A Message to the Aristocrat: Don’t Wear Hermès or Chanel, Unless It’s Their Hand Sanitizer

The rich could still afford to buy their favorite luxury brands if they wanted to, of course. But it wasn’t really “appropriate” at this time. It was “unseemly,” as some handlers were forced to euphemistically point out to their wealthy and celebrity employers. And though it was hard to speak in “plainer language” than usual, this was, after all, what handlers were paid for: to handle the richies in a manner that made them look “good” to their proletarian patrons. And it certainly was not a “good” look to be parading Hermès or Chanel products (the haute couture of choice in France) of any kind. That is, unless… And that’s when it hit Alice Fenmann’s handler, Tara. She knew exactly what she needed to do in order to get the rich to believe they were still lapping up their usual luxury living during a time when it was less socially acceptable than ever to do so. 

Thus, after scrubbing Alice’s back (her entire body sudsed as she languished in her gold clawfoot tub filled with rose petals and surrounded by lit aromatherapy candles scented in a blend of acacia and lavender) with artisanal oils that she had gone to the open air market that very morning to purchase despite warnings from the government to avoid all non-essential outings and contact, she decided to make a phone call that would invoke the power of Alice’s clout-laden last name.

Every brand under the LVMH umbrella was aware of how much the Fenmanns had spent at their various ateliers over the course of decades and family members. That if LVMH and its respective buttresses were a university, a number of buildings would have had to be named in their honor to show reverence for how much financial support they gave along the way of each couturier’s rise to prominence and status. Tara knew this. Full well. And she knew it was enough leverage to ask for anything during the crisis. She had one of two choices: show rich people’s asses for what they were, or continue to protect them by mitigating the overt line between the classes during moments of chaos. For some reason, Tara knew not why, she opted for the latter. Maybe she had simply been conditioned too long as a servant to sabotage Alice now. They had come this far, and if the Titanic that was the aristocracy truly was to sink during this period, Tara had no choice but to be on it. 

Having heard that Chanel closed its factories in France, Italy and Switzerland only yesterday, she knew this was the time to strike while the iron was still hot. She went into the office as Alice managed to dress herself and put on her own damn jewelry in the other wing of the house. The one situated on Avenue Kléber, right near the Arc de Triomphe, where a patrician could get an optimal “postcard view” of the Eiffel Tower. Rich folk adored that sort of thing. Having the real estate cachet of being right near major landmarks. It made them feel bowed down to when people came over to marvel at and revel in the view. Tara had grown sick and fucking tired of seeing that damned tower on principle. Purely because she knew how much it meant to Alice. 

She picked up the pretentious rotary phone Alice had long ago installed and dialed the number of Virginie, the creative director at Chanel, to run the plan past her in a manner subtle enough for V to think it was her own. And anyway, she wasn’t half as much of a monster as Karl–surely she would see the importance of carrying out such an unprecedented request.

As she delved right in with the Fenmann card as her badge of legitimacy, she proceeded to tell Virginie that it might be a great way to help the collective and boost the brand if they started using the factories to manufacture hydro-alcoholic gel instead. In short, create bougie hand sanitizer with the Chanel label but deliver and “sell” every bottle for free. With particular attention to allowing health care workers to access the supply. 

A few seconds of silence followed the pitch. Tara was suddenly aware just how averse capitalists were to reallocating their “resources”–and for a brief moment she thought maybe her strategy to make rich people appear as though they gave some kind of a shit was going to fail miserably. Then, an angelic choir in her ear rang out in the form of Virginie’s voice saying: “Yes, this is a wonderful idea. I’ll tell Alain all about it and I’m sure he’ll see the merit.” Tara didn’t need to bother iterating to Virginie that it’s always the creative director who makes the ultimate decision, not the CEO. So it was that the factories remained open for this purpose, which meant Alice and her rich person ilk would at least be able to access designer products (even offering to pay as some sort of charitable donation while everyone else would get them for free).   

It didn’t take long for Nadège to glom onto the idea for Hermès, and soon the notion had spread like wildfire at LVMH, which vowed to provide the Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris with as much of a free supply as they could manufacture. Meaning that for the first time in their lives, “underlings” would be scenting themselves with Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy without batting an eyelash about the price tag.

So it was that Alice could still swathe herself in her favorite designers without being judged. Without it being deemed a “gross showcase” of affluence. In the meantime, Tara needed to call over Alice’s manicurist and hair stylist to the house so that she could still look her best once she finally came out of quarantine, and, at that point, actually go to the hair and nail salons already with her best Louis Vuitton-bedecked foot forward. Not that they wouldn’t have opened up for her anyway had she demanded it. But again, being rich right now was quite dangerous, and Alice couldn’t do anything to come across as offensive. No, all signs of her aristocratic activities had to appear as “aboveboard” as possible until further notice. She sighed ruefully as she rubbed her hands with Chanel N°Pandemic and stared blankly at the Eiffel Tower in front of her. Maybe she would go to the top of it later to share a glass of champagne with Emmanuel while the rest of the peons stayed home.

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