In the final of a three-part series borne from the BHCVB Future of Luxury report, we investigate the emerging phenomenon taking brands to the limits of ‘Luxury 3.0’ – where sensploration, experiences and ‘savoir faire’ rule supreme.
Over the last few weeks, Luxury Society has introduced readers to the evolution dubbed ‘Luxury 2.0’ – the digitalization of exclusivity, brought you the ‘The Top 11 Luxury Hubs Of UHNWIs’, listing the prime locations of wealthy consumers by population, what they are spending on and what’s next, and investigated the depths of ‘sensploration’ – the experiential trend taking over the luxury landscape.
Now, here, these concepts come together to form a vision for the future of luxury, past digital – where, while acknowledging the importance of the digital offer, luxury consumers will seek out more original and authentic experiences that cannot be seen or bought online.
“ The essence of ‘Luxury 3.0’ is where consumers will revert back to such “old-school” concepts ”
This is the essence of ‘Luxury 3.0’, where consumers will revert back to such “old-school” concepts as locally sourced food and beverages, traditional craftsmanship, bespoke tailoring and more.
Collated as part of the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau (BHCVB) global trend report on the ‘Future of Luxury’ – authored by trend forecaster, IN (K) – this research was part of a wider examination into the current landscape of the global luxury market, and here, we bring you another extract from its findings.
Experience, Exclusivity & Brand Spaces
Fashion brands are serial innovators: the sector thrives on giving customers a bespoke experience, and it was Los Angeles that provided the very first pop-up retail experience, with 1997’s Ritual Expo, dubbed “the ultimate hipster mall.”
“ Pop-up retail creates a unique environment that engages customers and generates a feeling of interactivity ”
Pop-up retail allows a company to create a unique environment that engages customers and generates a feeling of interactivity. Utilizing a temporary space also allows retailers to test products or locations, as well as soft-launch concepts. These spaces need to make a big impact as they aren’t around for long.
Their short-term nature creates exclusivity, and they are effective at generating media coverage. Now the experience offer is being honed with hands-on spaces, exciting collaborations, hotels offering celebrity-ready services, and concept stores building on the revival of menswear. But how else can luxury purveyors enhance the experience that consumers feel for their brands?
From Pop-Up Stores To Experiential Flagships
Taking things to the next level, brands are learning from their pop-ups’ emphasis on customer experience to enhance their traditional retail offerings. Increasingly brands are turning stores into “brand spaces” or opening experiential extensions of their brands to showcase craftsmanship, finely sourced materials, commitment to the environment or to offer greater interactivity.
Hermès pavilion designed byToyo Ito for Baselworld
Whether it is a distillery set up as a laboratory space to show the spirit-maker’s know-how (Vancouver’s Long Table); a jeans brand opening a non-automated workshop for the public to see its products being stitched by hand (Raleigh Denim); or a luxe carmaker allowing visitors to its Mayfair flagship to use touchscreens to customize its automobiles (Audi), brands are embracing the buzz and experiential aspect of pop-ups to anchor their creativity and send a strong visual message.
These examples highlight that physical objects are no longer the core value unit for luxury providers. Instead, they are investing in customer experience and the aggregation of their digital and physical offers.
Ana Andjelic of Havas Media Luxe Hub states that “seamlessness, convenience, speed and quality of personal service” are the new hallmarks of luxury – in short, omnichannel. Within this retail model, brick and mortar stores, online and experiential brand extensions all contribute to a seamless customer journey.
“ Retail is becoming as much a communication channel as a shopping experience ”
With massive online retailers such as Amazon and Google now opening physical stores to introduce customers to their technology, retail is becoming as much a communication channel as a shopping experience.
Innovation & The Outsider
Far-sighted brands are bringing art and fashion together, as innovation, exclusivity and out-of-the-ordinary become the new cool and the new class.
Fashion reinvents itself through young talents and uncompromised creativity. Capsule collections, limited editions, forward-thinking looks and strong visual influences are key to delivering unique fashion moments. New is never new for very long, so fashion brands constantly need the input of creative radical thinkers.
Halfway between artistic performance and innovative craftsmanship, it is the outsiders who are leading the future of the luxury market. These unique talents imagine sought-after pieces, whether that is Fendi relative Delfina Delettrez’s surrealist jewelry or Agi & Simon’s custom-made Lego masks. They cultivate an aesthetic that stands out and reinforces a label’s reputation.
“ These radical forward-thinkers will soon be seen at the head of the leading luxury brands ”
These radical forward-thinkers will soon be seen at the head of the leading luxury brands. An explicit example for 2015 came when underground collective Vétement’s founder and designer Demna Gvasalia was appointed to replace Alexander Wang at Balenciaga, a major hire for Kering Group.
Los Angeles has always boasted great fashion and jewellery stores including Rick Owens or more recently the Elder Statesman, Just One Eye and Rodarte. And the city’s designers continue to have a presence at fashion’s top table. Jennifer Meyer’s subtle, understated jewelry designs are distributed through such luxury outlets as Barneys New York and Maxfield.
