Interesting article: If everyone has one, do you still want one?

  1. From today's National Post, the columnist reviews a book by Dana Thomas called "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster."
    It's a really good read and makes you question whether luxury is still luxury when it's being consumed by the masses and asks that old question: Do you still want that luxury bag even though everyone has it? And is that item considered luxury when everyone has it?

    Read it here:

    And here is the text:

    If everyone has one, do you still want one?

    The elites don't, which may mean the end of conspicuous consumption

    Nathalie Atkinson, National Post

    Published: Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Fashionable types have been waiting for this book all summer -- and it's not even a *****y roman a clef.
    Dana Thomas's Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster (Penguin) is instead a social history of the luxury industry that reads like a riveting roll call of Double Cs, double Fs and signature buckles (Gucci, Ferragamo).
    In her exhaustively researched book, Newsweek's Paris-based fashion and culture correspondent examines the rise and fall of old-world craftsmanship, then dissects the class, culture and other clashes at issue behind today's US$157-billion luxury good market. She glimpses the workrooms of luxury brands around the world -- both the pedigreed ateliers of France and the less-so factories in remote China, juxtaposing the story of luxury barons Bernard Arnault with stylist-come-lately Rachel Zoe and the snobbish pronouncements of Fred Hayman (he of Giorgio Beverly Hills fame). She looks at luxury behemoths like Gucci Group, Richemont and LVMH, whose portfolio includes more than 50 brands, such as Pucci, Dior, Donna Karan and the money-making jewel, Louis Vuitton.

    Thomas also lays bare the infamous loophole of final assembly, a technicality that allows designers to sew the coveted "made in Italy" label on garments assembled there from materials fabricated elsewhere. There's even an interview and some dirt on the enigmatic Miuccia Prada, the poli-sci PhD and communist who became the soul and patron fashion saint of her family's luggage brand in a volte-face as striking as Naomi Klein suddenly becoming the spokesmodel for Wal-Mart.
    This new Theory of the Leisure Class for the 'naughts: Authentic artisans become branding megaliths targeting the aspirational middle class looking for instant McStatus tied up in a famous robin's egg blue box.
    So where does luxury go from here? Thomas ties the massification in with the rise of licensing and ancillary products -- the purses and perfume that drive the bottom line. Labels and logos have gone from the inside to the exterior, a vulgar display of arriviste insecurity. This conspicuousness is slowly spooking original luxury consumers who worry not about the source -- which may still be artisanal--but the audience.
    Last year in Britain, rumours swirled that Burberry would pull back on use of its signature nova check because of the increasing adoption of the look by British soccer hooligans. It's a classic case of the Chavs and the Chav-nots. The easy access to the trappings of luxury -- the branded and licensed purses and perfumes and plaids -- and the creation of a masstige category (prestige appeal at slightly mass-market prices), such as Simply Vera by Vera Wang at Kohl's or Erin Featherston's upcoming Target collection, devalue the core luxury values.
    These days, the truly rich are all about stealth wealth, a direction Barb Atkin, the savvy vice-president of fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, enthused about at a fashion luncheon earlier this week. Atkin cited little-known Brunello Cucinelli, a very expensive but much sought after understated luxury brand on the rise. Cucinelli is subtle, not showy. His labels are on the inside, not out, and the true luxury comes from the exquisite material and fabrication. It's elitist, which is of course the whole point of luxury. Nowadays, those who have it don't flaunt it. The new luxury model is embodied by L.A. socialite Susan Casden, who gets to personally approve the special order of the lesser-known Hermes bag named after her.

    This backlash against conspicuous consumption is how Thomas wraps up her book. As shoemaker Christian Louboutin tells the author, "Luxury is not consumerism." You see, the rich really are different from you and me. And the moment Vogue, originally a proudly exclusionary society journal for the 400 pedigreed East Coast families, starts running Wal-Mart ads, it is time for the elites to look elsewhere.
    Of course, that's if they believe that goods -- and not, say, free time, close friends and good health --are the trappings of true luxury.
  2. Interesting detail: In the paper it has an image of about 15 Louis Vuitton Neverfulls to illustrate its point...
  3. I think the thing about "everyone" having it sort of varies by where you live. Around here, hardly anyone owns LV. You can carry LV monogram without looking like everyone else. I am the only person I have seen carrying a Neverfull. Coach is a different story. You can't throw a rock without hitting someone carrying a Coach bag. Almost all of them are the logo jaquard bags, too. Because of this, I don't think I would buy a logo jaquard Coach bag. Perhaps if I lived in an area where everyone and their granny had LV monogram, I would be less keen on it.
  4. Interesting article. Makes you think!
  5. VERY interesting article...thanks for posting it!
  6. interesting
  7. I'm always in two minds about this. Sometimes I end up loving something that everyone and their granny DOES have..and then I have to decide whether its worth buying or not. According to my philosophy I should buy whatever I love despite what other people think, whether its in season or not, and even if everyone else has it. But it DOES stop me from buying because its so annoying to see everyone with the same bags! Where I am its mostly Coach and a lot of Dooneys. I'm not into those so thats fine, except I have to stare at everyone else's all eye candy for me besides my own bags (lol so vain..). Next is LVs and then Guccis (the canvas ones). Obviously, everyone wants to have the monograms all over. Now LV isn't really about bags, its supposed to be for luggage..but still I find myself really liking some styles. Did I buy them? No. Why? Because everyone has it, and they're fake! *sigh.. So I only have one Gucci canvas bag..I had to wait until they made a design I thought was somewhat unique (with a bamboo handle) and the rest of everything is leather. So I buy bags for me, but I do like to be different and feel special when I have a gorgeous bag that people aren't used to seeing.
  8. It goes both ways for me. I certainly wouldnt want the same dress as someone else. For bags, I'm not particularly fond others having the same style. Brand, however, it something else altogether. I love seeing the bags other people have. If I live in an area where most people carry designer bags, I feel comfortable carrying mine. Now that I live in an area where most people don't.... I never carry mine. For some reason, I just feel uncomfortable carrying a "luxury" item that no one else has as weird as that sounds.
  9. i like to participate in trends w my own twist. everyone i no has that return to tiffany circle braceleet, so i got the earings instead. same tiffany stuff, but my own spin.
  10. kneehighz - love your Gucci! One of the only one's I've seen that I actually love, very pretty. I am surrounded by LVs everywhere.... maybe some are fakes, I've stopped really looking @ them because they're just everywhere. So is Coach. Same with my Tiff bracelet - but that was a gift from hubby so until I get a new one I'll still be wearing it.
  11. I agree with the article. Seeing a chubby soccer mom in her sweats with an LV shows that luxury has gone plop.

