Updated: Feb 27
There was once a time when 'luxury' was a very distinguishable concept. Practically in direct correlation with wealth and riches, there was a strictness to the definition. Its inaccessibility only further cemented this status; luxury goods and experiences have always been enjoyed by the few and admired by the many. However, self-made wealth, trust funds and the internet are just a handful of tools that have opened access to wealth to expansive demographics spanning many generations. We now have a demand for luxury greater than ever and it's forcing the boundaries open, tearing down tradition and shaping a new and more malleable world of luxury.
Rooted in a history of ownership, the success of luxury goods as rentals has been vastly underestimated. Services like Rent The Runway have capitalised on younger generation's adversity to commitment by offering designer dresses, clothing and accessories for hire - at a fraction of the retail price. You can rent these items for up to 8 days, allowing you to indulge in a temporary stasis of luxe. This takes away from the tradition that luxury is about owning things and collecting items, but points more towards experiencing luxury - luxuriousness has become a feeling or emotion you can explore. Rather than the object itself, it would appear that how it makes you feel is growing more important.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Much like with rentals, the market has seen a growing appreciation for hand-me-downs. At first it seems surprising that the 'reduce, reuse and recycle' attitude could be applied to the luxury market, it seems natural to assume luxurious goods would equate to being new and unused. Alas, the inherent value of the craft that goes into creating many of these goods doesn't age and a penchant for the preloved has taken hold of consumers. In the luxury fashion world, resale stores have been popping up across the globe, where owners of haute couture and luxury fashions can have their unwanted pieces sold on at reduced prices. Second-hand fashion has been gaining traction over recent years and it's about time that the higher end of the industry followed suit.
This movement puts the value of the goods back into the product itself, their luxury is maintained through the appreciation of the piece itself.
Another recent development in luxury is the proclivity to team up with other brands. Although the brands collaborating is hardly a shining example of original thought, the last decade has seen an influx of them. Countless luxury brands have been teaming up with smaller companies and fast fashion labels, creating chimera collections that speak true of both influences. One of the most notable combos in past years has been the Supreme x Louis Vuitton Fall 2017 Menswear collection. Rubbing shoulders with a brand like Supreme was a recognisably rogue move for traditional house of handbags and luggage LV, but saying "hey, we're down with the kids too!" seemed to actually work for the masters of monogram. A sort of symbiotic success; Supreme's reputation was elevated whilst LV got to expand their demographic. These brand collaborations are reshaping what we thought to be luxury - no longer are the terms restricted to only include haute couture and chains dripping with the finest diamonds... hoodies, tracksuits and trainers can be luxurious too.
Social and Environmental Awareness
As the world collectively shifts its focus towards bettering the state of the earth and those living on it, our desire to invest in brands that share that focus grows. Responsible consumers want to buy responsible products and services, today's markets are far more willing to invest in companies where their pennies go beyond just the purchase. More and more we're seeing brands that hold social consciousness at the very heart of their being; be that sustainable material bags or jewellers that plants trees. RJ Gibson's embroidered bag and purse collections combine the haute couture art of embroidery with the promise of sustainable and cruelty free materials, showing that you don't have to compromise. Another stand out luxury brand on top of their consciousness is Anueva Jewelry - they use recycled metals for all their pieces and repurpose antique and pre-loved gemstones. As part of their Plant-It 2020 initiative, for every purchase a tree is planted, a further testament to their identity as an environmentally conscious company. Luxury brands like this are gaining more attention from millennial consumers (the largest growing market for luxury) by wrapping up luxury craft, product and greater purpose all in one neat package.
The future of luxury is for everyone
The luxury market has always been heavily materialistic, but these growing trends in modern luxury hint towards a much more sentimental definition. So what have we learned about this new definition and what that means for the market? Well, consumers now care about where the brand sits on social issues and how sustainable they are over how much the product might cost. Opening up the industry to rental and reuse opportunities expands the accessibility tenfold, what once would've been a deterrent for luxury consumers now invites more and more people to engage with the industry. An industry that includes all only opens more opportunities for brands, hence the exciting collaborations and products born from these evolutions. If these discoveries are anything to go by, the future of luxury looks to be one that is for all, contributes to serious change AND doesn't destroy the planet whilst doing so (hopefully) - sounds alright to me.