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December 4, 2000
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Quintessentially.com is the most horrifying thing I have seen for a long time. It’s a members-only club for the Tatler-reading classes – people for whom the Sunday Times is a serious newspaper. Dare you delve into the invidious ‘benefits’ conferred by membership of this club (‘Quintessentially members will have very special treatment’!), or gaze upon the faces of the well-heeled sloanes and berties behind it?
posted by Mocata (35 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
'Welcome to a small taster of one of our weekly news updates. Here’s a sample of the sort of thing you might find there.

Yes, it’s been a worry – how to wrap up now that the pashmina is so,well, last century. Maryse Boxer, mostly known for her beautiful tableware, has the very thing – the pashloom. Made of soft-as-snowflake cashmere and silver or gold thread, it is just as warm, just as delicious as the old pashmina but it just seems somehow more “now”...'
posted by Mocata at 6:14 AM on December 4, 2000


This sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:48 AM on December 4, 2000


And not a chin to be seen among 'em.
posted by holgate at 8:44 AM on December 4, 2000


What's disturbing is the fact that so many people in England are more than ready to buy into this kind of crap.

Snobbery, it appears, sells online as much as it does offline...
posted by Julian King at 8:52 AM on December 4, 2000


An associate of mine brought a copy of W magazine to me at the office, under the premise that there was an advertisement that bore a striking resemblance to me. I was afforded an evening of hysterical laughter reading about who was who and where they were and what they were wearing. As the addage goes, money never equates taste...
posted by jyoung at 9:08 AM on December 4, 2000


What is W magazine? Is there a URL?
posted by Julian King at 9:15 AM on December 4, 2000


I recommend cashmina wraps this season. Unable to find anything at Sacks or Nordstrom with which to wrap myself this summer, I was lucky to stumble across a beautifully-constructed baby-blue cashmina shawl at Target only moments before I needed to be at a wedding. Just the thing, and soft as can be! And you should see how it brings out the blue in my eyes! Cashmina shawls are constructed by the master Chinese artisans who use a centuries-old technique to finely weave acrylic fibers such as polyester and rayon into magnificent heirloom-quality shawls you'd be proud to pass on to future generations.

Cashmina: when you can afford neither cashmere nor pashmina, but want to feel like you can.
posted by megnut at 9:19 AM on December 4, 2000


Big woolly scarves. The only way forward. Pashminas just make it easier to garrotte sloanes, and for that we can be grateful.
posted by holgate at 9:38 AM on December 4, 2000


W Magazine -- published by Fairchild, a division of Conde Nast -- is the folio (oversized) ultra-glossy monthly fashion-leisure-and-society affiliate of the fashion-industry trade paper Women's Wear Daily.

Covering the nobs of showbiz and society is highly relevant to the _business_ of the fashion industry, because, for better or worse, the tastes of an extraordinarily narrow set of people (women who wear size 2 or 4 who can afford $1,500 skirts and $2,500 blouses at Madison Avenue boutiques) drive the entire mid-to-upscale market for clothes, accessories, and makeup makeup/fragrance products (size 2 to 10, think $150 skirts and $15 lipsticks at Bloomingdale's), and have a significant influence on the mass-market (size 8 - 16, $25 shirts and $4.99 eyeliners).


posted by MattD at 10:09 AM on December 4, 2000


What are sloanes?
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:26 AM on December 4, 2000


I think the answer to question 8 on their FAQ page is a little inaccurate.

Why did you choose the name Quintessentially?
It was the only dictionary word dot-com domain left.

posted by waxpancake at 11:48 AM on December 4, 2000


What do you suppose this quintessential monkey represents? Are gibbons now being admitted into the social elite?
posted by iceberg273 at 12:08 PM on December 4, 2000


A "sloane ranger", if I remember my British slang properly, is something like a British woman preppie, only with more specific connotations (regarding school, dress, accent, etc). Here's a link describing the term.
posted by snarkout at 12:39 PM on December 4, 2000


Well, if it will keep those damned Sloane's off of Slashdot once and for all, I am for it!
posted by kristin at 1:05 PM on December 4, 2000


If I understand correctly, a Sloane seems to be the London equivalent of a Trixie.
posted by harmful at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2000


Oh, ghod; no; don't mention the Trixie's again; Matt's referer logs are full enough...

