Monday, February 28, 2011

I came across this a month or so ago, it an american company called "thursday bag" so you may have already seen them, i only just thought to post them. they are canvas tote bags, with what i belive is a digital print of the iconic birkin bag

they are being sued by hermes, but i thought it was just interesting, and actually quite funny.

posted by Hari Greenough

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lux Inside: French Artisans

Click here to see the full article about X-ray photos of luxury goods, revealing the integrity of construction.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Counterfeiting is estimated to be 7-10% of global business. In 2010, online counterfeit businesses alone generated almost 120 million in profit. France, a center for luxury and fashion, has aggressive anti-counterfeiting laws. Above in Paris, The Musée de la Contrafaçon displays counterfeits that have been confiscated. Below the anti-counterfeiting campaign is aimed at consumers who run the risk of being fined.

While counterfeiting seems like a contemporary concern it actually goes back to Roman culture when emperor Cicero's extravagant citron wood table was copied by regular citizens. The wood, also called Thyine, can be copied by appearance only because the original has a scent that stays with the wood after it is cut.

What's real? Below left the artisan aspect of luxury handmade goods used to be the trait of authenticity. Now in a world of mass production, authenticity is understood as a guarantee provided by the brand and packaging that mark the good.

What's not real? There are 3 general guidelines used on a global level.
1-Unauthorized use of a trademark, partial or complete imitation of a trademark owned by others
2-Product substitution - Unauthorized reproduction of a trademark on a product not manufactured by the brand owning that particular trademark
3-Illegal reproduction, as in digital copies that are sold as original
Any of these products can be bought by both knowing and unknowing consumers and they are not they same as products simply "inspired" by originals, which remain a legal grey area.

Above a fake Chanel briefcase displaying real Chanel goods

Counterfeit goods include not only luxury and fashion but pharmaceuticals, electronics, cosmetics and more, some of which put consumers lives at risk.

The counterfeit problem is the global network of organized crime. Below Louis Vuitton averages 20 raids each day with anti-counterfeit offices in major trade ports.

On the map above and in the images below Guangzhou, known as "factory of the world." The city is a major problem area for both counterfeiting and pollution. Below right the city confiscates motorbikes as contributing to pollution but continues to build factories.

China was at first resistant to counterfeit laws on the communist premise that individuals could not own ideas but over time laws have increased. Below a major Chinese sting on counterfeit cigarettes.

The counterfeit goods are shipped to black markets around the world. Below Canal Street NYC, Santee Alley LA, Istanbul and Marrakech.

Global customs are the major site of confiscation. Many counterfeiters send goods through "cleansing ports," other less suspect cities before arriving in US or Europe. Below counterfeit Burberry. See more at The Guardian.

Online counterfeiting is also policed. Below a website that offered replica Louis Vuitton items was shut down. It posted the court proceedings on its website but along with a link to its new website offering the same replica bags.

Below are the official marks used by the US Homeland Security when it intervenes with an online counterfeit business.

Studies have revealed that despite the global problems, consumers do not mind buying or wearing fakes and fakes may simply lead them to buy the real thing later on. In observing others, consumers consider something real if the person looks like they could afford it. Below the Martin Parr image shows the conspicuous consumption of luxury which emphasizes the display of goods and encourages the desire for luxury brands.

The presentation of luxury goods in fashion media associates them with use and on human forms, rather than the object alone. This aspect of seeing the good in use seems to give consumers a higher overall value to the product. Below an editorial on luxury goods by Inez & Vinoodh for W.

By contrast counterfeit goods are displayed behind closed doors, on the ground or sold from trash bags with no presentation. Below a miss-spelled counterfeit vendor from the Facebook page "Darling I can tell by the rest of your outfit your Louis Vuitton is fake."

A larger question about counterfeits are the values they represent. In the odd ad above the false bag is rejected though fake conversation is accepted. Mark Ritson explained in a study women wearing fake Chloe sunglasses were more likely to lie on a test while those wearing the real thing were more likely to be honest. There is an idea of holistic authenticity, that true self expression is from inner values through honesty in every aspect of life.

Superficial values are promoted by the fashion industry and counterfeit goods with false values are accepted by consumers but authenticity can still be communicated in luxury and fashion through natural simplicity. Above the Before & After photo series for V Magazine by Inez & Vinoodh shows models sans makeup and after styling, communicating the value of raw authenticity. Below the Spring 2010 ad campaign for Missoni featured the actual Missoni family in a gesture of genuine authenticity.

There is also a possibility to make good use of the illegal counterfeits. In some cases safe counterfeits have been donated to those in need. Above and below artist Sarah Kissell re-cycles counterfeit scraps for art work.

Case Study Copy

During the time I have been researching this course of luxury & authenticity, my personal blog was directly copied by another site used for fashion advertising.

