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Trend watch: Brand backlash

  • Story Highlights
  • Brand addiction can be countered by "brand detox"
  • Writer Neil Boorman burned over $40,000 of his branded possessions
  • Even living a no-brand lifestyle can leave you branded an anti-consumer
  • Next Article in World Business »
By Brigid Delaney
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A month's salary for a handbag? Getting into debt so you can own the latest pair of trainers? Stepping out fully kitted in brands may no longer be the key to cool -- in fact it may stigmatize you as a brand-addicted loser.

Some think you can reclaim you life by turning your back on brands.

Brand addiction is the latest modern day malaise with symptoms including high levels of credit card debt, expensive clothes that haven't been worn or even removed from their carrier bags, and reading material that consists entirely of fashion magazines.

The only cure for brand addiction is radical detox according to former addicts and a life lived without brands. London based Neil Boorman burned $42,465 worth of branded goods in giant brand funeral pyre, while New Yorker Judith Levine spent a year without shopping except for mundane and quotidian items such as toilet paper and bread.

Both have written about their experiences, Levine in "Not Buying It" and Boorman in "Bonfire of the Brands," released last week.

There are good financial reasons to be part of the brand backlash.

The UK Consumer Credit Counsel says 80 percent of the UK population admits regularly overspending on designer goods while the average American household has a credit card debt of $9,200.

The best way of gauging whether you are a brand addict is to look at your credit card statements and peek in your wardrobe. If you're overly in debt and have a cupboard full of high-priced clothes, it's now time to look at why.

For Boorman, labels were a way of bolstering his self-esteem: "All I ever wanted was to love and be loved, and these damned labels had seemed to be the best way of achieving it. Only now, after 30 years of buying myself back from brands, was it becoming clear: I literally had no idea who I was."

Clearing out your closet

In America, the Voluntary Simplicity Network gives advice to those who want to wean themselves off the trapping of a material world. They provide discussion groups, resources and support for those wanting to "learn to live with less."

Meanwhile hundreds of groups are springing up on social networking site Facebook that express ennui with brands. 'I'm tired of consumerism' is for people that believe: "My self worth is not defined by the amount of designer clothing I own. I get my clothing wherever it's cheap and comfortable, and I don't buy more than I need."

Boorman has also set up a self-help Web site called Brand-Aid. A no-brand life Boorman went the whole hog -- not just refusing to wear brand name clothes, but also disconnecting his brand name televisions, remodeling his computer so the logo didn't show, drinking only tap water (Evian and other branded drinks were banned) and making his own toothpaste.

He brought clothes at army surplus stores but as far as entertainment went, "you can only visit so many art galleries."

But when CNN spoke to him following his experiment of living without brands, he admitted he had become branded himself -- as an anti-consumerist.

"Whether it's branded or not -- you will also be defined by what you consumed," he said.

One sure fire way of protesting against consumerism is to take yourself out of consumer culture altogether.

Judith Levine, a 50-something American, went for a whole year without purchasing anything. In that year she frequently felt bored, marginalized, understimulated and restless -- but she paid off her credit card and halted the "upward creep of desire."

The rationale? If you don't even allow yourself a no-brand handbag, you are unlikely to hanker for a $5,000 Chanel quilted bag. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Shopping

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