A slender woman relaxes poolside, seemingly posing for a snapshot. But like the designer furniture being advertised, the image has been carefully manufactured. An abstract floral pattern on her bathing suit corresponds to the pool tiles, creating a visual flow that leads the eye to her body and the skin-toned lounge-chair in the background. A subdued Technicolor palette hearkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood and offers a contemporary version of glamorous leisure for sale, while a palm tree reflected in the glass of a mid-century modern backdrop adds a nice subliminal touch.
Gloster, a brand of high-end outdoor furniture, announces itself in sans serif capitals across the image and discretely provides the name of the advertised collection beneath. A peek at the Gloster website reveals more collections styled along minimalistic lines, but returning to the ad, the consumer may wonder about the unnecessary subtitle Life Lived. A hint of snobbery surrounds the assertion which also raises a few questions.
Grammatically speaking, if the young woman pictured represents life lived, shouldn’t she be old? But Gloster cannot be blamed for advertising’s default subject: the fertile female as desirable object and subconscious link to survival via procreation and motherhood. The company is, however, responsible for a motto that may be clever but ultimately insensitive. For if Gloster epitomizes life lived, are those unable to afford a nine-thousand-dollar “Dune” chaise lounge somehow not living? A “bohemian influence” may define the style, but surely no actual bohemians are to be found reclining on the “specially developed fabrics made with 3D knitting technology.” In the final analysis, Life Lived is hardly true to life.
But doesn’t criticism of a few words put forth by a boutique brand amount to mere faultfinding? Surely there are bigger fish to fry. And yet Gloster, like so many design-oriented companies, peddles innovation that nonetheless fits nicely into the inveterate mantra of consumerism: Acquire, escape, and pat oneself on the back.
The seduction is understandable. Gloster’s products are beautifully crafted and their advertising evokes a sense of well-being. The homepage video at Gloster.com presents custom living spaces in harmony with nature and infused with soft, otherworldly light. The effect is almost mythical, inviting the consumer to imagine an elegant, peaceful existence suspended in time. But the message is simply outdated and of no help to a world in need of more substantial innovations. Attempting to configure a wonderland in which we experience prolonged happiness has proven to be a recipe for unhappiness. Certainly, material possessions are necessary and luxury items have their place, but we should take care not to overstate their importance.