My original blog: Fashion Vs. Art (below left)
The copy: New Fashion Design (below right)

Faux Real?

The real story behind counterfeit consumption: fakes don't damage the industry.
Following Veblen's theory about conspicuous consumption, Renee Gosline, an assistant professor at MIT, believes that status-seekers own luxury goods to distinguish themselves from other groups of people regardless of them not necessarily being able to differentiate a fake luxury good from the real thing. Surprisingly enough, consumers are not inclined to buy a fake item to save money, they'll buy the real thing to pass as "socially discerning" and to pass verdict on people and just goods.

Mark Ritson, an associate professor of marketing, states that fake luxury goods don't cannibalize sales and even though the market is flooded with copies, clients will continue to buy the real thing because of the social power it carries. Studies have shown that those who buy fakes are 46% more likely to buy the authentic apparel within the following year and continue a brand loyalty. For example: a fake Prada will not bring the consumer into the world of Prada because they knows it's fake, therefore in order to buy into the world of conspicuous consumption the client will eventually buy the real product, since buying the fake is the first step to brand loyalty, therefore fakes actually aide buying the genuine product.

On another note, an American business school found through a study that people who wear fake gods are more likely to cheat and lie; the results suggest that those wearing fakes are literally less trustworthy than those who wear the real thing....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre by Dana Thomas

by Minji Kang

Dana Thomas, a Paris-based American fashion journalist, and the author of
Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre observes how the counterfeiting market is moved in reality. The author mentions about the brief history of counterfeiting business in ancient times, middle ages, the Industrial Revolution, and the modern society today, but also she includes her interviews and anecdotes that she actually has experienced in Santee Alley and Guangzhou to investigate what is happening and how it is happening in counterfeiting market. She argued that "counterfeiting is about as old as civilization itself", and since long time ago, people have copied real things in lower qualities. People buy brands to “declare that you are a member of a tribe that subscribes to that particular brand’s message and its ethics”

Today, the luxury houses spend big grands for legal departments to protect their intellectual properties. On the other hand, some designers do not really care about it because they interpret it as a sign of popularity and success. The author captures not only the surfaces of the business, but how the business is linked with terrorism for the reason that the profits from selling the products, finance the terrorism. Furthermore, she captures the cultural reasons that why it is tricky to ban the counterfeiting business in China.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Would have been a good for the first class

by Sara Martin

The most expensive is $2,600.00 USD, from the "Dubai Collection" (Because it is available at Harvey Nichols department store in Dubai), "The Ten Thousand" (referring to the 10,000 swarovsky crystals applied to the bottle). The company is based out of Los Angeles.

I thought it was funny that there is also a "cobalt collection", which sells for $480.00 USD. (Cobalt is needed in tiny amounts to keep many animals and humans alive, but is radioactive, and poisonous with exposure in large quantities. The prospect of selling water in "Cobalt" bottles then becomes unappealing. The relationship between more conspicuous forms of luxury and irrational behavior is interesting. I think it relates to what we were talking about, when certain people readily flash their status, or power, they become a joke)

This is also interesting in the lens of luxury:

She states that she cannot tie shoes, or type on a computer, or take her jewelry off. In the interview someone tries to help her take her bracelet off, and she states that she's "stuck". It echos the wearing of corsets from the 16th-early 19th century, as well as the dress train, and the crazy dresses that were shown with gigantic hips that would struggle to get through doors etc. This type of restrictive luxury has seemingly become easier to accomplish with the progress in technology of the industrial revolution. I wonder if the information revolution will adopt some form of this restrictive luxury?

Here, is a "Collosal MP3 Player" sold at "Walgreens". I am really curious to see if that which is produced separate from economy, or that which exceeds the "goal capital sets for it", can develop this notion of "restrictive luxury". ie: ideas, forms of life, etc, or if "restrictive luxury" is dependent on economy. I guess the question is within the realm of the immaterial, are we willing to restrict ourselves separate from economy to propose a status which is also separate from economy? Or is this counterproductive?

Does this make sense?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Top Young CEOs

Elon Musk, Tesla Motors

See the story at Forbes: The Top 20 CEO's under 40.

Jason Rhodes, Cirrus

Status & Bling

The concepts of status & bling are nothing new. They are tied to notions of identity, rank and self-importance. Above the film Cleopatra from 1963 shows an excessive display of wealth.

Status can be considered both a legitimate position of power or rank, but it can also be the appearance of importance, without influence. In his last chapters, Berry addresses need & identity. What we need and who we are is both stable and in constant flux. Luxury is a way of augmenting both need & identity. Status & Bling enhance identity. This is why we sometimes argue that people with “identity issues” may seek power and luxury for the wrong reasons.

