Happy New Year TDS Family!
We truly hope that it is starting off well and that you are ready to take 2018 and crush it! (so to speak) 🙂
When someone says this or that is luxury, we automatically equate it to expensive. Although that may be true, luxury in itself is not defined by expense alone. There are so many more elements that truly and correctly identify a fashion brand or item as luxury. Well, we have decided to kick start this year by taking a deeper look into what luxury actually means and what it doesn’t mean. Even for those of you starting a fashion brand or in the process of restructuring can know what it truly means to define your brand as luxury. I know it can be tempting to start your brand and define it as a luxury womenswear brand or a luxury leather company because it sounds ‘fancy’ so we want to make sure that you know what that means on all levels so you can commit to it fully.
We will definitely be giving you in depth definitions and characteristics of a fashion luxury brand but as a start, luxury is defined by the spirit of craftsmanship and excellence in the entire business process. Let me give you some fun facts to begin this luxurious journey. The Comité Colbert is a French association gathering together French Luxury Houses and several cultural institutions to work together to promote the concept of luxury in France and was founded in 1954 by Jean-Jacques Guerlain. Their members include Bugatti, Cartier, Hermés, Christian Dior to name a few. A study by McKinsey together with the Comité Colbert in 2001 defined the luxury goods industry as “strong branding that relates to an exclusive lifestyle, superior quality and timelessness, premium pricing, and stylist and extravagant in terms of design.”
Luxury goods can therefore be distinguished by either the brand’s heritage and consequent inherent value or by the choice of materials such as gems and precious metals or being so unique and extraordinary that they command a premium price (to name a few characteristics). Of course this is the just the beginning of dissecting luxury which we will cover in this series. We will also be looking at Kenyan designers and other brands on the continent that are luxury and what makes them different.
Like any industry, there is always an evolution. In a May 2016 article by Bethany Birion for Digiday entitled “Experience, not expense: the evolving definition of luxury brands” she stated that “[l]uxury used to mean flashy handbags, fine furs and five-star hotels. Yet in the era of modern style, it’s no longer synonymous with exorbitance and exclusivity. Luxury has morphed beyond high price points and iconic labels, and instead now revolves around everything from uniqueness to meaning to experience.”
There are brands like Hermés however that still stand for the original definition in this new age of luxury and maintain those standards of exclusivity and craftsmanship. Mr Axel Dumas, CEO of Hermés stated “[o]ur products are prized for their craftsmanship and authenticity. The artisans put their heart and soul into them and when a client buys them, they buy a bit of Hermes.” He also mentions that a Hermés product is costly because they invest in quality materials, which are then hand-sewn for up to 16 hours in France. A Kelly or Birkin bag, for example, start from $13,000 for that very reason.
This is not our first dalliance into the luxury discussion. Our feature writer Maryanne Njeri wrote in her article for TDS entitled “The Next Level in Luxury: Personalization of the Luxury Object” that “[t]he luxury universe expresses taste, creative identity, portrays the intrinsic passion of a creator, and social distinction. Luxury has quality, skill, mastery, craftsmanship and the luxury attitude. Through the luxury product we became a part of the story it tells. It preserves a heritage while portraying a culture.” This is evident if you take a journey with Cartier – see their Advert below to see what we mean.
We had previously looked at our very own Kenyan luxury accessories brand Adele Dejak. Her brand is noteworthy as the passion and design behind every accessory is in its ability to transcend temporary fashion trends by creating pieces that can be passed from generation to generation as they are “unique, beautifully handcrafted pieces made from a blend of both traditional and modern materials.” So which other luxury brands do we have in Kenya and how have they been embraced in the market? We will look into that as well and what these brands see in the future of luxury fashion in Kenya and Africa.
So are you running a luxury brand or interested in starting your own luxury fashion brand? Well, this is your month. Join us as we delve into the luxury market and share your opinions and views with us. Let’s get started then. As a parting shot, I want to leave you with a few short fashion films, which I think depicts elements of fashion luxury: storytelling and getting you to dream! Enjoy!
Photographer Gabriella Achadinha and co-directed by South African born Alistair Blair. This fashion film stars Japanese dancer Tomoko Kim exploring three settings through traditional dance, dressed in South African fashion.
“People identify luxury menswear with suits but I want to create a luxury brand that’s based on everyday clothes. I want to be part of a movement that empowers South African menswear,” says Lukhanyo Mdingi from South Africa – listen to how he defines his luxury brand. Video courtesy of Design Indaba.
Author: Wanjiku N. M | Editor and Founder of TDS | Twitter: @WanjikuNM