By Dora Tokai

About the author: Dora is an emerging fashion designer and holds an MBA in Luxury Goods & Services.

Have you ever wondered what luxury meant? Since the birth of humanity luxury has been around in the form of goods and services defining a privileged lifestyle.

Luxury is both objective and subjective.

Objective in a way that a true luxury item or service is rare or exclusive, can’t be accessed by all.

Subjective because luxury is personal, means something different to all of us and reflects our personal needs and preferences, even priorities in life.

Some enjoy the touch of fine silk dress, the smell of fine leather and the comfort of a tailor made piece and others may opt for a holiday on a remote island with remarkable landscape. Since the financial crisis we entered an era of optimization and efficiency. Businesses seek scale and standardization in both goods and services that fits most of their customers.

Machines are taking over, the human touch is being lost. Why? Simply, to increase profits. When the scale of production grows so does the margin. I am a dedicated observer of how luxury and couture has been optimized and standardized during the past 2 decades. How the industry learnt to breed must-have items that are made on huge factory lines in Europe, Asia and Americas and sold in the millions of around the globe.

What makes these items must-haves? Marketing.

Why do we think that this is still luxury? Because there is a dedicated troop of marketing and PR people dictating what makes us cool, trendy or gives us social status.

And guess what? We believe it.

The prodigy of acquiring old luxury family business or recognizing creative talent who then turns them into a profitable business is Bernard Arnault, CEO and Chairman of LVMH Moet Henessy. During the past decade LVMH purchased Fendi, Givenchy and Donna Karan and brought talents to the world market like Marc Jacobs, creative director of both Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs.

One of the luxury conglomerate’s star brand is Louis Vuitton, which has conquered the globe with booming sales as a result of its high brand awareness. The brand’s core line, the Monogram and Damier products, are must-have pieces and today almost every Japanese women owns one. As a consequence of the high demand, a multitude of cheap replicas flooded the market. The strong visibility of the Monogram and Damier products damaged their exclusivity and became less desirable to the trendsetters and connoisseurs. Louis Vuitton to protect the brand image removed the logo products from the run-away. Turning the spotlight onto the power of media, without a deep knowledge of the industry it is fairly difficult to understand the level of exclusivity of a luxury good. Each country has different regulations to protect consumers against fraud. The United Kingdom is one of the strictest of all, leading as a positive example. In the recent years Great Britain has banned advertisements of L’Oreal, Lancome, Miu Miu, Diesel, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs for reason such as misleading content or harmful messages.

In 2010 a Louis Vuitton advertisement was banned in the United Kingdom, the reason being was the advert mislead customers by suggesting that the products were made by hand, but in reality the machines were at work.

Let’s take a look at the perfume industry that has remained loyal to its roots. There are standard perfumes accessible to all such as Light Blue by Dolce & Gabanna or Chanel No 5. These products are licensed out by the brand to a separate company such as Coty (www.coty.com) that create, market and distributes the fragrance. The brand or celebrity which the perfume belongs to, receives a royalty. The real creator of the fragrance is the nose appointed by the company.

The next level is a more exclusive offering by famous noses like Jo Malone. Jo Malone London brings a variety of top quality fragrances to the connoisseurs. The stores are equipped by a special vacuum tube that allows customers to smell each fragrance in its purest form avoiding any influence from the environment. The ultimate experience is working with a nose who develops a bespoke scent for you that no one else has. The process is time consuming and may cost hundreds or thousands but is truly unique.

Luxury can take many forms, however, with the shifting sands of today consumers deserve greater transparency.