Experts on Luxury - The Past, present & future


Luxury has various definitions. It has been a topic for endless debates for centuries now. To take a retrospective look into all that has been good, bad and ugly in this industry, we ask a few of our columnists to tell us their definition of luxury, luxury in the past decade and luxury in the next decade

Compiled by: LuxuryFacts team

Posted on: December 10, 2010

Luxury has various definitions. It has been a topic for endless debates for centuries now. To take a retrospective look into all that has been good, bad and ugly in this industry, we ask a few of our columnists to tell us their definition of luxury, luxury in the past decade and luxury in the next decade.

HH ALEXANDRA ORLFF, CEO, SACHA ORLOFF CONSULTING GROUP

Definition of Luxury
Luxury for me is being with my family and having time for them and for myself as well.

Luxury in the past decade
Luxury in the past decade can’t be defined in terms of words, characteristics or factors. It will, instead be remembered through the names of luxury brands which marked the last decade, like LVMH and Richemont Group - group of companies who were the leaders of the luxury in the past decade

Luxury in the next decade
Luxury in the next decade will be solidified by social media and its very development (time will tell). I dream to see non-heritage brands take more importance in the luxury landscape. We all need novelties, new comers, who have got a true love of the product, the manufacture and the identity of their brands and an impeccable service. An example is MB&F, which for me is a mix of watchmaking dream, precision, with a zest of social media and other visions of marketing.

WILLIAM DEVINE, OWNER, DEVINE INTERVENTION

Definition of luxury
Luxury is not only the acquisition of well known products from companies and brands that have a long standing history and reputation – it goes far beyond that. It is the ability to choose freely the lifestyle that one wants to espouse in every aspect of one’s daily life – through the clothes we wear, the places we go to on holiday, how we read time, and how we communicate with each other to name but a few.

Luxury and freedom of choice go hand in hand – true luxury is when the individual is placed at the centre and not when the brand is all mighty and overbearing. Bespoke services and unique products illustrate this point all too well.

To summarise my definition of luxury, the following haiku:
“Finding the sublime
Living each and every day
A fragile petal”

What was luxury in the past decade
Luxury in the past decade was very much about the appearance, about showing off newly acquired wealth and the status that goes with it.

In the realm of watchmaking the trend was to develop and produce larger and more complicated watches. The bigger the better.

The example of the Tourbillon watch movement illustrates this point clearly. The tourbillion mechanism was invented by Breguet at the end of the eighteenth century. However more tourbillion movements were produced in the world over the past decade than between the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century.

I feel that somewhere along the way, the true meaning of watchmaking has lost its way, as many of the modern watches today are sold based on the external appearance alone. Most of the consumers are not given the opportunity to fully understand and apprehend the complexity and the true functionality of the watches they buy. How many owners of tourbillion watches actually understand what a tourbillion is all about?

What is luxury in the next decade
I believe that there is a definite trend towards a more service based, bespoke type of luxury. The product itself is only a starting point, an entry into a lifestyle. But to fully embody the desired lifestyle it is necessary to have excellent service that goes beyond what exists today. Hence the phenomenal development of bespoke concierge service companies will become more and more closely associated to individual brands and products.

LOIC DENNEULIN, COUNTRY MANAGER, SOPEXA INDIA

Definition of luxury
According to me, luxury is something that you really want, but is not available readily. It’s not necessarily expensive, but exclusive and aspirational.

Luxury in the past decade
Luxury in the past decade was more about brands and products. New wealth consumers wanted to show their position in the society through these brands.

In terms of wines, some fantastic vintage wines were available throughout the decade, ranging from 1980 to 2000 or 2000 to 2010. The variety was certainly there which proved to be a boon for vintage wine collectors.

Luxury in the next decade
Luxury in the coming years will be defined by hand craftsmanship. You might see advanced luxury products from regions like Japan!

There will be a return of the past form of luxury – tailor made, quality, exclusive products, which will be made in small volumes and not available to everyone. There will a movement away from the ‘universe of brands’.

GAURAV BHATIA, LUXURY EXPERT

Definition of luxury
Luxury is elegance in its purest form. It’s a mélange of tradition, innovation, craftsmanship, beauty and perfection. Luxury to me is living a life with elegance and generosity. With lots of Dom Pérignon!

Personally Luxury is always travel! Perhaps because I don’t do as much of it as I would like to on a personal level. Côte d'Azur, Tunisia and Rajasthan are always on the list even if I have done it a million times! If I could travel back in time the ultimate luxury would be to live in the time of the Renaissance in Europe – what a creative explosion.

Luxury in the past decade
The last decade brings to mind the India story coming alive with international Luxury brands trying to woo India. While some worked and others didn’t, luxury became a buzz word and the love affair with modern luxury was here to stay.

Luxury in the next decade
Experiential. The distinction between art and luxury will only diminish. Luxury will take inspiration from the spirit of creativity and individualism to create tactile and ephemeral experiences.

VERONIQUE POLES, LUXURY & FASHION CONSULTANT

Definition of luxury
When we speak about luxury, we speak about an emotion, a dream... A luxury product or service can be defined as having specific features which bring them to the level of excellence. These products are different from others because of selection of  components, quality in production, creativity, innovation, design, attention to details....which will start from the logo, to the packaging, to the final desired product. It’s a real ritual that you can only experience in the luxury store.

