Bedside Reading: “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster”

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I wrote recently about how luxury has been downtrodden over the years, and how our own quest to live the good life has fueled the demand for cheap opulence. It’s a fascinating issue because it ties together the impact of social stratification, class change, privilege and the common leveler of the retail market.

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster” is a captivating analysis of this very subject. Not since Thorstein Veblen and his Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions has this topic be analyzed so thoroughly and frankly, Deluxe leaves Veblen in the dust.

Tracing the history of what we now know as the luxury retail industry, author Dana Thomas takes the reader on a trip through history and around the world as she tracks the paths of groundbreaking craftsman like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior as they give birth to the luxury business. Thomas, a fashion and style writer for publications like the Newsweek, the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Bazzar, and the Washington Post, has an incredible grasp of the subject matter.

Along with her exhaustive research, Thomas interviewed numerous fashion industry figures who give an insider’s perspective to the luxury industry, both before and after its mass market makeover. Most notable are her discussions with and about Bernard Arnault, the ruthless CEO of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH). The description of his transformation of several small companies dedicated to an elite clientele into a corporate behemoth focused on market saturation is both enlightening and saddening.

With more on the buying habits of Japanese women, the root of the “It Bag” phenomenon and how luxury became just another commodity product, it is fascinating reading on an equally fascinating subject.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice

Comments

  1. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says:

    The real overall problem is the much abused term “luxury” has transmogrified from an implication of “best quality” to “ludicriously-expensive. over-embellished and impractical in real-life”.

  2. Chris says:

    Ted, you pretty much just said it all. The term “luxury” has lost almost all meaning.