Luxury longevity: What will the future hold for designer fashion?

luxury fashion

Le Noeud Papillon founder Nicholas Atgemis. Source: Supplied.

There will always be a demand for premium, quality product in the luxe space. Consumers are attracted to tradition, prestige and status as well as a luxury brand’s narrative.

The retail fashion landscape is more diverse than ever before. But to stay relevant, the industry will need to introduce innovative retail concepts and sharpen their digital engagement to ensure the sales experience becomes immersive both online and in store.

It’s not a case of destroying traditions — far from it — it is an acknowledgment that we need to evolve with the current climate.

What’s more, long-held ‘rules’ are being questioned, rewritten or replaced entirely.

Previously luxury and designer fashion would have viewed collaborations as brand ‘dilution’. However, more than ever before we are witnessing less ‘brand purity’, as luxury brands collaborate with unexpected artists and designers —  partnerships which are used to surprise and delight, increase brand awareness and momentum, and exposure the brand to new audiences.

These collaborations work to challenge convention and offer a dose of cool that captures and activates the interest of the next generation of luxury consumers.

What role will millennials play?

One can argue that luxury purchases no longer maintain a dignified distance between the product and the purchaser. Now, everything is shared — the good, the bad and the indifferent.

Millennials are a unique consumer group who are leading the digital revolution and drastically pushing luxe fashion to the edge by creating new pathways for purchase and omnichannel customer experiences.

It’s an exciting time for luxury brands as this dynamic generation will help shape a vibrant future for the industry. This ‘engaged’ generation are using the power of social media to interact with their community by enthusiastically sharing content about the entire consumer experience across their social media platforms.

IG stories narrate how the consumer enters the store; poll surveys invite followers to be part of the selection process; the final purchase is shared and celebrated on purchaser’s feed. The entire experience is documented to showcase the experience and cement their status among equally social peers.

Luxury fashion houses who have been dragging their heels and slow to adapt to the millennial market need to act quickly or risk falling behind.

Some high-end luxury houses have been quicker than others to do so — including formidable brand Burberry, which has become a thought leader in this space. Most recently they commissioned Brooklyn Beckham (the 17-year-old son of David and Victoria Beckham) to shoot images for the latest Brit fragrance ads.

Burberry first revealed Beckham would be photographing its upcoming Brit ads post on Instagram, and documented the shoot on location via Snapchat, giving Brooklyn’s six million IG followers an intimate inside look. This is an example of how luxury fashion houses are using the power of social media to contemporise campaigns, engage deeply with their community and leverage the digital landscape to provide interactive experiences for the consumer.

While digital connectivity is critical for ‘luxury longevity’, it is crucial we do not forget about the boomers who still enjoy the traditional in-store, highly personalised shopping experience.

The culture of fashion

Fashion has and will always play a pivotal role in defining a sense of identity — our clothes send messages about who we are. It has become such an important part of human culture and identity — for generations, fashion has been used as a means of self-expression as it affords people choices to construct the public persona they wish to have.

More than ever before, digital media is creating a culture and community for us to share what we wear. Fashion is allowing us an opportunity to open dialogue around sustainability and the importance of eco-friendly and fair-trade environments for workers. This conversation has become part of our growing design philosophy.

Increasingly, companies are having to be more responsible with their design and manufacturing process, because consumers are demanding information on how and where garments are produced.

We are also seeing luxury retail brands that are strengthening their community and encouraging deeper conversations. Bonobos is a luxury online boutique for men that has successfully built a culture with like-minded fashion enthusiasts, by not only selling clothes but also showing men how to dress fashionably.

Fast fashion

The nature of ‘fast fashion’ is to focus on speed, high volume and low costs to deliver collections inspired by the latest celebrity styles and runway looks. We are buying more of it, and more frequently, which means fashion is short-lived and almost disposable. Fast fashion relies on cheap labour in developing countries, while high turnover places a significant toll on the environment which contributes to water pollution and the increased use of toxic chemicals and levels of textile waste.

Moving forward, brands need to have a closer look at customer buying behaviour to reduce the devastating impact on the environment for a sustainable future. Consumers need to also be educated about what their clothing is made from and what dyes and inks have been used to prepare the fabric. Companies need to be accountable and lead this conversation.

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