The Democratization and Popularization of Luxury
This dissertation examines the nature of luxury and luxury branded products, and the meanings attached to them. This is the first study of its kind as materials, manufacturing, sales and marketing processes are analyzed in relation to the retail environment to establish tiers of luxury relevant in today’s global market. Existing literature about the definitions and implementation of marketing strategies that impact on luxury brands (e.g. Danziger, 2005; Kapferer et al, 2009; and Okonkwo, 2007) demonstrate a lack of clarity as marketeers concentrate on adding value to mass produced products. In essence, terminology is employed, it is argued, that artificially elevates the product by attribution. The dissertation goes on to examine the complexity of the marketing tools used to add value to mass-produced products and a taxonomy of luxury is established to differentiate categories of products. Luxury is a single category that is demonstrably unstable and it is manifested in the changing landscape of the luxury brand market which is considered as part of the fashion cycle where luxury brands continue to extend their product offer to satisfy a continually growing consumer market. Branding has become increasingly important and as a result the proposed taxonomy of the luxury and luxury brands market contributes to a better understanding of the sector. Distinctions are made through the use of three Case Studies (Louis Vuitton, Prada and Tanner Krolle) to address the differences between the luxury and luxury brand markets through the analysis of products within the leather goods category. Thus this dissertation redefines concepts of luxury that are established through new materials, techniques and production methods. Existing definitions of luxury are unstable due to an ever changing cyclical market and are exacerbated by marketing, branding, advertising and mass production. It is important to remove the façade of marketing and branding, despite, or because, of them being powerful forms of communication, in order to provide a perspective that acknowledges the change and importance of fashion business methodologies to ensure business growth. At the same time it is also important to recognize the fundamental significance of luxury brand heritage and the convenient message this sends to the consumer. This work provides an important new platform for future research in terms of a more nuanced debate on luxury in all its guises. Evidence of the broad research potential of this dissertation exists, for example, in the growing demand for luxury and luxury branded products and services of the emerging economies in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries. In addition as the market changes and demands for luxury increases, luxury and luxury brand companies could use this research to connect more meaningfully to their heritage when defining new luxury goods and services. It is evident that concepts of luxury will continue to be defined as part of a complex structure of understanding and interpretation. In light of this, one must not lose sight of the importance of the knowledge of the craftsmen and women and their ability to communicate the intricacies of their skills in order to provoke and challenge the perpetuating luxury debate.