What does luxury mean anymore?
29 Nov 2019
‘Luxury’ is going through an identity crisis now that businesses are moving towards inclusivity and diversity. What does it really mean to be a luxury brand today? For our November Underground Session, we partnered with iZettle to look 'Beyond Luxury.’ In light of today’s retail environment, we discussed how luxury brands are distancing themselves from traditional stereotypes in order to stay relevant. Our expert speakers included: Rosh Mahtani, Founder of jewellery brand Alighieri; Marco Vianello, Head of Sales at Tomorrow; Jema Avedian, Global Head of Marketing & Communications at Positive Luxury; and Phoebe Gormley, Founder of women’s tailoring company Gormley & Gamble. How can brands keep in tune with current trends and future-proof their business? Here are the key learnings from the event:
Remember time is the new luxury
The word means different things to different people. Millennials as a whole spend their money by dedicating time to a particular purchase. Traditionally, luxury was linked to a product or a service, but now it’s an experience, so in some ways, time is the new luxury. When discussing this, Rosh illustrated the challenges that she came up against when setting up her business and how this strengthened her brand story: “I would hand-deliver a package because it was cheaper than shipping, it meant I would meet a customer and build a relationship with them. People knew my spare time was rare and they loved that.”
Reflect your tribe
Another secret to success learned in the session, was the importance of building a tribe and showing you’re dedicating time to them by having a dialogue.For the younger generation in particular, fashion is a reflection of reality, so this new generation of millennials are building brands in line with what customers their own age want. They are a generation looking for freedom, so in order to connect with your demogaphic, mimic the narratives and don’t stick to the rules. However, for Phoebe, she’s not targeting millennials: “I’d rather have women of all ages. I’m not joining the millennial race. People are living longer and retiring at 60.” And how does she tap into this community? “I spend hours in the dressing rooms with high-flying CEOs and we talk about our insecurities.”
Think quality over quantity
On the topic of sustainability, it’s important to highlight a product’s uniqueness and to communicate a brand story that people can buy into. For Alighiert, they create "forever pieces" that’s imbued with meaning. In other words, it’s producing with purpose; newness is not the same as fast fashion. Just make sure nothing is a throwaway piece or is following a trend. Necessity is key: a woman wears just 20% of her wardrdobe 80% of the time so make sure you're in that 20%. Invest in a core piece that will last. People aren’t buying into trends as much and so do what you can for repeat customers so that they're buying for their own kids and generations after that
Show you’re taking sustainability seriously
There are big developments in eco-innovation in the retail industry, such as wrapping paper that can dissolve in water. When incorporating your environmental stance it's, admittedly, easier for new brands who are starting afresh as heritage brands have a legacy that hasn’t ever considered sustainability. Phoebe highlighted the industry-wide use of “green washing”, giving the example of big names on Bond Street who often get away with using polyester by hiding behind their fame. As long as you're producing, no brand can be 100% sustainable, but people just want to see a brand putting in the effort and working towards a timeframe.
Energise your physical retail
Pop-ups have proven hugely useful for Gormley and Gamble when researching a particular area as it’s a great way to test the waters without a big financial risk. Because of the low cost involved, pop-ups have also made retail a lot more democratic as yt’s more accessible to emerging brands. A store should sell a curated offering with a particular customer in mind. London is a global leader when it comes to department stores, take Selfridges dynamic approach; there’s skateboarding, a cinema, and beauty stations with girls getting ready for the weekend. The whole store vibrates. This is where Barney’s went wrong, Luxury used to be elitist but it’s more accepting now. It’s about inclusion and creating a world where everyone can have a voice.