Thursday, 8 January 2009

"Luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends" - Coco Chanel

The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury - Charlie Chaplin

Credit crunch, M&S closing 25 branches, clothing labels shutting up shop, Debenham's profits down, luxury goods sales waning...

I recently read Dana Thomas' Deluxe - How Luxury Lost Its Lustre. It examines the luxury goods industry, from how it's produced to how it's marketed and consumed, and speculates on what value it has lost, now that £1500 bags are produced in Chinese factories by poorly paid teenage girls and every other woman totes an LV logo around in some form or another. At the same time it studies the old guard of luxury goods - Hermes' equestrian roots... oldskool luxury perfumers (Chanel's Jacques Polge, creator of the Les Exclusifs range, gets airtime, as does a jolly French farmer from Grasse who grows the exquisite flowers that go into Chanel's perfume)... the mills and weavers in Florence that supply the rarest silk for the most sumptuous of purposes (couture gowns, the walls of the Kremlin)... and an insane, sprawling Brazilian department store that is run like a salon and sells everything from couture to cars, with a personal shopping ethic that goes beyond imagination.

It's not written for the anti-consumer but the discerning customer and the jaded shopper. Her message is not 'stop buying', but 'stop buying indiscriminately' - it's an entreaty to respect the quality of personally crafted things, and know the difference between conglomerates that buy up every company going [and the companies that end up under their wing], and companies that nurture the highly skilled artisans that contribute to their luxurious reputation and preserve a little old-time plushness. It's a book for people for whom spending big doesn't automatically equal living well. I am an unabashed snob and have long despised the culture of logos and averagely made It-buys, from the LV print and 'luxe' handbags to sleb-designers and ubiquitous high-street horrors, and while Deluxe could have been more damning of the repulsive conditions that spawn much of what we consume, it's a pretty engaging read.

Luxury to me this month is...

...reserving an hour and a half before bed to watch French noir thriller I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed, with a small cold glass of orange liqueur, homemade and gifted by Italian friends
...spending £42 in Liberty on a full set of glossy black cotton bed sheets and duvet covers with pretty white piping for a quarter of their usual price - a little piece of bitesize, enveloping luxury without the financial implications!
...tidying my house with a vengeance, throwing out mountains of inhibitous old junk I haven't needed for years, leaving space to make my habitat look exactly as I want it to... and stretching out in the newly freed up space for days after
...a chocolate orange all to myself, consumed e-e-e-ever so slowly.

(I was happy to hear that Liberty's profits are bouncing along healthily, winking merrily at her ailing peers. Dear old Liberty - well bloody deserved. What a luxury that shop truly is - even if one wanders through its wooden halls and spends nothing, it feels like time beautifully spent, from the flower stall at the entrance to the towering piles of Turkish rugs on the third floor. Long may she rumble on.)

28 comments:

Stephanie said...

wonderful post. thanks for the book recommendation :)

Make Do Style said...

Perfectly put - you know I'm an advocate for exactly the same. And as for Liberty my ambition is to sleep over there one night just to wander around all by myself!

Charponnaise said...

Stephanie - you're welcome. It's worth a read!
Make Do - I wish for the same... and for the alarms at the shop doors to be turned off. I would trip merrily through the store amassing treasures from every room. In short, chaos would ensue. My Liberty addiction is progressing at a worrying pace. The other goodie I snapped up yesterday was a toile de jouy cushion cover [matching a duvet cover I bought last season] for £5. Hurrah.

One day I will have a perfectly round bedroom with high windows and elegant Philip Starck chairs, and it will be selectively adorned with Liberty loveliness.

Cherryred said...

I really enjoyed this blog post. Thanks for al your hard work!!

My luxury at the moment is saving up for the perfect cashmere jumper for the sales! Finger crossed!!

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deep_in_vogue said...

Fantastic!

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July Stars said...

Liberty is such an institution and the multibrand store in London with a selection that always appeals to me (apart from maybe Dover Street Market). I can't wait to see the relaunch of the place in a few weeks time. It should be exciting.

Iole said...

Lovely post and really good words.
xo xo
Iole

Liberty London Girl said...

I've just been talking to our mutual friend @ Tank! Small world. LLGxx

Charponnaise said...

LLG - she mentioned she knew you! It is a small world indeed. x

Gold Sphere said...

I really miss your blog.. your writing is so good and you have a great view on things...

xx

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Massimo Z said...

Wow! How did you get your sheets from Liberty for such a cheap price! I envy the prices in there, yet it is so beautiful. I want it to be my home.

This and Vivienne Westwood. I'll get an item from both shops one day...

娃娃 said...

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The Honourable Husband said...

I'm a big fan of Dana Thomas, too. She did an Authors@Google talk some time ago, which I found very refreshing.