Imagining 2012 – True Luxury
It sounds like a morality tale to say that too much luxury in life will leave you yearning to experience something more substantial and real.
That may be so but it is also a commercial reality. Travel through London, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo or Singapore and you will see that the commercial luxury world is at risk of becoming a homogenous, uninspiring place with its generic hotels, airports, malls and luxury flagship stores being built everywhere, erasing regional differentiation and the very culture and character that is the essence of luxury.
Because of this, some luxury consumers are almost becoming anti-brand, certainly anti-branding, and want to experience the real thing, or at least strive to be much more selective, savvy and demanding with their choices. Also after a decade of luxury boom, sensitive consumers can now easily discover what is phoney and scripted, and increasingly value honest products, natural materials, trusted stories and authentic, human-centred experiences. So, the most savvy of luxury brands are changing the way they engage with their audiences, taking steps away from the familiar, ostentatious facade and adopting a more authentic, simplified and human approach to creating their brand experiences.
Recently, we have heard the rumours of brands such as Christian Louboutin, Ralph Lauren and Vivienne Westwood looking to move their London stores into the raw, edgy streets of the East End.
As some luxury brands are retreating from the prestigious spotlight to the back streets, consumers are experiencing a more authentic and stripped-down version of the tried and tested retail and leisure which is leaving us increasingly underwhelmed. In addition, new, but recognisable, retail experiences are springing up in an unprecedented fashion, such as the honest and humble offering by homewares brand Labour and Wait, and the sincere, authentic and highly regarded skincare brand Aesop. People are also flocking to unpretentious yet premium retreats like The Olde Bell Inn in sleepy Hurley, UK.
In all of this, building a luxury relationship with consumers and offering meaningful brand experiences is key. To regain brand loyalty, brands are trying to appear more accidental and human, offering experiences with greater authenticity and transparency.
To regain luxury differentiation, brands are moving away from formatted chains of establishments and experimenting with new retail concepts in unconventional places, adding layers of personality and locality to their experiential offerings. Louis Vuitton’s global Maison concept is designed specifically to emphasise local character and culture within the global super brand. In Beijing, Pangu, the seven-star hotel and retail experience, is creating a new and unique expression of China luxury to rival the ubiquitous luxury imports.
And, in a very important sense, overconsumption is no longer a signal of success in a troubled world. There’s an increasing attraction to authenticity and honesty in design, and a growing demand for inherent sustainability in our products, services and experiences. Luxury establishments have to feel more like local, independent businesses that have evolved over time and in a passionate, truthful and organic way. This growing interest in reassuring brand values and an authentic brand story is the reason why so many heritage brands are experiencing unprecedented success today.
As the uber-wealthy get wealthier, their use of wealth will be motivated by a cultural dimension that goes beyond consumption. This emerging trend is built on responsibility and conscience, and is evolving from the inside. Whilst the wealthy are seeking a more spiritual direction in both selfexpression, they are taking a philanthropic approach that not only leaves the destinations unharmed, but actually helps the destinations flourish.
This experience of a return to luxury values, quality, craft, passion and soul, beyond luxury branding, will be mutually enriching for the brand, the consumer and the places in which they meet.
If you missed our previous experiences that we expect to make up 2012 then don't fear. We have discussed the pervasive world mood of edginess, the future of now, gamification, the blurring boundaries between the digital and real world, the future of haptic technology and the Asian demand surge.