The Luxury Report: The State of the Industry in 2023 and Beyond
A very famous American president is credited with the aphorism: ‘The best way to create the future is to invent it.’ Lincoln was also right when he observed that the future comes one day at a time. Though it is stating the obvious.
Profound or not, he had a point — one that is astoundingly relevant to the
brands of today, A.K.A the architects of our collective future.
And as experts in all things luxury, it would be a missed opportunity — not to mention suspiciously self-sabotaging — if we didn’t drop some foresights on emerging, rising and enduring trends in the sector as we face off with the start of a new year.
All of that to say — we know our shit and we don’t mind sharing.
The Global Wealth Landscape
In order to conjure images of our luxury’s futurescape, we should first examine the state of the sector as it stands. It’s all relative, etc, etc.
Fair warning: we’re about to paint a very bleak picture. Strap in.
Beating out ‘Kyiv’, ‘partygate’, ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘warm bank’, permacrises has been crowned 2022’s Word of the Year by Collins Dictionary. Described as ‘an extended period of instability and insecurity’ (you were warned), the term encapsulates the post-pandemic rollercoaster we still seem to be riding, global economic downturns as well as those closer to home, looming climate chaos and the slew of political topplings plaguing national parties. To name a few.
On the flip side of the rapidly-declining-in-value coin, the luxury industry is yet again proving itself to be incredibly resilient to recessionary pressures as leading conglomerate LMVH announce they’re on track to achieve total sales of £1.22tn this year, up 21% from 2021.
Declaring a new age of decadence, a new-and-improved roaring 20s if you will, the Paris-headquartered luxury goods company is a major contributor to France’s recent promotion to Europe’s most valuable stock market, knocking the UK out of the top spot.
Even with the expansion of stealth wealth, luxury’s growth is rapid. Low-key or outlandish, the luxury lifestyle isn’t going away.
Restyling itself in large part due to a new kind of luxury client. A record 218,200 people are now classified as ultra-high net worth (UHNW) and Gen Z’s attitude to luxury has been described as more precocious than earlier generations.
From the fabled crypto-bros and nomadic new wavers to inclusivity influencers and casual climate routinists, the next generation of luxurians laces together a thousand fragments of identity, tradition, aspiration and lifestyle to create a new luxury fabric, not monogrammed with luxury house logos but with potential.
The future is up for grabs. Why not take it?
Key Trends for 2023 & Beyond
Emerging: Nuanced Identities
Unintentionally, ‘the ultra-HNWI is not one person’ has become one of Matter Of Form’s calling cards in everything from strategy meetings, comp reviews and market audits to workshops for meaningful innovation and CX mapping.
Although repetitive and seemingly (but not evidently) obvious to brands, it’s never been truer.
This unrelenting diffusion of identity among all of us — much more of an extension in every direction rather than a weakening — is a fact brands can’t afford to ignore. One that forms the foundations of a whispering paradigm shift towards multiple identities existing in separate spaces.
Narratives are already being transformed with brands either becoming culture mavericks or collaborating with influencers who tap into targeted communities.
2020’s Black Lives Matter uprisings catalysed exponential growth in Black consumers’ connection to identity and heritage leading to even more emphatic celebrations of culture and manoeuvres to reclaim space.
A report published by British ad agency WPP revealed non-white ethnic groups feel undervalued by brands, particularly when buying luxury. And, unsurprisingly, dedicating space to underrepresented voices and stories for just one month every October hasn’t relieved this feeling.
“Since they don’t necessarily have the heritage and tradition passed down to them on luxury brands like their white counterparts, they want something that reflects their reality, which is investing in themselves, investing in wealth and wanting a brand that reflects innovation and modernity.” – Karen Blackett, UK President of WWP.
Foregrounding one of the most famous examples of Black accomplishment, Swiss timepiece brand Audemars Pigeut named sporting icon Serena Williams as an ambassador back in 2014 but the brand’s celebratory work with the 23-time Grand Slam winner has yet to wane.
Also sending a strong message of inclusivity on the international stage, both Louis Vuitton and Cartier have named Bollywood star Deepika Padukone as their global brand ambassador while America’s Latinx communities, often misunderstood as monolithic, are being brought into the brand spotlight through collaborations with vibrant, regionally-based designers. Dickies’ recent collection with photographer and director Estevan Oriol honours LA’s Chicano culture through spotlighting cultural markers like lowriders, chola style and tattoo art.
