Kim Jones, creative director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s line, announced a new product series designed in cooperation with Nike for sale in July. The line is priced from $65 to $275 and includes sportswear, as well as jackets, upper outer garments and pants, Vogue reported.
Internet fashion bloggers were almost unanimous in its response: “I’ll take it!”
The move may be inspired by Hermès’ creative director, Christophe Lemaire, who teamed up with Uniqlo and to launch a line of Lemaire designs at Uniqlo prices.
Each pairing drew in a new class of non-luxury consumers who were eager to purchase high-end designs. In 2010, Lavin’s cooperation with HM sold out almost immediately.
We asked one university WeChat group why so many students were lining up to buy these new lines, even at increased prices. A few respondents said they just wanted the label and purchased several pieces even if they didn’t like the style. Most said they just wanted to take selfies in the clothes and share them online.
“Last time I bought H&M x Alexander Wang, I didn’t think it was that nice. But it is Alexander Wang, and I would not have been able to buy it if it did not cooperate with a famous brand,” said one shopper surnamed Ms. Wang.
For China’s young shoppers, it’s the luxury label that matters more than the product.
When joint luxury products aren’t enough, China’s shoppers will burn several months of pay to buy a Gucci Dionysus bag or Chanel classic. It’s less about having the bag than it is about the satisfaction of having purchased a so-called luxury product of their own.
What is ‘Luxury’?
As a class of consumption, luxury products sell a confirmation of one’s social status – even if it is well beyond their economic class.
A typical example is the classic cafe.
Coffee and tea, imported goods in the 18th century, were considered articles of luxury. In order to attract people to enjoy coffee, shop owners would subscribe to uncommon newspapers. People who could afford to drink coffee were usually literate, and so the cafe culture took form. Soon, cafes and teahouses were found all over Europe.
In a familiar model, people at that time worked extra hours to be able to visit the café and buy a few hours of the middle class experience.
Of course, the definition of luxury has changed over time to include top-ranked products in both quality and price. Different markets have different ranges of luxury goods, such as cars, wine and chocolate.
Search for Happiness
For most people, the search for luxury begins with envy – material desires spurred by seeing other people with luxury bags and luxury shoes.
The strength of that desire depends on one’s self-awareness and confidence. Ultimately, many people evaluate themselves and establish their positions in society by consuming. But more life experience and knowledge usually renders such material enjoyment meaningless: the desire for material goods is bottomless.
A better investment is to develop your own skills. Learn a foreign language or a sport. Learn baking if you love delicious food. The skill will offer more lasting happiness than a bag.
Luxury’s Real Value
In 16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch transported coffee to Europe where it became a drink known as “black gold.” At that time, only people in upper class could afford to drink coffee: today, almost everyone drinks coffee. Tea went through a similar evolution, moving from a royal tribute into the homes of the upper class, and eventually to ordinary people.
On a long enough timeline, there is a blurring of lines between real luxury and daily necessities. It makes it difficult to determine what is a luxury and what is really necessary. What are luxuries for some are necessities for others.
If someone’s closet is full of hand-tailored suits, then cufflinks become a necessity. If the best luxury cufflinks end up with an owner who has bad taste, they will go into a jewelry box and never exit.
To some extent, the real luxury market is about finely-crafted objects finding their appropriate owner. Even some people who know nothing about luxury can tell if something is a quality product.
My father did not understand luxury. For his 60th birthday, I gave him a Burberry cashmere scarf that he had no interest in wearing. He said he preferred his old blue scarf. When I insisted, he wore it a few times and had to admit it was warm and soft. He will probably get three to five years of use out of it, because he can recognize that it’s a quality product.
That’s what it means to understand luxury goods. Consumers who can appreciate luxury items see the value of each and cherish what they own.
Many young people repeatedly shift between buying necessities and buying luxuries without understanding the purpose of each. Craftsmen hope what they create will be appreciate, regardless of whether it ends up in the hands of a rich girl or a spendthrift entry level worker.
It’s about appreciating the beauty of the product and the artisan’s intention, not about owning a logo.
Occasionally, jobs require that you purchase a few luxury products. If your job requires demonstrating your social status and taste, then luxury products will help you win customers.
But when your work or reputation is powerful enough to guarantee cooperation, you no longer need to hide behind luxury goods. The boss of one major commercial group was spotted wearing sackcloth clothes, old Beijing cloth shoes and carrying a common canvas shopping bag.
Luxury is a concept related to one’s income levels. People earning 100,000 yuan per year will see Louis Vuitton as a luxury product. Those earning 500,000 yuan may look to Hermès. Those bringing in tens of millions of yuan each year may look to private jets.
Healthy material desires are generally in proportion to one’s buying power. Someone earning 20,000 yuan per month can afford to occasionally buy a product priced 10,000 yuan without affecting his financial situation.
Learning to rein in one’s desires is an important step in growth that encourages people to pursue financial freedom. Accumulating wealth gives people the confidence to challenge the world, and control of their material desires gives them the strength to remain steadfast in their goals.