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Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster
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Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

4.3 19
by Dana Thomas

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Luxury was once available only to the rarefied, aristocratic world of old money. It offered a history of tradition, superior quality, and a pampered buying experience. Today, however, luxury is simply a product packaged and sold by multibillion-dollar global corporations that focus on growth, visibility, brand awareness, advertising, and, above all, profits.


Luxury was once available only to the rarefied, aristocratic world of old money. It offered a history of tradition, superior quality, and a pampered buying experience. Today, however, luxury is simply a product packaged and sold by multibillion-dollar global corporations that focus on growth, visibility, brand awareness, advertising, and, above all, profits. Journalist Dana Thomas digs deep into the dark side of the luxury industry to reveal the industry secrets that Prada, Gucci, and Burberry don't want us to know. An uncompromising look behind the glossy facade, Deluxe asks: How did luxury lose its luster?

Editorial Reviews

In an engaging, deliciously informing combination of high-end gossip and highbrow cultural history, Newsweek's Paris-based correspondent, Dana Thomas, offers a sophisticated history of the most revered fashion brands on the planet. Fun, knowledgeable, and encompassing famous marques from Louis Vuitton to Prada, Thomas's book describes the origins of the great European houses and details their transition to the realm of corporate takeovers, board intrigues, global mass production and distribution, and marketing wizardry. After reading Deluxe, fashion fans will understand how the exclusive artistry of the pioneering fashion designers has been translated into the cachet of luxury logos now available to all -- albeit at a premium price -- in flagship stores, airports, and shopping malls.
Caroline Weber
In Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, Thomas investigates the business of designer clothing, leather goods and cosmetics, and finds it wanting. Hijacked, over the past two or three decades, by corporate profiteers with a "single-minded focus on profitability," the luxury industry has "sacrificed its integrity, undermined its products, tarnished its history and hoodwinked its consumers."…Thomas's message is relevant to shoppers of every stripe. Whether upscale or middle-market, paying in cash or buying on credit, today's customer is barraged at every turn with the logos that…mean pure, corporate gold. Deluxe performs a valuable service by reminding us that these labels don't mean much else. Once guarantors of value and integrity, they are now markers that point toward nothing, guiding the consumer on a road to nowhere.
—The New York Times Book Review
Richard Johnson
If you have ever wondered why a woman absolutely needs to buy a $3,000 handbag, or why she might perish without a certain shade of lipstick, this book explains it all in empirical, evolutionary detail. Dana Thomas has brilliantly dissected the fashion phenomenon while the healthy beast still thrives luxuriously on the operating table. Deluxe might make some women pause before spending the rent money on their Manolo Blahniks.
New York Post
Los Angeles Times
What Fast Food Nation did for food service, this book does for fashion, exposing the underbelly of the $157-billion luxury industry and the lockstep consumer psychology behind its glamorous veneer.
Michiko Kakutani
A crisp, witty social history that's as entertaining as it is informative.
The New York Times
Fareed Zakaria
Globalization, capitalization, class, and culture . . . A fascinating book.
Publishers Weekly

Newsweekreporter Thomas skillfully narrates European fashion houses' evolution from exclusive ateliers to marketing juggernauts. Telling the story through characters like the French mogul Bernard Arnault, she details how the perfection of old-time manufacturing, still seen in Hermès handbags, has bowed to sweatshops and wild profits on mediocre merchandise. After a brisk history of luxury, Thomas shows why handbags and perfume are as susceptible to globalization and corporate greed as less rarefied industries. She follows the overarching story, parts of which are familiar, from boardrooms to street markets that unload millions in counterfeit goods, dropping irresistible details like a Japanese monk obsessed with Comme des Garçons. But she's no killjoy. If anything, she's fond of the aristocratic past, snarks at "behemoths that churn out perfume like Kraft makes cheese" and is too credulous of fashionistas' towering egos. Despite her grasp of business machinations, her argument that conglomerates have stolen luxury's soul doesn't entirely wash. As her tales of quotidian vs. ultra luxury make clear, the rich and chic can still distinguish themselves, even when Las Vegas hosts the world's ritziest brands. Thomas might have delved deeper into why fashion labels inspire such mania, beyond "selling dreams," but her curiosity is contagious. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

