• John Marques

What Makes it Luxury - Part 2

All the artwork used was created by myself mostly based on vintage pictures from the last century. This features a full house at the old Metropolitan Opera House, seen from the rear of the stage, at a concert by pianist Josef Hofmann, November 28, 1937.

This article is the continuation of “What is Luxury” that was published last week and continues to dive in what are the elements that makes a luxury product luxurious. In the last post the elements of history, extraordinary design, culture and handmade were addressed and now lets talk about exceptional quality, rarity, clientele and price tag:

Exceptional Quality

Coco Chanel. Hoyningen-Huene, 1939.

Exceptional quality refers not only to the manufacturing process but also to the raw materials used. Referring to the manufacturing process an added value can be through the development of new techniques and processes to produce goods, this is why so many companies spend millions in D&R (especially in the automotive business). As said before, it’s not only about the process of manufacturing but also regarding the materials used, examples can be found in automotive brands that keep going for new, lighter and more resistant materials, and also in high jewellery were individuals pursue the rarest stones and materials in the world.


Guy Bourdin,1969.

Luxury products aren't mass produced, they should be a relatively low number when compared with the mass market. Ideally a luxury product should be unique, this is what a luxury buyer goes for and why they are willing to pay a premium for that product: to have the only one in the whole wide world. This characteristic of luxury applies only to true luxury goods and not “mass” luxury goods that are produced in large scale, the apotheosis of luxury massification is Louis Vuitton with millions of products sold that are virtually the same. To address this element many brands also create products in limited editions or even numbered pieces to control the number of each product/model in the world.


Barbra Streisand, Elsa Martinelli and others watching Chanel opening in Paris, 1966.

This element is related with the association made by the “public” between the clients and the products. Meaning that you would associate a certain brand with a specific audience, ideally your product will cater to the most discerning clients and be associated with them, leading others to perceive the product as valuable.

Fundamentally this makes people feel a little closer to the group who buys this kind of product.

A great example of how clients influence the way a brand is perceived are the numerous seals from royal houses throughout Europe in various kinds of products, from food to luggage, making a customer want the product because “if it is good for the royal family, it is good for me”.

Price Tag

Sunny and Renee in Balmain evening gowns, Casino Le Touquet, August 1954.

A high price tag is used to represent the quality, dedication put in the product and the brand itself, otherwise the product might be seen as cheap and low-quality. The meaning of “high”, regarding price, changes between product categories. This means that a car costing a few thousand euros is cheap but a handbag costing the same is considered expensive.

Overall a luxury product should be priced well above the average for mass market products in the same category.

These are the eight elements that define a luxury product as such: history, extraordinary design, culture, handmade, exceptional quality, rarity, clientele and price tag. To read about the other elements see the part 1 of this article.

Hope you enjoyed this short reading and if you want more information about this subject, development or evaluation of your brand/products please visit my consulting website here.


"A Luxury Perspective on Brands - Characteristics, Value, and the Eye of the Beholder" - in Advances in Consumer Research (Volume 39) by Renu Emile and Margaret Craig-Lees, 2011;

“Observations: Understanding the World of International Luxury Brands: The “Dream Formula”” - in Journal of Advertising Research by Dubois, Bernard, and Claire Paternault, 1995.

"Entrepreneurship, Innovation and luxury" - in Journal of Corporate Citizenship by Miguel Gardetti and Ana Torres, December 2013.

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