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Brands for the world, a world for brands

März 13, 2012

Brands for the world, a world for the brands

The mission is complete, brands have successfully conquered the world. There are all kinds of brands but I mainly want to focus on the exclusive ones. There is no city left in this world, where you can’t find premium brands like Gucci, Prada, Cartier, Vuitton, Armani, and so on. What’s behind this industry, what’s its influence on our daily life and is it sustainable? I will try to let my thoughts flow to give a fundament to the discussion about this development.

Luckily there is a lot of art in this world. Since the beginning of mankind there has been art, it has enriched our world and made people happy. Art in this world can be seen by everybody, should not belong to just a few and should not be used for war or destruction. Art mainly wants to express something and people can identify with different kinds of art or different meanings. Even though I am not a friend of accumulating property, I can understand someone falling in love with a piece of art and wanting to have it close to his/her home. And if society spends more money or time to acquire this art, is long term taking care and maintaining the masterpiece, then it’s told to be a fair and sustainable pleasure.

The famous exclusive brands seem to have an excellent long term advertisement. Everybody in the whole world has known them for decades, they dictate fashion, and they make the big cities look all the same. Although they are not that big, compared to really international big player corporations, they influence the big international fashion companies to a high degree. They provide guidelines for the latest fashion every spring and autumn. It’s always changing, not because it’s necessary, but because of even higher profits. Primarily there is no desire for those things, the desire is only created by the premium brand companies with the help of the best of psychologists and advertisement specialists, so there is almost no chance of escape. That’s the reason why every year more and more fashion goods are being produced, which right at the end are not used but end up in the garbage and have only been wasting our resources. This is for sure the opposite of sustainability.

The excellent advertising behind those exclusive brands has achieved that lots of millions of people are greedy for them. The main issue is not the excellent design, but two other things: if you want to be in, you have to have the latest Gucci bag; and they are expensive. Now we’ve arrived at the psychological background. One issue is that I need such a thing to be liked by my friends, to make them jealous, whatever. But it’s a sad story, because my friends should love me without any material sign. The second issue is even worse; I want to show that I can afford such an expensive brand. This increases my self-confidence. But do we need such a thing for that? Isn’t it a sign of weakness? There is so much beautiful craft and art in this world, but we are choosing the expensive one. The only possible explanation is my intention to show my wealth.

This carrying of external signs of wealth in Europe is slowly becoming dangerous. We can all remember how during the financial crisis in London the owners of the banks recommended their employees not to wear exclusive suits and ties on the street, because there was a danger of being beaten up by the poor people. In a time of change, of awareness of injustice, of an increasing gap between rich and poor, it might not be too clever showing my wealth openly any more. This leads to the idea of being humble in life. You can find this philosophy in all religions in this world, like Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. It’s said, the more humble you are, the more people will hold you in high regard. In this case the wearing of exclusive brands will not lead to success. And another matter is how we define ourselves. What are we? Are we a warm and loving heart? Or are we a Jaguar? Or a Gucci bag? I’ll respect somebody telling me that he defines himself as a Jaguar, or she as a Gucci bag, as long as it’s not polluting the environment and was produced unfairly. But is that really desirable?

Within the past 20 years of our global system it turned out that more and more companies, also the premium labels, have their goods manufactured in developing countries. The wages over there are extremely low, there has never been fair trade and there still isn’t. Compared what the company, traders and retail earn, the production costs are nothing. This means, for even higher profits they accepted unfair working conditions. Nowadays, times are slowly changing. Not voluntarily but through pressure by several NGOs, more and more companies try to ensure fair salaries, but still there are lots of question marks.

Gucci against Allah. This is the title of a book of a famous journalist, Antonia Rados. She has traveled the whole world, mainly reporting from war zones and on terrorist attacks. Lots of those took place in Arab countries and she has become a specialist on the mentalities of the people over there. The title of her book gives an excellent description of what’s going on. The poor former colonies are still in the hands of the rich West, not through armies anymore, but now through international corporations. One of the status symbols of the West is a premium brand like Gucci. And on the other side, the Moslems don’t have those symbols of wealth, but their religion. And that’s one explanation for conflicts between the Middle East and the West. If you go to those countries and display such a symbol, you have to take care that people don’t take it as a provocation. Some also say that for people in the West premium brands have become a sort of god, which gives the title of Rados’s book another meaning.

Slowly we can feel how far away those symbols are from my description at the beginning of the flow of my thoughts. To buy a piece of art, even if it costs me more money than usual, to cherish and maintain it, is something beautiful, as far as I don’t drive or wear it as a symbol, to increase my self-confidence or to climb up higher on the steps of society. This means, that the beautiful bags or dresses should be designed without immediately showing the brand name but instead that they’ve been produced in a fair way for a better world for the people. I know that my considerations are also influenced by my gender, but I’ve tried to balance that by talking about men’s toys as well. And for sure my thoughts should be just a motivation for discussion so that I am able to learn from others and together with you adapt my point of view.

Gerhard Kögler

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