Can luxury survive the recession?
Fashion is a wonderfully creative arena that, season after season, embarks on a quest for those perfect elements that allow each of us to shape our own image. It forms and guides our instinct for dressing up, that is one of the most expressive and meaningful human activities: through fashion, we come in contact with a wide range of options that become progressively more desirable but unfortunately also more expensive.
Like other creative sectors, fashion proposes objects and items so rarefied (sometimes too extreme even for quality and formal elegance) that aspiring to buy them or just wishing to have them puts you into the luxury bracket. Luxury is, in this case, being defined by the exclusivity of rare and expensive pieces, mostly from the well-known brands.
In fact, isn’t luxury – genuine luxury – the specific answer to human needs?
Over the years, the term “luxury” has taken on so many different meanings, sometimes ambiguous and contradictory ones. The negative aspect, focusing on its excess and waste, is often juxtaposed with the positive, the allure of its splendor and magnificence, evocative of countless enthralling scenarios.
Although retaining some characteristics of its past meanings, nowadays the term “luxury” has gone through a series of mutations linked to the changes in society and to the way the relationships between us are considered.
Until not long ago, the concept of luxury was automatically equated with the big brands and trademarks that are now so much part of everyday life, in no small part due to the strong and captivating advertising campaigns behind them designed to justify the high prices, without perhaps taking into consideration important details such as creativity, innovation, quality and refinement. Luxury was determined by the prestige of these luxury goods for those who could afford them. They were badges of exclusivity used to gratify ambition and by extension conferring exclusive experiences and emotions on their owners.
Should we still be looking primarily at the symbolic value of a brand to decide whether or not we are buying a luxury and good quality item?
What value should we be giving to those brands, with their powerful advertising images, when the global recession has even negatively influenced the luxury market, which is usually considered to be “recession proof”, and less likely to be affected by significant decreases in demand?
In this way we finally come to see another vision of the luxury concept.
Nowadays luxury has become more of a philosophy, a niche concept that is not so much about pure ostentation, but rather puts value on seeking out quality over quantity. It’s more about the care and workmanship in the details and less about extreme and over the top splendor.
Uniqueness, exclusivity and refinement are the key elements that distinguish today’s luxury products: it is a pleasure to own them and making them is an art: artisan manufacture, high quality raw materials and the presentation of products in niche contexts is the essence of luxury today. And in such a context, the Made in Italy concept is a flagship for the many products which are considered luxury goods all over the world, and which Italy cannot help but be proud of.
And as luxury offers us the choice, not to seek the approval of others, not to follow the crowd, we need to move away from the belief that only the big brands confer elite status: there are so many options, in this case Italian, that still focus on the perfection of workmanship and on impeccable materials, despite the hard times refusing to relocate the production process elsewhere, especially to countries where the costs are definitely lower but at the expense of quality and precision.
In short, it is in the small artisan workshops that we will discover the true pieces of art which being unique in their features and refinement, have no need to fight off the problems of fakes and reproductions, unlike the well-known brands on the market.
After all, Coco Chanel herself stated that “Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.” We do not necessarily need to show off a brand or the easily recognizable logo that “commercial” luxury confers to gain status, but we must be able to satisfy our senses and our need for quality and sophistication…. by focusing on handcrafted products of high quality manufacture.
This is the true meaning of luxury!