This week, The Independent’s Alexander Fury asked, ‘What does accessible luxury mean, for those unschooled in fashion’s unique, often meaningless, verbiage?’
He was talking about designers such as Tory Burch, Michael Kors and Kate Spade who have the overall feel of a luxury brand, but make the majority of their money selling clothes and accessories which are anything but, what Fury rather disparagingly calls, ‘status symbols on the cheap.’
There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. Fashion and luxury brands have always made the majority of their money sticking logos onto quite ordinary lipsticks, perfumes and accessories.
It’s the egregious use of a once perfectly good word, in this case, ‘luxury’ that rankles. The Oxford English dictionary defines a luxury item as: ‘An inessential, desirable item which is expensive or difficult to obtain.’
Inessential, desirable, expensive or difficult to obtain. The brands that Fury mentions would appear to be only two of these things: inessential and desirable.
Luxury is now a word that is practically impossible to use with a straight face. In copy, it can only really be implied. Google ‘luxury toilet paper’ and you’ll see just how low the stock of this word has fallen.
Likewise words like authentic, bespoke, iconic and heritage, which are now used freely by anyone who needs to make something sound good but doesn’t have the gumption to use precise, imaginative language.
Peter York, the social commentator and marketing man, recently wrote a waspy polemic decrying the use of the word ‘authentic’ in public life and marketing called ‘Authenticity is a Con’. If a brand or person tries to tell you how ‘authentic’ they are – they’re probably lying. Similarly, ‘transparency’ is only used by people with something to hide. Even the Advertising Standards Authority is in on this linguistic con when it ruled that ‘bespoke’ could refer to, well, almost anything. Google ‘bespoke toilet seats’ for another example of how a once mighty word has fallen.
What we think
How your brand expresses itself is important. It’s a powerful tool of persuasion and seduction. A great piece of copy can resonate down the ages. The right words, said at the right time, can persuade anyone to do, or think, almost anything.
‘A diamond is forever’- is not just the name of a Kanye West song and James Bond film. The phrase, which has over time taken on the quality of an aphorism or basic truth, was actually coined by an advertising copywriter, Frances Gerety, for her client, De Beers in 1947. The South African mining corporation wanted to associate diamonds with eternal romance and stimulate demand for diamond engagement rings, which didn’t exist until the immortal line was used in De Beers’s adverts.
Is it even possible today for a man to ask a woman to marry him without a diamond ring in his pocket? That’s how powerful copy is.