The definition of “luxury” is transforming alongside the budding lifestyle motto, “collect experiences, not things.” Luxury clothing is no longer classified only by the quality of the product or the recognition of the label. It’s about the heritage and story behind the brand and the experience the consumer has with the brand.
Traditionally, luxury items were considered those products that are: made of high quality, a recognised brand name, produced in fashion-regions (like Italy or France), and a higher price point. However, this idea of luxury is shifting as consumer-shopping habits are changing and emerging companies are introducing high-quality, cutting-edge style.
“Story” is the new luxury differentiator.
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
– Coco Chanel
The movement from fashion as a product to fashion as a lifestyle is changing the way luxury brands market to their consumers—and the way consumers choose their label loyalty.
Would anyone expect Prada to be scared of a smaller and newer brand like Rebecca Minkhoff? Turns out, they are. With an industry-wide rise in inexpensive, high quality products and a decrease in the desire for visible, branded labels, big luxury retailers are shaking in their alligator-skin boots.
Thus, brands are beginning to focus on means to differentiate themselves. With so many style options for consumers, the biggest distinction becomes the story behind the brand. Women are looking to inspiring fashion icons and storied trends to determine which luxury products to purchase.
Rebecca Robins, the Global Director at Interbrand and the co-author of Meta-Luxury, stated in an article for Harper’s Bazaar: “The sweet spot is where integrity of product meets integrity of brand experience.” The purpose of luxury has converted from label-based motivations to experience-based ones.
Chanel is well known for this method of branding, using the narration of founder Coco Chanel to inspire purchasers. Chanel is not only high-quality, high-price point, and high-exclusivity, it is a symbol and a status that people aspire to. A major source of this elevated status is Coco Chanel’s stirring and relatable life story; she set out to change the world of fashion in the face of poverty and strict societal rules. She proves to her consumers that success is possible—with the right outfit.
The Chanel brand has worked tirelessly to present this narration to consumers through marketing campaigns and their “Inside Chanel” web series, a dedicated space to discuss the history and trends of the Chanel brand. Their current installment, “Paradox,” reveals how the brand uses contrasting ideas to create a unique fashion experience, like utilizing pieces from the male wardrobe to make women look more feminine.
Chanel is not alone in this narrative strategy. Other brands, like Gucci, Prada, Moschino, and Diesel, are presenting their descriptions of what it means to buy into their respective labels. Storytelling helps motivate and inspire consumers to pick luxury brands based on the fashion icons they most relate to, the ones they want to be… and to become a fashion icon themselves.
Should you be choosing your luxury products based on brand story?
Luxury retailers are changing their marketing strategies to create an experience-based fashion world, but this does not mean the quality of the product has diminished. An increase in competition often means an increase in quality; thus, the money you are spending in the luxury market today is likely getting you better quality products than those of an equivalent price fifty years ago.
With so many luxury products in the market, it makes sense to choose based on a brand-experience that will inspire you. You put your outfit on in the morning to create a sense of “you”—to define who you are and who you want to be that day. The person you are today and the person you aspire to be is defined by what you do, how you act, and what you wear. Thus, your clothing should reflect you, and by extension your clothing maker’s story should reflect your story.