A question of luxury

'Luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends.'

Gabrielle Coco Chanel (1883-1971)

When you flip through the pages of a fashion magazine, what do you see? An array of luxury fashion advertisements, featuring colourful and alluring pictures of models displaying products that tease your eyes and sensitivity. When you switch on the television, you're constantly bombarded with celebrity news and reality shows that touch your natural human craving to feel beautiful, important and recognized. The gorgeous people in the magazines and on television unconsciously speak to you, telling you that their lifestyle and material possessions like their clothes and accessories can also make you beautiful and help you become a part of their world. All you need to do is to obtain the right fashion goods by the right designers. You then begin to crave the Gucci watch, the Louis Vuitton bag and the Chanel glasses, not to mention the Jimmy Choo shoes or the Bvlgari jewellery that beckon you every time you see a picture of a celebrity icon. Welcome to the luxury fashion land. You're not alone but a minute part of a world that constitutes of millions of people that have been hooked by the luxury fashion fever called brand loyalty. Don't worry, this is not a sickness and you're not a victim but it is a part of the definition of your personality and lifestyle. In this world, it is not easy to make an exit because it is quite challenging to be logical-thinking in the midst of luxury fashion goods.

When the fashion design icon Coco Chanel stated that 'luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends', she knew exactly what she was talking about. Also as far back as 1899, notable writer T.B. Veblen acknowledged in his celebrated text The Theory of the Leisure Class, that the consumption of luxury goods was a 'conspicuous waste'. The truth is that we don't need luxury goods to survive as human beings, but we need luxury goods to fuel the sensations that contribute to our overall appreciation of ourselves and our lives. It may sound uncanny but the appealing brand features that luxury fashion represents contribute to our general well-being.

Still in doubt? Then think about this. On a daily basis, we make most of life's decisions based on brands, beginning with the toothpaste we use in the morning to the cereal we have for breakfast, the car we drive, the phone we use, the restaurants we eat in and also the toilet paper we use. We make daily purchases based on the trust we have that the consistent promises of a brand will be delivered. Now take this trust for basic consumer goods to the higher level of luxury fashion and you'll find that you have even greater brand promises and more reinforcement that they will be delivered. This increases your level of trust. And when your expectations are met and exceeded, what do you think will be the result? Of course you'll be hooked. If you can place your trust in a toilet paper or detergent manufacturing company every time you spend two dollars on their product, then what level of trust do you think you'll have for a high fashion brand that contributes to shaping your lifestyle and defining your identity? It is likely to be enormous. And this is what luxury is all about.

Fashion is not only a matter of clothes and accessories but is also highly influential in structuring society's culture, identity and lifestyle. Luxury fashion even goes further to reinforce the evolution and voice of society. In this generation where image underlies every aspect of our lives, luxury brands have gained more prominence and are affecting the daily lives of both consumers and non-consumers on a greater level.

An intelligent, pragmatic and highly educated friend once told me that she would rather not wear sunglasses than wear ones that are not made by Gucci. She has been a loyal Gucci sunglasses devotee from the day she bought her first Gucci sunglasses many years ago. She also wears prescription glasses and the first time she went for her eyeglass fitting in London, the optician was out of stock of her desired Gucci frames. She didn't mind waiting for one month for the frames to arrive, in the meantime straining her eyes daily and risking her vision, such was her level of love and loyalty to Gucci. Of course she knew that she wouldn't become blind but she was ready to jeopardize her faltering vision for the love of a luxury brand. When I raised this point, she simply said that I might not understand the intense contentment she feels each time she wore her Gucci glasses. This emotional core that the Gucci brand touched in my friend is the impact luxury brands have on consumers on a daily basis all over the world. When a consumer wants a luxury brand, there is no substitute. Such is the mind-game that 'high branding' plays with consumers. Again, this is luxury.

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