« Time and Silence are the most luxurious things today », Tom Ford once said.
In a world where life goes so fast, where needs seem more pressing and immediate than ever, where does timeless luxury stand for French consumers? How do the French perceive luxury? Does “made in France” still make French people dream? Or has it just become a fantasy for the affluent consumers of emerging countries?
During the last decade, the luxury market in France has proven once again that France is still the symbol of luxury, due to its history and to its well recognized know-how and quality all over the world. In 2016, luxury was one of the rare French industries with a trade surplus. French companies dominate the industry, with three of them ranking among the top ten luxury companies in the world, including LVMH, the unchallenged number one in the latest Deloitte ranking for the luxury industry. Brands such as Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Balmain, Chanel, Christian Lacroix among others contribute every year to the reputation of Paris, the City of light, as capital of luxury, all over the world.
However, Luxury is a relative and subjective value. Though some ingredients are essential to create a luxury brand, such as creativity, excellence, rarity, quality, history, etc., luxury lies in the eye of the beholder.
We could see this through the answers of French people from different social categories that we have met, including luxury bloggers, luxury consumers, as well as people who never consume luxury products. If each of them had a different approach of luxury, many of them most often mentioned expensive personal items. They said that they like to look at luxury, but not to buy it. Few are those who mentioned the other sectors like big hotels and palaces, wine and spirits, the famous French gastronomy, etc.
Nowadays, luxury is associated to money and wealth even if for experts it still evokes excellence and history independently of its financial value. France is a non-ostentatious country. Luxury seems for many useless, unnecessary and frivolous despite its impacting economic weight.
There is a big gap between the image of French luxury projected all over the world and the vision of the French consumer.
Perhaps the vision of luxury is changing especially among the young generations. They are not impressed anymore by the « hand-made » not even by the « well made” which made the French luxury so famous. A lot of artisan’s manual skills and jobs are dying. Elisabeth Ponsolles des Portes, the General Delegate of the Comité Colbert once said «France is the only country where I have to defend luxury, ce qui est un comble!»
In 2017, the new luxury consumers enjoy living experiences and not just possessing luxury goods. A safari in Tanzania or a journey on an undiscovered island might be more interesting and luxurious for them than having a nice car.
A new strategy might be needed to satisfy such consumers.
By Nada Ghantous, Bruno Moreau, Clémence Lefèvre, Julien Porte