Noelle McCarthy: Kicking my heels over luxury purchase

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I am obsessed with a pair of shoes. Have been for months now. And I can't buy them and it's all the fault of this bloody recession. It's not that I can't afford them - I've been working extra hours and squirrelling my wages away all summer with an eye on just that prize.

But now that it comes down to it, and I've got enough folding to actually go in there and make them mine, I'm funking it. I just can't do it, can't justify that sort of outlay on lovely, lovely, gorgeous shoes.

It seems too selfish, too profligate, given the state of the economy. This is extremely disturbing for me; things must be very bad globally if they're affecting my ability to shop.

I wrote a few months ago about the divine Marie Antoinette-ness of my life; the frothy rounds of parties, the constant eating of cake. That was mostly made up to make you jealous, of course, and also written back when it was easy not to care what was happening on Wall St or what some gimcrack investment outfits were trying to pull off over here.

We've seen the fruits of their labours now: the widespread layoffs, the mortgagee sales, a generation of retirees here in New Zealand facing the prospect of staying at work (if work will have them) or getting by on a pittance during what's supposed to be their reward for careful saving and being financially scrupulous.

Golden years indeed.

But what does that have to do with me and my shoes? How does my forgoing the luxury of hand-tooled stilettos help the planet? The global economy cares not one whit if I get around in those or in some man-made uppers all summer. Isn't now, in fact, the best time to be spending?

Flinging currency into the breach to prime the pump and get this economy purring along again? And in truth, fiscal stimulus doesn't come any prettier than a pair of petrol-blue Alexander McQueens with a raised platform and shiny serpent detail.

And if I can't buy shoes, what can I do? To make things better, to do my bit, to help out? That may seem like a startlingly, maybe even offensively naive question, but you have to remember I come from a generation of consumers. That's what we do. We buy things, it's who we are. Without a takeaway coffee to clutch, or an iPhone to fiddle with, we're nothing. We love stuff. We know our taste.

We spent a few decades honing it, and refining it and doing our extensive comparative researches all in a quest to get the best, in everything. And now, just when we're reaching the stage where we can afford to indulge our (carefully cultivated) tastes, along comes a monster of a global recession which makes conspicuous consumption about as acceptable as weeing on the street.

It's not the time for it, it's as simple as that. Not that people will stop buying beautiful, expensive things, be they shoes or houses or cars. Witness the grand sale of Yves Saint Laurent's artworks, one of the largest and greatest private collections going under the hammer at a time when business leaders and financial experts are invoking the dustbowl privations of 1930s America to hammer home to us the enormity of what's happening now.

And yet Saint Laurent's partner, Pierre Berge, is in no doubt that this collection will sell, perhaps in its entirety, to one single buyer. You could argue that there's never been a greater need for glorious art than in times such as these; times of doubt and uncertainty, stress and confusion.

Something to lift us from the depths of our daily travails and give us another perspective, another way of seeing the world. And my McQueen stilettos? Are they another way of seeing the world? Well, wearing them would be another way of having people see me, and I'd love the extra inches, the elegant spindly heels, not to mention the sparkly-eyed snake.

I'm not quite ready to be the rich bitch in designer platforms while everybody else is trying to pay the rent. But I could always just buy them and fling them in the back of the wardrobe for a few years.

Great art is timeless, after all.

- NZ Herald

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