‘Luxury’, what exactly does that word mean? Students at Central Saint Martins are often trained to go into the luxury market, but the word has different meanings depending on who you talk with. Is it related to high quality or rather to a high price? When you walk into a boutique, pick up an expensive t-shirt and find out it has been made with a cheap fabric, does this alter your state of mind about luxury? Is luxury about the dreamworld you create for your customer? We went into the fashion design studios and asked five students what the word means to them.

Daniel Kellaway-Moore, Knitwear

 “Luxury, in a way, is whatever you want it to be.”
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What would you say your definition of luxury is?

Something that I don’t have or can’t afford. In terms of items, I would say an Yves Saint Laurent leather jacket.

So you associate it with money?

Money and/or time. Definitely time.

What’s the most luxurious thing you’ve done this week?

Going out for dinner. I don’t have any time, being here at CSM.

In a recent report by luxury expert Jean-Noel Kapferer, seven common elements that characterise luxury are described as: exceptional quality, hedonism, price, rarity, selective distribution, exclusive character, and creativity. What do you think about that?

Definitely quality and rarity. That is luxury.

How would you feel if a luxury house wanted to sell you a polyester t-shirt for £500?

Polyester? No way. I mean, come on. I’d rather have silk.

Would you sell a polyester t-shirt for £500 if you were able to?

No, because I wouldn’t buy it. This [points at garment] is from Christopher Shannon and it was around 100 pounds. I think that’s more acceptable.

So you think that price is associated with luxury, but quality and rarity is more important?

Yes. Something from Comme Des Garcons might not be as well-made as something from Yves Saint Laurent, but both products and brands are so different.

Ultimately, ‘luxury’ is changing then.

It’s in the process of change. I wouldn’t say it’s for the worse. I think luxury, in a way, is whatever you want it to be. It depends on your personality and what you want to spend your money on.

Eva Neuburger, Fashion Print

“Taking the time to actually hand craft a piece is the ultimate luxury.”

1granary_csm_central_saint_martins_luxury-article4What’s your definition of luxury?

Time. Especially since I started at this university. I’m running out of it constantly and money can’t buy it.

Would you say luxury is something that doesn’t have monetary value?

Yes, absolutely. However, you could say that ‘labor time’ is money, and you need that for a garment to work. I’m always needing more time, wanting to do more things. Not just for financial success, but to see and experience more.

It’s almost something unattainable.

Yes, that’s the thing. I think that’s why it’s so luxurious to me: it’s something that I will never reach. The only thing you can do is being more efficient.

Between exceptional quality, hedonism, price, rarity, selective distribution, exclusivity and creativity, which do you think embodies ‘luxury’ most?

It used to be rarity, like materials and colouring, but nowadays I think it’s something more about exceptional quality. Especially when you consider mass production and how most products are made today. Taking the time to actually hand craft a piece is the ultimate luxury. Handwork is the most expensive thing nowadays. Ultimately, it really is the exceptional quality that is most luxurious to me.

How would you feel about a £500 polyester t-shirt from a luxury brand?

I think it’s fucking ridiculous. It’s just a PR gig. It’s just creating a ‘bubble’, but that’s what we live off and that’s what we create as designers, that ‘dream’. But it’s actually just a vacuum. It’s a good and a bad thing, because that’s what we sell our clothes with, that dream and that illusion that we create. But on the other hand: a £500 polyester t shirt is absolutely ridiculous.

Would you ever sell a t-shirt for £500?

If I had someone hand weave the fabric and put labor into it, then yes. But if it was a jersey t-shirt made with a machine, then no. It would need to have something extremely extraordinary about it. If I sell someone a design, it really is about the execution and the process.

Antonio Vatev, Fashion Design with Marketing

“You have to work very hard to be able to sell a polyester t-shirt for 500 pounds.”

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What’s your definition of luxury?

Free time.

Everyone is saying that!

It’s true! Especially since being at CSM, I’ve realized that time is a real luxury.

From the terms exceptional quality, hedonism, price, rarity, selective distribution, exclusivity and creativity, which means ‘luxury’ for you?

I think selective distribution, definitely. It’s very important when things get done on time, especially for clients.

So how do you feel about a luxury house selling a polyester t-shirt for £500?

[Laughs] As a buyer, if I had the money, I would spend it. However, I think it’s definitely not about the quality of the garment. It’s just the label. You have to work very hard to be able to sell a polyester t-shirt for 500 pounds. I don’t really think that a polyester t-shirt is very ‘luxurious’, though. The price is all about the label. I don’t agree with it, but that’s how it works.

If you would own a luxury fashion house, would you sell a t-shirt for £500?

No. I would keep the prices lower, but when the house gets bigger and bigger, you have to put the prices higher, as a lot of people work for you and there are a lot of expectations. It’s not necessarily about you, it’s about the business. It’s not about the t-shirt at all.

Edward Mendoza, Fashion Print

“Luxury is having the time to make up your mind.”

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What’s your definition of luxury?

Something that is unique to a person. It could mean labels or something more real, like cultural identity.

Between exceptional quality, hedonism, price, rarity, selective distribution, exclusivity and creativity, which do you think embodies ‘luxury’ most?

I would say the most important ones are creativity and rarity. I think cultural rarity is really important. A lot of people don’t know where their things come from, and I think they should have that knowledge.

So how do you feel about luxury brands making £500 polyester t-shirts?

If they’re a business, they have to do that. You’re really just buying into the label.

If you had a luxury fashion house, what would you be making?

I don’t really want a luxury brand.

Why?

I feel like it’s too much. It can get really big and you see all of these designers who can’t cope.

Like Raf Simons?

Like Raf Simons and John Galliano. It’s just too crazy, the whole fashion schedule. I think luxury is having the time to make up your mind. Like Alaïa: if he doesn’t feel like doing his work in time for fashion week, he won’t show. He does it when he wants. I think that’s cool. That’s luxury.

Jamie Challinor, Fashion Print

 “Something only available to a smaller audience is luxury.”
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What’s your definition of luxury?

A high level of quality. Something only available to a smaller audience.

How do you feel about a luxury house selling a polyester t-shirt for £500?

Well, people aren’t paying for the polyester t-shirt, they’re just paying for the name. It’s almost a guarantee that it’s going to be ‘good quality’, because it’s associated with the luxury brand.

Would you sell a polyester t-shirt for £500?

Maybe not t-shirts. If it was a nice pattern cut top, maybe I would. But the thing is, you look at Craig Green and he’s selling his trousers for 500 quid, and they’re quite simple. But it’s mental, because his mentor, Walter Van Beirendonck will sell beautifully textiled jackets for half the price. I suppose it’s just about if you can get a way with it or not.

So you would if you could?

Probably [laughs].

Words by Clem Macleod

Photography by Jonas McIlwain

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