Over the past few decades there has been a boom in the luxury market; with trends growing as quickly as the rising spires of Dubai’s skyline. The pace has picked up, trends move fast, and suddenly we get the message; the modern luxury meaning becomes a paradigm of modern consumerism – as the Economist put it bluntly; its exclusively for everyone. That message was muttered back in 2014 but now as we approach 2020 – this commitment to consume consume consume seems to have left everyone at burnout. The old ways are failing, the grass is no longer green, and for luxury brands to not just survive, but thrive – a bold new commitment to change is needed.

If we were to open our ears, we would have heard that the conversation has changed and its consumers who are now leading the way. Luxury brands who turn a blind eye to these demands and choose to rest on the laurels of a successful past may find themselves left with little market share and only the crumbs of yesteryear upon the table. As bleak as that may sound, actually – take a closer look and you will see the future is bright.

The advance of modern technology and social media means that consumers are no longer reaching in the dark, now their eyes are wide open and they see the terrifying truth – that mass consumerism has led to brands being a little clumsy with our one most precious global asset – our planet. The number one demand on the table is for this unethical behavior to change; for brands, and especially luxury brands, to embrace a more ethical approach in business. This conversation is not just another flash in the pan or hashtag trend – it is a real demand and one we should all be keen to take on board. This shift in mindset is irreversible, with these words we can no longer avert our gaze, we are looking directly into the face of the luxury consumer of tomorrow.

The old ways are failing, the grass is no longer green, and for luxury brands to not just survive, but thrive – a bold new commitment to change is needed.

There is a rhetoric when we talk about luxury; its old money, its baby boomers, it’s a mans world. But, the baby boomer era will soon come to a close and next in line are the millennials. Millennials who have grown up in a different world; one that is more tuned in to the inconvenient truth. Sweat shop factories, low wages in third world countries, burning leftover stock, animal slaughter, and cultural appropriation are just a few examples of wrong turns that not only makes for bad business practice, but also can lead to long nights of the soul. In an era of transparency there is nowhere to hide, and every individual in the industry will become accountable for the actions and decisions they take.

Luxury brands have always been the innovators, the thought leaders, those with a precision like power to influence global industry. Its time for these brands to pave the way; to take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and to change the way they do business. As leaders at the top, its not just in the interests of our business, its also our responsibility, and our duty to our upcoming audience. If we are brave enough to make the change, this will cause a ripple that could reach the shore of every business and brand across the land and together, we can change the fate of our planet.

The twelve anti-values etched out below do not come from the depths of my imagination, this is not opinion-based teaching. Over the past decade I have had the privilege of experiencing the labors of the luxury market; from working on superyachts to being a personal assistant to the one percent, living the high-life as a luxury influencer, and spending thousands of hours immersed in the thoughts and insights of luxury leaders. I want to share my findings because I truly believe that luxury has lost its luster and there are those of us out there who seek a better version of luxury. Together, we can face our demons and we can lead the way in working towards a better world not just for the one percent, but for all. Because honestly; let’s not let that age-old adage of luxury costing the earth become a prophecy just for profit.

12 Anti-Values Disgracing Luxury:

Luxury Anti-Value #1 - Waste

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We have forgotten that the true ethos behind luxury is longevity; buy it once and it lasts forever. Now, luxury brands are burning end of season stock, feeding an insatiable hunger to deliver the latest trend, and fast fashion is polluting our air and tearing downland at just a heartbeat behind the fossil fuel industry. But its not just fashion; each guest at a hotel can tally up 1kg of waste per night, a fifth of global food produce rots away in the trash, and as of 2012 only 1 percent of purchased products were still in use after 6 months. New Luxury is less about slash and burn, make and break – it’s about savoring every morsel, because each thread is pure and precious.

Luxury Anti-Value #2 - Deception

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Plagiarism, fakery, and cultural appropriation – luxury brands may want to check their closet for skeletons as consumers are no longer abiding tall tales, fashion theft, and riding of the back of exploitation. Luxury shouldn’t be about laziness, but many high-class brands have a nasty habit of stealing ideas from others instead of seeking beautifully crafted and intelligent inspiration from within. From whitewashed models being used to represent the beauty of Africa to major names copycatting graphics from young indie designers; brands that thread fakery into their narrative are sure to be called out. We are entering a new woke world, and New Luxury is no longer about fiddling, airbrushing, and taking what isn’t rightfully ours.

