The New Luxe

How streetwear brands are re­defin­ing the idea of lux­ury for mil­len­nial cus­tomers.

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - CONTENTS - Words GE­ORGINA SAFE, CAMERON McGAVIN

The in­no­va­tive ways streetwear brands are con­nect­ing with mil­len­nial cus­tomers.

Sneak­ers, bed sheets, t-shirts and bricks? Wel­come to the new world of mil­len­nial lux­ury, in which di­a­monds and co­gnac are passé and post­ing a selfie of your $600 t-shirt on In­sta­gram is the ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sion of sta­tus.

Be­long­ing to a street style tribe and se­cur­ing the lat­est lim­ited-edi­tion prod­uct drops have su­per­seded shop­ping at Chanel and Dior as the true mark­ers of pres­tige, thanks to streetwear brands re­defin­ing the con­cept of lux­ury for their younger cus­tomers. Vete­ments, Heron Pre­ston and Y’s are among the brands cre­at­ing lux­ury streetwear at a premium price point that is so achingly cool and de­sir­able that cashed-up mil­len­ni­als would rather fork out US$640 ($815) for a Vete­ments t-shirt or up to US$1000 ($1273) for a brick by streetwear brand Supreme (orig­i­nally sold for US$30, the bricks now fetch US$1000 on eBay) than the same amount for a trin­ket from a tra­di­tional lux­ury la­bel.

Where t-shirts and sneak­ers have forged the way, other prod­uct cat­e­gories have now fol­lowed. From fur­ni­ture and home­wares to travel and tech­nol­ogy, mil­len­nial com­pa­nies across a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries are re­defin­ing what lux­ury looks and feels like, as well as how we should as­pire to live our lives. And it’s chill and chic.

FASH­ION

A cou­ple of years ago, if some­one had told you the big­gest new trend in fash­ion would be putting the DHL couri­ers’ logo on a t-shirt, you prob­a­bly would have laughed. Well, Vete­ments has been laugh­ing all the way to the bank ever since the col­lec­tive, helmed by Demna Gvasalia, did just that in Oc­to­ber 2015 with a US$330 ($420) t-shirt, kick­start­ing the lux­ury streetwear trend that dom­i­nates the fash­ion in­dus­try to­day.

Founded in 2014, Vete­ments was swiftly fol­lowed by other luxe streetwear brands in­clud­ing Vir­gil Abloh’s Of­fWhite, Alyx by Matthew Wil­liams, Yeezy by Kanye West and Heron Pre­ston by the artist, cre­ative di­rec­tor, de­signer and DJ of the same name. Multi-faceted and genre-bend­ing — all four founders come from non-fash­ion back­grounds and built a fol­low­ing via mu­sic and the street scene — the brands share a strong sense of irony and com­mit­ment to ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and un­pre­dictabil­ity that es­sen­tially amounts to a col­lec­tive hack of the fash­ion sys­tem.

“Many of these new age brands, like Vete­ments or Off-White, are run by in­di­vid­u­als who come from a cul­ture of risk-tak­ing and mis­trust for tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing tac­tics,” says Style­bop.com head of wom­enswear Coco Chan. “That healthy level of cyn­i­cism is what drives this new gen­er­a­tion to ques­tion the tra­di­tional brand-build­ing model and fig­ure out new ways of cut­ting through.”

Take for ex­am­ple Pre­ston’s UNI­FORM col­lab­o­ra­tion with the New York Depart­ment of San­i­ta­tion on a se­ries of zero waste-themed clothes and ac­ces­sories, or Off-White’s tote bag for artist Takashi Mu­rakami and al­bum cover art for Bal­ti­more rap­per Global Dan. Mod­els, bloggers and pop stars made them In­sta­gram sta­ples, add-to-cart click bait to the mil­len­ni­als who make buy­ing de­ci­sions based on the feeds of in­flu­encers in the fields of fash­ion, art and de­sign.

“Mil­len­nial cus­tomers are the first to grow up in a fully dig­i­tal age and they are pre­sented with a range of op­tions for ev­ery pur­chase, which in turn leads them to de­mand more an­swers from brands,” says Chan. “They ex­pect more from the brands that they choose to be af­fil­i­ated with and seek out au­then­tic­ity and gen­uine en­gage­ment in a far savvier way than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. Lux­ury to them is a feel­ing or an ideal, far beyond a spe­cific prod­uct.”

