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BEYOND LUXURY: The 21 st Century Remix
by Wayne at The Imagist.

The name alone must sell
Is it me or has this been happening to you too? You absorb so much information daily, you start to forget where you read/saw/heard what. For instance, I know this week I read that sales at Gucci have been exploding,and that the company moved product past the 2 billion dollar mark. I remember reading that the new store on 5th Ave at Trump Tower was a sumptuous extravaganza of unmatched awe andspectacle with a stunning view of the avenue from all of it's floors. Most of all we were assured Frida Giannini
knew what she was doing. She had feminized the brand. Made it warmer and more spontaneous and accessible. The message of the PR spin was, (and it was written this bluntly in the article)... “Tom who? “.Now weigh all that information against the reviews the last Gucci show has garnered. The general temperature? Lukewarm, much of it on the order of “This Will Sell Well. Especially In Russia” In her diplomatic review of the show , Cathy Horyn in the NY Times made reference to Gildo Zegna, the chief executive of Zegna, as saying this week that 20 percent of his company’s sales now come from new markets such as Russia, India and Brazil with profit margins said to be higher than those of the “ established markets."This then leads me to a thought that has been bugging me as a dedicated consumer of designer fashion. What is it that drives me to buy? The reviews of fashion critics? (In my case, no) . The packaging and PR done in the glossy fashion magazines (Somewhat, especially if the magazine is “renegade/independent” like Fantastic Man).Or is it that now the product takes primacy in a consumer's mind with brand loyalty transcending the cult of personality built around the 90's designers. Is the machine so refined now that it can pre-figure how to sell anything to anyone, every season? Are people just buying the shoe, or bag, or coat for what they think it is worth in the scheme of things? The head honchos at those luxury conglomerates would certainly like to think so.Luxury has become more of a dirty word than it has even been (especially when Dana Thomas in :Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre was done with it) . Luxury for a new class of consumer is now just a shortcut shorthand for an idea of “comforting status purchase” as in..cashmere... Vuitton...fur... Fendi...silver... Christolfe...private jet...Chanel..leather...Hermes...5 Star. Add all these up and you're meant to confirm your wealth. All these words and
brands and ideals have become secure in their myth..and are all so strangely undifferentiated in strategy recently. As such, a lot of labels simply have to maintain the machine and the season in Milan for most brands was a shrewd parade of the machine maintained.But what if the consumer is beginning to break down from information overload and is now ignoring fashion show reviews and big magazines directives as to what is in or out. If consumers are starting to talk back to the machine in blogs like this one or on, what is the remaining role of the fashion critic or fashion editor?. If people are editing collections for themselves, then how do designers provide “leadership” in this new Babel fashion culture?In Paris, the most coveted brand among that mythical
tribe of “first adopters” remains Balenciaga. There will be fights to be one of the 250 or so seated. Girls will cry at the fit-to-confirms when the pants turn out to be too small for them and their option is “released”. The shoes will be impossible and because of that Nicholas will canvas for experienced walkers on his runway. But reverent crowds will still gather by their computer screens on Tues morning for the first beams confirming what Balenciaga has to say about clothes this season. It's very old school as is befitting the legacy of an old house, but its also very of-the-moment in its 21st century niche strategy. Cultivate a small audience to arouse the mass market is the message from on high. In other words, the house understands that the kids are going to get the message and react accordingly before a single critic has the chance to write a single word.Nicholas Ghesquiere understands very well, this conflicting world of overload and niche, of Babel and bricolage. In many ways because of his consistent inconsistency , because of the impatient and emotional nature of his design aesthetic Ghesquiere stands as the one modern designer truly in touch with his times. He sees cyborgs, Led Zepplin backed college girl cool, couture extravaganzas and priest-like severity in his field of consciousness and the mash-up thereof is perfectly understandable to the kids. There is a generation thinking, if I could design clothes, this is exactly what it would look like.Balenciaga is part of a big PPR machine but is not as yet burdened with the obligations and demands of the machine. Yes there arebags and shoes and ads and celebrities, but even then the celebrities have to conform to the hard form of the clothes, not the other way around. There are not 6,000 stores worldwide. I like too that you don't feel the need to use the word “luxury” around Balenciaga, which is a little bit of a relief. Lord knows the prices on the pieces match and exceed the goings-on at Hermes but Balenciaga has never made that a big talking point for the brandAt the end of the day, when I consume, the value of the designer label is it allows me to filter through a field of a million choices and buy only those things that invite me to identify with them. There's just too much information, too much clothes, too many options out there and not enough time to spend hours searching. The last time a men's brand was in perfect sync with my impatience with imprecision was Hedi Slimane's Dior Homme. Oh yeah, those clothes were what you called precise! You could buy it blindly, just slipping it off the rack and a month later it is someone else who would point out to you the immaculate vents on the back. The same thing holds for Yohji Yamamoto's Y3. It may not be other people's idea of luxury but Y3 has my total loyalty.It is not important when I shop, to hear the word “luxury” anymore. I just want to put on a jacket or a pair of shoes that allows me to live in the here and now of the world I want to live in. It sounds simple, but it is only the truly great designers who seem to understand the nuances of that

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