The history of luxury


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    Empires built on luxe

    Last Updated: 12:01am BST 19/08/2007
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    With everyone from footballers' wives to office girls now buying it-bags, the luxury goods business today couldn't be more different from its beginnings. Here, in an extract from her new book, Dana Thomas explains how some of the biggest brands were born in the French court but, a century on, would come to depend on mere mortals for their very survival
    When Christian Dior, considered by many to be the father of modern fashion, was interviewed by Time magazine in 1957, he pondered the importance of luxury in contemporary society. 'I'm no philosopher,' he said, 'but it seems to me that women - and men, too - instinctively yearn to exhibit themselves. In this machine age, which esteems convention and uniformity, fashion is the ultimate refuge of the human, the personal and the inimitable. Of course, fashion is a transient, egotistical indulgence, yet, in an era as sombre as ours, luxury must be defended centimetre by centimetre.'
    [​IMG]Pure luxury: This 12 carat pink diamond hairpin belonged to Marie-Antoinette, who wore gowns encrusted with precious jewelsIt was during the reign of the Bourbons and the Bonapartes in France that luxury as we know it today was born. Many of the luxury brands we patronise, such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Cartier, were founded in the 18th or 19th centuries by humble artisans who created the most beautiful wares imaginable for the royal court. With the fall of monarchy and the rise of industrial fortunes in the late 19th century, luxury became the domain of European aristocrats and elite American families - such as the Vanderbilts, the Astors and the Whitneys - who moved in closed social circles. Luxury wasn't simply a product. It denoted a history of tradition, superior quality and often a pampered buying experience. Luxury was a natural and expected element of upper-class life, like belonging to the right clubs or having the right surname. And it was produced in small quantities - often made to order - for an extremely limited and truly élite clientele. As Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor of American Vogue, once noted, 'Very few people had ever breathed the pantry air of a house of a woman who wore the kind of dress Vogue used to show when I was young.'

    (the rest of the article in the link above.)
  2. Just read a book review about this book. Sounds interesting. Might have to Amazon that!