Luxury is an Evolving Concept

Fake vs. authentic: what’s the real difference?

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The concept of luxury has changed over time. In the past it evoked not only positive connotations, such as quality and comfort, but also more negative ones including exaggeration and waste. However, more than the concept of luxury itself, what has recently changed is what people perceive as luxury. Luxury is no longer necessarily an expensive thing that only millionaires have access to.

Rather, it cuts across all social classes. Nowadays, having access to clean water or having the privilege of being with one’s family may still be more luxurious than having an expensive fur coat. Whenever something is rare or difficult to attain, that something—be it an object or a feeling—is highly valued.

Moreover, many things that were once limited or rare are considered trivial today. With globalization, many inaccesible items have lost their appeal exactly because of the loss of their former exclusivity. These things are no longer considered a luxury because they are now available everywhere and in abundance.

Therefore, I consider that today there are two types of luxury. On the one hand, there are things that are important in our daily life, but rare, and which may not be expensive.

On the other hand, there are “luxury goods.” These products are rare because of their excellence, the quality and nobility of the materials, and the outstanding performance and extraordinary experiences they provide.

Thoughts on authentic luxury

If one restricts the concept of luxury to a product, it is the quality of the manufacturing and design, and the unique techniques of production that make an object rare and precious.

This authentic luxury is characterized by noble materials whose high-quality and durability are in fact more sustainable precisely because they are not designed to be disposable.

Today, a truly luxurious product looks for new ways to better serve, to offer more quality and comfort, to be extraordinary—without being superfluous.

It is worth stressing the role and the critical importance of production because not only products made of unique materials—such as a rare natural skin— should be viewed as bona fide luxury but also the products that are built with unique techniques of production and technology, regardless of the material itself. A good example of this singular combination of material and production techniques would be some of Louis Vuitton’s trunk cases, which are made of high-quality synthetic leather.

More than the concept of luxury itself, what has recently changed is what peo-ple perceive as luxury
Moai dining table, Limited edition 50 pieces, Bessa Design. Photo courtesy Bessa Design

Thoughts on fake luxury

A fake luxury product brings no added value. This product imitates and tries to appear being luxurious but its pretentiousness results in deception. Fake luxury trivializes what is authentic. The misleading similarities of a lower quality imitation are illusory and somehow devalue what is authentic and extraordinary.

However, it is also true that fake luxury is much more inclusive than authentic luxury because it uses alternative affordable materials that mimic the authentic ones.

Moreover, it should be emphasized that it takes great creativity to conceive more affordable alternatives with visual similarities. The fact that fake luxury products are usually of lower quality does not diminish the work behind devising these inexpensive alternatives.

Both authentic and fake contribute to redefine the concept of luxury

Fake luxury products can sometimes contribute positively because they can force a redefinition of the concept of authentic luxury by introducing new alternative materials and new techniques to work these materials.

Available technology enables smart and more sustainable fake luxury solutions. The example of the fur coat is paradigmatic: fake luxury began by using materials that mimic real skin, which is an exclusive material. The introduction of these substitutes has thus been a catalyst that has forced authentic luxury to evolve. This transformation towards a broader and more sustainable concept of luxury seems to emphasize the combination of unique production techniques with less exclusive materials.

Thus, authentic luxury not only results from its intrinsic exclusivity but also from combining more or less exclusive materials with excellent production techniques that result in a truly unique product.

Further elaborating on the example of the fur coat, the use of materials that mimic fur coupled with global concerns about environmental and animal rights issues, paved the way to the production of items that adopted nonnatural materials, which are also more sustainable.

The industry has come to realize that it can be more sustainable, avoiding natural products while still offering luxurious experiences that satisfy consumers’ whims. Nowadays, there are luxury coats with state-of-the-art synthetic materials. These extraordinary synthetic materials can even display better performance, such as increased durability, due to high-end technological advances. Because of their rare quality and innovation, the use of these materials results in luxury products.

One can say that despite the consensual understanding that fake luxury introduces a deceptive element that results from copying authentic luxury, it can also indirectly contribute to the redefinition of authentic luxury and the way some products are produced and consumed. It is fair to say that fake luxury may act as a catalyzer of evolution and that authentic luxury also builds upon it, albeit in a perfected and more exclusive way.

Main image: Green silk. Photo Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash

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