Art and fashion are two major interests of UHNWIs, and far-sighted brands are bringing these two realms together.
Setting a milestone, Louis Vuitton collaborated with Comme des Garçons in Tokyo in 2008 to create one of the first branded pop-up stores. Unveiling six exclusive bag designs, the buzz was immense, and the strategy behind it brilliant; the success remains unmatched. Gucci too is increasingly known for its collaborations with the arts. Not only is it a lead sponsor of London’s Frieze Masters art fair, in Los Angeles it made headlines with its sponsorship of LACMA’s Art+Film Galas.
Louis Vuitton x Comme des Garçons in Tokyo
Heritage, Roots & Narrative
According to a 2014 Nielsen survey of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries, the millennial demographic, who will shape the future of luxury, are willing to pay extra for goods that are produced by companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.
Rather than the instant gratification of throwaway consumer goods, a love of luxury is entirely in keeping with concern for sustainability: high-end providers promote quality materials, long-lasting value and local sourcing.
Far-sighted brands are also looking to recreate oldschool techniques to give their goods a greater narrative pull and make them more cherishable, even offering consumers insights into the makers at work. Millennials have been shown to care less for overt branding, valuing “normcore” styles and “NoGo” goods.
“ By honoring traditions that have stood the test of time & respecting quality materials, extra value is added ”
Brands and private collectors alike are catalyzing regeneration by founding museums and making art truly social, while today’s celebrities are also increasingly vocal about the link between responsible sourcing and the narrative of luxury.
Augmenting this emphasis on real, lasting pleasures, could true luxury lie in tuning out the digital realm?
A Sustainable Future
Sustainability promotes the Earth’s capacity to endure. As doomsday news of climate change and human’s effect on our plant take hold, the next generation is becoming more sensitive to the impact products and services have on our earth.
As a result, luxury purveyors and consumers are considering the environment more.
By honoring traditions that have stood the test of time and respecting quality materials and workmanship, extra value is also added, as well as greater emotional attachment for the consumer.
“ There is evidence that sustainable luxury is becoming increasingly relevant to the millennial generation ”
There is evidence that sustainable luxury is becoming increasingly relevant to the millennial generation. Stella McCartney was named Britain’s Designer of the Year in 2013 with a collection that did not use any animal products including leather, fur or feathers and there are now entire fashion exhibitions, forums and blogs all focused on sustainable fashion.
Barbara Coignet, founder of 1.618, a sustainable luxury fair, has gathered an international network of luxury professionals and consumers who come together to exchange ideas and information. 1.618 has shown that any industry from fashion (Stella McCartney) to car manufacturing (BMW), design (Ekobo, Emeco) to yacht crafting (Arcadia) can comply with sustainable principles.
“Luxury and sustainability can be combined: if one considers the definition of luxury as related to know-how, heritage, rarity, transmission, respect for materials, human rights and quality, then you tackle the very fundamentals of sustainability,” Coignet explains.
Luxe destination Sarara Camp in Kenya recognizes that luxury doesn’t have to come with an environmental cost. The camp is powered by solar energy; all the buildings use local, natural materials; and bottles, glass, plastic and tins are taken offsite for recycling.
Similarly, in keeping with the discerning traveler’s demand for sustainability and ethical sourcing, The Peninsula hotels have resolved to make all guestroom amenities from sustainable resources; they use only ethical tea, coffee and chocolate, and strive to source 50% of perishable produce locally.
Prime Grade Sourcing
Old practices create new stories, adding exclusivity.
Mindful of the modern consumer’s demand for heritage and sustainability, a generation of designers, chefs and food entrepreneurs are exploring produce, sourcing fabrics and reviving trusted techniques.
“ Clever brands retain a commitment to the past: unearthing old recipes & techniques for a new generation ”
Whether it’s crafting chocolate and bitters, hand-dying indigo threads or fashioning plaids from Mongolian cashmere, attention to detail and sourcing is paramount. While still pushing boundaries, clever brands retain a commitment to the past: unearthing old recipes and techniques for a new generation is just one recent trend.
Many objects, products or materials are being rediscovered and taken to a new level of taste: hand-picked teas, savory ice cream, and saddles blending leather and carbon fiber – all use the past as a signpost for the future.
Alain Ducasse, a king of French fine dining, opened Manufacture de Chocolat, the first bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing facility in Paris, citing a desire to return to the notion of patience and the love of a job well done.
“ Hermès has bought numerous tanneries to ensure consistent quality ”
Hermès has bought numerous tanneries to ensure consistent quality, while Oyuna creates new felted surfaces based on the namesake designer’s knowledge of Mongolian cashmere traditions. In all of these examples, the maker’s quest for innovation feeds directly into the luxury consumer’s desire for exclusivity and quality.
