Luxury Lost its Lustre

Luxury Lost Its LustreI read this book called "How Luxury Lost its Lustre" by Dana Thomas a journalist who has covered style and the luxury business for The Washington Post, Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine . It’s about how luxury is not what it used to be centuries ago and how your luxury goods are made at the same place where their fake counter parts are made too.

Centuries ago, luxury is for royalty and aristocrats. Everything is custom-made according to their wishes and only the best materials were used. It was during these times that some of today’s leading luxury goods labels had their humble beginnings. It was the time of true luxury, not mass production.

Today, the Queen of England may own a custom-made Louis Vuitton Trunk, but hey, you own a Speedy 30 monogram. They’re not quite the same thing, but they’re from the same brand so you and the Her Majesty are pretty much of the same ilk, right…? Uhuh… . [This idea that they can afford "luxury" products sometimes get into people’s heads and make them act all haughty and what not.]

Luxury goods then were custom-made. Had Marie Antoinette been living today, she would have died on the spot had she seen a gown that look like hers. Luxury brands used to be family-owned, meaning the designer/artisan and his family run the business.

Luxury brands

Today luxury brands are owned by conglomerates who are all about profits. To obtain profits, they resort to various marketing strategies, (an awful lot of) advertising, mass-production and out-sourcing.

Advertising hammers into people’s heads that "you-gotta-have-this" because "it’s what the rich and famous people buy". But actually, everybody has it. Well, maybe not everybody, but it’s not limited to a select few either.

What’s so luxurious about that? Before, luxury goods were created by skilled artisans, using only the best of materials. Thus explain the high-price. Now, luxury goods are made in an assembly line, using not actually cheap materials, but costs were cut somewhere there.

So why the high-price? Nowadays, only Hermés creates its Birkins and Kelleys the olf-fashioned way – by hand. A number of artisans work on different parts of an Hermés handbag by hand. Thus, Hermés churn-out far fewer bags on a given day than any of its competitors. And thus, the year-long wait-lists. Out-sourcing.

Everybody does it. Believe it or not some of your luxury brands have factories in – yes, you guessed it. China. One interesting part in the book is when the author was on a trip to China.

At their hotel, a Chinese woman comes in to the lobby and starts peddling obviously fake items bearing luxury brand names, some of which were even misspelled.

When the author and her husband didn’t choose anything from the fakes, the woman took out a Burberry coat the looked authentic. Hmm… Luxury. Mass-luxury. What is it now, really?

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