The International Brooklyn Luxury Market
There’s this hot little new essay in Williamsburg off the L. Rustic, natural, American: you’re going to love it!
The Brooklynification of luxury goods and services is an international trend that has been covered in such lit zines/blogs as the New York Times
Everyone is happy that people in Paris (Russian tourists) can finally get the kind of food cool Americans (Williamsburg residents) have been enjoying forever (~5 years). You don’t need to ask why, of course. But I kind of get a kick out of it, so here goes…
Also, I’ve perviously written about Williamsburg culture for The Atlantic, and as a kind of extension I feel I can comment on the exportation of “Brooklyn™” as a premium brand. Let me begin.
Fist, a few segmented things.
1) The quantity of ‘chic little spots’ in North Brooklyn is insane. Imagine the cutest little concentration of cute people in their 20s with cute wallets going to cute little places to eat and drink cute shit. Their offices in Midtown may be a lot less cute, but that’s beside the point. There’s work life, and then there’s homelife in Brooklyn. We want what we want. And what we want is cute.
2) Price is a huge factor: people can make a lot of money coding their products using this language of Brooklyn Authenticity. This goes for every product, from 14 dollar burgers sold as “working class” – to 3 million dollar loft conversions sold as “authentic.” I’m not even against these codes – I work in advertising. I just don’t understand why there are ALWAYS so effective. What feelings are we trying to have, pretending out lives are better with exposed brick, rustic tables, and Edison bulbs everywhere?
3) It’s insane macroeconomically: the cost of housing in Williamsburg is higher than anywhere else in New York City. I guess this is definite proof that “culture matters” but I’ll need to qualify that, indeed I may never be finished qualifying that.
4) It’s just beginning: the Brooklyn Nets are going to over-expose Brand Brooklyn beyond anything previously thought possible. Though perhaps, South/Downtown Brooklyn (being culturally distinct from the cultural vortex of North/Williamsburg/Greenpoint/Bushwick) has less fantasy and more reality to be expressed in association with it. The Nets will be playing in that area, an area that has consistently had money, big buildings, poor people, and shopping, since Dutch Manhattan. It seems like a more obvious place, less shrouded in bullshit. This lack of myth however, probably makes it less commodifiable. With a rich, distinct history revolving around a number of industries, sects, and cultural institutions (less art, fewer young people partying, fewer transplants), the South leaves less room to dream a totally artificial past – something that is always a theme in American geography.
5) The new urban realities of an America trying to kick fossil fuels make an urban american mythology not only appealing, but necessary. The tradition of American cities is old and um, not all great. Brooklyn is the places where the myth will be continue to be manufactured.
My theoretical assertions, made in Tweet-form yesterday:
Brooklyn luxury is (more than any other previously existing luxury trend) about performing an aesthetic autopsy on a dead middle class.
This is the big bold statement. Behind it is my belief that people are probably remembering the quality-of-life improvements that unions achieved, but not remembering the political struggle, the defeats, the malaise of post-WW2 cultural and industrial climax. Both presidential candidates are peddling nostalgia for a time when things were simpler and easier – when in fact, things were just a lot based on a productive middle class, normal people working OK full-time jobs with benefits.
The luxury market is sensitive to anything visual, anything with flavor – within the history of Brooklyn (at least in myth) there are a thousand rich textures to be referenced, all heated by the cultural weight of the American past. The trend is to export a golden age aesthetic, one that touches the heart of American power, but does not understand what’s below.
Let’s take everything that was/is good about America and un-explain it. Let’s forget why the good things happen and just look at them over and over again, repeat them like a digital mantra, washed of politics and power analysis. That’s the surface of fashion, flattened for elite international consumption.
Post-industrual skin, racial mixing, art world residue, and the international travel all create an unprecedented fiction opportunity.
The more unreality we have, the less reality we need to deal with. When you can already afford to buy the world, why would you need to understand it? Why not just dress yourself in the clothes of an American Century’s victory lap? Chinese and European buyers don’t care what Brooklyn really was or is – they just want something to put on. It was our party, now they get to wear it.
We want Brooklyn Luxury to re-write American history in the code of northern manufacturing, the empty West, and quality food.
For Americans, the myth of Brooklyn luxury can help wash away our sins. Brooklyn is great, so classic, so essential, so diverse (so full of racism, inequality, greed, environmental destruction, etc.). What White Flight? What industrial sector? What education ghetto?
Get drunk in Bushwick and inhabit the corpse of an Instagram Americana.
The Internet may be intensifying all this because how it moves images so quickly. Images are easily altered. The less thorough among us may black out one night and forget how we became USA USA USA. The dream deformed.
Finally: I end on a few ideas that came to mind after all these statements had be rattling around for a few minutes. The myth of America via Brooklyn is very strong, and in my opinion not all bad, just dangerous. Forgetting is narcotic. Moving forward in history is a wonderful feeling, even if it’s just a feeling. You might be actually sitting on your ass. You might just be on a red-white-and-blue merry-go-round powered by prehistoric plant goo.
Flag Budweiser, calfskin, empty lofts, weird nautical tattoos in the c-suite, Lana Del Rey, the memory of collective bargaining rights.