The thin veneer of luxury

The probable journey of luxury handbags:

  • Cows in a field,
  • Cows in a truck,
  • Cows killed and skinned in an abattoir,
  • Cow hides in a truck,
  • Cow hides at the tannery,
  • Leather in a truck,
  • Leather on a container ship,
  • Leather in another truck,
  • Leather in a factory (or sweatshop),
  • Leather cut to size,
  • Leather sewn into handbags,
  • Handbags labeled, packaged and placed in nondescript cardboard boxes,
  • Handbags transported in a truck/container/ship/truck,
  • Handbags in nondescript boxes delivered to a retail complex by delivery staff,
  • Handbags stored in nondescript boxes in a retail storeroom,
  • Handbags removed from nondescript boxes by staff on minimum wages,
  • Handbags placed carefully by staff on aesthetically beautiful display units in luxurious retail premises, priced at $3000 as befitting the true luxury & status of the brand.

Why are consumers satisfied by so thin a veneer of luxury? Do they not know or just not care what goes on behind the scenes?

There is momentum building for systems that make the ecological footprint of products visible to consumers – a history that travels with each product. This will no doubt reveal all aspects of production, including the source & conditions of labour for each product. Manufacturers will find transparency forced upon them – those who move fast to voluntarily and openly provide transparency will be the winners. Will this transparency also limit the mystique that marketers can generate around a finished product?