How we spent it: the changing face of luxury

The appeal of “stuff” has lessened. Special experiences matter more. It’s why, for instance, LVMH a world leader in quality goods is buying up hotels and building up its leisure portfolio. Tacked on to the search for transformative experiences is the desire to learn.

The appeal for stuff has lessened. Special experiences matter more. Ilha Blue Sunset sail

“There’s been a paradigm shift from the search for experiences to reach for something beyond – an accumulation of knowledge, if you like,” says Adrian Cheng, executive vice-chairman and general manager of Hong Kong-based New World Development, and the man behind innovative retail concept K11 Musea in Hong Kong. “The very rich, when they travel, want to understand, to learn, to reflect on history and to gain an insight into other cultures.” Cultural-retail experience is the new buzz phrase. At K11 Musea, Cheng offers a range of cultural programmes, from guided art tours and green tours to live music, design workshops and cooking classes.

One of the most marked changes in the past 25 years has been that of the consumer. Those with the wherewithal to buy luxury have become younger. And the new consumer wants adventure and wellness. Many of the new young rich are looking for “meaning” in their lives – “frantic and frazzled” is how one owner of a serious and very expensive medi-spa described many of her customers.

Conversely, in travel, the world’s richest – Bill Gates, Gorongosa’s Greg Carr, Paul Tudor Jones – seek simple food and an untrammelled wilderness to wonder at. They can get fancy food and 800-thread-count sheets at home. What they want are things rarer still: pure air, silence, starry skies, an absence of social media and, as every purveyor of bespoke travel will tell you, an opportunity to give back. They expect their children to visit the local schools and orphanages, they want to know their money is helping preserve rare species or transform the lives of the local communities they visit.

But the last word should go to Franca Sozzani. Speaking about luxury and ethics in the industry a few years before her death in 2016, the much‑loved editor of Italian Vogue declared that there was a new luxury. “Ethical is a way of thinking, a lifestyle… It means respecting nature and the environment, it means fair trade… We don’t need to kill a crocodile or a leopard to live in a luxurious world. We need to carry out research in a new way, using different textiles and leather and embroideries and making more sophisticated, elegant, unique fashion… Uniqueness, quality, diversity, the respect for nature, for the environment, fair trade and sustainability. These are the new words for luxury.”

December 13 2019 Lucia van der Post. The Financial Times. Full article here

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