SBS Summer School

Managing Luxury Business

At first glance, luxury may seem like a shallow and futile subject matter. But if we look deeper into it, what does luxury reveal about ourselves, our cultures, and our times? Since it is perceived as something adding to pleasure or comfort, it has never been considered as absolutely necessary. Thus luxury is often described as something superfluous, the result of non-functional needs and demands. At the same time, luxury is everywhere in our society, and it has been so always in our history. It may seem that as our economies develop, the primary purpose of exchanging goods is no longer to satisfy vital necessities but to produce things that convey a sense of dream and transcendence while delivering pleasant experiences, distinction, and social status. But, we should question ourselves, is that always the case? Besides, the luxury industry has undergone a process of democratization that has made luxurious products available for a wide range of consumers, a process that is having profound implications for the marketing and management of luxury brands. Are these developments something unique of the capitalist market economy of the Western world?

By using a multidisciplinary approach that digs into philosophy, ethnology, anthropology, and sociology, this course aims at broadening the perspective of economic and managerial approach-es to luxury, especially when there is no consensus in the business literature about the definition of luxury products and brands. We will analyze luxury from a triple perspective, that of production, exchange, and consumption. By doing so, we will be able to gather a more holistic understanding of the social phenomena that are manifested in luxury.
general understanding will also force us to think beyond luxury brands, goods, and commodified experiences, pushing us toward more fundamental questions about what constitutes value, good life, morality, and social order.

Course Structure

This course examines all the aspects of luxury from a theoretical perspective. We will use Veblen’s theory of conspicuous consumption, Bourdieu’s theory of distinction, Appadurai’s biographical approach to commodities, Lipovetsky’s socio-historical analysis of luxury, and Roux’s semiotic and managerial theory of luxury. This way we will concentrate on the main luxury topics and concepts like:

• Conspicuous Consumption and Emulation
• Habitus, Taste, and Social Distinction
• Commoditization Processes
• Politics of Value Creation
• Regimes of Value

By the end of this course, you will learn to analyze luxury from a sociological, anthropological, and philosophical perspective, and produce insights that will help you as a margin manager of a luxury brand. You will be able to contextualize in-depth the identity of luxury brands of an area specialist and turn that knowledge into convincing oral arguments and critical writing. All these are skills you will need to master in order to become a successful manager in the luxury business.

Topics Covered

• Anthropology & Economics
• An Introduction to Luxury & Status
• The Leisure Class
• The Social Life of Luxury Products
• Regimes of Value
• History of Luxury
• Luxury and Culture
• Anthropology of Luxury Brands & Corporations
• From Craftsmanship to Marketing
• A Market of Distinction and Prestige
• Taste & Status Symbols
• Anthropology of Conspicuous Consumption


Ignacio Iturralde

Guest Lecturer - Executive Education

After graduating from ESADE with his BBA and MBA degrees, Ignacio developed his professional career in the marketing departments of some of the most renowned FMCG multinationals. Thus, becoming a successful top manager in the areas of Strategy, Sales & Marketing, Innovation, Product Design, and Business Development. Founded several startups. Since 2008, he also works as a freelance consultant in Strategic Management projects and as a collaborator of Buenaidea in many Innovation projects (SEAT-VW Group, among others).

More Details

Course Infomation


August 23 – September 3, 2021


2000 CHF*



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