Focus On: Luxury

Luxury may have always been a relative thing but its definition is shifting more than ever in our time-starved, media-saturated world.

What is luxury? It’s a timely question explored in an exhibition at London’s V&A Museum at the moment. It features over 100 “luxurious” objects from diamonds made out of roadkill to furniture decorated with human hair that show how luxury is increasingly intangible and relative.

We’ve written about luxury many times – it’s inevitable when you’re covering design. While it must be said that design for a wider social good is more often than not our focus, the shifting nature of what constitutes luxury tells us a lot about where we are as a society.

Here are four stories from our archives that may get you thinking.


Luxury is being cheap and going viral

The Apple gold watch isn’t cheap; it costs $12 000. The regular watch costs $400. So maverick filmmaker Casey Neitsat pulled out a can of spray paint and made a gold watch himself. The video of Neistat spraying the watch went viral – and that’s a luxury in itself. 

Luxury will always be hedonistic

This piece, called  “Opulence”, introduces us to Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala, a region in northern India. Singh was a patron of the finer things in life: he consumed 12 eggs, quail soup, and four to five litres of milk daily; had four wives and 52 grandchildren; and used his fleet of Rolls Royce’s for garbage disposal. 

Luxury is four months in the making in a land far away  

We recently interviewed Christopher Sharp, co-founder of The Rug Company, about what sets his high-end rugs apart. Collaborating with designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Kelly Wearstler, the late Eva Zeisel and  Sir Paul Smith certainly helps, but the story of how they are made by hand over months in Nepal also explains their desirability. The age-old processes the wool goes through in Nepal speaks to the meticulous care and authenticity of these luxurious products.  


Luxury is carrying a bag no-one else has

We’re not talking about the latest branded “It” bag here. The handbag wars reached their zenith when luxury brands started letting people customise their designs.  The bags (and fashion) of Accra-based accessories designer Buki Akib bypass seasonal trends with their lavishly embellished, offbeat designs that capture the rhythms of her West African heritage. They’re made in small editions and available only at edgy boutiques in New York and London. 

Watch the Talk with Casey Neistat