    I have never bought an "IT" bag. I only buy what I like. I am also disenchanted with the high price and logoed bags because THEY DON'T MAKE ME ANY HAPPIER. I am downscaling to good design and good value like Furla; and Mulberry and Gryson on sale.
  12. Eh, I recently realized that I want an LV Speedy 30 (Damier Canvas) despite the fact that LVs are super-trendy and faked. They're classic and durable. Most of the time, however, I'm uninterested in something carried by everyone because that "something" is inevitably Coach or Dooney.

  13. HUH? So if I'm an overweight mother, whose kid plays soccer and I choose to go to the grocery store in sweats and I grab my LV...that means luxury has gone PLOP?
    Ahhh but if we see Jessica Simpson when she's a little chunky, wearing some Juicy Couture sweatsuit, walking down the street carrying her LVs...that is OK?
    Gimme a break!
    I think what turns people off is the mass amount of fakes that are out there!!! They saturate the markets making it look like everyone and their dog has one...when in reality only a small percentage are authentic.
    So the rich choose to buy brands that are not so heavily faked!

    Sorry for the comment above..but it just makes me so sick to see people make comments that suburbanite women can't wear sweats and a designer purse. UGH! I'm not even a mom and that makes me so mad!!! Not everyone goes out of their house dressed to the nines...and when all you own is designer purses you carry what you have! UGH:cursing:
  14. ita. i mean, nothing looks sillier then someone over dressing. it is like, come on, who r u trying to impress? i dont c anyone pushing their shopping cart at loblaws in a ysl suit.
  15. In a word, yes, that would be a very accurate summation.

    Just as if a "low end" retailer puts out a $20 bag that bears a very close resemblance to a popular $2000 bag manufactured by a larger company who has purchased the rights to put a famous designer's name on their product, that will be considered by those same people to be foul and flagrant theft. They will complain that it reduces the status and prestige of their $2000 bag, and express feelings of extreme distaste when they see people that they know have much less money than they do carrying a bag whose lines are so similar to their own.
    However if another large company with rights to use the name of another famous designer launches a new $2000 product that looks almost exactly like the $2000 bag made by the other large company, that will not be seen as criminal, or even unethical, on the contrary, it will be viewed as evidence that the design is truly a classic! :p

    Another example: Lindsay Lohan seizes a car that belongs to someone else, and drives away with it - and the passengers inside it, people who do not wish to be there. She does this while under the influence of both alcohol and cocaine, and is found to be in possession of cocaine. This is not her first run-in with the law on the matter of driving while intoxicated.

    It is possible that she could be required to spend up to four days in jail, we hear.

    In another part of that same city, there is a report of a carjacking, kidnapping, hostage-taking repeat offender, a young man from a low-income neighborhood who is employed as a floor cleaner. He has also been charged with intent to distribute cocaine, since there was quite a bit of it in his pocket when he was arrested.

    He will remain in prison until he is an old man.

    It is a societal value with a history that goes back centuries, even millennia.

    Not millennia, but, well, several ;), years ago, a high school girl, mainstream demographic, from a relatively affluent, "pillar of the community" family in a small town, got drunk, drove anyway, and killed one of her classmates. Every effort was made to ensure that this unfortunate incident, this serious but understandable youthful error, did not ruin her life. Whether it did or did not is debatable, but the girl did not go to jail, she passed GO! several times, collected much more than $200, including a wealthy oil company husband who became a political figurehead and a household name.

    That same night, in another town, another high school student, a poor girl from a poor family from the wrong side of the tracks, got drunk, drove anyway, and killed one of her classmates. She is still in prison.

    Disclaimer: Please note that the examples above are not intended as political commentary, but illustrations of an ancient cultural tradition - and one that is by no means unique to the US - Rich and poor, even rich and dwindling middle - are not measured by the same stick!