Thursday, January 21, 2010

Some days, I really do hope that there's a hell

What constitutes luxury is surely in the eye and pocketbook of the beholder.

Someone in Haiti, no doubt, would look at my Peruvian Connection sweaters - honest Incan, I haven't spent that kind of money on a sweater in years - and think, hmmmm, I could clothe my family for a year on what that fou-head blew on a yarn-fest. And I think nothing of forking over $8.34 for a Cosi Signature Salad (low-fat dressing) a couple of times a week. Not to mention the new Blackberry vibrating in my pocket as I write.

But it's a pretty plain vanilla Blackberry, off the shelf at the Verizon Store on Washington Street.

I hadn't really thought that I could have gotten one that was a whole lot nicer if I'd waited until Versace introduces its first mobile phone.

I'm sure it's what Gianni would have wanted, but does the world we live in really need a phone that retails for more than $5K?

Maybe it's worth it, but, unfortunately, I won't be in Paris at the Plaza Athénée next week when Versace unveils it, so I'll have to wait until it hits the Versace retail outlets in May, where the folks will no doubt be lining up.

In any case, I'm grateful to an article about the upcoming Versace phone in The Wall Street Journal, which alerted me not just to the Versace news, but to the existence of the luxury phones to begin with. (And, by the way, we're not talking fashion phones, the ones that retailed for less than $1,000. You call that luxury? Feh!)

So I googled luxury cell phone, and darned if there aren't quite a few of these suckers out there.

You might even say that earpiece of luxury phones and smart phones are everywhere - just not where I've been. ("The strongest demand comes from Asia, Russia and the Middle East," which may explain why I haven't seen any.)

Luxe phones are now competing for the consumer Euro with luxe watches, in fact. While I've never paid more than $100 for a watch, luxury watches, somehow, don't bother me as much. This is probably because a watch can actually last a really long time, but a phone will be obsolete within 6 months. Sometimes that obsolescence is the innards, but sometimes it's the form factor. Electronics do have a natural way of slimming down over time, after all. I used to get annoyed enough when Verizon would tell me that hey no longer had batteries for a perfectly good but ancient cell phone that I'd probably paid $49 four years earlier. Imagine if you paid $5K for one. (For the record, those Peruvian Connection sweaters last forever, too. I've had one for 20 years. I know because I got it right before we went to Berlin in December 1989 to see The Wall fall.)

If you can't wait for Versace's to debut in May, at Continental Mobiles, you can get a chocolate diamond iPhone for 5,099 pounds sterling.  Buy you have to pay if you want a "hand-crafted case [that] exudes a sensual confidence and allure that is impossible to resist." (I just pulled out my Blackberry which, alas, does not have a case the exudes anything other than finger prints.)

Personally, I was able to resist Continental's confidence and allure, but that's because my 5,099 pounds sterling is going toward my 2009 IRA.

But, hey, what am I doing looking at iPhones to begin with. I'm a Blackberry kind of gal, and, even when it comes to luxury, we're apparently cheaper dates. I didn't do an exhaustive search of Continental's wares, but the bespoke Blackberrys seemed to be more in the 1-1.5K (pounds) range. More affordable for the working girl, but you don't get any of the exuding sensual confidence in that price range.

And then there's Vertu (not to be confused in any way shape or form with "virtue"). A Vertu can run you in the tens, and even hundreds, of thousands, for understated elegance. For that level of coin, you'd really want to keep your vertu intact, wouldn't you?

Despite all the availability of all these luxury phones, now might not be the time to enter this market.

In fact, Wired reported last July that the market for luxury phones was in the hopper.

Bad timing for Versace. Their foray into the luxury phone market may not prove to be any more successful at turning the company profitable than their brand extensions into jet planes or cars.

Perhaps Donatella Versace - who's run the House since Gianni was killed - doesn't go to the google. Perhaps she doesn't know what Wired knows. Perhaps she doesn't know there's a recession on.(Given all the truly terrible pictures of her out there, I can't say that I blame her if she doesn't spend a lot of time trolling around online.)

I will absolutely admit to becoming a carping, pursed lip scold about some things. But some days, I really do hope that there's a hell for ultra-luxury consumers. As for the ultra-luxury producers, apparently some of them will be suffering the hell on earth of their bad business decisions.

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