This paper discusses the reasons behind our obsession with luxury goods, in particular, the factors that appear to motivate the Chinese to buy luxury goods and services in London. Even though we are still affected by the so called "Credit Crunch" which had affected by global economy and our consumption. There are still a considerable number of Chinese in London who have maintained their shopping habits towards luxury goods and service. This promoted me to research the reasons underlying this observation. To develop this idea further, this dissertation will look closely at the concept between the production and consumption of goods. This will also critically analyse the effects of the shift from an industrial to post - industrial consumer society.
Luxury forms a major distinction between various types of lifestyle in our society. The typical luxurious lifestyle is characterized by conspicuous display of wealth, adequate financial freedom and exclusivity; it is a representation of something only a selected few can afford. They are extreme illustrations of the power of intangibles in our modern world. (Kapferer, 2007. p67) This involvement of luxury purchases has over the years created a clear definition between two main different economic parts of community making the concept of luxury become a brand in the society (Bastein, & Kapferer, 2008 pp132). This has resulted in the term luxury to be used to distinguish same goods on a microscopic level. For example, consider a normal beauty product and a luxury beauty product with a minor price difference; the consumers will tend to go for the luxury product for the purpose of being able to associate themselves with luxury items. This concept has over the years been adjusted to develop capitalistic gain the market and present to the clients the fact that they are capable to meet the expenses of luxurious items when in real sense the aspect of luxury is greatly down to the branding and packaging (Bastein, & Kapferer, 2008, pp313). Thus luxury has grown to become an important function of consumption the market.
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Consumption is essentially a traditional process distinguished by values, practices and institutions that have been culturally agreed on and often have come to define their environment (Storey, 2001, 0039-40). Consumption was later on divided into two major divisions consisting of; induced consumption which is directly related with disposable income and autonomous consumptions in which the depends mostly on the long term consumption plan of an individual such as a mortgage or care purchase (Keynes, 2008, pp23).
In reality, there is usually a connection between production and consumption in the market as the level of consumption of the people in society tends to affect production and vice versa (Miles, 1998, pp113 - 117). Thus it is then clear that the producer not only product what customers demand, but also produces what he thinks that they can elicit the demand from in the market. This in turn, raises the significance of the increase and leisure in society, as less cash is needed to be used on necessities and more disposable income permits a superior and diverse variety of leisure activities (Miles, 1998, pp106).
The post industrialist society eventually recognizes more temporal duties such as the provision of services. In the past, industrial processes dominated the society but apparently are now resituated in a less obvious way. This has paved the way for division between experience and reality, as the individual in a post-industrialist society is unable to visualize or, in any way, sense the enormous levels of production that are required in order to sustain his or her lifestyle (Miles, 1998, pp156). The outcome is a post modern mismatch of experience and knowledge.
The purpose of the research is to understand what factors influence the Chinese attitude towards buying luxury goods and services in London.
This research is conducted from an interpretative perspective, integrating qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques and analysis to strengthen the validity and quality of data analysis and research findings. There is an issue, though, that might arise using the interpretative approach, that of generalizability which results in broader rather than specific conclusions.
This dissertation takes the epistemological position as a combination of the interpretative and critical realism approach, to better reflect the effect of cultural influences on aesthetic preferences. Interpretative takes an empathetic stance, which comes from the two other intellectual traditions, phenomenology and interactionism. These philosophies were adopted to approach the intangible cultural influences to have a meaningful result from the small representative sample and to provide the knowledge of the contemporary situation. It is necessary for a researcher to understand the differences between humans in our role as social actors.
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For the purpose of this dissertation, the writer will start looking at the main theories of consumption and shopping, picking out the most important factors influencing luxury consumption today. The literature review will form the first half of this dissertation. As for the second half, primary research methods consisting of questionnaires and interviews have been used in order to collect the necessary date to further the proposed research.
Questionnaires were sent out by email. The target audience for this questionnaire were Chinese people living in London, mostly students, males and females between the ages of 20 and 30. The questionnaire is aimed at obtaining a general perspective of their attitude towards luxury consumption, such that in-depth interview questions could be formulated. The questionnaires investigate consumer attitude towards luxury by juxtaposing cultural influences with individual preferences towards the consumption of luxury goods and services.
