Why I will never buy a Louis Vuitton again!
For those of you familiar with the world of luxury handbags, Louis Vuitton is probably right there at the top of your list of must own bags. I have had a love affair with the brand for as long as I can remember and I yearned for the day I would have a Neverfull or a Speedy to call my own. I was lucky enough to have parents who understood (more like put up with) my obsessive love for handbags, but even such understanding parents weren’t sold on the idea of their (at the time) 18 year old strutting around with a bag that cost as much as a car (a gross exaggeration coming from a father trying to understand his daughter’s obsession with handbags). At long last my parents relented — all hail the power of the puppy dog eyes, and they bought me my very first Louis Vuitton Neverfull. I finally had the one thing I had lusted after for a very long time and it was my most prized possession. With that induction into the world of luxury I was hooked, five years and five LV’s later I sat down to really understand the evolution of the modern consumer and the business of luxury.
Ten years ago the luxury industry was very exclusive, it was a stronghold of the uber rich and brands whose design aesthetic was based on their distinct monograms such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci among others found favor among the rich and famous looking to preserve the distinction of rank and status. The recognizability of the overlapped LV of Louis Vuitton or the double G logo representing Gucci were the very reason for the brands’ enormous success. Every bag was in essence a walking advertisement for the brand, a symbol of high end luxury which invited both admiration and envy, the latter being the more coveted response. Fast forward to today and you find the very same ultra luxury brands struggling to sustain sales in an industry which as a whole has seen exponential growth over the past few years.
Why is it that a brand whose legacy is built on catering high quality goods to the ultra-rich has now been labeled a ‘brand for secretaries’ in China, an emerging market with a voracious appetite for luxury? In order to answer that question we first need to understand the most important aspect of the business of luxury i.e. the psyche of the consumer. Why does an otherwise practical consumer purchase a handbag with a four figure price tag? The answer is simple — Sophistication. These brands represent the cream of the crop, owning a Louis Vuitton was once the emblem of sophisticated luxury, accessible only to the moneyed. However this trend has completely changed over the past few years. The last decade has seen the rise of the middle class, it has brought forth a generation that will save up to buy that symbol of sophistication. They are no longer satisfied with buying cheap handbags which will go out of fashion and add no value to their social standing. Now arises the question of why this spells bad news for LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) the mother company of all things luxury. Why is it that in a culture where the demand for luxury consumption is off the charts the veterans of the industry are struggling to sustain growth?
Louis Vuitton has long been LVMH’s golden goose, but the brand’s association with it’s famous monogram, once it’s biggest selling point is now the very reason for consumers turning their noses up at the brand. What was previously considered to be the stamp of luxury is now written off as ostentatious. Though the brand has acquired a new chunk of novice consumers of the luxury market it has lost out on the once loyal steady consumers of luxury. The steady consumers of luxury have evolved over time and are no longer satisfied with the conformity of a label. The modern consumer is more interested in the craftsmanship and experience of the product than the label. Understated luxury is the way of the day. The once regular patron of the monogrammed bag now passes right by the flagship Louis Vuitton or Gucci store to walk into Bottega Veneta for it’s exquisite woven leather handbags, just as luxurious as it’s better known counterparts but with a discrete edge that finds favor over the loud monogram. The modern consumer is no longer satisfied with conformity, they want their brands to be an extension of their individuality. The consumer is more aware than ever, they no longer need to be given a commentary about the difference between calfskin and caviar leather; the new breed of luxury consumer knows a quality product when s/he sees it. I think it is safe to say that we are witnessing the death of conspicuous consumption.
So as much as I love Louis Vuitton and will always cherish my very first designer handbag (much like how one never truly forgets their first love) I doubt I will be investing the same amount of resources in it’s monogrammed line, lest I be labeled a garish rookie…
A repost from my personal blog luxeamour.wordpress.com