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Luxury – It’s not about the price tag

We all want luxury in our lives. But the idea of what we believe luxury to be is changing. It’s not about the price tag. It’s not about coveting logos or labels, showiness and status. Luxury today is about a more intrinsic sense of worth, mindful behaviour and meaningful connections.

This redefinition of luxury has not been an overnight change. But it is an increasingly relevant and evolving one that reflects how our culture and society now operates. The wider, global pace of change that we have seen has largely been facilitated by technology. It has offered us not just new personal connections but a more fundamental and holistic sense of connection. And this is what we now want luxury to emulate and own. We want to experience luxury differently. Luxury previously traded on a sense of exclusivity. And while we are still looking for a sense of the unique, what we really now want is for luxury to become more inclusive, connecting with us on a more up close and personal level to enrich the luxury offer with an intrinsic sense of time, experience and value.

Added to this, we are increasingly developing a socially and ethically aware conscience and this is dictating our choices. When it comes to shopping, we are seeking a philanthropic element to our purchases and want them to have an added, enriched or ethical value. A recent GfK study reflects this with figures stating that 63% of consumers now buy products that appeal to their beliefs and values. (www.GfK.com)

The success of a new and exciting generation of e-tailers, like ethically minded Zady or lifestyle brand Everlane is testament to this change in buying motivation and a new philanthropic luxury. Everlane is enjoying an elevated – new luxury – status by adopting a new approach to opening up every aspect of its brand journey, and promoting this required move towards sustainability and more ‘radical transparency’. Everlane is championing straightforward and transparent consumerism and giving its customers the confidence to indulge in guilt-free luxury shopping.

We are experiencing a sensory overload from overt luxury and – alongside these new ethical considerations – we are also seeking a new slow luxury movement and subtle luxury products. Over a 13 year period, luxury fashion brand Maison Martin Margiela released its homeware collection, ‘The Line 13’, with one product per year – from an ostrich egg doorstop to a paint pail champagne bucket – to embody the brand’s minimal luxury aesthetic and behaviour.

And while the idea of luxury may have changed, the central premise and offer should stay the same – it should make us feel special. But this needs to be about a more intimate connection, a more personalised service or experiential offer. We are no longer swayed by others ideals and aesthetics but, instead, have a new confidence, new knowledge and new access to sensitive information, such as our personal DNA, that is fuelling our demand for highly individual responses. As designers, this is both exciting and challenging and we are already seeing some truly creative and original initiatives hitting the high street. Selfridges, in London, recently embarked on an exploration into personalised retail. The Fragrance Lab concept offers a one-of-a-kind profiling experience to identify a signature scent for individual customers. And initiatives like this signal a big change in terms of both the personal and the in-store experience.

A survey by BCG claims that 51 per cent of US luxury consumers are now looking for ‘these enriched experiences’ over product. (Source: www.bcgperspectives.com) And a new and growing experiential luxury movement is tapping into this. We are seeking new ways to take time out, slow down, contemplate and appreciate. I have now worked in the luxury sector for close to a decade and feel nowhere is this better evidenced than with travel. Travel has always been a mainstay of the luxury market – with the focus firmly placed on the experiential. But it is no longer about ticking the boxes with a one-of-a-kind destination holiday, the ultimate 5 star hotel or a far-flung Spa. This has become too homogenous; too predictable. Instead we are shifting towards a new luxury experience with unique escapism matched by an individual aesthetic. With the accommodation maybe now being more important than the destination – or actually just becoming the desired destination.

The White Wolf Hotel, in Portugal, is a holistic retreat that takes luxury travellers on a contemplative journey through quietness and calm. Guests stay in separate buildings, each designed to give the appearance of diving into the ground, signifying the relationship between man and nature, the guest and the experience. http://www.archdaily.com/487465/white-wolf-hotel-and-re/

As we look to the future, it will increasingly be about how we connect with the idea of luxury in its many forms and how luxury presents new ideas to us in a more open, honest and visible exchange. These new luxuries will embrace more intimate and personal connections, spiritual and transformative experiences or ethical and emotional learning that reaches new depths.

Where luxury leads, others want to follow. And what I find really inspiring is just how this could really – and rapidly – start to shape a new culture. Can we now leverage this change for good, to empower people to aspire to truly fuller and more abundant lives?

Originally published by Collectively

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