All my water is Prada flavored,” says John Robert Barnes, a 29-year-old who works at a start-up and sees his $180 Prada water bottle as a means of engaging in ikigai, a Japanese concept referring to that which gives life meaning. “It isn’t just about what you do, it’s also about how you do it.” As the richest among us ascend to all new heights of affluence, designer outfits, luxury cars, and massive mansions are no longer the signifiers of immense wealth they once were. Today’s one percent are finding new means of flaunting their mega-bucks by investing in the foolishly ostentatious, whether that be Rihanna and her giant diamond toe ring, the 18-carat gold Rolex Kylie Jenner casually gifted her 5-year-old, or a $210 coffee cup covered in Christian Dior’s signature toile.
“There’s nothing that’s worthless, and to take anything for granted is a kind of sickness. The simple act of drinking water — an act of paramount importance — deserves the same level of attention as does getting dressed or engaging in conversation,” says Barnes. And so, for him, sipping from a Prada water bottle isn’t so much about the branded container as it is a means “to experience our everyday to its fullest extent, infusing intention and consideration into our routines.”
Eva Karkut-Law, a 24-year-old gallery assistant at a museum in London, says their Prada water bottle was a pure indulgence gifted to them by an ex’s mom. “It felt like a very campy way to stay hydrated and a very silly bougie thing to be doing as a broke student slash minimum-wage employee,” they explain. They also second Chabbi’s observation that it’s “a fun conversation starter,” that is until it was stolen out of their locker at work last year. “I was pretty upset,” Karkut-Law admits. “I launched a full-scale investigation to look for it and roped in the security team to check the cameras, but couldn’t find any evidence.”
But not everyone is quite so philosophical, or even optimistic, about their high-end beverage receptacle. When fashion commentator Osama Chabbi was gifted one of Louis Vuitton’s coffee-cup bags, he confesses, “I initially found it quite weird and almost ridiculous.” He didn’t dare carry a drink inside the four-figure leather bag, using it only for his wallet and phone. “Then it somehow grew on me,” he continues. “I felt like It was everything fashion was about — a hint of absurdity and some humor.” Although he cautions, “If you’re not a social person, avoid carrying it because you’ll end up in many unwanted conversations with strangers. It’s an insane conversation starter.”
Some might balk at the steep price tag for these types of extravagant cups, but Barnes never questioned his designer purchase for a second. “I didn’t own a water bottle and I needed one,” he says. “There was no debate.” And that assuredness has only grown over time. “A water bottle is an important thing to own and, in my ownership of this one, I’ve foregone the purchase of who knows how many disposable plastic water bottles and other bevvies whilst out.” His water bottle may not be the most inconspicuous container, but Barnes says he’s never felt nervous carrying it. “I mean, most people have iPhones ten times more expensive than my water bottle that they walk around with thoughtlessly everyday. Anyone who owns a car’s spent far more on that than I have on my water bottle. So, I do find it very strange that compared to a Toyota Camry my $180 water bottle is seen as the ‘luxury item.’”
Barnes agrees that drinking out of his Prada canteen is an unparalleled imbibing experience. It isn’t just about the brand, the beverage, or the convenience of it all, he says, but also “the commitment and sacrifice that afforded me the ability to buy the water bottle in the first place.”