Much has been made of Deluxe, the new book by Dana Thomas that claims to explain "How Luxury Lost Its Luster." Thomas starts with the roots of luxury brands like Vuitton and Hermes, explaining their origins and early successes. Then she rolls into the way the brands have been co-opted, maybe even hijacked, by a sect of middle class shoppers for whom they were not designed (including, we imagine, us). So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the passage everyone seems to be highlighting has uneasy connotations:
“The luxury industry has changed the way people dress... it has realigned our economic class system. It has changed the way we interact with others. It has become part of our social fabric. To achieve this, it has sacrificed its integrity, undermined its products, tarnished its history and hoodwinked its consumers. In order to make luxury ‘accessible,’ tycoons have stripped away all that has made it special."
Our first thought: Whoa. So luxury goods are defined more by their elite owners and than their own qualities? Our second thought: We need a chocolate milk. Our third thought: Wait a second. "Luxury" hasn't faded - it's simply changed. Maybe a Vuitton purse isn't the ultimate symbol anymore, but there are other more subtle signs: Three James Perse t-shirts, layered and shredded on the same Pilates-perfect body. The way a real Balenciaga bag gets so old, the leather looks pulpy. Wearing Forever 21 with $500 jeans because you care so much, you don't care at all. Has Ms. Thomas simply neglected the next step in luxury - a new school vision (perhaps, in fact, a New School vision) that totals luxury as the summation of an entire look and attitude, not just a bag with logos? Or can "luxury" only be defined by those very logos, and the small sect of people who were once their exclusive wearers? And what happens now that high and low mash together, and their mix defines what's cool? Phew. Your turn.