We have entered upon a very important period of change. Change that is affecting fashion, how we live, what we buy and why. It’s time to rethink our definition of luxury, to raise the bar and make a distinction.
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu identified three kinds of capital: economic, social and cultural. Cultural capital includes knowledge, skills and taste, and has become important as a form of self-expression, a definer of who we are. Not everyone has cultural capital – where knowledge and experience transcend money to provide access and exclusivity – and it can’t be bought.
Intelligent purchasers will be looking for an understanding of the product they buy: how it was made, where it was made and by whom. A luxury item that has been produced with no respect for the person who made it and the circumstances that surrounded its manufacture is today no longer a luxury. Today, we covet those products which marry virtue and desirability. It is just this union of the beautiful and the good that finds extraordinary emotional resonance with a powerful – and growing – group of new luxury seekers.
We have identified six key trends in new luxury that sum up what we nowadays consider aspirational.
1. COLLECTION & CURATION
EVERYDAY ITEMS BECOME ART
THE PARTICULAR PLACEMENT OF OBJECTS WITH STYLE CREATES A PERSONAL SIGNATURE
Collecting and curating our own choice of objects are acts charged with emotional significance. The result is a provocative gallery, a reflection of our own uniqueness, our worldview on display for others to view, understand, appreciate and enjoy.
ONENESS WITH THE WORLD
Few would not want to have an experience of transcendence. Artists, writers, designers and thinkers describe creative flow as a feeling of connection or oneness with the world. Being part of something bigger than ourselves is surely the new luxury.
KNOWLEDGE OF SELF
INVESTMENT IN LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS
THE PLEASURE OF THE PROCESS AS WELL AS THE RESULT
Commissioning personalised items demonstrates confidence and awareness. Ordering ‘off menu’ changes a person’s relationship with a brand and provides the opportunity for a unique collaboration between ‘patron’ and ‘artist’, where both are inspired to learn more about each other and make a greater investment in their relationship.
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
THE THRILL OF THE HUNT
The things we can’t possess can have a strange power over us. The piece not available to everyone becomes a treasure, and the thrill of the hunt is as intoxicating as the successful acquiring of that longed-for rarity. The deep knowledge and appreciation of the unique, demonstrates our search for something of true and lasting value.
SMALL FLAWS SHOW A HUMAN HAND
UNIQUE PRODUCT BECOMES ART
THE RISK AND EXCITEMENT OF CREATIVITY
Imperfection is the opposite of the factory produced, cold impersonalisation of contemporary consumer culture. Imperfections can communicate the warmth of human creation and craftsmanship making every piece unique. Our aesthetic standard is challenged and we are encouraged to see things with new eyes.
BEAUTY, TRUTH AND GOODNESS
VIRTUE AND DESIRABILITY
THE IMPACT OF OUR ACTIONS
Once the preserve of treehugging environmentalistas demand is rapidly growing for those elusive products which marry virtue with desirability. The creative challenge for this generation of designers and thinkers is to combine style and sustainability in a way that will inspire us to vote with our credit cards.
With thanks to Georgia Fendley. This article was first published in Sublime Magazine Print, Issue 1, 2007 Get your print copy here.