Duchesse, creator of the superb blogPassage des Perles, is back today with the second installment of her examination of luxury. I think you’ll find it fascinating.
For some this is a simple, end-of-story decision: Are you kidding?
But if you have ever stroked a featherweight mohair Dior coat in a consignment store and wondered if it was worth the still-hefty price tag, read on.
Is the quality really there, or just the label?
|Anne Klein ca. 1980|
In one of my university textiles classes, we took apart high-end ready-to-wear clothes and learned a lesson I’ll never forget: bias cuts that weren’t, misaligned pants, badly-bound seams. (Yes, possums, seams used to be bound.)
Quality can slip; brands are sold, orders are filled by offshore jobbers, and the accountants decide the margins aren’t high enough, so decree cheaper zippers.
For all the talk about “brand equity”, a 30-year-old Anne Klein jacket was infinitely better quality than today’s.
Value is a subjective assessment derived from various factors:
|McQueen iPad case|
Innovation: Is the style so cutting-edge that you derive satisfaction from having something fresh, new and unlikely to be replicated in cheaper versions? An iPad sleeve is not unique but a McQueen skull-buttoned one offers a bit more devil in the detail. Is it worth $250?
Beauty: AKA the Purr Factor
Does it sing? Is the piece a high expression of the craft and aesthetic? Is it ‘just right’? Jill said she cried the first time she tried on the ruby Beene dress that was a graduation gift from her father.
At the same time, I wouldn’t forgo the pleasure of a beautifully-made object by making a knee-jerk judgment that it “must be overpriced”. Just because I can’t afford it doesn’t mean it’s overpriced, and the inverse is also true: what I can afford is not always fairly priced either!
|You’ll stand out|
Then there’s the Daphne Guinness Effect: You may attract certain assumptions and projections when people see you in the thing, or be conspicuous among your colleagues– should, for example, your officemates wear Banana Republic and you collect vintage Galliano. I applaud your verve, but you will stand out, and have to deal with it.
In the end, your attraction to luxury goods comes down to your values and priorities. Some commenters said in the previous post that they want to upgrade and experiment with better quality than before, while others say they will admire, but not own.
I can’t get a crisp correlation, maybe because I buy at the highest levels so rarely. A MaxMara coat delighted for nearly a decade, but for the move, I shed bags of Level 3 without a twinge.
I know women who can afford yet reject the finest and others who will exist on toast and tea to save for something special. Most of us inhabit a comfortable mid-ground, with a few “bests” and many basics.
Your comments on Part One fascinated me, and I would love to hear more.