23 Mar ONCE UPON A TIME: LUXURY
If you use a word too many times, it seems that its true meaning falls apart. And when this happens, you must go back in time, up to the beginning, to discover once again that lost sense. So here we are, trying to bring back to light the profound significance of luxury. Our journey clearly needs to starts with the origin of the word. Etymologically, the word means “abundance of vegetation”. Metaphorically, the expression used to intend the wealth of delicious goods.
Before its incarnation as a market and an economics area, luxury was a culture. And so it was since the very beginning of human civilization, and, as far as men, has grown through time. A good start to understand how the concept of “luxury” is linked to the human history is by analyzing one of the main characteristic that separates us from animals: the burial of the dead.
From Ancient Egypt to nowadays
Archaeologist from all around the world have always found more than the remains of the deceased. Inside the graves of kings, pharaohs, high priests and knights, jewelry of all kind has been found. And among ancient civilizations, Egypt was certainly the most spectacular when it comes to build and decorate sepulchres. Think about pyramids: so massive outside, so full of riches inside.
Many years later, in the middle Age, luxury was still considered as synonymous of majesty. And so it has been as long as Christianity associated it to lust and desire, casting a veil of negativity over luxury.
We have to wait the Renaissance and the rising of the laical thinking to restore a positive meaning behind luxury. In particular, Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, who elevate the value of luxury and frees it from any moral condemn.
As we run fast through years, we found that luxury was, in the XVII century achieved the status of lifestyle for people with major financial resources, but however sober and detail-oriented. In the XIX a radical change: the idea that luxury was to be intent as something unnecessary, frivolous, excessive, began spreading. This idea evolved gradually to the concept of “luxury equals expensive”. Expensive, but also refined and lavish. A way for an elite to define its own identity through ostentation.
The French philosopher Thierry Paquot explored the real meaning of luxury in his opera magna “L’Éloge du luxe”, real food for thought in this matter. According to him, fashion and luxury are an engine of progress and cultural transformation. Without the need of something more, without the desire that divide us from other creatures, humankind would not have been able to evolve.
Merchants have travelled the world looking for gold, silver, amber, silk and all kind of precious materials. This constant research gave us all the colour and wonders that still today fascinate us. All of this, derives from the presence of an endless need something not useful as we are used to intend, but simply beauty.
Luxury and Made in Italy
Ever since the Renaissance, Italy has been the home of luxury. In that time, Venice ruled above Europe, teaching style, fashion and elegance. The main reason behind this supremacy was the power over sea trade, in particular its connection with Asia, up to Mongolia. Alongside Venice, Florence and its wool empire, and the manufacturing of damascening armours. Even Sicily had an important role in Italy’s supremacy with its market of silk and cotton.
And today as it was before, Italy is recognized as the cradle of luxury and elegance.