In this section, the paper will look at the ways in which theories have influenced the Chinese to buy luxury goods and services in London. It will look at the classical social theory, the emerging sociology of consumption, cultural consumption as manipulation, cultural consumption as communication, the theory of shopping and the consumer agenda on purchase of the luxury items in the market.
Classical Social Theory:
The theory tries to explain the ways in which our consumption pattern impacts us in the purchase of the luxury products from the market. Karl Marx argues that the production and reproduction of material life comes dangerously close to damaging the social relations upon which it so heavily relies. Production occurs in both social and technical relations in such way that, (social refers to the relationship between individuals while technical refers to relationship) between individuals and objects (Marx, 2000, pp587). Nevertheless, a market economy permits these differences to be considerably faint to the poin that social relations can become almost mechanistic while technical relations can change the point that individuals have important and lasting emotional relationship with objects that have been mass-produced (Marx, 2000, pp163). Contrary to the classical theory that suggest that a worker creates and utilizes the outcome of his or her labor, Marx argues that one does not get exactly what one has worked for but rather tends to substitute it with other simple monetary payments that allow one to be able to purchase other products of which, work was not undertaken directly (Kolakowski, 2008, pp106) other than Karl Marx, there are more other people who had their own idea on the influence of the purchasing luxury items in the society.
Max Weber investigated the ways in which religion impeded the concept of capitalistic endeavor and advancement. He believed that capitalism was the natural outcome of a change in focus away from the means of production and onto the result of production. He noted that it was evident that the more relative contribution of Protestants in the ownership of capital in management and other high positions of labor in more modern industrial and commercial venture tend to give the reason to the historical circumstances in the rate of individuals purchase of luxury items (Weber, 2003, 00 120 -121). This highlights that individual do not purchase the products for the sole purpose of their consumption needs but also because of their status in the society.
Compared with the previous theories by Marx and Weber, the Norwegian economic philosopher Thorstein Veblen, in the meantime, wanted to put in economic theory beside the lines of in progress social development. He assumed that imitation, predatory sense, workmanship, inquisitiveness and the parental nature, tend to greatly force the economic factor of an individual in a community (Veblen, 2007, pp270). In this he explains the reasons as to why the rich and poor tend to use consumption to demonstrate their social status to the other members of society.
The Emerging Sociology of Consumption:
The significance of class in society has been central to western cultural builds for centuries. This was supported by Lavalette and Mooney who said that there remains an enormous opposition to utilization and functioning of the aspect of 'class' in strategy investigation, most probably for panic of its Marxist suggestions. However class "is deliberatelyâ€¦ primary to the social structure and consequently to investigating the performance and force it creates to the welfare state" (Lavalette & Mooney, 2000, pp5). Nonetheless, human society has over the years shown a noticeable tendency to divide into dissimilar classes based on socio-economic factors. It is then thought to be due to an natural aspiration to compartmentalize and classify, and it is agreed upon in various ways by individual in the society even those who might be intimidated in the society since they are able to encourage the logic of comprehensiveness and togetherness in the society that helps them in creating the strong bond between them (Lavalette & Mooney, 2000, pp17). In the long run, these classes created have resulted in the difference in consumption rate of the luxury product in the market.
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These social structures replicate themselves over and over again, prompting author Bourdieu to believe that it can only be due to the fact that it offers some of the type of consolation. He identifies the soundness of the dispute put forward by Thorstein Veblen, who supposed that leisure class was capable of sustaining its supremacy by pressuring its significance in terms of the operation of society on an international level, a model which "allowed the upper classes to retain their privilege because they had engineered a situation in which they were necessary in a number of ways" (Velben, 2007, pp170), but goes on to suggest that the mechanics of the engineering of such dominance and importance was hardly subtle, but rather was clear to everybody to visualize and could probably put it down (Bourdieu, 1993, pp16). For Bourdieu, 'society' was fundamentally the amount of the countless social relations that survived between individuals, and to some degree it was possible to extrapolate from those relationships in order to make certain key judgments about society. He felt that just as personal relationships give solace and comfort and allow people to feel stronger and more secure in their roles so society as a whole provided certain certainties that fostered general calm (Bourdieu, 1993, pp 19 - 23).
