It's pure personal pleasure
For me, luxury has always been something personal and interior. It is not about flaunting logos and visible wealth. The feel of a fine fabric, even the rustle of the material or the pleasure of stroking a beautiful bag, means more to me than showing off to other people.
I find something noble in the idea that an object is produced by an individual. The mind and the hands of an artistic person are my starting point for luxury. I feel this attitude is spreading.
Nobody is obliged to care about luxury. It is a word that has lost most of its allure. Luxury means different things to different people but is always about the pleasure of owning, or seeing or experiencing, something special.
In the eyes of the beholder, luxury always seems to me to be one step up: the first pleasure beyond life's necessities. For some people it might be the joy of owning a special set of cutlery instead of basic knives and forks. For a lot of people it is an object that becomes special because of who has given it.
The essence and base point of luxury is that it is not a necessity. So its choice is first about being able to have such an object. Then about really wanting it. But I don't think luxury is important, except to those who think that way.
Craftsmanship does not have to involve human hands directly. But there must be a human factor in the choice of fine fabrics and materials and making the object. Bad craftsmanship suggests thoughtless selection of base materials, sloppy work, careless printing and so on.
After I left South Africa [in July] I went to Kenya to look at the work of UN collectives that both help African women to have paid employment and encourage them to make things to a high (quality) level of handwork. The built-in sustainability created for Ilaria Fendi and her handbags and the work for Stella McCartney, Sass & Bide and Vivienne Westwood prove that work can be done in Africa that is appropriate to world markets, ethical and useful for helping women in society.
I cannot pretend that these small operations can transform a country's economy. But when you are talking about thousands of job creations and money paid by big companies (Stella McCartney, for instance, is part of the PPR luxury group), this has to be helpful.
I noted that Hanneli Rupert's store, Merchants on Long in Cape Town and Anabelle Thom in Nairobi both had interesting examples of African designers' work.
It would be good to see more independent stores supporting local craft.
All the IHT luxury conferences over the last 12 years have had a theme. For example, Sustainablity in India and Techno-luxury in Berlin. The complete title of this [year's] conference is "The Promise of Africa/The Power of the Mediterranean". So much focus has been put on the east recently, especially China. It is important to see the potential in Africa.
Curated by Menkes, The 12th annual International Herald Tribune Luxury Conference, 'The Promise of Africa/The Power of the Mediterranean', takes place in Rome on November 15 and 16