France made luxury its excellence and international success and French luxury is a reference, but perceptions remain different according to customers. Indeed, today we can witness a strong attraction to French luxury brands from emerging countries, which can be explain by the desire of owning visible signs of affluence. On the other hand, in Europe, for certain customers, the perception of luxury remains very elitist and some of them feel distant and timid towards this sector.
Initially considered as austere and cold, luxury was reserved for a certain category of people: high society, celebrities and happy few seeking exclusivity and uniqueness. Luxury -goods and services- companies understood their market and targeted those who could afford what they offered. The luxury products distribution model was exclusive and almost private. So private that “common people” did not enter in a luxury boutique or in a palace because they were afraid to be judged and look down, as they did not “fit” in this world. At that time, Paris was considered as the fashion and luxury heart, not only for the French people but also globally in Europe and in the world. Home for many luxury houses, the capital was (and still is) an endless source of inspiration. Most of the most prestigious hotels are located in Paris, and the best restaurants too. For those who couldn’t afford this lifestyle, they considered luxury as an unreachable dream.
Today in France, we can see that luxury try to become popularized. One of the first interesting actions is the roll-out of e-shop websites. Walking into a store can sometimes be intimidating (Cartier store) and the possibility of ordering items online allows people who would not dare entering to buy more easily – or people that don’t have access to a store nearby to buy their favorite brands in a more practical way. This democratization is also made thanks to social media that have an essential role in the development of brand image. A warmer image that makes people dream with the live diffusion of fashion shows on Facebook and Instagram for example: a nice way to invite followers to share this unique experience. A brand-new approach was even implemented by Givenchy which organized a giveaway to make people win three places to attend its SS18 show; this contest was exclusively promoted on the Instagram account of the brand – an original digital rotary very well received. Today luxury communication also involves influencers: they are closer to consumers and they educate them as for trends and products shaped by brands. But across this whole digitalization, values of heritage, craftsmanship and excellence that are the essence of made in France luxury brands, tend to get lost. It is then important to educate customers thanks to exhibition (Christian Dior, Couturier du rêve) and artisans staging (Hermès hors les murs). Back to basics enjoyable for the youngster and the elderly.
For the future, one of the main issues regarding the luxury industry would be to deal with the Z-generation. Those post-millennials are challenging for luxury players that need to seduce and recruit this new target. Ourselves, the eight hands that are writing this article, are pretty close from this generation, and it’s true that, with smartphone and digital all around, we’re definitely used to have everything, right away. The issue is therefore to combine this notion of instantaneity with the one of eternity, whose culture and heritage are the very essence of luxury brands. We also can notice that this generation feel more concern about sustainable development and may reject some exotic leathers or materials. According to this, shouldn’t luxury brands take a step toward the Z-generation by adopting a more mindful approach?
Luxury has evolved over the time but is still evocative of emotions, excellence and exception: it is a full-fledged art, an added-value when it is mixed and shared with another sector such as gastronomy or hospitality. By its evocation, imaginary and creativity, luxury has allowed the Houses to keep their exceptional character and mystery, which thus gives back to the sustainable, the root and the non-commercial to their products. Between tradition and modernity, luxury has become a showcase to show codes, values and universes internationally. Luxury is a sales force and a legitimate reason for the prices charged. Today, luxury Houses (notably French and Italian) need to focus on financial and industrial logics that integrate market needs, demand, competition and profitability. In spite of more or less risky collaborations, one finds for example a more commercial relation with Louis Vuitton where luxury is an added value, a more intimate relationship with Hermès and its legendary humility where luxury is a respected value, and a more democratic and accessible link with Ladurée where luxury is a shared value.
By Inès Arrougé, Eva-Lan Baffert, Morgan Dahmani, Marie Védrenne
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