Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Designer Name - If It Sells Clothes,Why Not Paint, Too?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Designer Name - If It Sells Clothes,Why Not Paint, Too?

Article excerpt

Inside a paint store on Boston's upscale Newbury Street, a display of glossy brochures and rainbow-hued paint chips introduces customers to the latest in snob-appeal: the Ralph Lauren Paint Collection. Launched with ads in slick magazines, the line features nearly 200 colors in five "lifestyle" categories.

Move over, Benjamin Moore. Make room for designer paints. Mr. Lauren has even thoughtfully provided a collection of "custom-designed" paintbrushes with "specially blended bristles, stainless-steel ferrules, and sculpted wooden handles." After all, what self-respecting status seeker wants to use just any old brush to apply such a classy product?

Designer semi-gloss is probably an idea whose time has come. As celebrities and athletes diversify their business ventures, they update a time-worn phrase: You can never be too rich or too thin - or have too many licensing agreements. Think of Elizabeth Taylor, now promoting her third perfume, Passion. Think of Sophia Loren in years past, putting her name on eyeglass frames. And think of TV host Kathie Lee Gifford, whose signature line of clothing reportedly grosses $200 million a year at Wal-Mart.

Designer paint may be the subtlest form of status-symbol snobbery. Unlike the labels and logos that trumpet designers' names on clothes or accessories, a paint job carries no signature. One can't expect friends to walk into a freshly decorated room and gush, "Ooh, Ralph Lauren matte finish! Sneaker White, right? Really classy." Still, a homeowner can rest secure, knowing that this paint "sets a mood ... and heralds a new dimension of design," as a Ralph Lauren brochure explains.

America may have been built on rugged individualism, but for late-20th-century Americans, a designer-label herd mentality prevails. The reasoning goes: If you buy the right name or initials and assemble the proper look, good taste will be yours.

For all the talk about the conservative 1990s that supposedly replaced the free-spending '80s, evidence abounds that there's no shortage of discretionary income for the "right" label. …

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