When I was growing up my dad used to quote (or at least paraphrase) Thorstein Veblen to me, so I've always been wary of adherents of conspicuous consumption. Dana Thomas's book, while not overtly political, gives you all the information you need to realize that the luxury brands market is a con game, that proves the adage that a label fool and his/her money are soon parted.
Sure, there was a time when houses like Louis Vuitton created handcrafted goods that took artisans days of skilled labour to create, but now brands simply trade on the glories of their past products. Not only are many brand items now mass-produced, many of them are the products of sweatshops. And more than ever, the brands, instead of being long-standing family concerns, are owned by one of two umbrella behemoths like LVMH and Kering. So customers pay top dollar, or yen or euro, for something that cost only a tiny percent of that to produce. Better yet, the money that is spent on LVMH can directly benefit a tax-dodging billionaire like Bernard Arnault, who gave up his French citizenship to avoid paying taxes in France.
Once upon a time, being seen to own a luxury product meant you were wealthy. After reading Deluxe, you may come to see people wearing labels more as insecure than anything else. Certainly they are willing to spend good money on something whose real aim is to impress unsophisticated strangers. Honestly, there are better things to do with one's cash.
Dana Thomas has written a book about conspicuous consumption that is far more readable than Veblen. And if you can't wean yourself off the urge to splurge on a Birkin, or something Gucci, you will at least enjoy the descriptions of shops and ateliers that the author visits.
For anyone wanting insight into the history of the luxury market as it relates to the current obsession with brand names Dana Thomas's Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster is a brilliant and fast read that begs to be scripted for a movie.
Think you're Vuitton Monogram tote was made by some artisans in a remote French countryside? You may be wrong. In Dana Thomas' Deluxe, she traces the history of luxury and how our obsession has changed the economic and social landscape. LVMH, Richemont, PPR Group, Armani, Prada, Gucci, Versace, Hermes, and many more are all under the microscope here. One can not help but notice how our logo-obsessed fantasy is entirely contradictory, and has replaced true luxury. A concise look at the luxury counterfeit industry here is worth the read itself. Hall's book explores historical information covering luxury that was once only proffered to courtesans, royalty and the nouveau riche. The journey ends up in a large upscale enterprise in Sao Palo, Dalsu...
"When even one's maid has a Louis Vuitton handbag, the cachet of exclusivity is clearly lost" Paul Surtess F.T. Oct 8th, 2012 Mid-Levels, Hong Kong
Like a big magazine article. A little dated.
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