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Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster Essay

Deluxe: How luxury lost its luster, by Dana Thomas, brings a hard hitting, raw look at the world of luxury and the mass demand of luxury that has occurred. The book was published by the Penguin Group in 2007. Luxury is defined by Thomas as truly special, and was only available to the aristocratic world of wealth and old money in western culture. Luxury signified an experience and lifestyle that denotes royalty, fame, and fortune. However, with large companies owning the former family-owned luxury producing businesses, profits are the main goal not the production of luxury.

Thomas reveals the unfortunate demise and rise of traditional luxury companies. Wherever she looked, it seemed as though everyone owned some kind of luxury product. She asked herself, when did brands such as Chanel, Gucci, and Prada become so widely used and available to anyone anywhere? Thus, the beginning of her research into the world of luxury and her book, Deluxe: How luxury lost its luster. Dana Thomas, New York Times bestselling author, is the European Arts & Entertainment correspondent for Newsweek in Paris.

“She has written about style for the New York Times Magazine since 1994, and has contributed to various publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, the Washington Post, and the Financial Times in London,” (Thomas, “About the Author”). Thomas was also a professor of journalism at the American University of Paris from 1996 through 1999. She has received awards for her outstanding achievements including the Ellis Haller Award. She is a family oriented individual who resides in Paris with her husband, Herve, and daughter, Lucie Lee.

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(Thomas, “About the Author”) “Today, the luxury marketplace would be virtually unrecognizable to the old-world elite. ” Thomas reveals the true goals of the luxury conglomerates that have taken over and how luxury executives started to target the middle market in the 80’s. “…Growth became not merely a priority but the sole objective…the tycoons turned their sights onto a new target, the middle market,” (Thomas, Pg. 67). The expansion in the United States started in Las Vegas. Thomas explains the reason for starting there, was because Las Vegas “…was growing

exponentially, and, most important, was perhaps the lone place in America – and maybe the world – where the have-nots lived, if only for a few days, like the haves…The sole objective for both Las Vegas and today’s luxury brands is to take your money. It was only a matter of time until the two converged. ” In Las Vegas no one is looking over your shoulder and judging your spending habits, or anything for that matter. Las Vegas is a “judgment free experience. ” Elaine Wynn describes Las Vegas as “a wonderful opportunity for retail.

” Thomas goes on to explain the “average” consumers demand for luxury. After Ronald Reagan’s tax breaks, rising stock market, the Internet boom of the 90’s, new money and spending power changed the American dream for the middle market consumer. “Average Americans were no longer content being average,” (Thomas, Pg. 121). Thomas refers to a 1986 Roper Center poll, where in average Americans claimed to need $50,000 to fulfill their dreams. By 1994, the figure was $102,000 and it continues to grow. “This made the luxury tycoons giddy with glee! ” (Thomas, Pg. 123).

Luxury executives can now roll out their stores across the United States and Europe, “fill them with affordable, logo-covered products targeted to this new, shop happy middle market, and watch their sales – and profits – mount. ” In 2006, Tom Ford confided in Thomas facts surrounding Gucci’s expansion into the middle market in the 90’s, “Have we not done it, someone else would have. ” In a matter of time, Las Vegas was not only a gamblers dream but also a shopper’s fantasy! Sin city became the second city in which most luxury brands opened a store, after New York.

However, for some brands it was the first, including Christian Lacroix’s American flagshipin 2006. This expansion demonstrates how the luxury industry is now run by massive corporations whose focus is only on growth, visibility, brand awareness, advertising, and most importantly, PROFITS! With growth and expansion, has come a decrease in quality and rarity. The luxury garments produced are mostly not handmade but are even outsourced to large factories in places such as China and Turkey. Also, to meet quarterly turnover projections, “designers churn(ed) out increasingly trendy collections of clothes, handbags, and shoes.

” (Thomas, Pg. 246) With hundreds of new stores around the globe the surplus of designer labeled merchandise is immense hence, the proliferation of outlet malls. “Outlet shopping is perhaps luxury’s greatest ploy to get its goods into the hands of anyone and everyone,” (Thomas, Pg. 246). “But outlet shopping is the antithesis of the flagship, the antithesis in fact, of luxury itself. ” (Thomas, 2007. Pg. 247) Columnist Karen Heller explained to Thomas after visiting Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in New York, “The clothes were marked down, picked over and repeatedly pawed, the opposite of how they were originally displayed.

Their power to enchant seemed minimized, even at a third the price, smashed together like produce in a storage hold. ” Thomas explains how luxury merchandise is purely just that, leftover “luxury” products: overproduction. No longer does luxury embody the experience of pampering nor does it signify class and wealth. Some brands even use outlets as their primary sales for the middle market consumer. Thomas found out that Burberry had a dozen outlets in the U. S. alone in 2005, serving just that purpose.

Thomas describes the luxury market as even further from “the experience,” as online shopping has become the next avenue for luxury executives to reach their wide target markets. The once traditional experience to walk in to your luxury store of choice, possibly meet the designer, have a glass of your finest champagne and personalized attention is truly out the window. However, “e-tailing” as it is called, is the luxury executive’s dream. The ability to reach even more consumers so conveniently and globally equals more sales, resulting in larger profits. There it is again, PROFITS.

