that I invested in a staple that is eternal, means that I am trying to discern my status from other people in terms of fashion. This means that my coat will not go out of style and the idea of it being trendy acquires status for me in a way, and I will not be penalized for wearing it longer than its designated winter season. The brand Club Monaco is also not very conspicuous in terms of using symbols to confer a status. In fact, it is unobtrusive because it is subtle, and the qualities of the coat could be distinguished through its exclusive natural material composition, only by elites, and people who follow the latest mass trends.
Part 3: Contemporary Theory and Application
According to the written piece by Eckhardt, Belk, and Wilson, some individuals attempt to invest in certain items profoundly, due to the product’s greater eminence (Eckhardt, Belk and Wilson 2015). According to this article, inconspicuous consumption is also very subtle because some products can only be deciphered by observers who are knowledgeable and have ‘cultural capital’ to comprehend variances in materials (2015). The meaning of some brands may not be clear to most people, for instance, a low and high-end brand coat may be hard to differentiate for people who cannot tell the differences in fabric and material between the two, to decipher looks. The article by Eckhardt et.al. also touches upon ‘cultural capital’, a concept by Pierre Bourdieu which translates into tangible and intangible assets that we as individuals possess, that provide us with social mobility (Eckhardt et.al 2015). The category objectified cultural capital confers to how status is attained through fashion and other material belongings (Eckhardt et.al 2015). Analogously, the sociologist Holt views cultural capital as distinctive tastes that influence individual perceptions, shaping consumption practices (Holt 1998 as cited in Bookman 2013). Eckhardt et.al also claim that inconspicuous brands are more authentic in comparison to loud conspicuous brands (2015).
A sociologist analyzing my situation of consumption from Holt’s view would claim that tastes are a part of the people’s ‘habitus’ (Eckhardt et.al) and this classification groups people into class order. Since the habitus is part of an individual’s upbringing, my taste preferences will be reflective of my own class’s milieu. Due to the high preferences, it is usually hard according to Holt to classify status from consumption items, individuals have the ability to classify between items. The commodity I consume is an inconspicuous item that can be misrecognized by most spectators unless they facilitate an interaction with it to decode it. So the Eldise coat is a subtle status symbol, that connotes some luxury but is not heavily branded. I decided to invest in this coat so that I could individualise my style from other people.