FUR­NI­TURE

Sev­eral of the afore­men­tioned brands have crossed over into fur­ni­ture and home­wares, tak­ing their vi­sion into the liv­ing room, bed­room and beyond. Abloh has a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ikea, in­clud­ing a rug em­bla­zoned with his sig­na­ture all-caps tag­ging and quo­ta­tion marks, while Supreme cre­ated a stool with Artek that sold out in­stantly.

“What we found re­ally in­ter­est­ing was his cre­ative ap­proach,” said Ikea head of de­sign Mar­cus Eng­man at

the time of Abloh’s ap­point­ment. “He’s an ar­chi­tect to be­gin with, but he works in all dif­fer­ent fields.

We fore­see a lot of good ideas from all his knowl­edge gath­ered from work­ing in fash­ion and mu­sic. What we see right now at Ikea is, why not com­bine the cre­ative dis­ci­plines in­stead of work­ing in just one?”

Oth­ers work­ing in fash­ion feel the same way. Bel­gian de­signer Raf Si­mons worked with Dan­ish tex­tile com­pany Kvadrat on a highly suc­cess­ful up­hol­stery col­lec­tion, fur­ni­ture brand Moder­nica has col­lab­o­rated with skate brands in­clud­ing Stüssy and Anti So­cial So­cial Club, and work­wear brand Carhartt has col­lab­o­rated with Ja­panese com­pany Jour­nal Stan­dard on a range of chairs, couches and seat cush­ions.

“Mil­len­ni­als who are able to buy in to the lux­ury de­sign mar­ket are buy­ing lim­ited edi­tion show­pieces from cult de­sign­ers that strad­dle the worlds of fine art and de­sign, and say some­thing about their cul­tural ca­chet,” says Monique Kawecki, ed­i­tor in chief of cul­ture mag­a­zine Champ.

Ded­i­cated fur­ni­ture and home­wares com­pa­nies are also cre­at­ing pro­duc­tion line and be­spoke pieces, among them Dan­ish brand Hay, Mel­bourne’s Wingnut & Co., and Syd­ney’s Henry Wil­son fur­ni­ture and bed­ding and home­wares com­pany, In Bed. “Mil­len­ni­als are drawn to some­thing a lit­tle more unique than what you see com­ing out of Ikea,” says Wil­son. “There is a feel­ing that you don’t have to have the match­ing sofa set with the cap­puc­cino­coloured cur­tains and cof­fee ta­ble books that make that look com­plete.”

Lux­ury in the home has a more un­done and au­then­tic qual­ity for mil­len­ni­als than their pre­de­ces­sors, ac­cord­ing to In Bed founder Pip Vas­sett, who show­cases mil­len­ni­als liv­ing in all types of homes in her com­pany’s on­line mag­a­zine, The Jour­nal.

“They as­pire to have their own unique take on style and they don’t want to be dic­tated to or told that this or that is what they must have,” says Vas­sett. “They don’t want some­thing they own to be in­stantly recog­nis­able but rather to have a quiet, un­der­stated charm. They also hold a lot of im­por­tance for how the prod­uct is pro­duced and cre­ated — who made it and what is the qual­ity like? — not just what does it look like.”

TRAVEL

While the travel and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­tries have long been fo­cused on older gen­er­a­tions, the in­sa­tiable wan­der­lust of mil­len­ni­als is swiftly steal­ing them a ma­jor share of travel in­dus­try mar­keters’ at­ten­tion.

Amer­ica’s Ace Ho­tel chain

(‘a col­lec­tion of in­di­vid­u­als… held to­gether by an affin­ity for the soul­ful’), The Pil­grm in London (‘we be­lieve in bring­ing peo­ple to­gether’) and Paramount House Ho­tel in Syd­ney (‘to be a guest is to be a friend’) are among the ho­tels of­fer­ing free wi-fi, flex­i­ble check-in, plenty of com­mu­nal spa­ces and de­signer fur­ni­ture, along with ho­tels in lo­ca­tions that are more ap­peal­ing for the younger mar­ket — for mil­len­ni­als who pre­fer to stay in lo­cal neigh­bour­hoods rather than CBDs or tra­di­tional tourist ar­eas.

“Mil­len­ni­als are seek­ing out ex­pe­ri­ences that aren’t found in cor­po­rate travel brochures and they’re hun­gry for mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences and a sense of global con­nect­ed­ness; the in­tan­gi­ble things that need to be

“Mil­len­ni­als are drawn to some­thing a lit­tle more unique than what you see com­ing out of Ikea.”

de­signed with con­sid­er­a­tion, that money can’t nec­es­sar­ily buy but can fa­cil­i­tate,” says Jenny Nguyen, founder of mil­len­nial lux­ury travel and cul­ture web­site Melt­ing But­ter.