As Thomas emphasizes throughout her book, it seems as though we have reached a time where profits are the one and only goal of luxury executives. Sure, profits have always been a goal for every business but there once was a sense of dignity and personal interaction and communication between the luxury brand and the consumer. They were genuinely concerned for their consumer. “ When luxury brands themselves go mass market, however – selling a full range of goods in ubiquitous boutiques, outlets and duty-free stores and on web sites – they undermine their well crafted message.

They become an everyday occurrence, a common presence. They aren’t luxury anymore,” (Thomas, Pg. 267) However, of course, expanding and reaching out to your average consumer, “hawking the dream,” is great for business and profits. Wait…there it is again…PROFITS! It should not be called luxury anymore but “democratic luxury. ” Dana Thomas points out another very interesting problem luxury brands face by going mass. Yes there is the inevitable, more consumers, larger profits. However, there is also a huge risk when dealing with a mass market.

Thomas explains that the risk is financial instability. Before the global expansion luxury brands undertook, luxury was immune to economic downfalls. Since the companies were small and targeted the wealthy, their clientele were usually not affected by harsh economies. “They shopped consistently and bought well,” (Thomas, Pg. 270). The industry soon found out, after expansion and changed target market, that cost conscience consumers stop shopping when times get rough. The first thing most middle market consumers reframe from purchasing, during these times, are luxury goods and services.

After the Industrial Revolution and luxury brand’s global expansion, goods were no longer traced back to a single craftsman but were massed produced in assembly lines. Thus, to distinguish and protect their products, companies trademarked their work and logos. This was the only way for consumers to be guaranteed quality that luxury brands offer explains Thomas. “By putting an emphasis on the logo and spending more than $100 million a year to advertise it, luxury companies made their brands, rather than the actual products, the objects of public desire,” (Thomas, Pg.277)ю

Thomas goes on to say, “…a product that average consumers craved but couldn’t always afford. ” Thus, counterfeiters stepped in, providing your average woman teacher or secretary with an endless supply of copies at 5 to 10 percent of the original price. Now, Luxuries new “hungry target audience” that they thought were faithful to them, started buying from counterfeiters instead. Thomas explains how this is another problem with these luxury brands widening their market and making their products more available to anyone. It makes it easier to copy.

And cheap knockoffs are becoming a huge problem! “ Two things changed the game: the democratization of luxury and the rise of China. When luxury brands went democratic, they though they could satisfy the middle market with lower-priced handbags and perfume. What executives didn’t count on was middle market consumers satisfying their cravings for higher end items by buying fake versions that they could pass off as real,” (Thomas, Pg. 279) The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) estimates that up to 7 percent of today’s global trade – $600 billion worth – is counterfeit.

Through Thomas’ excessive research, she discovered that the “World Customs Organization believesthe fashion industry loses up to $9. 2 billion per year to counterfeiting. ” Thomas realized from her book tour that consumers do not believe there’s a difference between real and fake anymore. As Thomas cleverly states, “ Bernard Arnault’s marketing plan had worked: consumers don’t buy luxury branded items for what they are, but for what they represent. And good fakes…now represent socially the same thing as real.

” I strongly agree with Thomas as she describes the luxury industry as a monopoly and how their focus is no longer about the art of luxury. Former Givenchy designer Alexander McQueen told Thomas, “ Designers – once the founders and owners of luxury companies – are now hired hands that are disposable as the clothes and handbags they create…All these big companies don’t care about you as a person. You are only a commodity to them and only as good as your last collection. ” Thomas explains that some even applaud luxury going mass. “It means more people are going to get better fashion,” Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue told Thomas.

“ And the more people who can have fashion, the better. ” However, Thomas realizes that not everyone agrees with this. Fred Hayman tells her, “ What was once exclusive in Beverley Hills is now everywhere. It’s lost its cachet…when you get greedy that’s what happens. ” Thomas and myself agrees with Ilse Metchek, executive director of the California Fashion Association, “Luxury is something you want to reach for, that is unattainable…You looked at society’s ladies and you wanted to live like them…Now, there’s always a new heel and a new color. Luxury use to have a shelf life.

” However, some luxury brands have stayed true to their ideals including Hermes and Chanel in particular. Thomas states that these luxury brands strive to maintain and achieve true luxury. And it shows, the quality shines through their products. Tom Ford told Thomas, “Luxury fashion brands today are too available, everything is too uniform, and customer business is too pedestrian. ” Thomas truly embodies the impact that democratic luxury has on the world. She takes a stand and asks the right questions concerning this topic. We both agree, luxury is special.

Luxury is not how much one can buy but represents the knowledge of how to do it right, and how to take the necessary time to understand and choose well. Thomas does a terrific job in portraying the facts and uncovering the dark secrets that Prada, Gucci, Burberry, and others alike do not want us to know. It seems she is correct, “Luxury has lost its luster,” but can we get it back? Outline Deluxe: How luxury lost its luster By Dana Thomas Published by Penguin Group 2007 Introduction State title, author, publisher & year Brief summary of book Why author chose to write the book.

About the author Brief summary of Dana Thomas Achievements Currently does Personal Thomas’ Key Points: The Expansion of Luxury Started in Las Vegas New target market The Demand The American Dream Why did luxury brands expand? Mass production of goods Outlet Malls Pros & cons The experience E-Tailing/Online Shopping What is it? Lost experience The Economy Affects of economy & middle market Counterfeiting The logo Cause of counterfeiting Outcome of counterfeiting No longer personable Viewed as mass market, not individual Conclusion Wrap up of book My opinion.

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