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- 10 Mar 2010
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The Trends that will define Future Luxury

David Carlson, founder of the David Report bulletin, explains why more of us will feel cosmopolitan in the countryside, shop for heirlooms online and munch on ‘slow food’ in the years to come.

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1 – Timeless Quality

Unfortunately we buy more and more stuff at lower and lower prices. The world gets even more crowded and we are emptying its resources. The mountains of trash grows and we are even shipping dangerous waste to the third world. It is time to say no to the wear and tear society and reject the growing trend where ethical values and sustainable issues are put aside for low prices and huge volumes. Our over-consumption has to come to an end.

The future consumer will seek excellence both concerning behaviour and product. We will see a new type of sustainability where quality is paramount both concerning material and design. Today we want our products to be recyclable. It means that they will probably be used a relatively short time before they get recycled. Tomorrow we want even better long-lived iconic products that also can be inherited by our children. One of the biggest challenges in the future is to find a way to adapt timeless quality thinking to technology gadgets. They are one of the worst examples of the wear and tear mentality in society in today.

As an example – very few people throw away or recycle an Omega Speedmaster or an Ant chair by Arne Jacobsen. Why? Because they are timeless pieces with great aesthetics. They pushed the limit of production possibilities a little bit forward and reflected its own time. This kind of products will always be modern. They are built on lasting values and will travel in time without infirmities of old age. Better high quality products will also create new trading sites. We will probably see a boom for luxury second hand and vintage stores, both off- and online

Unfortunately consumers of today have problems to see the difference between low price and priceworthiness. We have to start calculating the price of a product according to its total lifetime. At first sight a price at a price tag of a product with timeless quality could seem high. But if the product will hang around for a couple of generations, suddenly it turns both priceworthy and ecologically healthy.

In the future we will buy less but better products and the ones we choose will probably speak with a lower and more subtle voice. Fewer and more silent products will give space to our dreams. Dreams about a bright and happy aftertime. To care about quality is to care about our common future.

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2 – Security and safety

A place in the sun with clean air, less pollution and a good infrastructure, close to an airport but far away from terrorism – that’s a paragon of future luxury. We will not be as comfortable in big cities as we used to be.

The cutting-edge of consumer culture will find a new arena in these new urbanised country zones. Because even if people will settle far away from the rumble of the town we will still demand the perfect espresso or a yogi-tea at the local bar. We would like to buy high quality food and objects and in the evening we will hang out at the local gourmet restaurant. There will be completely new demands for service in these former “sleep-cities”. We will become the cosmopolitans of the countryside where we will find the new “good life”.

The ongoing development of broadband technology will make working out of the office easier and help us communicate with our friends around the world. And the day we feel an urge to hang out in Tokyo or Paris we have only a short and convenient trip to the airport.

However, travelling will look and work rather different in the future compared to today. Pollution, high transportation costs and terrorism will do its best to change our way of life. Safety will be the number one thing in our mind and our comfortable homes will work as hubs towards the surrounding world. They will be our base-camps where the information technology will be our premier tool to connect to and travel through the virtual world.

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3 – Emotional branding

For good reasons there are a lot of talk about the environmental pollution around the world. But there is another pollution going on as well, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s the mental pollution caused by the never ending advertising battle on TV and radio, in magazines and on the streets. We are bombarded with unwanted commercial messages by marketers wherever we go. It is not strange that we don’t believe in the branded messages any longer. They irritate us and we don’t experience them as credible. Instead we listen to our friends. They will tell us the truth about their personal brand experiences. The kind of stuff we will never see in an ad or commercial.

A lot of people have turned almost anti-brand. It will be a great challenge for companies to find new methods to converse, involve and interact with the consumers and offer them to experience the brand according to their own wishes. In the future building a relationship with your consumers and offer them relevant brand experiences will be paramount. It will be about engaging and understanding the consumers needs and develop product and services according to it. To create passion and desire and improve their lives. The brands that will understand that they are just a tool for the consumer to realize their personal dreams will survive and flourish. Act towards the consumers as you act towards your friends. Keep your promises and be honest. If you are lucky your costumers would like to start an affaire d’amour with you.

