A white dressing-table with specs of gold, red and sparkle, reflecting from the designer makeup products my mum believed sacred. I was never to touch her Dior lipstick or Estee Lauder mascara. When she was gone, I crept in and practised with it all. At 13, I owned a makeup collection worth hundreds of pounds. My father as a department store manager, had a beloved discount card. This was luxury as I knew it, but luxury goods are now changing.
Published this week, Bloomberg wrote an article on the perfume industry needing to reinvent itself to catch up with cosmetics and skincare. “You can’t smell a selfie” is the line used in the piece which summarises the issue. Millennials want to look their best for social-media. And nobody can smell Chanel through a laptop – no matter how expensive.
To encourage young shoppers to buy, perfume companies are focusing on personalisation. The opportunity to select your fragrance ingredients and receive a custom consultation. Previous expense and artisanal exclusivity, is becoming accessible to a wider market.
What are luxury goods?
A defining moment in my writing career thus far, was interviewing Guglielmo Miani for an editorial – CEO of Milan’s Larusmiani luxury tailoring house, and President of the Via MonteNapoleone Association – one of the world’s most iconic shopping streets for luxury. Any worthwhile guide on visiting Milan will inform you to visit. When asking Guglielmo how he defines luxury goods, he used the terms “artisanal” and “craftsmanship”.
Quality is a pillar in luxury that millennials are dissociating with. Quartzy wrote an article sharing insight from the French-American Luxury Exchange conference. Though some speakers argued that quality has become a necessity, many agreed that young people are more focused on a brand name, uniqueness, and the overall story a product conveys.
When I worked with luxury goods at high-end department stores, extra attention was given, not to the most expensive items, but to the most well-known. Despite a coat costing £8,000, if a Gucci or Prada coat was on display at £4,000 – that would be stolen. Because famous, luxury brand names are instantly recognisable to the public. Only an affluent few, can appreciate the lesser-known, lavish names.
Although renowned designer brands are synonymous with luxury, better crafted pieces are not as worthy as a popular name. Luxury goods are difficult to categorise as an £120 shirt can link to expense, in the same way a £400 shirt can. The ‘it bags’ are declining to make way for core collection. This according to Federica Levato (partner at Milan’s Bain & Co.), sourced from an article on Business of Fashion.
Young people are increasingly purchasing from the luxury sector, whether a belt, dress or pair of heels. Athleticwear is currently fashionable for millennials, so Louis Vuitton has produced a hoodie collaborating with skate brand Supreme, and designer Kim Jones, who once worked for sports brand Umbro, now creates clothes for Dior’s menswear.
Will accessibility ruin luxury?
In 2017, Chanel was voted as social-media’s most influential luxury brand. The company, as others, carefully balances promotion and exclusivity. If they were to overstretch or promote themselves too widely, that can damage their representation. Burberry famously had to re-design their image after non ‘chic’ celebs were photographed covered head-to-toe with their logo.
You can rent designer garments, shop on eBay for discounts and second-hand pieces; Instagram is a hashtag mecca for luxury goods. What keeps the industry timeless, are the capsule, one-off collections, and the meticulous marketing. As long as consumers see the products as aspirational, they will remain sought-after.
And with price-point not altering, aspirations in a capitalist society won’t either. Though a shame that handmade, luxury and stylish products, receive less attention than those from a luxury household name. Along with fast-fashion, another issue affecting the world, is large corporations buying numerous brands and factories, leaving family run businesses struggling and independently singled out.
Good adaptations or bad?
While it’s great to see millennials having the power to adapt luxury goods and taking an interest in clothing made for longevity, it also paves the way for upmarket selling on limited items and possibly targets the thought of substance over superiority.
What are your views on the world of luxury goods? Do you think more designer brands should try to cater to a wider audience, or does that ruin representation?
Photos are from The Ritz London during an interview I conducted for an article.