Luxury today? Taking control of our time

I have recently assisted to a great introduction about luxury branding by Eduardo Iñiguez from Interbrand (AD Client Services Iberia & Lat-am), which is currently the biggest branding consultancy in the world.

Is today luxury still only about status, purity, authenticity? Of course not.
He introduced the idea of “Meta-Luxury”, an ever-evolving new paradigm to define luxury as a subjective condition that can transcend categories, time, geographies and cultures. And all this can be developed into four pillars:

  1. Craftsmanship (how)
    A blend of uniqueness, commitment to excellence, human judgement, connections, shared skills. It’s about knowledge and it’s connected to art.
  2. Focus (what)
    It drives depth, integrity and legitimacy. Luxury brands can diversify, but the less they are specialised, the lower their relevance.
  3. History (when)
    It involves sustained achievement, preservation and innovation, all while leaving a mark and becoming part of a culture. Heritage, in this fast world, is of primary importance, and traditions don’t just have to be kept, but continually created and evolved.
  4. Rarity (how many)
    Things that have to be earned and achieved, not necessarily with money. It’s a learning process, about Exclusivity and well thought-out accessibility.

All these points, and especially the last one, lead us to a very serious question:

What is the currency we value the most, in such complex times?

When we see bitcoin disrupting our monetary system, while experiencing being (regardless of how much we earn) busier and busier in our personal lives, is it still about money? Does wealth — and wealth only — allow us to embrace luxury?

We all know the real answer: it’s all about the time in our lives.

So, when luxury starts relating to things that can not really be bought with money, such as our free time, things get really interesting.

And a definition like affordable luxury, that just a few years ago was, for many, completely inconceivable, is finally starting to make some real sense. It is not just a marketing niche, like many managers have been thinking until now, but an actual trend in society that might just be here to stay.

Yet, if we consider the stronghold of traditional luxury, the Swiss watch industry, luxury itself might have always always been dealing with our time, even if just metaphorically. This industry already faced and overcame a heavy crisis during the 1980s, and it now has an even bigger challenge ahead: keeping up not only with the evolution of technology, but also with the evolution of luxury into meta-luxury.

This, of course, is good news for new luxury goods like the Apple Watch, even more so since the collaboration with Hermes (which validates its “luxury status” and spreads it to the lower range of Apple watches), and it’s not just about showing the time, it’s about appreciating, enhancing, enjoying and organising our time.
Good news for users, too: it’s very likely that we will see more and more luxury products focusing on the deeply important aspects of our lives.

This scenario opens up further questions. Are we facing a new sort of more democratic luxury, that can potentially involve most of us, even if just for a few minutes each day?

Also, if it is not (just) about the money, is it even going to ignite a phenomenon of intellectual luxury, when only those who are culturally prepared to embrace it can truly enjoy it, or even identify it, regardless of how wealthy they are?

If these developments will truly establish themselves in a few months or years, there will be no other solution, for brands that want to embrace this trend, other than acting in a similar way to how global luxury brands have acted for a while now: being effective, inimitable, and dealing with resources that are perceived as limited.
How (and if) this will be possible in order to provide a consistent user experience on a global scale and in the long-term, remains to be seen.