More recently with the rise of virtual worlds, identity has become more of a Venn diagram than ever before and brands who can innovate at the intersection will earn the designation of ‘future-first’.
No longer confined to physical appearance or IRL interactions, identity has been granted new freedoms in immersive digital worlds and experiences.
What was once defined by physical expressions and circumstance (appearance, style, possessions, occupation and real-world relationships) is now an ever-evolving, meta-dimensional presence and yet another facet of identity clever brands can cater to.
Rising: The Post-Aspirational Standard
Mirroring global realities, brands — as sources for aspiration and inspiration previously — are shifting to meet audience demands of authenticity and vulnerability.
With the rise of social media, the lines between celebrity and anonymity were blurred. Seemingly everyone and their grandparents became micro-influencers showcasing flawless luxury lifestyles overnight.
But now, audiences are increasingly considering these kinds of displays as out of touch. The intrinsically airbrushed quality of luxury is dissipating, being replaced by a need for the raw and unscripted.
It’s why platforms like TikTok and BeReal are thriving. Brands and creators are pulling back the curtain, celebrating imperfection, error and more nuanced dialogues that can’t be neatly slotted into a dichotomy.
Soaring standards are no longer seen as aspirational but unattainable, even for luxury buyers. Consumers from every wealth bracket have quickly grown tired of the incessantly optimistic-yet-patronising tone permeating the social and cultural landscape.
As mental health took centre stage throughout the pandemic so too did the aphorism ‘it’s okay not to be okay’. And it is. The growth of this trend has led to a wide scope of consumers who are after brands that carve out safe spaces for them to feel seen — to feel nurtured and respected as themselves, as individuals who aren’t merely an order number.
Interestingly, traditional luxury was all about being seen, just in a different way. It was about status, and how luxury items could elevate us in social circles, to prevail over our peers. As the post-aspirational mindset moves into popular belief, in parallel with a shift away from cultural competition, brands need to not only exist in the grey areas but be pioneers of them.
Fashion houses are facing more backlash than ever before for promoting unattainable beauty standards and the body-positivity and body-neutrality movements are expanding in kind.
Although diet culture and unrealistic ideals persist, some luxury brands are self-correcting. With an estimated market value of $21bn as of 2018, plus-size fashion is an obvious engagement space.
LA-based luxury plus-size fashion e-tailer 11 Honoré works directly with high-end designers including Jason Wu, Zac Posen and Christian Siriano. In November 2022, the brand (a luxury division of Dia & Co) launched their debut high-performance collection in partnership with Adidas, designed exclusively for sizes 1XL-4XL.
Sick of being sidelined by the mainstream, audiences are flocking to brands who can compellingly but authentically navigate the tension between inclusivity and exclusivity.
Enduring: Mind, Body and Soul Care
There are two types of people who tore open some snowflake-studded wrapping paper on Christmas Day 2016 to find a FitBit: those who have worn it since then ’til now every moment of everyday and those who wore it religiously for three weeks and then never touched it again. No judgement.
But against the backdrop of the pandemic, a focus on health and wellbeing returned with some considerable force. For pretty much everyone. It’s likely, in fact, that the solidification of this enduring mindfulness trend galvanised the murmurings of a post-aspirational clientele. The two go hand in hand.
Rising wellness ambitions have been a transformative factor in luxury for at least a decade, with wellness tourism expected to see a 21% annual growth rate from 2021-2025 according to the Global Wellness Institute. At the same time, future gazers predict that health will be a key metric of success by 2030, giving rise to a new niche termed ‘medi-luxe’ which is really encapsulated by the more well-known concept of holistic health but with a higher price tag.
The element of care sought after in luxury purchases is being turned inwards. Instead of buying into outward status symbols, many HNWIs are investing in themselves — through luxury goods, services and experiences. Some are choosing both.
In November 2021, Finnish health tech company Oura announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration with Gucci. The special edition Gucci x Oura ring and accompanying app combine Oura’s next-generation technology and personalised insights in their signature ‘smart ring’ design in the Italian fashion house’s legendary style including their famous interlocking monogram and a braided trim of 18-karat gold.
