Over the past few years, luxury has become less about ownership and more about the experience. The high-end consumer wants more than just luxury goods and, at this time of the year, is searching for gifts with resonance. There is a growing need for brands and businesses to cater to more sophisticated expectations in terms of authenticity, sustainability, and personalisation. Most importantly, it’s about once-in-a-lifetime, transformative experiences that make a lasting impression — ones that leave people changed.
According to the latest Bain & Company Luxury Study, released in November, the market for luxury experiences such as travel, dining, and entertainment has grown at a much faster pace than that for luxury goods. Experienced-based goods are expected to rebound quicker, while the recovery of the luxury experiences market, which has lagged due to Covid-19 restrictions, is dependent on the normalisation of tourism. What started out as a fad has now become a business strategy that luxury brands have had to adopt in order to stay abreast of changing consumer demands.
The experience economy, a term first used in the Harvard Business Review in 1998, speaks to the shift to creating immersive consumer experiences. Dior, which opened its Dior Café in 2019 in the Miami Design District, just one street from the Fendi Caffe, has since offered pop-ups in restaurants in Seoul and Singapore for exclusive dining experiences, presenting a menu and cuisine reflective of the maison and its Cruise 2022 collection, designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri. At $25 for an iced coffee, guests enjoy the proximity to a brand that has extended the red-carpet treatment beyond its retail offering.
Similarly, aiming to bolster the shopping experience, Gucci has moved into 63 Wooster Street, in Soho, New York, developing a new way to engage with the eclectic and creative philosophy of the brand. The destination house Gucci Wooster is a treasure trove of restored architectural design, bold colours and fabrication, vintage fixtures, and memorabilia, complete with innovative screens featuring glasses-free 3D technology. Private and personalised in-store, phone, and video visits are available by appointment.
As luxury — and the way in which we define it — continues to evolve, these emerging trends can help you gift with intention, and perhaps change a loved one’s life.
LAMU WRITING RETREAT
According to US Bureau of Labour statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021, with the greatest numbers being in the 30-to-45 age group. While the “Great Resignation” hasn’t hit figures close to this in South Africa, Covid-19 has forced many to rethink their lives as a result of heightened work pressure, burnout, a search for purpose, or a change in pace. A writing retreat for you or someone in your life may be just the thing if you’re looking for a time-out in a magical setting. Join writers, creatives, and yogis on Lamu — a tiny island off the east coast of Kenya and a destination du jour. While staying at the legendary Peponi Hotel, you’ll enjoy group and/or individual writing classes with writing coach and literary agent Sarah Bullen, while festival owner Georgia Black will curate yoga sessions, moonlight dhow trips, snorkelling, island-hopping, and decadent seafood feasts. More importantly, you will have a chance to find your story, connect, rest, and dream. The retreat takes place from 19-25 September 2022.
2. Exclusive Access
SOHO HOUSE CWH MEMBERSHIP
A members’ club founded in 1995 with the aim of creating a home for and connecting creative souls, and growing together, having fun and making an impact, Soho House can now be found in countries across the world. The membership club was recently launched in South Africa, with a presence in Joburg and Cape Town, as part of the Cities Without Houses (CHW) initiative, aimed at people who live and work in cities that don’t have a House yet. Members can attend invitation-only events, connect with others in their home city as part of the Soho House community, and access Houses all over the world when they travel.
From private gallery viewings and music nights to sourdough classes and pop-up dinners, every city has its own monthly events calendar. The events “must always feel effortless, never fussy, very welcoming and, if not unexpected, they need to connect us to something cultural or bring us back to ourselves or broaden our way of thinking”, says Zanele Kumalo, Soho House CWH liaison for Joburg, who is responsible for building community and curating exclusive experiences for members in the city.
3. Transient Hotels
The world’s first ephemeral hotel, 700’000 Heures, was established in 2018, and can only be experienced by a private community of members — le Cercle des Amazirs. This is a nomadic approach to hospitality, with the hotel’s location being shifted every few months to help alleviate guests’ concerns about their travel footprint and to elevate the communities which it inhabits for a spell. According to the website, “In each new destination, 700’000 Heures empowers locals to create our unique sanctuaries and welcome you in these dream homes that exist within, not apart from, their community.” The name 700’000 Heures comes from the average number of hours a person spends on Earth, and the concept was born out of founder Thierry Teyssier’s love for discovering new places and exploring different cultures, according to Net-A-Porter.
4. Hands-on Meals
MUSASHI BY AMAN
While Michelin-star restaurants remain the holy grail, more and more travellers are after a gastronomic experience that brings with it an understanding of provenance and culture. And this is what master chef Hiroyuki Musashi offers — an exclusive taste of authentic, traditional sushi in the Edomae style at Musashi by Aman, at the Aman Tokyo hotel. He is dedicated to quality and creates his omakase sushi masterpieces with rice he grows himself, fed by spring waters from Mount Fuji. Omakase, which translates to “I will leave it to you”, is about giving the chef complete creative control, allowing him to conjure up dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients of his own liking for your pleasure.
5. Barefoot Luxury
Spurred by a passion for hospitality and design, Hannes and Tina Maritz developed the unconventional event company kraak, and 10 years later added Eduan Ross and Christell Vermeulen to the team.“Luxury has changed — going from flashing lights to a candle. People have started to appreciate the value of taking things slowly and being in the moment without having to jeopardise innovation and drive. The world was moving at a pace where ‘more’ was always ‘more’, and then the world came to a stop. When this change started to happen we were smiling from ear to ear, as it aligns with our values and beliefs,” says Hannes Maritz. “Barefoot luxury is one of our fundamental legs and we would love to believe that somewhere a seed was planted 10 years ago that will grow along with this new movement that the world so desperately needs.”
While the company mainly curates weddings and events for a clientele that’s predominantly international, kraaktafel has become the business’s calling card, a representation of kraak’s values. The quarterly experience attracts “people who understand the new idea of luxury and the approach of being exposed and vulnerable to nature while experiencing true hospitality and conversations”. Picture long, long, long tables with white tablecloths and minimalist settings, winding along a path amid greenery or golden fields of wheat, depending on the season and location. Taking place four times a year at different venues, with a maximum seating capacity of 300, the next tafel will be on 22 January 2022 in Stellenbosch.
THE SAXON SPA
Nestled in the tree-lined suburb of Sandhurst, the Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa has brought a new focus on wellness and mindfulness since reopening in May 2021. Luxurious amenities include the spa, comprising eight treatment rooms, a spa café and hair studio, and a modern gym with kinesis equipment. According to Saxon Spa manager Tanya Lopes, “A global shift in the consciousness of self-care has revived much-needed conscious learning of our environmental and physical factors, forcing us to prioritise the importance of applying mindfulness to all our actions and thoughts, slow down our thoughts, and be aware of our actions without letting our concerns affect the enjoyment of every moment.”
The mindfulness journey allows guests to shake off the outside world temporarily, with offerings such as the new Bellabaci massage, a treatment based on a silicone cupping technique to aid in drainage and detoxification; the Digital Detox Journey, which allows guests to disconnect from their devices and reconnect with themselves; sleep therapy, which takes place on a dry flotation bed, to calm the high levels of anxiety triggered by sleep deprivation; a La Prairie illuminating White Caviar facial and a Lux Collagen Recovery facial; and the Saxon Signature sound therapy with crystal therapy, among other treatments.
• From the December issue of Wanted 2021.