Cheers,
-- jra
posted by baylink at 6:15 PM on December 4, 2000


[ don't *even* ask me why I signed that comment... ]
posted by baylink at 6:16 PM on December 4, 2000


'Scuse me for butting in on this festival of class hatred. I wondered what was generating all the heat - the web site is pretty inoffensive. Nice idea, being able to use your money (£250 = $360 = not a lot) intelligently to get what you want.

Different people value different things - you might value a rare Nirvana disc - he might value a beautifully cooked meal - she might value a parachute jump. Don't be so puritanital and censorious.
posted by Duc de Richeau at 8:18 PM on December 4, 2000


I think they have a pretty nice site overall in terms of design [hell, I'm a designer of a sort and I notice these things], but I don't like that you have to be a member to even *look* at their store's departments. I'd like to see what I'm getting into. that's all.

and I wish I could have cashmere. mmm...I put one sweater on my xmas list that's worth $98. I probably won't get it.
posted by aekastar at 10:03 PM on December 4, 2000


Don't be so puritanital and censorious.

Um, no. These people must suffer. The whole "members only" thing perpetuates the nasty cliqueishness of the thing. They'll get their chums from college to splash it over the glossy supplements, and... ugh. It's as British as it comes: set up by people who've made their way through life supported by daddy's money, and who flourish on "connections" rather than ability. That's why so many clueless British dot-com startups have deserved to fail, since they're simply an extension of the old-boy/gel network that pollutes the establishment.

The haX0rs are meeting at the docks tonight. Be there.
posted by holgate at 11:51 PM on December 4, 2000


Hmmmm. I hope the comments above don't meant to imply that there is no American establishment after the last few weeks (brother in charge of state that controls election of pres. candidate; other candidate "groomed from birth" for the job...).

Also, from my own experience of most Americans, if they find that site they'll love it. So many seem to be desperately awestruck at anything that smacks of English elitism.


posted by andrew cooke at 12:23 AM on December 5, 2000


So what are Trixies then?
Sorry baylink, but we Brits need to know these things.
By the way - Sloane is short for Sloane Ranger, named after Sloane Square, a tony area of Chelsea inhabited by horsey, hunting-shooting-fishing, green welly- and headscarf-wearing toffs - typified by Princess Diana in her early to mid-80s, pre-people's princess / tabloid martyr phase
Here are some other useful UK class war terms:
Bertie - chinless, blazer-wearing, ineffectual, stuttering fuck
Tara - female version of the above, epitomised by Tara Palmer-Tompkinson, notorious famous-no-reason-at-all 'IT' girl who spends most of her time shopping or in rehab.

posted by hannay at 2:41 AM on December 5, 2000


So, M. le Duc, we meet again. I notice that you have forgotten how to spell your name, however…

I object to your accusations of puritanism and censoriousness, however. The rentier jokers behind Quintessentially.com deserve to be soundly thrashed for their absurd shamelessness.

There are already signs that the infamous Two Taras are going down. One hopes that Quintessentially.com suffers a similar fate sooner rather than later.
posted by Mocata at 2:54 AM on December 5, 2000


Sorry Mocata, I think it was the folks at Hammer who forgot how to spell the name, not moi.

On the substance, however, I stand by my point. Why does Q rub you up the wrong way so much? If their venture is no good and doesn't deliver to customers it will flop. Sure some of the dotcoms were started by rich kids, so what? They didn't work out. C'est la vie. Why take grim satisfaction from other people's failures. If you're a hard-line Ayn Rand-style meritocrat then I understand but a wealthy background doesn't make someone automatically worthless any more than it makes them automatically worth while. Good luck to those of all backgrounds who get off their rear ends and try to make a go of an idea.

The more I look at the Quintessentially site the more I like it. Some of the stuff is not my cup of tea (Earl Grey or otherwise) but some of it looks cool. Is it elitist? Sure but there's nothing wrong with elitism per se. I get the sense that SOME people on MetaFilter see themselves as a bit elite themselves, ever so slightly superior to the undiscriminating, unhip masses.


posted by Duc de Richeau at 5:15 AM on December 5, 2000


de Richleau,

You know I've always stood by you when you've had a gut feeling. Your wisdom and experience are indeed greater than mine...

