Thought Provoking: Are Luxury Brands Becoming “Masstige”

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The mega luxury brands of the world have to strike the perfect balance between exclusivity and their accessibility. There has always been an inverse relationship between accessibility and luxury. The less the accessibility, the more it is called luxurious.
Too maintain this too delicate of a balance, these brands develop iconic products, with extensive marketing campaigns, emitting a perceived exclusivity, and at the same time the production of less costly products such as perfumes, accessories and cosmetics to keep the business sustainable and profitable. After all real exclusivity and craftsmanship does not account as success and offers fewer opportunity for scale, these brands have not only become profitable due to selling products to a few high new worth consumers.
But, as Jean-Noël Kapferer, professor of marketing at HEC Paris, writes in Luxury: How Brands Can Grow Yet Remain Rare, “The more the luxury sector grows, the more this threatens the levers of the luxury dream and the sense of what luxury evokes: the notion of rarity and of access to a privileged life, to products of exception.”
However in recent years, there has been a shift from the uber luxury and inaccessibility to globalisation and digital media. The luxury industry is trying to survive the new age and strike the perfect balance to be highly desirable and highly commercial at the same time. 
Some of the key issues are:
  1. Digital media: In the world, where digital media has taken over the fashion industry, where Snapchat and instagram are the places to launch the latest marketing campaigns. Earlier aspiring class never had the access to it, but now everything is visually available online and open to the public. Luxury is no longer a rarity.“There is a lot of power left to [brands] in the way they distribute their merchandise through e-commerce platforms,” says Thomai Serdari, a professor of luxury marketing and branding at New York University. Hermès, for example, has never sold its iconic Birkin or Kelly bags online. Yet precious few fashion houses have been able to create e-commerce sites that truly match the brand experience they offer in their physical flagships, says Luca Solca, head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas.  The key is to provide a similar experience online as a shopper feels when he visits the store. “The actual sale is just one aspect of the overall customer experience…the entire shopping experience must be a seamless journey in which customers feel luxury at every turn, from swiping through products on their iPad to unboxing their purchases.”
  2. An Overexpansion into Emerging Markets: In pursuit of growth, many of fashion’s luxury megabrands — notably Burberry, Gucci and Louis Vuitton — rapidly expanded their Chinese retail networks, opening stores sometimes, in second- and third-tier cities that, ultimately, lacked the customer base to support them. Over time, this damaged not only profitability, but brand equity, as the pace of retail expansion made it “untenable” to uphold customer experience, says Shukla, and consumers soon came to see many of fashion’s luxury megabrands as overexposed.There has to be a more cohesive strategy of brand expansion and where to really expose the brand and where to not.
  3. Off Price Retailing:  Luxury megabrands have not been shy about the opportunity, investing heavily in both their own outlet stores and partnerships with off-price retailers. In the UK, off-price specialist Bicester Village — home to brands including Dior, Fendi and Saint Laurent — draws more than 6.3 million visitors per year and is the country’s second most popular attraction amongst Chinese tourists. Meanwhile, Woodbury Common, an outlet centre about 50 miles from New York City, attracts more than 13 million shoppers each year to stores operated by brands including Céline, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta. “Any off-price activity is eating into the brand equity,” agrees Solca, who says, in an ideal world, no luxury player would engage with the off-price sector at all.
    Limiting the way brands leverage off-price channels can help says Prokopec. The permanent collection should never be discounted.  The iconic items, around which a brand has built its story and reputation, should never be tainted by discounts.
    “Dior in Paris only have a few days of sale twice a year, but it is done in a separate location — never in their flagship store on Avenue Montaigne. They rent a separate space where you have the discounted experience, and the flagship is untouched.”
    Regaining Balance
    One of the strategies is to focus on changing the portfolio structure to be more exclusive, to regain the balance. Reducing the amount of entry level products and products with heavy detailing of the logo,there should be a focus on re-orienting perception around higher priced, iconic products with more subtle brand signifiers.
    Balancing exclusivity and accessibility “has always been the magic luxury formula,” says Ortelli. “It is the day to day life of a luxury company to make this solution work.”
    However the accessibility and buying power of the customers have increased, therefore there is always the risk of luxury becoming masstige.