In his well-known work, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, Pierre Bourdieu states that 'Taste classifies and it classified the classifiers' (1984: 6). Bourdieu suggested that 'taste' when expressed by someone, is a process of reinforcement of pre-existent systems of classification - both classifying the person who professes their taste and the object of their taste. Bourdieu's understanding of taste is relevant to this thesis as Bourdieu saw classification as a universally applicable term, that influences how people think, and partially erases the notion of truly objective opinion. Bourdieu suggests that when judging something, on its perceived merits or whether it is suited to one's taste, the viewer is already relying upon extant structures of classification; albeit structures which are implicit and thus not consciously realized. Furthermore, these systems have developed over time; they are not the products of spontaneously objective thought or decisions.
Bourdieu is further concerned with the paradoxes that he perceives to be in the logic and language that people use to explain distinction in society. He states that: 'Classificatory systems are the stake of struggles between the groups they characterize, who fight over them while struggling to turn them to their own advantage.' (477) Bourdieu suggested that the notion of perceiving the validity and existence of such distinctions creates them, and that is through reinforcement that systems of classification and social division occur.
However, such a system was liable to fracture if sufficient pressure was placed on it, and there are obvious moments in history, most notably the French Revolution, when such pressure came about. The analogy is apposite, since the great pressure that is required causes a concomitantly violent shattering. Bourdieu believes that "this demonstrates the annoyance and bitterness rooted by the dissimilarities in society are not manipulated away by the social organizations that are in place subduedâ€¦ when the opportunity for them to be expelled comes up, the result is aggression, annoyance and rebellion (Bourdieu, 1993, p84). However, such 'violence, anger and anarchy' lasts only a short time before the status quo is essentially re-established, albeit perhaps under a different guise - as Bourdieu notes, "there are dissimilarities between a sovereign and a president and a prime minister, but still individuals need centralized management (Bourdieu, 1993, pp91). Ultimately, matters of luxury are used in order to provide a kind of restorative and recuperative balm to the social wounds that are created, as the pressure is kept from causing rupture. It is key to note that, once again, luxury is relative: someone who lived in poverty will consider a cake to be luxury, yet someone who lives in total opulence might consider that same came to be a sign of poverty. Therefore, the idea of a single ideological concept of 'luxury' must be considered in both relativist and empirically social terms.
The key post-modern and post-structuralist philosopher in this area is Jean Baudrillard, who believed that consumption, rather than production, was the key driver of the modern society. He differed from Marx, and he went on to deconstruct Marx (and others') central notion that needs are inherent in society rather than being constructed. For Baudrillard, this notion allows for the post-modern idea that the object can be separated from its meaning in such a dramatic way that the resulting contrast can create an entirely new meaning (Baudrillard, 1994, pp70), one which may act as a non sequitur and which may contain a great deal of humor or pathos. Baudrillard insisted, however, that this did not make nonsense of attempts to understand society and its relation to production and consumption; merely that it disallowed the use of number of trusted but ultimately far too simplistic notions. He believed that an object contained four key values: its functionality (i.e. what it was used for, on the most basic level); its exchange value (i.e. what I can be exchanged for, e.g. an apple for an orange or three donkeys for a cart); its symbolic value (i.e. what it means on a personal level, e.g. a book that was given as a gift from a lecturer to a student in order to recognize a particular bond that had existed between them); and finally its sign value (i.e. its relationship to other objects, e.g. the idea that perhaps one book has more value than another due to predominantly materialistic factors). Baudrillard believe that these four values constantly inter-acted, and were in many ways incompatible, although he felt that the resulting incompatibility, rather than reflecting problems with this theory, merely showed the difficulties that exist in society when conflicting ideas are forced to co-exist (Baudrillard, 1994, p79 - 111).
Later in his career, Baudrillard disavowed his earlier belief in the essentials of Marxist theories. Instead, he chose to focus on the ideas of Marshall Mcluhan, and the ways in which the media is able to change the message. Baudrillard believed that: "the media thoroughly describe technique in which the communication is understood, and to refute thisâ€¦ would be to refute a number of the main essential and well-known doctrines of human interaction" (Baudrillard, 1998, p4).
