Dame Vivienne Westwood once said “the fight is no longer between the classes or rich and poor but between the idiots and the eco-conscious’’. Never one to mince her words, it’s almost like she started a revolution. Or rather, continued her revolution against the status quo.
That was 10 ago.
She always has been ahead of her time. Speaking to a generation that wanted more. Making statements of protest though her fashion and being unashamedly unapologetic about it. I remember reading that interview and thinking ‘this is the start of the fashion industry shake up’.
And I think I was right. Fashion or rather, luxury goods, has had a shake-up.
I have worked with luxury clients for most of my career and I have witnessed first-hand this shift in priorities, in messaging and communications.
I remember a time when the ‘luxury’ experience was reserved only for the mega rich. For those driving around in Porsches with a Birkin bag on the front seat.
For the rest of us, the only way we could experience luxury was through the pages of Vogue. We would see ‘big 5’ - Helena, Linda, Christy, Cindy and Naomi - from page to page, donning the latest collections from the big European fashion houses and we would admire in awe.
I don’t think that admiration has gone, not for me anyway, but it is now matched with a new luxury. A luxury that speaks to a new consumer who is as in charge of telling us what to wear and when to wear it as Anna Wintour is.
Luxury has seen such a shift in who it targets that the Big 5 have been replaced with modern day celebrities and their kids. Rappers, actors, sports stars and influencers are now who we mainly see in those same pages of Vogue.
This is not the only change we have seen in the category. The definition of luxury has shifted as much as the consumers who now buy into that world. These consumers now expect luxury brands to not only represent the unattainable maisons of Paris, but to also represent what is important to them – cultural diversity, environmentally sound policies and new age representation.
Just this year, brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Etro and Tommy Hilfiger along with a reported 60 other brands all participated in the first Metaverse Fashion Week. A completely free event that allowed viewers to participate in the once exclusive presentation of new collections. NFTs were traded, offering consumers that chance to buy into a world that was less about the tangible and everything to do with the virtual.
With the cost of living increasing and Global Warming a more important issue than it ever has been, we are now seeing luxury consumer demand shift and for the better.
Don’t get me wrong, luxury brands are still and will always control demand.
Think of Hermes and the Birkin. A bag that not only comes with a hefty price tag but also with a considerable waiting period. And it isn’t the only one. Streetwear brand Supreme demands similar status. Their once a week collection drops are met with queues hundreds of sneaker-and-boujee-tracksuit-clad people long, waiting outside their local stores on ‘drop day’.
The way both of these brands work is the same. They are used by the consumers of each to give off certain signals about themselves. Signals that show what is important to the individual.
With the rise of eco-friendly messages in luxury brand communications, this too will be used as another signal to show an evolution of what consumers now deem as important.
As someone who loves the world of luxury brands, I am thrilled to see this evolution. There will always be a place for the luxury brands of old (thank God) but this change in approach is not only welcomed but necessary if luxury brands are to remain at the forefront of trends.
All of this makes me reflect on one more piece of advice that Westwood shared with that same journalist. “Buy less, choose well and make it last”. Sound advice indeed.