Source: Forbes, Jul 2011
Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, Dana Thomas – The best narrative of the development of the luxury industry that I’ve read.
Chapters are devoted to fragrance, wine, handbags and shoes, as well as to the dirty little secret about luxury brands manufacturing products in China. The main point is that most “luxury” goods are mass-market commodities produced, marketed and sold the same as any J.C. Penny special.
Another theme here is that the “luxury industry” is actually a new concept. In fact, the raison d’être of goods from what we now consider luxury brands (Dior, Louis Vuitton, Prada) was originally to serve the aristocracy, not to make money. The idea of turning a profit from these products represents a paradigm shift for the companies and their consumers.
The End Of Fashion, Teri Agins – Like Thomas, Agins, a senior reporter at The Wall Street Journal, puts her reporting chops to good use in this tome on fashion’s demise. But while Deluxe focuses on luxury at large, Agins hones her writing toward fashion itself, especially how pret-a-porter overtook couture as the driving force behind the design houses. Profiles of Emanuel Ungaro, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan and Zoran Ladicorbic starkly highlight just how different fashion was in the ’80s than it is now. Agins also dissects how retailers like Marshall Field’s and Gap struggle to stay relevant. A decade later, their outlook seems even more bleak.