Reprint: What My Mother Told Me

28.05.2021, Kultur

This story is taken from the S/S 2020 Numéro Berlin issue on ‘Luxus’

Luxury is aspirational. Fashion is a projection. Reality is optional.

It elevates us into who we would like to be. And it gives us the illusion that we are what we desire once we wear what we dreamt to own. In a personal essay, Anna Nowok writes about this viciously beautiful circle of life.  

Text: Anna Nowok

My mother recently told me that I’m my father’s daughter because I don’t appreciate the luxury I grew up with. And that I am ungrateful because she paid for my English lessons with a guy who worked for Ted Turner in 90s Russia, when I grew up there. 

I strongly disagree, of course. I love everything luxury. I am a dedicated Pradaist. I can pull off 13cm, Yves Saint Laurent, pink, pointed-toe platform pumps if necessary. I can also do black patent leather Dior peep-toes or MiuMiu suede ankle boots. I gift Bottega Veneta wallets and card holders religiously. And I wear my Balenciaga coats. 

But usually, I prefer to keep it simple: The epitome of luxury to me is being able to be alone and content and calm although everything around you is going up in flames. While you are smoking a blunt at dawn at the Hollywood Roosevelt in LA and nearly passing out, but still somehow are able to order a double vodka on ice.


The utmost luxury is power – power over others, but mainly over yourself. The utmost luxury is being able to make decisions for yourself and being aware of it. The point is: Being able to get over oneself and the obvious ridiculous insecurities that make you want the $400 Dior cashmere vest, that you don’t need, but buy anyways. Just because… 

And, did you know, that all these insecurities and the things you do to overcome them can be tied to your mother? That’s basically what Freud and hours of expensive therapy came up with. Duh. Mothers, fathers, death, Chanel – deal with it. 

So let’s get to the existential questions:

Do I wear vintage, do I buy retail?

Do I like cashmere? Do I know what cashmere is, what really good cashmere is?

Do I still buy Céline, although Hedi ruined it for me forever?

The cult-famous sunglasses look odd by now. Worn out and like on sale.

Like everything last season.

So was it ever any good? And if so, why?

But you know, Phoebe is doing her own line now, so…

But let’s get back to the essentials:

Do I need the Tom Ford breastplate? Who doesn’t…?

Am I a Rolex or an OMEGA person?

Or a Jaeger-LeCoultre person who detests St. Gallen people?

Or do I prefer the Patek Philippe guy with manners and an island or a castle at his disposal?

Do I even know what the OMEGA Moonwatch Speedmaster, the Rolex Submariner, or Rolex Daytona truly mean? 

Side note: Do I have taste, or do I need help?

Do I like, or better: Do I understand Philipp Plein?

That, in a nutshell, is the essence of luxury: It is unattainable. Always is. Always has been. Always will be. It leaves you with more questions than answers, but always wanting more. 

You will always want a GUCCI, Chanel, Prada, Balenciaga something. You will buy stuff and wear it. Just because… 

Or you will go and buy the perfume or the sunglasses because you can’t actually afford the dress, shirt, coat. And then you go to Zara and H&M and buy the copy of a copy a copy. Because this is what you can actually afford. And it still makes you as happy as the original. But also sad. Because deep inside you, you wanted something else. And because you don’t really know what that is, you want more. And then you buy more stuff.


Luxury is vile, exhilarating 

Luxury is a construct, that I love, that you love, that we all love. 

It’s like a dominatrix, in that video you pretend to have never watched, telling a slave to submit.

Luxury is to have everything and care about nothing,

Luxury is being able to read a book from start to finish without putting it down.

Luxury is time and not caring about time

Luxury is a rare vintage Rolex Daytona.

Rolex Daytona is one of the most obnoxious watches ever, btw.
But I think the Platinum Ice Blue really does it. 

Luxury is about being able to do what you love and being paid for it and then being able to take a break and smoke Marlboro Reds while saving the planet and orphans and koalas altogether. 

And being able to contemplate: Isn’t this friend actually an arsehole? Is that even important? Who cares?

Luxury is heartbreak. While sipping Champagne at Chateau Marmont while Charlize Theron is sitting next to you, saying, “Hi beautiful,” but still being heartbroken. 

Luxury is being a child, who doesn’t know about what the world has in store. 

That is not like I remember my childhood: Sitting in a military helicopter, landing on a yacht, arriving on an unnamed island, in an uncharted territory with several individuals who may or may not have been oil magnates, actors, warlords, government officials or other things. All dressed in leisure wear. 

I tell you here and now: There is such a thing as cashmere jogging pants worn flying on a private jet while listening to Modern Talking, Ace of Base or Guns N’ Roses on your way to a preferred location in the Soviet Union. 

But then again, there is also the probability of being kidnapped on your way back from school, being kept in a smelly car while having a gun to your head while your mother has to go and get the money, the jewellery and whatever there is from the safe. I really miss my grandmother’s sapphire engagement ring and the golden earrings I got when I was six. It didn’t hurt, but I was scared.


Luxury to me is sipping some super expensive sparkling while wearing Juicy Couture and sporting acrylic nails. It does sound like an ultimate fashion nightmare. But it did happen and I was there. But I was six, so what was I to do? 

I remember counting dollars, rolling them in tight packages and stuffing them into condoms. I remember dancing ballet to exhaustion and fainting and I remember the last time I saw my father: Accompanied by two blonde women wearing platform heels. He seemed pretty happy, but he didn’t recognize me. His suit looked impeccable, though.


Luxury is class. And my mother taught me class. 

Recently, I had to take the train to pick her up from the hospital because she was in intensive care. She is not well. I booked 1st class. Then, at the train station, I was picked up by a chauffeur and was driven to the hospital where I helped my mother change from a hospital gown into some massive couture. 

While overweight, sick and nearly dying, she told me to get the Chanel make-up, the Dior cape, and the Gucci slippers ready for her. When I opened the hospital closet, I nearly fainted. Everything was lined up. Shoes, several dresses, trousers and coats. It seemed inappropriate and it smelled like antiseptic. 

I briefly excused myself and went to the hospital visitor’s bathroom to drink one of the miniature Grey Goose Vodkas which I thoughtfully brought with me. The hospital smell always made me nauseous, but I always carry the Diptyque Infused Facial Water for such occasions. It really does its job in moments like these. 

My mother told me to go stand in the corner, she didn’t want me or anyone to see her. But then she insisted on being dressed and made up. Hours before the medical transport was even scheduled. She didn’t want any help, except with the surgical stocking which went under the vintage Nina Ricci trousers. She asked for her favourite perfume: Tresor from Lancôme. She asked me to tell everyone to wait, because she wanted to be beautiful, because she was going home. And she wanted to wear her favourite Dior coat. She also told me that she was more scared of the nurses stealing her clothes or the Chanel bag than dying. 

My mother always told me that we are rich people and that one day it will be over and we will be poor. And that I should be prepared for those times because money comes and goes, but you’ll always have class. She taught me the most important lesson in life: Never be cheap, never save money. Spend it on hookers and alcohol like your father did.

I would love to, but I’m currently into building an off-the-grid Tadao Ando-inspired house in Yucca Valley and Mezcal Sodas.


And, did you know, that all these insecurities and the things you do to overcome them can be tied to your mother? That’s basically what Freud and hours of expensive therapy came up with. Duh. Mothers, fathers, death, Chanel – deal with it. 

So let’s get to the existential questions:

Do I wear vintage, do I buy retail?

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