The luxury industry boomed with Louis XIV and his heirs. He made it mandatory for the nobles to invest their fortunes in the French luxury industry by following the latest fashion that the king indicated. And manufacturing exquisite clothes, metal and glass objects, fountains, fireworks, perfumes, palaces with outstanding perfection and finish requires precision and new engineering methods, chemical experimentation, search for new materials, better tools.

Versailles created a mass market for textiles since people took after the nobles. Lots of second hand was available to inspire it. Even a beggar could wear a very fanciful hat if it were torn.

Did Versailles hasten the industrial revolution in Europe? France was indeed ahead during the early industrialization. Are there any specific examples of luxury manufacturing that evolved into e.g. mechanized textile mass production?

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    Not Versailles or 17th, and I'm sure others will come up with crunchy anecdotes, but I recollect reading in a book or two that the British Royal family was instrumental in popularizing cotton lingerie during the Victorian era. It basically was a brilliant marketing play by the cotton industry - on par with how Gillette convinced millions of women that they should shave at a time when their sales were slow. Jul 25, 2017 at 16:56
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    @DenisdeBernardy Gillette is ingenious! They charge $5 for a razor blade, which always has been the cheapest item in any shop.
    – LocalFluff
    Jul 25, 2017 at 17:28

2 Answers 2


Luxury manufacturing in the 17th century was a precursor to more of the same in the 18th and 19th centuries. This was one of the economic policies of Colbert, under Louis XIV, to produce and export high valued added goods such as glassware and tapestry that would earn a lot of foreign exchange for France. Production of these goods represented a form of "industry," although it was a different kind of industry than the factory-based manufacturing that started in England and the U.S. during the Industrial Revolution. France held the lead in this form of industry for several centuries, some would say even today, although not in "industry" overall. This policy worked until the middle to later part of the industrial revolution, when mass produced goods supplanted high-value low volume goods.

To give some examples of the later period, champagne manufacturers Moet and Hennessy were started in the mid 18th century. They later merged with leather goods manufacturer, Louis Vuitton, which was started in the mid 19th century.


No, the wealthy French of Louis XIV, or the wealthy British, did not have much to do with industrialization, other than financing some of the efforts.

Industrialization thrived, when the price of items normally considered luxuries, was lowered to the point where a large number of people could afford them. Less per item profit, but far more sales. It was the millions of potential customers: average people, and the prospect of doing what automated manufacturing does best: produce quantity at a lower price, that was the motivating force behind industrialization. Industrialization actually worked against the exclusivity of luxury items, by lowering the price to the point where they were no longer exclusive or extravagant.

Example: The elaborate woven textile patterns of the 1700's were limited to a wealthy few, because such clothing was hand weaved by skilled weavers. One missed stitch could ruin months of work. The material needed for a single evening gown could take up to a year for a hand weaver to produce.

The coming of the Jacquard loom, which automated those patterns with punch cards, cut the price of elaborate textile patterns dramatically. The woven silk material to produce that evening gown could now be produced in a couple of days, by a far less skilled person. Consequently, the price dropped to a point where the less than noble could now afford them. And... sadly for the wealthy, such elaborate clothing was no longer so exclusive.

Industrialism wasn't propelled by the wealthy. It was motivated by the desire to provide the luxuries of the wealthy, at a price the far more numerous working people could afford, so that the industrialists could have a larger market and... more profit.

In a curious reversal, it was the Dissenters in the UK who left London and moved north to escape the discrimination of the British upper crust that were to form the nucleus of the Industrial Revolution. Within a century, these outcasts became the British upper crust. Not by birthright or inheritance, but by the vast sums of money they made.

  • Sources would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Jul 29, 2017 at 1:16

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