Op-Ed: The Age of Luxury Consumption Is No More, And In Its Place, Are A New Generation of Collectors.


Fiona Harkin | September 25, 2023

Ferragamo's autumn/winter 2023 campaign.Credit: Courtesy.

Luxury brands need to act as guardians of craftsmanship and provenance to communicate better with the new consumers of tomorrow, who are specifically looking for new codes of authenticity that are embedded in archival behaviours, says Fiona Harkin, Foresight Editor at The Future Laboratory.

A new stage of luxury is here. One where consumers– or rather the collectors – of tomorrow will expect luxury to signal status not through excessive consumption but by the act as a guardian of craftsmanship and provenance.

Young affluents crave more than a transactional relationship; they want to play an active part in the brand universe – and that’s before they become tomorrow’s luxury clientele. As generations raised in the streetwear era, younger Millennials together with Generations Z and Alpha are true connoisseurs and avid archivists. They have a vision of luxury that is based on trading in knowledge, access, community and craft.

We are witnessing several drivers and future trends for a new era of  Luxury Recrafted:

Heirlooms are getting a facelift and once-outdated timepieces are making a fashionable comeback. For iconic brands, this is a defining moment to court young, antique-obsessed consumers by striking the right balance between sought-after heritage and know-how, marketed in a way that appeals to new generations.

Why Should The Luxury Industry Care?

Watchful young audiences are obsessed with heritage and savoir-faire, shifting the codes of luxury and choosing subtle status signifiers over more obvious, overt displays of wealth. This evolution of uneasy affluence is pushing the sector towards a deeper focus on the true value of luxury: quality, craftsmanship, longevity and provenance.

This greater appreciation of the time and the story behind every piece is also changing the identity of luxury consumers, who are rebranded as collectors who care about more than owning a timepiece – it’s about owning a collectable piece of history.

Intricate tableware, a quirky centrepiece or a monogrammed table setting also serve as a conversation-starter and a way to exhibit knowledge about the art of living, with connoisseurs investing in pieces like Waterford crystals or lace bottle aprons sold by chef Laila Gohar’s ‘tableware universe,’ Gohar World.

One distinction between new heirloom collectors and older generations is that putting on a big spread is not saved for special occasions anymore, but as a means to elevate and romanticise everyday life.

These performative behaviours are to this generation what logomania used to be to affluents a few years back. Add in social media to the mix and this becomes more about demonstrating connoisseurship publicly than showing status to people in the room. It is a more subtle way to demonstrate status than with bold branding, and is more aligned with evolving values that lean towards inconspicuous consumption and careful curation over accumulation.

Nurturing exceptional workmanship is the essence of luxury businesses. Houses are bringing the ‘petites mains’ that make the magic happen to the limelight through craft-centric activations.

Take, for instance, the state-of-the-art Fendi Factory in Tuscany, which opened in October 2022. It is testimony to the brand’s promise of Made in Italy excellence. The spring/ summer 2024 men’s show was held in the facility, with 700 artisans working in the background while playful, craft-inspired silhouettes were shown. The brand is also pushing its heritage globally with the art exhibition Hand in Hand, held in a Beijing temple in China.

Similarly, Bottega Veneta is spotlighting local production and has opened a footwear factory in Veneto, with a façade made of perforated metal panels mimicking the brand’s signature intrecciato woven pattern.

Fendi's Capannuccia factory in Italy.Credit: Courtesy of Fendi.

Craft-Centric Communications

Craft-centric communications that reveal the inner workings of artisanship are flourishing. Take Cartier’s hard luxury campaign spotlighting the 50-year rich heritage of the Baignoire watch, Mulberry’s Made to Last activation, or jeweller Piaget’s House of Gold series of videos sublimating the brand’s obsession with the fine material. Elsewhere, Rolex is starring its five-pointed crown motif in the digital heritage series The Man Behind the Crown while Jaeger-LeCoultre is paying homage to house heritage with the In the Making campaign spotlighting restoration workshops.

Luxury brands are refocusing on durability and exploring new ways to champion circular craftsmanship. The rise of preloved and rental services implies frequent handovers and intensive usage, pressurising brands to ensure that products marketed as timeless stand the test of time.

In 2022, Bottega Veneta started offering a lifetime warranty on newly acquired handbags to cement its commitment to quality that lasts. Other brands are ramping up care and repair programmes. Spanish luxury house Loewe has opened ReCraft in Osaka, Japan, a store dedicated to repairs and maintenance, with a leather artisan in residence. American fashion brand Coach, which recently held a repair and monogramming pop-up in London, introduced sister brand Coachtopia. The Gen Z-approved line saves leather and textile scraps from landfill to create unique pieces, glamourising deadstock and craft in the process.

New collectors’ appreciation of craft and longevity means that visibly worn or patched items are reframed as a status symbol and worn like a badge of honour. This paves the way for initiatives like Rimowa’s Re-Crafted, which brings refurbished luggage to customers: as sturdy as new, but with a story and a few bumps or scratches.

But climate- resilient craft is not limited to fashion. Ruinart has unveiled a cuvée that bears witness to climate change. The Blanc Singulier small-batch champagne is adjusted to how climate affects the taste and quality of grapes, hinting at the opportunities for wines and spirits to integrate circularity into their businesses.

Although core luxury offerings are increasingly geared towards top-spending clients who are less affected by economic shocks, the sector is still catering for aspirational shoppers by diversifying expressions of craft. From artisanal masterpieces to digital marvels, the luxury industry of tomorrow will meet its tiers of fans and clients in many playgrounds.

The Future Laboratory has just published its new macrotrend, Luxury Recrafted, part of Luxury Futures 2023. The report breaks down luxury sector analysis across key markets, case studies and consumer insights, combined to help brands understand and grasp business success in the years ahead. This report is based on luxury research from The Future Laboratory’s trends, intelligence, consumer insight and futures innovation platform, LS:N Global.

Consumers | Luxury | Report