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Glam campers: No shame in luxury outdoor products

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 2, 2012, at 9:46 p.m.

When you read a press release that says a guy named Genghis Cohen has developed a Louis Vuitton-handled handgun at a luxury Las Vegas shooting range, you look for the punch line, right?

I did.

If the odd connotation of a heavily armed guy named Genghis Cohen (yep, his real name) doesn’t inspire the “say whaaaat?” face, then the designer label handgun certainly does.

It sounds ludicrous, and yet it’s true.

Cohen told the New York Times: “We have a real demand to cater to gun enthusiasts who also have a desire to look stylish, hence our foray into Louis Vuitton gun accessories.”

The company also has Louis Vuitton holsters and gun bags, but other reports suggest that Louis Vuitton is not happy with the association.

Calls seeking information at the gun range were not returned.

But there’s no denying that there’s a luxe but rugged pioneering spirit experiment going on. It is inherently contradictory and yet no one seems ashamed.

The trend is more prominent among glampers (i.e., glam campers). It started in jest, I think, with some high-end designers using camping attire to inspire their runway collections. Hiking shoes were rendered as stilettos, sweatshirts in cashmere, and lumberjack vests were lined in plush fur with slim waists.

All things utilitarian were revamped with opulent details. It was with a wink and a smile that Isaac Mizrahi incorporated camping into his showing of ball gowns for fall 2010: “Think Geoffrey L.L. Bean,” said his show notes. “Or even Buffalo Bill Blass.” The show was full of quirky, youthful twists on glamour.

If I were to go camping (and please note: I do not want to go camping), I’d probably be a glamper. The name now extends to camping in the most ironic form possible.

Glamping is also what real campers would probably call an annoying invasion of spoiled yuppies.

But that’s beside the point; glamping is here to stay. Once a fringe getaway community mostly reserved for honeymooner types who wanted to get away from it all and were considered justified in self-indulgent bliss, it’s now acceptable for anyone to have their cake and eat it with a platinum fork, too.

I used to joke that I’d camp more if they had room service. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one whining about the lack of amenities in the great outdoors.

Nature’s great, but it’s just so nature-y.

The luxury camping business has cropped up to smooth out the edges of “roughing it.” Campsites resemble resorts with spacious tents, deluxe beds and sometimes maid service. There are campfires you don’t have to make, gourmet dinners you don’t have to cook and dishes you don’t have to wash. There are luxurious private outdoor rain showers, water heaters and sometimes air conditioning (although smart placement of structures usually maximizes natural breezes, and natural cooling techniques are preferred).

William Henry has a Swarovski gemstone pocketknife to keep even the smallest task glamorous. Not that you’ll be doing much work, but the pocket accessory is embellished with Swarovski sapphires.

And wouldn’t it be nice to keep your high-end beauty products dry with Louis Vuitton’s Sirocco water-repellent extra-large backpack ($3,100)? And if shiny burgundy leather hiking boots by Brunello Cucinelli with woodsy dark gray knit laces ($1,660) at Neiman Marcus aren’t your style for hitting the trail, you could opt for a waterproof customized Timberland hiking shoe available in over a dozen colors and more than 10 custom options including, monograms, shoelace and even sole color (for $155). But if design isn’t your thing, there’s Ann Demeulemeester leather lace-up, buckled ankle boots ($1,295) at Saks Fifth Avenue. Any of the above would make a glam-worthy option for blazing trails or, perhaps, more appropriately for sauntering runway-style through the campsite.

And for die-hard glampers who want to spare no expense (or ridicule), Chanel produces an inflatable raft (prices available on request) for lazy trips down the river. You can even bring along your Chanel guitar equipped with signature quilted calf-skin guitar case to set the mood.

Never mind that Yahoo news deemed the Chanel raft one of its “18 absurd and frivolous designer items” and gave it the caption, “Help! I just bought this designer raft and now I’m drowning in debt!”

Killjoys.

Sip your artisanal roasted coffee from your Kate Spade travel cup by the roaring synthetic fire and enjoy nature with all the comforts of home.

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