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    Redefining Luxury: Beyond Badges


    Luxury badges don’t mean a thing to Gen Y. Their appetite for the next best thing is voracious. Unlike baby boomers who could cozy up to a luxury brand, Gen Yers don’t want to stay on the same topic. Technology allows them to hunt and gather information, making them less likely to stay true to a name—unless the product behind the name captivates them.

    However, in the long run, short-lived product cycles will burn out the luxury consumer. For luxury innovators, that means creating a product that a consumer can build on and not discard. A luxury item should have longevity.

    Luxury is evolving. No longer are we talking about the kind of luxury that breeds keeping up with the Joneses, a notion first born out of trade and fuelled by the industrial age. The next generation is quickly leaving that “me too” notion behind.

    Consider Brioni suiting. The privately owned company boasts that its suits take at least 18 hours of work and are hand-stitched. It was recently cited by the Luxury Institute as the leading luxury brand for men’s suiting. It’s a favourite of real estate mogul Donald Trump; it’s appeared in James Bond movies; even John Gotti wore a Brioni. The legacy of luxury is there, but it’s not going to fly with name credentials alone with Gen Y.

    For Gen Y, luxury will be less about the privilege of money and conspicuous consumption. With everyone essentially having access to funds via credit cards, the size of one’s wallet matters less than ever. Luxury, then, becomes a more cerebral experience. Luxury gives you something to think about, something tangible to touch.

    This new kind of luxury is more akin to Hyundai’s V8-powered luxury car, the Genesis. The car’s size and power put it in competition with cars from BMW, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz. Unlike Toyota, Honda and Nissan, Hyundai says it will not create a separate brand for the Genesis car. Instead, the Genesis is for those who eschew paying money for a badge.

    Hyundai is leveraging its experience with the Azera, explains a CNN report. More than 85 percent of Azera buyers opt for the top-of-the line limited trim level, Thirty to 40 percent get the fully loaded ultimate package which brings a price tag of over $30,000.

    Even diamonds have lately lost their luster in some quarters, reports the Wall Street Journal. Public awareness is growing about conflict diamonds – stones used to finance wars and violence in Africa, highlighted in the recent Oscar-nominated movie Blood Diamond – and other environmental and ethical issues involved in diamond mining.

    But for some women, the diamond engagement ring is simply the victim of its own success. “It was just too not-creative, not-individual,” says Jenny Leigh Thompson, 35, design director at Marie Claire magazine in New York, whose fiancé designed an antique-style ring with a sapphire and two smaller diamonds for her when they got engaged two years ago. “Everybody has a diamond.” Her colleague, deputy editor Julia Savacool, 31, echoes the desire to take oneself out of the diamond race. “People look at your diamond engagement ring and are making assumptions about you…”

    What’s Hot
    Elegance paired with irreverence is hot. With life at its highest extremes, a devil-may-care attitude is required. Think Schiaparelli’s shoe hat. This era of luxury is bringing back the artistes.

    What’s Not
    Resting on laurels is not an option. For a luxury brand, looking outside of the luxury circle is key to seeing what consumers want. Even if it means looking down market to loyalty programmes, and seeing how that can translate up.

    Luxury verbatims demonstrate a longing for rare moments

    – At any rate, language as practised by humans is confusing at best, completely self-defeating at worst. I indulge in this luxury of writing, despite the difficulties that arise as a result, because I eschew all forms of actual exertion

    – It’s a beautiful day, so what do I do with it? I sit on my porch, drink beer, and watch the baby bunnies eat grass. Oh, and piss around on Myspace because I have the time…I can’t complain because I know several women who would kill for my luxury of freedom right now. I’m indulging!

    – Ok, so there’s 5 star resorts like Ritz Carlton and then there’s St. Regis @ Monarch Beach in Dana Point. This is where I spent my birthday. St. Regis was voted as one of the top ten nicest luxury resorts in the WORLD. This is the kind of place where you walk inside and your jaw drops.

    – We indulged our senses at my favorite luxury grocery store, where we enjoyed the yummiest bakery pretzel and bit cream cheese spread, we checked out the latest craft books at one of my favorite luxury bookstores, we laughed as we got lost in a bad part of town…

    What to Watch for
    Keep a close watch on the irony of consumption. The more luxury grows, the more the demand will increase for more practical virtues. Purchases will likely be made by the same consumer.

    Forces at Work
    • blandness of bourgeoisie
    • craving for the essence of things
    • sensory overload
    • cry for innovation
    • need for provenance
    • substance over style
    • experiential sensations
    • artiste works
    • craftsmen skills
    • surprise

    Personas to plan by
    The luxury of the ‘80s began with exclusivity. As you gained wealth, you could attain its merits. And then an era of aspirationals was born, driving designers to capitalise on the emerging buying power by unravelling brands into licensed goods and bridge lines. Luxury brand names became ubiquitous, and a single standard of what was “in” or “out” evolved. Once a standard sets in, originality and exclusivity are lost. Think of all those Gen Yers growing up in McMansions. What we see now emerging as Gen Yers are maturing, are fractured expe