5 KEY LUXURY TRENDS FOR 2019
Here, at Elite Associates, my team and I are immersed in many areas of luxury and luxury retail. This is a dynamic industry full of innovative companies and everywhere we look, we see rapid change. As the year ends, it’s time to look ahead and ask what comes next. These are five key trends we’ve identified that will shape the landscape into next year and beyond. I look forward to expanding on these topics throughout the year to come, but here are a few highlights…
SUSTAINABILITY WILL BE THE BIG STORY OF THE YEAR
It’s been coming – the big focus for brands and retailers in 2019 will be sustainability. Awareness of ecological issues, fair-trading, and cruelty-free products has risen exponentially and is now at the top of the agenda. That’s particularly the case as Gen Z becomes a buying power. Gen Z comes to the market expecting brands it engages with to prove they’re behaving responsibly – a stance that’s influencing older generations, too. Successful brands will be those able to prove they’re behaving in an ecologically responsible way, sourcing materials and labour ethically.
Stella McCartney is leading the way here, producing sustainable products, developing charitable activities (such as Stella McCartney Cares Pink and the recently announced Stella McCartney Cares Green) and working with environmental lobbyists. She is creating a new standard that luxury brands will have to adopt. This is a hugely positive trend, and not a moment too soon.
THE ASPIRATIONAL LUXURY SEGMENT WILL CONTINUE TO GROW
One of the most interesting trends is in ready-to-wear, where luxury fashion brands continue to expand product inventories to include aspirational collections of gateway products such as handbags and small leather goods. These attract a new customer, particularly Millennials. For them, a £6,000 coat from a luxury fashion house might be out of reach, whereas a handbag for £750 becomes a more realistic purchase. These products are also seen as a sustainable choice, coming back to that theme. A quality leather handbag is a timeless symbol of taste and means and should last years, even when used daily.
This trend is also symptomatic of a change in our behaviour. Social anthropologists have reasoned that showcasing wealth and taste once meant throwing parties in lavishly decorated homes and gardens, but that now we communicate our status through our clothes and accessories. This certainly chimes with our experience. The win for brands with aspirational lines is two-fold. The new generation of consumers are engaged and active on social media and become advocates. And these accessories, often brand signatures in their own right, open the door to more expensive purchases.
LUXURY GROUPS WILL INVEST MORE IN EXPERIENTIAL BRANDS
One of this year’s most significant stories in luxury came just before Christmas when LVMH purchased luxury hotel group Belmond in a $3.2bn takeover. LVMH’s latest foray into hospitality – it already owns the Bulgari and Cheval Blanc chains of hotels and resorts – is indicative of a much wider trend of cross-competency buyouts.
More and more we’re seeing brands make a concerted effort to develop or acquire skills and create spaces that cater to changing consumer habits. Luxury consumers are buying fewer products and investing more in brand experiences. Analysts point out that experiential brands are among luxury groups’ fastest growing businesses. This trend has been brewing. Examples stretch back to the Cartier Art Foundation, set up in the 1980s, and a few years ago we saw Prada pick up Milanese pastry shop Pasticceria Marchesi. But the current acceleration is significant.
SUCCESSFUL BRAND & RETAILERS WILL INTEGRATE AI
There’s a lot of fearmongering out there about the rise of AI, but from where we’re sitting the realities are hugely constructive. Already, powerful digital tools are improving customer experience – and that’s going to be a big theme into next year and beyond.
Successful brands and retailers will offer seamless digital experiences on the shop floor that leverage data respectfully, providing integrated digital solutions. Augmented reality through magic mirror applications will become more sophisticated, allowing clients to experiment with shape and colour and to explore a brand’s universe. Blended in partnership with an efficient, personable customer service team, these tools will prove hugely powerful.
The same experience will be available online to customers, who are now coming to expect parity of brand experience on every platform. Combined, this integrated approach will dramatically improve the customer experience and build loyalty. The future isn’t about bricks and mortar or ecommerce. Instead, it’s about creating a singular conversation moulded to each client’s unique expectations of a brand, and delivering convenience and entertainment.
CONSUMERS WILL EMBRACE “RELAXURY”
Luxury is becoming more casual and relaxed. We’re calling it ‘relaxury’.There are lots of reasons for this, whether it’s a reaction to global socio-political tensions or an escape from the tiepin formality of the Mad Men style era. But what’s interesting is who is pushing this trend. Fashion has always been ruled by a privileged set, but we’re now seeing it influenced by figures from the urban fringe.
That fringe is now moving into the mainstream. Companies such as Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, Supreme and L’Estrange are no longer in the margins. Off-White won the Urban Luxe category at the 2018 Fashion Awards, but it was also nominated in the Brand of the Year category, alongside establishment names Gucci, Prada, Balenciaga, and Burberry. The luxury prototype will continue to change and impact the workplace. It may be a while before it reaches finance and politics, but in 2019 and beyond we will experience liberation from formal fashion
Grant Morris, CEO Elite Associates