Spain’s style icons and top firms seek to redefine ‘luxury’

Current definition too negative and fails to take account of emotions, firms argue

Loewe  handbags and high-quality leather goods   on display in the Barrio Salamanca, a fashionable shopping  area  in Madrid. Photograph: Cristina Arias/Getty Images

Loewe handbags and high-quality leather goods on display in the Barrio Salamanca, a fashionable shopping area in Madrid. Photograph: Cristina Arias/Getty Images

 

In Spain, it seems, luxury is in the eye of the beholder.

A group of high-end businesses are lobbying for the country’s royal language academy, the RAE, to revise its definition of the word “luxury”, on the grounds that it is currently too negative.

The academy’s definition reads: “Excess in terms of adornment, splendour and comfort. Abundance of unnecessary things. All of that which exceeds the average resources required to be obtained.”

The Círculo Fortuny, a group of three-dozen top-end Spanish firms, including vintners, cheesemakers and hoteliers, has asked the academy to find a different definition, apparently because of their own close association with the word in question.

The group’s chairman, Carlos Falcó, said the current definition of luxury suggested “something reserved for the rich and which, in some way, is only for leisure and serves no purpose.”

“There could be a better definition,” said Mr Falcó, who is also the Marquis of Griñón.

Loewe fashion label

The proposal has been sponsored by Enrique Loewe, whose family founded the Loewe fashion label, widely seen as one of the most luxurious in Spain. A Loewe sweatshirt costs €890, while one of the firm’s manbags will set you back €1,500.

In a country that is still feeling the effects of its recent economic slump and where monthly wages are often under €1,000, the current definition of luxury would satisfy many Spaniards.

However, Mr Falcó believes the word should be associated with “something unique, where emotions are involved” and which “somehow seeks culture and which gives the sensation of being unrepeatable”.

‘That is luxury’

As an example he cited a recent meal he had with his daughter, when they shared an omelette made with the first harvest of the season of olives grown on his land. “That is luxury and that’s the definition which should be used,” he said.

Silvia Ortega, author of a book titled The New Luxury Experience, approved, tweeting: “It was about time that the RAE had a broader vision of the term ‘luxury’.”

But others have viewed the initiative more sceptically. “Welcome to the world of Orwell,” posted another Twitter user. “Capitalism modifying language on a whim.”

However, the academy has said that it is still only considering the change, which could take a long time to be implemented. The 22 different Spanish language academies outside Spain – in Latin America, Africa and the Philippines – will first have to approve a new definition.