I have spent an enriching 3 days at the “Luxury in the Age of Technology” IPOL conference. Hosted virtually by Politecnico di Milano, the conference featured a great lineup of speakers from the industry and the academia. The event inspired many thought-provoking debates, to which I was very glad to contribute. Here below my takeaways.
The post-pandemic luxury customer
Technology has kept us going during the pandemic, and we are very grateful for that. We are equally glad to be back in the physical world. Now we take stock: we have realized how much we enjoy the tactile feel of luxury products. We are also clear, now, that what we value as luxury is deeply personal. And we want luxury brands to realize that too.
We are varied, we like it all (Catherine Scorey, COO, All Saints)
This is my luxury, but I don’t expect it to be yours (Mark Bloomfield, Visiting Professor of Design and Innovation at University of Hertfordshire and Director at Electrobloom)
We expect brands go beyond products and services. They have to consider how these products and services are enriching our own lives and souls (Kevin Bethune, Founder & CCO, Dreams Design + Life)
Technology and personalization
Through technology, companies are able to access a sheer volume of data from a greater variety of sources. The next step is for companies to develop an holistic vision about their customers and implement the personalization of their products/services. What do we need? The purposeful selection of data and the ability to channel different technologies into the luxury experience.
Luxury needs to reach people where they are (Jessica Helfand, Founding Editor of Design Observer)
* technology, however, comes with an ethical baggage, as well as with important implications in terms of products’ authenticity and corporate transparency.
Traditionally the luxury manufacturing industry has relied just on a limited range of materials from a limited number of countries. With sustainability, alternatives have emerged (such as US hemp or hides) as well as byproduct materials. Do they have the credentials to become luxury materials? Good news here. It seems that sustainability has been now fully accepted in the vernacular of luxury.
sustainability has become a status symbol, a symbol of intellectual sophistication. (Tomas Lopez-Pumarejo, Professor at Brooklyn College)
Democratization of Luxury
The term democratization is not new in luxury. Nowadays, however, it is not anymore about how many a brand is able to reach, but about the way it reaches them. It is about experience, accessibility, and engagement. It is also about confronting with the dark side of the luxury democratization, and embrace with courage issues about colonialism, exploitation, social inequality.
If we want to talk about democratization, we need to consider the storyline of luxury making – who can and cannot make luxury (Nigel Lezama, director of French Studies, Brock University)
There is scope to decolonize the Western/European concept of luxury. This will pave new ways for us to think about luxury (Mehita Iqani, Professor at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)