The catalog arrives. I open the first page and am transported to a distant island in the Pacific, or perhaps an historic artist’s loft in Paris. I am not a tourist, nor a resident, but some how I belong here. Wherever I go, I am beautiful, intelligent, worldly and dressed in something bespoke that catches the eye.
I continue to turn pages, each beckoning me to a new adventure, to slide further down the rabbit hole. The images feel intimate as if recounting a story I once dreamt.
I am surprised when I step back to examine Anthropologie as a brand and a phenomenon. Anthropologie is at the zenith of psychology and design. You know a devoted shopper because they refer to Anthropologie as Anthro, as a moniker for a best friend. This is no ordinary store.
I started shopping at Anthro in the late 90s long before it established an observable presence in the Midwest. City hearts were the first to be captured. I sought out Anthro every time I left Indiana – New York, Chicago etc. I felt I knew a secret hideaway, an unknown speakeasy that I entered as ordinary, provincial, and left as sophisticated and traveled. In a somewhat mystical first experience, Anthro became a part of my identity.
I read a fascinating history years back discussing Anthropologie’s demographics, marketing strategies etc. I won’t go so deeply here, suffice to say Anthro appeals to women who know what the world has to offer, but often do not have the means or freedom in life to pursue these offerings – travel, education, history, to name a few. Anthro’s imagery speaks to the heart of these women. The brand states its mission is “to build a strong emotional bond with the customer.” Kudos Anthro, mission accomplished. But what does this bond bring me?
It’s as if Anthro sees itself as a living, breathing being, rather than a company. It behaves as a dear friend presenting me with a treasured gift. The hope of adventure or to be part of a new story is a gift. But what I’ve found in the recent months is that I don’t need Anthropologie to be the bearer of such gifts in my life. My life is enough adventure, enough story. Should I never walk through the beach wood doors of an Anthro again, I will be okay, I will not be missing out.
I kept years worth of the catalogs in a tableside stack in my bedroom. The reason why is as amorphous as Anthro’s stories – for inspiration or perhaps as a promise to myself of what I hoped to be one day.
I credit my son to the changing of my heart. Over recent months I grew cold towards Anthro. She was still telling the stories, still beckoning, but I no longer felt I was missing out. The shut catalog, and a season spent without stopping by was no longer concerning. I had grown indifferent. But as most of us know, breaking up is hard to do, even if the love has faded. After some debate, I committed to pitching my entire collection of Anthro catalogs. This is where my sobriety began.
I want you to understand that Anthropologies is not evil. I think the longing in its stories echoes some true desire in our lives. And I want to note that Anthro is only one store of many. If it’s not Anthro, it’s another store, a clothing store, a furniture store – the idea here applies to many. Anthro just happens to be one of the best storytellers in the contemporary marketplace, and therefore, one of the most captivating.
I still receive the catalog in the mail, but now I glance at the cover as at an unknown face, a passerby on the street, and I drop it, without hesitation, into the recycling bin. Every time I feel a lighter and a little more present in my own life. Breaking up with Anthro is one more step in my simplicity journey – less noise, less heart-clutter. I haven’t vowed to never enter the store again and will surely return one day in the future, but with a tempered ear, still listening to the story, but more carefully so.