Thinking Out Loud: Is It Really Luxurious If It Isn’t Exclusive?
After a recent visit to a members-only club in London that is known to support the arts and those who contribute to it, an observation I made was that there were few ‘It’ bags, and fewer logos in sight. Being an exclusive part of something no longer means flaunting one’s wealth through flashy ensembles, but showcasing powerful sartorial choices that scream individuality and confidence — think T-shirts with feminist slogans, playful interpretations of logos, and 500-dollar tres-cool sneakers.
It then occurred to me that with the rapidly evolving luxury buyer, the term luxury as we know it has been redefined. Its consumers today are tech-savvy millennials who are driving a demand for a newer, more ethical and innovative take on exclusivity.
Yesterday’s luxury consumer valued exclusivity in the form of a sought-after bag or product that was only available to a select few, due to premium pricing and controlled distribution. Today’s informed buyer demands creative and artistic direction, making the logos that the brands were built on, and often the pretention that came with it, less desirable. Verve takes a look at how three luxury fashion houses have adapted to the changing scenario….
Fendi’s Strap Story
Fendi is responding to this leap in today’s consumer expectations by championing a younger and more playful approach to their designs, with a colourful energy running through their collections. The brand’s decision to make their products more accessible to aspirational customers by introducing entry-level tokens catapulted Fendi to the fore. The house was among the first to introduce and sell small leather goods like bag charms, accessories, wallets on chains and their bestseller — the interchangeable bag strap called Strap You. The strap that comes in frisky juxtapositions of contrasting elements such as bold, colourful pyramids and delicate, blossoming micro daisies and other flora, is characteristically known to be exclusive to the fashion house, with other brands following suit. For today’s patrons who pride themselves on buying into a set of values as opposed to a product that is merely highly priced, Fendi cleverly added ‘Roma’ to the logo, flaunting its Roman heritage, which appeals to them and hence pushes a lot of their sales.
Gucci’s Digital collection
In response to an entire generation now shopping online, brands like Gucci are keeping pace and maximising their digital impact through innovative collaborations under the guidance of its newest creative director, Alessandro Michele. Earlier this year, the brand collaborated with British illustrator Angelica Hicks, who was first discovered by Michele on Instagram for her offbeat creative approach and ironic tone. And by selecting several of Hicks’ illustrations for an online-only limited-edition T-shirt line, Gucci asserted that exclusivity does not stem from being inaccessible. With only 11 designs of 100 units each, the assortment of 1,100 pieces came numbered on the label just like an art print does.
To celebrate this collaboration, Gucci unveiled Hicks’ designs on two walls; one in New York City’s Soho and the other in Milan’s Largo la Foppa. Crafted over a course of six days, the designs express the beauty and uniqueness of the almost forgotten art form of hand-painted outdoor advertising. The fashion house digitally amplified the project through a Snapchat geofilter that was available solely in the Soho vicinity of New York City, once again created by Hicks.
Dior’s Artistic Partnerships
While millennials are driving change in the luxury consumer-scape, there is also a growing stream of high net-worth individuals with a taste for finer things in life, like art. In a world where luxury items are more widespread, artistic partnerships create a certain romanticism that allows brands to regain a touch of exclusivity. Last year, the House of Dior invited a handful of British and American artists to reimagine the iconic Lady Dior handbag. Made famous in 1996 when Princess Diana took a serious liking to the unique accessory during a visit to Paris, today it symbolises the house’s inimitable style. Throwing it open to artistic reinterpretation once again this year, the house invited 10 celebrated artists from around the world to reimagine the famous bag. Dior gave carte blanche to the artists to transpose their creative genius into their leatherwork. Courtesy Dior’s unique in-house atelier, the creators had the freedom to translate their exacting visions onto the bags. Everything from the bag’s fabric to its charms, size and colour were adjusted to the artists’ specifications. Now that the dust has settled and the bags are soon to be available — though only a handful will be sold worldwide — the exclusive collection has become an object of obsession for all the right reasons.