PER­SPEC­TIVE

Mul­ti­me­dia sto­ry­teller Mal­i­bongwe Ty­ilo shares why lux­ury is a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence

House and Leisure (South Africa) - - Contents -

One of my favourite lux­ury brands is Cape Town-based Mis­si­baba, which makes a beau­ti­ful range of leather bags. I own one and, as I’ve never been a del­i­cate type, I’ve treated it hor­ri­bly over the years as my daily bag – yet it’s still in great shape.

Some years ago, we were at Mis­si­baba’s Bree Street branch and a friend of a friend went into the shop to take a look. When he came out, he ques­tioned their prices, ask­ing why he would bother buy­ing one of their bags if he could get a Gucci for the same price. We were amazed by his lack of con­sid­er­a­tion for the prod­uct, for the crafts­man­ship, the cre­ativ­ity, and the time spent on mak­ing it. It wasn’t be­cause he’d seen a su­pe­rior Gucci bag; he didn’t even have a par­tic­u­lar style in mind. All that mat­tered was that it was Gucci. To be clear, I have noth­ing against Gucci – in fact, I adore the la­bel for the amaz­ing pieces it cre­ates, but the idea that this name alone in­stantly makes its prod­ucts bet­ter than high-qual­ity lo­cal of­fer­ings is straight-up of­fen­sive to me.

Per­haps I should have been more pa­tient with this po­ten­tial any-Gucci-bag-will-do buyer. After all, I grew up in the same South Africa, where ev­ery­one had a ten­dency to view things as bet­ter and more lux­u­ri­ous if they came from the mys­te­ri­ous lands col­lec­tively known as ‘over­seas’. His de­ci­sion as to what brands and items would be wor­thy of his money was likely in­formed by the mes­sages blasted through TV screens and ad­ver­tis­ing in gen­eral. That’s some­thing I know all too well.

As a child, those same TV pro­grammes and ads taught me that lux­ury was some­thing highly de­sir­able. They also taught me that luxe items were shiny, glit­tery and ex­pen­sive. I couldn’t re­late – ac­tu­ally I found most of them quite re­pul­sive. Even­tu­ally, I de­cided that the rich as seen on TV ob­vi­ously lacked taste. And be­ing one to throw the baby out with the bath­wa­ter, for years I hated any­thing gold or gold-plated, and di­a­monds too. And don’t get me started on the faux baroque fur­ni­ture of the ’80s. I should men­tion here that I was a child dur­ing that decade, on a reg­u­lar diet of soapies such as Dy­nasty. As much as I adored Alexis Colby and crew, I was never fond of their gaudy trap­pings.

Re­cently, a col­league and I in­ter­viewed Bri­tish-Nige­rian de­signer Tokyo James. The con­ver­sa­tion led to the ques­tion of lux­ury, which he de­scribed as ‘a com­bi­na­tion of at­ten­tion to de­tail and time’. I ab­so­lutely love this def­i­ni­tion. As I’ve come to a much more per­sonal un­der­stand­ing of lux­ury, I’ve since made peace with the shiny sig­ni­fiers of op­u­lence that I once hated. They, too, can be a re­flec­tion of at­ten­tion to de­tail and time spent. The same goes for those covetable Gucci pieces – and those Mis­si­baba bags. Although gilded sur­round­ings do not im­bue me with a feel­ing of lux­ury and good taste, I ap­pre­ci­ate that for some­one else this might be so. And that’s OK, be­cause the con­cept of lux­ury should al­ways be per­sonal, be­yond pre­scrip­tion.

One of my more mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences of lux­ury is when I stayed at a ho­tel on a farm in the Cape Winelands, in a sim­ple, no-fuss, plaas-style room. What grabbed me as I walked in was the mas­sive fire­place, where the fire looked as if it had been go­ing for at least 30 min­utes. ‘How thought­ful,’ I thought.

Then the room, the bath­room, the bed – ev­ery­thing – looked and felt large and gen­er­ous. The decor was min­i­mal, in a clean and un­pre­ten­tious way, and dec­o­rated with nat­u­ral fab­rics in neu­tral tones. Be­ing a farm, there was space all around, and although only 40 min­utes from Cape Town, it felt as if we were in a re­mote vil­lage. And this was just one of their stan­dard rooms at a stan­dard price.

Some­times I write about prod­ucts and places that mar­ket them­selves as lux­u­ri­ous, and I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to sam­ple a wide va­ri­ety of ex­pe­ri­ences, prod­ucts and places. Time and again, in sim­ple, al­most ru­ral en­coun­ters, and in pieces crafted slowly from nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, I’ve felt clos­est to my per­sonal def­i­ni­tion of lux­ury. For me it is found in straight­for­ward items and ex­pe­ri­ences that re­flect the cre­ator’s gen­eros­ity with their time, both in learn­ing their skill and in cre­at­ing the end prod­uct, plus their gen­eros­ity with the at­ten­tion they lav­ished on ev­ery sin­gle de­tail. mal­i­bongwe

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