Ultimately, Baudrillard believed that human interaction was a vastly complex concept capable of sustaining numerous conflicting philosophies and moral positions. He believed that luxury was one of a number of concepts that "enclose within themselves enormous disagreements, which (make them)... completely incredible in some ways, and yet they exist and we must explain them" (Baudrillard, 1998, p11). While many of the other philosophers covered so far were keen to find explanations and philosophies that removed any friction, and that explained the entirety of human interaction, societal consumption and philosophical relativism, therefore, Baudrillard was keen to develop philosophies that were simultaneously all-inclusive and contradictory, since he believed that human society was fundamentally constructed from various ideas and beliefs that did not necessarily point in the same direction, but which were nevertheless able to co-exist (Baudrillard, 1998, p12-14). Ultimately, Baudrillard was suggesting that human society benefits from the frictions that occur when these ideas are forced to work with each other.
If Barudrillard's idea raise a number of interesting questions about the nature of consumption and class, the work of Peter Saunders in some ways goes further and illustrates the ways in which class has been subsumed, to a certain extent, by the matter of consumption and the ways in which access is controlled, granted and denied. Control is the key to the idea of consumption, and is representative of new, more modern methods of class stratification (Saunders, 1991, p57). If control rests in a few hands, it is important that those who lack control are not made to feel entirely as if they are servants and non-equals. Therefore, a degree of mollification is required in order to smooth over divisions and, as Veblen suggested, attempt to persuade the un-agented members of society that they are important parts of vital social structure that inherently requires both agented and un-agented figures. With the reduction of the materials needed in the Jean Baudrillard theory, it has lead to the real issue that tend to affect the nation in their involvement in their purchase of the luxury goods.
Cultural Consumption as Communication:
Culture has been used over the years to determine the purchasing behavior of people in a certain way; particular culture tends to respond to a particular product in the market. For example, people try to purchase luxury products for the purpose of identifying with the community. In the works of Veblen and Simmel, they believe in the influence of the cultural aspect of a given community in term of the type of fashion that they involve themselves in. as much as the Chinese purchase luxury products from London, they still tend to stick to their inherited behavior of dressing code in the society (Simmel, 1964, p105 - 121). This has forced them to concentrate on other luxury goods such as electronics. Those involving themselves in fashion still do so for the purpose of identity in the society.
Cultural Consumption as Manipulation:
This attempts to explain the ways which the culture has been changed to fit the demands of the consumers in the society. Scholars have come up with ways in which this is attained in the society to facilitate the customers to purchase more luxury products from the market. To begin with, the Frankurt School which was a combination of left wing thinkers who believed that part of their colleagues had come to misrepresentation in the society. It forced Marxist ideology to broaden its scope and take ongoing issues, such as how people and institutions interact, into consideration. The Frankfurt School implied on Marxism is that it validated it by analyzing it and providing empirical "evidence" of its existence. The Frankfurt School supplied Marxism with methodology. Where Marx said, "This is historical materialism, and this is what it does," The Frankfurt School said, "This is historical materialism; this is what's right with it, this is what's wrong with it, and this is how it works." In this, it is then clear that, the thinker wanted to change the minds of the society member in the ways in which they were thinking concerning the effect of communism on their purchase of luxury items in the market.
Walter Benjamin supposed that issues of consumption are directly related to the aura of objects, and ways in which the advances in technology have permitted art to be produced both mechanically and industrially. According to him, society has changed to be able to adapt to the luxury items in the market (Benjamin et all, 1999, p67).
Roland Barthes, meanwhile, felt that symbols and signifiers had been greatly changed by bourgeois society agents who were struggling to sustain the largely fictive rationalizations upon which the depended (Barthes, 1993, p43). He felt that they had been subjected to change for the purpose of basing the weapon to the class issue in the society so that they could be able to control the rate at which every individual buys luxury item in society. He wanted the issue of social class to be identified in the society influenced by purchase the luxury products.
