Designer Labels Really Can Save The World

How to best spend your way out of a recession

Yes, I am a champagne girl at heart, but naturally enough I enjoy fine wines as well. And so it pained me to read Jancis Robinson’s assessment of the 2007 Bordeaux vintage as I leafed through The Financial Times the other day. “When I think about the all-important reds”, she lamented, “I find it difficult to think of wines I felt I absolutely had to buy.” We all know that feeling, don’t we? There, at our feet, the ultimate designer brands and labels … and we’ll buy, of course we’ll buy … but … will we be satisfied? Ironically, the problem with designer brands is their very uniqueness. You never really have that smug “seen one, seen ‘em all” feeling. Au contraire, they keep you off balance. As you drape yourself in the latest creation by Versace, Gucci, or the incomparably talented young Phoebe Philo of Chloé, you know they’ve done so much more this season. There are all the frocks you didn’t buy. And that’s before the accessories …

That’s the reason Jancis touched such a terribly melancholy chord, of course. Because when it comes to designer brands, there are none – absolutely none – more ephemeral than fine wines. The names trip off the tongue, Château Margaux, Château Cheval Blanc, Château Latour, Château Pétrus, Château Mouton-Rothschild … Château Cos d’Estournel just outside the little village of Saint Estèphe, with its magnificent carved wooden doors from the Sultan of Zanzibar’s palace (I’d love them!). And yet here they are … getting a bad review!

Ms Robinson was not to be mollified about the 2007s however. “Unusually, they are characterised by what they lack: alcohol, acid, ripe tannins … flavour”, she scribbled furiously. “I found few (château) proprietors who were not thoroughly conversant with the intricacies of China’s burgeoning love affair with fine wine … I would say that the top wines of 2007 will be of most interest to those for whom money is no object, and who feel they must drink Bordeaux at all costs – which, indeed, does boil down to Chinese plutocrats.” Oouch!

The only good news I could extract from such awful tidings was that Jancis does favour the 2007 Bordeaux whites. “White is the new red”, she writes, in sprightly style. And there at the very top of her list of sweet whites was my own firm favourite, Château d’Yquem, about which I wrote lovingly in our recent Vintage issue: “It’s made from individually hand-picked grapes to ensure the highest quality, which means that each vine, on average, produces just a single glass – yes, that is a single glass – of wine each year.

No surprise then that the majority shareholder in the vineyard is the French luxury goods manufacturer, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) – purveyor to the stars of everything from Moët et Chandon, Louis Vuitton and Christian Diorto Dom Pérignon, Givenchy and the timeless Emilio Pucci. But if the problem with these luxury brands is their uniqueness – then their most attractive quality is that they’re such a comfort.

I mean, in these days of food riots in third-world countries over the rising price of staples … in these days when “location, location, location” has been replaced on the lips of home-buyers the world over by “repossession, repossession, repossession” … in these days of endless BBC TV programmes presented by the unspeakable Graham Norton … in these days when global warming, not to mention global terrorism, threatens our very ability to take in the New York fashion shows as frequently as we’d like … well, in days like these, we need all the comfort we can get.

So here’s the plan: the world is in the grip of the worst financial crisis since … er, the dot.bomb of 2001, so the only sensible thing is to be guided by the great economist, John Maynard Keynes, and spend our way out of recession. He called it “pump-priming” the economy, and I’m all for it. So, as I sit here clutching my Cocco Lucido crocodile handbag by Prada – with passementerie detail, of course – I suddenly feel considerably better. It’s good to have a strategy. Where to start? I am something of “a bag lady” so to speak, and I’ve been yearning for a while after a beautiful Novak crocodile bag by Alexander McQueen. At just £6,645, I know in my heart of hearts that it’s a steal, but would my bank manager see it that way?

Being a purist, I also fancy a little something by Fifties Italian designer, Roberta di Camerino, whose bags once swung on the arms of Princess Grace of Monaco, Joan Crawford and Gina Lollobrigida, and who’s now so rarefied she’s virtually unknown outside of Florentine museum collections. That would be a really worthwhile investment. But to do real economic good it’s important that we spread the largesse around. So how about a little “throat couture”? I just happened to be passing Cartier the other day and noticed a charming little Caresse d’Orchidées platinum necklace with diamonds and rubellite drop. I know that retro floral prints are all the rage, and I must admit I thought it would sit perfectly with a classic floor-length belted chiffon tea-dress by Gucci that I have in mind.

Then maybe a simple black Gaspard Yurkievich top, a Hussein Chalayan skirt, a Zac Posen shawl, some Marc Jacobs heels or maybe even a pair of Christian Louboutin stilettos for special occasions … You get the idea.

However, the key words are “be discriminating” – because there’s no point whatsoever in saving the world only to have it filled with the standard Eurotrash diet of Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli that goes with a typical Costa del Sol “orangu-tan”. If that’s the best we can do, we might as well retire to an over-priced villa on the Black Sea coast and abandon the world to global warming … or whatever.