DID you know that Chadstone Mall in Melbourne is Australia's largest shopping mall? It has 510 stores, over 10,000 car parking spaces and on a busy day up to 68,000 keen shoppers can show up. The design is impressive with sweeping translucent fibreglass ceilings that let in the light. Despite the crowds it feels beguiling and spacious. The mall was built on land that used to belong to the Convent of the Good Shepherd. See the parable here? Of course you do - the mall represents society's shifting values! Once we worshipped God, now we worship Mammon (wealth, the greedy pursuit of gain).
The way the mall is structured is another metaphor for society. On the top level are all the flash shops: Emporio Armani, Chanel, Prada, Tiffany - you get the picture. This level is not crowded and the window displays are expensively understated. You might see a single stand of lustrous pearls, tastefully draped on a bed of gold edged black velvet. Plus, perhaps, a spray of rare ghost orchids - just the one. So very minimalist. The photos of models wearing these luxurious items are of louche young men draped over leather couches, wearing suits that appear to be one size too small and buttoned tightly across their chest, or gazelle-like young women wearing teeny tiny shorts (I told you that trend was everywhere) carrying giant Louis Vuitton handbags (the bags are bigger than the shorts). Penalty rates on Sundays a concern? I think not.
As you proceed to the lower levels, it becomes more mainstream middle class and the displays become showier. The crowds build. On the bottom level are the supermarkets for the plebeian types who seek out food specials and, dare I say it, toilet paper.
Going to Chadstone is like entering seductive pleasure gardens of enticement and delight. So many sales, so much stuff, all marked down and attractively displayed! I defy anyone to go there with two items on the shopping list and leave with only those things. My daughter and I were after Manchester (household linen, not the football team). Did we return home with just towels and pillows? We did not. We also had in our possession a range of gorgeous and bargain priced items including a sparkly dress, a must-have cardigan, Ugg boots, a fancy drink bottle and a world map. We were seduced the instant we entered the temple of Chadstone in all its shiny, come-hither glory. We didn't stand a chance.
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