The vibes coming from the experience of becoming the ‘owner’ of a luxury product or enjoying a luxury service is nothing compared with other products or services. There is a sensation of extreme happiness and satisfaction. And you become attached to this product day after day as it becomes a part of your personal life forever.

Luxury in the past decade
In these few years we saw some major events: political and economic crisis, climatic disasters… which interfered in our mood and the way of consuming. Suddenly doubts and worries affected people. It was politically not correct to show and display ones wealth.

Those days seem to be over and luxury companies are quite optimistic about the coming years…

One main characteristic of luxury is rarity. The prestige of a brand can decrease if too many have the brand. But more than ever, the 2000 and + are a synthesis of the 80s and 90s which were years of transition, mutation, contradiction…well, complex years.

In the 2000s, luxury brands started facing paradoxes and contradictions as they want to seduce an increasing clientele and more and more potential consumers aspire for them. Luxury brands in the 2000 started showing a greater interest in advertisement and in media. Thus, there were more luxury magazines and even some TV programmes dedicated to luxury. To increase accessibility of their products, they started diversifying their offers, thus allowing brands to explore new territories.

With the same idea of catching new consumers and new opportunities, another phenomenon appeared which can be summarized by the neologism ‘masstige’, which is essentially a new tendency of having luxury brands cohabiting with the mass market.

As an example to illustrate this fact, the Swedish company H&M launched a new concept of limited editions in collaboration with designers like Stella McCartney, Sonia Rykiel, Jimmy Choo -  which is a great strategy to catch the young consumers. Luxury is no more restricted to the elite.

At the same time, the distribution channels also started expanding. Luxury means exclusive stores, but step by step, a new relation started between luxury brands and consumers via the digital channel. It took a few years for luxury brands to use the ecommerce as quite often ecommerce is associated with discount, comparable offers and prices, great deals/ best prices and so on… The challenge for the brand is not to lose their aura, their spirit and their roots.

But on the opposite side, with the digital channel, luxury brands discovered opportunities of more communication with consumers, which helps to maintain a strong image of the brand.

Following the same idea of mutation, these years saw the multi-faces of the consumers and the multi-ways of consuming luxury. The post-crisis has seen new consumers from emerging countries like China, India, Russia, Mexico, Korea and Hong Kong.

They are the new consumers for luxury brands, which will bring new challenges to face and to manage, as all those emerging countries are very specific and don’t have the same maturity in consuming luxury products.

Finally, 2009/2010 have seen luxury brands getting back to their DNA and reinforcing the legacy of art and crafts, which are essential values for a luxury brand.

A negative point of 2000 and + was the imperialism of luxury groups like LVMH, PPR and so on. With their financial power and capacity of investment, they opened many stores across the world and battled through pages of advertisements. The battle is endless, and very often, not balanced. They seem to have no limits.

Many companies closed down. Independent luxury houses and designers are facing problems in surviving. We are also facing the death of knowledge, heritage, know how, which took years and years to develop.

Christian Lacroix is one of my favourite designers and a big loss in the luxury ‘fraternity’. Anyway, can we still speak about fraternity?
 
Luxury in the next decade
More than ever, luxury brands have to balance the extremes of being rare and visible at the same time.

We are already seeing some new orientations coming from some brands in emerging countries with the opening of more exclusive flagships, oversized stores as they want to offer an unforgettable experience and develop a strong relation with their clients.

However, there are some questions that come to my mind while thinking about the next decade:

How much will be the dependence of luxury brands on emerging countries? Can we expect a durable and constant growth from emerging countries? How will the digital channels develop? How will emerging countries make their own impact on the developments of luxury brands and products? For example, Hermes creating a specific brand Shang Xia conceived by and for the Chinese market.

Will luxury brands still being able to make us dream forever?

EKATERINA PETUKHOVA, CEO, ESPER GROUP

Definition of Luxury
The best ever definition of luxury is given by my sister and art-director of our company, Ania Nebrenchina. According to her, it’s a relaxed, laidback lifestyle with no senseless vanity. Looking at it from a business-oriented side, I would totally agree with it. Luxury calls for more eternal, deeper values than those of the moment, so true luxury is conservative, reserved but applies new technologies in order to underline its essence.

Luxury in the past decade
Luxury market was overwhelming during the decade due to the booming and upscaling economy. On the one hand, it became more affordable as more consumers became rich enough to buy luxury goods. On the other hand, the borders of the segment were really blurred by the brands which were meant to be luxury by their price but in fact didn't have essential luxury DNA. True luxury brands must thank the recent crisis for cleaning up the segment.

Luxury in the next decade
Luxury of the next decade will apply for hedonism that would be a kind of routine one, easy to consume through clothes and products like that. Luxury as a segment will go on consolidating and trying to tie up its borders to not let any invading brands show up. At the same time luxury brands will go on trying to lure rich Asian consumers and perhaps several Asian luxury brands will appear and enjoy a lot of interest from European customers.

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