Excerpt from Luxe Inferno
09 March 2020
Virgil had been a feature writer all his life and thus had limited understanding of hard-core news.
Dante, on the other hand, was a hard-core news person and was not convinced that he would enjoy the so-called ‘lighter side of business journalism’. But Virgil was determined and started narrating stories of his adventures in covering features and how it was a great learning experience. What Dante thought he would miss the most was the adrenaline rush that came with hard news. Dante liked Virgil’s style, his love for finer things of life and his love for branded luxury. From his training as a hard-core journalist, he thought Virgil’s flaunting of luxury brands was quite shallow. However, at some level, Dante too, felt good about the finer things of life.
Dante agreed to take on the job, but couldn’t help but ask Virgil, “Why me? I am a very blunt instrument. Getting news from tough cookies comes more easily to me than appreciating fine craftsmanship.”
Virgil smiled and said, “Welcome to the world of luxury.”
Dante quickly retorted, “The world of luxe.”
Virgil said, “Lux? The soap?”
Dante replied, “Luxe with an ‘e’. This means ‘dazzle’ and is the origin of the word ‘luxury’. You see, there are a few advantages of being a good quizzer.”
The days ahead of a newspaper launch are like a roller coaster ride, high on adrenaline. No fixed timings, no office norms, no punching in or out. You come in at your own time and leave whenever you feel like. Or stay back. It is a cycle of intense planning and then execution, only to be dismantled the next moment. Just like a Jacques Derrida’s ‘Theory of Deconstruction’, life goes on destroying and creating, in a rhythm. Dante’s challenge was to understand luxury in the midst of this chaos. He started researching on the subject and very soon realized that there was no literature on luxe or luxury. All the writings had been mere product reviews with “price of request” tags and high-resolution pictures. That is all. Dante was in a spot. He was too proud to ask Virgil for a way out as he had taken it up as a personal challenge.
It was his day off and Dante decided to pay a visit to the newly-opened luxury mall in town. He was not one to give in to shopping, so mall visits were rare. Not a fan. Days off were few and far between, with the deadline pressure of the launch, but even the rare ones were spent mostly reading.
This trip was purely for academic purpose. To get a feel of luxe. The mall was a little different from the usual ones. Quite decently designed, and the best thing was, quite dignified and not in your face, like the others in the city.
Dante had decided that the first day will be for observation; some window shopping to get a feel of the luxury brands, the visual merchandise, but most importantly, to watch the buyers – and vtheir reaction to luxe!
The first was a Louis Vuitton boutique. He first spotted a beautiful trunk which was on display.
The design of the truck was beautiful, the stitches were exquisite and the vintage touch had a very alluring feel. He could not stop himself, and went near it. He started to closely observe the trunk, which was genuinely old and was like a fine piece of art. He thought he was in a gallery, appreciating a classic. As an artist, how could he not appreciate art? And what was in front of him was pure art! The boutique manager walked up to him, smiled and said, “In 1928, the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir placed orders for custom-made thirty trunks with us. This one was recently donated to us by the family. LV had customized it for the Maharaja. Talking of LV trunks, let me share some more interesting facets of this long and loving courtship of LV with Indian Royalty. Sir, Louis Vuitton was unique in use of valuable materials and precious leathers.
The luxury house was always able to serve special requests from the Indian Maharajas, no matter how extraordinary, elaborate or detailed the demands were. A certain Maharaja had ordered all the trunks imaginable for the most diverse of items – golf clubs, turbans, decorations, polo sticks, horseshoes, colonial helmets, among others.”
Dante didn’t realize how time went by; he was completely engrossed by Karthik’s story. Dante smiled and introduced himself as a journalist who wrote on luxury. Karthik seemed happy with the introduction and offered him tea and continued with his story. Dante spent the next foty-five minutes in the boutique.
It was love at first sight Karthik ushered him to the door and asked him to visit again. In this whole story telling session,things happened like magic. Dante just fell in love with the brand, the story, the legacy and desperately wanted to be a part of it. Small wonder, he swiped his card and left the store with an LV monogrammed, hand-stitched sling. Stories can be addictive.