meaning of luxury

A new age for luxury brands?

Isaac Mostovicz writes that the luxury goods industry is having to adapt to the conceptual shift of what luxury means to different people ...

The fluid nature of what luxury means to different people, and the challenges this presents to the luxury goods industry has been examined in a new report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) – ‘The New World of Luxury – Caught Between Growing Momentum and Lasting Change’.

“In this new world of luxury, being iconic and exclusive is not enough to make a brand grow, and fewer consumers are willing to blithely accept high prices as the mark of luxury. They need better reasons to buy,” it said in the report.

It was found that for most consumers the term true luxury connotes rarity, quality, and refinement; and is typically applied to hard and soft luxury (e.g. jewelry and fashion). However an Ipsos survey of 7,496 adults in seven developed countries, coupled with BCG analysis, revealed “experiences” must also be incorporated.

“In the eyes of most consumers, luxury also extends to alcohol and food, as well as to travel, hotels, spas, technology (for example, smartphones), and cars,” BCG said.

Other recent BCG surveys of consumer sentiment demonstrate that values such as stability, family, home, and spirituality became more important as a result of the economic downturn, while luxury and status in its traditional form became less of a priority.

“In the new world of luxury, consumers are looking more to ‘be’ than to ‘have,'” BCG said.

This model values the luxury industry at €1tr ($1.3bn; £846bn). Despite this massive profit pool, the challenges posed by the conceptual shift means the luxury goods industry must manage conflicting priorities in every major aspect of the business

Proving value, offering experiences, embracing new media, building brands, “refreshing” retail strategies and adopting corporate social responsibility should all be vital going forward, BCG concluded.

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Satisfaction is the ultimate luxury and the key to happiness

Isaac Mostovicz writes that that our inability to foresee the future honestly leads to our inability to find real happiness...

Is money the key to happiness? Is losing your job always an unhappy event? New research in psychology and economics has revealed the seven secrets of a happy life.

The psychologists who conducted the study explored the reason behind why many people struggle to find real happiness. According to the study, we overestimate the emotional impact that events will have on our lives, preferring to linger on the most salient features of an experience, without taking into account all the repercussions. That means that when we chase a dream, say, of living on a paradise island, we only anticipate sunny weather, beautiful beaches and pure luxury. Instead, we might find ourselves homesick, without our friends and feeling displaced. Our inability to honestly conceptualise a new experience will leave us unsatisfied when we arrive there.

Instead of continually looking to greener pastures, the new research suggests that the secret of happiness lies in what we already have. It cites the value of friends over wealth and shows the brighter side to divorce and losing your job.  The most important finding, is that to achieve happiness, you should be satisfied with that you have.

This contradicts research that was released last month that offered the sum of $75,000 as the benchmark for achieving happiness.  The concept of buying happiness is, as I said in my post reflecting on this previous research, irrelevant to the nature of happiness itself.

The research also brings up the question of what luxury really is. Luxury is not a need – no one needs a diamond, for instance, but instead diamonds are a want. To desire and to want is key to giving us a purpose to live for and aspirations to target. If we reached the level of happiness in the way proposed in this research, whereby we should be satisfied and not yearn for more, we may fall into despair, because our goals had already been reached leaving us no further journey to take. Instead, luxury tells us that we do have a purpose by accentuating the difference between a must and a want, enabling us not to sink into constant pursuit of need with a false hope for happiness.

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The Timelessness of the Manolo Blahnik

Isaac Mostovicz writes that the "time" aspect of the Blahnik shoe is the secret to its success...

Manolo Blahnik, the luxury shoe designer, has revealed that he has never quite understood the reason for his brand’s success, but that “timelessness” could be the winning formula.

In the industry for thirty years, Blahnik has become one of the world’s most influential footwear designers with a huge celeb following, somewhat heightened by the endorsement from Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw on the TV series ‘Sex and the City.’

Whilst trends come and go with each season, the Blahnik stays a staple favourite. In a recent interview with Vogue, Blahnik claimed he was “surprised and mystified” by his shoes’ popularity, but said, “perhaps it’s because they don’t have a set time period or ageing look to them.”

This idea about the timelessness of his shoe is interesting.  Luxury is, for Thetas, often affiliated with an investment in a product that transcends seasonal trends. Thetas seek things that inherently represent a lot of time, which is where their love for antiques derives from.  The Blahnik shoe would definitely hit the mark for them.

For Lambdas, the “time” aspect of luxury is associated with the process taken to create the product. Whilst the “timelessness” of Blahnik’s shoe may not be the central appeal for Lambdas, they would like his shoes too, attracted by the time and precision taken over crafting the shoe.

The secret of Manolo Blahnik’s success, it would seem, is that his shoe fits the concept of luxury for both Lambdas and Thetas, whereby the idea of “time” is both product-related and process-related.

