Posted by: Viviana M. Rueda Image | November 4, 2010

Inconspicuous Spenders-The Secret Lives of Luxury Fashionistas

So, I’ve been noticing a really interesting trend these past 2-3 years of lean economic times. Something I call inconspicuous luxury spending. With all the buzz that the recession has ended, recovery seems as unattainable as Jay Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy. According to CNN, in September alone, there were 95,000 jobs lost; the Bureau of Labor Statistics tallied that this racked up the number of unemployed persons to a whopping 14.8 million from the onset of the recession to September. And NPR reports that thanks to inflation, there will be no social security increase next year; again 58 million retirees and disabled Americans will not get a raise in benefits. It should not come as a shock then that the consumer confidence index isn’t very confident!

While some feel this is the Great Depression of our time, others believe this is the era of roaring, conspicuous consumption-with a twist. The elite are spending a boatload on luxury shopping – digital luxury if you will. Lavish spending is up and it’s being done in private. Makes sense, right? Not only is it convenient (OMG save me from mall parking), but there’s the added bonus of not flaunting your good luck and wealth in front of unemployed or struggling folk. Wonder if Marie Antoinette would have been so smart if she’d had digital luxury?

Luxury shopping at the The Shoppes at Four Seasons in Macau and at Liberty's on Regent Street in London

Social media makes this (in)conspicuous consumption possible. The rich tend to be online more and are therefore easily tempted to shop online. Pulling from consumers with an average income of $220,000, Unity Marketing’s Luxury Report 2010 states that while luxury spending has increased 30%, fashion and clothing consumers are looking for items that are “good investments.”

Many sites have opted to cater to the elite’s desire for quality. One of the best known ones is Net-a-Porter, and certainly one of my favorites. By the by, their iPad app is fantastic. It has a good amount of awesome video clips featuring designers. This super exclusive site offers invitation-only membership and works with 430 hand-picked bloggers and websites. Another prominent invitation-only digital luxury site is Gilt. They offer their esoteric members products “at insider prices.” Many of the elite are also partaking in the highly oxymoronic sub-trend of shopping for “discounted luxury goods.” For instance, Hautelook offer its members discounts of 50-75 percent. I have to admit that the prices are pretty great in terms of the original retail price, but they are still a pretty penny to spend!

Check out Gilt Groupe's uber-chic packaging! Courtesy of

During an interview with The Business of Fashion (BoF), Net-a-Porter founder, Natalie Massenet, claimed that “There is a great egalitarianism going on online,” Egalitarian for whom I have to ask? Does this mean that the rich can now pretend to be uber rich but under the radar?

From 2008 to 2010 Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter, expanded the company by employing 600 in New York and London, with sales from about $84 million to $183 million.



  1. […] of digital luxury there’s another trend that chic ladies around the country are flocking to cardboard luxury, if […]

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