An insider’s introduction to market and business of luxury

Saturday February 27 2016

By A model poses by a collection of bags and

By A model poses by a collection of bags and shoes by Louis Vuitton at a store at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands casino complex. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Q: So what is luxury?

Luxury is emotional. It has heritage, craftsmanship, timelessness, experience, down to packaging and sales. Purchasing a luxury product or service is a gift or reward to yourself or someone.

But do we need luxury? 

You don’t need luxury. A bag is a bag and a dress is a dress. But you want to reward yourself so you buy a Valentino, Hermes or Berlutti. It reminds people of your status and is a mark of taste, elegance and sophistication.

How is a luxury business different from a fashion business?

Luxury businesses are managed very differently. Apple, a non-luxury product, used the luxury strategy initially. Now it uses a fashion strategy. Louis Vuitton and Hermes use a luxury strategy. Burberry uses a fashion strategy.

Mercedes was using a luxury brand strategy then fell out of the luxury universe and are now a premium brand trying to get back into luxury.

Why do luxury brands cost so much?

The craftsmanship, time, rarity and sourcing of products and less accessibility. If they are too affordable they become mass market. In Lesage, Paris, a Chanel-owned company, the atelier (workshop)

where embroidery for haute couture (high fashion) is done takes 1,000 hours to create. Couture pieces like Giambattista Valli’s cost $20,000 onwards.

At Louis Vuitton they source and stitch the finest crocodile skins for bags. Timepieces like Jacquet Droz or Chanel use embroidery in their pieces. Entering luxury stores is about experience.

Money, time and creativity are applied to create a museum for clients to savour the product. Such stores are very expensive, designed by the best architects. 

How does one get into luxury as a career?

Luxury and fashion are very different. There is fashion, premium and luxury. Fashion is quick and trendy. Study in Europe especially Paris as Europe is the home of luxury brands.

That way you spend time in ateliers, luxury brand CEOs teach in top business schools and you immerse in stores with the products learning brands. Embrace the arts, understand luxury and fashion brands, social media, know luxury designers and their

world . Join a luxury house like LVMH, work for an alcohol brand like Hennessey or a fashion brand for retail experience. Communications are a good background. Spend time with high net worth individuals, know fashion and be aware of trends.

Why is Africa an important market?

The leading market is South Africa which has made a huge investment for luxury businesses that most African countries lack. They took a conscious decision to re-affirm themselves as the luxury hub.

Africa is driven by clients from Nigeria, Angola, DRC and Kenya.

Nigeria and Angola have the highest numbers of luxury consumers with Harrods and Louis Vuitton, London counting them as VIP, driving further investment from European brands.

In Nigeria time piece brands, champagne, private jets, leather and fashion goods are highly consumed. Their spending power is very high.. The Francophone market especially DRC, Gabon and Ivory Coast are well known for champagne consumption and

timepieces. Kenya is an upcoming luxury market with a growing consumer base for Porche and Jaguar and increasing consumption of premium and luxury brands.

Little Red handles menswear luxury brands Brioni, Zegna, Ferragamo and premium brands like Boss. But not all products locally are luxury. Sometimes that word is misused to make the item expensive and

justify cost.

What makes Asia so appealing a market for luxury brands?

China represents more than 30 per cent of the global personal luxury goods market.  That’s an extremely huge representation by one country driving this sector.

Luxury is the one sector that thrives in a recession. How come?

Yes this is true. Right now Russia is in an economic slowdown but very wealthy individuals are still shopping. They do not want to look like they are suffering like the rest. Some spend because they can still

afford, others buy investment pieces like art, alcohol, leather goods and timepieces.

The global 1pc is not affected by recession. That’s a problem for the middle class. The 1pc will still fly first class, buy private jets and shop. Wealth insulates them.

What do people most misunderstand about luxury brands?
People think something expensive is luxury. It is not. Products are often presumed as luxury: Range Rover, Hugo Boss and Dior, they make you feel good. But despite the cost they are not luxury.

A drink can be expensive but lacking a design element, no rarity, heritage, elegance or sophistication. It isn’t luxury. Hennessy XO bottle, created by Baccarat, took two luxury houses to produce the drink.

The design, packaging and feel tell you it is luxury. Everything, from product to delivery must have luxury in it. Luxury is a lifestyle.