Luxury Brand "Bargains" Aplenty, But Who's Interested?

People whose job it is to shill luxury brands are flipping the fuck out right about now. According to Guy Trebay's panicky piece in yesterday's New York Times, everything, everything is on sale. Barneys New York had a "designer freak-out sale." Saks dumped Prada wallets — usually kept under glass — into bargain-basement style display stands. Fashion éminence grise Tim Gunn says:

"I was in Saks last week, and there were these staggering discounts and it’s not even Jan. 1. I was told by easily half a dozen sales associates that if I opened a Saks credit card, I’d get another 15 percent off. What I wonder is, 'What are the real margins?'"

Alana Semuels writes in the Wall Street Journal that some luxury brands are throwing lavish parties in order to "trigger that buying feeling." Extravagant events aren't a waste if you target your customer and instill loyalty, the thinking goes.

But on the retail level, Mr. Trebay writes of Valentino evening gowns marked down 60%, of Loro Piana cashmere blazers priced at $329, down from $2,000. Here's the thing: In this uncertain and tough economic climate, does "luxury" lose its appeal altogether, no matter the "bargain"? Questions Trebay:

Once consumers become acquainted with slash-and-burn prices, how can designer fashion regain its mystique? Will shoppers ever again want to buy luxury goods at full price?

Listen, even if you could never afford any "luxury" items, they still had a place, a role as untouchably elegant and remote; something to fantasize about. Does a Marc Jacobs bag still seem special, rare and unique when you've seen a bin full of them at slashed prices? Never mind what happens to a dream deferred — what happens to a dream marked down?

Luxury Prices Are Falling; the Sky, Too [NY Times]
Luxury Brands Go Over The Top To Connect With Wealthy Clients [WSJ]