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Wednesday 20 August 2014

The limits of luxury

6th November, 2003 by db_staff - This article is over multiple pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Today’s top-end goods are increasingly accessible and yet remain aspirational.  Patrick Schmitt explains

I WAS TOLD a staggering fact the other day.  Apparently, over 20% of Japanese women own a Louis Vuitton handbag.  Now, I know over a third of British females are meant to be sporting Marks and Spencer underwear but, aside from the fact you’d never know, it’s not quite the same.

The supermarket hardly has cool or classy connotations – or rather, its products are meant to be ordinary, everyday items.  Louis Vuitton, on the other hand, is considered a luxury brand.

The products bearing its name are expensive, desirable and, one would have thought, select.  But evidently, they are not the latter.  This serves as a good example of a modern phenomenon, one called by some the massification, or democratisation of luxury.

We seem to be living in a time when anyone can play at Edina or Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous – although perhaps without the drugs – because brands such as Vuitton, as well as Burberry, Bollinger, Antinori or Armani, despite being considered aspirational, are actually fairly accessible.  They often sound, as well as look, glamorous, but they are not exactly exclusive. 

And for this reason, some are questioning whether such increased availability is in fact undermining the image of indulgence these famous names have worked so hard to build?Are we in a situation of opulence overload?

Or, on the other hand, is it possible to retain an elite impression while simultaneously driving volume? Well, although there are brands guilty of sacrificing class through increased distribution, Calvin Klein is one that springs to mind, Pierre Cardin perhaps another, (and in drinks, many would cite Rosemount Estate), there are also ones that have experienced surging sales while retaining a premium positioning.

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