HAPPENINGText: Christina Merl

Luxury and beauty shows are en vogue. There are the ones for “the bold and the beauty”, such as Luxury please in Vienna’s Hofburg Imperial Palace; and there are the ones for the “mainstream”, such as La Donna in Vienna’s less noble Prater area. Basically, both show types have the same goal: to inform their target group about the hottest, fanciest and most luxurious beauty and lifestyle trends.

And the range of luxury items is wide: from designer clothing, fur and accessories to status symbols like cars and yachts, from luxury cosmetics and beauty treatments to elitist seminars and coachings. In times where leisure time is rare we need to know where we can spend our money most effectively, which items can provide us with a feeling of utmost luxury and happiness. Lifestyle and beauty events like the above mentioned are the perfect place of inspiraton. Another good thing about them is that they invite us to enjoy the offered luxury goods and services directly. And people seem to like that. After all, no less than 165 million euro were spent on luxury labels and beauty services at last year’s “Luxury please”, the Austrian quality paper “Der Standard” reports.

Beauty de Luxe
Cosmetics help make us glow

Reason enough for me to join in and have a look! I must admit that style and fashion wise, I’ve always been a DIY. Watching TV shows like BBC’s legendary “What not to wear” as well as writing about luxury and lifestyle shows has been fun for me, and at the same time it has helped me to define and improve my personal style. So, when I was off to the local beauty shows this past autumn, I did not intend to try one of the offers, let alone to change my look. So, when Ingrid, an elegant local stylist, offered to make me up for free, I hesitated for a moment. And happily agreed… The result, I must say, was absolutely stunning! Isn’t it amazing how colours and cosmetics can leave our face glowing and give us a lot more sex appeal?

Beauty de Luxe
Jewellery is a symbol of luxury

Indeed, we can look so much better by recognising our assets and choosing the right clothes that flatter our natural appearance. “Looking good is all about making the most of ourselves”, Ingrid says. And I believe she’s right. In fact, I felt reconfirmed by a CNN “special investigation unit” report on Vladimir Putin’s Russia earlier this week, where Evelina Khromchenko, Moscow’s famous pro-Putin Fashion Magazine editor, said about the same: “Every woman has a right to be beautiful.” The message of her magazine and TV game show is clear: “Every woman is a queen.”

Beauty de Luxe
Art is pure luxury. Sculpture by Austrian artist Tina Fassl

However, while indulging in the world of luxury, style and happiness I am shocked by a CNN report. Within seconds, I’m back down to earth. I learn that ethnic spending power on cosmetic products promoted to lighten skin tone grows among Asian, African and African-Caribbean communities in the UK. So called skin bleaching is nurtured by perceptions that lighter skinned or white people are more successful, intelligent and sexually desirable. A commercial seen on Indian satellite channels and YouTube stars Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan promoting a skin cream called “Fair&Handsome”. The commercial shows a remarkably glum dark-skinned Indian man who, after using the skin lightening cream, turns many shades whiter. Like the Bollywood star, he now walks with confidence — and with a lovely lady running to his side. So far, I have only heard about teeth bleaching — so this news really hits me! Interesting detail: whereas a growing number of bleaching products can be found in UK store shelves, the demand for self-tan lotions has been on the increase on the European continent. “These products are demand-led”, cosmetics industry experts say, “even though they can cause skin cancer”.

Sad, isn’t it? All this shows that we live in a world of extremes that are perfectly reflected in our global society. How can we allow outer appearance to play such a big role? Why are we all tempted to participate in this game, irrespective of class, wealth and style? And, maybe most important, who makes the rules of this game?

LUXURY, please
Date: November 22nd – 25th, 2007
Place: Das Luxuserlebnis, in den Kaiserlichen Räumen der Wiener Hofburg

La Donna
Date: October 22nd – 26th, 2008
Place: Messezentrum Wien

Text: Christina Merl
Photos: Courtesy of Luxury please

[Help wanted] Inviting volunteer staff / pro bono for contribution and translation. Please e-mail to us.