Friday, September 28, 2007

Luxury Lost

I was so excited when my book from Amazon finally came! Been waiting forever so I can read this. I am talking about Dana Thomas' "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster." It also ties in nicely with my recent post on shopping/fashion fatigue. I'm only on the first 20 pages, since I started the book late last night, but already, the introduction carries a theme of cynicism and suspect in regards to what the current luxury industry is all about.

The book starts off by introducing Xi'an, once a major metropolis in China's history whose significance lies in its relationship with the Silk Road, and foundation of the arts, music, poetry, and architecture of ancient China. (I was just there last year, so the memory of the dusty city is still with me. The Terra Cotta Soldiers really are a sight to behold!) The historical synopsis on the city that was two thousand years ago segues into the counterfeiting industry, a foreshadowing of things to come in future chapters. As a Chinese-American, I do find myself sensitive to the idea that people's perceptions of Chinese people could be that we all love counterfeits. Not true! I am completely against it, and although I haven't read far enough to know how the author plans to portray this segment of the population, I hope that it's a fair assessment. The thing is, these Chinese people are so talented and smart, if they could only come up with their OWN brands, and train their artisans to fashion their own one-of-a-kind creations, the counterfeiting might slowly decline. But this is for another post...

The next chapter of the book talks about the history of how the current luxury industry came to be, starting with Louis Vuitton (as the most successful of all the luxury brands). From its ignoble beginnings, and ending in some very frank quotes from Marc Jacobs about LV as a business, there is a certain downtrodden message that I hear when I read about LV's history. Aside from the illustrious heritage the company has painted for itself via current marketing campaigns, the reality is that unless you order something that is truly unique and unavailable to anyone else, it is like buying something from the Gap. Mass-produced, with an inflated price that is thirteen times the cost of production, it is mind-blowing how they have managed to sell sell sell SO much, and no one ever calls them out on it. I guess there's no way to call them out unless you just boycott them, which doesn't say much if you've only bought a wallet here or there. The nouveaux riches, as is expected, are the ones who are buying LVs in an onslaught. Hence, another reason the book starts out with China. This is the mecca for the next generation of buyers who will buy buy buy.

So far so good, the book is easy to read and filled with interesting facts. One interesting factoid? LV was in with the Nazis! Well, not in. But they sold to the wives of the Nazi party to stay alive as a business. Very sketchy...! Will write more as I go through the book.

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