Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

Shopping is not complete without LIFE

Posted by jembendell on January 14, 2008

“What are you made of?” From London to Little India, Rome to Orchard Road, we are asked that question by stars of sport and screen as they peer from billboards and magazines. The watch company TAG Heuer invites us to feel that wearing their brand provides the answer: you are made of something strong, successful, and beautiful. Look up and you can see that George Clooney now chooses Omega, along with Actresses Ivy Lee and Kym Ng, or that Scarlett Johannson wears Chopard, amongst the various fashion choices of the rich and famous. Luxury brands sell status. They are usually the highest-priced and highest-quality item in any product or service category and provide the consumer with an elite experience or sense of prestige. Watches, jewelery, high-specification interiors, high fashion, exclusive resorts and restaurants are considered luxury items, although luxury is increasingly understood in a personal way, as an enjoyable and rare experience for a particular individual.

Many of us feel worth it – so much so that the luxury business is worth about 150 billion dollars per annum. Working closely with global celebrities and spending billions on advertising, iconic brands like Chanel, Dior, Prada and Cartier have become a global language of luxury logos, influencing what people admire and aspire to worldwide. As old ways of marking social status in Asia are declining, so a new social order defined by luxury brands is taking hold, argues Radha Chadha, author of ‘The Cult of the Luxury Brand’. In today’s Asia you are what you wear, she quips. Consequently Asia is a focus for significant sales growth. Already in Tokyo, 94% of women in their 20s own a Louis Vuitton bag. Hong Kong hosts more Gucci and Hermès stores than New York or Paris, while China’s luxury market is growing so fast that in six years it will become the world’s largest. Singapore has long been a thriving market for high-end brands, due to its level of development, international airport, and consumer culture. As former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong once remarked, for Singaporeans, “life is not complete without shopping.” Explaining the meaning of shopping in the Lion City, sociologist Chua Beng Huat writes that young professionals’ “deprivation from car-ownership, contextually the ultimate success symbol, has made their bodies the locus of consumption. Clothes and other body accessories have elevated status as expressions of ‘success’.”

… to read the rest of the article visit the new platform for Singapore’s emerging sustainability community: EcoSing

A shortened version of this article appeared in Singapore’s main tabloid, Today, on Thursday 17th January.

The full article will also appear in XL Magazine, February 2008

Ill be giving a talk on luxury at the Singapore Compact on 23rd January. More information on that is available here.

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