What is Luxury? A Stylist in France’s Perspective

by Eleonora Skomorovskaya

Eleonora Skomorovskaya is a freelance writer, professional stylist, a student at LIM College in NYC, and recently completed studies abroad at the American Business School of Paris.

What is luxury? I started asking myself this question more often while walking the streets of Paris where one can’t step a foot without coming across the heritage of “luxury” fashion houses.

As a stylist studying luxury marketing as a part of my major I tend to analyze and compare how people approach luxury fashion, especially in New York and in Paris. These two major capitals of the fashion world which, nonetheless, are very different in terms of how people dress, perception of luxury, and lifestyle. I must mention that luxury cannot be separated from the way people live and what they value most because it identifies the meaning of it for them.

Did you know that luxury implies different characteristics for clients in the USA and in France? According to the French Professor of Marketing Jean-Noel Kapferer, for both the main characteristic is high quality but when it comes to the second identifier American customers state that luxury means expensive while French customers state it means prestige. I totally see the difference of opinions here and I think it is rooted in the lifestyle.

French people are huge hedonists, they appreciate “art de vivre”- the art of living, reputation, the big name of the brand, its heritage and how it reflects on the history of the country where it was established. If you ever travel to Paris, you can notice how casually the French may come into a Chanel store or take a relaxing break in one of the most beautiful gardens sipping on the glass of wine. A lot of the most popular luxury brands were found in France, which is an honor for the French people. American people are more practical and materialists, therefore, they think about luxury from the perspective of its cost. In New York City, life is stressful, everyone is always in a hurry, so these two cultures are very opposite which may be one of the reasons for the differences in the perception of luxury.

Finally, luxury is a democratic term, it can mean various things to people, and that is the beauty of it. It is also somewhat abstract; it has been and will be changing throughout time. Nevertheless, the majority would agree that the meaning of luxury has been centered around exclusivity, even though this concept is also changing. Globalization and internet are creating a broader perspective on luxury, it serves as a proof that luxury, perhaps, will mean something very different in the future.

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