There are different cultural manifestations of a love of luxury. The fashion victim is one who who’s identity is contingent on purchase and brand and thus the purchase has power over him/her. Status can be the legitimate display of identity/power but we see bling as a flaunting of a sometimes false identity or an over compensation via conspicuous consumption. Below right Slick Rick.

Berry stresses a calm analysis of needs in negotiation with circumstances. Our desires for luxury must be negotiated with our basic demands and social commitments.

Globally we preference desires above needs. Below priorities in global spending, with the highest expenditure in the group being items like military and alcohol while aid to foreign countries for education and clean water are lower. See more at

Positions of social status are also highly variable. Below, Richard Avedon's Portraits of Power show a wide variety of status from the traditional American DAR, and President Ronald Reagan, to Malcolm X and Spanish Harlem's Young Lords, all of whom have different codes for status.

Status and class are normalized through media. Below images from Life Magazine captions in the 1950's indicate at left "First Class European Dress," featuring Dior and right "Upper Class India" dress.

Today, status is not as obvious through dress. Left Richard Branson has redefined the appearance and life of a billionaire and at right Mark Zuckerberg and girlfriend represent the casual Palo Alto status.

Despite social changes in status, Berry describes that the values in our time are “shallow materialism” and “commodity fetishism.” One way that luxury factors into the materialism is by always launching new desirable versions and continually staying ahead of the masses, offering new goods and improvements that keep desire alive.

The consequence of the incessant pursuit of luxury can be denial of others in need. The 2007 documentary Bling brought rappers to the heart of Sierra Leon to see the reality of the diamond industry.

Hip Hop and Fashion: Dress for Excess and Success

Chanel, 80's inspired by hip-hop

When hip- hop was first introduced, rap music was the up coming trend, and it was reflected into the urban street style. In the 80’s, the hip-hop culture increased, urban cultures aim was the luxury market. Money, power and respect became the backbone for many rappers. The hip hop culture started to want the more luxurious items which define how successful one is, such as designer clothing, imported champagne, Cuban cigars, luxury cars, and fine jewelry.

Clothes defined the man. The hip-hop culture was interpreted in different ways among communities. For example, Big Daddy Kane took on an Afro- nouveau riche identity by wearing fur coats, suits, and point leather shoes. Whereas the Native tongues movement had a more suburban preppy perspective-wearing brand

such as polo by Ralph Lauren.The hip-hop culture influenced and inspired fashion designers in the 80’s. Isaac Mizrahi, a native New Yorker, was inspired by the pop culture. He made hip hop accessible to the mainstream market. He merged the hip-hop culture and high The most hip-hop inspired detail, which was used in fashion, was the ‘fat gold chain’. Karl Lagerfeld used this detailing combined with leather at that time.The silhouette of the Baggy jean was introduced. In 1992, The ‘Home girl look’, the group TLC identified the image of bright colored and baggy jeans look which then reflected on the urban street style.

Luxury designers such as Ralph Lauren signed Tyson Beckford, a dark skin male model to be the face of polo. This made a statement that the world was changing. He embraced the culture change and targeted the urban market. With this became an association with hip-hop and high profile and success. Another designer, Tommy Hilfiger was associated with the all American country club feeling, but he embraced the culture around him and marketed towards the urban market. Using communication and fashion design to market his brand. He used individuals such as Puffy and Coolio to walk down the runway for his ‘Americana collection.’ The designers were inspired by the urban street style for their collections but the target audience who wore these garments would appropriate them to their own style. The “Ghetto fabulous look” is a style based on high-end designer clothing, which have been appropriated to the hip-hop culture.

Rap music influenced the hip-hop culture and the urban street style, which inspired designers to target a certain market. Becoming aware of the cultural change and therefore adapting their brand identity to fit their target audience. While using the context they were in and applying it to fashion making their brand more successful.

