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Why Luxury Lost its Meaning

The luxury fashion industry is no longer about designing and manufacturing unique objets de luxe for the rarefied few, but is focusing on mass producing , mass manufacturing and mass marketing for, well, the masses. How did luxury lose its meaning in the fashion world? 

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Luxury is fast leaving its traditional roots of construction by craftsmen and couturiers. Forget one-of-a-kind objets de arts. Those in the luxury business realize that there are many individuals willing to pay top dollar for beautiful and sumptuous goods.

Emphasize has switched from a cottage industry prototype, frequented only by the most elite, to a business mindset that mass produces, markets, and merchandises its products and services.

Meticulously organized businesses have swallowed up the family-run, artisanal businesses of yore. These conglomerates encourage vertical integration and economical production to maximize profits and products’ accessibility.

Luxury goods, not long ago only available to the very few that flew in lofty circles, have become highly accessible and thus, more desirable.

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The new luxury business model establishes itself on the twin pillars of desirability and availability. Luxury businesses are becoming adroit at seducing both new and established customers through effective marketing campaigns, often featuring a celebrity endorsement.

Concurrently, they have expanded their distribution to ensure that their goods are readily available for purchase in multiple locations. Moreover, a price point structure has been instituted, which enables virtually anyone to purchase their own personal piece of luxury.

Luxury conglomerates induce buyers, who in the past never could have dreamed of owning these goods, with entry level products and extensions of the brand. In particular – cosmetics, eye wear, small leather goods, and soft goods – have become staples for the typical luxury empire.

A paradoxical circle arises. A bottle of perfume, regardless of its magnificent marketing campaign, is not luxurious when anyone can wander into a department store and plunk down thirty dollars on the counter. How sustainable is luxury, if it is in fact, not luxurious, that is to say elite, expensive, and unobtainable.

In today’s world, everyone can demonstrate their spending power by purchasing and wearing a luxury brand. The wearer relishes their perceived qualities of wealth and discernment associated with sporting a luxury brand. consumption becomes unavoidably linked with wealth and exclusivity. Marketers delight in these circumstances.

While some may take umbrage with the broadening base of luxury, others may point out that the perpetual and obstinate insistence on defining these mass-produced, easily purchased goods as luxury, is a travesty.

Luxury, in the past, referred to goods or services that were characterized by a high standard of construction, were difficult to obtain, and elevated the owner’s ego. Luxury goods and services, sometimes called Verblen goods, command higher prices as demand increases.

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The term masstige, a blending of the words mass and prestige, has been bandied about to describe the broadening base of luxury. The term luxury, along with exclusive and limited edition, has become meaningless due to overuse of the term to describe virtually any item.

A few high-fashion brands have conceived a niche based on excellence. Excellence revolves around promoting expertise. By shedding the term luxury, these fashion houses can manufacture a transparent value proposition.

The luxury confusion may be solved by using the term “excellence” to describe objects that have been created with innovative fabric techniques, impressive tailoring, and unique finishes. Marketers may need to dump the now empty term “luxury” and dig deeper to discover what truly makes their brand special.

Featured Image Photo Credit: <a href=””>Clothes Hangers</a> by Peter Griffin



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