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This is an extremely belated book review of Dana Thomas' Deluxe, How Luxury Lost Its Luster. The book by the Newsweek style and culture journalist was published back in 2007. It significantly highlighted conditions before the 2008 world economic crisis and before this current threat of double dip recession. Regardless, it makes for a more interesting read. It is like watching a movie after having already watched its sequel. Thomas reveals an in-depth history of the grand luxury houses founded in Europe and how they were swallowed up and, in my personal opinion only, literally sold out in the last two decades by large multinational business conglomerates. I was appalled by how big companies like LVMH treated the family founders of some of the designer entities they took over (especially the founders of Vuitton and Celine). You may have heard of the expression "democratization of luxury" and it just means marketing luxury goods the masses. Cutting corners, moving production to Asia, and throwing goods on celebrities are just a few concerns she brought up. Thomas digs into the cause of all this: greed. When fashion fell into the hands of business owners who were more concerned about profit and less about the exclusivity, beauty, and art behind the creativity; the outcome is one of saturation. She praises (with my concurrence) the very few luxury companies are still true to their craft like Chanel and Hermes. No bias here, right? Just a side note, thank goodness Hermes won an appeal to maintain the independence of their family company last month. Anyhow, Thomas also seemingly mocks those consumers who buy for the sake of displaying logos and conveying status (substantiated or not) and she penned a whole chapter on the counterfeit trade of knocking off luxury goods. It will make you think twice before agreeing to attend your neighborhood knock-off purse or jewelry party. I would recommend it as a read and to keep in mind the time frame of the stats. In her predictions for the future of luxury, I do agree Brazil, Russia, China, and India are definitely emerging markets and the growth of those countries has been explosive. I would like to visit the Daslu mansion she speaks of if I am ever in Brazil, but I wont have a bulletproof vehicle for the valet to park!
One sour theme I found is perhaps her tone that luxury belongs to the rich. Me and many many other obsessed fashion lovers are members of the middle market she speaks of. This will never change because 1) I am not wealthy and 2) I will never be wealthy. However, this would never ever let anyone make me feel less entitled to the works of art that I see in a handbag, dress, or shoe. I may only buy a select few in my lifetime rather than a truckload, but they are special to me. It is funny that people approach me and tell me how they think I will like something because "we know you are so into fashion, Seng!". Just because something is a Prada or Gucci does not mean it's coming home with me! lol.. In fact, my favorite labels: Chanel, Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno, The Row, Marni, Celine, et al.. are all more discreet- well, aside from the crazy big interlocking CC's of Chanel which I'm not partial to. I am quite content having things that are only recognized by those that appreciate what they are. Anyhow in conclusion about the the book, the last lines Thomas wrote do redeem some of her snobbishness in a way. She quoted a Brazilian socialite who said:
"... We do not buy entry-level goods with logos...Luxury is not how much you can buy. Luxury is the knowledge of how to do it right, how to take the time to understand and choose well. Luxury is buying the right thing."