High Life

Memo to Socialites: Ditch the Birkin, Save a Fish

March 10, 2010

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Memo to Socialites: Ditch the Birkin, Save a Fish

New York seems to be full of people who go to shop openings and social events just to be seen. I don”€™t much care for these parties because I would rather see my friends privately, and have an actual conversation, than feign interest in something I don”€™t care about like a handbag with Tinsley Mortimer’s name on it. Being photographed at one of these events in the hope that I might appear in some magazine that will be looked at by people I don”€™t know isn”€™t the sort of validation I was brought up wanting. I would prefer instead to be liked for my ability to think independently, or better yet, my valuable contributions to society if ever I make any. Furthermore, the idea that I might be deemed important enough, or that I might take myself seriously, especially without having the accomplishments to support the adulation, would be totally unwarranted and ridiculous, like Paris Hilton. 

Against my initial instincts I attended a screening at Soho House recently for The End of the Line, a documentary about fishing. I went not because I secretly do want to be seen at so-called chic events, but because my pal asked me to, and because I thought I might learn something. Dennis Paul and his sophisticated wife Coralie exhibited the film as part of their React to Film campaign, intended to spotlight a variety of issue-based documentaries for fashionable New Yorkers. The invitation email said they try to provide an enlightened alternative to the average screening, which they say is often upstaged by celebrities and photographers. This also peaked my interest, especially since a handful of names like Kelly Rutherford, Dylan Lauren, and Nigel Barker were attached to the event.

“Birkins are an obnoxious display of wealth, which is neither stylish nor elegant. Over-exposure has squandered Birkins dignity, and turned it into nothing more than the applauded trend of silly nouveau-riche socialites thin enough to fit into these suitcases they call handbags.”

When I got to Soho House I ran right into a trio of socialites and wannabe celebrities being photographed. My first instinct was to turn around and walk out. Instead I sat down and watched the room full of fashionites mingle before the show. I couldn”€™t help but notice how many women were carrying enormous handbags. I wondered what they could possibly need to require such humongous “€œpurses”€. Were they all Avon ladies toting merchandise for sale? Surely none of them contained any works of fiction, encyclopedias, life-saving equipment, or even gym clothes. So what is it with these bags that are not dinky purses but carry-ons that could only ever be filled by someone taking a long-distance trip? I suppose Birkins are a status symbol no fashionable person wants to live without. Every so-called stylish woman has one. But who are we kidding, Birkins are an obnoxious display of wealth, which is neither stylish nor elegant. Over-exposure has squandered Birkins dignity, and turned it into nothing more than the applauded trend of silly nouveau-riche socialites thin enough to fit into these suitcases they call handbagss.

After a few short minutes of people watching I was antsy, and so I grabbed my lesser known Hermes bag and went to the screening room in search of a good seat. As it turns out the documentary was produced by my old friend, Alexis Zoullas. At last someone I wanted to see, and so I discovered the film was based on a book by British journalist and fisherman Charles Clover, chronicling the big business surrounding the world’s edible fish. The documentary suggests underwater populations are in danger from overfishing. Scientists and other experts outline the history of commercial fishing since the 1950s, the effects of which have apparently devastated many underwater ecosystems. According to the filmmakers however, the future for fish-eaters is grim unless we take a more ecological approach to fishing rather than a covetous one. Species like the bluefin tuna are fetching such exorbitant prices, it seems likely they will go the same way the as cod that were wiped out by over-fishing. Despite the sad realities that will no doubt upset nature lovers, The End of the Line paints a surprisingly optimistic picture of the future if action is taken on an individual level now.

React to Film seems a positive step taken by socialites that deserve a good rap because they are actually doing something other than trying to have their picture taken by Patrick McMullan. Of course, this point is still debatable. Coralie and Alexis, for their part, deserve kudos for moderating an intelligent and informative question and answer session which left me feeling more equipped to make good decisions regarding my consumption of fish. Bluefin tuna is no longer on my list of fishes to eat.

But I wonder, can one really make a difference? I hate to think of the arrivistes with five bucks in their pockets who will no doubt need to show off at Nobu and continue to order bluefin by the pound. Perhaps I am rushing to judgement. But do people realize they are spoiling their own oceans? When they stop enjoying cruise ships and mega yachts and polluting the ocean like there is no tomorrow I will believe them. Until then I might dump poster-sized flyers in all those Birkin bags explaining why nothing spoils a good thing like popularity, and why Ivana Trump had it wrong when she said “€œdon”€™t get mad, get everything.”€

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