Most of us think of luxury as something valuable, perhaps even something unattainable. To the ultrawealthy, luxury may mean the gift of time or experience, while to the homeless, luxury may be a meal or a hot shower.
A cultural shift has recently occurred regarding the image of luxury. The ultrarich already have access to anything produced on earth. The current trend for the ultrarich is not toward acquiring more objects, but toward acquiring more experiences—going where no one has gone before, even into space. That’s evidenced by the 500 or so people who have already signed up with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic commercial flights into space at $200,000 per ticket.
Then there’s time, a luxury for almost everyone—more time to spend with family and friends, more time to be alive.
But what about the rest of us, who are neither ultrarich nor homeless? What do we define as luxury? In today’s world of mass-produced goods and toxic products, quality is the new luxury.
How great it would be to know that buttons will not fly off your clothing the moment you leave the store. If only furniture would wear as well as it did a hundred years ago.
It is very doubtful there will be much left of objects from our generation because lack of quality will cause them to self-destruct long before they reach a century. Our legacy will be piles of obsolete electronic equipment littering overfilled dumps.
It used to be that workers took pride in their craft. Educators once taught that a job worth doing is worth doing well, helping to instill pride in craft from an early age. Then came the double-edged sword of mass production, which enabled the average person to acquire objects that might once have been out of reach. But at what cost?
Gone was the handcrafted care lovingly given to beautifully carved woods. Gone were the garment seams carefully bound on the edges to prevent raveling. We traded quality for quantity.
According to researchers at MIT, continuing to consume the massive amounts of these flawed products on a global scale could lead to a massive global economic depression as early as the year 2030 because of depleted natural resources.
That is not good news for anyone, but there is good news in the knowledge that we can have our cake and eat it too, while saving the planet in the process. How? By being the ultimate recyclers. By purchasing quality products that will last and, even better, by purchasing vintage or antique items of quality that have already survived the test of time and will prevent more of the earth’s resources from being depleted to produce them.
Pieces to Inspire
Vintage Florentine Tray. This unusual and hard-to-find Florentine tray table dates from the mid-20th century and is extremely versatile. You’ll discover endless uses for this great piece, which blends beautifully with traditional décor. It can also be the standout conversation piece in a very contemporary interior.
Ivory paint with gilding forms this typical Florentine pattern. The legs lock for stability, and the tray back is gilded and bears the original paper label: “Florentia, Hand made in Italy.” Known as Florentine-style crafts, these items are now highly collectable antiques.
Vintage Fortuny. In the many years I have been collecting Fortuny fabric, this is the most beautiful I have ever seen: teal, copper, and gorgeous.
These pillows are custom designed and handmade in the United States from vintage Italian Fortuny silk velvet, the rarest of Fortuny fabrics. Fortuny is always handmade and ages beautifully.
Mariano Fortuny (1871–1949) was a multifaceted artist from Spain. He was best known for the couture fashion house he opened in Paris in 1906 and for the exquisite handmade fabrics he designed.
Antique Japanese Kesa Fabric. It is said that kesa were made in square patterns to represent rice fields, thereby indicating humility.
This is an amazingly beautiful Japanese textile kesa dating from 1760. The word kesa is derived from the Sanskrit word “kesaya.” Kesa were worn draped over the shoulder by Buddhist monks and were sometimes used as altar cloths.
People would donate their finest textiles to monasteries where they would be used to make kesa. Sometimes the fabric was pieced together from different textiles to form a quilted appearance, or less often, as with this exceptional piece, the kesa were from a single textile.
This kesa is handwoven from silk in spice tones of cinnamon and amber with a floral motif and subtly interwoven golden and silver threads, which are beautifully patinated. A calligraphy inscription on the back lining records that the piece was made for a ceremony at the Sai Nen Temple in September 1760.
Framed, this piece would be simply stunning. You could easily build the decor of a room around this piece or add it to a treasured textile collection.
Cherie Fehrman is part of ForgottenLuxury.com, a San Francisco-based company of designers and collectors offering their treasures online. Fehrman is a designer, color consultant, antiques dealer, author, and avid collector.
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