“They look to trusted in­flu­encers for where to go, so ho­tels can no longer over­look soft of­fer­ings like in­te­rior de­sign and beau­ti­ful food mo­ments in their res­tau­rants be­cause these are the most sharable el­e­ments of travel in this day and age. There is a di­rect con­nec­tion be­tween In­sta­gram and good busi­ness that brands can’t ig­nore.”

The big­ger chains are fol­low­ing the lead of the smaller in­de­pen­dents to woo younger trav­ellers with val­ues of flex­i­bil­ity, trans­parency and au­then­tic­ity, with the likes of the Aloft and Ele­ment ho­tel chains (part of the Star­wood Group), and Hil­ton’s Tru and Canopy by Hil­ton brands of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from tex­ting with the front desk and build-your-own break­fast bars to an al­co­hol cart that de­liv­ers or­ganic wine, poured at the touch of a button on the guest’s phone.

One of the most suc­cess­ful mil­len­nial travel com­pa­nies is Black Tomato, the be­spoke lux­ury agency founded by Tom Marchant, James Mer­rett and Matt Smith in 2006, which of­fers travel to over 100 coun­tries with of­fices in New York and London. The com­pany has grown by 75 per cent a year and in 2013 it earned $US16 mil­lion ($20.3 mil­lion) or­gan­is­ing 2965 cus­tom va­ca­tions to places like Ice­land’s tec­tonic plates, Costa Ri­can vol­ca­noes and the Kenyan out­back.

“Part of the suc­cess of mil­len­nial busi­nesses is the abil­ity to be very fo­cused in terms of tar­get­ing a small and spe­cific group of peo­ple,” says Chris San­der­son, co-founder of London trend fore­caster The Fu­ture Lab­o­ra­tory.

“Tom Marchant is a clas­sic mil­len­nial in that he’s driven by a de­sire to see the world and ex­pe­ri­ence as much of it as pos­si­ble and he’s been able to trans­late that to a very spe­cific and very suc­cess­ful busi­ness prac­tice that tar­gets a high-end lux­ury trav­eller with a mil­len­nial mind­set.”

For ex­am­ple, Black Tomato of­fers a pro­gram called Blink, where the lo­ca­tions and de­sign of pop-up camps in ex­otic lo­ca­tions are crowd­sourced by ad­ven­tur­ers. Those cus­tomers then pay up to US$198,000 ($251,871) to stay in places such as the wilds of Patag­o­nia, the Che­gaga sand dunes of Morocco and banks of the Mekong river in Cam­bo­dia be­fore the tem­po­rary digs are taken down. Of course, any trav­el­ling mil­len­nial needs their pass­port hold­ers, back­packs and noise-can­celling head­phones, and a host of travel ac­ces­sories com­pa­nies from A.DAN in Sin­ga­pore to New Zealand’s Deadly Ponies have got that cov­ered, too.

THE CROSSOVERS

Given the suc­cess of mil­len­nial com­pa­nies mar­ket­ing to mil­len­ni­als, is it any won­der older lux­ury com­pa­nies are also want­ing in on the ac­tion? Of course, to call on mil­len­nial-speak, the best way to do this is to col­lab­o­rate.

Louis Vuit­ton teamed up with Supreme for its 2017 au­tumn-win­ter menswear col­lec­tion, Mon­cler has worked with Abloh, Craig Green and Kith, and street mar­kets and iconic Ital­ian fam­ily busi­ness Mis­soni joined forces with cult French streetwear brand Pi­galle for a bas­ket­ball-in­spired menswear cap­sule col­lec­tion in 2017.

“Stéphane Ash­pool’s brand Pi­galle is a cham­pion of bas­ket­ball and skate cul­ture, which is an in­ter­est­ing one for Mis­soni as such an iconic fam­ily busi­ness has sud­denly found new rel­e­vance with another au­di­ence,” says in­flu­encer Mar­garet Zhang.

Fendi is another her­itage fam­ily busi­ness that has found new rel­e­vance with mil­len­ni­als fol­low­ing the launch in 2017 of F is For…, a new com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­form made by mil­len­ni­als for

mil­len­ni­als, to share con­tent and ex­pe­ri­ences rel­e­vant to a younger gen­er­a­tion of lux­ury shop­pers.

