Book Review: Deluxe, How Luxury Lost Its Luster

I’m sorry to say that after reading this eye-opening book that I won’t be able to look at the luxury and fashion industry the same ever again.

Ever since I’ve been taken with purses, I’ve had a suspicion that certain high-end brands with their liberal annual price increases and tasteless limited edition releases were not necessarily in the business of luxury, but rather in the business of making a profit. I know that I am not alone in this perspective; a brief conversation about the topic with any aficionado will bring a similar line of thought.

These suspicions were what drew to me reading this book and with facts, figures, and interviews with owners and designers themselves, Dana Thomas has proven those suspicions to be true.

In an informative and engaging manner, Thomas takes us from Hong Kong to France to South America, into replica sweatshops in Guangzhou to Miuccia Prada’s concrete office in Milan to the vibrant Daslu, a rare and true luxury shopping experience in Brazil. She brings us into the intimate details of the series ruthless and shrewd power moves taken by Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, that changed the direction of luxury forever and through this, narrates the demise of the made-to-order, old world luxury companies and the rise of the democratization of luxury.

But all is not lost even in today’s money-driven and fast fashion environment. Thomas shows how luxury still persists in a few brands such as Hermes, Chanel and Louboutin. Most of the book was horrifyingly candid for such a lover of designer goods like me, but I did enjoy the latter parts of the book that allow these wonderful brands to shine and stand against the dizzying avarice of others.

Christian Louboutin explains that “luxury is the possibility to stay close to your customers…about subtlety and details. It’s about service…Luxury is not consumerism. It is educating the eyes to see that special quality.”

Cristiane Saddi, a marketing director in Sao Paolo says that clients who frequent Daslu, a luxury fashion emporium, “don’t need the logo entry-level handbag or to wear labels or logos. We buy from luxury brands, but not ordinary products. You can see what is mass and what is special. Luxury is not how much you can buy. Luxury is the knowledge of how to do it right, how to take the time to understand and choose well. Luxury is buying the right thing.”

I recommend this book to anyone who is ready to truly grasp what luxury means and stop being fooled into throwing money away on mass glamour. It’s not about how much money you have or how much or what you buy. One can be more luxurious than the richest socialite in all the world by understanding quality, selecting timeless pieces, and above all an unpretentious naturalness in one’s surroundings.

I’ll leave you with this quote by Karl Lagerfeld that sums it up quite candidly,

Luxury is the ease of a t-shirt in a very expensive dress. If you don’t have it, you are not a person used to luxury. You are just a rich person who can buy stuff.

signature

Book Review: Elegance

Today I want to share with you my review of a delightful little book, “Elegance” by Kathleen Tessaro. If any of you are familiar with Madame Dariaux’s concise encyclopedia by the same name and loved it — you will appreciate this book. It follows the transformation of Louise Canova from a drab, depressed and depressing person who is stuck in an unsatisfying marriage to an elegant woman of substance who is unapologetic in living her life.

I really like this story because I think its a journey that all elegant women share. Although Louise’s specific background may be different from ours, we all have times in our lives when we have to choose between what is right and what is easy, an opportunity to express out highest ideals or to stifle that expression out of fear of change.

Louise’s journey is structured with passages from Madame Dariaux’s iconic book that set the tone for her metamorphosis. I will admit, it is a rather banal story, but the question of what elegance actually meant to me was what made it interesting for me.

At a certain point in the book, Louise gets fed up with trying to become the “perfect” elegant lady and decides to live for the moment with the exclamation that “life’s too short!”. She tosses everything she learned about elegance in the bin (including her chic wardrobe) and trades that in for impulsive nights at the trendiest clubs, expensive purchases from this season’s hottest fashions, and the dazed and hungover mornings that follow suit. She starts to interact with the world around her differently and her experiences shift as a result — and not in a way that ultimately served her true objectives. But, she realizes all of this and she eventually finds her way back thanks to a friend and a hilarious yet poignant incident at The Ritz.

By the end of the book we learn that elegance is not about appearances or about belonging to a certain social circle. Elegance is a state of mind that is reflected on the outside of a person. It is the daily practice of refining and cultivating the experience of quality emotions in our lives. Fittingly, the book does not end on a note of resolution. We see that Louise is starting to settle into her new life and enjoying all that she has to appreciate, but with the new awareness that she needs to remain in touch with her values and practice expressing them on a daily basis. Perhaps by reading this book it will trigger you to start nurturing quality moments in your own life, or if you are satisfied with your life, to go deeper into those moments because after all, there is no “destination elegance” — we all must find it everyday.

signature

3 Purse Styles That Every Girl Should Own

Today I am talking about perhaps what is my favorite topic: purses. I love every type of purse and some people may consider me to be a “bag snob”. For some people its cars, shoes, or electronics — everyone has their  kryptonite. After years of buying, selling, and admiring purses I’ve amassed quite a bit of knowledge about them and I’ve distilled down all of the different types into what I think are 3 of the most essential ones that a girl should own for most occasions.

 

Cross-body

The Louis Vuitton Saumur is a great high-end option

A cross-body purse is essential for traveling, errands, and other casual events that require your hands to be free and your belongings to be secure. Depending on your taste you can go high-end (Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Givenchy have some great ones) or affordable (Coach, Dooney & Bourke, Fossil are a great value buy) but they should all be made of a relatively durable leather or canvas so that it can see all of the wear and tear of frequent use and still come out shining. One of my favorite cross-body bags is my Louis Vuitton Saumur 30 because of the durable canvas and classic design. The more I use the bag the better it looks because of the golden patina that appears on the vachetta leather.

Dooney & Bourke make great quality handbags for an amazing price

 

Structured Satchel

 

 

The Gramercy satchel by Coach is professional and stylish

Second on my list is a structured satchel because every girl needs a bag they can use for their professional life or for a semi-formal event like a garden party or any event that starts before 6 p.m. The satchel should be a neutral color like a white, beige, taupe, gray, brown, navy blue or black so that it can be worn with  many different outfits, but don’t be afraid to have a little fun with it. The Gramercy satchel pictured above is on trend with its gold studs that adorn the face of the bag but they are very muted so as not to seem unprofessional or casual. This style of purse is probably the second most popular type after the tote so every designer will have their take on the satchel. For high-end options, my favorites are the Louis Vuitton Capucines or Hermès Birkin.

The subtle logo and clean lines on this Louis Vuitton Capucines is what makes it a classy and sophisticated selection

 

 

Tote

This Goyard St. Louis fits everything you need without overly flashy logos

I saved the best for last! The tote is great because the best ones can fit your whole life inside of it, still be comfortable enough to carry around everywhere, and look great. They can be used for work but I would caution against carrying them to events that you want to look very professional because they can seem casual to some. This is bag that can be carried around in your usual daily life and should be in a color that is neutral since it will be used most of the time. Every brand makes tote bags and some of my favorites are the Goyard St. Louis, Louis Vuitton Neverfull, Hermès Garden Party, Longchamp Pilage, Vanessa Bruno Cabas, and Celine Phantom Cabas. There is something so chic and effortless about the tote bag — no wonder everyone carries them!

 

What do you think are essential styles for a girl to own?

 

signature