You cannot just walk in and buy a pair of Maison Bonnet glasses

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You cannot just walk in and buy a pair of Maison Bonnet glasses.

Instead, you must be prepared for a lengthy consultation. No less than twelve face measurements will be taken. Your preferred style will be discussed in detail. Your glasses will take between two and nine months to make.

Almost nothing is ready to wear. Almost everything is bespoke.

Brothers Franck and Steven Bonnet operate their business in Paris today in much the same way their great-grandfather did in the 1930s.

Over the years the family business has crafted glasses for such luminaries as Le Corbusier, Yves Saint-Laurent, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and, more recently, Jony Ive.

But it does not matter who you are. You have to wait for your pair to be handcrafted. And that takes time.

The same applies at another French institution, the luxury fashion house Hermès.

Should you have the desire (and budget) for one of the brand’s iconic Birkin bags then you better be patient.

Ostensibly out of stock, Hermès controls the supply of Birkin bags with great care. If you want one, you have to earn your place in the queue, by becoming a frequent customer of their other products.

Artificial scarcity is a playbook followed carefully by Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe, whose key insight seems to have been that hugely wealthy people are particularly susceptible to wanting things they cannot have (perhaps because everything else comes so easily to them).

And so their customers will happily wait years to get the opportunity to drop six figures on a timepiece.

Operating in this way is clearly good for retaining a premium price point and building the mystique necessary to endure as a high luxury brand.

But it is also good for cashflow.

Ferrari has mastered the art of producing cars that have been pre-ordered by its customers. There are few better ways to operate a business than to only make things that have already been sold.

This also helps retain the resale value of the cars already in the marketplace – which in turn gives customers the confidence to pay that bit more when they place an order for a new one.

It is a virtuous cycle that Aston Martin is now trying to emulate.

After years of underachievement and over supply the British marque is hoping to rebuild its reputation as a luxury brand by acting with restraint – and only building cars to order.


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