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Being Satisfied With What You Have

Isaac Mostovicz writes that you can't up the ante without appreciating what you have...

I read a very interesting opinion piece by Karen von Hahn in the Toronto Star recently, about how people’s tastes for luxury can grow. For example, after someone has slept on soft 100% cotton sheets, he or she can’t go back to percale, and will soon be wondering whether he or she can have even better sheets of Egyptian or Sea Island cotton. The same can be said for coffee; people used to expect bad drip coffee in an office — now offering visitors a cappucino or espresso has become standard.

Says von Hahn:

In the sport of appreciation, it seems, we are always in training. But then, whichever direction our stylistic hamster wheel happens to be turning, it seems we just can’t help cranking it up a notch.

While I do think ‘upping the ante’ (as von Hahn calls it) and always looking for better experiences is important for connoisseurship and appreciation, I also believe that one can go too far in this direction, and begin to stop appreciating what he or she has. The pursuit of something better then takes the joy away from the experience.

Luxury always depends on the way you interpret it, and if you can’t be satisfied with and appreciate the luxuries you have now, ‘greater’ luxuries aren’t going to make you feel more fulfilled or self-actualized.

[…] Being Satisfied With What You Have […]

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Luxuries Don’t Have To Be Expensive

Isaac Mostovicz writes that small luxuries are as important as big luxuries...

An interesting report by the research group Mintel came out this week on how British people are living and spending money during the economic downturn. While many people are cutting costs, people are continuing to spend on small luxuries, particularly on alcohol (£622 per person annually); on smoothies, coffee and soft drinks (£230 per person annually); on personal beauty and grooming (£216 per person annually); and on clothing and accessories (£750 per person annually).

One would think that these would be the sorts of things that people could cut back on, and I imagine some have, but that the figures have remained so high shows how these very personal items represent luxuries in people’s lives. The way that one person interprets luxury could be completely different from the way someone else interprets luxury. A woman might continue to get a weekly manicure because of the way it makes her feel. She might be better off financially not doing it, but her weekly manicure gives her some quiet time to be pampered, and this relatively small expense makes her better able to tackle the challenges in her life. These small luxuries are worth it when they make people feel better about themselves.

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Is the luxury logo key to a product’s success?

Isaac Mostovicz writes that the quality of a brand's product can be more important than its logos...

Two recent studies have found that for many luxury consumers, (1) an item’s quality is more important than its use of obvious logos and (2) luxury brands charge more for items with more subtle logos.

The first article, “Subtle Signals of Inconspicuous Consumption,” appears in the current issue of Journal of Consumer Research, and suggests that luxury consumers prefer with “discreet markers, such as distinctive design or detailing,” than obvious brand logos. And the second study, “Signaling Status with Luxury Goods: The Role of Brand Prominence,” in this month’s Journal of Marketing, said “luxury brands charge more for ‘quieter’ items with subtle logo placement and discreet appeal.”

One of my favorite fashion brands, Bottega Veneta, really takes this to heart. Their goods are made with extraordinary craftsmanship and materials, and never display a company logo. The prices match the quality. For example, they offer a pair of flip-flops, or “basketwoven leather thong sandals“, for $396. Most people wear $10 flip-flops for a summer and get a new pair each year, whereas these Bottega Veneta basketwoven leather thong sandals will last a lifetime and will only improve with age.

Perhaps only a few people will notice this level of quality, in sandals or other garments, but those that do form a very exclusive club which many Thetas and Lambdas would aspire to be part of I think.

interior design says of this article...

Thank you for this post. Funny how the universe gives you what you need. I was looking for new direction and came to your site. You continue to be a source of inspiration.

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Theta and Lambda: Sex and the City 2

Isaac Mostovicz writes that in Sex and the City, a black diamond fits Lambda characteristics...

Women have been flocking to see the latest Sex and the City film. While the reviews haven’t been that positive, this article by Cynthia Sliwa on the JCK Blog makes the jewelry look quite appealing. While I think that Sliwa’s statement that ‘there’s no more romantic gift than jewelry’ works for many people, it must be noted that people interpret things in different ways, and what one person thinks is the most romantic thing in the world another person might find off-putting.

The whole Sex and the City series is quite interesting to look at in terms of Theta and Lambda. As the women portrayed in the series are stylish urbanites who are the best of friends, many women want to emulate them and match their styles. In this way, Sex and the City fans fit into the Theta worldview, where they seek affiliation and unity, looking to contextualize themselves within a larger group of women with the tastes and styles of the four Sex and the City protagonists.

Yet a Lambda worldview prevails in this new film: Carrie, the main character, received a unique diamond-studded black diamond from her husband Big, who says that he gave her such a unique ring because there’s no one else like her. Lambda personalities seek originality and challenge, and love products that make them stand out and feel unique.

