What is the point of luxury? Though we all aspire to experience it, how do we know when we have it?
A recent exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London, examined the meaning of luxury and asked why humans pay so much attention to the concept.
From diamonds and exquisitely hand-crafted clothes to vintage champagne and high-end resorts, we associate luxury with the non-essential, the exclusive and the extraordinary.
Hence we now have genetically modified albino cucumbers, which are reportedly worth more than their weight in gold, and an insatiable market for rhino horn, which risks the extinction of an entire species.
The second part of the V&A exhibition reimagined the future of luxury and speculated about its relationship with value. It analysed the supply chains of various high-end electronic goods, tracing some of their materials back to their source at a polluted radioactive lake in Mongolia. Is luxury responsible, and do we care?
Other exhibits examined concerns over the loss of privacy and ownership of our biological data in the digital age, and postulated the future of luxury may be more to do with privacy and authenticity than expensive clothes and holidays.
Can we attach a value to friendship, freedom of expression, laughter, a beautiful view or just peace and quiet? For many, these intangible assets are already becoming luxury commodities.
At a recent luxury hotel reception in Central, guests winced as their teeth vibrated in time to the torturous, deafening crash of a pile driver at an adjacent construction site. A five-star luxury migraine? I think not.