formula change: luxury

13 March 2017

now that we know what we mean when we say ethics and values, let’s look at what we mean when we say luxury.

because what we, culture, means by luxury has changed.

luxury has been defined, for decades, by a trifecta of exclusivity: tribe, attainment, and craftsmanship.

tribe is the social badge of a purchase: who you associate with, who you share values with. attainment is status, the level that must be achieved to allow you to afford access to such a purchase. and craftsmanship is the quality of construction of an object. in the instance of luxury objects, it’s high quality.

quality is rarely the prime motivator in the calculus of a purchase, but it pretends to be. quality is the cocktail party rationale for a purchase.

let’s say you drive a mercedes g-class suv. it speaks to your level of attainment and tribe, but the conversation is often about its quality. its durability and engineering, its resale value… but it’s the other two factors that are more likely to have motivated getting that car onto a short list for purchase.

if ethics is the new luxury, then the formula shifts.

tribe doesn’t change — we are still aligning ourselves with those who share our values. but the cocktail conversation about quality shifts to impact. “this exquisitely crafted bag is not only made within a fair trade collective… 10% of proceeds go to support the (insert badge association here) and…”

because it’s no longer enough for something to be well made — craftsmanship is a cost of entry. the new luxury is how much downstream impact a purchase has. how much influence.

in this new conversation i believe we will see attainment shift to independence. “i’ve achieved this level” becomes “i have the freedom to make this sort of decision, to have this impact.”

tribe + impact + independence = the new luxury