possibly a must-

  1. read. this book review was featured in the nytimes.
    i will reserve my judgment until i've read the book, and i think i will...

    Books of the Times
    The Devil Wears Hermès (He Bought It at the Caesars Palace Mall in Las Vegas)


    Published: August 21, 2007
    Back in the late 1980s, the Prada backpack — made out of black or tobacco-brown parachute fabric trimmed in leather — became the “it” bag for many would-be fashionistas. It was hip, modern, lightweight and at $450 expensive, but not as expensive as the stratospherically priced bags made by Hermès and Chanel. According to the fashion reporter Dana Thomas, that Prada backpack was also “the emblem of the radical change that luxury was undergoing at the time: the shift from small family businesses of beautifully handcrafted goods to global corporations selling to the middle market” — a shift from exclusivity to accessibility, from an emphasis on tradition and quality to an emphasis on growth and branding and profits.

    With “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster,” Ms. Thomas — who has been the cultural and fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris for 12 years — has written a crisp, witty social history that’s as entertaining as it is informative. Traveling from French perfume laboratories to Las Vegas shopping malls to assembly-line factories in China, she traces the evolving face of the luxury goods business, from design through marketing to showroom sales.
    She gives us some sharply observed profiles of figures like Miuccia Prada, who was a Communist with a doctorate in political science when she took over her family’s small luxury goods business in 1978, and the business tycoon Bernard Arnault, who relentlessly built LVMH into a luxury monolith with dozens of brands (including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Dior) sold around the world.
    Ms. Thomas peppers her narrative with lots of amusing asides about everything from how orange became Hermès’s signature color because it was the only color widely available during World War II to the money-saving benefits of raw-edge cutting, which has been marketed to the public as a cutting-edge, avant-garde innovation.
    But her focus remains on how a business that once catered to the wealthy elite has gone mass-market and the effects that democratization has had on the way ordinary people shop today, as conspicuous consumption and wretched excess have spread around the world. Labels, once discreetly stitched into couture clothes, have become logos adorning everything from baseball hats to supersized gold chains. Perfumes, once dreamed up by designers with an idea about a particular scent, are now concocted from briefs written by marketing executives brandishing polls and surveys and sales figures.
    With globalization, Paris and New York are no longer exclusive luxury meccas. Ms. Thomas notes that a gigantic 690,000-square-foot luxury mall called Crocus City (featuring 180 boutiques, including Armani, Pucci and Versace) is flourishing outside Moscow, and that a group of high-end boutiques will be part of a luxury complex called Legation Quarter, scheduled to open in Tiananmen Square later this year.
    “Approximately 40 percent of all Japanese own a Vuitton product” today, she says, and one recent poll showed that by 2004 the average American woman was buying more than four handbags a year. With more people visiting Caesars Palace’s glitzy Forum Shops each year than Disney World, Las Vegas has made shopping synonymous with gambling and entertainment, even as outlet malls have brought designer clothing and accessories within the reach (and budget) of many suburbanites.
    High-profile luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Cartier were founded in the 18th or 19th centuries by artisans dedicated to creating beautiful, finely made wares for the royal court in France and later, with the fall of the monarchy, for European aristocrats and prominent American families. Luxury remained, writes Ms. Thomas, “a domain of the wealthy and the famous” until “the Youthquake of the 1960s” pulled down social barriers and overthrew elitism. It would remain out of style “until a new and financially powerful demographic — the unmarried female executive — emerged in the 1980s.”
    As both disposable income and credit-card debt soared in industrialized nations, the middle class became the target of luxury vendors, who poured money into provocative advertising campaigns and courted movie stars and celebrities as style icons. In order to maximize profits, many corporations looked for ways to cut corners: they began to use cheaper materials, outsource production to developing nations (while falsely claiming that their goods were made in Western Europe) and replace hand craftsmanship with assembly-line production. Classic goods meant to last for years gave way, increasingly, to trendy items with a short shelf life; cheaper lines (featuring lower-priced items like T-shirts and cosmetic cases) were introduced as well.
    Although this volume quotes Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, saying such changes mean that “more people are going to get better fashion” and “the more people who can have fashion, the better,” the author reaches a more elitist and pessimistic conclusion. “The luxury industry has changed the way people dress,” she writes. “It has realigned our economic class system. It has changed the way we interact with others. It has become part of our social fabric. To achieve this, it has sacrificed its integrity, undermined its products, tarnished its history and hoodwinked its consumers. In order to make luxury ‘accessible,’ tycoons have stripped away all that has made it special.
    “Luxury has lost its luster.”
  2. Interesting read.
  3. I'll be interested to see your review Heely :smile:
  4. wow.
    powerful read.
  5. i think it's interesting that the argument the book is making, according to this review, is that "luxury" has been compromised because it is no longer the best of the best (production and quality compromised, etc.) but the title of this book review, frankly, speaks to something else, something more snotty - that it's an issue of elitism, as if the items aren't good enough if they're available to too many (implied is not that someone wears hermes, but that it was available at vegas, for anyone who goes there to purchase). while geography might make the hermes bags increasingly accessible (more stores opening, etc.), the price tags aren't changing. tiffany&co. regretted expanding their silver jewelry and charms at a low price point (relative to the diamonds and jewelry on the first floor), thereby attracting a lower-income and younger (tween) customer, making them less appealing to the seriously sophisticated and wealthy (though again, this would be due to those lost customers' snobbishness, not any reduction in the presumed quality of a tiffany diamond, etc.). tiffany felt that they had lost these customers, so they cut back on their "affordable" silver selection to thin out the masses and woo back the rich snobs with a restored air of prestige. hermes is not about to make this mistake i think, with their annual price hikes, etc. they are sticking with their higher-than-high status, so i think something else interesting and sad is going on, at least in america, and maybe eventually spreading, insidiously (like a seattle-based coffee chain), around the globe: the inclination to buy what people cannot afford - the dependency on credit.
    i feel, at some point, that opening up more stores is plainly very greedy and it is preying on people and their weakness. it's like opening an opium den for the addicts.

