Stylus’s Spring Innovation Forum centered on the ‘New Rules of Luxury’, challenging our traditional notions of luxury and exclusivity. Rebecca Snaith, Insight Executive at the IPA discusses her three key takeaways of the day that agencies who work with luxury brands should know about.
Staged at The Royal Institution of Great Britain, Stylus assembled a range of speakers from their ranks to disseminate some of their findings on the changing appetites of the next generation of the wealthy elite, with a principal focus on ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs). Where once the principles of luxury centred on extravagance, labels and exclusivity; the focus is shifting towards privacy, purpose and wellness.
A surge in secret philanthropy and an aversion to overt displays of wealth underlines the growing value the ultra-rich are placing on discretion. Smartphones such as Sirin lab’s Solarin, and the KATIM Phone offer military-grade security and target the luxury elite. Their high price-points demonstrate the growing value this group places on their privacy. Meanwhile the luxury sector has seen a sharp pivot away from polished perfection towards a less ostentatious mode that emphasises purpose, craft and authenticity. The theme for the luxury trade show Maison & Objet 2017, was in fact, silence.
Another trend that was picked apart was something I would term as the high-end street. High-end labels no longer offer quite the same allure, and are increasingly being schooled by their streetwear counterparts in the art of disruption, irreverence and exclusivity. Louis Vuitton’s latest collaboration with skateboarding brand Supreme signifies a huge cultural change between the fashion houses, especially given that the same label launched a lawsuit against the Supreme brand as recently as 2ooo. Luxury and streetwear are no longer disparate worlds, the GucciGhost collection and the production of ‘Official Fakes’ at Vetements are yet further examples of luxury labels collaborating with and taking influence from those that they once perceived as antagonists.
The event also touched upon the new breed of self-made billionaires and the confidence they exude. How do we speak to this new spirit of entrepreneurship? Lamborghini’s ‘Dare your Ego’ and Porsche’s ‘Courage Changes Everything’ campaigns are perfect examples of brands trying to play to the egos and daring associated with this audience. Consider this: according to Knight Frank research (2017), 41% of UHNWIs in the United States report having no financial advisor of any kind. This demonstration of financial self-sufficiency presents an opportunity for brands to assert exceptionalism. Social capital is the key currency among these self-made billionaires, where skill sets now impress as much as bank balance. This is an audience more interested in having the tools and guidance to do it themselves, rather than having it done for them.
Finally, although exclusivity has always been linked inextricably to wealth, it is being reengineered to incorporate tiered luxury. Prestige labels are placing an emphasis on being in the know. Johnnie Walker’s invite-only membership program, Johnnie Walker House, offers different levels of membership and layers of access according to membership status within the program, while The Secret Catalog and Vetements secret laundromat pop-up are all examples of brands playing on the trend among the super-rich to be awarded privileges on the basis of influence or knowledge, rather than wealth.
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