Brand Profile: M. Gemi

There’s something about New York City during the holidays.

It’s almost criminal to duck into the subway on your commute when the streets are lined with tree stands and Christmas lights. Then, of course, there are the window displays.

Extravagant only begins to describe it. These windows demand your attention, never failing to draw crowds of onlookers. I recently walked home via Madison Avenue so I could see the best of the best, a willing victim of the big players in luxury fashion. I was practically begging New York to show off for me. Yet, instead of the awe I was anticipating, I realized something quite startling: these names I’ve grown up hearing about – studying, researching, even pining after – meant nothing to me. I didn’t feel anything when I walked by the shops. What happened?

That same week, a friend of mine bought a bag from a big designer name while away on vacation. When she relayed her experience to me, guess what was most exciting about the purchase? The thing she couldn’t leave out of the story?

The discount.

Never mind the name she is now carrying on her arm, the fact that it was an additional 30% off an already discounted price was the most memorable part of her experience.

Is this luxury? You know, the kind that made it into my fashion history textbooks in school or the exhibits at the Met? If so, what part?

Does “luxury” describe the full experience of purchasing an item? From the second you walk into the shop, through your interaction with the salesperson, and finally the way it feels when you exit with a shopping bag in hand? Or does this word merely refer to the brand name itself? Can the word “luxury” remain intact even if the shopping experience would have been the same at a less prestigious retailer? Would bright red sale signs detract from your experience? What about seeing someone else walking down the street with the same item?

If the word “luxury” still applies when all that’s left is a logo, we have to recognize we’ve changed the definition of luxury altogether. We’re acknowledging that luxury, in fact, has nothing to do with the product in question – the reason why money exchanged hands in the first place – nor the way it’s presented or sold. No, this type of luxury was born outside of any factory or workshop. This luxury is created and reinforced by every commercial, magazine ad, Instagram post, or red carpet mention. It’s a world that exists only in editorial form, one that appeals to our ideal self and entices us with an invitation to belong, proclaiming that our ticket into this dream world is nothing more than a purchase.

A luxury purchase always involves more than the functional utility of a product, but if this is luxury, why is it you’re paying such a premium? You’re paying to keep this dream world alive.

Sale on sale, plastic hangers, aloof salespeople – what part of this communicates “luxury”? I can take those three characteristics and apply them to nearly every retailer in Manhattan. Do I need to make a special trip to have this experience? Pay a higher price? Where is the connection between the glossy advertisements I see daily and the real-life experience? Will I be satisfied if that connection just doesn’t exist?

What if it’s time for a new definition of luxury? One that elevates our experience to a place where our time is valued, our patronage is deeply appreciated, and our satisfaction is a top priority?

Would you believe me if all of this is attainable without leaving your house (read: tiny studio apartment)?

Well. It’s time we talked about M. Gemi.

Italian craftsmanship. New designs weekly. Free shipping and returns. Excellent customer service. Prices that make sense.

They call it postluxury.

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What this boils down to: M. Gemi is taking the excess (and snobbery…) out of luxury. They’ve shifted the focus back to the product, giving you the best they possibly can, no exceptions. Uncompromising construction and quality, coupled with modern designs in limited releases – meaning your purchase will outlast fickle trend cycles and will most certainly stand out from the crowd. Exclusivity – remember that word? – they’re bringing it back. This has nothing to do with the prohibitive pricing of the past, and everything to do with rarity. Because as much as I love my fellow New Yorkers, I don’t want to see my exact outfit walking down the street toward me.

Oh, and M. Gemi will bend over backwards to make sure you feel valued as a customer.

In NY? Visit their showroom in SoHo for true VIP treatment. You can try on every style of shoe, glass of bubbly in hand, and have your perfect fit sent to you in a matter of days.

And because there is no space for excess in this new definition of luxury (or in most of our closets), M. Gemi will donate your gently used shoes.

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Does reality match the image of luxury you hold in your mind? For me, the answer was no (read more about this revelation here). My indifference toward the brands I passed on Madison Ave. starts to make sense: what are they doing differently, what makes them special? Resting on the laurels from their glory days? Unfortunately that just won’t cut it.

Now? I’m quite enjoying this new definition. And my new pumps.

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