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Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster Paperback – July 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Newsweek reporter Thomas skillfully narrates European fashion houses' evolution from exclusive ateliers to marketing juggernauts. Telling the story through characters like the French mogul Bernard Arnault, she details how the perfection of old-time manufacturing, still seen in Hermès handbags, has bowed to sweatshops and wild profits on mediocre merchandise. After a brisk history of luxury, Thomas shows why handbags and perfume are as susceptible to globalization and corporate greed as less rarefied industries. She follows the overarching story, parts of which are familiar, from boardrooms to street markets that unload millions in counterfeit goods, dropping irresistible details like a Japanese monk obsessed with Comme des Garçons. But she's no killjoy. If anything, she's fond of the aristocratic past, snarks at "behemoths that churn out perfume like Kraft makes cheese" and is too credulous of fashionistas' towering egos. Despite her grasp of business machinations, her argument that conglomerates have stolen luxury's soul doesn't entirely wash. As her tales of quotidian vs. ultra luxury make clear, the rich and chic can still distinguish themselves, even when Las Vegas hosts the world's ritziest brands. Thomas might have delved deeper into why fashion labels inspire such mania, beyond "selling dreams," but her curiosity is contagious. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Thomas has been the fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris for 12 years and writes about style for the New York Times Magazine and other well-known publications. She traces the origins of luxury from the mid–nineteenth century, when Louis Vuitton made his first steamer trunks and custom-made clothing was strictly the province of European aristocracy, through the fashion boom of the 1920s, when names such as Dior, Gucci, and Yves Saint Laurent came into prominence, and buyers with expendable income could afford exquisite clothing and perfume. Sadly, today most of the well-known names are owned by multinational groups, and luxury items have become commodities, where buyers crave name brands for what they represent rather than their inherent quality of manufacture and design. Thomas takes us into the streets of New York, where counterfeit items are sold that look so much like the real thing that it takes an expert to tell them apart, to the Guangzhou region in China, where children make knockoff goods under appalling conditions. She manages to remove the veil from the fashion industry with a blend of history, culture, and investigative journalism. Siegfried, David --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (July 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143113704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143113706
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dana Thomas is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, published by The Penguin Press in 2007. She began her career writing for the Style section of The Washington Post in Washington, D.C. and from 1995 to 2008, she served as the European cultural and fashion correspondent for Newsweek in Paris. Most recently, she was the European editor of Condé Nast Portfolio. She has written for the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Los Angeles Times and Financial Times in London and serves as the Paris correspondent for Australian Harper's Bazaar. Thomas is a member of the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris and the Overseas Press Club. She taught journalism at The American University of Paris from 1996 to 1999. In 1987, she received the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation Scholarship and the Ellis Haller Award for Outstanding Achievement in Journalism. She lives in Paris.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Milton Fuentes on September 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
at corporate I would get a little slap on the wrist for writing this review since I work for one the brands heavily mentioned in this wonderful book.

I entered the world of luxury goods last year for an Italian brand that even it's "epicenter" store is elusive without the name of the store on Rodeo Drive. What Dana Thomas has written about the luxury brands is eye opening and condemning. From the factories in China, Santee Alley in the Downtown Los Angeles and the country side of France, you get the insiders view on how indeed luxury lost its luster. Once considered lavish and extravagant, we now see what luxury brands have done to diminish the quality and service of these high end stores and at great cost. No one walks into Gucci and buys a $2000 handbag expecting it to be made by an under paid teenager in China only to have the tag changed once it is in the companies possession to "made in Italy" for adding a handle. Small couture brands exist that retain a sense of dignity by continuing the art of exclusivity, style and hand made products that are still created and made where the tag states they're from. Even Hermes, a brand that continues to grow steadily, has retained its heritage and luxe by hand making made to order handbags and saddles.