Chapter 8, Luxury and the politics of need and desires

The chapter starts off by bringing to our concern the “relationship between needs and desires and the location/definition of luxury in those terms”.How a society can consider cretin things important which create a system of needs that are in turn desires because of a standard set by the society itself. Berry refers to Frankfurt’s ‘Principal of Precedence’ which goes as follows: when Alan needs something that Brenda wants but does not need, then Alan’s need is the first thing that will be morally preferable to satisfying Brenda’s desire. This is where he establishes a brief understanding of satisfying one’s needs before acquiring desires. Berry then puts into question what a desire is and what a need is and how there are some grey areas in between the two and references chapter1. Berry goes into the primal needs like how an engine needs oil and how people eat and what that can mean for someone who is Jewish or Muslim or Vegetarian. And how those needs are more of a way of life and define who some one is based on their cultural background and question of identity and not choice. Then breaks it down to how human needs are never brute and always in principle open to question. Afterwards looking at how desires can also change from the way it is in actuality or simply a change of opinion. What we think of a luxury can become no more then a misconception of an idea. And Hume distinguishes the difference between settled or informed desire and the caprice or whim desires. Berry talks about how someone who’s life will end soon might prefer to take a big luxurious trip that they have been desiring for a long time their hole life, and “live life to its fullest” instead of worrying about paying off medical expenses to prolong a miserable life. This example will apply for the class that might not be privileged to have the possibility to indulge in global adventures like other classes. Taxation of different classes is definitely a reoccurring subject that Berry brings up in relating to every aspect of desire and need throughout the chapter. VAT or Value-Added Tax is one type of taxation that he goes into detail about how it is an added tax to some necessities and to others because of physical human characteristics. This taxation then in turn changes do to cultural identifications of necessity, razors for men was one of his example. And by the end of the chapter Berry return to the fact that production for need is not reached in many societies and a little reduced indulgence can still be practiced retuning to Aristotelian Phronesis, being the capability to consider the mode of action in order to deliver change, especially to enhance the quality of life for all. Aristotle says that phronesis is not simply a skill, however, as it involves not only the ability to decide how to achieve a certain end of indulgence, but also the ability to reflect upon and determine that end of over indulgence of luxuries is possible.

Think twice about your garbage: ilha-do-flowers - Video

A Video about the "Story of Stuff" - probably the most important 20 min of your day!

More on Victor Lebow

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Real Thing: Shoes

Which came first...?

Bebe left & YSL right

Steve Madden left & Alexander McQueen right

See more comparisons here

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Debate of Luxury

The key debate of luxury concerns responsibility to others. Controversial juxtapositions of European luxury fashion design amid impoverished India, above from Vogue India, 2008 and below Marie Claire France, November 2009.

Author Christopher Berry describes the moral debates of luxury in the 18th century. This was a time in which luxury was slowly accepted as a valuable part of economic growth. Dutch-English writer Bernard Mandeville was one of the first to legitimize luxury and suggest that prosperity is increased by expenditure and personal vices keep the economy going.

Bernard Mandeville

To illustrate his point, Mandeville wrote a now famous text The Fable of Bees. He describes industrious bees who build a hive and enjoy luxury with vice. In the second case, bees get rid of all ease and also vice, move to a simple hollow tree and only as expected without growth. Mandeville was suggesting that productivity is aligned with growth and though it may have vice it is better than simplicity.

The industrious bee left, works to build a hive and enjoys prosperity and luxury, the idle bee right, resorts to a hollow tree and simplicity

Mandeville uses a dialectic, a strategy that makes it seem as though we have only 2 choices, work ethic and luxury or simplicity and virtue. The text however gives an important defense about the relationship between work ethic and wealth, encouraging the drive for consumption.

Some suggest work ethic creates respect for luxury. Many reports on lottery winners reveal that for 80% instant winnings are not maintained by winners as they do not know how to respect and manage the money they have not earned through effort.

Mandeville also points out that it is not luxury that weakens man but folly (lack of good sense/judgment). Below Goya began by painting Spanish aristocracy in the 18th century and slowly showed deranged images of their folly.

Goya, The Blind Hen (1788-1789) & Witches Sabbath 1790's

David Hume

Two additional views on luxury. Above David Hume felt that luxury helps society advance their skills, pushing us forward and that private property is justified. Below Adam Smith believed that luxury was a selfish interest but if each is driven toward selfish gain, we are all together making a stronger collective.

Adam Smith

At the close of the 18th century, there was a general consensus that pursuit of happiness was tied to good commerce. By the 19th century through the present we have gained a better understanding of the historicity of needs. There are basic needs for human life but they vary based on historic moments and what is available. Social norms vary by each culture in time and in place. We can see what are the accepted needs by looking at what is available for the lowest economic level. Below the homeless are often neglected in the pursuit of luxury. Artist Michael Rakowitz created tents that could be inflated by building air exhausts, PARAsite, 2003.

Marx suggested that root of social problems was not luxury so to speak but private property which is about territorial defense. The homeless tent above is contrasted with the Hearst Castle by Julia Morgan, 1919-1947 with 165 rooms, 127 acres of pools and gardens.

The ruling classes protect their wealth and access to luxury and comfort by a number of strategies. They stand in firm alliance, opposing the mass standard and demanding a higher standard. They keep the most advanced comforts private and alien to the lower classes.

Martin Parr, 2010

Other important writers on the debate of luxury and wealth were Georges Bataille, author of The Accursed Share (1946) who suggested there is always an excess in the economy which is destined for luxury or waste, and Thorstein Veblen, author of Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) who suggested that the ruling classes strategically use luxury to make excess wealth and thus status evident to others.