As cultural and fashion editor for Newsweekin Paris, Thomas is well positioned to provide an in-depth business history of the luxury goods industry, including its modern evolution. Owing to corporate greed, globalization, and excessive brand licensing across diverse product lines, small family-run ateliers that furnished exclusive products to elite customers have all but disappeared along with the artistry, quality, and personalized service associated with these items. The only distinction between luxury and mass-marketed goods now may be the label, which itself drives the price. Despite the current profit-driven environment, Thomas recognizes that small new companies offering impeccable craftsmanship continually sprout up to serve select niches, yet how long these enterprises last before succumbing to the lure of great profits associated with mass production and consumerism is debatable. Besides being a fascinating read suitable for public libraries, this book is a valuable resource for special libraries collecting in the luxury goods and related industries for better understanding previous business and marketing strategies and their outcomes.
—Caroline Geck

Kirkus Reviews
A scathing expose demystifies the luxury-goods industry, detailing how venerable fashion houses have traded quality for profits. There was a time, writes Paris-based cultural journalist Thomas, when only an elite few understood, appreciated and could afford to spend the money on one-of-a-kind luxuries. All that has changed, and not for the better. Now anyone can have piece of the magic for the right price. Over the last 25 years, traditional fashion houses like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada have gone from being small, family-owned businesses that cared singularly about quality and prestige to being publicly traded global conglomerates whose attention is firmly fixed on the bottom line. The result is an industry that spends billions influencing our sartorial decisions, all the while undermining its products and losing most of what made it special. Each chapter focuses on elements of this history, starting with the ruthless corporate tactics of Bernard Arnault, president of Louis Vuitton parent company LVMH. In the author's view, Arnault embodies the distasteful notion that what a luxury good represents is more important than what it is-and what it represents is shaped by the aesthetically empty practices of marketing and advertising. The real profits in the luxury trade come not from clothes, but from accessories like perfume and handbags, covered in the book's middle chapters. Though rich in detail, these sections drag a bit, but the narrative pace picks up again in the last third. Expanding luxury goods to the mass market requires managing costs, Thomas points out, so many luxury goods are now made in China-and counterfeited there; fake handbags are a multi-billion dollar industry. Somereaders will take issue with the whiff of snobbery wafting from the text, as when the author declares that it's so obvious Donatella Versace came from nothing. One can tell, however, that Thomas is genuinely troubled by the facts she has unearthed about the debasing of products that were once genuinely unique. Painstakingly researched and deftly written, valuable to fashionistas and fashion victims alike. Agent: Tina Bennett/Janklow and Nesbit Associates, Inc.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Jay Alexander
"Miss J. says don't buy the shoes, buy the book. Perfect front row reading when the shows are late during fashion week. Deluxe is a luxury to read."--(Jay Alexander, America's Next Top Model)
Rose Apodaca
Through exhaustive reporting and personalized storytelling, Dana Thomas has delivered a historical survey of a business that truly keeps the world going round. She may never again be so readily welcomed in some quarters of this beau monde, but the trade off is an essential reference for any student of fashion, finance or culture. (Rose Apodaca, former west coast bureau chief, Women's Wear Daily )
Fareed Zakaria
The story of luxury goods today is really about globalization, capitalization, class and culture. Dana Thomas has a feel for all of this and more and has written a fascinating book. A luxury product about luxury.
Michael Isikoff
"Dana Thomas is a brilliant reporter with a sharp eye for detail. In Deluxe, she provides an illuminating account of how the multi billion dollar luxury industry and the corporate giants that dominate it prey on, and bamboozle, consumers in the United States and the rest of the world."--(Michael Isikoff, co-author of Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War)
Joel Achenbach
"Deluxe is delicious if you know about fashion; fascinating even if you don't. We're not just backstage at the runway show, we're all the way back in the factory, which might well be in a remote province of China. Dana Thomas is a fearless reporter who shows how so many designer goods have gone to hell in a handbag. This is a page-turning yarn about the men and women who have transformed luxury into an off-the-rack, global commodity."--(Joel Achenbach, Washington Post columnist and author of The Grand Idea)

Meet the Author

Dana Thomas has been the fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris since 1995. She writes about style for The New York Times Magazine and contributes to a number of publications including The New Yorker and Harper's Bazaar.

