Detangling Luxury: Society vs. Economy

Luxury Cotton

Navigating the world of luxury produced items is not as easy as it seems. In certain cases, luxury is a description given to an item due to social and cultural views. In other cases, luxury is the result of the craftsmanship and economy of producing the product.

Take handhelds such as phones as an example; Samsung is considered by many to be more luxurious than Huawei. Can such a view be justified? From an economic view the devices (that are on same market range) cost similarly to produce. Yet a strong held view of luxury is associated only with Samsung. This is also clearer with Apple’s iPhone where it occupies the position of being “the luxurious device to have”.

This leads to the question of this blog post, how can one detangle the term Luxury if it can be received either from the society or the economy of the market? In other words, the term luxury in some instances can be given to a product because it costs more to make and in other instances because society has given it a highly ranked status. How does one know when it is used as a social artefact and how does one know when it is due to having the item cost more to produce?

A better example showing the complication which requires the detangling of luxury can be seen with the Hassleblad Stellar. The digital camera is basically a Sony RX100 but has been accessorised with handgrips made from expensive material such as carbon fiber, mahogany, walnut, padauk wood, and olive wood. In addition to that it comes with a leather bag. Other than these two additions, the two cameras are the exact same item with the Stellar being three time more expensive than Sony’s RX100. Should one state in this case that Hassleblad is a luxury camera due to the brand name (Social Luxury) or the used material (Economy Luxury)?

Detangling the two is important especially with yarn. A luxury yarn should be considered luxurious due to the economy of production not social views. For many yarn lovers, Egyptian cotton is viewed as the most luxurious cotton type. This is well earned because both the soil, plant type, and atmosphere of the Nile River results in having cotton with long fibres. As a result of this fibre, yarn produced from Egyptian cotton can be softer, stronger, and more water resistant. However, it is estimated that only 4% of the worlds cotton is considered Egyptian Cotton that falls under this category. Not every cotton produced in Egypt and labeled Egyptian Cotton is as good as that 4%. Yet people consider such low quality Egyptian cotton luxurious. Its luxury has been obtained socially from the success and value that is found with the higher status Egyptian Cotton.

For that reason it is important to discern between luxury due to economy of production and luxury due to social values in yarn.

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