• Deluxe

  • How Luxury Lost Its Luster
  • By: Dana Thomas
  • Narrated by: Dana Thomas
  • Length: 13 hrs and 51 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (91 ratings)

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Deluxe

By: Dana Thomas
Narrated by: Dana Thomas
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Publisher's Summary

Once luxury was available only to the rarefied and aristocratic world of old money and royalty. It offered a history of tradition, superior quality, and a pampered buying experience. Today, however, luxury is simply a product packaged and sold by multibillion-dollar global corporations focused on growth, visibility, brand awareness, advertising, and, above all, profits. 

Award-winning journalist Dana Thomas digs deep into the dark side of the luxury industry to uncover all the secrets that Prada, Gucci, and Burberry don’t want us to know. Deluxe is an uncompromising look behind the glossy façade that will enthrall anyone interested in fashion, finance, or culture.

©2007 Dana Thomas (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

If buying luxury, go Richemont or Kering not LV MH

This is the singularly MOST important book about the luxury fashion industry ever written period. Although released in 2008, it is very much current other than the fact Colette the multi-brand French luxury retailer disappeared, along with similar retailers like Barney’s, Jeffrey & Louis of Boston to name a few, since it was written. There are many perturbing reasons for the closures & it’s a genuine loss & I will refrain from opining at great length, but if you read this masterwork written by Dana Thomas, & study the history you can probably figure out how we got here.

Multi-brand luxury boutiques act like IRL magazine editors in dictating individual editorial viewpoints & giving designers big & small a platform. The loss of these specialized retailers squelches innovation & business. The fashion industry, the part charged with making clothing specifically, is a giant mess. One of the avant-garde multi-brand luxury owners I worked for, for a very short minute, said something I’m still cogitating decades later. She claimed that runway designers had only 1 or at most 2 designs each collection deemed to be truly great, which through decades of observation appears to be a true proclamation.

Being a fashion designer is a thankless job which is why I assume Ann Demuelemeester, Helmut Lang & Martin Margiela quit in order to pursuit creating art instead. I am in awe of Dolce&Gabbana, DVN, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo & Armani for still standing. Even Gaultier, my absolute all time favorite, has thrown in the towel on ready-to-wear because the pace is too frenetic. It’s 2022, not 1992 & things have changed but the fashion system hasn’t kept up. The entire thing is absurd.

Tbh, this book isn’t just for fashion people, although it will be much easier to understand the minutiae if you are familiar with the designers & retailers mentioned. For example, if you aren’t familiar with Helmut Newton & haven’t seen the 1977 editorial fashion spread, it would be difficult to understand the impact it had on reviving Hermes. Deluxe is very multi-layered in this way. Not mentioned in this book, but Dolce & Gabbana started out by showing their collection out of their home according to friends who bought one of their first collections for their boutique. It’s really the specialized “boutiques” that first discovered the new designers only to be later poached by the big department stores. The industry of yesteryear has endless interesting stories & Deluxe features many fun ones. Not sure which client told me this as I’ve never worked for Ralph Lauren, but this book was supposedly required reading for everyone who worked for Lauren. I’m assuming it was the executives & perhaps the designers as it would be the most relevant to them?

Anybody who is interested in economics, business, retail of any kind, design history, Hollywood, sociology or enjoyed Peter S. Goodman’s Davos Man will find this book worthwhile. Although quite frankly I think everybody should read or listen to it as it is a gem.

I am not going to write a scathing opinion about the world’s 2nd richest man, but as someone who fell in love with fashion design first by way of Hubert de Givenchy & Christian Dior, the story of the hostile takeovers contained in these pages…. infuriating & despicable. Dana Thomas already so bravely wrote all you need to know, & she & other what I am going to call “avant-garde” journalists who speak truth to power are my heroes. Supporting their work is essential as they are the people with the real balls.

Raf Simons & Riccardo Tisci, 2 of my favorite newer, current & still working designers, being no longer employed under that rat’s umbrella brings a bit of joy. Vodka, cognac & champagne are terrible for the kidneys, liver & heart regardless of any perceived premium quality. Monogram logo patterns are tacky & 2 academic books for further reading on the meaning of such types of “luxury” items & why people buy them can be found in Grant McCracken’s “Culture & Consumption” & Pierre Bourdieu’s tome “Distinction”. Times are still a changing…

It’s fascinating to look at the difference in the brand portfolios between Richemont & LVMH & Dana Thomas explains all. Story of Miuccia Prada which I had forgotten, was also quite intriguing. Rumor had it in the early 2000’s she was taking vintage dresses & directly copying their pattern blocks & I don’t know if it’s actually true, but based on the styles released at the time & her lack of formal design training, it’s quite possible! According to my purchase history I read this first in 2011 pre-Audible, & loved it so much I purchased 3 more to give as gifts.

