Perusing the August 26th Sunday New York Times Style Magazine, ogling the latest in women's fashion, my mind wanders. Apparently there's an insatiable market for luxury apparel; the 316 page issue is jam-packed with goodies like a $3,495 Chanel Jersey Handbag and a freaky looking $5,390 Louis Vuitton Feather Necklace. Then again, if you really want to make that special someone really happy, go for the $26,500 Hermes Sable-and-Crocodile Kelly Muff or perhaps something more practical like the $23,155 Yves Saint Laurent sweater embroidered by Lesage. I'm sure it's all splendid couture, but doesn't that strike you as a little extreme?
Thing is, the lucky Yves Saint Laurent sweater owner will probably wear the thing two or three times a year. The rest of the time it'll be safely hidden away in a drawer. By contrast, a high-end audio system can be enjoyed on a daily basis. So sure, a $6,500 McIntosh MA2275 stereo amplifier might at first blush seem exorbitantly pricey, but it probably has a much longer and useful life span than most of the goodies so lavishly displayed in the Style Magazine. Oh, and I loved the matter-of-fact style of the magazine's prose, never once was the price an issue. You see, outrageously expensive apparel is apparently the norm.
I'd like to point out that American made hi-fi, like that McIntosh amplifier, is made by Americans who like to earn a living wage and receive benefits, health insurance, etc. Mass market audio, $500 A/V receivers, MP3 players and their ilk are assembled in China by 15 year old girls working 16 hours a day, who are lucky to get 20 minute lunch breaks. That's one way to keep prices under control.
While it's true that even in the high-end some companies are moving production "off shore," most of the top tier brands still manufacture their products here or in Europe. The only really major American industries still manufacturing here are making cars and planes. Their factories employ hundreds of thousands of people--but their days are numbered--so those jobs will be gone in the next decade or two. And when that happens, who's gonna buy those sweaters?
Have a great Labor Day weekend!