It’s nice that both worldviews are included in the film, but could the popularity of the series make these black diamond rings become popular so that having one no longer makes the possessor unique? With a series so popular, it’s certainly a possibility.

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The allure of the past: Why backstory is important in luxury

Isaac Mostovicz writes that an item's historical significance can sometimes be its greatest luxury attraction...

For $700,000 you could own historically significant chimney piece heads. They’re not just any chimney piece heads. According to Luxist, it’s:

An extremely rare, important and well-preserved neo-Gothic terracotta chimney piece commissioned for Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia and King of Hungary, in the late 19th century

For potential buyers, the most important aspect of this is not the craftsmanship, or even how the chimney piece heads look. The most important aspect is its age and royal associations.

A Theta personality will be attracted to this because of the piece’s backstory. This piece serves no purpose other than to be put on display. Thetas gravitate toward luxury items that can be added to their existing personal picture and sense of unity. Thetas would see this item as fulfilling that need.

Thetas look for benefits that improve their social standing. Thetas look for recognition. As I mentioned above, this item would be bought and immediately put on display. A Theta personality would take great pride in showing off this historically significant item off to their friends and others who he perceives as also being part of his desired social circle.

The two guards on the chimney are engraved with a staying that Theta personalities would find great significance in:

Two knights standing on Corinthian columns flank the mantelpiece, which also bears the Emperor’s motto Viribus Unitis, “With united forces.”

Thetas seek unity within themselves, so it is likely that a Theta will attach some personal significance to this phrasing, which would make the item more attractive. Also, because the item is so old, it will likely become some kind of personal adage for the Theta personality.

Ultimately it will be the item’s rarity that will be the most items most attractive feature. Thetas will link their status to the rarity of the product. According to their worldview, if the product is rare, it would imply to anyone viewing it, that the owner, too, is unique.

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Luxury in the Nazi Concentration Camps

Isaac Mostovicz writes that luxury is deeply linked to our own behaviour...
We are used to associating luxury with expensive cars, plush hotels and exotic resorts. However, once we understand what luxury means, we can find it anywhere, even in the Nazi concentration camps.
As a son of Holocaust survivors, I have encountered many people who survived because of the generosity of their mates who decided to share with them their own daily rations. Many of you might be familiar with the derogatory term “Muselmann”, which describes those victims in the Nazi concentration camps who had been broken psychologically and physically by starvation and life in the camps. Some gave away their meagre food portions because they lost any hope, but many did so because they hoped to survive and wanted to bring that hope to others, even temporarily by helping them with a bit of extra food. While we have to hail this behaviour as heroic, from a scientific point of view, this is a very interesting example of a form of luxury behaviour.
Yes, luxury is behaviour. Contrary to conventional wisdom, luxury is not embedded in products or services themselves; luxury instead is a type of behaviour characterised by needlessly squandering assets. This activity seems irrational as long as we do not pay attention to the deep reasons behind it.
Research shows that people use luxury for enhancing their self-esteem. Two main schools provide alternative explanations along the Theta / Lambda dichotomy. The Terror Management Theory (TMT), a Theta school, claims that luxury’s role is to confirm one’s self-worth. On the other hand, the Lambda school promotes the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) which argues that the role of luxury behaviour is to provide individuals challenges in order to grow and develop psychologically as well as to structure their life choices in alignment with their own perceived identity.
Overspending or squandering assets sends us the message that we are able, fit and worthy.  Amotz Zahavi, the Israeli biologist calls this phenomenon “the handicap principle” whereby one proves one’s abundance of assets by destroying them.
Understanding what is behind luxury behaviour, enhancing our self-esteem, demonstrates the importance of the role of luxury in our lives and saying bluntly that luxury is good for us. Nevertheless, Self-Determination Theory emphasises another key factor, that of choice.   When we spend on something because we need it, this behaviour will never be luxury. Luxury is based on a choice, when we do something even when we do not need to. Overspending is a choice that exemplifies the fact that there is a rationality behind the irrational behaviour of overspending in that it enhances self esteem. Spending needlessly enables us to express the element of choice.
When Holocaust victims were ready to share their food with their mates, they sent two messages. The first was that they did not need all of it, at least for the time being and that some of their food was excessive. Secondly, they had a choice between two, equally good options, either to eat up the food or to give it away. Either of these two aspects clearly define this behaviour as luxury.  (Alternatively they could have become apathetic or have been demonstrating true altruism, neither of which would be regarded as luxury.)
The heroic behaviour of those Holocaust victims teaches us two lessons; one educational and the other moral. The first lesson is that luxury is beneficial to us and that we should search for it everywhere. It is important because in enhances our self-esteem. Life is full of choices and by identifying them and actually choosing between them we enhance our self-esteem.  Morally, it does not matter what we spend on as long as we act correctly. We do not need a heroic gesture of sharing our last piece of the extremely needed bread to tell us how worthy we are. There are many other, much more pleasurable means of sending this message.  Luxury is a choice of our own behaviour.

