It was Franca Sozzani who said; “luxury is to be intended as a byword for exclusiveness” and indeed this statement has remained true for many brands; however with the rapid innovation taking place on the digital front, has the time come for luxury to co-exist with inclusivity?
Luxury in its essence evokes the notion of rarity, access to a privileged life and to products of exception which are available to a select few. In the past luxury fashion shoppers had to travel far and wide to get their hands on the latest designs from some of the most loved fashion houses like Céline, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Burberry just to name a few.
Each brand knew their customer profile very well; relationship building was one of the core pillars that differentiated luxury brands from fashion brands and by virtue of distance, financial obstacles, time obstacles and culture (knowing how to appreciate a product, wear it and consume it) a number of consumers were excluded. It is this difficulty to buy that Vincent Bastien attributes to an increase in desire for luxury goods.
In today’s world luxury products are readily available on the internet, with companies such as Net-a-porter distributing to over 170 countries world-wide and Farfetch distributing to a 190 countries world-wide. The growth of these companies and other similar companies is expected to increase as online luxury sales are forecasted to triple as a proportion of the global luxury market sales by 2025, reaching a USD $19-billion.
At least 40% of all luxury online purchases are influenced by consumer’s online experience
At the moment at least 40% of all luxury online purchases are influenced by consumer’s online experience.
Shopping online has managed to break down the ‘invisible’ barriers, such as feelings of intimidation, a lack of knowledge about the product or brand and perhaps the most important of all; not being part of an elite group.
These are all factors set up intentionally by brick and mortar stores to in principle protect clients from non-clients. A good example of this is Armani setting up specialist stores for each of his product lines.
It is true that online sales forecasts are compelling and have indeed managed to convert a brand like Céline, which did not have any social network accounts until 2018 to fully digitise and start selling the brand’s complete range online. However the question beckons; will this new strategy not wear down the dream potential among the leaders of opinion, among the tastemakers? What then will this accessibility mean for aspiring consumers who have dreamt of being part of the elite few only to find what was once impossible to get is now one click away?
As the line between exclusivity and the democratization of fashion continues to blur, the difficulty and challenges for luxury brands will not lay in not being able to sell, but rather, in the growing sophistication of the new age consumer and their demands on how brands should capture their attention. Pandering to consumer’s demands will be yet another value compromised, leaving one to wonder whether what we know as the defining values of luxury today will remain wholly untouched by the internet of things.