Total Eclipse of Luxury

A few weeks ago we highlighted an article by Luca Solca from Business of Fashion (read: Is Hermes Still Playing Hard To Get?that generated a lot of reaction on our social media platforms both here and on Instagram.
@evelinaesc voices her opinion and seconds Luca’s notion that all luxury, specifically Hermès isn’t the brand it used to be.

We love to hear from our readers and encourage you to share your views like @evelinaesc does below. Constructive and engaging discussion is the heartbeat of our community.

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Photo: Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia, Aug 2008

Written by @evelinaesc

When a friend of mine recently started at Central Saint Martins in London, the very first lecture was opened with a sentence “…Fashion as we know it will no longer exist, in fact it already doesn’t.” I had nothing to add. 

Two months later, while in Paris, another friend of mine wanted to buy a new Kelly bag, so I acted. As a loyal Hermès fan for years now, I definitely didn’t plan on standing in a ridiculously long line with  people half my age. I used my contacts and got us a personal appointment for the next day. I would like to stress here, this is not the usual process and it is not for the public.

What we saw and experienced that morning before we managed to be literally pushed inside the mothership was a disaster. There’s simply no other word for it. The whole new system was necessary, indeed (read: New System in Paris to Buy a Birkin). There was too much chaos and pressure. People waiting around for long hours inside the store, not one or two, but tens of them, hundreds every day. The sales assistants losing their wits from the ever repeating question they (trust me) hate with the greatest of passions: “Do you have a Birkin or a Kelly?”  So it was done and solved with a new approach to the issue. The appointments are being appointed, the lines are in full progress. The result is you feel like you are waiting for a Nirvana concert back in the 90s’ just to get a good spot under the stage, rather than waiting to be calmly served while buying a handbag the value of someone’s five month salary .

I will be honest, the people waiting in those lines are a far cry from the former Hermés clientele. Not to insult anyone here, but Hermés used to be pretty distinct about the liaisons of their customer. Very well-off, in their thirties and up, educated, old money background more than welcomed. New Hermès clients seem to be just about anybody. Even a 16- year old kid with wealthy parents, who happens to be obsessing about anything European at the moment. The world has changed and the fashion business is changing with it… in my view, way too quickly.

The biggest ‘damage’ is done by social media, without a question. A decade ago, you had to live near an Hermés boutique to see the products. The store itself was always boasting with a silent respect. Even if people walked around everyday, not everyone was brave enough to enter it. The carefully assembled window displays often referencing the horse- riding heritage of the fashion house with blankets of the softest cashmere and hand-stitched items made of the sturdiest and glossiest leather along with sophisticated porcelain pieces. One does not have to be an expert to feel the status of such objects, it just oozes out. 

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Photo: Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia, Aug 2008

Today, the situation is quite different. Public platforms such as Instagram or Facebook, in fact the internet in general, changed the whole perception of the luxury segment… and not only that – they played a major role in shifting shopping habits too. With thousands and thousands of images being posted each second, luxury became instant and what is even more crucial here, it became accessible. Even people, who do not live anywhere nearby a stone store can suddenly see any and all of the hottest items. It feels as though even the most expensive things are at reach, there and ready for them. If the bloggers can have it, they can too. And maybe the word ‘can’ would be better to be substituted by ‘should’.

If she has it, then I should have it too. I actually think the widely used term “must-have” comes straight from here. And it is precisely this type of ‘keeping up with the ‘Joneses’ psychological effect that creates the faster, more disposable fashion we’ve been experiencing in the past few years. It is no longer about true quality, craftsmanship, heritage, or longevity. These days it is about the newest piece, the next piece and the next one after the last one. All preferably as quick as possible, and very well documented in photos and selfies posted in the morning, afternoon and evening. It is a competition. A day and night at the races. Women buying their handbags on loan, or selling them a week later, after they exposed them just enough (hence the big boom of the secondary market and European fashion bazaars).

But this is a two-edged sword, naturally. It boosts the demand, but makes the production, distribution and timing of the items more taxing in every way. The pace is becoming too fast to keep up, as is the focus of the customers. The handbags are outdated (most of them valueless too) the moment you buy them, the thrill is gone the second your photo gets the 523-rd like. Onto the new one.

The creativity of the big fashion houses designers’ is tired to the point of borrowing the design inspiration of their competition, or (better scenario) to the point of resignation where the likes of Simons or Elbaz, who simply disagreed with the whole new direction of fashion and the pressure of it.

It really all comes down to simple economics. The owners of the big fashion companies see the new consumer behavior as a great opportunity to make more cash. The more they can produce and the faster it sells, the bigger the profit. That is the theory. The reality is quite different as it involves poor quality, massive waste (major parts of ready-to -wear collections ending up in the sales section, way too soon) and worst of all, it leads to the immense fatigue of the fashion industry. Which brings me to nothing other than the new Hermès shark theme. Shark on a Bolide? Shark on the Kelly handle? Yes. Sharks on both. When I first saw the images Hermès released of their novelty, I thought I was seeing something Fendi. And this is exactly what is happening with fashion these days, as it’s turning into one big blend of them all. Or mess might be more appropriate. One thing is for sure, all things must come to an end, fashion is no exception. Luxury needs to be renamed and reinvented, just like it was said at my London alma mater de mode. The system simply must collapse so it can be reborn again. I, myself, am very curious.

Join me in the continuing debate on BopTalk.

@evelinaesc

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Photo: Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia, Aug 2008

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Photo: Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia, Aug 2008