The 2013 survey of luxury brands by Brandz compiled by research firm MillwardBrown ranked the following brands as the top global luxury brands. The brands that sit at the top of the luxury heap are Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Gucci.Louis Vuitton
A term is best understood by opposition. The listed antonyms of luxury are austerity, essential and poverty. So the concept of luxury is linked with great expense/ cost, beyond essential functionality and rich class or affluence. Can the notion of luxury be built into anything if these criteria are applied? Consider a trunk or box used to store things or a leather hand bag. Louis Vuitton transforms bags and boxes into word’s top most luxuries that one can lay hands on. Consider a brand like Rolex which reigns at the top in the class of chronometers transforms a timekeeping device into luxury par excellence.
So the question is what goes into making of a luxury? A number of opposing dimensions can be used to analyze the construction of luxury- form or function; aesthetic (beauty) or crude; concrete or abstract; common or rare; contemporary or heritage; limited or mass; indulgence or forbearance; desires or needs; ordinary or extraordinary; reason or emotion, craft or factory, culture or nature. By applying these dimensions one can decipher the code that luxury brands use in their process of first emptying a product of its meaning and filling it with mystique and mythology. Luxury is experiential and it is rarely about product and its functions.
One of the most common features of luxury brands is their heritage. Consider brands like Louis Vuitton was founded in 1854 in France, Burberry came into existence in 1856 in England, Hermes was born in 1837 and Rolex birth goes back to 1905. History is different from heritage. History is only chronology of past events but heritage is about past events that hold value today. Luxury brands’ history is marked by innovations and improvements in their way to achieving excellence. It is worth noting that how Louis Vuitton took ordinariness out of trunks and hand bags by perfecting locking mechanism, use of the finest leather and crafting them with superlative finesse. Hermes’s route to extra ordinariness began with crafting saddles for czar of Russia which later went on to include leather garments with its unique fermeture Hermes or fastener to nobility including Prince of Wales.
Product excellence is usually is the founding stone for on which luxury edifice is built. The pursuit of extraordinariness in quality (bordering beyond need) renders the product so exclusive that it is accessible only a select group of customers. This is where a brand begins to get socialized and acquires symbolic properties. The process by and large is that of exclusion or social power hierarchy. Luxury is in way about transcendence beyond product or functionality or reason. Brands in their path to luxury first transform themselves from being something physical to abstract by enveloping layers of symbolic properties and then become symbolic resource to be used by people in construction of their psycho-social identities.