Luxury Anti-Value #3 - Opacity

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Glittering diamonds, clean lines, and soft silks – but behind the scenes; shadowlands, crumbling factories, poverty, and criminal tax evasion. Luxury brands who have something to hide have everything to fear. Brands have a duty to be transparent with their audience; when people are making purchase choices, they have a right to know what they are investing in and where that money goes. Luxury brands can no longer claim ignorance or dodge the bullets that will come when another third world factory collapses, when more children are rescued from slave labor, or when stories of death and discrimination associated with their brand climb out of the woodwork. New Luxury is not about glossing over gross misconduct.

Luxury Anti-Value #4 - Disconnection

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Luxury has always had a habit of clinging to the old world; risk taking and embracing change doesn’t seem to be in their repertoire. No change seems to have been resisted more than the movement into the digital sphere. Luxury brands were too caught up in the physical and the sensory to align their message and create meaningful connections with consumers in the virtual world. Instead; the resistance led to aloof and cold websites, zero social interaction, and a falsetto mystique that left consumers frazzled and frustrated. Then, there are those brands that chase fads and follow trends; completely losing sight of the strongest foundations of luxury; that it stands strong as a rock against tides of transience. Luxury has already been slow off the bat to create a compelling digital presence; New Luxury is about seeking a chord of harmony that resonates, because the digital and the real world will soon be one.

Luxury Anti-Value #5 - Stagnation

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Heart and heritage are the golden words behind many successful luxury brands and with this can come a sense of stagnation. Heritage brands can find themselves with their backs against the wall, they have centuries of history beneath their belt but suddenly the world around them is changing. But as we know, evolution and innovation isn’t about keeping one foot on the platform. History and heritage does have its place, but luxury brands are clinging to these beliefs like anchors rather than life rafts. An anchor will pull you stubbornly to the bottom of the sea, a life rafts will keep you afloat no matter how much the tide changes. New Luxury isn’t about staying in the same loop or getting stuck in a time warp, it’s about learning how to stay relevant, exhilarating and inspiring on the journey from past to future.

Luxury Anti-Value #6 - Narration

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The monologue is coming to a close and instead of dictating the trends coming next, luxury brands must be willing to get involved in a two-way dialogue. Consumers are now actively contributing to the narrative, sharing in the message, and depending on the brand – this could be very sticky territory if you don’t know how to utilize your consumers voice in a positive, powerful and productive way. Luxury brands can tend to put themselves above the art of conversation; just look at their social media pages. Many times you will find lukewarm generic content, queries met with poor etiquette, and criticism responded to with stone cold silence. Even some of the biggest brands in the business have braindead social media pages that are an absolute bore to scroll through, which is shocking in the era of the influencer and the chance to have a ton of fascinating content across every spectrum. New Luxury isn’t about dictating the same old bedtime story, it’s about having real, authentic and intimate conversations that matter.

Luxury Anti-Value #7 - Fairy Tales

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Whimsical women running through the streets of Paris beneath plumes of perfume, airbrushed models with blank faces, and young bikini clad girls standing in the shadow of the older man on a superyacht. The luxury industry still operates like it’s the 1950’s and women are either objects of desire or buying objects so others will desire them. Now, more than ever – gender politics are garnering interest and the calls are loud and clear – the message needs to be changed. Its no secret that females lead consumption and every year they contribute over $100 billion to the luxury industry. Regardless of facts and figures; women do not deserve to be condescended, shunned, or stashed inside a stereotype. The MeToo Movement has left a well-heeled indent on societal structures and brands who don’t up their game in their representation of women will find themselves gathering dust. New Luxury is about telling stories with honest and respectful recognition.

