Roxy Genier New Luxury Manifesto Curated Rarity icon

CURATED RARITY NEW LUXURY VALUE #8

Since time is the ultimate luxury, the weight of choice seeps into every facet of our existence.

Choice is a double-edged sword. On one side it is supposed to reflect freedom, independence, and the chance to hold fate in our own hands. But on the other side, it brings with it panic, uncertainty, and fatigue. In The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath writes;

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

While Plath is talking more existentially about the complex choices we need to make when it comes to what we will do with our one wild and precious life, the weight of choice seeps into every facet of our existence.

The Hollow Shell of Oversaturation

When our days are stocked with choice, embellished with endless design, and our shelves are stacked with options in every color, shape and size – objects start to lose their magic. Oversaturated markets strip these things of their desire, and leave us too lost to make a purchase, or left with a hollow shell of an experience.

This attitude leaves us with a throwaway culture; we care not for the tangible things we purchase, we glaze over when flicking through Netflix, and even on dates – we leave half our mind swiping left and right trying to see if there’s a better option out there.

How do we start to gift meaning back to consumers? How do we nurture love, hope and pride in the choices people make? How do we reconnect customers with a meaningful experience?

The answer? Curated rarity.

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The Rise of Carbon Copy Consumerism

Even when we look at consumerism on a grander scale, businesses are quick to blame the rise of the internet for the decline in physical trips to stores and malls. But, in a piece by Pamela N. Danziger published by Forbes, this article states that the death of malls came from The result of conventional wisdom operating under the formulaic notion that creating a mall is about building a center then filling its spaces with the same stores as the mall the next town over and adding some experiences, like restaurants and theaters, with some special events thrown into the mix. Following that standard play book has resulted in most malls being carbon copies of each other.’

Curation is the act of filtering through the noise to find the rare gems.

A Creative Approach to Curated Experience

A creative response to this problem came from Platform LA, a company dedicated to curating customized mall experiences that fit beautifully with the neighborhoods they were being placed in. Rather than line the mall with the usual suspects and mainstay conglomerates, each business tenant was handpicked to reflect the needs and desires of those who lived in the neighborhood – from the stores to the restaurants, the leisure facilities, and even right down to the coffee companies. LA Platform also left space for pop ups and designed the whole look to fit like a tailored glove to the neighborhood.

David Fishbein one of the founders behind Platform LA said that “That is the future vision that we see. It is about creating these places that are true to the neighborhoods that they are born of and created out of the city you put them in. And that are places that provide unique neighborhood-centered experiences you can only find there.”

What can businesses learn from this approach? That bringing consumers back to brand loyalty comes from a creative approach. The recognition that people crave something different, something personal – something curated with them in mind. No one wants to live a cookie cutter life.

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The Art of Anticipatory Design

Along with curated choice, another angle that is being explored as direct action against decision fatigue is the idea of anticipatory design. In an article for Q titled The next design trend is one that eliminates all choices, Aaron Shapiro the CEO of agency Huge cites in his manifesto that ‘The next big breakthrough in design and technology will be the creation of products, services, and experiences that eliminate the needless choices from our lives and make ones on our behalf, freeing us up for the ones we really care about: Anticipatory design.’

Anticipatory design relies on using consumer data to tailor experiences and preferences for them – reducing the need for superfluous decision making from people themselves and putting those decisions in the hands of the system. While this may sound a little Orwellian, these systems are actually already in our lives and so far, we are reaping the benefits. Google Now, Nest, and Amazon Dash are all examples the article puts forward of this idea already put into practice.

Of course, the idea of anticipatory design would fit snugly into the luxury industry. The pleasure of personalization, the silky nature of service, and an innovative approach to nurturing consumer relationships – is this so different to the role of a beloved concierge?

The Allure of Limited Edition

In an article titled One luxury brand on why retailers must do less, but better; Ana Andjelic notes that ‘Loyalty is created by piggy-backing on the identity of the audience and knowing their tastes, cultural affinities, aesthetics and specific identity, so you are talking to them in the language they are already using and on the topics they are already interested in,’ but also mentions how imperative it is that the ‘brand aims to recognize the consumer across every touchpoint in the style of a “butler, not a stalker”.’

Curated rarity is exactly as special as it sounds and really – to connoisseurs of luxury, this isn’t a new fangled or foreign idea. Rarity is the true heart and heritage of our industry, it just became lost in a sea of sameness. This is why it’s so imperative for luxury brands to return to the idea of ‘one off unique pieces’ or ‘limited editions’.

In that article for Forbes on overexpansion, Shadi Halliwell Creative Director of Harrods reinforces this point ‘Our international customers are incredibly discerning and clued-up on product. They are looking for one-off pieces, limited editions or bespoke items, and are prepared to pay a higher price point for this level of exclusivity,’ she goes on to say ‘One-off pieces, limited editions and bespoke items” are the magic phrases. The highest-end customer really doesn’t want a sea of sameness. They have the resources to buy to best. They want unique items. And, apparently they want unique stores. There’s only one Harrod’s. Selfridge’s flagship location is unique, and it only has a handful of satellite locations.’

Adaptable Rules for a Changing Future

Less is more may not sound like an ideal business model and when dealing in New Luxury it isn’t quite that simple. We recognize the need to both grow within these modern markets but also to keep consumers alive with the excitement of rarity.

The rules of curated rarity must be adaptable; scarcity and success, the mega and the mono – these are ideas often at odds with each other. But there is a way through the forest – by adopting creative approaches, working with one-off designers, and tapping into those inner dreams and desires of consumers – we can take a path that veers away from the sea of sameness that runs the risk of drowning out luxury brands.

Curated Rarity is a New Luxury value. Now, let’s explore the next luxury anti-value.

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GLOBAL VALUE CHAINS