Thursday, March 1, 2012

The 5 Implications Of Luxury's Real Meaning



Among the luxuries that endure and bring pure pleasure with every encounter are precious friends. Lisa, from the exquisite -- on every level -- blog Privilege is one of those friends. Here she delves into the deep meanings and sweet sensations of luxury. What would we do without our brilliant friends?


I've been thinking about luxury for quite a while. The term is used commercially, and, like most commercial terms, gets twisted, coded, and abused. Not to mention thrown about willy-nilly. But I think there's a deconstructed meaning, a kernel of something universally true.

Luxury is a saturated sensory experience, wherein the luxurious thing or moment is more full, more intense, more detailed, or larger than the slot you saved for it in your mind. Luxurious times and goods inhabit themselves all the way, and beyond. 

If I'm right, several implications follow. Also pretty pictures, something at which any discussion of luxury is going to excel.


1. High quality goods are not the only source of luxury. One can luxuriate in almost anything, given just the right slice of time and opportunity. Infinity pools help, granted, but infinity itself stretches across many horizons.

2. People get deadened to luxury, over time, not because we are very badly behaved creatures. Although that may be true. Just look at American politics. I digress. No, we find ourselves examining a luxury hotel more critically on the second day because our expectations increase. The third granite counter we install shows its flaws more immediately. The fourth crystal glass, its smears.


3. Luxury is not opulence, per se. We have tended to associate the two simply because there's more room for saturation in gloss, plush, and ornamentation. However, no one can deny the luxury of a perfectly designed simple object, made of materials that both look and feel beautiful. A pink and brown coat, in double-faced wool? Not just any pink, mind you, not just any brown.
4. Luxury goods cost a lot for a reason, i.e. the labor required to create saturation. Someone designs every detail, and/or crafts the object with precision, attention, and creativity. Chanel sews a small heavy chain into the hem of their jackets, to ensure drape. How much time it took to produce the fabric in the dress below, or to weave the rug above, I can estimate no more closely than, a lot.


5. Finally, some goods deemed "Luxury," offer the requisite saturation only in their logoed details. If you buy plasticized canvas bags in a logo print, or cheaply fitted leather shoes with a branded medallion, you luxuriate in presumed status, not the good itself. These things often fill the expected space only, leaving a gap that must be fed by subsequent purchases.

Thank you all for having me. Speaking to Tish's audience, now that's luxury.

Images:
Louis Vuitton, by Lorenz Bäumer, formerly of Chanel
Four Seasons Maui, from my review on Privilege 
Waterford Lismore Essence, image from Overstock, available at Crystal Classics 
Coat by Raf Simons in his last collection for Jil Sander from Style.com 
Rug from the Persian Carpet Guide 
Dress by Emilio Pucci from Style.com

27 comments:

Cheryl said...

Such a luxurious post! :-) Seriously, I loved it!

déjà pseu said...

Your writing is so sumptuous, Lisa. It's the verbal equivalent of that Raf Simmons coat. I love the concept of luxury as saturation.

LPC said...

Thank you for having me Tish! And good morning everyone:).

Lily Lemontree said...

Wonderful post! (Not that I expected anything else from you two lovely ladies!)
And yes LPC, I have been sighing over that Raf Simon's coat since the minute I laid eyes on it!

Worthington said...

It is true. Lots of brands being represented as popular today do not equal luxury.

And luxury is often best represented in understated glamour. Chanel does not have to have its interlocking Cs all over an item to be distinct if you have the eye for luxury.

The feel, drape, weight and general quality of the item can make the biggest difference. Luxury really is quality not quantity. As you said, "These things often fill the expected space only, leaving a gap that must be fed by subsequent purchases."

I'd rather have one luxurious pair of shoes cobbled over and over again than something I bought for $10 with a synthetic upper and poor heel.

Chin chin, Lisa - a wonderful and inspired post!

Splenderosa said...

One of the most difficult things to describe, this luxury. But, as always, you guys did it. Love this series, Tish. And, Lisa, you hit a home run. xx's X2

Mardel said...

