August 14, 2019 / Industry

Luxury Is No Longer Black & White

Luxury brands are discarding stuffy, outmoded concepts of heritage, minimalism and gloss to embrace a Gen Z-driven subversiveness that mixes high and low culture. Consumer attitudes like brandalism are influencing luxury brands like Tag Hauer, Baume and Gucci to start breaking away from the traditional rule book.

Gucci has started targeting Millennials (now half of their consumer base) and Gen Z, emphasising the importance of craftsmanship and cultural relevance. Driving trends with bold colours, athleisure wear and sustainable practices, the brand still references historic art but blends it with modern culture.

The return of maximalism against this backdrop means luxury brands have begun to move out of their traditional design spheres, replacing minimalist aesthetics with innovations that piggyback internet culture and streetwear trends.

From using bold colours and patterns, to the resurgence of logos and becoming sustainable, brands are looking to embrace imperfection. Balenciaga has adopted a totally disruptive approach to luxury – using informal, and even grungy imagery on its social media channels with a confident yet aloof air of cool, emulated by bright bold brands such as Supreme and Off White.

Craftsmanship and exclusivity are key to making sure that brands continue to be elevated.

This is achieved using rich materials and expertise to honour the historical artistic skills that create luxury products. Savvy brands are celebrating artisans, valuing the skill and time it takes to create a masterpiece, while still investing in technology that doesn’t undermine this.

The rise of using materials like terrazzo signifies the intersection between glamour and sustainability. In the race to a sustainable future and transparent brands, terrazzo has become the go-to for luxury brands to align themselves with luxury consumer attitudes.

Resourceful designers are seeking materials from waste streams as they strive to limit unsustainable practices, and as a result, composites are becoming more considered and widely used. Balancing high-end craftsmanship with materials like terrazzo highlights the beauty of reusing sustainable materials, while incorporating innovative craftsmanship and technology.

Designers like Fernando LaPosse are sourcing new luxury material that reference great craftsmanship and pushes the luxury agenda. Laposse’s Totomoxtle showcases the wealth and diversity of the native corns of Mexico which are naturally colourful. Referencing heritage and sustainable material, Totomoxtle “creates a new craft that generates income for impoverished farmers and promotes the preservation of biodiversity for future food security.”

Key Insights

  • As the role and aesthetics of luxury are changing, brands should consider consumers new attitudes towards sustainability, maximalism and class.
  • The combination of innovation and heritage is a powerful tool when creating future structures. While digitally native consumers value technology, merging it with human connection is key to developing communities and loyalty within brands.
  • Changing materials to fit consumer attitudes and expectation is vital. Sustainability is at the forefront of consumer concern and should be taken into consideration in the design.

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