Rhiannon Harries: I'm in the middle of a chain reaction – and I don't like it

Share
Related Topics

A couple of years ago I went on a date with a self-confessed food snob. When he began quizzing me on my favourite restaurants, I knew judgement was imminent. "What if I say Café Rouge?" I ventured suspiciously. His incredulous guffaw summed up the popular consensus on global brands and chains – they might be the places where we drop most of our salary day in, day out, but the only acceptable justification is convenience. We are not allowed to genuinely like them.

The rule extends beyond the high street. If you are caught humming Cheryl Cole's latest single, you can blame it on the brainwash of constant radio and TV airplay – but start including it among your all-time favourite songs in polite company and expect to be written off as a moron.

In short, anything that has been manufactured to appeal – through its very blandness – to the largest demographic and thereby line corporate pockets must be enjoyed grudgingly, if at all. Trying to be ironic and postmodern about it no longer washes; loyalty and affection must be reserved for the independent, the quirky and the small-scale.

Which is why things have become confusing recently, as it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the two. In some cases, that's because there's no difference at all. Witness Starbucks' new "concept" store on London's Conduit Street. All unfinished wood and retro espresso machines, it is a far cry from the Identikit interiors of 'bucks the world over. Squint a little to obscure the branded mugs and you could have found yourself in your favourite new indie establishment.

Of course, that's exactly the point, and it's actually rather pleasant until you realise that similar "stealth stores" are popping up across the world, from the US to Japan. Suddenly, the whole thing begins to feel a bit grim, not least because Starbucks' latest marketing strategy seizes on the rather shallow foundations of some of our holier-than-thou attitudes to big brands. "Distract them with some tasteful mid-century modern design and all will be forgiven" seems to be the thinking, and I have a sneaking feeling that, in the short term at least, they might be right.

The recent army of defiantly kooky female popstrels inspires similar feelings of mistrust. "Look how individual they all are!" raved the press. But apart from a pom-pom here and a different shade of eyeliner there, Little Boots, Paloma Faith, Florence et al look remarkably similar to me. That isn't to say they aren't a vast improvement on the X-Factory bunch; just that, like Starbucks' stealth stores, however much they may appear to be a different species, they still belong to the same universe.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Maths Teacher - Saffro...

Chemistry Teacher - Top School in Malaysia - January Start

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The appearance of Miguel Arias Canete at a Brussels hearing last Wednesday caused 100,000 people to sign a petition to prevent his appointment  

TTIP is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the EU's suspect relationships with corporations

Lee Williams
 

Being catcalled, groped and masturbated at is a common part of the female experience

Bryony Beynon
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain