“The day I went to buy the Louis Vuitton handbag, I was the happiest girl in the world… and then I said ‘okay, what next?’”
A woman is recalling the moment that she finally purchased her dream accessory, only to realise that she wasn’t actually as fulfilled as she’d imagined she would be after dropping a couple of K on some leather. It’s just one of the anecdotes recounted in Lauren Greenfield’s recently released Generation Wealth– a film which follows on from her hugely successful book of the same name.
Generation Wealth comes at a time when consumer culture is at boiling point, placing a magnifying glass on the “influence of affluence” on a global scale and a world collectively fuelled by capitalism. It also details the psychology of wealth and how it impacts us on a personal level, as well as exploring how technology and social media have transformed it into something more performative.
A culmination of two-and-a-half decades of the American filmmaker and photographer’s work, the film takes us into homes all across the world, from Russia to Los Angeles, as well as looking at celebrities such as Tupac and Kim Kardashian, and their lavish lifestyles. Last year Greenfield explained to AnOther that she has always been interested in “looking at wealth in a very broadly defined way, including the currency of fame, of branding, of youth, of the body, of sexuality, of beauty, and the importance of not just having money, but looking like you do – the fake it till you make it (mentality)”. Greenfield also noted how modern culture has affected the aspirational class: “Instead of comparing ourselves to people we know, we compare ourselves to people on TV. So we have this very unrealistic reference group”.
Returning to the “what next?” question that many of us have experienced in the moments after finally getting what we wanted – or thought we did – in this specific clip, Generation Wealth hones in on the phenomenon of handbag-collecting. This “what next?” sums up the sadness of the wealth on show; how it only ends in a futile pursuit of more. Some women own “hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars worth of bags”, a therapist chimes in, “I think it really does say something about their mental health.”
Alongside Generation Wealth, Greenfield has produced four photographic monographs, four documentary features, and has been published in an array of international magazines. She’s no stranger to the subject of wealth, either; her 2012 film, The Queen of Versailles, documented the family of Jackie and David Siegel – owners of an American resort company – as they built one of the largest and most lavish family homes in the United States.