Second time around I am listening to it, & somehow it is more shocking to hear than read.

If you’re going to buy luxury, Richemont companies would get my first vote, with Kering brands my begrudging second. There are also still mostly independent luxury clothing companies that exist out there such as Rick Owens, Tom Ford, Paul Smith, Dolce & Gabbana, Kiton, Louboutin & Dries Van Noten.

For fragrance I would have in the past recommended Creed, but after a quick search come to see that the 260 year family owned company was acquired by Blackrock in 2020, so I expect the quality will degrade after they put their cost cutting measures in place. Quite frankly I’m also not convinced the chemicals in perfume aren’t harmful for you so I had already been dis-engaging from my love of it. (Luxury & drugstore skincare brands, including shaving creams, look at the chemicals it contains & research the impact on hormones as daily habits contribute to health. Laundry detergents too. And dry cleaning chemicals are the worst of all, proven to be cancer causing & are also very harsh on your clothes, shortening the lifespan. (There are alternatives & dry clean only labels are there merely to prevent liability. I have put countless designer dresses & cashmere in the wash but don’t wash tailored wool jackets or coats & never ever use the dryer unless it’s cotton jersey.)

Ugh. Davos man hits again. If you want to vote with your dollar, be a more informed consumer & understand how monopolies are silently being built around us everyday, definitely read this book along with Davos Man.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great books, terrible narration

The book is interesting and has a good mix of history and argumentation, but the narration is genuinely terrible. Kudos to Dana for narrating her own book, but there are random gaps in the narration that break up sentences in a jarring way that distracts from the content. Editors/producers should have picked this up.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wow!!

Great read! Voice over was good, but mostly the book is entertaining and informative. if you are in the fashion industry in any form, this is must read.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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High and low quality in the fashion industry

This book specifically has to do with the fashion industry, and if that is at all an interest to you, I would recommend this book. It is a history of why things have changed, for which she ultimately attributes to finances. What is specifically absent is information regarding luxury goods outside of fashion, although one can assume the examples the author gives can be extrapolated to a wide variety of goods. It would have also been nice to have consulted an economist, or financial expert to include their opinion on the topic.

Where the book struggles is the narration...anytime an author narrates their own book this is a red flag, and for good reason. Outside of autobiography's I almost wish Audible would ban authors from doing this. It would be akin to an author of a novel who has no acting experience demanding that they play the lead role in a movie adaption of their book instead of an A-list celebrity. Simply put, as an author you can't outperform a professional voice actor. Let them do what they're good at (voice acting), and you do what you're good at (writing the book). As for specifics, there are long gaps inbetween sentences that detract from the listening experience and break the immersion. If you try to increase the playback speed, she is hard to understand because it's not her rate of speech that is slow.

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good Read

An enlightening read, a lot of insight in history of some the popular top luxury brands.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating look at the history of luxury brands

This book is not really up to date (I’m writing this in 2022), but it doesn’t really suffer for that, as the meat of it is the history and changes over time of various brands, the people who created and sold (and sold out), and the people who purchased and used (and stole and counterfeited)-all the big names and heavy hitters in the luxury business. Thomas is a good writer and I actually enjoyed it more as an audiobook than when I read it several years ago.

Thomas has a very pleasant, low voice and (to my untutored ear) does very well with the abundance of non-English names and words. There is an occasional…hesitation? in the reading, a pause here and there that’s just the teeniest bit too long, but it’s not really frequent and didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book.

All in all I highly recommend!

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Super interesting

This audio book was so very interesting and informative. It’s a little dated being from the early 2000s, but the general themes still apply. The narrator was painful - I’ve never used the speed up function before…even with it being at 1.1 some things were still painfully slow. She just did weird fandoms pauses..and for whatever reason could province all the names perfectly in French, but the Italian was rough sometimes. All in all, especially if you can move past the narrator, it’s totally worth it.