But I've also occasioned that your old Europeanisms, your aristocratic anachronisms, make you party to the most peculiar prejudices. Looking back, I wouldn't have been on the side we were in the Spanish civil war if it were not for my loyalty to you.

So once again I'm going to take an opportunity to nudge you frankly in the right direction. Come on, de Richleau, this site is utter rubbish. It's not that it's full of junk that noone needs - I've got more then my share of that.
No, it's the fact that it's dressed up in a load of absolute tosh, manipulating people into thinking that they're part of some inner circle.

God, the next thing we'll know they'll all be kissing Mocata's feet at SImon's house in St John's Wood
posted by Rex Van Ryn at 6:36 AM on December 5, 2000


A "Lincoln Park Trixie" is a particular class of social-climbing female found in the vicinity of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. They aren't quite as upper class as Sloanes appear to be; I mentioned them as an American parallel to the "Sloane Ranger" mostly because of the geographical root of the description. The site I linked above is the home page of the Lincoln Park Trixie Society, an organization dedicated to providing outreach information and helpful advice to Trixies and potential Trixies, and increasing awareness of important Trixie issues. Issues such as the rising price of Kate Spade handbags, the lack of accessibility by Sport Utility Strollers at Starbucks coffee shops, and the marital availability of baseball players for the Chicago Cubs. (I hope to Ghod that the site is a parody.)
posted by harmful at 7:18 AM on December 5, 2000


My dear M. Le Duc, I must concede some points to you. I have no objection to the provision of luxury goods and services as such, although I reserve the right to sneer at the more pointless and egregious producers and consumers of such wares. Not am I accusing this particular service of being ‘elitist’, although I hardly think its appeal is particularly egalitarian.

What irritates me about this kind of thing is the symbolism of it. (A sense of boredom and familiarity will now descend on any Guardian-readers who read beyond this sentence.) In the United States, they do at least take the trouble to mystify their class system to the extent that many of their citizens are not aware that they have one. They also have powerful public discourse of democracy and equality which, however much it might not reflect reality there, does at least have a rhetorical effect.

In the UK, however, we have a hereditary monarch, an unelected second chamber and an open culture of nepotism, patronage and toadyism. True, membership of the old-boy network no longer guarantees automatic entry into the lower ranks of the financial services industry. And yes, an Oxbridge degree no longer commands the unquestioning admiration of prospective employers. But we’ve still got a long way to go.

It’s also nearly impossible to open nearly any newspaper or magazine – and not just Vogue and Tatler but middle-market tabloids like the Mail, Express and Evening Standard, the hard-right populist Sun and the hard-right elitist Telegraph - without being confronted by acres of prolefeed documenting the exploits and plugging the businesses of the offspring of various minor toffs, washed-up Conservative politicians and figures of fun from the entertainment industry. That’s fine. But it does explain why the amusement people here derive from things like Quintessentially.com has, as you note, a slightly scornful undercurrent.

I should perhaps add that I am myself not entirely invulnerable to accusations of being a Bertie. But I don’t think that disqualifies me from commenting…

posted by Mocata at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2000


The reason for all this aristo-porn is that it attracts upscale advertisers. [via MediaNews]
posted by harmful at 8:41 AM on December 5, 2000


One of the owners is Tom Parker-Bowles (son of Camilla).I like this quote,"life is too precious to bother with the mundane".
posted by echelon at 10:56 AM on December 5, 2000


Oh Mocata. I thought you were a Satanist - not a communist. What's wrong with a hereditary monarchy? Quite apart from the obvious practical benefits (avoiding Bush v Gore-style debacles) I think it represents a powerful unifying element for a nation. It's perfectly possible to admire the royal family as the embodiment of the sense of organic continuity that the British still have without hero-worshiping the (all too) human members of it.

The idea that the UK is populated by dullards subsisting on a diet of "prolefeed" - Mocata's authentic contempt for the little man? - and that the Brits are held back by a culture of deference nurtured by the "hard-right" press is absurd. If you want to find raw contempt and ridicule of toffs then buy the Sun which (along with similar papers) promotes celebs not aristos.

Come on, there's no real problem with Quintessentially, is there? Some of it's a bit poncy but a lot of it could be useful to those committed to the pursuit of excellence.