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Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so informative, eye-opening and well-researched. It was an overall great book. Not only did it expose many of today's so called luxury brands for the mass-marketed, mass-produced items that they are, but it also was fascinating to learn how the brands that still produce high quality merchndise take it that "extra step" to make sure they only produce a truly high quality items. I especially loved the chapter on fragrance. It was a very interesting lesson on how fragrances are produced and what is involved. The chapter on the link between celebrities and the promotion on brands was also enlighting. The exposure of the "knock-off" industry and their ties to child labor and and abuses will stop me from ever, ever thinking of buying a fake again! For anyone who loves fashion this is a must read!
Sarjevane More than 1 year ago
Thomas uses each brand to outlines what luxury is about today. The book is full of why and how luxury does not mean unique. Definition of luxury is still up in the air, but definitely you finish the book realizing that what luxury was is not what it is now. Does it mean it lost its luster? May be not. But it lost its "one of a kind" aspect. You finish the book in a hate love relationship with those brands; you realize what they could be, and what they truly are about. At the same time, the book is inspirational. There is a big opportunity where the luxury brand were; a place where price is not the only motivation, but the individual service is. The final chapter is refreshing and optimistic about the luxury industry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
really interesting read. would be nice if they would update it to 2013 because things have changed in the past six years. Also, has your typical nook typos here and there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off" This book does just that. Tells the truth. After reading this Iam discusted by logos and I will only buy made in usa product and bags with NO LOGOS!!!!! Iam selling my Tory Burch clutch. I feel these logos are a way for these "designers" to escape actually creating a design.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mwaa ha ha ha ha.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very informative look into a very flashy world, unfortunate that the world of luxury is like the Wizard of Oz. A look behind the curtain will dispel all illusions you have about our many "luxury" brands.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Derrybookworm More than 1 year ago
This book was very insightful into the world of luxury items such as designer clothing and handbags. Even the chapter on the world of perfume was interesting. I loved this book so much, I bought a copy for my sister. I didn't want to part with my copy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Living near one of the world's most expensive malls, I was really interested in learning more about the extremely expensive items that stock the elite shops located in the mall in my area, which purportedly charges the highest retail rent in the nation. I always wondered how those shops thrived because I'd never witnessed anything approaching what could be considered a crowd of shoppers in any of these luxury goods stores, and it puzzled me that they could pay enormous rents, employee salaries, marketing expenses, etc., etc., and still make astronomical profits. My curiosity was satisfied by reading Dana Thomas' book 'Deluxe.' It's now very simple to understand how these 'luxury' brands are so profitable. The information contained in this book will annoy many who were under the impression that their Louis Vuitton bag or their 'designer' clothing is anything quite special.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I am appreciative of the writer's honesty and further investigation into a field that she knows well. It makes clear the distinctions between quality, mass consumerism and profit. Deluxe is a detailed account of the downfall of a loved one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is well written, chic, and also keeps the reader wanting to 'know' more of what she has to say. Overall a great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a fabulous, well written, easy-to-read book. The information the author provides is very interesting and written in a story-telling way. Anyone who loves fashion and luxury products will enjoy the insights this book has to offer!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dana Thomas¿s Deluxe is a perfect fit for anyone who loves the world of fashion. I found the book really interesting because you would think that when a large amount of money is spent you would receive a very quality one of a kind piece, like a Louis Vuitton handbag. That is not true though. The big names like Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton all started as mom and popshops. Over the years the original designers died and family did not want to take over, so big tycoons come in, buy the names, design and produce products that are made of lesser quality materials, especially leather and sell for outrageous prices. Through the years luxury really has lost its luster because now people do not care of the quality but of the status they are displaying. Nowadays quantity over rules quality. I really enjoyed learning that a name is not everything. Just because someone owns a Chanel bag does not mean it is any better quality than a bag from Target. I found it very interesting that some of the big name brands produce their products in the same place as lesser-known brands for a lot more money. There was nothing I did not like about this book. From the details of how all the shops look inside with their exquisite architecture and crazy patterns to the gifts employees receive, I never lost interest in this book. Deluxe let me do some research on the next handbag I want to buy and I now know what brands are real quality and which ones are just a fabulous name. If you¿re someone looking for and inside scoop on the real fashion world, this book is perfect. It is a behind the scenes look at how a big name brand really makes their money. One thing I keep in mind after reading this book is that quality is much better than quantity. The brands do not see things the same way the consumer does so to them quantity is much better than quality.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great. If you love fashion and luxury, it's time to get the dirt on these luxury items. The book is an eye-opener and I wish I had read it before I started buying luxury items.