Most of us love surrounding ourselves with high-quality goods and pampering ourselves whenever possible. It's part of basic human nature. But when it comes to investing in the best fashion and accessories, what does luxury mean?
Digging Into The Concept of Luxury
So, what does luxury mean in the fashion world?
To some, this might seem like a silly question. Either because the definition of luxury is obvious to them, or because they subscribe to the belief that luxury is entirely subjective.
Technically speaking, the term "luxury" applies to things that are excessive, extravagant, overly comfortable, and unnecessary. Looking at this definition, luxury probably doesn't seem like a very positive thing.
Despite its common definition, luxury doesn't need to mean being wasteful or over-the-top. In fact, the right balance of luxury and necessity helps ensure a fulfilling life.
Yes, some people chase luxury to the extent that they put themselves into debt and strain their personal relationships. But luxury can also mean spending the time, energy, and money needed to get the most out of life.
So perhaps the better question is what does luxury mean to you? Your answer will probably be unique, and that's totally fine.
After all, it's up to the individual to decide what a lifestyle of luxury involves. And what they're willing to sacrifice to live this type of life.
How The World Views Luxury
As we said, a taste for luxury is often demonized. When we see celebrities and online personalities spending countless dollars on handbags and outfits that they only wear once, it can be easy to feel bitter about the entire concept.
Access to luxury items typically requires money. And with millennials and other young adults gaining buying power by the day, luxury goods are changing to fit their values.
Luxury And sustainability
Because of this changing consumer pressure, one of the luxury market's biggest trends right now is sustainability. More and more fashion and accessory designers are turning to eco-friendly materials and manufacturing practices.
And when it comes to the slow fashion movement, luxury brands have been some of the first companies to position themselves in the market.
The slow fashion movement calls for investing in high-quality clothing and accessories that will last for years. This movement largely came about as a response to brands like Forever21 and H&M, who built their success on offering cheap but low-quality items (which, by design, only last a season before being replaced).
What does all of this mean? It means that, in many ways, we need to step back and re-examine how we collectively feel about luxury products and the people that consume them.
Luxury And Secondhand Goods
So what does luxury mean in terms of shopping habits?
At first, spending hundreds of dollars on a designer suit might seem wasteful and consumerist. But if one designer suit can replace five "affordable" suits, likely constructed with low-quality materials and cheap labor, can we really villainize the luxury fashion industry?
When it comes to the luxury goods market, it's also important to look at the big picture.
When most of us think of designer fashion or accessories, we probably picture someone walking into a retail store and walking out with a brand new product. But this is only a small segment of the luxury goods market.
Many people purchase luxury fashion and accessories from secondhand markets. With their high-quality materials and more skilled craftsmanship, many luxury products can pass through several owners' hands before their time comes to an end.
Luxury And Financial Responsibility
The benefits of secondhand shopping don't stop at reducing, reusing, and recycling. It also plays a role in how much money consumers spend on their luxury goods.
After all, one of the trickiest aspects of luxury goods is navigating the financial cost and social stigma surrounding these purchases. So what does luxury mean when it comes to how someone spends their money?
Perhaps owning that bag meant scouring secondhand markets for months before finding one that fits into their budget. Maybe it was inherited from their late grandmother. Or maybe buying that bag meant opting for a cheaper apartment lease this year.
It's impossible to know the financial context of someone's lifestyle just by looking at them (though, according to psychology, there are real social benefits to donning a designer label).
So, yes, living a life of luxury can mean spending more than you can afford and wasting money on things you don't need. But for many people, maybe even most people, this just isn't the case.
Fashion And Accessory Terminology You Need To Know
Now that we've looked at the cultural side of luxury, let's get technical for a minute.
Navigating the luxury goods market can be difficult, especially if you're starting out by shopping secondhand. While luxury brands have become far more transparent with their customers in recent years, the marketplace is still shrouded in vague terms and brand-specific terminology.
Whether you're worried about being ripped off by a seller or just aren't sure what a certain word means, knowing these definitions will give you a leg up when searching for your next high-end accessory:
Whenever asking, "What does luxury mean?" you almost need to ask, "What does designer mean?"
