Monday, January 24, 2011

The Magic of Luxury Goods

Above and below Bruce Weber's book for Cartier, 2009

Bernard Catry's article, "The Great Pretenders: The Magic of Luxury Goods," describes the importance of rarity. He suggests that luxury is quality, emotion and rarity but rarity is an illusion. Luxury companies want to give that illusion because exclusivity is tied to the feeling of luxury.

Fashion photographer Cecil Beaton was part of an elite social group called the Bright Young People, pictured below and he stated, "All I want is the best of everything and there is very little of that left."

Catry looks at rarity in Cartier's Must division which was a more affordable accessory line previously available world wide. Must gave more access to Cartier but took away its perceived rarity.

Must was entry level luxury much like those below, the Mercedes C Class, lower priced high end labels like Miu Miu, luuxury cosmetics, perfumes, accessories and designer jeans.

Catry acknowledges that there are natural forms of rarity along with other types such as limited editions.

Natural rarity is found in something like the heirloom tomato which is created from an older seed and can only produce more through chance open pollination. By contrast, Cartier's Love bracelet was presented through media as exclusive and rare even though it would be technically possible for them to produce more.

Techno-rarity occurs when the demand for something is greater than quantity due to production time. Couture is the best example which is a one of a kind time consuming labor.

Limited editions and collaborations are another strategy used to create rarity.

Information based rarity occurs when brands are virtually silent. Costes in France is a prime example of luxury invisibility.

Catry concludes by suggesting that the product brand, its heritage and its associations build the best type of rarity. For Cartier, its alliance with original works of art through its foundation and exhibitions achieves this corporate rarity.

Above Cartier exhibition materials and sword ornament designed by Surrealist artist Jean Cocteau for Cartier, 1955.

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