Once upon a time, luxury was only available to the rarefied and aristocratic world of old money and royalty; luxury wasn't simply a product, it was a lifestyle. It denoted a history of tradition, superior quality and a pampered buying experience. Today's luxury marketplace would be virtually unrecognizable to the old-world elite. Gone are the family-owned businesses that were dedicated to integrity and quality; the industry is now run by massive corporations that focus only on growth, visibility, brand-awareness, advertising and above all, profits. Quality has long since been replaced by quantity, and almost all of the manufacturing has been outsourced to large factories in places like China, where your expensive luxury brand handbag is being put together right next to a one from a mass-market label that costs substantially less. Dana Thomas has dug deep into the dark side of the luxury industry, finding out all the secrets that Prada, Gucci and Burberry don't want you to know.She visits the last bastion of old-world luxury - Hermes, which is still based in France, where old-fashioned highly skilled artisans still make their coveted Kelly and Birkin bags by hand.
But most of its competitors in the luxury fashion business have outsourced; they've gone corporate, they've gone large scale. Thomas takes us right into the action, from the scent factories in Grasse that manufacture Christian Dior and Prada perfumes, to the crowded factories in China, full of workers gluing together 'Made in Italy' bags by the thousands. Thomas goes from duty-free luxury emporiums in Hawaii, packed with tourists clamoring for discounts on their favorite luxury brands, to Japan, the most luxury brand-conscious society in the world. She takes us behind the scenes in the weeks leading up to the Oscars to witness the wheeling and dealing of luxury brands to dress stars for the red carpet.She meets middle-class Midwesterners who spend their entire paychecks on Louis Vuitton bags and Japanese collectors who enshrine hundreds of coveted Hermes and Gucci items in their tiny Tokyo apartments. Thomas has interviewed corporate heads and factory workers, the old-money, old-luxury clients and the new luxury-obsessed middle-class consumer in order to paint a surprising picture of 'New Luxury' today.
"Deluxe" is an uncompromising and rollicking read about the real world behind the glossy spreads in magazines and fantastic dresses on the red carpet. What is the new definition of luxury when the advertising for the luxury lifestyle is targeted mainly towards the middle-class masses? What are we paying for when quality is no longer quality? How did luxury lose its luster?
Dana Thomas has been the cultural and fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris for twelve years. She has written about style for the New York Times Magazine since 1994, and has contributed to various publications including The New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, the Los Angeles Times and the Financial Times in London. She is also the Paris correspondent for Australian Harper's Bazaar. She 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 with her husband Herve d'Halluin and their six-year-old daughter Lucie Lee.