Designer goods have a reputation for being on-trend, expensive, and high-quality. But what's the actual difference between a designer and a non-designer product?
Well, to start, every fashion item has a designer behind it. Even the handbags, sunglasses, and jewelry at your local big box store was designed by a brand.
But when a product is described as designer, it means that the brand behind it has name recognition both within and outside of the fashion industry. Some people even take pride in owning designer goods that only fashion insiders would recognize.
Some designer brands you'll probably recognize (and the people who started them) include:
Many modern designer brands originated from decades-old fashion houses. These brands still carry the names of these individual designers, though the designer themselves might be retired or even gone from this mortal life entirely.
The terms prestige and luxury are almost exact synonyms. Because of this, the answer to what does luxury mean also applies to prestige. However, prestige is the term-of-choice for the beauty side of the fashion industry.
Oftentimes, a single brand might offer fashion products and beauty products. Common examples of prestige beauty brands include:
While there's no clear line between prestige and non-prestige products, prestige brands normally feature more exclusive ingredients, higher prices, and more stylish packaging.
You won't see the term off-the-rack in a retail store or in advertising campaigns. But if you spend any time in the runway fashion world, whether that be attending shows or just reading about them, you've probably heard this term.
The reason the average consumer doesn't come across this term is that it applies to practically everything in fashion retail. It doesn't matter if the item is considered "luxury" or not.
So what does this word mean? Off-the-rack refers to any garment that is pre-made in a range of sizes. Hence the name, since customers simply walk into a store and pick up their respective size "off the rack."
The tailored garment is one of the biggest buzzwords in the modern luxury fashion industry. But what does this term mean for retail shoppers?
First, there's a big difference between an article of clothing fitting and flattering.
If a pair of pants fits your legs and waist and doesn't fall down when your walk, it fits. But for a pair of pants to flatter (unless you get extremely lucky) it typically needs to undergo some tailoring.
A tailored garment starts as an off-the-rack item but is then adjusted to fit the exact shape and size of the customer's body.
Many mid- or high-end clothing retailers offer basic services like hemming pant legs. However, depending on the brand, some luxury brands will offer complimentary, in-house tailoring services to ensure the entire garment fits and flatters your body.
For some people, these services and the resultant quality of their wardrobe makes investing in designer goods an easy choice.
There's a bit of an epidemic regarding the use of bespoke in the advertising world. You can find this term in retail ad campaigns and on restaurant menus, but it's probably being used incorrectly.
Bespoke refers to a garment, most commonly a full suit, that is made specifically to the customer's body.
In bespoke tailoring, there is no pre-existing garment to tailor. Instead, the garment is literally built around the customer's body.
Have you ever seen a movie's leading man standing in a tailor's studio as they pin loose pieces of fabric onto their body to resemble a suit jacket? That is what the bespoke process looks like.
Oftentimes, you can order bespoke items from big designer brands. However, you won't find these services in your average mall storefront.
The last need-to-know term on our list is extremely common within the designer handbag and accessory world.
You see, most designer brands gained their recognition with a certain style of product. Most brands call this their signature design.
One of the most famous examples of this is the Burberry scarf. Even if you're not a big fan of the brand, you'd probably recognize one of these scarves with a single glance. This scarf is one of Burberry's signature products.
A signature product is not necessarily better or worse than any other designer item. But for some fashion aficionados, owning these signature items can mean checking off an item on their bucket list.
Finding The Luxury Lifestyle That's Right For You
One of the great things about a luxury lifestyle is that it's totally customizable to your needs. You can spend as much or as little as you like, on whatever fashion or accessories you care about most.
Many people associate buying luxury products with overspending and impulsive shopping habits. But for most people, luxury goods are a purposeful, thought out investment.
We said it before, but we'll repeat it for good measure:
Forget about others' thoughts on living a life of luxury. Instead, ask what does luxury mean to you.
Have a favorite designer brand you feel too few people are talking about? Or maybe you have a luxury item that has served you for decades (and is still going strong!). Let us know in the comments below!