Luxurious Ponderings

Luxury: trinkets, baubles, toys and creature comforts on a grand scale, yet in Miami luxury is more about a state of mind and a heavy dose of visual indulgence…
Text by Francesca Cruz | June 9, 2018 | Luxury

While attending a recent expats dinner in Miami, I found myself defending this city. Oddly enough, I can easily highlight its shortcomings, but like a protective mother safeguarding her temperamental redheaded stepchild — I was a bit offended by a group of foreigners expressing their observation of my hometown. They chimed in, almost in unison, like a foreboding Greek chorus. Their complaints expressing a disdain for a city they considered fake and with no real sense of class or understanding for luxury. That’s the one word that lingered long after the conversation was over: luxury. After all, who gets to dictate what true luxury is?
Look at our nightlife, the rapturous bodies forced into tiny, tight apparel that parade themselves daily on a cloud of bliss in this city, the skyscrapers that kiss the bluest skies, or our beaches of azure that glisten as if finished with liquid gold — is that not luxurious? Miami is glorious manna from the heavens served up Krispy-Krème-glazed-kinda-hot in a Sodom & Gomorra surrounding. There is art to that, and yes, a certain kind of lascivious luxury.
So feeling myself cornered by a group of snooty, well-dressed and darn good-looking foreigners, the wheels were set in motion for this article, very apropos for the holidays. What is luxury? Firstly, the dinner ended superbly well — I heard what everyone had to say, and then expressed my views on Miami.
We, I passionately conveyed, are a young port city with a constant influx of immigrants — take for instance all of you. I brought this notion home by making eye contact with everyone at the table [eat your heart out Dale Carnegie].
South Florida is like a young child, I insisted, making its way, with lots of new friends to engage and entertain, all of them leaving their mark, whether they stay or move away. Miami might stumble ever so — esthetically — often, clumsily like a toddler grasping for things as it tumbles, but with giddy intention that is palpable and certainly welcoming.
I basically compared Miami to a playful brat trying to figure out its identity in this big country of ours. We don’t have the historical significance of the old continent. Luxury for us might be more about enjoying a fine cigar as opposed to a Brancusi sculpture. Opting for a flashy canary-yellow sports car over a De Kooning painting, or a bedazzled smartphone and matching manicured nails in place of a fine bottle of Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanee.
For what would be our charm if we attempted to foolishly copy…New England, for instance? If you look up the word luxury the definition appears as: conducive to sumptuous living, usually a delicacy, elegance or refinement of living rather than a necessity.
We certainly do that here. While in other parts of the world, luxury is more about understated elegance, Miamians enjoy thoroughly to peacock, to stand out, brazen in the blazing sun. In the past, the term luxury referred to a standard of quality — something authentic and exclusive, something that was not so readily attainable.
Each period in time also has something very clear to say about luxury and the lack thereof. In Medieval Times, while the commonwealth subsisted on porage, the nobility feasted on exotic game birds like swan and pheasant. The commoners were jailed if discovered eating the same. Today, chicken and turkey are some of the most basic and inexpensive food options around.
With the outbreak of WWI, and later WWII, times were scarce and rations were the norm. Something so easily attainable today, and not necessarily part of the daily female ensemble were stockings. They were as essential as a dress, providing a clean, neat and finished look. In fact, if you were caught out and about without them, you ran the risk of being looked upon as a hussy, downtrodden and wanton.
Invented in 1935 by Du Pont De Nemours & Company Chemist Wallace Hume Carothers, nylon stockings were coveted goods. Considered the miracle fiber, they were lost to the war effort and used to make parachutes and other much-needed wartime paraphernalia. The luxuries of that time period were things as trivial as the previously mentioned nylon stockings, cigarettes and even chocolates. In other words, one generation’s extravagant items are another’s disposable goods.
It was in The West that happiness and dopamine-chasing via consumption as a major societal and organized norm first emerged. The consumer society is developing in vast numbers as communist countries turn to capitalist practices and formerly 3rd World or developing countries become economically affluent. The expansion of wealth, and easier access to luxury items and ways to purchase them means that a lot of things are no longer restricted to a certain economic class or part of the world.
So what do we truly gather from looking down upon something that is different from ourselves or from whence we originate? The exciting thing about Miami is that which makes it such an odd and unique place — our extreme diversity.
Many factors come into play when attempting to pass a decree on luxury. It’s influenced by the collective taste of society, culture, climate, politics, music and art…a combined apologue. Bright and tawdry can be kitsch; so don’t judge our paradise too harshly. There’s room for all things under the sun; and the sun shines brightest in Miami.