Gone are the days when the need for luxury could be artificially inseminated. We have got away with creating a mythical view of luxury through glossy copies, unaffordable price tags and limited edition branding. Initially the premise of luxury branding was based on the policy of divide and rule, where money created distance between the classes. The Internet, however, has created a more confident customer and money has not only made things democratic but knowledge, perception and taste have become more secular.

Isolation and intimidation led to the luxury industry feeding on consumer insecurity to make money. So while earlier luxury was about creating social identity, luxury itself is not identified as good social living. If you ask me what luxury means to me, it would be: two more hours to myself and tall trees in my neighbourhood, easily afforded by my neighbours as well.

As we grow older, our choices become clear and it becomes difficult to pull the wool over our eyes with products that lose meaning over time. This is one of the reasons luxury branding is finally moving away from “fads" to classics. If at one point luxury was created by stamping a logo all over a bag, today we are also creating luxury by wiping the slate clean.

That is strategy though, not content.

Content is design, quality, material and manufacturing. Luxury can never be created through strategy as the latter can only help in the process of communication.

Let me make it a little more lucid. When you are thirsty, nothing else matters but fulfilling your most important organic need; water becomes the “real luxury".

Luxury can only be sustainable if you create products that evolve into an organic need in today’s changing society. This is why luxury is such a subjective phenomenon.

Fashion and press have conspired together to deceive consumers about luxury. If you look back at the past, a technologically advanced and minimalist product was considered luxury. This meant faster mass production while rationing products, giving an illusion of exclusivity. Almost everything in the world suddenly became limited edition and manufacturers in China laughed all the way to the bank. In this fast paced, transient world, the essence of luxury can only be defined by its antithesis: Time. Today luxury is about those products, manufactured slowly, with care and attention to detail.

Luxury cannot be dictated by projections of growth and future. You are then only selling the “idea" of luxury, “real luxury" is rarefied. It is about addressing the core need, not the peripherals, and core needs are essentially very few.

Man, essentially though a communal animal, now covets power and social respect, jostling for position by creating distance, using perceived luxury as a tool.

The question is—does it give us happiness?

Today consumption of luxury items is not about the consumer alone. It is also about perception, and how it affects and changes communities. Very few of us will consider blood diamonds luxury in today’s time.

Any product that does not positively reinforce community building, fair trade, and maintaining an ecological balance cannot be deemed sustainable luxury. In order for products to truly be considered “sustainable luxury", both manufacturing and consumption must fall under the “sustainable" criteria.

Many theories have been published about luxury but I would like to clarify what sustainability is. It’s about the victory of good over evil. Luxury is meant to impart pure happiness and pure happiness only exists in ideal situations. Anything else is a farce and there will be an increasing number of people who will see through it. If true happiness is not a part of this transaction, it cannot seduce you for very long, thereby becoming unsustainable.

I want to draw a simple analogy between luxury and a restaurant. No amount of frills will sustain a restaurant if the food is sub-par. A children’s film by Disney illustrates it rather candidly. Watch Ratatouille—you will see what I mean.

The writer is a well-known fashion designer.

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Fine Print will run viewpoints on luxury and design from different writers every week

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