Theory of Shopping:
This tends to explain what really goes on in the mind of the shopper any given product in the market. In this particular theory, Daniel Miller argues that, for one to be able to purchase an item in the market, he has to be able to think of other factors such as the need for the product, the features that the product offers and the affordability of the product (Miller, 1998). Other than that, ones shopping depend basically on the level of consumption of the individual and the household relations that will trigger him or her to go out for shopping. In so doing, she relates shopping to many other activities such as the relationship that one has with the rest of individuals round him, the purpose and the benefits that one gets from the activity. In so doing, she is able to distinguish between transients and transcendent while at the market. He also argues out that, in most cases, shopping depends on the level in which the producers have involved themselves in advertising and marketing of the product (Miller, 1998).
This theory, also gives rise to a major contradiction of consumption. These are the differences that arise in the definitions of consumption and the factors that people look at while purchasing products from the market. In the past, it was believed that, consumption depended on the style that he wanted, the identity of the individual in the society and the culture one comes from. With the change of technology and time, the elements that tend to trigger one to shop have changed too. The majority of the individuals today have in the long run concentrated on other elements such as on how strong the economy of a particular region is the political stability of the region, the social cohesiveness of the people in the region and the routine matters in the region in which they try to purchase from (Edward, 2000). It is of this reason that we find most of the Chinese purchasing their luxury items from London, as they find the country to be economically and politically stable, thus able to deal with them in business issues.
Collin Campbell claimed that we consumers no longer define ourselves through race, religion, occupation or ethnicity, we define ourselves by tastes. "Retail Therapy" isn't a joke, it is the description of reality. By shopping we reassure ourselves of our authenticity and our existence. In other ways, "I Shop, Therefore I Am."
The writer of this paper had a specific category of people in mind whom she studied to determine the factors influencing their buying of luxury products from London. These are young adults between the age of 20 and 30 from China, both female and male who have acquired the middle and upper class of living. At this age, people generally strive to ensure that they dress well and create a good impression on people around them. Luxury items such as shoes, dresses, handbags and other such fashion items that can aid them in this pursuit.
Another issue involves maintaining a certain lifestyle in the community. Not having many familiar responsibilities or financial burdens, they may purchase luxury household items that might serve them in the future. Such as electronics.
In doing this, the customers not only purchase for the purpose of need for the item but the also under the influence of other peers.
Research Results Analysis:
Consumerism has become an integral parts of our lives, and characterizes our generation much more so than previous ones. Shopping represents much more than just a gratification of our immediate material needs. Shoppers are increasingly defining and discovering themselves through the process of consumption. "[Shopping] represents how I want and what I wish to be" said Skir (Appendix 2 Q7) one of the interviewees. This is in keeping with Campbell's fundamental proposition in "I Shop Therefore I Am", as the postmodern consumers are constantly learning more about themselves.
The easiest and quickest way to display our identity is through what we wear or our appearance. Shoppers do not just shop for the material needs anymore. According to Hans, it has "a lot to do with my personal development at the time, it is about myself and what I am feeling at the time, my own expressions." (Appendix 1 Q9) The act of consuming is of a greater significance than the object being consumed. For some people style is more important than substance. Consumption in modern societies has long since ceased to be linked to "need". It is linked to "wants". "It is about social surrounding affect you" said Steve. (Appendix 4 Q24) "Some people just really crave for things they do not need as if it's an addictive drug" said Tony (Appendix 7 Q24). In this modern society, we all wish to be unique. In order to do so, people select how they present themselves in front others. People want to see how many head turn around when they walk on the street, how many murmurs they can hear about how trendy they look. Wardrobe by the season in order to not include anything that is outdated and "so last season". Fashion and identity are not new to our time. What is different is perhaps branding, identity and disposability.
