Until recently, what I knew about Fashion was pretty much whatever I learned while watching Project Runway with my lady. But a couple months ago I took a job doing research for a book on Fashion, which has somewhat broadened my knowledge and appreciation of the subject.
I’ve particularly enjoyed reading Dana Thomas’s Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster. Now I can’t say I sympathize too much with the book’s theme, which laments how luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior are no longer as, well, luxurious as they used to be, thanks to media saturation and mass-production driven by profit-obsessed executives. I tend to agree more with the Socrates quote that Thomas uses to preface one chapter: “Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.” I mean, I can certainly appreciate high-quality products. But I also think there’s a huge difference between appreciating high-quality products and spending tens of thousands of dollars on an anaconda-skin handbag lined with rubies and ostrich feathers, simply because you want people to see how you can afford such a ridiculously ostentatious object. That said, I can at least sympathize a little with reasonable people who have good taste, and value modest luxury (oxymoron?), and hate to see it diluted.
Yet throughout Deluxe, Thomas adds plenty of irreverence amid the lamentations, which I found highly refreshing. This particular passage tickled me, where we learn about the asinine marketing-thought that currently lurks over the shoulders of the perfume industry:
…generally, luxury perfume briefs all follow the same script. “Basically, it’s ‘We want something for women,'” a perfume executive told the New Yorker. “Okay, which women? ‘Women! All women! It should make them feel more feminine, but strong, and competent, but not too much, and it should work well in Europe and the U.S. and especially in the Asian market, and it should be new but it should be classic, and young women should love it, but older women should love it too.’ If it’s a French house, the brief will also say, ‘And it should be a great and uncompromised work of art,’ and if it’s an American brief it will say, ‘And it should smell like that Armani thing two years ago that did four million dollars in the first two months in Europe but also like the Givenchy that sold so well in China.'” All of this leaves [Chanel perfumer] Jacques Polge resigned. “I hear the briefs of brands that declare they want to create a ‘classic,’ like No. 5,” he says with a sigh. “This is a false notion. We should try to create a perfume of its time, and perhaps it can become a classic.”