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur – A Royal Experience

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Whenever anyone wants to soak in the royal experience, royalty in India is ideal. A few refurbished palaces in provide us commoners, a slice of the royal and luxurious lifestyle.

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One of the places, I was lucky to visit was the Lake Palace in Udaipur, surrounded by Lake Pichola. Restored to its pristine glory, this spectacular palace became world renowned when the James Bond film ‘Octopussy’ was filmed at it. It was the secluded lair of the film’s eponymous Bond Girl. This heritage hotel has 66 luxurious rooms and 17 grand suites. Its location on an island in the midst of a lake affords every room breathtaking views of the neighbouring City Palace, Aravalli Hills, Machla Magra Hills and Jag Mandir.

The incomparable location provides the perfect backdrop for the exquisite cuisines at the elegant restaurants of Taj Lake Palace. These are open only to resident guests. Signature speciality restaurants at this palace serves a choice of cuisines. Neel Kamal for authentic Rajasthani and other dishes from India; and the seasonally open-air Bhairo for contemporary European delicacies. In the evening, indulge in signature martinis, cocktails and a grand collection of premium international spirits at the s bar, Amrit Sagar.There is lovely music and traditional dance by the tribal ladies carried out in the courtyard next to Amrit Sagar.

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One can go for the Sunset Cruise, taking in the view of the gorgeous Pichola and the city encompassing the lake. We were also taken to visit Jag Mandir, a beautiful setting, ideal for fairtytale weddings.

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I stayed in the Sajjan Niwas suite.When you step into this opulent suite – the decadence and lushness of Rajput style leaps out from every corner of the room. From the near six-foot standing chandelier lamp in the corner, to the plush traditional rugs; the colourful marble inlay skirting the walls; miniature paintings hanging on the walls; abundant lamps and a royal portrait; plus the heavy blue velvet punkah that hang from the ceiling — a way to cool a room from centuries ago. The rooms of the suite are grand, the craftsmanship detailed and ornate, and on first impression the decor almost clashes – it’s a perfect example of the luxurious and opulent style of the Rajput that travellers come to Rajasthan to soak up. The chandelier above my bed was opulent and a sight to see. From the room, we had a wonderful view of the lake. 

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The service was impeccable, and the duty manager at that time was gracious. This hotel is worth visiting as it created memories for me, worth a lifetime. 

Known as the Venice of the East, the city of Udaipur, with its elaborate palaces, serene lakes, exotic temples and resplendent gardens, has a lot to offer. 

The Up and Coming Tokyo Fashion Week

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Having a closer look at the fashion week, some of the key things that really stood out are:

  1. INFLUENCE: There was a complete street style influence. Taking a leaf out of the eighties fashion  handbook, Japan’s fashionistas rolled out in a series of unsurprisingly striking getups, ranging from voluminous tees to a throwback French football track jacket marking a particular highlight. Elsewhere, there was plenty of modern streetwear, some tailored menswear and some outrageously kaleidoscopic, eye-grabbing getups. Clashing slogan tees and pixie cuts were the rage. 

  2. NEWCOMER: A “back to school” influence was the only noticeable Tokyo-ready trend on display during the week. Newcomer Akikoaoki delivered a small but interesting collection as part of a group show called Tokyo New Age that included oversized pleated skirts and blazers, an allusion to retro Japanese school uniforms. The up-and-coming designer added a twist to her creations in the form of bleached plaids that faded to pink or were presented in splatter patterns, all styled with military jackets and nylon jumpsuits. 

  3. THE LADY TO LOOK AT: Someone who stood out in the forefront at Fashion Week was Mademoiselle Yulia. Multitalented, this DJ cum singer is one to watch out for. Also a designer, generally draped in Chanel, she is front row creme de la creme.

  4. MOD TAKE ON JAPAN:At the other end of the spectrum is Hiroyuki Horihata and Makiko Sekiguchi’s Matohu, which is revered for its minute attention to detail on silhouettes that are inspired by kimono and other traditional Japanese attire. The pair’s latest collection was actually its most “modern” yet, introducing mod vibes and female dandy influences on blazers in “creamsicle” orange gradations, patchwork trimmings on pencil skirts and even a cool, black motorcycle jacket.