Brilliant really. Luxury as saturation. As always you always manage to distill the idea right down to its essence, and do it elegantly as well.

J. Beaudet said...

Beautifully written and very interesting post. I've never thought about luxury so much.
Jenniferxx

Louise said...

Lisa, you really nailed this.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Well done, well said...
I agree with your last comment so much!

Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life said...

I have to agree with another commenter... your posting is sumptuous. A delight to read and think about.

Haven't been by for such a long time, it was a real treat to spend time here again.

Wishing you the BEST kind of day........

bv said...

love everything you write....always. tish too! in my reality lovely trips, designer clothing and things of that nature are treats that come by only once in a while. so i find my 'luxury' in everyday moments.like expanding my world through my blogging GF's...

knitpurl said...

Have to agree with bv above, most times "luxury" comes in the simplest things in nature and in those "everyday moments." Great series, thank you!

Joni said...

Wonderful, thought-provoking post. I also agree that your writing is sumptuous; quite a treat to read.

Loving this series!

Dawn said...

Thank you for introducing me to this blog, Lisa. I can tell I will like it here.

I work very (very very) part-time in a luxury store, so I have given this topic lots of thought myself, too. As always, you summed it up perfectly.

Mise said...

" If you buy plasticized canvas bags in a logo print, or cheaply fitted leather shoes with a branded medallion, you luxuriate in presumed status, not the good itself." --

this is a beautiful description of the triumph of the token gesture of branding over careful workmanship, and it sums up what is so wrong with modern bling. Next time I go shopping, Lisa comes with me, just to be double sure, ok?

BigLittleWolf said...

A "saturated sensory experience" is a delicious way to express how we feel around or indulging in luxe.

Loved all these illustrations! And I must say, I sometimes feel that saturated sense of luxury when surrounded by extraordinary fine art, ideally in a cozy setting - a home, but also a museum.

Delightful series.

Jenna said...

Have you seen this blog post? http://www.mymoneyblog.com/connections-between-happiness-stuff-and-money.html
I'm working my way through Paradox of Choice now (among many reads I would like to conquer) and I loved Dan Ariely's book as well.

FAshiOnistA ErA said...

great writeup!! just came across your blog..really nice

Dont miss my HARVEY PRINCE PERFUME Worldwide giveaway :)
http://fashionistaera.blogspot.com/2012/02/harvey-prince-perfume-worldwide.html

kathy peck said...

Although fancy, and deluxe, are "definitions" of luxury, so is "comfort" and for me, the most lasting of all type of luxury, and the one, that would be most difficult to live without.
Very interesting topic and post.

Duchesse said...

Quality is relative. I was once visited by a relative left nearly destitute by a separation. I took her for a good haircut and shopping (as a gift). To her, this was luxurious. I wanted to take her to somewhere "nicer" for the clothes; she demurred. I was annoyed that her husband (who could afford *much* more) had dictated such a level of spending in the past that she would think this was luxury.

I learned then that for luxury to be enjoyed, it must be at a level of acceptability to the consumer.

tweedlibrarian said...

This post really resonated with me; I've been trying to figure out what "luxury" is, exactly, and your description is spot on.

I was recently on a mission to find beautiful, comfortable shoes that fit, and tried on a couple pairs of $300+ "cheaply fitted leather shoes" - I was horrified at how poorly made they were. Nothing luxurious about expensive but badly made objects.

Anonymous said...

Duchesse's comment resonates - luxury needs to be at an acceptable level for the consumer. For me, luxury is something several levels above what I would normally have. And that can include things like an afternoon off reading a book and sipping wine on the sun lounger, or a slow coffee in a cafe overlooking the water.

Cheers,
Eleanorjane

Entre Nous said...

Very nice :}

Tabitha said...

"Luxury is not opulence"- well said, I can't bear the culture of over logo'd bling and designer name tags.

Terri said...

I like your deconstruction of the term--and now I shall ponder it until I find an inexpensive example of luxury...

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I enjoy reading Lisa's blog and so glad to see her post today. It's true that the more accustomed you get to luxury, the more you expect. But who really minds getting used to the good things in life.
Sam

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