It’s Saturday morning, I wake up and I’m on my phone. New This Week> Sort By > Price: Low to High – Selfridges. Dan’s asleep next to me and as I hear him stir, I look at him paused with my finger hovering over the screen. He’s still again so I get back to it, frantically scrolling past the keyrings… umbrellas… until I reach the £60-ish mark.
‘New In’ is probably Selfridge’s most highly trafficked page. Every week (daily in some cases), websites strategically stagger the upload of their new stock with the intention of turning us in to FOMO (fear of missing out) addicts. They’re designed to get customers to check in every day, imploring us to scan the updated must-haves. Today websites are mobile optimised; they know we’re searching on the move. ‘Checkout’ is always in view, ‘add to bag’ highlighted on screen, price and description in the small print with the image taking precedence. It’s speedy and responsive so even when you’re turning your phone or iPad sideways, the site is snapping to fit the screen.
But we already know that. We’re already enamoured with the new Givenchy Lucrezia leopard-print bag or saving up for the new Spring Dries Van Noten coat . What I’m most interested in is who are buying luxury and furthermore, what actually is luxury now? Who keeps this expensive market thriving particularly when taking the decline from Chinese shoppers into consideration? Is it different now than ten years ago? In fact, forget ten years ago; in today’s immediate digital environment the luxury customer base has shifted from only two years ago. Additionally, with so many magazines, bloggers and websites are talking ‘luxe for less’ (usually black, white and gold related anything from high street stores) and Marc Jacobs offering their low price bags for couple of hundred quid, what is technically luxe when compared to a fifty thousand pounds Hermes bag? Does an Insta pic of an Anya Hindmarch sticker confirm that ‘I’ve bought luxury’?
There’s always been a definition of a luxury customer. Generic and stereotypical, they usually sit within a wealthy family and are high earners; people who can afford to buy expensive bags at the rate we buy a bottle of Evian. Their demographic, style and interests are fixed and don’t forget that Chinese tourists also played a part in luxury sales. Brands would spend big on ads in magazines to target them – in mags left in hotels, private jet lounges, on first class flights even billboards roadside in Knightsbridge. These aren’t people who need to solidify their status because they already live the luxe lifestyle. Bars, restaurants, holidays, schools, chefs… they’ve grown up with finery. Designer dresses and tens of thousands of pounds worth of jewellery isn’t new to them. So guess what, when you’re inheriting your family jewels (and furs, bags and coats), there’s little desire for you to go out and squander.
Now think about this. It’s 2016. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. Suddenly we’re seeing that sixteen year old girl who has the latest Celine bag, that twenty something with new Marni over the knee boots and that Z list celeb who has about fifty pairs of Chanel and Prada sunglasses, jumping on a plane heading to LA. They’re from modest backgrounds. Hello their parents live in an unpretentious three bed and drive a mid range car – they don’t have a sprawling estate with fifteen bedrooms.
Today this wealth is coming from situations where people have been plucked from obscurity and propelled to stardom. They’ve become TV famous or more likely now, they are online famous. They’re famous bloggers, vloggers, it’s the new online musicians reaping the rewards of a new record deal. They’re the CEO’s of a new start up business, digitally focused. Essentially they’ve attained wealth from an unpredictable opportunity and all of a sudden, they’ve got the dollar bills. These people are the new luxury shoppers who seem who have sprung out from no where. The people who coined the term ‘Primani’ because they’re skilled at mixing high end designer (Armani) with high street staples (Primark). These are the people who need to fill their new walk-in wardrobes and massive empty new houses FAST. They’re different. They need to buy lots of things to crystallise their new found elevated position in society, so they’re overindulgent and cannot wait to share with you (translation, Instagram it or put on Twitter).
What brands understand is that this new customer base are definitely the kind to buy versions of the same thing too. Take for instance the simple black bag with a Saint Laurent logo, or the Givenchy logo, or the Longchamp logo. The plain black boot from Chanel or Dior, or again Saint Laurent. It’s the Kardashian effect; they too need the latest as soon as possible and need to show it off. Basically, it’s a show of quick and frequent excess at its finest. But in turn, brands also understand this immediacy and digital relevance; they know that the faces representing them need to change. That time when Cara was the face of almost all luxury brands, rappers that are now the face of watch brands, even CK doesn’t have just one face they have a multitude of talent in their video advert. So what’s the future? Can we keep up as consumers and can the brands themselves?