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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there