Sun, 06 Mar 2005


Luxury and glamor much in demand in times of crisis

Swantje Werner, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Hamburg, Germany

Demand for luxury items remains high despite the global economic downturn after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

In fact, in times of crisis luxury objects become even more desirable, according to Prof. Peter Wippermann of the Hamburg Trend Bureau.

Even directly after the stock market plunge following the Sept. 11 attacks, many women were still buying luxury items, according to Eike Wenzel of the Future Institute in Frankfurt.

In societies with a lot of greed and envy "luxury is not displayed that openly, and luxury today is less related to prestige and status", Wenzel says.

"A new form of luxury are products that contribute to saving time and alleviating pressure in daily chores, for instance top- quality prepared foods."

But Wippermann also detects a trend towards "expressive luxury". With more teamwork individual performance at work is becoming less recognizable.

"Success becomes invisible. Status symbols also polish the ego," he says.

In addition, trends set by celebrities and the glamour industry are becoming personal ideals. "The media-influenced society constantly has to inform itself on rank insignia," Wippermann says.

Annelie Dott, a psychologist in Cologne, describes luxury in her own way: "For me, it is lying on the sofa for an hour, to switch on the telephone answering machine and to react to nothing from outside."

A meal with the family, a nice bath or a relaxed meeting with friends with whom one can talk freely about fears and concerns are also becoming luxuries.

Josefine Hallmann, the chairman of the Protestant Women's Organisation in Frankfurt, says shopping is also becoming a political decision.

"The question is: Do I buy cheap products at the cost of others?" she said.

Hallmann cites coffee as an example.

"Everybody can ask her or himself whether it is a luxury to pay a just price. For families with little money it is often impossible to choose between quality and quantity but I can look at where in my life I can do something in this direction."

Dott says "luxury is something that I would like to have and is the most difficult to get". Buying expensive cosmetics, she says, often only expresses a need to fulfill more difficult wishes.

Hallmann says the need by some people to collect products at cheap prices is like a drug. "It doesn't satisfy the inner hunger."

Women with families and job obligations have most difficulty granting themselves the luxury of time and relaxation.

"One of my professors always had a date at the start of the week with 'Mr. Monday'," Dott explains. "The man with unusual name of course never arrived but the professor had found a nice way of creating a break for himself."