Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Culture, Tradition, Modernism, Luxury Brands and Perfumery - The NEW ERA

+ Q Perfume Blog invites you to a journey through history, to reflect on culture, styling, traditions and luxury. We will see how luxury brands developed their business and how their clients changed as time passed by. We will finally arrive to our present time: the Digital Era, and understand challenges luxury brands are facing. In first part of this journey we will understand how consumers of luxurious products passed their values and preferences from the most primitive way from mouth to mouth, to global branding, visiting for a while Hollywood, and its golden era. And of course, we will get to fragrances, thus this is a blog about them :-)

There were times when professional expertise was passed through generations, from artisans to their apprentices, from father to son, as many businesses belonged to families, and things were mostly tailor made, and everything crafted by hand. Even when guilds were formed, children at the age of 07 were sent by their families to learn to craft with a master. The apprentice would live his home and move to his masters'. During years he would develop his skills and learn all the secrets of the profession and trading with his master.  Profession was passed from person to person, mostly orally.
While the less privileged were learning a way to survive, the consumers of the products they were crafting - the nobles and aristocrats, learned how to recite poetry, to sing, play the piano, hunt, master the arts of chivalry and court ball dancing. 
Noble women during the middle ages were sent to live with another noble family in order to be taught a number of subjects and skills, such as manners, etiquette, courtesy, how to ride, how to dress and style hair. Mostly, culture, traditions and fashion trends were passed to them orally, from noble to noble. As nobles detained the wealth, they also detained access to luxury and fine products, that were proudly ostentated in public during social events.

During the Renaissance artists lived under commission of their noble wealthy patrons. Due to patronage, aristocracy controlled all the artistic production and also continued to dictate social lifestyles.

English Anthropologist Edward Tyler was the first to define culture as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society".

In that sense, the standards of quality and luxury were determined by the most privileged. Tradition and culture were created by them, to be followed by others. Luxury by tradition was elitist and exclusive from the early beginning of social history.

Society suffered a major change with the Industrial revolution (18th/19th century), as a new social class was created - the business men. A new bourgeoise aroused and enriched from mercantile function in the city. Once they successfully prospered, they began to dictate the values, the manners, the upbringing and fashion trends. The new labor aristocracy became capital owning millionaires. The revolution made available products that provided new comforts and conveniences to those who could afford them. The industrial revolution gave a major impulse to technology and manufacturing in general. Besides the industrial innovations that raised quality standard for all products, a new life style was created, and consequently, a new concept of luxury. As an example, with the invention of the sewing machine internal paddings were added to suits and vests. More sewing decorations, such as ruffles and pleats were added.

In the beginning of the 20th century the US industry produced many features and created many stars. The major film studios set their facilities in California - Los Angeles (1912) and in 1930, MGM created the star system. The golden era of Hollywood also created a new social class - the rich and famous. Either because they were stars with huge salaries or executives collecting the profits of the movies produced. After the WWI, motion pictures became the most established entertainment media, and gradually, the stars featuring them slowly replaced the aristocrats as fashion icons and trend setters. But they still had some influence in the luxury business, with their royal behavior of the precedent decades. Fashion designers and luggage manufactures, such as Louis Vuitton, providing services to their restricted clientele were in high demand.
The post war (WWII) period, from the 40's to the 50's also changed the outlook of fashion. Actresses as Marilyn Moroe, Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor and Brigitte Bardot increased the influence of Hollywood  as trend setters. Dior, Givenchy, Balanciaga gained worldwide recognition.
The biggest change of all was the fact that high societies standards and traditions were no longer passed from father to son only. Advertising and visual medias slowly replaced the intimacy of family and social rituals. The moving picture heroes and stars were passing those values through their films. Consumers were educated and motivated to purchase products. 

THE 80's - 90's
The yuppies, or young urban professionals, mostly working with stock markets, were making fortunes overnight during the 80's. They were self-absorbed young people enjoying cultural attraction of the sophisticate urban lifestyle, spending a lot of money in frivolous and ridiculously expensive things, to ostentate social status. The richer you looked back than, the more you would reflect success, more money you would make. Yuppies were having what was called -  The Luxury Fever. The affluent lifestyle associated with the yuppie demographic included well-appointed apartments or homes, nice cars, expensive food, and an assortment of luxury goods. To luxury brands it was a very prosperous era.

In the end of the 19th and the early 20th centuries brands like Cartier, Chanel, Prada, Burberry, and many others were created. Many luxury brands such as Cartier and Burberry had already registered their logo and brand name in the early 1900's (Louis Vuitton created his logo in 1896). 
They have survived, and maintained their heritage, tradition and values till today, as they continue to be references to luxurious lifestyle and high quality products. They became global.

After becoming global, brands had another challenge: to be global but to understand & respond to local culture. 
But the other problem they were facing interests me more: The most faithful and traditional customers were no longer around. In order to conquer new clients, luxury brands had to modernize their image and reinvent themselves. The grandsons and granddaughters of their previous clients were much more demanding and much more assertive. Their expectations toward  luxury brands were much higher. 
Several brands invested in trend tracking, consumers insights, concierge services, exclusive clubs and most of all to modernize and reinterpret their style, while keeping their values, heritage and continue to be recognized as a reference to quality, exclusivity and elegance. In 1997 Louis Vitton hired fashion designer Marc Jacobs to be their artistic director to bring innovation, creativity and a modern look to brand. The challenge was to blend the new and the traditional not to loose LV's cultural values. A great example of this marriage is the graffiti bag, mixing the most urban form of art, the graffiti, and the LV's leather bag.

In 1983 Karl Lagerfeld took over as chief designer of Chanel Inc. Since the beginning he made many changes in the Maison. The ones I feel are more important to point out is the launch of Chanel Nº5 Eau Premiere EDT and Mademoiselle Chanel EDP (click HERE to read my article about these fragrance) targeting the granddaughters of Chanel Nº5 faithful consumers, and the spring summer fashion show of 2010, when British rock singer Lilly Allen performed in the Grand Palais transformed into KL's barnyard. She also featured in a campaign for Chanel's bags.

One of the most subtle and most genius strategy of modernization in my opinion was made by Hermés, the French luxury leather goods brand (and also fragrance). As they sell the idea of handcrafted bags since 1837, they manage to bring the same experience to their website as the drawings used are subtly underlined, giving an artisanal character to it. Also, to bring a reinterpretation of their classical prints for silk ties, the opened a competition for young design students, so they could present their ideal print. Hermés understood that quality, elegance and exclusivity must e combined with modernity in order to be able to compete in our days.



1 comment:

Rakshabandhan Gifts said...

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