  5. COOLEST HANGOUT: The coolest place where Saint Laurent models sashaying up and down,  playing all nighted pool games,is the Son of Cheese. A dive bar in Daikanyama is the place to be seen in your toughest leather jacket and party till your last breath. This one’s a rager.

  6. SIGNATURE LOCAL STYLE: The souvenir jacket was a style piece everyone had and wore. Available in silk and with different styles on the back of it, this trend is very typical Japan.

This fashion week was a good mix of eighties pop art, silk souvenir jackets, with a dash of back to school influence and a contemporary take on Japanese silhouettes. This fashion week was worth attending, even Gwen Stefani did.

London Fashion Week’s Upcoming Talent

 

With the advent of any fashion week, there is always an eclectic mix of the old and new. New talent is always a refreshing take on the fashion week, and talented designers are always up for grabs and their to rival the honchos in fashion.

London Fashion Week’s glossy, crowd-pulling shows (Burberry, Erdem, and Alexander McQueen) were matched by a spring of young, edgy designers who showcase their next-generation cool with clubby, art-world style presentations rather than a classic catwalk shows. Here’s a pick of the rising stars.

Sadie Williams: A Central Saint Martins graduate, she has built a reputation for space-age-meet-folkloric style. She  has previously designed for Swedish high-street label & Other Stories. Those white-hot chrome trousers are a fashion must.

Duro Olowu: Elegance in Britland. The designer’s eye for elegance is held in the highest regard amongst the fashion industry’s inner circle. This season, at an opulent Mayfair address Olowu hosted a joyously peaceful tea time presentation for just a handful of editors, and he answered the doorbell himself.

Isa Arfen: This one is my favourite. She is an Italian born and raised in London, fashion designer; who counts Alexa Chung as one of her fans. Sama’s sexy, sculptural silhouettes breathe feminine attitude into fashion forward style. This season we fell for the Isa Arfen club-kid look: red eyeshadow and fluttering frills are a look that’s set to fly amongst London’s young-yet-slick party set.

Faustine Steinmetz: This designer’s modus operandi is handwoven and handmade. These tactile creations are about eye-popping colour and surrealist texture. 

Molly Goddard: Combining an edgy and frou ensemble is this designer’s forte. Already sold at Dover street market, this one for the swish art set and someone looking ti ante up their fashion sensibility. There was a tongue in cheek kind of primness.

Alexander Lewis: This one is for the preppies. Stylish knitwear and shirts are part of the collection. Cigarette-leg leather pants with matching jackets, alongside a clever reworking of the everyday pinstripe shirt. 

These are the season’s new investment pieces.Make sure to up your fashion sensibilities by picking up these stylish ensembles. 

Make a fashion statement. 

Santorini – The Picturesque Greek Island

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Known to be a couple’s destination and for its romantic island sunsets, this island is a must visit, even with the family. I had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful island a few years goal.

There are few travel destinations that combine beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery, ancient cities, amazing restaurants, some of the world’s best wine, and an active volcano.

Amidst the serene backdrop of beaches and sunset, with whitewashed walls covered covered in blue tiles, Santorini may well have conquered a corner of your imagination before you’ve even set eyes on it.

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With multicoloured cliffs soaring over 300m from a sea-drowned caldera, it rests in the middle of the indigo Aegean, looking like a giant slab of layered cake. Smaller islands curl around the fragmented western edge of the caldera, but it is the main island of Thira that will take your breath away with its snow-drift of white Cycladic houses lining the cliff tops and, in places, spilling like icy cornices down the terraced rock. When the sun sets, the reflection on the buildings and the glow of the orange and red in the cliffs can be truly spectacular.

Santorini is no secret and draws crowds for most of the year, yet it wears its tourism well and its offerings make it worth the bustle.The multicoloured beaches are simply the icing on the cake.They have red, white and black sand beaches. 

Santorini comprises of three main parts, Thira, Fira and Oia. Thira is the largest. One of the best places to stay was Andromeda Suites, sitting atop the edge of the cliff. 

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A must visit restaurant is Senor Zorba, a unique Mexican restaurant, started by a lady from Colorada, lands an authentic flavour to Mexican food in a European island. If one wants to shop, then Oia is a favourite. it has beautiful boutiques with linens in solid colours, a staple form of Greek clothing as well as nick nacks.

