From Westender.comON THE COVER: Hunters and collectors (buffy mention)
Saturday 16 April 2005, by Webmaster
Online shopping offers a whole new world for the insatiable collector I collect antique teacups. And glasswear. I also own all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the CD from the musical episode. I’m starting on Angel next paycheque. Like everyone I know, I am a collector. Oh yeah, I forgot about the shoes. I have a shoe thing. Due to the confines of a West End one-bedroom, I keep some shoes in the oven (as divulged in a previous column), with the occasional unfortunate consequence. So, a passing shoe compliment given to my friend Sean about his Jill Sander lace-ups got me thinking. “Honey, I got them on eBay!” he reported. Hardly an earth-shattering provenance, I’ll admit, but I hate to be scooped. He, like our very own music editor, gets his most prized objects of desire from the ’net, while my online purchases have thus far limited themselves to a bi-annual order of tea from London’s Whittard of Chelsea. (I mentioned my teacup collection, no?) Despite repeated admonitions, I remained steadfastly ignorant of the fashion possibilities of the online auction. My best friend’s rousing speech about spreading one’s wings beyond the confines of Vancouver’s retail outlets and embracing a global retail community repeatedly fell on these deaf ears. Until now, that is. I covet his shoes. My name is Steven and I have a problem. “Hello, Steven.” That’s the salutation from this week’s cover girl, whom we shall call “Princess” (because she has a prized collection to protect). Princess is a friend of a friend and a die-hard eBay-er. Considering the anonymity of buying on eBay, it seems fitting that we have ‘spoken’ only through email. I don’t even know her real name. It’s all terribly mysterious. Flip back and look at the cover: she’s very pretty, great lip gloss. This is all I know about Princess, except that she collects handbags. Not just your run-of-the-mill Nine West carry-all you could find at Winners, but rare, mint-condition items: a Lucite purse from the ’50s; a wooden box purse from the ’60s. An unusual and very particular stream of acquisition, to be sure, but one that speaks of a deep respect for a forgotten aesthetic. While she usually shops for vintage and designer shoes, clothing, jewelry and accessories, her favourite items right now are those deliciously retro handbags, many with the original packaging intact. When asked why they strike her fancy, she responds like a true collector: “I think they’re pieces of art, and I like the fact they hold their value.” She has amassed a collection that speaks to 1950s North America and its misplaced optimism in a technologically superior future, and the disillusionment that followed some 10 years later. You might think that her vintage handbags are no more than electronically-acquired curios, but fashion has always been a window into the passions and fears of our past. Handbags as touchstones, an embodiment of their time: tangible, like arrowheads on an archeological dig. Princess began shopping on eBay about five years ago, not long after she got her first credit card. She is a devotee of the online auction, but an inveterate shopper in the more traditional sense. She trawls West 4th, Main, the Drive, Yaletown, Robson, even Richmond, and makes the occasional trip to Seattle as well. “I shop [on eBay] to find items I can’t find locally,” she says. “[It] has introduced me to things I’ve never seen or heard of before. It’s the fun of window-shopping at your fingertips, and retail therapy at your beck and call.” I am swayed but not convinced. What about that frisson that shoots up your spine when you touch the perfect cashmere V-neck or slip into the driving moccassins of your dreams? “I don’t experience the instant gratification which may come from buying something straight off the shelf, but I tend not to experience any buyer’s remorse either,” Princess replies. Well, fine. She makes sense, but something is holding me back. There is a deep divide between us. It’s not our philosophies. It’s not my techno-retardation. I’m just not feeling it. Oddly belligerent towards her serene disposition, I go in for the kill: What to do when you live in a small Vancouver apartment and you’re the proud owner of a raft of eBay finds? What then, huh? A life of acquisition ain’t all puppies and hugs. “I certainly wish I had more closet space, but if I’m in a pinch, I’ll temporarily store a few things in the oven - after I’ve unplugged it of course.” Of course. You unplugged the oven. Wish I’d thought of that.