Comment: What exactly is luxury?

By Andrew Glenn

When it comes to luxury menswear, you can’t put a price on quality

A Spencer Hart creation from the Spring/Summer 2014 London Collections. Photo / AFP
A Spencer Hart creation from the Spring/Summer 2014 London Collections. Photo / AFP

A century ago luxury was available only to the privileged few, namely aristocrats, royalty and the very wealthy.

The very definition of luxury was used to describe goods that were rare, produced in small quantities and made by methods that had been honed and perfected over time. Think of Vacheron Constantin, the world's oldest watch manufacturer - they have been making watches since 1755 - that's before American independence, certainly long enough to make sure a watch is well made!

Today a Prada handbag is available at the click of a mouse. Luxury now is defined by great craftsmanship, with price determining exclusivity. When a Hermes crocodile Birkin bag can cost the price of a house, it's obviously not going to be found on Trade Me. Yet we now live in a more democratic society and the likes of Hermes, Louis Vuitton and others have 'entry level' items we can all afford.

The character Edina Monsoon on Absolutely Fabulous once said, "I don't want more choice I just want nicer things".

I would have to agree. Who needs five cheap watches when you can have one great one? I think luxury is worth investing in from a practical standpoint.

I gave my mum a Louis Vuitton wallet 12 years ago and it still looks new, and I bet it's got another 20 years on it. If you think about all the wallets you've bought over the past two decades, it's an investment worth making.

For my civil union I fretted for months over what to wear for that important occasion. We decided to go bespoke and, living in London, headed straight to Savile Row to get suited and booted for the important day. We decided on Spencer Hart, known for precision tailoring but with a modern execution. A favourite of Robbie Williams, Jefferson Hack and others. (Should budget not be an issue then head to Huntsman, probably the Rolls-Royce of tailors, with prices to match.)

On the big day it was so unseasonably hot and humid that we decided to wear sarongs and traditional Balinese attire. But the tailoring was not in vain because we changed and wore our Savile Row finery to the dinner reception.

Long before our civil union, I had clothing tailored for me in Hong Kong, where I was born and lived for many years. I learned years ago that 'small', 'medium' and 'large' could not universally define different arm lengths, neck widths, shoulder widths and most certainly not stomach girths. All our bodies are different and for the perfect fit you have to go bespoke. Locally, Crane Brothers and Working Style have great bespoke options. It's more affordable than you think.

Bespoke doesn't stop with tailoring. Every man worth his pinstripes should invest in a pair of elegant shoes by John Lobb or Corthay - though you may need to mortgage the house to do so.


Andrew Glenn heads Comprador, a communications agency and consultancy servicing the luxury sector. Prior to living in Auckland, Andrew lived in London where he was marketing director of Topshop and before that, Louis Vuitton. Andrew lives on Waiheke Island and co-owns and operates The Oyster Inn, a restaurant and boutique hotel.

- NZ Herald

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