There was a time not so long ago when a luxury piece of accessory or clothing was a symbol of exclusivity. The classic Hermes Birkin bag, Rolex, Manolo Blahnik shoes represented something unattainable, a desire. The classic luxury brands were defined not only by their unique designs and high quality but also by their exquisite service and rarity. Their products were a form of art that was handcrafted carefully in small quantities. The price tag that came with the product was completely justified because the brands carried a story with them, you knew you were purchasing something that is going to become almost like an heirloom. But that was then.
Nowadays, every wannabe blogger is flaunting their Louis Vuitton bags whilst sipping champagne at Claridge’s. The pieces that were once a fantasy, only owned by an exclusive group of people, are now seen everywhere. Luxury has become mainstream. However, no self-respecting hip and trend-aware consumers want to wear them anymore. In the world where we strive for transparency in fashion brands’ supply chains, quality Earth-friendly materials, and end of mass-consumption, luxury brands offer very little of that.
So the question is, is the definition of the luxury brand still the same? And even more so, are the classic luxury brands still relevant?
The answer is quite clear — luxury brands are reaching for the masses.
Think about it:
All recent collaborations between the high-end design houses like Kenzo or Balenciaga and a high-street giant H&M.
Endless queues at Louis Vuitton store at Selfridges.
Have you ever passed by a Gucci store at the airport? The location certainly doesn’t scream exclusivity or one-of-a-kind offer.
All of a sudden, high-end pieces are available to everyone and anyone who has some cash on their hands. Something that is meant to be unique and rare, is seen everywhere. Exclusivity certainly does not define classic beauty brands anymore. So how can they justify the price tag? When was the last time you saw something truly unique at the Louis Vuitton store at the airport? Do you know whether materials used to create their latest designs are handpicked as they used to be? How could they be handcrafted if they are sold at pretty much every big airport and shopping centre around the world...
The modern consumer is knowledgeable and cares for the environment. In fact, Millennials who embody this concept, are set to become the biggest buying power in the world within a few years.
If you search “which luxury brands are sustainable?” on the most popular search engines, you get presented with the results like: ‘Does Gucci/Fendi/Louis Vuitton etc use sweatshops?’, or ‘Is Dior produced in China?’ as the most popular questions asked. This tells you that the classic luxury brands have a substantial issue with sustainability and ethical production.
The solution to the issue is straightforward and has no workaround. These companies need to come clean and revamp their supply chain in order to maintain their position as luxury brands. The real transparency, not a fake statement kind about sustainability plans for 2025, is what can keep them relevant in 5 or 10 years.
The change can already be seen among emerging high-end designers like Lou Dallas or von Holzhausen. Stella McCartney has been known for her efforts to create conscious fashion for a while now. High-end as you know it needs shaking up and emerging brands are doing their deed. The classic brands just need to follow the lead.
It’s a brand with integrity. The brand that:
Produces in small batches.
Can tell which factories have produced their products without vague statements.
Offers its full range as sustainably-produced.
Uses materials that are least harmful to the planet.
Produces high-quality original items.
Offers a fantastic service and goes above and beyond for their customers.
Does not compromise its values for high profit, reach of masses or publicity. Bad press is bad press.