Find what floats your boat – what gives you pleasure. You can then cut away the extraneous rubbish that invades our lives and be on the path to actual luxury
Article by Rupert Watkins
As the late Karl Lagerfeld defined it, luxury is the freedom from care, that ability to live without constant pressure. How you define that is up to you; freedom from financial care, freedom from judgement or the freedom from the pressures of time. In a world that appears – certainly at the moment – to be shaking on its axis and we are assaulted every second by a non-stop stream of information, for many people perhaps their greatest luxury will be the freedom from having to take near constant decisions.
The luxury world in recent years has become a world of constant decisions – who to follow, what to carry, wear, go in order to remain on point in an environment where someone else will always appear (through a filter…) to have it all sussed out and be miles ahead of you. By Kaiser Karl’s rule stick that is not a recipe for freedom or contentment. We have always had materialism and you only have to look back to the 1920s and the era Evelyn Waugh so brilliant satired so see the merry go round is nothing new.
Ultimately luxury is personal and a rather intimate decision. For almost all of us, we lack the means to be able to indulge across the board in the highest end and most expensive of goods; everyone saves and spends their money differently. For some it may be fine wine, others amongst us may be watch or jewellery fanatics and others will save to travel. Maybe the most basic level of luxury is discovering what your passion is and having the confidence to spend what you can on that – and ignore the judgemental eyes and social media feeds that critique your lack of interest in other areas. Freedom again.
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Running slightly alongside that thought, if luxury is freedom from care and freedom from time pressure, stepping off the circus ride of one upmanship requires a level of research and attention to allow you to; whenever you can, buy the finest you can afford to invest in. By putting a level of thought into each careful procurement you are investing in something that is of the highest quality (you can afford), it will thus last and you will not have to worry about replacing the item on a frequent basis. You are also able to genuinely invest in a smaller selection of goods that are truly timeless, that will remain in style forever, a good trench coat, good shoes, classic blouses, shirts or jackets that suit your frame and skin tone. This care can be taken into other areas; for example, good glasswear or crockery will last for years, give pleasure every use and whether you are still renting or basking in your country rectory can move with you. They are not dependent on your immediate physical or wider financial situation but remain sound investments.
Luxury is rather intimate as it requires you to know yourself – find out and understand what makes you tick – as well as the more obvious things like what cosmetics work on your skin, what silhouettes and patterns work for your clothes. Once you start to know these things life and decision making becomes easier, you discover certain brands that suit you and thus the constant stream of noise coming at you through the funnel of life begins to be narrowed down. This starts to equal more time, less worry equating to – once again – that freedom thing.
Know your lifestyle – by all means have a penchant for custom suits but if you work in an arena were you don’t need to or find you don’t wear them on a regular basis don’t go over the top and invest in more than a couple, if you know you always wear black knee high boots with dresses at work don’t be swayed by a pair of brown suede ones. If you prefer vodka, don’t splash out on a bottle of cognac simply because you see a deal. It might sound simple, but it does require a level of mental fortitude to be rigorous in splitting needs from desires in an age where complex and psychologically driven marketing techniques have been around since the Mad Men 1960s. Then there’s Insta. OMG…
It is all too easy in this visually sated consumer world of (tolerably) easy credit to believe that just one bigger or one extra purchase is all that is needed. Isn’t that just marketing in a nutshell??! Luxury is about buying the best you can afford – if you’ve racked up debt and taken out extra credit cards have those purchases and experiences ultimately been worth it for the stress and sleepless nights they will cause? Have the courage of your convictions to wait, search, save to find those things you truly have your eye on; they should be timeless so what’s an extra six months of putting the pennies in the piggy bank. Mr Micawber’s famous, and oft-quoted, recipe for freedom from financial care rings true for true luxury: “Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 19 (pounds) 19 (shillings) and six (pence), result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 20 pounds ought and six, result misery.” Sometimes anticipation is rather enjoyable in its own right.
I think it’s human spirit to always make us desire what we don’t quite have – thank God, it’s called aspiration though in the post- democracy, post-social media, tired developed world, one occasionally wonders if that spirit is slipping away in a blizzard of recrimination and copied Insta posts. King Karl’s is certainly one of the better definitions of luxury I’ve come across. In order to reach that luxurious plateaux we all need to step back and work out what our own individual bliss is and have the courage to go our own route towards it.