What is luxury

What is Luxury? Unveiling the Essence of Modern Elegance

By: Frank DePino | May 22, 2024

The global luxury market thrives, expected to reach $368.9 billion in 2024.

But what defines “luxury” in today’s world? Is it just about price, or something more?

Luxury is a lifestyle characterized by access to high-end, expensive, and unnecessary goods and services. It is distinguished from comfort and convenience by the sophistication, exclusivity, and rarity of the products and experiences offered. It can be material, such as jewelry, designer clothes, or high-end cars, or immaterial, such as exotic travel, fine dining experiences, or exclusive events.

Let’s explore the evolving concept of luxury in modern society.

What Is Luxury Today?

Luxury is ever-changing.

Words typically unassociated with luxury are now prominent parts of the industry’s vocabulary, such as accessibility, approachability, and democratization.

In today’s world, a high-end product must retain a semblance of desirability while being accessible.

David Abraham, one part of the textile Design House Abraham and Thakore, says that we perceive high-end now extend far beyond the physical elements of a product. In many ways, it is a state of mind or an experience. It is more ephemeral than it has ever been.

Luxury today is about value, not property.

Though consumption is a factor that still continues to take place, it is a more conscious consumer behavior than it was with the previous generation.

This is likely because a lack of consideration for consumption has significantly contributed to environmental damage.

Gen Z and millennials paid far more attention to social issues, such as health and sustainability.

Successful producers and manufacturers of high-end goods note this new attention and the sense of responsibility it has led to.

More than ever, consumers are purchasing products based on values. It is important to many consumers that corporate philosophies are philanthropic and
sustainable.

Some of the new concepts acting as building blocks for “new high-end” include:

  • Well-being
  • Democratization
  • Transparency and Knowledge
  • Membership/Experience
  • Sharing, not owning

Beyond these philosophies, there are certain trends coming into play that high-end market brands must use to differentiate themselves.

The entrance of the luxury Louis Vuitton store on a famous street in New York.

The Latest Trends

Let’s take a look at a few new high-end trends that build on the philosophies above, exploring what is luxury in the context of these modern developments.

Social Consciousness

Social-conscious luxury entails high-end brands actively supporting causes such as climate change, fair labor practices, and ethical sourcing.

These brands influence consumer habits by demonstrating authenticity through actions like reducing plastic use, minimizing carbon footprints, and using upcycled materials.

In the hospitality industry, successful high-end brands promote sustainability by implementing similar practices, ensuring their operations align with eco-conscious and ethical standards.

This commitment to social responsibility not only enhances brand reputation but also appeals to consumers who value authenticity and sustainability.

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Emphasis on Experience

Emphasizing experience is very important for any high-end brand, illustrating what is luxury through exceptional service and memorable moments, though it is especially important in the hospitality market.

While most people believe high-end should capitalize on an exclusivity factor, it is equally important that it focuses on the experience within the umbrella of exclusivity.

Someone who is paying a lot of money to stay at a high-end resort, for example, is going to expect that their money is giving them an unmatched, personal experience.

Experience is an extremely valuable marketing tool as well.

When you’re creating a value proposition for your brand, you can emphasize the experience that many get from being your clients or customers.

Localization

International tourism is still in recovery and is expected to be so for at least another year or so.

As a result, we are seeing a growing interest in local shopping destinations and locally made products from affluent customers.

The shoppers love the idea of supporting a local economy and focusing on proximity luxury e-commerce channels.

In many ways, the focus on localization comes paired with the increased awareness of the negative environmental impacts of global manufacturing and shipping.

Smart luxury brands are capitalizing on the sense of localization, engaging more thoroughly with domestic consumers.

As we move into 2024, we can expect many high-end brands to adapt to local cultures and tastes to enhance their relevance.

A woman walking on the street handed luxury products from the Gucci shop

What are the Three Levels of Luxury?

Though it might not be tangible, there is a concept that has been floating around in the luxury industry for quite some time, stating that there are three distinct levels of luxury:

  • accessible
  • intermediate
  • inaccessible

Accessible Luxury

Accessible luxury refers to premium products that offer superior quality and craftsmanship at a more affordable price point compared to traditional high-end brands.

This segment is experiencing a decline as consumer preferences shift towards expressive luxury, prioritizing emotional value over price.

Brands like Ralph Lauren, Capri Holdings, and Tapestry are losing market share as consumers opt for fewer, higher-quality purchases from high-end brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Chanel.

Gen Z and Millennials, making up 66% of high-end buyers, drive the market’s growth with their disposable income and love for indulgence.

High-end brands are leveraging new opportunities, such as developing luxury hubs like London’s Oxford Street and the return of in-person shopping after COVID-19.

However, the future of accessible luxury is uncertain, with designer high-end expected to continue dominating the global market.

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Intermediate Luxury

Intermediate luxury occupies a unique space within the high-end market, offering consumers elevated experiences and products that strike a balance between accessibility and exclusivity.

Positioned between accessible and inaccessible, this segment appeals to affluent individuals who seek superior quality, craftsmanship, and prestige without the astronomical price tags associated with ultra-luxury brands.

Products within the intermediate luxury category encompass a wide range of offerings, including upscale fashion labels, limited-edition collections, premium hospitality services, and luxury vehicles.

As consumers increasingly prioritize value and sophistication, intermediate luxury brands are poised for growth. They redefine what is luxury by leveraging their ability to deliver exceptional quality and exclusivity, while maintaining a level of affordability that resonates with discerning shoppers.

Inaccessible Luxury

Unreachable luxury is what opulence and exclusivity are all about. It’s a way of life for the ultrarich, individuals who demand the best in both extravagance and prestige.

