The future of luxury is a hot topic these days, and answers can seem hard to come by. Asking the right questions, such as, “How heritage brands can appeal to a new generation willing to drop a cool grand on a pair of sneakers?” or “What’s the value of traditional brick and mortar stores in an online, e-commerce, everything all the time digital world?” have become even more important. These topics and many more were tackled at the “The Future of Luxury II: New Pillars of eCommerce” conference on May 22, the second in an ongoing series of conferences co-hosted by Sotheby’s and Jing Daily.
The talk was held at Sotheby’s’ Upper East Side headquarters in a newly-renovated gallery/event space with double high ceilings, sweeping white walls, and pops of contemporary art — an inviting location to dig deep into the most pressing questions facing the trillion-dollar luxury industry. The large gathering of luxury professionals and brand strategists was eager to partake in spirited conversations about luxury storytelling, the luxury experience, and licensed collaborations with luxury brands. Here, some key takeaways from all three panels highlighting the most salient questions surrounding an industry that’s in flux.
Panel 1 — Defining Luxury Through Narrative
Storytelling remains crucial for luxury brands hoping to project individuality in a highly competitive market.
“Stories matter, what has changed with new luxury is that it is about real stories.” —Laurence Lim Dally, Founder and Managing Director, Cherry Blossoms Marketing Research & Consulting
“The future of luxury is truly about personalization and being treated special. Luxury is very commoditized and there are lots of brands and products that are similar, I think what makes something special is uniqueness and people are looking for that.” —Josh Pullan, Deputy Managing Director, Global Jewellery & Watches at Sotheby’s
“Especially in China, there has been the de-sanctification of luxury, everything that is Western is not prestigious anymore. There is a disruption about the concept itself of luxury — traditional luxury was about creating a world outside of the body — new luxury is about connecting people to themselves.” —Laurence Lim Dally, Founder and Managing Director, Cherry Blossoms Marketing Research & Consulting
Panel 2 — The New Landscape of Luxury
The key for luxury brands is to create a symbiotic relationship between online and offline platforms.
“Create a seamless way of speaking [to consumers], online, offline, it should just be transcendent.” —Emma Chiu, Creative Innovation Director, Wunderman Thompson Intelligence
“What we are starting to see in e-commerce is a move to minimalism, in what is being labeled rightly or wrongly, the Instagram aesthetic. Increasingly, the UI & UX [User Experience Design and User Interface Design] is incredibly simple.” —Noah Wunsch, Senior Vice-President, Global Head of eCommerce, Sotheby’s
Panel 3 — Licensed Collaborations with Western Luxury Brands
Twenty years ago, licensed collaborations were a rarity; today they offer a myriad of opportunities for luxury brands to express themselves.
“Europe was a big market for us 20 years ago, the U.S. has grown a great deal. [Now] everything is in China…. We have done three campaigns with them [Coach x Keith Haring] first campaign was an outlet campaign, first three months 30 million dollars in retail sales, 70 percent, 80 percent of the sales [were in] China.” —David Stark, Founder and President, Artestar.
“Great brands see licensing as a part of their marketing mix… it’s not just about the product you make, if [liking] the brand is an emotional connection, if the brand is a relationship with the consumer, how far can that relationship go?” —Adina Avery-Grossman, Managing Director at Brandgenuity