'Luxury Shame' -- Time to Move On

There's an enormous amount of sound and fury these days about "luxury shame" and the concept of luxury as passé and on and on. True, luxury has been abused by "aspirational" brands wanting some of the aura of "real" luxury products and services. And, yes, the consumer -- even the "best customer" -- is tuning out as a result of the barrage of overuse and misuse of the word by those that in the most robust of times wanted a piece of the pie.

Let's go back to Stanley Marcus's definition of luxury -- ''the best that the mind of man can imagine and the most sophisticated hand of the virtuoso craftsman can achieve." I challenge anyone to provide another better one.

"Luxury" in Mr. Marcus's sense will never go away. There will always be an audience of the most educated, affluent and appreciative for products or services that fall into this still much-envied niche. The best luxury brands shouldn't be and, truth be told, won't be and aren't being brow beaten by this temporary tidal-wave of no-confidence.




Because those brands that remain grounded in their heritage of value, craft and highly personal, intelligent service, will continue to offer true luxury products and services and experiences and will never go out of style. Those brands have seen it all before -- depressions, recessions, wars and every twist and turn the market produces. They "feel the pinch" later and the rebound earlier.

It's not the word that's the villain. It's the faux luxury brands overusing it. I suggest it won't be too long before the pendulum swings back again.

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4 comments about "'Luxury Shame' -- Time to Move On ".
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  1. Mariscia Thompson from ......, March 11, 2009 at 8:27 a.m.

    Good article. As someone who wants to enter this industry it is nice to hear an opinion that luxury isn't dead.

  2. Clinton Cochran, March 11, 2009 at 8:55 a.m.

    I agree. Luxury is always the first to rebound. Its customers are more confident (education level) and have less to risk (better income) - so when the economic tunnel sees the light, the trigger gets pulled quickly by the luxury shopper.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 11, 2009 at 10:15 a.m.

    Bingo on the "faux luxury brands overusing it", not to mention the over franchising. There is also a societal cost to over producting, but that's another story.

  4. Jd Norman from Winsper, Inc, March 13, 2009 at 6:30 p.m.

    I'll choose to disagree with Mr. Marcus's definition of luxury and, I guess, much of Mr. Furman's premise regarding luxury. I believe luxury lives in the eye of the beholder and is a perspective that shifts across consumer segments and categories. There are luxury offerings across virtually all categories and product and service offerings. That luxury is dependent on someone to imagine it and create it (Mr. Marcus's definition), as opposed to having that classification bestowed by those who choose to experience and feel special.

    And, contrary to Mr. Furman's assertion that those who appreciate luxury are "...the most educated, affluent and appreciative for products or services ..."; I'd say there are plenty of consumers who are perhaps only appreciative of something and, therefore, willing to educate themselves about a product or service and provide themselves the means to possess it whether it's within their means or by trading off and trading up to access it.

    This all speaks of the old-school, rich white guy stereotype of luxury and misses the mark — and ultimately excludes — many new luxury brands and new luxury consumers. Not to mention making it difficult for established luxury brands to remain relevant to an evolving consumer.

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