This segment encompasses rarefied experiences, bespoke creations, and iconic brands synonymous with luxury.

Market data reveals that despite its niche appeal, the inaccessible luxury market continues to thrive, with a sustained demand for ultra-luxury goods and services.

Examples include haute couture fashion houses, private aviation services, and ultra-luxury real estate properties commanding astronomical prices.

Chanel perfumes have been promoted with a well-defined marketing strategy, making them luxury products

What Makes a High-End Brand?

While it can be difficult to define what makes a luxury brand, it is something much more than a brand that makes overpriced products.

Here are the key characteristics that we at Mediaboom believe a great high-end brand relies upon.

Price

As we said a few times already, the cost of a product alone does not give it a luxury brand identity.

Most consumers are ready to purchase another version of an overpriced product if they can. While high-end products and services certainly cost more than non-luxury products and services, a luxury brand has to be able to offer more.

Quality

High-end products should be made with higher-quality materials that last longer than competing products.

High-end brands must exude authentic craftsmanship.

Consumers who are purchasing these products want to know that they’ve been made by professionals who are experts in their craft.

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Aesthetic

Identity is a statement for any luxury brand.

A high-end product is a rare product, and anyone with a luxurious product wants it to be easily distinguishable from a common product. Uniqueness and stature are two characteristics that a valuable product should communicate.

Carefully curated aesthetics and design provide a sense of sophistication that customers can identify with. The aesthetics of any high-end brand should showcase the underlying quality.

Belief

Without reality, there is no luxury.

Durability, higher quality materials, and better ability are all very real factors that go into crafting high-end products.

With the increased incorporation of these elements into a luxurious product comes an increased price.

The idea with these real characteristics is to set the physical qualities apart in a unique way.

However, high-end is just as much a belief or set of ideas.

There are many high-end brands that don’t find success, as they continuously struggle with trying to get their target audience to align with the brand’s meaning.

  • What does your brand stand for?
  • What is the story behind your high-end brand?
  • Can consumers find the same meeting elsewhere?

Rarity

There are many capable, beautiful, and well-made products that consumers view as “common”, mainly because they are easily accessible.

An expensive item should not be so comment and easy to own.

One of the final elements of a high-end brand is rarity. Something that is luxurious should be a challenge to own or excess.

Diamonds have no more capability than many other stones other than the fact that they are rare.

A luxury watch with gold and green color by the Rolex

FAQs about What is Luxury

1. What is Quiet Luxury?

Quiet Luxury it’s about subtle sophistication and discerning taste rather than overt displays of wealth. This concept focuses on quality craftsmanship, timeless design, and a sense of exclusivity that speaks volumes without the need for flashy logos or extravagant branding.

2. What does “post-luxury” mean?

“Post-luxury” refers to a shift in the traditional notions of luxury towards values such as sustainability, authenticity, and experiential enrichment. It signifies a departure from conspicuous consumption and material excess, emphasizing meaningful experiences, ethical production practices, and a deeper connection with products and brands.

3. What is the concept of luxury?

Luxury envolves more than material possessions; it embodies experiences, values, and aspirations. It represents the pinnacle of quality, craftsmanship, and exclusivity, often associated with exceptional service and attention to detail. Beyond tangible goods, it encompasses intangible elements such as time, authenticity, and emotional resonance.

4. What is the true meaning of luxury?

The true meaning of luxury extends beyond material wealth to encompass experiences that evoke a sense of indulgence, refinement, and exclusivity. It involves the pursuit of excellence, craftsmanship, and personalized service that surpasses ordinary expectations. True high-end resonates on a deeper level, fulfilling desires for beauty, comfort, and sophistication.

5. Does luxury mean rich?

While it is often associated with wealth, it’s not solely defined by financial status. It can be experienced at various levels, from everyday indulgences to extravagant extravagances. It’s about the quality, craftsmanship, and exclusivity of a product or experience rather than its cost. Ultimately, high-end is subjective, influenced by individual tastes, preferences, and perceptions.

6. What are the three T’s of luxury?

The three T’s of luxury are Tradition, Timelessness, and Taste.

  1. Tradition represents heritage and craftsmanship passed down through generations, infusing products with history and authenticity.
  2. Timelessness refers to designs and experiences that transcend trends, retaining their allure and relevance over time.
  3. Taste encompasses discernment and refinement, reflecting an individual’s aesthetic preferences and sophistication.

Together, these elements define the essence of luxury.

Do you have more questions?

If you have more questions or need further assistance, feel free to reach out. We’re here to provide the insights and information you need.

Elevate Your Luxury Brand Today

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Seeking to elevate your luxury business? Let Mediaboom guide you. Secure your exclusive, free consultation with our luxury marketing experts today.

Final Thoughts

The definition of “luxury” is evolving.

Modern interpretations extend beyond mere material wealth, focusing instead on a mindful approach that emphasizes quality and meaningful connections.

As social consciousness reshapes this landscape, authenticity and a genuine commitment to ethical practices have become essential. To thrive amid these changes, brands must prioritize authenticity, craftsmanship, and a deep understanding of consumer values.

It’s no longer just about possessions—it’s about a lifestyle, a mindset, a belief, and a deeply rooted feeling.

If you’re looking to clarify your positioning within this redefined context, get in touch with our team here at Mediaboom today.

By: Frank DePino

Frank DePino is Principal and Founder of Mediaboom. Since 2002, Frank has led Mediaboom’s award-winning staff of creative and technical professionals, building the most effective marketing and advertising solutions for its clients.

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