In order to define and understand luxury, one must experience it. For an outsider, luxury has more to do with a state of mind, an intangible lifestyle constantly generating desire. While in the past, luxury was easy to identify and to define, due to a clear division between social classes: if you were poor, you couldn’t afford it, if you were rich, you could, first with the creation of the middle class, and then with the ongoing democratization of luxury, its exclusiveness was deteriorated. It became accessible; a masstige luxury is the contemporary equivalent of luxury. If we think about it, a middle class family (from an economically developed country) nowadays has access to such a range of high end goods that it could easily stir up the envy of a nobleman from the 19th century. We have restaurants where we can be served all kinds of special dishes, we can afford to drink refined wines, we can buy designer items, and travel the world. But by being able to access luxury, which becomes a part of our everyday life, we contribute to the disintegration of its aura of mystique. Luxury stops generating desire, or a sense of belonging to a certain elite group, it is simply taken for granted. This is one of the reasons why the importance and relevance of luxury has been questioned in the last few years. The same dilemma lingers in the realm of high end fashion, where all of the big fashion houses were built on the exclusiveness of luxury. How did they approach the challenge of rethinking luxury in order for it to still be relevant today?
The concept of luxury can be hard to explain because it has such a wide variety of implications in our society, and our consciousness. So in order to analyze it I invite you to bear with me while I investigate the reinvention of luxury as seen in the cases of two international luxury brands: Gucci and Saint Laurent.
TO BE CONTINUED