What is the symbolic meaning of a luxury good that we purchase? "You believe in the vision of the designer, what it represents, the history of the houseâ€¦ the craftsmanshipâ€¦ the quality" says Sylvester, (Appendix 3 Q14) one of the interviewees. His sense of symbolism has nothing to do with other people's perception of what the goods mean to them. It is rooted in the brand quality and what it represents. The world of fashion and consumption as Baudrillard described it is a world of signs divorced from reality. He believed in the value of the product rather than the productions of the commodity. To another respondent, Steve, it symbolizes "uniqueness, texture and the fabric used for the luxury goods." (Appendix 4 Q3) "They are meant to be more flattering" said Hans. (Appendix 1 Q 32)) For a product's functionality value, Yin said: "Luxury brand suppose to have good design and quality". To us, when we buy luxury, it has to be better in a way or another from the normal stores that we see on the high streets. Luxury has to represent something that is more prestigious and unique. "I see buying luxury products as an investment for the future, you never know, luxury goods' prices are going up every quarter. It is mad, but people are still buying it, so why not buy it when it is cheap and keep it till it is worth lots more. It will be much more valuable then." Said Skir. (Appendix 2 Q6) Here, the concept of exchange value from Baudrillard has been illustrated vividly. "Our society thinks itself and speak itself as a consumer society. As much as it consumes anything, it consumes itself as consumer society, as idea. Advertising is the triumphal paean to that idea" (Baudrillard p 193), he has emphasized the importance of image and appearance in contemporary society; it relates directly to the sales effort and to the capitalist political economy. Commodity aesthetics involve the promise of happiness engineered by advertisers through the consumption of images which appeal to human needs and sensuality. In the words of Sylvester the media presents the message: "Buy our products, you too will lead a luxurious life." In this sense, the Chinese are no different from other consumer who include the sign value as an integral part of their consumption decision.
More than half of the respondents would prefer to shop in a boutique rather than a department store. As one of the respondent Sylvester, says. "When you walk into a boutique, the whole atmosphere has been created by the designer, so you are walking into their imagination and fantasy." (Appendix 3 Q23)
There are two different types of consumer in this postmodern society. Active and Passive. Passive consumerism occurs when the consumer buys the brand constantly without regard to or comparison with other brands. An active consumer will buy the same brands because of his preference for the intrinsic value of the product, which they have determined after careful comparison and analysis.
Men tend to be more passive, according to the research conducted. "When I buy things, I only care about the name of the brand, thus, I tend to keep on going back to them season after season. I don't know, I guess it is just the pre-conceived idea that I get when I first started buying it" says Sylvester. (Appendix 3 Q14) Women, on the other hand, seem to be more passive consumers. "I do not have brand loyalty at all. What is the point? We have been given so many choices these days. Why stick to only one brand when you could compare and contrast? We [girls] changes our fashion tastes according to the season. That's the only way to keep ourselves updated with the fashion trend." Says Sam. (Appendix 5 Q7) From these quotes above, we can clearly see the difference between female and male shoppers. The male shopper has identified himself as a passive consumer whereas the female shopper is an active consumer.
Also from the research, men have a wider definition and concept of what luxury goods are. "Cars, gadgets, boats and furniture. Because they are more practical, luxury autos are more comfortable and safer to ride, whereas clothes change all the time." Says Steve (Appendix 4 Q31) "I would more than willing to spend my money on sound systems and the latest gadgets. Fashion comes and goes. I would rather spend my money on something worthwhile. Maybe apiece of land somewhere." Claimed Sylvester. (Appendix 3 Q31) A majority of the women interviewed, said that their ideal of luxury is limits to the fashion-related goods such as watches, jewellery, Haute Couture and Birkin bags. "I usually only shop for clothes, shoes and bags, not gadgets as I don't really use them that much." Said Skir. (Appendix 2 Q20)
There is a huge middle class in the midst of the transition to upper class in China right now, and this class seems to believe that the most immediate way to show off their newly acquired wealth is to purchase the luxury goods that the rest of the population cannot afford. Thus it depicts the power and status they have newly acquired for themselves. "A lot of people who purchase Louis Vuitton in China do not care about fashion; they do not even care about whether what they buy actually looks good on them, China now is going through a crazy development. People want the new money and what the women want is to carry something that is considered expensive" says Hans. (Appendix 1 Q23) This agrees with what Weber has said about the status that a product bring to its consumers, especially when someone buys luxury goods. This showing off of their wealth is common among the parvenus in China. Barthes thought the way one purchases luxury products identifies his or her social class in the society. "Your social surroundings have an impact on you" says Steve. (Appendix 4 Q24) "Luxury is not simply a product, it denotes a history of tradition, superior quality and often a pampered buying experience. Luxury was a natural and expected element of upper-class life, like belonging to the right club or having the right surname." Claimed Hans. (Appendix 1 Q14). On the other hand, there are negative effect to luxury brands which have become too accessible to everybodyâ€¦ A good example would Burberry, which used to be an elite British trench coat maker but is now famous for its all-too visible checks. The once-classy Burberry has become synonymous with trashy and "chavvy" fashion.
