University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2017
EventNouveau Reach - Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 11 May 201714 May 2017

Conference

ConferenceNouveau Reach
CountryCanada
CityToronto
Period11/05/1714/05/17

Abstract

While luxury was once associated with European aristocracy, notions of luxury in fashion are now tied closely to global brands such as Burberry, Gucci and Prada (Berry, 1994; Borstock, 2014). Much of the scholarship on luxury has focused on such brands from the perspective of marketing (cf. Fionda & Moore, 2009; Moore & Doyle, 2010). These studies are consistent with the common-sense characterisation of luxury in terms of premium pricing, status distinction and individualised experience. In this sense, luxury brands have much in common with the aristocratic tradition, with the difference being that luxury is now accessible to anyone with a credit card (Morace, 2010). Whereas studies of luxury have tended to be interested in branding, this paper looks at the symbolic work involved in consuming luxury. Based on a ‘netography’ of online forums dedicated to the discussion of menswear and in-depth interviews with 50 American, British and Canadian members of these sites, this paper shows how forum members have their own sense of luxury clothing, based not branding but on craftsmanship and quality. They are fervent consumers of items that would fall outside the usual register of luxury; items such as English country shoes, Japanese denim and American chinos. While these forums cater to a range of interests, what they have in common is an emphasis on craft and tradition tied to a sense of place. In their interviews, participants emphasised the authenticity of the clothiers they were passionate about, contrasting these makers with the marketing manipulation of luxury fashion brands. As with consumers of luxury brands, participants were influenced by company backstories, used their wardrobes in pursuit of ‘distinction’ (Bourdieu, 1984) and were willing to pay over-the-odds, but this was explained in terms of a calculating masculine rationality seeking the best product for the fairest price.

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