Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
‘This period showed us that it is not clear whether we will live tomorrow or not, so if you have a chance and some money saved, then spend it according to your wishes, hence the luxury boom.’
Head of Knight Frank (Australia) retail leasing on the COVID pandemic of 2020-2022.
Even in our present era of anxiety over cost-of-living, insecure labour markets, world political crises, climate change, major wars and the threat of pandemics many citizens regard luxury goods as essentials.
It seems Alex Alamsyah (quote above) could well be onto something. In Melbourne and other Australian cities Hermes, Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Cartier, and Tiffany & Co. have no shortage of retail customers.
Early in the morning when the tram ambles up the hill in Melbourne’s CBD and approaches Collins Street’s Paris end, you can glimpse eager customers lining up before opening time.
The front doors of such glitzy establishments frequently have black-suited, sunglass-wearing security men with earpieces prowling the street. Are they there to keep everyone in order? Or does the presence of American style security enhance the punter’s extravagant shopping experience?
It seems unlikely a riot is about to break out – given the clientele are passive as they await their turn to bend the plastic and get themselves some luxurious goods.
Apparently, the size of the extravagant stores is significant. Luxury corporations are securing flagship stores of 500 to 1000 square metres of space. Especially popular are magnificently restored heritage buildings whispering power and historical significance. The fit outs alone can start at AU$20,000 a square metre.
A Sydney jewellery store has recently been kitted out with shell chandeliers crafted by artisans with an excess of gold leaf. The store’s flooring affirms the brand’s connection to the ocean and the company’s claim to sustainability. Lush rugs underfoot have been created from pure wool and recycled ocean plastics. Signalling virtue is now essential to many luxe brands.
Being ‘seen’ at glitzy stores is crucial to both shoppers and luxe brands. As happy punters publicize their choice purchases on social media the brands desirability expands.
Small wonder the pursuit of fake luxury handbags raises the fury of premium bag makers. For once an expensive object of desire has appeared en masse in quality counterfeit, it challenges the unique status of the real thing.
Counterfeit luxury handbags have become so convincing that it takes a leather craftsman to be to discern the difference. The giveaway as to whether a leather bag is real or fake might come down to the number of stitches in a seam or some other minor detail.
At present there’s an additional element affecting the luxury market, especially in clothing. Logos and branding are deemed vulgar and ‘stealth wealth’ or ‘quiet luxury’ are highly sought after. However, that doesn’t change is that ‘quiet luxury’ can easily be identified as extremely expensive. Thus only fashionistas and those in the know can tell if your cotton T-shirt is an expensive luxury brand or a Kmart knock off.
Recently, the HBO family saga Succession helped fuel the appetite for luxury goods. But there were comedic elements when the fake luxury props used in the series were publicly auctioned.
Numerous props were sold at high prices. These included fake vials of white powered cocaine which went for $US20000. The vials contain mostly sugar and lactose powder so the actors could safely snort it.
Other goods auctioned included fake sausages. One batch was sold for $US5250. The substitute sausages were used in an cruel scene where Logan forces his executives to grunt like pigs and beg for food.
It’s been noted by fashion journalists that the global appetite for luxe goods has gone mad. But this is nothing new. As a British Foreign Service chap on the 1930’s put it cynically – may you live in interesting times.
image: Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and she sings ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend whilst dripping with flashy gems.