Selling Smoke?

Above: One of photographer's Kyoichi Tsuzuki's "happy victims," a young girl living in a tiny one-room apartment full to the brim with Anna Sui merchandise.

If you haven't read it, I wholeheartedly recommend Dana Thomas's Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster. Her behind the scenes investigation of the luxury market raises some interesting questions and poses a refreshing look at the concept of luxury within our mass market global economy.

Luxury, she says, used to be about high quality and exceptionally crafted products custom-made for particular consumers, their tastes and lifestyles. Now, its about selling dreams for unjustifiably high mark-ups. And what of the craftsmanship, the individualization? It's gone to pot, says Thomas, and I gotta say, I TOTALLY AGREE.

Certainly, it's depressing to think that most people will never experience anything close to the old conception of luxury. Most of us will never have a couture dress made to our specifications, a pair of shoes cobbled for our feet, or a frame carved specifically for a family portrait, commissioned from an artist whose style we admire.

But hey, after the initial shock, redefining luxury becomes a liberating exercise.

Marc Jacobs' take on the situation: "For me, luxury is about pleasing yourself, not dressing for other people." Shocking, but I'll bite. Christian Louboutin also had an inspiring snippet to share: "Luxury is the possibility to stay close to your customers, and do things that you know they will love. It's about subtlety and details. It's about service...Luxury is not consumerism. It is educating the eyes to see that special quality."

What, luxury? About developing a personal aesthetic and taste? I couldn't agree more, and couldn't have said it better myself.

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