In the new millennium, we find a different world, a postmodern world with rapidly shifting self, national and global boundaries. (Johnson and Lio, 1998, p453 - 472). The postmodern world is a world of emergence, contingency, and flux, and ultimately shapes how and why we consume, and our passion for truth and new forms of truth telling. Things are always changing, reflecting people's shopping behavior. Instead of consuming goods themselves, we consumer the meaning of goods as constructed through advertising and display. "[Luxury brands] are selling a dream, a lifestyleâ€¦" says Skir. (Appendix 2 Q5) Baudrillard argued that we become what we buy - it is the signs and symbolic exchanges that are been consumed. Postmodern consumers are challenging groups of people to cater to, as this is a society characterized by fashion consumption and zero brand loyalty. We do not just buy from the same fashion house any longer like our previous generations, we like to buy from different brands "in order to mix and match the goods that we purchase'. In this way rather than everybody has seen from the catwalk, consumers create look based on their own creativity. Current consumers need to have different styles to define themselves. No one would be bothered to dress up everyday just to go the nearest Tesco to get a bottle of water; we "dress up according to different occasions" says Yin. (Appendix 7 Q25) Postmodern consumers demonstrate an uncertainty, and a willingness to change and personal preferences. Advertising, marketing and packaging are key factors that influence the consumer's mind.
As SImmel believed, our consumption patterns are determined by where and how we born and raised. With regard to his view, some interesting findings emerge from the interviews. Through the interviews, which comprised two different groups of people, one that has been living outside their country of origin for a substantial period of time and the other which has only recently moved. Those who have been living abroad for a long time are well-informed about the world of luxury and seem to have developed a unique taste to what they purchase and perceive as luxury. They are more fond of things which draw less attention to themselves and more are in keeping with the crowd that they associate themselves with, the emphasis being on comfort and quality. On the other hand, those who have just moved wish to show the world that they know what luxury is by flaunting loud and unmistakable brands. It is their way of saying, "I am just like you, with taste and class. Do not look down on me because I am Chinese." Says Same. (Appendix 5 Q12) This is also evident to the theory stated by George Simmel of who reasoned that, ones consumption increased with an increase in the social life and that when one tends to relate with more other individuals in the society, he will tend to consume more of luxury so as to maintain his statues in the community.
As the main objective of this dissertation is to analyses the key drivers of Chinese luxury consumption in London. The writer has drawn on the fundamental theories on consumptions and shopping, mainly looking at Baudrillard's belief on de-materialization, Weber forcused more on status, Bourdieu's argument on taste and social class and that of Campbell on identity. Research with the respondents reveals that luxury means superior quality of the products, and depicts self-identity and self-representation, but with a high price-tag. Some of them see a logo as part of the design itself rather than as a branding strategy. A majority change their taste from season to season in keeping with the latest fashion trends. One can show off one's status by displaying the latest purchases. Craftsmanship and heritage of the brands till play an important role in the Chinese attitude towards buying luxury products. They believe that the after-sales service which comes with the products that they purchase is extremely important and that it contributes to why people buy them, enhancing their investment. Generally speaking, there is not much brand loyalty within the luxury industry; the Chinese shop for the style, the fabric and the tailoring. Some respondents believe that as they get older, they would want to draw less attention to themselves. Thus leading them to consuming less conspicuous luxury brands.
On the other hand, some of the respondents tend not to spend money on just products; there is a desire for luxury to permeate other aspects of their lifestyle, such as going on holidays to expose themselves to different cultures, having an exclusive social life and indulging in fine dining, to name a few.
As the economy in the UK has been affected still by the credit crunch, the exchange rate between the Chinese Yuan and UK pounds has dropped significantly, making luxury products are more attractive buy.