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4 – Good Karma

One of the most important future trends will be about to make a difference and to take responsibility. It concerns both private individuals, companies and organisations. There are a couple of short phrases that describe this growing ethical trend in a good way; “good karma”, “do-good”, “conscious consumption”, “don’t be evil” and “conscious capitalism”.

If we look into the trend of conscious capitalism it is in some sense idealistic in the support of philanthropic or humanitarian causes. Just a couple of years ago the managing director of a company who’s focus was not to maximise short-term profits was proclaimed as naive. In the future it will be the other way round – if your only focus is maximising the profit, you will be lost. You have to carefully balance the opinions and wishes of all your stakeholders including costumers, shareholders, employees and society at large. We have to share the resources on earth and to act with “good karma” will be a generic feature for future brands.

Charity will reach much bigger proportions. The more prominent figures (like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Bono) the longer the tail. The in-crowd will continue to line up at conscious conferences. Some recent examples include “Responsible Luxury”, “Karma Capitalism”, TED and “Doors of Perception” which all have had ethical and conscious themes lately.

From the consumer point of view responsible purchasing is a growing trend. Piers Fawkes wrote recently in his psfk blog; “When you ask yourself how Uniqlo can sell fashionable denim for $39 a pair (including tailoring) you start to wonder how many small children in Asia did it take to make just one purchase.” We will not accept that kind of products and behaviour any longer.

The same goes for the abuse and cruelty against animals. We will see the number of vegans and vegetarians explode. It will be impossible to sell beauty products that are tested on animals. Products out of skin, fur and non-ecological cotton and wool will consequently decrease drastically. Stella McCartney and Katherine Hamnet are the prominent figures and thousands of creative designers will follow in the making of stylish products out of the new postulations.

We will demand transparency. Companies can achieve success by doing good and as a socially conscious consumer you have the power of change in your hand. Anna Lappé from the Small Planet Institute puts it like this; “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want”. Consuming doesn’t have to be all bad.

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5 – Seize the Day

Time has turned into luxury. True luxury. Time is more or less one of the only things you can’t buy with money. That’s why it is so desirable. Whatever we think about it, the biological clock is ticking for all and everyone.

When you ask people what they want most in their lives, the most common answer is to have more qualitative time. The good thing about the story is that qualitative time is actually something most of us can achieve.

According to us it is a luxurious thing to wake up in the morning and do exactly what you want. The kind of day when no one tells you what you have to do and you don’t have any requirements that have to be fulfilled. The kind of feeling as when you are on vacation, but on an everyday basis. Something the Italians refer to as dolce fare niente – the beauty of doing nothing at all – except for relaxing… We call it to seize the day – to have time for the one you love, your family. To invite your friends to a nice dinner. To make every day extraordinary – enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment.

Time allows place for dreams. Time allows you to find harmony…how many people live in total harmony? Time gives your imagination and your creativity space. Time enables you to reflect. The great luxury in the future will be about taking control over your own time, because it will never come back.

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6 – Supreme Regionalism

There will be a great wish for authenticity in the society in the future. The ongoing globalisation is erasing regional specialness with the speed of a bullet. The same look-a-like hotels and airports, giant shopping malls or superbrand luxury stores are popping up all over the world. At the same time smaller supreme specialist stores are forced into bankruptcy.

