Only the wealthy dare apply
I’m just back from a couple of days in London where I went to support my partner Rai on an exploration and buying expedition at the Decorex Trade Fair. This is one of several major annual events showing off the great and the good in the interior design sector.
Compared to one or two other fairs I’ve been to for the same purpose, Decorex is what might be called ‘high-end’. That’s to say that for the most part one’s eventual customers have to be extremely well heeled. The fabrics, furniture, lighting, flooring, panelling, wallpaper and accessories on show were generally sumptuous and gorgeous. So much so that there were actually very few items that Rai felt she could order for her shop – although thankfully she was pleased with the few she did encounter – because once you add her own mark-up the price becomes prohibitively high. There are too few people in and around provincial Ludlow who could imagine paying more than £4,000 for a single deckchair or £25,000 for a chandelier, nor even the more accessible £2,000 for a glass vase from Murano – let alone actually shell out for such purchases on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.
On the second day we went to the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre which had its very own show, tying in with Decorex event. The Design Centre oozes urban chic as you would expect. But added to chic and some serious creative flair was an almost chilling note of opulence.
Each beautiful shop in the three beautiful domes housing several storeys of top brand outlets was manned by beautiful, expensive-looking people. I couldn’t help but feel that my frayed collars had been noted in an expert flick of the eye, the smile unchanging.
Some of these shops were deceptively huge. The Armani display was like a many-roomed cave; there was a chocolate-rich darkness in which every prized item was lit ingeniously; a place where even a humble glass paperweight would set you back £350.
Close by, the Clive Christian premises offered an entire show-home featuring a chandeliered and panelled kitchen and a hallway with a large bar plus a bedroom with a walk in wardrobe fit for Gatsby himself. It is easy to feel marginalised in such an environment because the overwhelming theme is super wealth with designs that have travelled a long way beyond tacky into the realms of a fantasy of polished granite, gilding, faux snakeskin and superb craftsmanship. Awaiting each visitor in the inviting hallway was a mysterious golden bag with a gold brochure and gold hardback book of selected Clive Christian interiors. Who could resist?
But while I’d thoroughly enjoyed much of what I’d seen I was left by both Decorex and the Design Centre with a sense of alienation. I had been to see someone else’s world which seemed to be many moons and generations away from reality, even of everyday London life. When Rai and I stepped out of the Decorex show, held at Kensington Palace, to find some lunch, we were at one point approached by old immigrant woman; twisted, tiny and pleading for money, she was in an agony of poverty of a kind no one could alleviate. Oddly enough, her image looms large as the themes of opulent and fabulous design fade.