Must Read: “Deluxe” – How Luxury lost its Lustre by Dana Thomas

I had finished this book a while ago and meant to recommend it to anyone who actively/obsessively consumes luxury goods and fashion, it was one of those books that had really piqued my interest from the start-go. Dana Thomas is the fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris for 12 years, and her job lends her access to the inside working corporate world of luxury brands in this time & age, and she has carefully researched and documented her discoveries and some dismal findings in this no holds barred read. Here’s a sypnois of the book.

From inside the luxury industry comes the truth on what designer brands are really worth


Once upon a time, luxury was only available to the rarefied and aristocratic world of old money and royalty; luxury wasn’t simply a product, it was a lifestyle. Today, luxury is different. Gone are the family-owned businesses; the industry is run by corporations that focus on brand-awareness, advertising and — above all — profits. In Deluxe, Dana Thomas has found out all the secrets that Prada, Gucci and Burberry don’t want you to know.

From the last bastion of old-world luxury — Hermès, where highly skilled artisans still make their coveted Kelly and Birkin bags by hand, she takes us into the scent factories that manufacture Christian Dior and Prada perfumes, into the crowded factories in China, where workers glue together ‘Made in Italy’ bags. She takes us behind the scenes in the weeks leading up to the Oscars to witness the wheeling and dealing of luxury brands to dress stars for the red carpet. Thomas has interviewed corporate heads and factory workers, the old-luxury clients and the new luxury-obsessed middle-class consumer and paints a surprising picture of ‘New Luxury’ today.

An uncompromising and rollicking read about the real world behind the dream, this book asks: what does luxury mean when it’s targeted at a mass audience? What are we paying for when quality is no longer quality? How did luxury lose its lustre?

I had polished off this relatively fast read in a week, usually on my train rides to and from work, and from one chapter to the next it was a blow after blow of “What??!” “Are you freaking kidding me?!” discriminating facts about popular labels like Gucci, LV, Prada to sombre details of long hours, or child labor in China. The book is also littered generously with delicious tidbits and stories of the design houses that have grown to become the money grabbing, corporatized, giant luxury brands we know and lust endlessly for today.

Some stuff from the book that made me gasp:

– Most luxury brands like COACH and LV have moved most if not ALL  production of products to China, where workers work harsh,long hours shifts with almost no off days, and sometimes child labour are used as well ( and there they are complaining about counterfeits being cruel) Its “made in china” label is often hidden within a non visible part of the bag, sometimes even on the reverse side of its ” made in Italy/France” label when the product is produced entirely in China. 

– With the exception of Hermes, and perhaps Chanel, most of the other brands of luxury bags and products are put together on factory assembly lines and sometimes GLUED TOGETHER instead of sewn, in order to speed up the production process. The quality of products is significantly inferior compared to the older stuff. Millions are spent on advertising to emphasize on its history of handmade bags and create the illusion of quality, exclusivity and value.

– Brands like Louis Vuitton seek to increase their burgeoning profit margins and reach the middle class consumer by using cheap materials like Denim and Canvas to do a new collections. This significantly cut production costs, at the same time the collections,which are priced exhorbitantly despite the use of cheap, non-durable materials, are still selling like hotcakes to  eager middle class consumers who just want a piece of the ‘magic’.

And many other revelations I’ll let u find out yourself when u read the book. A really interesting read that really make me think about the habits of consumerism, as well as the value of true luxury in this time and age. Oh, I don’t know if i’ll ever splurge hard earned money on a Louis Vuitton bag after this read! 

“Deluxe” is available at Borders at SGD$26.70.


3 Responses

  1. Not surprised seeing so many LVs on the streets. It has turned into a mass consumer product. BLAH! Chanel is slowly inching there too. Ugh!

  2. i know! LV is seriously MASS commodity nowadays…I do like some of their collections especially the Damier series, but somehow I can’t bring myself to splurge and don one,knowing there are probably about 10 other girls carrying the same bag in orchard road! I hope Chanel won’t go the same route cos i really love it! Argh!

  3. whee, happened to come here randomly haha. wow, interesting book. but i wonder, will the author dana thomas get into trouble? cos she reveal those business secrets??? haha…

    yeah LV is like everywhere. that day my fren said she bought a gucci bag from neighbourhood store haha.

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