Radiance, ostentation, magnificence, refinement, abundance... so many adjectives that qualify and define the notion of luxury and its universe. But do you know the history of luxury in France? What was the very first luxury brand to be created? Who is the leading luxury brand? From royalty to the renaissance, between know-how and excellence, history and inspiring past, retrospective of a world where opulence seduces and never stops reinventing itself to continue to make people dream.


What is the definition of luxury?

Relative and subjective, luxury is defined as what is rare, expensive, refined and exquisite. It is also said that luxury sometimes meets superfluous demands and that it is not a basic need. Luxury also appears as the fruit of a creation, almost directly linked to art. Associated with the emotional, experimental and sensory aspect, it knows how to adapt to societies and times.

The different luxury sectors are as follows

  • High Jewellery
  • Haute Couture
  • Fine watchmaking
  • Luxury leather goods
  • Luxury cars
  • Luxury Perfumes
  • Luxury Hotels
  • Fine Food and Wine


History of luxury: who created luxury?

Luxury has been around for thousands of years and is often a symbol of power and a certain social class. The first manifestations of luxury appeared in ancient Egypt. Jewellery, perfumes, colours, aesthetic sensibility was revealed and materialised in precious ornaments and representative statuettes. Elitist and synonymous with opulence, this luxury was reserved for the gods, pharaohs, priests and their families.

The Renaissance saw the advent of precious fabrics, lace, silk and goldsmiths. But the real development of the history of luxury goes back to Louis XIV and his Minister of Finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert at the end of the 17th century. In 1662, the Manufacture des Gobelins was founded, followed in 1665 by the Manufacture royale des glaces, which later became the Compagnie de Saint-Gobain. Bringing together the best designers, craftsmen and workers, these institutions developed a unique and highly coveted French know-how that was constantly being exported. Mirrors, tapestries, porcelain, an expertise and a signature talent that truly gave birth to French luxury and, gradually, elegance became tradition.  

The appearance of luxury as we know it today came much later, in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the creation of fashion houses, led by the English precursor Charles Frederick Worth. At that time, fashion designers only worked on request from their clients and did not have a complete collection to show. Charles Frederick Worth, based in Paris, came up with the idea of exhibiting his pieces at world fairs and organising the first fashion shows. His collections changed frequently, adapting to the seasons and following a cycle that is still seen today on the fashion week show calendars. This is the beginning of the spring/summer and autumn/winter collections. A major innovation and a unique concept in the history of luxury and fashion.


Who was the first luxury brand?

The oldest known brand is Château Haut-Brion, a famous Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé. It is considered to be the world's first great wine and the creation of its estate dates back to 1521, making it the oldest luxury brand in the world. Chateau Haut-Brion is an illustrious reference in the field of wine and gastronomy.


Who is the world leader in luxury?

The LVMH group is the world's number one luxury brand, owning the Louis Vuitton brand, valued in 2022 at 20.2 billion euros. This flagship of French luxury, which was originally a leather goods company specialising in travel trunks, is now known and recognised for its exclusive collections and is considered one of the most luxurious in the world. An undisputed leader and a true icon of luxury in France and around the world, Louis Vuitton is, thanks to its emblematic past and its ability to reinvent itself, an iconic brand in the history and codes of luxury.

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