“As a health and wellness platform at our core, we recognize that what you wear also impacts how you feel. Oura’s ring form factor has consistently set us apart in biometric accuracy, comfort, and style, and with the Gucci x Oura Ring, we’ve brought fashion and function even closer together.” – Michael Chapp, COO at Oura
Smart tech is also supercharging skincare. Currently sitting at $12.5bn, the global skincare devices market is seeing vast innovation.
Award-winning beauty brand Opulus offers high potency single-dose skincare treatments in two parts: formula and activator. Described as ‘your personal skincare lab’, the Opulus Activator transforms a solid Opoule (the brand’s various formulas in pod-like form) into a range of optimally-warmed products, from serums to creams, based on its ingredients.
Brands are also blending wellbeing with entertainment. Spa-cum-theme park company, Therme Group, is rolling out further locations in New York, Toronto, Glasgow and Manchester following the success of their Austrian HQ.
Each will feature a water park alongside botanical gardens, Japanese onsens, Finnish saunas as well as offer ‘well tech’ experiences like oxygen rooms and multisensory showers.
In Oahu, Four Season Resort has added mixed reality to their menu of spa services. The SenSync ‘Vessel’ is designed to engage senses and mimic the experience of going into nature while monitoring heart rate, breathe rate and temperature, ultimately taking guests out of their hyper-cognitive state. Talk about ‘switching off’.
Innovations like these and ongoing developments to improve products and services associated with health and wellness are evident of this trend’s endurance. A seemingly endless shift towards giving a shit. About ourselves. About others. About the ways we interact with the world. And in a time as hectic as this, experiences need to be a reprieve at the very least.
Strategies for 2023 and Beyond
The volatility of the last few years has taken down consumption as we know it. Consumers at every level want radical change, or at the very least the flexibility to adapt to an ever-quickening pace of life.
We’re not one for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trends, but major macro shifts and global drivers are well worth incorporating into strategy, brand side and business. So we’re giving you three, for free.
- Be a Culture Maverick
Step one in nearly everything to do with influence: identify your audience. But that’s too vague. Say it with us… The ultra-HNWI is not a singular person with a homogenous set of wants, needs, beliefs and behaviours. Consumer communities are like stars in a galaxy and you can’t appeal to them all. So whether it’s urban green thumbs or plant-based yachties, lean into identities your brand can be a champion of. Be a maverick for them. And if you can’t be one or become one, collab with one.
- Drop the Facade
Click off that airbrush tool, shut down Photoshop and kick at the invisible boundary that separates your brand’s perception with what goes on behind the scenes. It could be spotlighting a cause close to your brand core, publishing your internal health & wellness policies or simply dedicating more time, space and budget to face-to-face experiences with your brand story and key stakeholders or ambassadors. People want to buy from people. They don’t really care what. And in the growing post-aspirational mindset, most are fairly clear on the fact that people are imperfect. They like the real, they like the unfiltered. Don’t let them eat fake.
- Embrace the Omni-Wellness Era
Whether it’s ritualistic beauty regimes, hiking to healing waterfalls, in-store spin classes or spa treatments, nutrition-dense menus, exercises in reflection and connection or other sensorial experiences, you can feed that consumer want to be nurtured and build a distinctive experience at the same time. More than traditional health and fitness, omni-wellness is being sought after — consciously or otherwise — by consumers at every touch point. Clients want to be cared about, especially if they’re paying above average for a product or service. Take their experience to that next level; incorporate tech, engage the senses, mimic nature, anything that’s good for mind, body and soul. Do it well enough and eventually it’ll be the brand that’s considered good for them.
The sheer amount of once-in-a-generation challenges at play at the moment would, to the alien eye, seem catastrophic to pleasure industries — luxury especially. Yet we’ve already been shown the proof of its resilience, an enduring quality not set to cave in any time soon.
So the challenge for brands instead becomes: how far can we go? How much of our collective time can we spend at the forefront of our industry, of innovation, of audience minds? And fundamentally, the solution lies in anticipating what comes next (see above) and architecting timelessness — the tenets of which we’ve already listed for you.
We’re aware it’s a lot of info. An overwhelming amount that not many visionaries and creative masterminds like you have time to sift through. We can do all that. Just get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org and let one of our consultants know what you want for your future. Then sit back and let us build it.