Luxury and Culture: Regeneration Magazine | Interview

ph: Regeneration Magazine

Very pleased to be featured on the magazine of this year WWNA (Why the World Needs Anthropologists) Magazine, titled: Regeneration [link here]

Below the text of the interview spanning through favourite readings and the contribution that anthropology can offer to the luxury industry.

alma mater? Bunka Gakuen University (Japan) and Grenoble Graduate Business School (France)

you studied anthropology because? It offered me a flexible and creative approach to humanize constructs like “national culture” and “identity”

favorite anthropologist? Why? Ulf Hannerz: his metaphor of culture as a river – or constantly flowing water-  with whirls and quiet banks was an eye-opener

all-time favorite ethnography? The study by Joanne Eicher and Tonye Erekosima on Kalabari dress and the cultural authentication

last anthropology title you read? (or podcast you listened to) “The most beautiful job in the world: Lifting the veil on the fashion industry” by Giulia Mensitieri

if anthropology were an artistic movement, style, or period, it would be? Surrealism: the magic breaking through the obvious

the world needs anthropologists because? Because now more than ever, we need glasses to see clearly the whys behind our increasingly complex whats

In your experience, what does anthropology bring to the luxury sector? Luxury is intrinsically an industry whose extreme value rests “in the eye of the beholder”. An anthropological approach is able to bring depth and perspective to what luxury is in a specific market place, in a specific point in time. It can also help to detect emerging values and beliefs around luxury, anticipating how these will shape the orientation of the luxury consumers, and ultimately how luxury businesses will deliver luxury value in the long term.

Our theme this year is Re/Generation. How do questions of both generation and sustainability interface with contemporary understanding of luxury? For quite a long time, the luxury industry has been seen at odds with those topics, because the concept of luxury is traditionally associated with waste and social inequality. But luxury is also an indicator of products’ excellence and timelessness. From this standpoint, it has become a moral imperative for the luxury industry to ensure that these values – excellence and timelessness – are reflected at both ends of the production pipeline, in the way natural and human resources are treated, and in the sustainable life of the final product. As a result, for the luxury companies of today, the label “luxury” comes with greater responsibility than just to cater a niche customer market: it compels them to widen their business horizons, reframing the pillars of “luxury value” and “growth” in their impact on the environment and the communities at large.

What is your advice for anthropologists who might be interested in working in the luxury sector? First, to tackle the sector as a proper (business) culture, with its players, values, rituals, narrative and vocabulary. Cut through the noise of external stereotypes and internal bias. As in other sectors, it might not always be obvious to businesses the added value of anthropological insights, and you might be challenged on that: pitch (and see) yourself and your art as the work of fine tailor, who provides them with bespoke solutions that will help them to stay unique and relevant, delivering at their very best.