Book Club – Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster

Hi all!  So I finally finished a book this summer, yay!  After semi-reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and 14 Days Later by Sibel Hodge, I finally managed to plow through a book.  I have an iPad and although I do like reading on it, it’s hard to tell how far along you are in a book and how many pages are left in a chapter.  Plus there is nothing like cuddling up with a good book; the smell, the touch of the pages, the hardcover-ness of it all…. anyways, back to the task at hand.

I recently read Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster by Dana Thomas, a cultural and fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris and a frequent contributor to such other high-profile publications like Vogue, The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, The New Yorker, and others.

Thomas’ book covers the luxury fashion industry, starting with the history of the brands to the present day fashion industry.  She delves into topics such as brand heritage and democratization of luxury labels.  She also goes on to say how the bottom line for a lot of brands (good quality products made with the finest of materials) when they first started has all but disappeared as fashion houses are turning their production to China and outsourcing for cheaper materials (both in terms of quality and price).

She also looks at the market for fake designer goods.  I personally am against fake stuff, if I can’t afford it I don’t buy it.  Now I get why people buy them; every girl wants a Chanel purse, a Tiffany’s bracelet, etc.  Luxury items are highly sought after and very expensive.  Not everyone can afford to drop $2,000 on a handbag (myself included).  But did you know that “the FBI believes that terrorists financed the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 with sales of counterfeit T-shirts in a store on Broadway in New York City, according to the International Anti-Counterfitting Coalition (IACC)”.  Counterfeit goods have also been known to be produced by “violent crime syndicates that also deal in narcotics, weapons, child prostitution, human trafficking and terrorism.”   When you buy a $20 “Chanel” handbag you could be supporting a number of terrorist groups. That, and not to mention bad fakes can be spotted from miles away.

Thomas’ book is a compelling read, delving into topics like what makes a Hermes Birkin bag so popular and pricey (you have to custom order it at a store and customize it to your liking.  There are also huge wait lists for the bag), a look into mass retail and outlet malls, and how some products “made in Italy” are actually made in China with a handle or something attached in the European country it says it’s made in.  The book really makes you wonder how much something is actually worth.  For instance, she says that most retail brands mark up their products by 10 per cent, Louis Vuitton a staggering 13 per cent.  When you pay over $1,000 for a handbag, did that same bag cost only $100 to produce?  Is it worth it?  The answer will be different for a lot of people.  For me, I would say it’s still worth it; owning a piece of the brand history, the craftsmanship (although Chanel and Hermes, according to Thomas, are the only two luxury brands remaining that retain old standards of manufacture), and the exclusivity.  Do I regret buying my Louis Vuitton knowing what I know from this book?  Nope, I still love it.  However, it is nice knowing the information that Thomas presents, including the history of the brand up to LVMH‘s ownership.

If you are in the market for buying a luxury item, whether it’s a handbag, a couture gown, or even a perfume (a gateway item for most luxury brands), I would pick this book up.  I myself didn’t buy the book, I borrowed it from my local library, but it is available on Amazon if you are interested.

Have you read Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster? If so, tell me your thoughts!  Even if you haven’t read it what are your opinions on designer goods, are they worth it or a waste of money?  Leave me a comment below!

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