China and the lie of luxury

This is a bit off-topic, but it has quite a bit to do with electronics and boutique home audio so let’s begin. Luxury items have always been status symbols and, increasingly, commodity products. This nasty mix creates a drive to sell more product at luxury prices, which is good for the companies but not so good for the consumer.

Dana Thomas’ book, Deluxe claws at — but can probably never rip off — the facade of luxury houses. While many of us desire Coach bags and, dare I say it, fancy watches, these items more often than not are avatars of shoddy workmanship and the product of market forces that pull on Wal-mart rather than the House of Chanel.

There are a number of famous brands that are purported to hold a rare and privileged pedigree that are now being churned out en masse in China. This is fine — fools and money, etc. — but in order to continue at this pace, companies have to constantly lie to us about the history and rarity of their items, a losing game by any measure.

While there are some luxury items that are hand made and reflect a sort of “old world” aesthetic not found anymore, devices like the Vertu and most high-end, non custom audio gear (Pear Cables, anyone?) is more smoke and mirrors than anything else. I love me some fancy watches, but I know what to stay away from (avoid fashion house watches in general and expensive non-techie quartz watches as a rule) and accept my fate as a luxury dupe. However, I think it gets more nefarious when companies like Prada and conglomerates like LVMH work harder at maintaining an image than at making a quality product.

Book page via Asia Access