Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Allure of Chanel

Honestly, if I could ever splurge on anything, it’d probably be on a Chanel handbag. They’re classy and elegant, and they are considered to be a “staple” in any woman’s wardrobe.

There are several reasons why many others like me may find the brand Chanel appealing. Firstly, there is the infamous logo, printed on every single product, whether it is shoes, makeup, perfume, or even clothing.The logo is two “C”'s mirrored off of each other with one "C" facing left and the other right, and the colors of the logo are black and white. Black and white are two of the simplest colors that exist in the fashion world and even in the whole world in general– take, for example, classic black-and-white movies. Chanel was founded in 1909, making it more than 100 years old and is still popular today. It is no longer just a company that sells materialistic items, but also a brand that is a symbol of the past. This idea of nostalgia takes over, and although Chanel was not a brand catered to us when we were young, its age has selling power in the fashion industry. I may be biased, but many would agree that Chanel has class, simplicity, and elegance to it that makes it appealing because of its timelessness. Even celebrities are attracted to the brand! I’ve seen countless images of celebrities carrying their Chanel handbags in their normal, everyday lives; that, in a sense, creates the sense that Chanel is approved by an upper class – the higher class that the royalty of our nation is in. Chanel has taken it to the next level with their advertisements and the use of celebrities as well. They have used celebrities like Brad Pitt and Keira Knightly to advertise their fragrances.

Why do companies turn to celebrities for the use of advertising or turn to timeless appeal for the use of selling their products? Both nostalgia and celebrities, in one way or another, are interesting to us. Humans have a drive to do better, or rather to be better, so the endorsement of celebrities give us an ideal standard to which we should abide by. Celebrities are fascinating to us because they are the epitome of what we want to look like and how we generally want to be. If we want to be more like them, we should want the same things that they want and buy the same things that they buy – this is the logic behind celebrities in advertising. The tricky thing about Chanel and brands like Chanel – Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Burberry – is that they have high value. They are known for having high prices. That in it of itself gives the purchasers who buy those brands a certain status; that alone is what makes the brand of Chanel so popular. It doesn’t help that the brand’s logo is plastered on all of its products, which helps the purchaser declare to the world that they own Chanel items. As humans, we all want to be noticed and seen and recognized, and we want to be seen in a pristine way that portrays us in a good light.

The timeless factor is not something we should look for in materialistic items, though. As “timeless” as Chanel may appear, it does not compare to the timelessness of God. He is, was, and always will be there. 2 Corinthians 4:18 has a good reminder for us: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” This is all temporary! Our life has more to it than what products label to be classic, show as celebrity-approved, or portray as nostalgic. The fact is that there is more to life than our own; looking to our past and having great memories is a blessing from God, but we must not forget the history that happened 2,000 years ago with the life and gospel message of Jesus. Not only that, but His story of His life, death, and resurrection points to the eternal, which is what Paul is encouraging us to focus on in 2 Corinthians 4 – the eternal life in Christ that no Chanel perfume or handbag could ever promise. Furthermore, these celebrities who humans idolize and hold as high and mighty have nothing on God! God is the one we should be lifting up and praising, not celebrities or the products that they advertise. Humans seeking to find comfort in nostalgia should look to Christ for comfort, and humans seeking to find status in nostalgia should look to Christ for the ultimate status of knowing being loved by the Famous One.

Every subculture has their own celebrities that they try to emulate and I don’t think that will ever change. It’s a natural part of the human experience to want to be like the people that are lifted up in our society, I don’t think that’s something we can change, so what we need to change is the people that we lift up as celebrities. I think our desire to claim someone as a celebrity goes back to that part of the human experience that is worship. We were created to worship a perfect holy God, it’s simply hardwired into our DNA. And I think that some of that crosses over, whether that’s right or wrong, into our views of other people and to an extent celebrity culture is inevitable. The use of celebrity in advertising is unavoidable. As long as we have advertising, companies will try to exploit our feelings toward celebrities to push whatever product or idea they’re selling. Knowing that, what option do we have as Christians but to embrace this inevitability and use it to our advantage? While the use of celebrities in advertising is something that we aren’t going to be able to get around, it’s not always a bad thing. Celebrities can be used as good role models for people across the country, especially young people who want someone to look up to. The following ad is from a group called Focus on the Family, a global Christian ministry that provides help and resources for couples to build healthy marriages and for parents to raise their children according to biblical principles.


The ad starts with a woman displaying a picture of a baby boy holding a football. She starts by saying “I call him my miracle baby, he almost didn’t make it into this world.” The woman in the ad is Pam Tebow, mother of Heisman winning quarterback and outspoken Christian Tim Tebow. Tebow is probably the most famous Christian athlete in the world right now and arguably the most famous athlete period in the United States. He is the epitome of celebrity. Tim Tebow did not choose to be a celebrity, but it’s something we as a culture, especially as a sports culture, have made him into. But there are worse things in the world than having a celebrity who endorses a company that claims as its belief, “Ultimately, we believe that the purpose of life is to know and glorify God through an authentic relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ.” Tim Tebow is a Christian celebrity that uses his celebrity status to point people toward the only one truly worthy of their worship, Jesus Christ. In this way celebrity and celebrity advertising can have a positive effect. While nobody will likely have a transformative experience where they accept Christ as their Lord and savior because they hear that Tim Tebow is a Christian, they might be directed to a place where they can have that transformative experience.

An American Classic

We all know what nostalgia is, but it is somewhat difficult to place a concrete definition on the word. Dictionary.com defines nostalgia in the following way: a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nostalgia?s=t). One brand which relies heavily on the use of nostalgia in order to promote its product is Steak ‘N Shake, “An American Classic.”
            Almost everything inside the restaurant is seemingly designed to remind customers of a diner from “the good old days.” Everything from the neon lights, to the clothing won by the employees creates this sense of nostalgia. The milkshakes, the food, and the overall atmosphere of the restaurant all work together in order to remind the customer of a time gone by. By appealing to our longing for a time in the past, Steak ‘N Shake is better able to market to customers.
            The way in which we are drawn to nostalgia provides some insight into our culture. When we are drawn to those things that remind us of a previous time, we are exhibiting a longing for better times, and a longing for the familiar. We cling to items or brands which remind us of the past because the past is familiar to us. The future is full of uncertainty, but by looking to these nostalgic brands, we are able to provide ourselves with a sense of security. The past, unlike the present and the future, is unchanging and familiar to us, and provides something stable to look to in times of uncertainty.
            The Bible has much to say on the subjects of uncertainty. As Christians, although our future is uncertain to us, we have the assurance that God has a plan for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’(NIV)” We know that our future is secure, and we do not have to look to the past for our security. Instead, we have the hope of an ever-present God who is able to provide our security when we are unsure about our future.
            The Bible also provides insight into what is perhaps the reason that we are drawn to nostalgic brands. According to the definition previously given, nostalgia is a longing for a return to the place where one is from. Perhaps the reason that we experience this longing is because we have not yet reached the place where we truly belong. This way of thinking agrees with the Christian worldview. Christians believe that we were created to live with God, and it is not until we reach heaven that we will finally experience true belonging. The words of Jesus reflect this truth, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19, NIV)”As Christians, we are called to live with our ultimate goal, heaven, in mind, and this is one of the reasons that we experience a longing for our true home.