Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster Paperback – Jul 29 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Newsweek reporter Thomas skillfully narrates European fashion houses' evolution from exclusive ateliers to marketing juggernauts. Telling the story through characters like the French mogul Bernard Arnault, she details how the perfection of old-time manufacturing, still seen in Hermès handbags, has bowed to sweatshops and wild profits on mediocre merchandise. After a brisk history of luxury, Thomas shows why handbags and perfume are as susceptible to globalization and corporate greed as less rarefied industries. She follows the overarching story, parts of which are familiar, from boardrooms to street markets that unload millions in counterfeit goods, dropping irresistible details like a Japanese monk obsessed with Comme des Garçons. But she's no killjoy. If anything, she's fond of the aristocratic past, snarks at "behemoths that churn out perfume like Kraft makes cheese" and is too credulous of fashionistas' towering egos. Despite her grasp of business machinations, her argument that conglomerates have stolen luxury's soul doesn't entirely wash. As her tales of quotidian vs. ultra luxury make clear, the rich and chic can still distinguish themselves, even when Las Vegas hosts the world's ritziest brands. Thomas might have delved deeper into why fashion labels inspire such mania, beyond "selling dreams," but her curiosity is contagious. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Thomas has been the fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris for 12 years and writes about style for the New York Times Magazine and other well-known publications. She traces the origins of luxury from the midnineteenth century, when Louis Vuitton made his first steamer trunks and custom-made clothing was strictly the province of European aristocracy, through the fashion boom of the 1920s, when names such as Dior, Gucci, and Yves Saint Laurent came into prominence, and buyers with expendable income could afford exquisite clothing and perfume. Sadly, today most of the well-known names are owned by multinational groups, and luxury items have become commodities, where buyers crave name brands for what they represent rather than their inherent quality of manufacture and design. Thomas takes us into the streets of New York, where counterfeit items are sold that look so much like the real thing that it takes an expert to tell them apart, to the Guangzhou region in China, where children make knockoff goods under appalling conditions. She manages to remove the veil from the fashion industry with a blend of history, culture, and investigative journalism. Siegfried, David --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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I was delighted to see that Deluxe was a perfect balance of the origins of luxury (as enjoyed by royalty), the methods by which luxury has been and is produced, how the major luxury goods houses got started and evolved, and the trends that dominate today and tomorrow. If there's some part of the book you don't like, you'll soon be into a part that you will like.
I had only one reservation about the book: Ms. Thomas doesn't seem to appreciate the benefits that upscale goods provide for middle class people. She seems to resent that the money made in serving the middle class has led many luxury firms to ignore those with the most elevated taste and money. I don't blame her for resenting that, since she knows that world well. But it does seem to me that having tens of millions enjoy life a bit more is hardly a bad thing.
You'll learn lots about perfume, hand bags, luggage, backpacks, scarves, knits, and dresses. You'll learn even more about those who make fashion succeed. It's a fun ride!
It is equal parts history, sociology, and brand and business strategy treatise. Overall, it is a compelling indictment of how the luxury industry has evolved from artisans to staggering brand behemoths presiding over a $157 billion industry (35 brands control 60% of the business). As Thomas explains, "The way we dress reflects not only our personality but also our economic, political, and social standing and our self-worth." Luxury brands have leveraged this insight and rolled out calculated marketing strategies to feed our desires and insecurities. And we have responded appropriately pursuing luxury to differentiate ourselves.
The author defines the subject, "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.Read more ›