Aside from the investigative interviews and reports on luxury's current state, you also get history lessons on the birth of luxury from Alexander the Great's wardrobe, how Chanel No 5 came to be and the creation of the "Birkin" bag for Jane Birkin by Hermes. Witty, insightful and damning, you can't help but feel drawn into this book hoping that it never ends. But all good things come to an end and what I was left with was a sense of doubt and a bit of anger.
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130 of 142 people found the following review helpful By E. Snead on August 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Full Disclosure: I write about fashion, entertainment and celebrities for a living and have known Dana Thomas for a decade or more. I knew she was working on a book about luxury (yawn) and for the past three years, she was always exhausted, trotting off to China, Milan, Grasse or Lake Como, sometimes popping into my hood in Hollywood, constantly doing research for the book.

But frankly, I'm not a big designer brand buyer and would sooner plunk $400 on a Pottery Barn couch than a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes. So I never imagined how engrossed i would be by this book. In fact, I was shocked.

Dana makes this elitist world come alive by putting luxury in a historical context (Caesar wore only silk togas and the Senate was POed at the expense!) and taking the reader with her on a personal journey behind the scenes and around the world, to find out the sad truth about the decline of the luxury goods industry.

It's utterly fascinating and engrossing. And it's funny! Dana has a wicked snse of humor and pulls no punches in describing the decadent denizens of the "Deluxe" world. Even if you know nothing about fashion, couldn't tell a Gucci bag from a Prada purse, and don't own a single designer knockoff product, this book will fascinate, educate and entertain. Plus any book that can make me put down the last Harry Potter - in the middle! - has to be some kind of good read.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Lostinbooks on November 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By exposing the deteriorating quality and mass marketing of many so-called luxury goods, Dana Thomas has driven home a truth--if EVERYBODY has it, no matter how much it costs it's no longer a luxury item. Today, the malls are jammed with women of every economic strata proudly brandishing (mostly fake and a few real) LV bags. They are logo soldiers in LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault's LV army. Though it's usually easy to spot the fakes (as of this writing on fake LV's, the LV' is not upside down on the reverse) the bags are so ubiquitous that it hardly matters anymore.

Hermes is one of the few large companies that still gets it right. Smaller leather goods makers and perfumers such as Valextra and Lorenzo Villoresi continue to carry the torch. One complaint is that many of these smaller companies were not mentioned in the book. Superb quality and true luxury will always be there if you know where to look.

For some, luxury still means exclusivity; as Thomas points out, wealthy cognescenti will continue to quietly raise the bar by seeking out rare items of exquisite quality, leaving the "mass affluents" behind in logo purgatory. Of course, the hoi polloi will be giddily buying "luxury" bags that the upper crusties wouldn't be caught dead with.

There is some justice in all this. With all her vast wealth and power, Delphine Arnault cannot carry an exquisite, handmade Hermes bag,(at least not in public.) Poor thing! She's stuck with her daddy's lackluster, "McLuxury" brands.

UPDATE: Although he has denied it, it is clear that Bernard Arnault is lining up his ducks for an eventual takeover of Hermes. So far, the family has been able to block him from taking a majority stake. I hope that this never happens. I bought my first Hermes bag in 1983.
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65 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on July 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I just finished this last night and, sadly, I was left perplexed and disappointed. What started out as a pretty hard look into the fashion industry ended up as a garbled college essay that one would expect from a mediocre fashion design student.

My first issue was the editing mistakes. The book (or at least my copy) was replete with at least a hundred salient grammatical and spelling errors. To be clear, I couldn't tell you whether the brand names were misspelled, with the exception of the very well known ones. But those normally weren't the problem. I remember coming across a sentence fragment, which was strange. Who edited this book?

My second issue was that it just wasn't that interesting in total and was rather under-developed. Let me explain. The title of the book conveys a certain dismay with the current fashion world, dismay from high fashion being too over-priced for the quality you receive. That's what drew me to this book. I've had similar issues with so-called high fashion in recent years, with buttons falling off, hems coming out, fabrics just randomly ripping, bag straps ripping off, etc.. I was looking forward to her ripping the seams of the fashion industry. The author touches on this aspect in a number of chapters, but she treats the topic gingerly with ultimately irrelevant, unconnected anecdotes. What aggravated me the most is that she completely turns her argument around in the last few chapters, and writes about some fancy Brazilian compound filled with (presumably) the same sub-par merchandise she described in previous chapters and praises high fashion. She also delves heavily into the due diligence with which Chanel no. 5 is made. She basically says these elements are the embodiment of luxury shopping.
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