The fact that an item is potentially useful has no relation whatsoever that it will actually be put to good use. In fact, poor use, may actually infer a greater value, an honorific value on the owner. Burberry has been one of the most successful on-line brands and its Bespoke program is a new iteration of the concept of status, which was the key concept in Thorstein Veblen’s analytical framework. Burberry is a status brand, and status, to Veblen was the basis of consumer behavior; social class, private property and other theories pale by comparison. And Burberry does possess the social power needed to define what is regarded as culturally worthy. Defining cultural capital in the same sense as Apple in technology.
Veblen viewed status among individuals as stratification, similar to a monkey’s height on the tree closest to the sweetest fruit. The structure of hierarchy that forms the basis, the judgments used to form and inform invidious comparisons, the fundamental manna of our interpersonal relationships and gossip which passes as social interaction. Status is at its core an ordinal ranking system,one that safeguards white male patriarchy at the top of the tree and can sprinkle white supremacist culture and sometimes more positive crumbs onto the bottom feeders and ground urchins. The quest for status is a zero-sum game.
From Paul Sonne of the Wall Street Journal:
…Signaling how interactive the online shopping experience has become, Burberry, the British fashion label, is offering a way for customers to design and order custom trench coats online. Called Burberry Bespoke, the program is a full-scale attempt at “mass customization,” a long-time goal of retailers and unusual for a designer fashion house. Customers select the cut of their trench coat, the fabric, the color, and then navigate through options such as bronze-studded sleeves, bridle leather cuff straps, mink linings and shearling collars.
…Bit by bit, the screen assembles the virtual trench coat as specified. The real-life version arrives in four to eight weeks, in a box the size of a human torso, from Burberry’s factory in Yorkshire, England (leather trenches are dispatched from Italy). The tag displays a special limited-edition number, plus a clear designation in block letters: “Bespoke.”
Prices for the custom trenches start at about $1,800; luxe features such as leather sleeves and mink linings quickly run the price up as high as $8,800. Trench coats from Burberry’s off-the-rack collections start at about $700 and range up to about $6,000. Priced at the high end of the label’s price range, the Burberry Bespoke program could function as a hyper-luxury “halo brand,” unattainable by most shoppers but still influential. While such products don’t usually sell in great numbers, they do aim to influence overall perception of the brand and serve as an aspiration for many customers. Burberry’s hope is the Bespoke program will take on a social-media life of its own among the fashion world’s hyper-connected fans—a group that is already swimming in fashion imagery online….
Veblen, quite perceptively, viewed status ranking as a complex set of judgements all leading to invidious comparison, surpassing any pretensions of aesthetic taste or ethical considerations. Integrity is meaningless. Costliness was viewed as masquerading under the guise of beauty due to the dominance of the “superior honorific character.” All this precludes an individual’s obsession with status; mere attraction to beauty and style can jump-start competitive consumption.
…”Luxury isn’t luxury if everyone has it,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group. Customization programs are an opportunity for high-end brands to get back to their roots after more than a decade of overheated economic growth and prosperity, in which some luxuries became too accessible, in some cases verging on commodities, he says. “It’s not how many they sell. That’s not the important part.” To prevent unsightly creations with the Burberry name from getting out into the world, the Bespoke system removes certain choices automatically. You can’t add bronze-studded sleeves to a shearling coat, for instance, or a fuchsia-check lining inside an olive trench. There is an array of fixed sizes, though full alterations are available in Burberry stores….
Of course, self-described cultivated people are horrified by the concept of keeping up with the Joneses. Disreputable is the value of simpl owning a better mousetrap. In its stead, the sophisticated class, at the heart of bourgeois values- underlined by the fear of returning to feudal serfdom- is a rejection of status symbols which simultaneously lifts your status with your equally cultivated peers. A kind of expensive voluntary simplicity. The understated patina of the down the down to earth while engaging in ferocious comparative consumption. The anti-consumerist and their invidious distinction. Self defeating illusion that their “values” sets them apart.
…Including men’s and women’s trench coat options, Burberry calculates the program offers almost 12 million allowed combinations. Burberry Bespoke may mark the luxury sector’s first major attempt at “mass customization,” but it isn’t selling coats to the masses. People who can’t afford to buy a customized trench can still create one, though, and share it on Twitter and Facebook.
“Honestly it makes no difference at all” how many custom coats Burberry sells, Ms. Ahrendts says. “It’s customer engagement. You want them to engage with the brand.” Experts have been forecasting an era of mass customization—where everyday shoppers can buy products specially-calibrated to their tastes—for years…. Even in the luxury sector, where exclusivity is everything, it’s more common for a shopper to adjust an existing product than to create an item from scratch….
Veblen’s thesis that imitation is derived from the status system is based on the human propensity to imitate those higher-ups in the status ladder. That means, behavior patterns, “morals” and even spiritual trends are “trickled” downward which gives the dominant class a disproportionate influence- think the 1% owning 40% of the cultural capital- on more general characteristics o mass culture. The theory is that the members of each stratum accept as their ideal of decency the mores of life in vogue in the stratum above them, and focus time and money to reach up to that ideal.
…But mass customization may be about to take off, according to a study this year by Forrester Research. “After a variety of false starts, its time has finally come.” Higher shopper expectations, the dawn of tablets and apps, and the rise of cheaper, more-advanced Web technologies will make the phenomenon take off in the next decade, Forrester says….Though luxury companies have generally been slow to embrace digital commerce, Burberry has moved quickly under Ms. Ahrendts to establish itself as the sector’s leader on the digital front. The label streams runway shows live on the Web and tweets new designs as they go down the runway. …
Burberry interacts with more than nine million fans on Facebook, often posting video messages from the label’s star designer, Christopher Bailey. Another Burberry website, artofthetrench.com, allows visitors to post photos of themselves wearing their Burberry trench coats, or send them via email to relatives and friends. Burberry Bespoke gives fans a new way to engage. It is likely to bring Burberry a new trove of data about its customers, showing what designs people are creating and which options they choose in different areas of the world.
Burberry traces its roots to southern England, where Thomas Burberry, a draper’s apprentice, opened a small shop in 1856. It sold outerwear to regular people and eventually outfitted British officers going off to war. In 1914, as Britain entered World War I, the U.K. government asked Burberry to adapt its coat for the trenches by adding epaulets and metal buckles called D-rings, supposedly for carrying knives or hand grenades. The trench coat was born. (Aquascutum, another British coat company, also claims to have created the trench coat.)…Read More:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203804204577013842801187070.html