Mind the income gap while getting off reality train

Mind the income gap while getting off reality train
Chanel's fall-winter collection was presented at the Grand Palais which was transformed into a supermarket. Inset: A Sheng Siong supermarket.

It was at first as fun as eating cake.

I was enjoying a YouTube recording of a playful Chanel runway show set in a spoof supermarket during the recent Paris Fashion Week.

This was nothing like one of my regular supermarkets, Sheng Siong.

Models strode along aisles where the French fashion house created more than 500 different labels and displayed more than 100,000 tongue-in-cheek items like Chanel-branded pasta, Coco beer bottles and detergents.

But the label's designer Karl Lagerfeld then said something that made me think the show inadvertently tugged at a tense thread in the fabric of today's society: the super-rich slumming it for kicks in the face of the increasing income gap.

He said that buying Chanel clothes did not mean "you are not allowed in the supermarket". True. "The last time, we did the art gallery - the supermarket for the super-rich," Mr Lagerfeld said of the setting for the brand's show last year. Then referring to the show last week, he added: "And this is a rich supermarket for everybody, the rich included."

Contrasty concepts are not alien to fashion presentations and photo spreads. Models with perfect haute couture gowns billowing against stained, peeling ghetto walls can be a beautiful visual. So I don't think there is a deliberate thumbing of noses at less wealthy people shopping in real supermarkets.

But these are sensitive times with major economies still slowly recovering, and Singapore recently getting the "world's most expensive city" tag, getting outraged by it, downplaying it and then getting outraged by the downplaying of it.

Some living and playing costs are going up for expats and locals, the rich and not-so-rich. The Wall Street Journal reports that the price of a quilted Chanel bag has on average risen by 70 per cent to US$4,900 (S$6,200) in the past five years.

I would like to report that the chee cheong fun from my usual stall went up from 90 cents to $1 recently. (The auntie sighed, haiyah, the stall rent and the prices of the ingredients rose, lah.)

Trimming my hair now costs me $12 instead of $10 if I want to avoid the long queues of a rival economical-haircut chain.

So, sensitised by these concerns, watching the fashion show went from frou-frou fun to seeing overtones of supermarket-shopping being so far out of the super-rich's orbit that the aisles transform into the exotic for them.

In my cake-fuelled mind, the supermarket scene in the Grand Palais, where the brand hosted the show, segued into a cinematic one portraying a mob furious over a huge income-gap problem.

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