Buenos Aires is not really a place I thought I would ever go to. In fact, before going to BA the furthest I’d ever been from our beloved little island (the UK if you were wondering..) was to Israel when I was a young and fearless exchange student a good 10 years ago now. So when I (along with the rest of the team) arrived in BA I really had no idea what to expect, I’d heard stories and read-up as much as possible, beyond a reputation for fine meats and wines and of course, leather.
With Argentina being classed as one of the Dow Jones (arguably generous list of) 35 global emerging markets; I was intrigued to find such a contrast between wealth and working-class living. For example, the mega-expensive Galereas Pacifico, a shopping mall housing a number of luxury brand stores (local and Western) was located just off Florida Street – a touristy stretch where the pavement is lined with locals selling hand-made and hand-crafted souvenirs more culturally synonymous with Argentina.
Obviously, connectivity is a huge global story, which Argentina isn’t missing out on. So I found it particularly interesting that street signs are sponsored by larger corporations like American Express, but mostly, communication service companies like Claro, Nokia and Sony-Ericsson.
Sony Ericsson and Nokia handsets are never far away from consumer mind-set thanks to strategically placed advertising points (Vimeo too are capitalising on this method of marketing, though in a more unofficial way!).
The emerging middle-class in Argentina will be looking towards the West and the booming luxe-economy in Brazil for inspiration on how to spend their higher personal disposable incomes. It was refreshing to find amongst the more consumerist luxury-type stores a new concept store hoping to tap into the wealthier, more design focused Buenos Aires clientele.
Pehache sells a balanced mixture of home wears, soft furnishings, clothing, jewellery and beautiful bits and bobs. Their un-intimidating, relaxed visual merchandising left me feeling comfortable, as if it was my own home (in a perfect world!).
There were too many great things to choose from, but with a suitcase limit I came away with a one-off cushion and a traditionally decadent guest book .
It is great to already see how the emerging markets are making their own rules in terms of their approach to luxury, and I will be excited to see how the West will become influenced by these powerful markets in terms of authenticity, cultural nods and wealth display through their product and experience design.
All in all, I found Buenos Aires to be a mixed bag of surprises; this European-inspired city definitely holds its own in the culture stakes.