Luxury Anti-Value #8 - Overchoice

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From the silk road to the ancient spice route; once upon a time luxury was about traversing the globe on intrepid adventures to return with the finest wares and wonderful stories. Now, you can find a Louis Vuitton, Gucci, or Prada store and a Marriott, Hilton or Ritz-Carlton hotel on every corner of practically every cosmopolitan city in the world. As travel is becoming a more common commodity with budget airlines and faster journey times whipping us from London to Tokyo in a mere matter of hours, the allure of experiencing the same luxury over and over is starting to fade away as we feel more comfortable with global living. As luxury brands surpass borders and boundaries, the sense of rarity becomes lost and the paradox of more becomes less as too much choice confounds the consumer. This is where luxury runs the risk of becoming a brown box commodity; so easily accessible that the journey is lost and when the journey is lost, the status of luxury dissipates and you become just another high-street name with a looming price tag. New Luxury is about striking that all important balance and standing out against a backdrop of blandness.

Luxury Anti-Value #9 - Global Value Chains

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Luxury brands pen beautiful tales of exquisite craftsmanship, but often the reality is mass production lines and low-paid immigrant labor. When you see the words Made in Italy etched into a label you conjure up images of artistry among the rolling hills of Tuscany. But in the 90’s Tuscany became flooded with immigrants shipped in by big name brands to work in dimly lit sheds and sleep huddled in rooms behind these factories. From blood diamonds to mass suicides in big brand production plants, the situation is serious. Not only is this approach completely unethical from the brand, but it also forces the consumer to be unethical without their knowledge. Luxury brands that look to cut corners with cost reduction are directly contradicting the true meaning of luxury. New Luxury is about a clean conscience for both brand and consumer; imagine how liberating that will feel.

Luxury Anti-Value #10 - Fastness

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If there is one word that is synonymous with true authentic luxury, that word is time. Not only time to curate something outstanding, but the time to truly enjoy it. It’s a fast-paced world out there and luxury has a duty to make us stop for a second, to breathe deep, savor, appreciate, fall in love, unplug, unwind, and relax. Some luxury brands are trading the slow burn of time for fast production in search of profit. Fast fashion, fast food, fast travel, and fast luxury – its exhausting for brands and consumers and leaves everyone disconnected from the experience. In an era of FOMO, the constant urge to update our Instagram feeds, and the time pressure to make the most of every moment; we need to nurture the art of slowing down – from the seed to the root to the apple. Time is central to the story of New Luxury; not the cheap chase or the empty expense.

Luxury Anti-Value #11 - Sameness

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Global standardization is stripping away the customized culture and personality of a product or place. This is especially potent when it comes to big hotel brands. You could be in a Four Seasons suite in Singapore or a Ritz Carlton in Paris and wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. This is why the hotel industry has seen a sharp turn; the rise of the boutique business, the adoration of Airbnb – travelers are giving us the message loud and clear. While globalized big name brands are working towards perfection across every country in the world, the boutique business is embracing the energy and charisma of its imperfections because that is where creativity lives. Standardization is a word that contradicts luxury. It’s a word that comes with connotations of reducing cost and uniformed outcome. New Luxury is about celebrating culture and recognizing the rarity in what it is to be different.

Luxury Anti-Value #12 - Self-Love

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Spoil yourself is the message constantly pushed by luxury brands. Yet the very audience they purr this message too are often very philanthropic in their everyday lives. Just take a look at the Giving Pledge set up by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in which 184 of the world’s wealthiest across the world pledged to give away half their wealth to bring positive change to society. In this new era of transparency and better ethical practice, perhaps its time for brands to make a better effort. The stereotypes of class warfare have long shadowed the modern world. A Harvard study back in 2009 actually displayed that exposure to luxury goods tapped into the area of the brain most associated with self-interest. Perhaps luxury brands need to start thinking about ways they can connect with the philanthropic side of their consumers rather than reaching for the outdated story of elevated status. New Luxury is about pledging our own moral compass, to bind ourselves with the world and its people, and to give back in the best way we can.

The 12 anti-values facing luxury today are real, but as we open our eyes to face our demons, a new reality can emerge. Let’s join forces to change the meaning of luxury from one of mass-consumption to one of enlightening experiences that leave us connected with our globality. And, let’s remember:

Earth is our one and only home.

Time on earth is our one and only global luxury.

The choice is ours.

Which path will we take?

Article created in collaboration with Jodie Oakes, luxury storyteller, & Rubem Vieira, art director.