The Perennially Difficult Paradox of Accessible Luxury

by MR Magazine Staff

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “luxurious”? I think of the sort of rap video you’d see on MTV Jamz in 1999 with free-flowing champagne, a Rolls Royce, and a woman with a diamond-encrusted bikini; a platinum toilet surrounded by Jonathan Adler candles in a bathroom in the bar that sells $100 martinis made with peacock tears in order to use it. What about the word accessible? I immediately think of using the bathroom at Starbucks without paying for a beverage and then suddenly finding both lipstick and a tampon in my bra. Convenient, but not exactly luxurious. These words, then, do not go together, which means accessible luxury is a paradox. But with price points that aren’t dirt cheap but also aren’t sky-high, coupled with a desire for sales growth (which means people have to buy the product; it can’t exist in a fancy, gold-plated vacuum), brands like Michael Kors, Coach, and Kate Spade must somehow toe the line of being both, which inevitably means walking on a tightrope. And in the currently volatile retail environment, an already-difficult task becomes even harder. As Gabriella Santaniello, an analyst and founder of the retail consulting company A Line Partners, explains, luxury implies that a product is scarce, and therefore inaccessible, so “if you become too accessible, like Kors [now] or Coach years ago,” you’re bound to lose customers. “That’s just a difficult position to be in.” Read more at Racked.