Saturday, October 30, 2010

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

Title: Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster
Author: Dana Thomas
Publisher: Penguin Books
When deciding on a book to read I always pick a topic that I know very little about. I try to live by the Voltaire quote in reference to trying new things, "If we don't find anything pleasant at least we shall find something new." So in keeping with this point of view I decided to read a book about the fashion industry; Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster. I first heard of Dana Thomas (the book’s author) when she was on a television show discussing the topic of Hermès bags. Since she was also promoting her new book and her expertise on the subject seemed really insightful I decided to read her book. With modern society being bombarded with ad’s everywhere you go it’s almost impossible to not recognize the luxury brands this book makes reference to such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton. So not being able to follow along with the topic of the book was never an issue for me.

Her book does an excellent job at summarizing the history of where and how a lot of these fashion houses began. She then goes on to discuss how these houses have evolved into multi-billion dollar luxury brands that are known globally. For Thomas however, this success has come with an unfavourable price tag; mainly that quality has been watered down in favour of record profits. This all began when luxury brands started selling their business to large investment groups that saw an opportunity to make a profit. Their investment started to yield profit when they started offering purses, sun glasses, scarfs, wallets and ready to wear fashion to what she calls middle market consumers in an attempt to allow them to live a temporary luxury dream. The creation of allowing this middle market consumer to purchase luxury brand accessories has more than doubled the profit of these fashion houses. To further increase profit and capitalize on this sales boom luxury brands started cutting corners by using cheaper materials, outsourcing their production into China, and licensing their brand name to outside factories.

One of the issues she mentions in the book that was insightful for me was her investigation into the black market of fake luxury brands. Unlike other books that just tell you fake’s or knockoffs are bad to buy, she actually explains why it’s wrong and how its harming people. For example she tells the story of a sweatshop owner in China that would actually wound the legs of child workers so that they would be unable to escape, and would be forced to work. Hearing stuff like this has actually enlightened me to be a voice against knockoffs and the black market. I’m sure once people see where and how these products are made they would think twice before buying.

When I finished the book it made me feel as if anyone that bought luxury products today would be buying into an image and not actual luxury. This theory is proven when I see people buying wallets that cost over $800 and purses that cost more than a car. Of course I would be lying if I said I was turned off of luxury brands after reading this book. There is still one luxury brand that I believe has not changed their belief that the quality of their products should be more important than profits, which is Hermès. With most purses being made with the best materials in the world by the best craftsman’s and then having to wait years for one to be made for you I believe they will always be a company to be admired (though I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford anything they make). And so I would recommend this book to anyone that has always loved the fashion industry and would like to get to know more about it.


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