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Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

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Overview

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 ...
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Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

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Overview

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?
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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.
Newsweek
Michiko Kakutani
With Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, Ms. Thomas—who has been the cultural and fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris for 12 years—has written a crisp, witty social history that's as entertaining as it is informative. Traveling from French perfume laboratories to Las Vegas shopping malls to assembly-line factories in China, she traces the evolving face of the luxury goods business, from design through marketing to showroom sales.
—The New York Times
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781615594962
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/16/2007
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

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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Table of Contents


Introduction     1
Part 1
An Industry Is Born     17
Group Mentality     39
Going Global     73
Part 2
Stars Get in Your Eyes     99
The Sweet Smell of Success     135
It's in the Bag     167
The Needle and the Damage Done     209
Part 3
Going Mass     235
Faux Amis     269
What Now?     297
New Luxury     321
Acknowledgments     347
Notes     350
Bibliography     361
Index     363
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 25 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 3, 2010

    A must-read for brand fanatics and general consumers alike

    When we save our money to buy a $500 handbag or $200 distressed jeans, we like to think of the people who made it as a small group of older women or men sitting in sun-lit rooms in France or Italy, with glasses perched on their noses, lovingly sewing a pocket or a zipper. The truth is far more likely to be a factory of 20-something Chinese women using a combination of glue and machine stitching - even if the label says "Made in Italy".

    But this book is not a tawdry expose... it's a very thoughtful account of how a group of storied families - the Guccis, Pradas, Vuittons, etc. - went from being hard-working tailors and leathersmiths who produced only a few items a year, but who never made much money for themselves, to being the faces of modern luxury brands.

    Along the way we learn things like:
    - Why do the Japanese buy 50% of ALL luxury goods purchased year globally, and how does that affect the way luxury brands think and act?
    - If Muccia Prada really is a communist, how does she reconcile that with running a luxury good business?
    - How a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk is hand-made, the same as it was a hundred years ago.
    - How Tom Ford went from designing for Gucci to being the face of Gucci.
    - How two men homoginized and standardized the vast majority of luxury brands into just two holding companies.

    Though the author doesn't address it exactly, I now have the answer to a question I've always wondered... How do so many designers and brands come out with the same 'inspirations' in a given year? How do they all know "Safari is in this fall"? The answer is the "Walmart-ization" of luxury... Read this book - and then make your teens read it.

    It doesn't mean I regret buying the $500 Longchamp bag - it's the most functional, durable purse I have owned and I adore it. Many - but not all - luxury items are better-than-average quality. But if you are 'brand concious' and mainly shop by brand, this will challenge many of your assumptions about what you are buying and why.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great book! Very quick and easy read.

    I loved it! Made me rethink how I spend on any "designer" items!

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