What Is Luxury?

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  • Topic: Burberry, Trench coat, Luxury good
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  • Published : December 26, 2011
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“Luxury is a necessity that begins where a necessity ends”
-- Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

What is Luxury?

“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”.
-- Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

Luxury is a term that can mean different things to different people; therefore there are multitudes of ways to describe it. It is, as a whole superfluous, based on the attainment of desires and is not considered to be a need. According to Christopher Berry luxury is “an expenditure that goes beyond what is necessity” (Berry 1994). It revolves around the concept of aspiration, objects / things that people aspire to have. However, over time the ideals of luxury have changed drastically. Luxury was first only reserved for the monarchy and aristocracy and revolved around lavish parties, golden plates, large palaces, caviar, champagne, and servants (Leadbeater 2008). The first notions of luxury began with the French monarchy living lavish lives of luxury, which set the standards for luxury, being reserved only to a selected few.

In our current day and age, the term luxury has been over used to the point that its meaning has diminished and people are no longer able to decipher what luxury is (Paul Smith 2011). Luxury has become less differential, more emotionally driven, and self-obsessed, making it less about the traditions of the aristocracy and more about how we define ourselves (Leadbeater 2008). “Luxury is a pleasure out of the ordinary” (Paul Smith 2011) that are built on desires. These desires are created by celebrities who play an influential role, in the luxury society today. In present day, the main role of luxury is to portray status in society and convey power. Luxury has become a mask, where one can create the persona they wish to expose to others.

Luxury goods are defined as an “association with a compelling and binding meaning in terms of emotional connectivity, personal harmony, a connection to the world of the inherently beautiful” (Karra Lecture March 2011). They are self reflexive having a major impact on one’s self ‘esteem, competence, and personal value’ and is characterized by scarcity, consistency, mastery of excellence, and emotional connectivity (Karra Lecture March 2011). It is an industry in itself that is worth $157 billion, encompassing clothes, leather goods, shoes, silk scarves, and neckties, watches, jewellery, perfume, and cosmetics. The main purpose is conveying status and the life of luxury (Thomas 2007). Sixty percent of the business of the luxury industry is controlled by 35 major brands and the remaining 40 percent is accounted by the smaller companies (Thomas 2007).

However, what makes a company luxury? Throughout this essay I will explore how Burberry, being apart of the 35 major luxury brands, has established itself as a luxury brand, recovering from a damaged brand image, and maintaining this reputation as a prestigious brand throughout time. Focusing on the ten principles of luxury as outlined in Neri Karra’s lecture on “What is Luxury” (week 8) to decipher the aspects that make Burberry luxury and its emotional concept.

Burberry’s Heritage

Burberry was founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry in England (see Appendix 1). Thomas Burberry is most known for his invention of the Gabardine material, which is a light, sturdy, waterproof material used in the creation of their iconic trench coats (Burberry 2011). Burberry rose to fame due to their long heritage of designing outdoor and equestrian apparel and accessories, but more specifically their trench coats, which were designed purposely to suit the conditions of British warfare. Lined with their iconic Burberry check, the Trench coat has become the trademark of the Burberry brand (Burberry 2011). Throughout the years, they have expanded their product line to include handbags, jewellery, watches, outdoor accessories, shoes, children’s line, perfume and more recently beauty, with the launching of their new make-up line...
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