Brand recognition will probably be as important in the future as today. But if we hold for true that a brand is (only) a perception in a consumers mind, the physical deliverance of great products will be even more important. The products are the true messengers of a brand. If they are produced in faceless factories in China in even growing numbers they will not be experienced as authentic and credible any longer. A lot of production in western society has already moved or is about to be moved to low price production countries. But we see trouble and a strong and dangerous backlash towards this mentality. There are three major issues as we see it. The first is about economy and environment. In the future it will be impossible to ship products around the world when the oil price rises to extreme levels. It is not smart out of an environmental perspective with the knowledge of the climate change we have today. It is not an excuse to buy carbon emission offsets in this case – better not to ship long distance at all! Secondly, we will also see a rise of production costs depending on higher salaries in the third world. The third issue is about ethics and credibility. It is difficult to guarantee and control fair trade issues with a production thousands of kilometers away. We have seen a lot of examples of this already.

Will future consumers see a Swedish designed but Chinese produced Orrefors glass vase as Swedish? Don’t you think that some of the authenticity is getting lost in the Chinese mass-production? Maybe some of the substance and history as well? If we turn our face to the furniture industry, clever British designer Jasper Morrison has made great pieces in a Scandinavian vein for the Italian brand Cappellini. How do we label his pieces? As British, Scandinavian or Italian design?

We live in a high-speed information society and we would like to put it like this; when design has turned global, production is still local. A great possibility to differentiate product offerings and create substance is materialising out if this fact. We will see a new Supreme Regionalism grow as a reaction to the present standardisation. Inside this trend we will find a new cultural luxury. Locally produced and controlled products with textures and flavours with a unique twist, made with great craftsmanship. Supreme desirable products that will attract all our senses and stick out from the noise as original and genuine.

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7 – Food and health

Health is turning into one of the biggest luxuries in our time when most food has converted into mass-produced semi-finished products. This food is cheap, yes. But it is not good for your health because it often contains too much salt, sugar and other accessory food factors. Briefly, it can in be described as refined waste (Jamie Oliver’s description of the British school lunches).
As a result of all the bad food fatness has evolved into a huge lower class problem in society today. Only fifty years ago it was the other way round. Then it was a sign of wealth to be able to eat and consequently it was the upper class that was overweight.

Just a couple of decades ago it was a luxury to eat food from the other side of our planet. In the future it will be a luxury to be able to eat locally grown healthy organic food from around the corner of your house. And we are not only talking about the rural areas. We will see a development of urban agriculture as well, which will allow you to find locally produced food right in the middle of the cities. We will demand to know what we eat, how it is produced and by whom. Slow food is an eco-gastronomic organisation that are pushing for small scale and local production to maintain human culture and biodiversity. They counteract fast food and fast life. Today, with high environmental costs, most food travel around the world before it ends up at our dining tables. Tastes edulcorates and pesticides are used on regular basis. By choosing well tasting food that does not harm the environment and animal welfare you are choosing life… and health.

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8 – Individual editions

This trend is a spin-off from both the Timeless Quality and the Supreme Regionalism trends. We would like to bring it forward because it appeals to strong motive powers in modern society.

It is about limited-editions. Why are we so attracted by them? What kind of fascination make us want them so badly? The globalisation forces us to buy the same products from the same brands all over the world. If we generalise, it doesn’t care if you live in Stockholm, New York, Moscow or Cape Town. You still find the same brands in your grocery store or at the local mall. The limited-edition series offer something else; individuality. The fewer distribution points the more desirable is the product. Just the knowledge of the existence of it makes us feel special.

It doesn’t need to be a product. Small residential development projects like 40 Bond in New York by Ian Schrager is another example of this trend. You will be able to own something unique and be part of something exclusive, something you share with just a few selected persons. Limited-editions are desirable because it attracts and flirts with your persona. We will see a reaction towards the standardised global assortment and meanwhile the limited-edition series will help us feel individual and special.

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David Carlson, Founder, David Report

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About David Report Bulletin
The David Report bulletin covers the intersection of design, culture and business life with a creative and humanistic approach. By challenging conventional thinking we are always trying to make a difference.

About David Carlson
Having worked with design as a competitive advantage for twenty years David Carlson is renowned for his knowledge of strategies in design, communication and brand development.

For more information:
www.davidreport.com