Luxury consumers should demand more than the material

It's a paradox that has propelled companies such as Michael Kors and Tory Burch to astronomical success, by proposing luxury items - designer handbags and shoes, flashy watches - that aren't expensive, or especially luxurious.

Persone Phoebe Philo, Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, Burch, Michael Kors, Chanel
Luoghi London
Argomenti clothing, fashion, textile industry

04/mag/2015 05:26:45 Whatmore Contatta l'autore

Questo comunicato è stato pubblicato più di 1 anno fa. Le informazioni su questa pagina potrebbero non essere attendibili.

What is luxury? That’s a question that, perhaps, more fashion companies should be asking themselves. It’s also the title of an exhibition currently being staged at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. (It’s rather diminutive, and free, so I’d recommend seeing it on your way in or out of the behemoth that is Savage Beauty.)

The exhibition showcases a selection of interesting objects, although the premise is perhaps more fascinating than its realisation. The exhibit of note, for me, was “The Rise of the Plasticsmith” by Gangjian Cui, who imagined a future where plastic has become a luxurious commodity.

Far-fetched? Chanel managed to transform jersey – a material previously used for men’s underwear – into clothing that came to encapsulate the Twenties’ idea of modern luxury. Of course, it was modern mostly because it broke with the past, with the Belle Époque notion of a woman corseted and encrusted with embroidery. I couldn’t help but think of fashion’s current love of exotic skins, the surfeit of crocodile and mink, set against the Peta-campaigned fake fur and slithery synthetics of the early Nineties.

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Those, at least, read as something new. Which these days is my issue with luxury – a word so ubiquitous that it has lost all meaning. And the tropes of modern luxury are so overused, they’ve lost all meaning, too. Something that’s simply expensive is now seen as luxurious. If it’s made out of rare skins, they are prized primarily not for their scarcity but for their outstanding expense.

And yet, what about the genuinely new idea of luxury, luxury prefixed with oxymoronic adjectives like “accessible” and “mass”. It’s a paradox that has propelled companies such as Michael Kors and Tory Burch to astronomical success, by proposing luxury items – designer handbags and shoes, flashy watches – that aren’t expensive, or especially luxurious. They’re certainly not scarce, or painstaking and time-consuming in their construction. So what makes them luxurious: the mere affixing of a designer name? Is something luxurious simply if we’re able to convince other people of the fact?

Maybe that’s a new definition of luxury – and, in a sense, it harks back to Miuccia Prada designing a utilitarian backpack out of military nylon and convincing the world it represented a new type of luxury. Which, of course, it did: it represented minimalism, function, the luxury of intelligent design triumphing over shallow luxuriation in the fabric.

Perhaps that’s what luxury today should stand for: intelligence. It’s there in the expertise needed to create haute couture, in the powerful eye of a clutch of designers – Miuccia Prada, Rei Kawakubo, Phoebe Philo – who elevate their clothes, and luxury, beyond the merely material.

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