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Michele Wissot Headshot

Eco-friendly? Well, Sort Of...

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"What a fabulous tote! Do you think your sisters would like this?" my mom asked me excitedly.

We're at a newly opened boutique of which I won't mention the name.

"Well, there's none left," says a shrewd blonde behind the cash register. Without looking up, she continues to read her US Weekly magazine. "And, no. There's not a wait list," she adds haughtily.

She was referring, of course, to the season's most-coveted accessory -- a cotton tote made to remind consumers of the importance of using reusable shopping bags. Costing $15 dollars, it's got a price tag to attract the masses.

Anyway, back to the blonde shop girl.

Still groggy after the long flight from New York to Los Angeles, I'm in no mood to make a connection with her. Don't get me wrong; I love chatting with storeowners. In fact, I owe my career to many of them on both coasts. They're the true pioneers of style trends -- the ones with the expertise on what motivates consumers to buy certain pieces. And they're the first people I go to for style items I'd like to pitch.

But this woman is different. Maybe it was because she didn't know I work in fashion. Maybe she believes in promoting exclusive, society ranks. Whatever her shtick, I wasn't going to let her treat my mom like that.

"Are you saying the bag is a marketing tool based on the notion that consumers follow those with the higher social rankings?" I ask her. Now personally I love this designer for making this product and fully support such an ethical cause.

Without a blink (or maybe it was the botox?), she responds, "Yes. Only celebrities and fashion editors can get a bag. So the masses are going to buy into this as more of a trend."

"That's ironic!" I said in a condescending tone. It's so easy to regress back to my high school bitch mode.

Before I could even finish my argument, my mom signals to me to leave the shop now.

Two months later I'm back in New York at dinner with a close friend. We bump into an assistant of a very important editor-in-chief. She's carrying the bag -- turns out her boss didn't want such a ho-hum accessory. My friend tells me how her friend across the pond sent the original edition bag to her with a note stating everyone will want it.

The next day, I'm in SoHo and I pass the flagship store. The window is displayed with a ton of bags. In all my glory, I call my mom to ask if she wants me to snag her one. "Over it," she replies.

A few days later the New York Post announces their stateside arrival. I call my friend to let her know. She replies only half jokingly, "Well, I guess that means it's time to put it on E-bay."

As far as sustainability goes, these bags now don't really have a shot at much trend life expectancy. One summer, tops. Strange how trying to promote populist ideals is sabotaged by obnoxious marketing gimmicks. After all, we are products of our environment.

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