Luxury and sustainability

Luxury brands, of course, are goods at the highest end of the marketing in terms of quality and price. The word itself is derived from the Latin luxuria, which means exuberance, excess, abundance.

Luxury is about exceptional quality, hedonism (beauty and pleasure), price (expensive), rarity (which is not scarcity), selective distribution and associated personalised services, exclusive character (prestige, privilege), and creativity (art and avant-garde). These criteria differentiate luxury goods from other goods. Luxury is also associated with high quality, know-how, slow time, the preservation of handmade traditions, transmission from generation to generation of timeless products: associations in agreement with sustainability.

(For more on the meaning of luxury read an earlier blog here)

In the not too distant past some people thought that sustainable and luxury were incompatible. They appear as a paradox or even a provocation for some critics.

To drive a Rolls Royce or flaunt a rare diamond might have signalled that the owner couldn’t care less about gas overconsumption and the warming of the atmosphere, or the dangerous business of mining stones. Each luxury purchase was a blessed moment, an achievement of a dream. Why trouble oneself with the many dramas on earth. Luxury might have meant overt selfishness, narcissism par excellence or a show of power and peacock feathers.

How wrong people were. Though sustainability has made the luxury concept more complex, luxury brands are at the forefront of sustainable thinking now. Luxury brand care about the environment as much if not more than others.

Just as sustainability is multi-faceted, luxury has multiple facets as well.

Why? Because they share two deep concerns: rarity and durability

Luxury and sustainability both focus on rarity.

The essence of real luxury is to sell high quality, creative and rare objects with an image of good taste and elegance. Historically luxury was the privilege of those who had money, taste and power.

Beyond the brand imagery, luxury value is based on its objective rarity and preciousness –precious time, precious attention, rare skins, rare leathers, rare jewels, rare grapes, rare wood, rare materials, rare craftsmanship, local production by talented artisans, and respect for the sources of raw materials.

So, luxury is resource dependent and the health of its resources matters hugely. Of course, they care. Their future depends on it.

And luxury and sustainability both focus on durability.

Luxury is a business of lasting worth. Brands are managed with a long-term perspective. Think Patek:

Durability is at the heart of most luxury brand propositions.

Products are built to last and to beat obsolescence. Their beauty and design should be timeless. Their functionality should last. Hence the importance of after sales service.

Note the huge increase in the pre-owned luxury market.

We have centuries-old fashion houses, family businesses, wine estates, chateaux, vintage everything, whose key element of their intangible extra value is: heritage.

New designers get called in to reinvent an ailing brand and make it relevant to new younger consumers. Said designers duly pay tribute to heritage and reinterpret the brand with respect and the modernity needed to survive.  (See our earlier blog on luxury’s great capacity to adapt and survive turbulent times here.)

We have a constant theme in luxury brand strategy conversations: legacy versus contemporaneity.

What a time to be in luxury branding

Good thing brand consultants exist to provide clarity and strong stories celebrating brands that have been designed for longevity, durability, reduced impact on the environment – and are still stylish.

Sustainability for most luxury brands is built into their DNA. It just hasn’t been talked about in that way.

 Are you ready?

Anew is well placed for both luxury and sustainability conversations, having in-depth experience of both.

We are brand development and marketing specialists for ambitious businesses of excellence. We help companies increase brand profitability through sharper insights, distinctive propositions, creative ideas and faultless execution. We are particularly adept at working directly with luxury brands, business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs who are committed to sustainability, outstanding quality and craft.

You can read more about us here

Drop us an email. Based in the heart of London, we'd be delighted to meet for a coffee, either face-to-face or virtually to discuss your brief.

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