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Luxury is now democratic and inclusive is the new exclusive, says Swapan Seth

Adman and author Swapan Seth has spent the last few months conceptualising Luxortium, a “by-invitation-only consortium of select, top management and leading marketers from major purveyors of luxury goods and services who market to targeted, affluent customers in India”. Here’s more...

What is Luxortium? How would you define it and what was the starting point for it?

Luxortium is a consortium of luxury brands. A confederation of sorts. I had no intention to do this until Vibha Bajaj (head and vice-president, corporate affairs and communications) of American Express threw the idea at me and said: “Run with it.” As a start, I wanted five brands that stood for the very finest in what they do. There is, therefore, American Express, Reliance Retail, DLF Luxury, Brands We Love and Nature Morte. It is a by-invitation-only forum. And I wish to keep it restricted because I am too old for a circus.

What are some of the brands that would be a part of Luxortium in the first year?

The best brands are already in. And I am looking at two brands per domain. I am looking at hotels, travel companies, cars and watch brands.

How has the Internet changed the luxury industry and brands?

The Internet has made ours a borderless world. It has provided the universe with universal access. And finally, it has brought curation to the centre of consumption. The gait and weight is with the tastemakers, the curators and think-fluencers. I think influencers are passe.

There is a startling statistic that has escaped 99 per cent of Indian marketeers: By 2020, India will have a millennial and Gen Z population of 410 million people. They will spend $330 billion every year. No brand is talking to them. No brand understands them. Luxortium is sitting on a global research report from Trendera that tells you what makes them tick. The new consumer will be the greatest generation of luxury consumers in the history of the world. She will alter the complexion of luxury. Finally, collaborations will further alter luxury. Look at RimowaXOff White (Rimowa is a manufacturer of premium luggage and Off White is a fashion label).

Young people are used to having things instantly. That’s not something luxury brands stand for. Should brands start speaking a different language?

Brands that millennials wake up to have woken up to this reality. That explains Supreme selling out a collection in minutes. Plus, the very notion of luxury will change and has changed. Do I really want to wear a Ralph Lauren T-shirt? Hell no! I would rather wear ASKET. Do I want to drink Beluga vodka? Hell no! I would rather drink Our/Vodka. Purpose and meaning have crept into luxury. These are two things that one never associated with luxury in the past.

Do you think luxury brands can grow and at the same time remain niche?

That’s the thing. Luxury, which was all along autocratic, is now democratic. Inclusive is the new exclusive. So, no, luxury will not remain niche. What will remain niche are brands that are smug. Look at Berluti. It knew that the leather business would only get them that far. Which is why they now have apparel as well.

What are some of the international and Indian brands you want to see in Luxortium?

All the brands that most of India hasn’t heard of but must look out for: Handvaerk, HardGraft, Always and Eyevan 7285. Even airlines like Joon that you don’t know of and that already flies from Mumbai to Paris.

Finally, what is the future of luxury brands?

As (playwright-novelist) Thornton Wilder put it, “The future is the most expensive luxury in the world.”

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