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Luxury in real life

What is Luxury? That’s what I keep asking myself these days. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie suggests to make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely. Does luxury items make you feel important? Sure, walk down the street with a nice handbag, and yeah, others will love you… because you must be important to be able to afford such a luxurious bag. I know this sounds ridiculous…. but I’ve done it. Actually, I’ve done lots of ridiculous things to gain respect, in my own mind. Coveting luxury is one of those shady areas for me, because it’s one thing to set goals, but to pretend I’ve actually achieved these goals is something completely different.

Cotorture Salon has opened up the discussion about luxury and accessibility. I had to ask myself, in the most honest way I could, why do I get dazzled over the luxury topic? Is it that I’ve never really out grown the princess fantasy? I love the Budget Babe’s observation around affordable luxury:

…the lovely people at Coach would like you to covet the 10k gator bag, then satisfy your needs by purchasing a $200 Coach hobo bag instead as a sort of consolation prize.

The same works for why we buy things like Chanel Sunglasses… that way I can be a princess with my eyes…
I don’t know about you, but after owning a pair of Chanel’s (real, I purchased them at the boutique in Nice) and having the lenses scratch, and compared to some other brands that are equal in price, the Chanels are surprisingly poor in quality. But many people can swing a $300 pair of shades, not so many can swing $3k for a bag, or a dress…

These ‘luxury’ brands aren’t always the best in quality, for what you can get with your money. For example, gr.dano made this gorgeous dress, wool, lined with silk, made in San Francisco, running I believe around $300. A luxury brand dress that could be made in Taiwan by small children would run you about 3 or 4 times that amount.

So does luxury equate with quality? Exclusivity? Uniqueness? I wonder if that’s the case… as I spend more time thinking about fashion, and looking to see the kind of talent that exists out there, it’s becoming more and more obvious that the luxury brands have a great deal to offer, but they don’t necessarily offer what they promise.

All that said, I must say that I feel a little exited when I run across a luxury brand when shopping. A while back, whilst foraging through the vintage portion of American Rag, I found a vintage leather Bottega Veneta. The strap was broken, and it had pen marks on the side, but it was $15. So I bought it. And even more amazing, I use it a lot.

« Excluding me, how many San Francisco clichés can you spot? Why am I the last to find the cool eye-goodies on the Prada website? »


11 comments for “Luxury in real life”

  1. “Princess With My Eyes” would be a good name for an emo rock band.

    Posted by WendyB | November 19, 2007, 4:49 pm
  2. I understand your point and completely agree, however I do need to say that luxury products are generally made in Europe or the United States, not sweatshops in Taiwan.

    This is how their high-prices are justified, by higher quality and exquisite craftsmanship. They purposely avoid production in Asia so their products won’t be perceived as cheap or poorly-made.

    Not that quality products DON’T come out of Taiwan, but it wouldn’t be fair to attribute this country of origin to most designer and luxury houses.

    Counterfeits? Definitely…

    Posted by Ms. P&C | November 19, 2007, 6:10 pm
  3. hi,

    actually, for many luxury wares, only a portion is made in Europe, Dana Thomas, in her book “Deluxe: How Luxury” lost it’s luster notes:

    Quality has long since been replaced by quantity, and almost all of the manufacturing has been outsourced to large factories in places like China, where your expensive luxury brand handbag is being put together right next to a one from a mass-market label that costs substantially less. Dana Thomas has dug deep into the dark side of the luxury industry, finding out all the secrets that Prada, Gucci and Burberry don’t want you to know. She visits the last bastion of old-world luxury - Hermes, which is still based in France, where old-fashioned highly skilled artisans still make their coveted Kelly and Birkin bags by hand. But most of its competitors in the luxury fashion business have outsourced; they’ve gone corporate, they’ve gone large scale. Thomas takes us right into the action, from the scent factories in Grasse that manufacture Christian Dior and Prada perfumes, to the crowded factories in China, full of workers gluing together “Made in Italy” bags by the thousands.

    Posted by jennine | November 19, 2007, 6:14 pm
  4. That is very interesting…
    Apart from LVMH manufacturing(which I know first-hand) & Hermes (which I know by reputation and coworker reports), it is true that I don’t know where those other brands are made. I can say with all confidence that LVMH brands are made where they say they are…

    It certainly could be that Prada, Gucci, & Burberry may well be made in Asia. I’m not certain about PPR Group sourcing & manufacturing, but legally, there are standards for inserting any sort of country of origin labeling - certain percentages of manufacturing must be met within country, etc… I’d be surprised if they were legally able to put “Made in Italy” labels inside of items that weren’t MOSTLY made in Italy.

    Haven’t read this book though, obviously just basing this on my own experience. Will look into getting a copy!

    Posted by Ms. P&C | November 19, 2007, 7:51 pm
  5. This is sooo my topic! The thing about the expensive dresses made in china or india? People let themselves often fool by the price tag or the name that goes with it. This is something i struggle with being a designer myself. We once had a presentation in a luxury store among with other young designers and someone said while looking at the exhibited goodies: “okay, and now off to the big names”. How dumb is that?

    Posted by Fenke | November 20, 2007, 3:15 am
  6. yeah… i am not for sure where things are made, or what exactly the standards are from anything, and once something like this enters my head, it’s hard to get out. I wish there was a reliable source to go to, for determining the working conditions of the craftsmen. i really don’t care what country it is, as long as they are fairly compensated, and highly skilled.

    i do believe however, that the big names don’t necessarily equate with quality and certainly not value. i guess this means that you just have to learn to develop an eye for quality.

    Posted by jennine | November 20, 2007, 11:56 am
  7. Great post.
    I agree with you in so many points. “they don’t necessarily offer what they promise.” I’m tired of seeing astronomic prices in “luxury goodies” tags and touching the thing in question to find out is mere plastic…

    Posted by Bobble Bee | November 21, 2007, 9:44 pm
  8. BTW at ms. p&c: I work in the fashion business and know what “made in US” or Europe means… we do also have sweatshops and I have witnessed more than two.
    Many brands (more that you’d think)hide their “national” sweatshops in a “made in US” label because they know we all think sweatshops exist only in eastern countries… when the truth is that no matter where they’re producing, the workers’ conditions are the same. Crap.

    Posted by Bobble Bee | November 21, 2007, 9:49 pm
  9. so much to talk about here… i don’t know where to start, so i will bring up something related: those chanel sunglasses aren’t made by chanel but rather by some manufacturer that has licensed the chanel name. of course chanel has an interest in making sure the product reflects their brand, but if it’s essentially being designed/quality controlled/project managed/produced by another company (and with actual production being contracted/subcontracted) how much more “chanel” are they than any other sunglass label produced by that same company? i.e. is there anything really “chanel” to them besides the logo? i personally don’t think so.

    Posted by a. | November 22, 2007, 3:02 am
  10. patricia/ yeah… did you see ‘made in la?’ about the sweatshops that exist in la…
    it’s really moving

    and a/
    if the sunglasses aren’t made by chanel companies then why do the spend so much advertising to sell them and why do they sell them in the boutiques? i don’t get how that is different from any other product a brand is trying to push…
    sorry, but i don’t

    Posted by jennine | November 22, 2007, 10:31 am
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