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Additional resources for Luxury, Lies and Marketing: Shattering the Illusions of the Luxury Brand

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This explains the mythology of custom-made objects, which is particularly striking in high fashion (but which also exists elsewhere): a custom-made dress is, by definition, unique, or at least unique several times over, according to the small number of clients who have ordered it. There was an era—and in certain milieus it remains the case—in which two women could not wear the same model of dress without exposing themselves to public ridicule. The maintenance of difference, and of the most visible difference, by means of the unique piece, persists even now and costs a very hefty sum.

My conviction is that this notion of a swerve is the one that best and most completely encompasses what can be observed in the commercial luxury sector. It explains how the concept of luxury was formed in Europe, before spreading elsewhere. It also explains how this concept continues to function today. The swerve can occur in three directions: ■ upward; ■ laterally; ■ downward. The upward swerve is the direct descendant of court society, where the rule of the luxury game was to indicate the distance that separated the nobility from the populace.

26 Since luxury signaled and signified the nobility’s superiority, nobles had to make the widest and most visible use of it possible, whether they wanted to or not, and whether or not it was within their means—which explains how many families were ruined, the passion for gambling that enabled some to compensate for the absence or meagerness of their incomes, and why the aristocracy was constantly in debt. AND ON THE PATERNAL SIDE? If the mother of French luxury is court society, its father is younger: commercial trade as it emerged in Europe at the beginning of the industrial era, under the auspices of the mercantile bourgeoisie—in other words, over the course of the 19th century.

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