Formally, ours is an egalitarian age. One of the great custodians of this idea is the fashion establishment, at least in America, where fashion editorials relentlessly drive home equal rights, inclusion, globalism, etc.
It is also absurd. Many brands trade on national identity and massive unequal wealth polices luxury, and especially haute couture. Asymmetries of power place the fashion establishment in a bubble of access and private jets whilst staff, often in abusive work relationships, just try to stay afloat in an increasingly gig economy (https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2018/sep/02/academic-exposing-ugly-reality-high-fashion-giulia-mensitieri).
Both Scheler (V&R Chapter 5) and Kolnai (V&R Chapter 7) argued that despite our age’s egalitarian drumbeat privilege and hierarchy would prove resilient.
Fashion pages are so confused because one minute they will tell us about inclusivity and the next report what is happening on the ground and it’s the very opposite. Case in point is Ruh:
You would not know from reading this article that it is about a fashion brand offering high-end modest wear, primarily to Islamic women. Ruh is an Arabic word for a person’s immortal soul, a person’s essential self. The founder, Sonia Trehan, studied religion at Columbia. Obviously, V&R is delighted that someone with a theological background is involved in fashion.
Perhaps it is the theology behind the brand that explains its business plan rooted in privilege and hierarchy. Ruh is a business built around the idea of a gentleman’s club, only in this case solely for women. This is a point Huizinga makes: play always leads to the founding of clubs. The brand owns a brown stone in New York that functions as a salon for wearers of the brand. Members when in NY can meet there, follow the club’s activities, and engage in discussions with like-minded women. The website to purchase clothing is accessible only once permission to join the club is given, and this permission depends on evidence that the women involved are clubbable.
Egalitarians will be horrified, and some conservatives worried about Islam might also be disturbed. I think there are reasons for conservatives sometimes to be rightly worried — I have written about the mistake the heritage brand M&S made in making the burkini (https://www.lawliberty.org/2016/09/07/burke-and-burkinis/) — but Burke, Scheler, Kolnai, and Huizinga, would all respond positively to this idea of a brand as a club.
An important point about this business plan is that membership is not determined by price. Examples of this kind of exclusivity is common and a new example is Tiffany’s exclusive sale’s room (https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/inside-tiffanys-secret-salon-for-the-super-rich?utm_campaign=1251d0720d-the-end-of-amazon&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Subscribers&utm_term=0_d2191372b3-1251d0720d-417297929).
Ruh is more akin to business cases where regular people, so to say, are not allowed to buy e.g. special issue Ferrari or Jaguar cars offered only to collectors, or the application process required to be considered for a purchase of a Patek Philippe watch.