Chris Collins: What Luxury Means To Me

From exploring the east coast to traveling the world , my journey in life has forced me to refine my perspective on luxury. Luxury is not just something tangible, such as owning a Ferrari, but rather the feeling that comes from driving that Ferrari. In other words, luxury is that experience that gives you the highest level of genuine satisfaction. That feeling, or what creates it, is different for everyone, and this is what fascinates me about the notion of luxury in an abstract sense. It’s no longer about staying at the Ritz Carlton, it’s more about finding that remote bed and breakfast that has a personality of comfort and elegance that speaks to you. While my idea of what luxury is has evolved over the years, my understanding of it began during my early years.

Growing up in Paterson, NJ, my family and I weren’t rich, but we were wealthy in life experience. My parents always made sure that my twin brother and I had
what we needed, which laid the framework for a great childhood. We would often take trips into New York City for dinner which made me feel so fortunate, as if we were the only family in the world sharing that experience. Of course I didn’t realize it then, but that feeling that came over me was my introduction to the concept of luxury. That 30-minute drive over the George Washington Bridge, through the City’s bright lights, to have dinner with my family was true luxury. Now I live here, and I’ve experienced the city a bit differently, but I never forgot about those moments and how I felt. And all it takes is the discovery of a new restaurant or a walk through Central Park, to remind me of those nights. More than anything else, the architecture of the buildings in Manhattan never ceases to blow me away. I can’t help but look up as I walk around the city, taking in the beautiful landscape. I’m always falling back in love with NYC, just as I did as a kid.

chris collinsWhile Manhattan has certainly cultivated my view on luxury, my time at the University of Maine would introduce me to luxury in a non-traditional sense (though I would not be conscious of it until returning as an adult). As you can imagine it was quite different from where I grew up, but as I got older and understood the wanderlust of Maine, I enjoyed it incredibly. From the food to the boats, the mountains, and even the snow, I now consider Maine to be the most beautiful and luxurious place in the world. Although I’ve been truly blessed with the opportunity to travel around the world, when people ask me where the most beautiful place I’ve been to is, I tell them Maine. The Pine Tree State showed me that there was more out there to see and experience. To this day, I still ride up on my Harley every summer for long weekends in Kennebunkport, a small boating town in the state’s southeast region. Though the town is quaint, it evokes an original feeling of luxury, particularly during my stay at the White Barn Inn or while stopping for a Maine lobster roll at one of the street vendors.

poloAfter graduating from college, my life took an unpredictably interesting turn. Not knowing if I wanted to go to medical school straight away, I decided to take a year off to travel and contemplate what I really wanted to do with my life. That’s when I would be introduced to the man who would give me a distinctive and more elegant perspective on luxury – Ralph Lauren. In my opinion, there’s no other lifestyle brand that defines luxury as well as Ralph Lauren does. I began working for the company as a model, and later as a spokesperson for almost 19 years. I learned about style and taste, quality and decadence, beauty and heritage, and of course tradition. All you have to do is visit the Polo Mansion on the Upper East Side, or dine at one of Ralph Lauren’s restaurants in Paris, Chicago, or New York to see what I mean. In each of his venues, there is a particular attention to detail. From the way you’re greeted when you enter, to the design and the furniture, to the stately antique pieces and art – the experience is as luxurious as it is unique.

Ralph Lauren is not a fashion designer – he’s an architect of a lifestyle. That’s the genius of his brand, one that he figured out a long time ago. More than a brand, he created this atmosphere of luxurious lifestyle and the ability for you to develop your own feeling of luxury through his diverse brands, from Ralph Lauren Home, RL Watches, Purple Label for men, Blue Label for women, and more. Something happens when you wear a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, that polo player mid swing on your chest. I call it the “power of the pony.” No matter who you are or where you’re from, you feel like you’re part of the most prestigious country club in the world.

Life is our everyday existence, it’s our habitation on this earth as living, breathing organisms, while style is the way we live it.

I’ve taken what I’ve seen, what I’ve learned, where I’ve been, and who I’ve met over the years and transformed these experiences into an opinion on lifestyle. Breaking down the term “lifestyle,” from my perspective, life is our everyday existence, it’s our habitation on this earth as living, breathing organisms, while style is the way we choose to live it. Style is our expression through forms such as fashion, art, music, design, and architecture. It’s your interpretation of our culture, unique to each individual. Whatever your chosen lifestyle, how luxury is experienced is unique to you.

chris collinsMy goal is to inspire men and women not to concentrate on the “what,” but more so on the “why” we do the things we love. It’s not about what we do or what we own, but why we do the things we do and why we own certain possessions. It’s that intrinsic level of gratification we feel when we do these things that are most important to us. For me, luxury is waking up on a Sunday, putting on a jazz record, drinking my coffee, and reading the New York Times — I am a king in that moment. It’s something so simple, yet it’s an important ritual for me, one that I look forward to every Sunday. Those acts, and many others, when put together, define my lifestyle. When you put lifestyle in that perspective, it influences you to do things in your life that can or will lead to a happy and fulfilling life.

Chris Collins is a Men’s Lifestyle Expert and tastemaker living in NYC. He also creates content for his lifestyle journal called the Chris Collins Report.