In hindsight, there could no place more beautiful than an island, with hues of white and blue, with the colours of sunset serving as the backdrop. 

A must visit!!!

East Meets West: EAST, Miami

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Opening in April 2016, the Hongkong and Beijing, the East Hotel will set up its base in Miami, Florida, making it the group’s first hotel in the US.

The group’s first U.S. property follows openings in Hong Kong and Beijing and is set to offer the same combination of stylish but idiosyncratic design, thanks to New York-based Clodagh.

The hotel is designed by celebrated Miami-based architects Arquitectonica with interiors created by New York’s Clodagh Design. Their signature restaurant Quinto La Huella and rooftop bar Sugar are designed by Los Angeles-based Studio Collective. Guests can also experience local and international street life, art installations, and urban culture showcased throughout the property. Its a good blend of the east and west. With a cultural vibe flowing throughout the property based in one of the most favourite beach spots in the US, this makes for a smorgasbord of culture and will appeal to every tourist.

The hotel is an integral part of the Brickell City Centre, Swire Properties’ 5.4  million sq ft mixed use development. The project also includes a luxury shopping centre,two residential towers and two office buildings. 

The hotel will offer distinctive experiences for those seeking innovation, style, and personalized service. Guests can expect keyless entry, paperless check-in and check-out, a native App with locally curated insights and travel tips, art exhibits, health and wellness programing and array of other happenings to make them feel totally at ease in EAST. 

EAST, Miami offers 352 guest rooms to include eight suites and 89 one, two and three bedroom residence suites (fully equipped apartments with kitchen, laundry facilities and full access to the amenities and services of the hotel). They also will provide a state of the art gym, BEAST (Body by East). 

Defying comparisons and breaking conventions, East, Miami will strive to provide an individual and original sense of style and comfort to its well heeled and discerning travellers.

This is one hotel opening I look forward to.

For further information visit, http://www.east-miami.com.

 

Breaking Barriers- Monsieur de Chanel

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Mr. Beau said he often described Chanel not as a fashion brand but as a true luxury brand, consistently creating products that endure. “We are able to mix tradition and fashion,” he said. “That’s the magic of Chanel.”

Chanel steps into the boys’ club with first men’s timepiece, Monsieur de Chanel. 

French atelier Chanel is expanding offerings for its male clientele through the introduction of its first men’s timepiece. Chanel presented the first men’s watch at the Baselworld in Switzerland, alongside launching a collection of limited edition watches for women.

This is the first time Chanel has forayed into the men’s sphere, producing only men’s fragrances till now.

“It is natural that this year we would want to explore the great complications of the masculine field. We feel we have a great contribution to give,” said, Nicolas beau, the international watch director at Chanel. He went on to state that no market surveys and statistics were the basis of the launch of mens watches. 

The watch may have debuted in March, but will be officially launched and available in June. 

As per the International New York Times, the Monsieur Watch will be limited to a series of 300, half in beige gold and half in white gold. The watch will retail for $35,000 to $37,000, respectively.

Besides being the first men’s watch by Chanel, the Monsieur Watch counts other firsts for the house in the horology space. The watch, which took five years to develop, features Chanel’s first movement made in-house, the Calibre 1, and was the first timepiece built at the brand’s La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Certainly Chanel is moving in the opposite direction to its watchmaking peers, which is focusing on the women’s watches and when the men’s market is widely perceived as slowing down. 

This is Chanel’s way of exploring all aspects of watchmaking, hence the reason to get into complications of masculine watchmaking. 

The movement’s black, complex and architectural design in matte and glossy tones, revealed through its transparent back cover, is a contrast with the minimalist silvered opaline dial. “You have this very beautiful engine and then you turn it over, and you have an extremely simple, lean and clean design,” Mr. Beau said. “It’s like a watch with two faces”. In the past Chanel has designed and selected movements to compliment a watch’s overall aesthetic but, for the Monsieur, the Calibre 1 movement became the driving force for everything that followed.

Known to break the barriers, cross boundaries, Chanel does it once again with the Monsieur de Chanel. 

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