Craftsmanship has become a watchword among the 20-35 age group, which looks for quality products and unique design. Consumer behaviorist Ken Hughes believes that Millennials want bespoke retail experiences and a story to go with each hand-crafted product.
Louis Vuitton’s recent Series 3 exhibitions satisfied these twin desires for exclusivity and artisanship, allowing consumers a chance to view designer Nicolas Ghesquière’s inspirations for his ready-to-wear show.
Food: A New Age
Sustainability, sourcing and seasonality, are also seeping into the food industry in tandem with fashion, where vegan and raw-food luxury are becoming the new ‘in’.
Food matters to all, but future luxury goods consumers, the millennial demographic, are voracious. They eat out up to 32 times a month, more than twice as often as Generation X and three times more than the Baby Boomer generation.
According to a 2014 study by the International Food Council, Millennials have more awareness of food sustainability than any previous generation, and they are willing to pay more for it too. F
“ Chefs are reassessing the food that they cook and most importantly where it has come from ”
or Millennials, food should promote manageable growth that enhances the world in which we live. Customers will pay more to know that the food they are eating is local, organic and ethical.
For this new “localtarian” customer, eating locally sourced food puts sustainability into practice. It supports the local economy, reduces the carbon footprint of the food, and ensures that produce is harvested ripe and eaten fresh with all its nutrients intact.
With this in mind, chefs are reassessing the food that they cook and most importantly where it has come from. Andrew Tarlow, restaurateur at Brooklyn’s Wythe Hotel, sees sustainability and provenance as central to its offer: “We have relationships with everyone from our sheep farmers to our coffee roasters. Everything is well sourced and thought out: hand-gathered eggs, house-churned butter.”
“ The rooftop garden at The Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel is the source for many of the ingredients at its restaurant ”
Within Los Angeles’ restaurants, the likes of Wolfgang Puck at Spago are showing that with initiative, anything is possible. From cod to caviar, his Taste of California menu is entirely sourced from the state.
Chef CJ Jacobson at Girasol forages ingredients from the Angeles National Forest; Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl grows produce in the restaurant’s garden; and at Gjelina, 90% of the menu’s ingredients come from a farmers’ market on the same street.
In Beverly Hills, the rooftop garden at The Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel is the source for many of the ingredients at its Roof Garden restaurant.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills, Roof Garden restaurant
It is only natural that Los Angeles should be leading this change. It was the first city in the US to have a vegan restaurant in its major airport, a vegan cooking school and a vegan health expo.
The Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills now offers poolside vegan snacks in collaboration with Spork; there are at least two raw food restaurants in Los Angeles (MAKE and Planet Raw), as well as three branches of the raw food ice creamery KindKremes and some 42 juice bars.
Normcore & No-Go: The fashion Of Anti-Fashion
Unpretentious looks, a quieter luxe and signs of ‘logo fatigue’ are becoming apparent in the next generation, forcing big luxury brands to rethink their approach, and forging a new niche for the ‘independents’.
“ The internet and globalisation have challenged the myth of individuality, ”
The trend forecasting group K-Hole describes normcore as “finding liberation in being nothing special.” A portmanteau of the words “normal” and “hardcore,” it is a unisex fashion trend characterised by unpretentious clothing. Jeremy Lewis, the founder-editor of Garmento calls it “one facet of a growing anti-fashion sentiment.”
A trend that encourages a simplified style of dress as opposed to cultivating a hyper-unique personal style, normcore can be seen as an antidote to the divisions created by exclusivity. The internet and globalisation have also challenged the myth of individuality, while making connecting with others easier than ever. Normcore is a blank slate and open mind; it’s a look designed to play well with others.
The demographic leading the normcore trend are, by and large, western Millennials and digital natives. Editors such as Lewis and Hot And Cool’s Alice Goddard are children of the 90s. The return to styles they may have worn as kids reads like a reset button, going back to a time before adolescence, before identity was differentiated through dress.
“ The idea of a quieter luxe is on the rise ”
With consumers shying away from the prominent logos and branding of the 90s and 00s, the idea of a quieter luxe is on the rise. Handbag brands such as Mansur Gavriel are a great example. Its simple designs, made from solid colored leather with no visible logo or even substantial hardware, have become “must haves” among editors and fashionistas. Since Phoebe Philo became creative director, Céline’s pared-down, logo-free handbags have also been widely copied; rather than carrying overt designer branding, the elegance of the design is its own statement.
A spokesman for Barneys New York said that this trend reflects, “expression through details, exquisite materials and things that are not so identifiable.” In this respect, fashion can be said to have come full circle.
Interviewed by The Washington Post about this “NoGo” movement, Sarah Quinlan, head of market insights for MasterCard Advisors said: “We clearly can see that people are not wanting to show their wealth quite so conspicuously.”
There you have it – as Bob once said, “the times they are a changin’” – are luxury brands on board?
Stay tuned on Luxury Society for more in-depth coverage to come on the trends towards prime-sourcing, experiential food fads, and the emergence of luxury which appeals to the senses.
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