Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre by Dana Thomas

I have wanted to read this book for a few years. It’s an analysis of the luxury fashion and goods market in the last few decades. This book was published in 2007. I usually do not read contemporary nonfiction that is older than 10 years. A lot has already changed in the fashion world. However, there is a lot of good history and interviews given in this book and it’s important as I continue to reflect on the nature of consumption and goods.

The book offers portraits of the marketing and business of the luxury markets including its triumphs in entering the middle class market and its problems with counterfeiting. A lot of it boils down to convincing wide swaths of people to like and aspire to owning things with logos. Thomas does go through the process of how luxury brands make their goods. She goes from Europe to Africa to China. The book offers stark reminders about the addiction and pursuit of luxury in the present world. I’ve seen it first hand.

I am not immune to it. I love window shopping. I like going into brightly lit department stores. I like being surrounded by expensive things even for a moment. I buy more perfumes than I need. Most of all, I love bags. I can’t explain it, but I have always liked bags and owning them. Even when I run, I usually bring a running vest. I even like and collect reusable bags like cotton totes and canvas bags. As I got older and started to make my own money, my options have widened. Thankfully, many designer bags with their logos has held little appeal to me even though I do acknowledge that brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel have tight quality control and do produce quality bags. I want my bags to last a long time and I want to use them. I just can’t imagine owning a bag more than $1000 and going on errands with it or having it accidentally be exposed to precipitation. I also can’t deny that I like the look of some of the Hermes bags especially the Kelly and the Constance. Reading this book did not help as I read how much craftsmanship goes into a Hermes bag. However, I am realistic. I am not going to own a Hermes bag ever. They are more like pieces of art with their cost and quality.

The book is not perfect and sometimes I do feel there is a slight bias in her interviews with some designers. The ending’s point seems a bit geared to the elite classes and almost leaves them off the hook. Overall, I felt it was very well researched and well written. The book really made me wonder about society’s obsession with luxury especially logos and branding. It becomes me more self-aware. It does not mean I don’t notice bags or that I won’t buy an expensive modern bag, but I acknowledge it’ll be for myself. Being informed makes me second guess many things. A good book to help me contextualize the modern fashion industry.

Read Sept 23 – October 15, 2021.

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