    there are people having strong discussions about this problem:

    i am of 2 minds about the whole thing - honestly, i feel like people should be responsible for their choices, and a company maybe shouldn't have to police their customers financial choices, but at the same time, the cc companies, the company expansions, it also doesn't sit well with me.
    with a few exceptions, i will never tell anyone on this forum to "go for it" or encourage someone to buy anything, because i don't know their financial circumstances, and i don't want to be a part of anyone's problem.
    that is my only concern about hermes spreading themselves out, expanding, just, it seems, to get their share of people's discretionary (and sometimes not so discretionary) income. it's hardly integral to the company's image or consistent with its philosophy to be in every mall in america. heck, to be in any mall in america. a company that, according the VF article, used to make royalty wait, holding up coronations, etc. until stitches were completed and items were perfect, aka ready. now they want more people lined up. i don't get it.
    i would be happy if it were more accessible to people in that the prices were lower or everyone's income were higher, but that is not the case....
    rambling. sorry.
  6. This is an interesting read. We had this conversation earlier this year about the Tiffany thing....Cartier also had this issue when it offered the "less expensive" ranges, and lived to regret it, and now they are having trouble pulling back.

    Quite frankly, and this is only my opinion, Hermes has lost a little of it's elusive lustre for me - when I was 16 (16 years ago) and first wanted a Kelly, it was something only the truly wealthy (and informed) could afford to own
    - now every celebrity and his dog, it seems, has one (the picture of Britney sent me over the edge). The lustre has gone for me, to a certain extent. Not that it has stopped me buying from them, but it is something I consider frequently.
  7. Oh, just wanted to add - the invention of the Twilly was for the same reason as the other companies introduced their "budget" items - to attract customers that perhaps cannot afford the big ticket items.
  8. I am currently reading How Luxury Lost Its Luster.. I am about half way through and I must say its is worth the effort.
  9. revisit that stars thread - some of us think britney's bag is faux.:graucho: so there is hope.
    i do feel that if hermes sincerely wanted to keep an exclusivity to their product and to their image, they would keep doing what they're doing, and let the customers find them.
    i think we will see more things like twillies being offered, and if not, we'll see h stores being closed after they open, eventually.
    thank you for sharing your feelings/thoughts!:heart:
  10. I agree with you...they make more money from the low-end items than the high end, that's for sure. They just feel the need to balance it all out - sell the cheaper stuff, but try and keep the "posh" clientele happy, and not become tainted by the mainstream....what's a luxury goods company to do?
  11. OK, just called Borders and reserved a copy!
  12. Isn't Michiko Kakutani the person in SATC who gave Carrie the scathing review?
  13. i read an article a few weeks ago about retailers raising prices whether they need to or not, because customers expect it, because they feel more proud of buying something that cost an arm and a leg, that we're essentially desensitized to sticker shock (i know, i know, everyone's gonna say their dh isn't). the article said that it costs a lot less for them to sell 5 expensive items than 24 less expensive items, so the money is to be made in the very high-priced products....
    this contradicts the assumption i guess that hermes has to produce some cheaper (price-wise) lures....
  14. ^ that's interesting...I wonder if it depends on the retailer and what level they are selling at? I mean, Tiffany & Co and Cartier are still far better known than Hermes, for instance.