The value of purchasing high quality design and manufacture
Amongst the many associated words we usually think of when we hear the word “luxury” is cost, or expense. There’s no doubt that in most circumstances, “luxury” can certainly mean a premium above the average, or base level of a particular product or service, but it doesn’t mean it is unaffordable or beyond the pockets of everyone. Luxury can be found right through from a bar of chocolate to the upholstery in a private jet. What raises anything to a more luxurious level, is usually the care, effort and expertise alongside superior materials, that have been applied to the finished commodity.
There is no doubt that the actual cost of a commodity is part of its perceived value – a gold ring for instance is likely to usually cost more than a silver ring, and lobster at a fishmonger is more than cod, but there are many factors at play here. Fashion, demand, scarcity – these are all part of the equation that creates the “value” of a product at a tangible level. Certain products that are costly now, were not always such – for instance, oysters were considered peasant food in the England of the 19th century and yet are now on the menus of the very smartest restaurants. Similarly the rise of Platinum as a status metal (in tone it is almost indistinguishable from silver) is based around its rarity far more than its appearance. It has really only been a rival to gold for about two hundred years (though its history as a mined metal goes back to the Egyptians) but it takes over three times as much ore of Platinum to get a similar quantity to gold.
Beyond the cost of raw materials and the rarity value, the less quantifiable aspects of luxury begin to work their way into the equation. The skill of the artisan, the knowledge of the expert, the history of the vendor or prestige of the company. The value of a brand is very hard to quantify, but certainly, there is usually something advantageous to having a decorated history versus being a completely unknown quantity. This is also where the “trust” aspect begins to feed into the story – a consumer is very likely to feel confident in the products of a 200 year old company who have made the same things of a consistent quality over a long period of time than a new start-up. This is not written in stone though, especially with the way that market force are currently shifting in the new digital era.
It is harder though for a brand new product or company to position themselves as “luxury” from the get-go as the market will often decide into which bracket a brand will settle. Generally, if a product or service has high levels of detail, consistency, service and material, it will be rewarded by a faithful following. The scale of which may be dictated by assertive marketing or clever advertising. These days it is also very important for a company to assert its green or environmental credentials as well as illustrating its commitment to employees and workers’ rights. As an antidote to much “fast fashion” luxury is generally highly unlikely to compromise the individuals at the point of creation.
For the consumer, investing in something that has been created according to the criteria above is likely to prove ultimately rewarding for them, and very possibly a long-term investment. Beautifully made things that display attention, care and expertise will deliver value every time. This could be a meal, a piece of jewellery, perhaps a car, or even a chair. If the item is rare, then it is likely that the commodity will also hold or increase its value over time. For examples of this, think of vintage Louis Vuitton luggage, classic Ferraris, Eames loungers, Patek Philippe watches…the list goes on. That initial outlay may sometimes feel a touch painful at the beginning, but will definitely mellow over time.
The price that initially could be perceived as expensive pays for the very best materials, design knowledge, expertise, inherited skills, new skills, service and attention to detail. It might even make you some money too!