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We are used to associating luxury with expensive cars, plush hotels and exotic resorts. However, once we understand what luxury means, we can find it anywhere, even in the Nazi concentration camps.

As a son of Holocaust survivors, I have encountered many people who survived because of the generosity of their mates who decided to share with them their own daily rations. Many of you might be familiar with the derogatory term “Muselmann”, which describes those victims in the Nazi concentration camps who had been broken psychologically and physically by starvation and life in the camps.

Some gave away their meagre food portions because they lost any hope, but many did so because they hoped to survive and wanted to bring that hope to others, even temporarily by helping them with a bit of extra food. While we have to hail this behaviour as heroic, from a scientific point of view, this is a very interesting example of a form of luxury behaviour.

Yes, luxury is behaviour. Contrary to conventional wisdom, luxury is not embedded in products or services themselves; luxury instead is a type of behaviour characterised by needlessly squandering assets. This activity seems irrational as long as we do not pay attention to the deep reasons behind it.

Research shows that people use luxury for enhancing their self-esteem. Two main schools provide alternative explanations along the Theta / Lambda dichotomy. The Terror Management Theory (TMT), a Theta school, claims that luxury’s role is to confirm one’s self-worth.

On the other hand, the Lambda school promotes the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) which argues that the role of luxury behaviour is to provide individuals challenges in order to grow and develop psychologically as well as to structure their life choices in alignment with their own perceived identity.

Overspending or squandering assets sends us the message that we are able, fit and worthy.  Amotz Zahavi, the Israeli biologist calls this phenomenon “the handicap principle” whereby one proves one’s abundance of assets by destroying them.

Understanding what is behind luxury behaviour, enhancing our self-esteem, demonstrates the importance of the role of luxury in our lives and saying bluntly that luxury is good for us. Nevertheless, Self-Determination Theory emphasises another key factor, that of choice.

When we spend on something because we need it, this behaviour will never be luxury. Luxury is based on a choice, when we do something even when we do not need to. Overspending is a choice that exemplifies the fact that there is a rationality behind the irrational behaviour of overspending in that it enhances self esteem. Spending needlessly enables us to express the element of choice.

When Holocaust victims were ready to share their food with their mates, they sent two messages. The first was that they did not need all of it, at least for the time being and that some of their food was excessive. Secondly, they had a choice between two, equally good options, either to eat up the food or to give it away. Either of these two aspects clearly define this behaviour as luxury.

The heroic behaviour of those Holocaust victims teaches us two lessons; one educational and the other moral. The first lesson is that luxury is beneficial to us and that we should search for it everywhere. It is important because in enhances our self-esteem. Life is full of choices and by identifying them and actually choosing between them we enhance our self-esteem.

Morally, it does not matter what we spend on as long as we act correctly. We do not need a heroic gesture of sharing our last piece of the extremely needed bread to tell us how worthy we are. There are many other, much more pleasurable means of sending this message.  Luxury is a choice of our own behaviour.

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Is elitism key to luxury’s success?

Isaac Mostovicz writes that for the luxury industry to persevere, it may need to return to its elitist roots....

At the LuxuryLab Innovation Forum at the Times Center in New York, marketer and consultant Cindy Gallop said “the single worst thing that happened to luxury was its democratization.”

In a story that ran in MarketingDaily, Gallop is quoted:

“Who will want to have a luxury brand if everyone else can have it too?” She argues that luxury brands, if they are to succeed, must be willing to be elitist in nature. They can’t dabble in the upper reaches of the mass market. “I think ‘new luxury’ is a return to true luxury,” she said. “It’s luxury for the very, very few. It will be shamelessly elitist.”

Gallop is that the future of luxe depends upon the return of the market to Lambda personalities. That, while they were helpful in the recession, the Thetas aren’t true luxury consumers.

Later in her speech, she makes delivers a damning assessment of the luxury industry’s e-commerce practices:

The single biggest defining aspect of luxury lifestyle, said Gallop, is “being able to do what you want, how you want, when you want and not giving a damn what people think.” Unfortunately, she said, luxury brands don’t get it — and often make it hard for customers to do that. “That’s what e-commerce is about. Luxury brands are bad at that,” she said.

Luxury’s latest foray into the internet is largely in the social media realm, which has been a bit haphazard as companies come to terms with the indirect nature of it. However some, such as Burberry, have begun to make the luxe social media rules for themselves. On Monday they launched artofthetrench.com.

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