Users can ac­cess mu­sic, art and cul­ture con­tent, dis­cover the hottest new travel des­ti­na­tions, bars and res­tau­rants and, of course, ex­plore the lat­est Fendi fash­ion col­lec­tions, which have been shot by mil­len­ni­als.

In Fe­bru­ary this year, fel­low Ital­ian lux­ury brand Mon­cler un­veiled Mon­cler Ge­nius, a se­ries of col­lab­o­ra­tions with eight de­sign­ers from around the world cel­e­brat­ing their in­di­vid­ual de­sign ap­proaches to in­ter­pret­ing Mon­cler’s sig­na­ture codes. De­signed to ap­peal to mil­len­ni­als and Gen­er­a­tion Z, the col­lec­tions re­sult­ing from the first col­lab­o­ra­tions will each have a ded­i­cated month of fo­cus in Mon­cler stores around the world, with the move to work­ing with de­sign­ers who boast tribes of loyal dig­i­tal fol­low­ers gen­er­at­ing on­go­ing mo­ments of hype — and sales — through­out the year.

Amer­i­can busi­ness Tif­fany & Co. has won the af­fec­tions of mil­len­nial cus­tomers through its per­son­al­i­ty­driven cam­paign such as 2017’s There’s Only One, which fea­tured mil­len­nial muses Zoë Kravitz and Elle Fan­ning.

“Tif­fany has man­aged to re­think stereo­types and bar­ri­ers and to be far more em­brac­ing in terms of how a new cus­tomer might want to en­gage with their prod­uct,” says San­der­son. “Brands can’t ig­nore the fact there is a grow­ing and very in­flu­en­tial co­hort of younger lux­ury con­sumers who have never been so priv­i­leged or had so much money.”

CARS

Tesla, the brain­child of US fu­tur­ist/ in­dus­tri­al­ist Elon Musk, has only been around since 2003 but it’s made a big splash in an in­dus­try known for be­ing so cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive that new­com­ers are ei­ther scared away, doomed to fail­ure or con­signed to bar­gain-base­ment grov­el­ling just to gain a foothold.

Nowa­days Tesla has a mar­ket value ri­valling US au­to­mo­tive be­he­moths Ford and Gen­eral Mo­tors, de­spite hav­ing sold fewer cars, and the kind of pos­i­tive recog­ni­tion among younger, more tech-savvy buy­ers that other car com­pa­nies can only dream about.

Tesla, in short, makes cars that mil­len­ni­als un­der­stand. And it has done so by turn­ing au­to­mo­tive con­ven­tion on its head. Re­flect­ing the sus­tain­able, think-of-the-fu­ture bent that seems to be part of any Musk-led project, all Tes­las are elec­tric, even though no car com­pany has ever com­mit­ted to ex­clu­sively us­ing this form of propul­sion. Rather than mar­ket­ing and sell­ing its cars through the tra­di­tional me­dia/dealer par­a­digm, Tesla re­lies heav­ily on so­cial me­dia plat­forms to get the word out and its own rev­o­lu­tion­ary on­line or­der­ing sys­tem to seal the deal.

Now, af­ter cut­ting its teeth with up­mar­ket mod­els such as the Model S lux­ury sedan and Model X SUV, Tesla is mak­ing a move to tap into the mil­len­nial mar­ket with its most in­ex­pen­sive model yet, the Model 3 com­pact sedan, launched in the US last year and ex­pected to ar­rive in Aus­tralia in early 2019 with a start­ing price of about $50,000.

The car-mak­ing es­tab­lish­ment, un­sur­pris­ingly, is tak­ing no­tice. And as Tesla en­coun­ters grow­ing pains in its ex­pan­sion from niche to vol­ume seller big brands are tak­ing the elec­tri­fied up­start on at its own game.

Other as­pects of Tesla’s au­to­mo­tive reimag­in­ing are also be­ing em­u­lated by brands want­ing to con­nect with the next big car-buy­ing gen­er­a­tion, not the least its on­line sales model, with Holden tri­alling an on­line store for Mel­bourne metro buy­ers.

“Brands can’t ig­nore the fact there is a grow­ing and very in­flu­en­tial co­hort of younger lux­ury con­sumers who have never had so much money.”

FROM TOP LEFT Louis Vuit­ton x Supreme chain wal­let and clutch; a model walks the run­way in Kith x Mon­cler; mil­len­ni­als are con­stantly seek­ing In­sta­gram-wor­thy travel ex­pe­ri­ences. OP­PO­SITE PAGE FROM LEFT Raf Si­mons teamed up with Kvadrat for a tex­tile...

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