Fluff

I’m still reeling from the Valentine (to put it politely) that the New York Times gave Tod’s owner Diego Della Valle this week. Since when did foreign correspondents do such blatant puff profiles of fashion figures in the pages of the daily? I thought those were the domain of T, at least during the Stefano Tonchi era. This is the second love letter Della Valle has received in the mainstream media about how he is the only one in the luxury business who has maintained his integrity, particularly when it comes to manufacturing; The New Yorker also did a similar one-sided take-out a couple of years ago. I guess the glare of advertising dollars blinds self-professed objective news publications as much as it does glossy fashion magazines now.

While I was researching my book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, it took me exactly

24 hours in Hong Kong to find a manufacturer in China who specialized in

Deluxe How Luxury Lost Its Luster, by Dana Thomas

producing luxury brand handbags and to tour the factories. When I walked onto the factory floor, I was stupefied by the number of major brands—two dozen or more, I’d say—that were being produced there. Most were Italian, though there were a couple of Brits too, and most claimed publicly that everything was produced in their homeland by artisans. I find suspect anyone who crows loudly that their products are made by hand in Italy or France or Britain—as do the U.K. courts, which condemned Louis Vuitton for promoting a false image of this in its advertising campaign last summer.

What I do know is that I found some pretty shabbily made Tod’s shoes in the company’s high-design outlet store outside of Palm Springs, Calif. Unevenly cut leather, raw edges that weren’t even dyed, mangled seams, as if the shoe got stuck in a sewing machine—these were shoes that, according to The New Yorker at least, should have never passed Della Valle’s crack team of inspectors. Yet they did, and were for sale for $75 to $85—a quarter of what is obviously their over-inflated full retail price.

If those shoes were honestly made by hand by Italian craftsmen, there is no reason to boast about Italian craftsmanship. More importantly, there’s zero integrity in selling the rejects, at any price.