From luxury characterised as uniqueness created by lowly and anonymous artisans in pre-democratic times, to made-to-measure haute couture and the cult of the star designer at the end of the 19th century, from the merging of mass market and prestige into ‘masstige’ (a term coined by Karl Lagerfeld, introducing his H&M collaboration in 2004) to the hunger for street credibility by luxury fashion houses causing them to sell 2000 euro hoodies, and from the conspicuous consumption showcased on Instagram to the explosion of wellness and self-care culture; luxury has had many faces over the past few decades.
Among a new generation of fashion designers, researchers, writers and curators, very different views on luxury, and fashion in general, exist. Motivated by the sorry state of the current fashion system and its exploitative labour practices, environmental pollution, depletion of resources and exclusionary marketing language among other things, this generation is not only critiquing the system, its individualistic approach and its limiting views on the concept of luxury (among other things), but also seeking to create alternative, more inclusive ways of defining luxury. In this issue of Press Fold, we give voice to these new ideas and propositions on contemporary luxury and its material and immaterial characteristics.
These new imaginations on luxury show a radical departure from the classical interpretation of the concept; a concept that is firmly rooted in the idea that luxury is above all about abundance and indulgence, and therefore is not absolutely necessary, but a privilege for the happy few. But what actually is a ‘necessity’ in contemporary society, and what do we define as ‘abundance’? In the context of late capitalism and its inequities and growing political polarization, the ideas on what luxury constitutes are rapidly shifting. Self-care is making way for a collective form of care: for creating together, performing together, learning together, regaining agency together.
In this issue of Press Fold, you’ll find the views of our contributors on the meaning of ‘luxury’ in the context of today’s and tomorrow’s fashion world and society at large. We aim to show a plurality of perspectives, but all seem to have its root in the common understanding that change is required, not just within the fashion industry, but beyond. And as fashion can be regarded as a social practice – something we all participate in – why not start here?