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October 27, 2007

Deluxe - Dana Thomas: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas

I've had this book for quite some time now and boy am I glad to finally have read it. I finished Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster in less than four hours over a huge bag of M&Ms and a 2-liter bottle of diet coke. I like to read books in one sitting, with no interruptions whatsoever. I like to "detach" myself from reality in order for me to read a book properly. I can't stand reading something for a few chapters, do something else and then read again. I'm just not one of those people, ya know? Anyway...

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas

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Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster - Dana Thomas I'm sure you've heard of this book by now so I won't go into specifics. All I have to say is that I love this book and it's something I'll definitely read again in the future. It's very well-researched. I'm amazed, simply amazed, with the amount of information, from interviews and stories to quotes, facts, numbers, even fashion history etc.

Dana Thomas traveled around the world in order to give you a better understanding how the multi-billion dollar luxury industry works: who the key players were/are, how they got there, the people who are buying into the luxurious slice of the pie, the people behind counterfeiting etc. She also went into detail how some of the world's most renowned luxury goods are made. Even Winona Ryder makes a cameo appearance with her little Saks shoplifting stint.

Again, the amount of information is priceless. Priceless, I tell you. It will definitely change the way you view "luxury" and the brands you buy into these days.

Some of my favourite tidbits are:

  • Some Japanese girls work as prostitutes in order to buy luxury brand handbags

  • Chinese "hostesses" accept shopping visits with their clients at luxury brand stores, which stay open until midnight, as payment for services rendered. The next morning, the hostess returns the purchase for cash, less a 10 percent "transaction fee," this inflating luxury brands' sales figures in China and washing away any illegal cash transactions between the woman and her client.

  • Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas

  • A rich, hip New York banker met a pretty Russian girl in the bar of the Hotel Byblos in Saint-Tropez late one night and took her home with him. The next morning, she told him pointedly: "I could really use a new pair of Gucci shoes." He understood immediately that she was a working girl and took out his wallet. "No," she said, "Gucci shoes." And to the store they went.

  • Louis Vuitton has fourteen official sites – eleven in France, two in Spain and one in San Dimas, California (YES, IN THE USA!!!) where leather goods are produced.

  • Diana Vreeland wrote in 1984: "Bloomingdale's is the end of shopping because there isn't anyone to wait on you, then you see a man; you think he's a floorwalker: ‘I'm sorry, lady, I can't help you. I'm like you, I'm just looking for somebody to help me.' So you go out into the street with tears in your eyes: you've accomplished nothing and you've lost your health!... Or I go into, say, Saks Fifth Avenue, and there on a rack on wheels are two dozen $5,000 dresses. On a rack! It shocks me... $5,000 dresses, dangling there... Of course a lot of people enjoy the variety. They go home empty-handed. But they've shopped. It's a sport."

  • Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas

  • "There I was sitting in a row of the Dior show with French first lady Bernadette Chirac and former first lady Claude Pompidou, and they looked like they had been hit in the face with a cold dead fish. They couldn't believe what they were looking at: this conservative house where they've all bought their clothes for years. How much was there that Madame Chirac or Madame Pompidou could wear?" -- New York socialite and lifelong Dior client Nan Kempner (1997)

  • Miuccia Prada met Patrizio Bertelli, a leather goods manufacturer from Arezzo, in Tuscany. Fashion legend has it that she caught him at a trade show in Milan in 1978 selling cheap knockoffs of her bags, legally pursued him to stop, then decided to bring him on board to handle her manufacturing instead.

  • "I am tempted to say what is luxury: servants and sixteenth-century service. If you want to talk about rare beauty, I know what it is. To fake luxury today is easy. You put some details from the brand's past, you put a little bit of gold, and that's it. I can't bear that... Real luxurious people hate status. You don't look rich because you have a rich dress. When you look at a person, do you see the spirit or the sexiness or the creativity? Just to see a big diamond, what does it mean? It's all about satisfaction. I think it's horrible, this judgment based on money. It's all an illusion that you look better because you have a symbol of luxury. Really, it doesn't bring you anything. It's so banal."
    -- Miuccia Prada

  • Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas

  • Chanel's first freestanding store was in Hawaii – Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, 1984, before New York, before Beverly Hills. Why? Because of the Japanese tourists.

  • I remember an American woman I saw one morning in the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. She was a chic New Yorker in her fifties, well dressed in a designer pantsuit, good jewelry, and Chanel sunglasses, and obviously wealthy enough to pay $500 a night at one of the world's top hotels. She walked up to the concierge desk and asked its chief, "Where can I buy a good fake Rolex? You know, a really good fake." The concierge looked at her incredulously and said he didn't know. I looked at her and wondered, "Are the sunglasses fake, too?"

  • "I remember walking into an assembly plant in Thailand a couple of years ago and seeing six or seven little children, all under ten years old, sitting on the floor assembling counterfeit leather handbags," the investigator told me as we drove away from the (counterfeiting) raid. "The owners had broken the children's legs and tied the lower leg to the thigh so the bones wouldn't mend. He did it because the children said they wanted to go outside and play."

  • These days, the rich buy Isaac Mizrahi designs at Target while the middle market shops at Gucci. Mizrahi calls the phenomenon "bipolar shopping disorder." Lagerfeld thinks it's just terrific. "We live in a time when expensive and inexpensive -- not cheap, I hate that word -- can live very well together. It's the first time in fashion this happened."

  • "Before, cheap clothes looked cheap," Andersson (H&M) told Dana. "Today, it's nearly impossible to see the difference, and that's what we are trying to prove. We can never be luxurious as Chanel, but luxury is more in YOUR perception than what it says on the label. We see ourselves as competitors with everyone -- Gap, Zara, but also Chanel. Why shop at Chanel if you can shop at H&M?"

  • The real rich do not attend the couture shows. "Most of the Chanel clients are not here," Karl Lagerfeld said after the Chanel couture show in July 2006. "They have other things to do, you know? But the oceans are crossed by private jets for fittings."

    "Who are they?" Dana asked

    "New fortunes. Huge fortunes. People who are richer than air. People we don't really know – we know if the money is clean – but people who don't want to be identified. It's not the red carpet. Whenever you have the dress on the red carpet, those women, they cancel their order immediately. The women who buy couture don't want to be identified with actresses."

    "Where do they live"
    "China, there are more than a couple."

    A few days later, Chanel's head seamstress and one of its vendeuses were flown with the collection to China for the weekend on a private jet.


There's lots more but I can't be bothered to type. You *MUST* buy this book. If you're into "fashion", if you are a labelwhore (don't be hypocrites, we all are), if you buy "luxury" goods and if you buy brands, you need to buy this book to know what you are getting yourself into.

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