Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities". For this week's luxury issue of Viva, it seems necessary to explore the definition of luxury, in an age where you can find "luxury" toilet paper at Pak'nSave.
Luxury in the historical context was something rare, for a privileged few. Today, when luxury brands take centre-stage in every shopping mall in China, rarity must be defined in bespoke terms. To have something handmade, and especially custom-made for you, has to be the ultimate indulgence.
Louis Vuitton trunks are the ultimate in bespoke. They can create designs for pretty much any purpose or intention. When I worked for Louis Vuitton, I visited the bespoke atelier in Asnieres, near Paris, many times. There they created trunks and other travel items and still have hundreds of clients a year ordering bespoke pieces, unnecessary but oh-so-fabulous items. Think a trunk to carry scuba tanks; a trunk to carry a DJ turntable; a trunk to carry the Louis Vuitton Cup.
The possibilities of bespoke are endless. When uber-stylist Elizabeth Saltzman, was fashion director of Vanity Fair, she would attend the Paris shows with her Louis Vuitton writing desk as part of her luggage ensemble at the Paris Ritz. Mon dieu. Totally fabulous.
For those of us whose airline luggage allowance doesn't stretch to cover a desk, there is accessible "bespoke" from the French maison Mon Monogram, where you can emblazon bags or accessories with your initials and choice of colour stripes.
There's not a lot of handcrafted luxury locally, but there are a few gems out there. Crane Brothers and Working Style do bespoke suits to order that are beautiful and as well made as any Savile Row tailor. Nothing beats made-to-measure; there's nothing worse than an ill-fitting suit. Most men wear suits that are too baggy on the shoulders, and the body ends up looking shapeless.
Designer Matt Nash does great bags and accessories and will make bespoke orders combining natural cowhide, cloth and lining. Prompted by the old wives' tale that a coin gifted with a bag brings the bearer good luck and safety, each bag has a vintage pre-decimal New Zealand coin sewn into the inner pockets.
Feit, a Sydney shoe brand founded by Tull and Josh Price, does handmade shoes that are making waves internationally. Feit is "driven by the desire to create the best possible footwear with the minimal environmental footprint". They have amazing shoes by one craftsman, and ship here.
When in doubt, choose handmade. In the industrialised world it's an increasingly rare commodity.