- Luxury is no longer high prices
- Luxury brands must connect with consumers
- Luxury is adapting to the future
If you’re a millennial, luxury probably conjures images of suede grey velvet, cathedrals covered in murals, and felt ruffled sleeves. I am here to tell you: the world has moved on. Luxury has been redefined by Gen Z, and luxury brands are continuously reinventing themselves to match their new standards. Price tags are becoming redundant, and even quality of products are no longer the key variable.
Gen Z is a digitally native generation: technology has been at our fingertips from childhood. We broadcast our curated lives over the Internet, hence any brands associated with us must match the aesthetic of our personal brands. Let’s go through what Gen Z typically wants from their luxury brand:
- Social Media Presence
- Social Awareness
No joke. Exploiting Sierra Leone children, destroying the planet through excessive mining, misleading advertisements, artificially heightened prices, and corruption no longer fits the bill even if it produces a shiny diamond at the end. Taking quality as a given, upcoming luxury brands often struggle with other factors.
Sustainability must not be the fad that brands jump onto, and work entirely on lighthouse sustainable projects to boost their social media. It must become an honest endeavour; fashion brands are most susceptible to unsustainable petrochemicals and fabrics. While several brands are catching on to the new demand, it’s a drop in the ocean. India, in particular, is famous for its bazaars where the throwaway culture is most prominent and causes great land pollution.
As mentioned before, luxury brands must conform to the personal brands of Gen Zers. One major identity of Gen Zers is their inclusivity. Prejudices have been thrown right out the window, and the national flag now includes everyone under the umbrella. Thus, luxury brands must be equally accepting and inclusive. In this, they compete with brands as macro as Nike and Apple, the stores of which provide Gen Zers a most clean, diverse, and inclusive experience. They are competing for attention, time, and money.
Gen Zers are defined through their social media involvement; luxury brands must similarly take after them. They must regularly publish inspiring content, connect with key leaders, and resonating social service. Brands must be relatable to consumers all over the globe, not just their nation.
The social media presence must also be justified through clear positioning. Gen Zers want substance and not just pretty faces; brands must illustrate their opinions on even politically controversial topics. Gone are the days where brands could be constricted to their sphere, future criminal cases against their owners would jolt their customers. Gen Zers value nothing more in brands than strong values they live unapologetically. Establish the brand story, be socially assertive.
Now, you may yarn a fake narrative that appeals to Gen Zers currently: I mean how hard can it be to avoid meat and leather? Watch out, because one aspect Gen Zers beat millennials out significantly is fact check. They know how to root out true intentions and read between the lines to dispel all “corporate communication”. For the brand staff to pose as a younger strata is consumerist suicide, nobody likes inauthentic people.
In short, luxury brands must become influencers to appeal to the most discerning of all audiences: Gen Zers. This news is great for brands that dare to self-disrupt but bad news for traditionalists. The decade of Gen Z has just begun, and the implications for brands will be massive.
At the same time, brands must acutely conform to the traditional luxury standards- understanding of consumers, value creation, and high quality. A luxurious fishing rod is not valuable to cheese enthusiasts, and to promote and advertise to that group is an abysmal failure. Find your target group, understand their nuances, likes, dislikes, opinions, and motives. Similarly, solve a problem and don’t just jump on any trending bandwagon. A Tiktok rip-off, let’s say TeekTok, tries to emulate the success of Tiktok and make some quick money. Unless incredibly lucky or innovative, they are bound to be viewed as plagiarism and no luxury. It sounds intuitive and almost banal, but a lot of luxury brands fall short on it. Finally, top-notch quality is a must, and no Gen Z member will ever pay a premium for something substandard. Make your product stand out by producing and maintaining the highest quality in the market.
These may ensure luxury brand success in the present, but let’s talk about the future. We now have Meta Platforms, a clear rejection of the “flat” internet area, where people interact with each other in front of two-dimensional screens to a new, more immersive, and virtual dimension. The metaverse, while often put narrowly in a virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) context, should instead be seen as the fusion of digital and physical. And this fusion is leading, in its essence, to a new type of luxury.
So what is the way to win this new game? Is it, as Balenciaga recently announced, creating an entire metaverse department? Or do brands need to think differently? Many corporations still see digital as an advertising channel that connects customers, key opinion leaders, and celebrities. But that view focuses mainly on brands while omitting today’s real decision-maker: the customer. The luxury metaverse requires a different approach — one that is more agile, culturally open, tech-savvy, and plays to win instead of playing it safe.
Thanks to the unprecedented pivot from daily life to online life during COVID-19, exciting new possibilities for luxury have opened up, pushing the concept of a virtual metaverse from the edges of the expanse to mainstream thinking. These games or communities operate by mimicking the essentials of real life as closely as possible, which often includes the trading or purchasing of products through in-house currency. Recent accelerations in retail digitization and an uptick in gaming have meant that, even if the industry isn’t entirely in agreement about what the metaverse is, it has value.
Gaming platforms such as Fortnite and the digital marketplace Roblox already offer a glimpse at what metaverse malls might resemble. However, the mainstream adoption of such a mighty online space will take time; Waydel thinks it won’t come without what she terms “a sustained effort by tech giants, innovative startups, and fashion brands.”
Recently, the Gucci Garden Experience on the digital fashion marketplace Roblox has been a notable barometer of interest in virtual fashion purchases. The luxury leader created a virtual locale with a pool, balloon arches, and, of course, a shopping space where the prices of some items exceeded in-real-life price tags (reaching above $4,000 or 350,000 Robux). This is the brainchild of Alessandro Michele.
“They are demanding experiential shopping, so it’s an easy sell to suggest that a merging of physical and digital will add value to their life,” Kerstin Brolsma, an analyst adds. “It’s about connecting the dots. If brands do it, they will be open.” Chinese singer A Duo, who rose to fame through the talent show Sisters Who Make Waves, sold one of the first NFT Chinese songs in May for $47,000. For now, it’s too early to call but brands that are at least at the drawing board will have a final say.
A proven best practice for luxury brands is to engage Indian Gen Zers by offering aspirational experiences that are easily shareable online. With lower spending power than their older counterparts yet growing demand for luxury, a proven best practice for hard luxury brands is to engage Chinese Gen Zers by offering aspirational and attainable experiences that are easily shareable online. The end result of this type of engagement may not be immediate sales, but rather laying the groundwork for positive sentiment that can motivate a purchase at a later date.
Another tactic to engage and entertain young consumers without the investment or commitment of a permanent installation is the themed pop-up café, a strategy used by Jaeger-LeCoultre in June 2021 with its Art Deco 1931 Café. Designed to mark the 90th anniversary of the launch of its famed Reverso watch, the luxury ocean liner-themed 1931 Café premiered at Shanghai’s K11 Art Mall before relocating to Paris.
While Gen Zers are continuously reinventing and turning convention upside down, we are coming to realise the value of tradition. Decades of wisdom compound to produce the traditions, and they have a stable factor like no new trend can have. So, perhaps, the secret lies in balancing the two, or even fusing them together. Often narrowly categorised as “Indo-Western” that’s hardly enough to describe the beauty of tradition + new.
This Republic Day, perhaps, we should reconsider the value of merging generations. Luxury is not a millennial or Gen Z “thing”, it was and is always relevant. It embraces a lifestyle of fun and self-indulgence, a large part of any Gen Zer’s life. After the war-torn, economically recessive generation that millennials have undergone, Gen Zers typically tend to have a far more optimistic outlook and self-care is the watchword of the era. Hence, our idea of luxury is self-care too.
I doeth because I wanteth.
Luxury Fashion and Gen-Z of India