You started this thread by describing Q as "the most horrifying thing I have seen for a long time." Compared to genocide in Rwanda? Compared to cancer? Compared to literally millions of things? I'm not trying to get all pious on you but get a sense of perspective. Check out the link to the Guardian in echelon's posting. Is anything on Q's website remotely as unpleasant as this bigoted attack on a bloke who happens to have a famous mum and whose big crime was to snort coke - so unlike the rest of us? If the author had parodied the voice of a black man in the same way he'd have been locked up.

And as for you Rex - I should have offered you up to the giant spider!
posted by Duc de Richeau at 6:24 PM on December 5, 2000


Oh, God. Tom Parker-Bowles. Now that brings back memories of an Oxford "set" to which I was very tangentially attached (through friends who ought to have known better).
posted by holgate at 9:23 PM on December 5, 2000


What pleasure it gives me, Monsieur le Duc, to clash with you once again! So much so that, as a token of my affection and respect for an old adversary, I will pass over your absurd defence of the House of Windsor. As a noted adept of the occult arts I would of course have nothing but respect for them should they really turn out to be shape-shifting reptilian vampires. But I fear this is nothing more than a rumour with the aim of confounding the blameless adherents of esoteric philosophy with that rather shabby family.

As for your insinuation that I hold the ‘little man’ in contempt - of course I do. The herdlike masses will be nothing more than fodder for my smoking and insatiable sacrificial altar, and neither you, M. le Duc, nor those fools at Scotland Yard will be able to prevent it. In relation to my comments on the British press, however, you have misunderstood me. It is precisely the non-existence of a culture of deference - except, of course, among certain journalists - which makes the sclerotic ramblings of some sections of the press so obnoxious to the population at large.

Your remark that there are many things in the world more horrifying than a website which has provided so much innocent amusement is of course true, so it's a shame that you then indulge in such overblown indignation at some not particularly biting satire. Certainly Mr Parker-Bowles is not responsible for his parentage; but I am sure he derives enough advantages from his family status to compensate for some mild ribbing in the not-all-that-widely-feared Pass Notes column. As for your remark that 'if the author had parodied the voice of a black man in the same way he'd have been locked up', you will realise upon further thought that this is a crass and remarkably unconvincing analogy. Such a solecism is more appropriate to those who rail against the 'tyranny' of 'political correctness' and other Aunt Sallys than to a scion of one one of the noblest houses in Europe. It is not worthy of you, my friend!

On the whole, though, you are right to say that 'there's no real problem with Quintessentially' - it's extemely humorous, and I wish them every success in fleecing as many innocent berties as they can.

As for your erstwhile colleague, do not regret your saving him from my terrifyingly back-projected spider. My agents are all in place and not even the Suzama Ritual itself can prevent the ghastly fate that lies in wait for him.
posted by Mocata at 6:57 AM on December 6, 2000


Hang on. I also remember Tom Parker-Bowles from Oxford. He wasn't a snob. I'm from a northern comprehensive school background but he was always really nice and friendly. He was a bit wild but never obnoxiously so. Why have people here got it in for poor old Tom? I used to quite fancy him!
posted by Sadie at 9:32 PM on December 6, 2000


I agree, he's a perfectly nice guy. It's not the individuals that bug me (though the Montefiores have provided much mirth and shocked indignation for me when perusing Murdoch's comic (the Sunday Times) on a Sunday morning. No, what bugs me is how frozen England (and Scotland, for that matter) is in this dated mentality, which prompts people to buy into all this old school crap. If it were just Berties that were paying up for the membership, fair enough, but I suspect that a significant proportion of those coughing up hard earned cash will be people from quite normal backgrounds, ensnared by the myth of aristocracy and the photo diaries of Harpers and Queen. And, more disturbingly, that these are people whom the 'advisory board' and 'editorial team' would not genuinely wish to share the quintessential pleasures of life with...
posted by Rex Van Ryn at 2:15 AM on December 7, 2000


Rex - Why do you assume that the people at Q are too snobby to want to share the pleasures of life with their aspirational membership? If you join this website/membership club/collective or whatever it is surely you are deciding to pursue the good life and therefore are simpatico with the founders of Quintessentially.

I don't think it's a cynical con trick. They probably believe in it. Welcome to the post-modern world where affinity groups and voluntary coalitions of interest replace prescriptive castes. That's what the web's all about and Q is part of it. No?
posted by Sadie at 5:19 PM on December 7, 2000


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