Fashion expresses the spirit of the times. It has always been a reflection of social, economic, political and cultural change. Over the last 20 years, the focus has slowly but steadily shifted from what the product is (diamonds, well-crafted timepieces, high-end car brands, luxury totes) to what it represents. Luxury is no longer restricted to elite groups or the rich and famous and as a result, luxury lines have extended their products to reach a wider market of consumers.
Luxury brands help consumers feel dynamic and alive. They often reflect their consumers’ outlook on life. Consumers tend to use luxury as an expressive tool to show who they are (or crave to be). They will align purchases with newly discovered social values. Here are four social values that have shifted over the years and the luxury products that reflect this change.
Current luxury fashion consumers have become morally conscious in addition to being intelligent and socially aware, explains Uché Okonkwo in her book, “Luxury Fashion Branding: Trends, Tactics, Techniques.” It’s become status quo to expect ethical practices and social responsibility. Shoppers read labels on clothes and are concerned about the sources of materials and conditions under which they were manufactured.
Because of this, there has been a significant consumer response to eco-conscious luxury apparel. In 2005, Bono, Ali Hewson and fashion designer Rogan Gregory launched Edun — a socially conscious apparel brand based on the concept of African Fair Trade and employment, using only organic materials. Sustainability is posed to define the future of luxury, according to the BBC.
From Diane Keaton’s signature style of masculine suits and hats, to the debut of Ruby Rose’s coveted haircut made popular by Season 3 of “Orange is the New Black,” androgyny may not have always been “in” but it’s certainly been a popular look on the runways. Androgynous models like these beauties, featured on Vogue, make the look timeless.
The style is adaptable and can accommodate many variants along the blurs of masculine and feminine style. Pair a tough leather jacket with feminine ankle-length cigarette pants. Or pair baggy overalls with a cute crop top. A neutral crossbody bag takes the look of neither purse nor briefcase and is a perfect way to complete your boundary-pushing outfit.
Influence of Celebrities
A cultural shift away from traditional advertising has emerged to entice millennials, who are mostly influenced by family and friends. They are twice as likely as Gen-Xers to be influenced by celebrities and four times as likely as Baby Boomers, according to a 2013 Global Consumer Sentiment Survey by BCG Perspectives. While celebrities have been linked to brands for decades, celebrity endorsements do not begin and end with shooting and printing a photo for a fashion magazine anymore. Social value shifts have added depth and dimension to celebrity endorsement. In addition, the type of celebrity has expanded from Parisian princesses to sports stars, politicians, artists, musicians and even reality stars of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors and genders.
Examples of luxury celebrity endorsements are plenty. Versace has used Madonna, Demi Moore and Halle Berry. United Colors of Benetton features transgender models Lea T and Alek Wek. Child model Romeo Beckham often works on Burberry campaigns. Missy Elliot entertains at Alexander Wang after parties.
A Shift Toward Health & Wellness
Health and wellness have become important parts of the luxury lifestyle and luxury brands have taken notice. With boutique fitness classes and expensive sportswear becoming the norm for not only lady bosses but suburban moms, we are seeing a major shift in status symbol products. People who don’t even frequent the gym are choosing to dress like they do.
Activewear has become the trending daywear and weekend wear. Brands that are jumping on the train and creating luxury activewear include Tom Ford, Alexander Wang, Chanel, Juicy Couture, Free People and SoulCycle. People are allowed to brag about their fitness lifestyle, and what better way than to drink green juice while wearing Lululemon yoga pants and a Stella McCartney hoodie.
It’s no longer only about function but emotion and social values that can be derived from owning luxury products.