18 January 2009

Luxury is dead, the brand killed it!

brand: mark made by burning to indicate ownership

There was a time where the fashion designer was the founder and owner of the company. It had the upper hand on the style and the research, creating objects that were desired and acquired by a limited audience. It was also a way of approaching, treating and considering the customer in his individuality. Real luxury was something designed “for you and nobody else”.

This has changed drastically with the advent of the “democracy of luxury”. The brands have begun to put their name on all kinds of products, from sunglasses to mobile phones. The presence in the luxury shops of affordable accessories has attracted a wider and more popular audience of consumers. Zara and Prada are mixed together. Everything is luxury because nothing is luxury. The fascination of the logo and the possibility to get objects of desire at an affordable price appeals to a large audience. The drawback is the leveling down of the quality.

In industrial design, there is a parallel discourse of “democratic design” to make available objects of good design at affordable prices. After the wave of innovation, which took place in the three decades following the Second World War, apart in information technology, the level of innovation in other areas of production has been low, with a strong tendency to follows the designs already proposed by the first innovators. Today the volume of sales for major design brands is clearly realized with products designed in the 60s and 80s of last century.

The rate at which new models reach the market does not reflect true innovation and advance in technology, but rather reproduces the road already traveled in the recent past. Basically it is all about copying, but smoothing out the most radical lines not to frighten the average public. As a result, products without a soul pile up unsold in the showrooms, often not surviving from one exhibition to another. When you turn off the ethics and only profit remains, it becomes difficult to produce quality and not just a rhetorical copy of what was already seen.

This opens up space for companies paying greater attention to factors such as originality and ability to “tell a story” with the product, to the quality of the materials, and to the relationship with a client who just despise commonality. The first buyers are often wealthy customers who want unique products and follow the traditional concept of luxury through precious materials and workmanship. But there is also a sophisticated audience which is attentive to products’ quality and exclusivity without the ostentation of the brand.

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Form is the visual shape of mass and volume. Light makes form legible. There is no form without light.


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