- Technology -
ARE LUXURY AND TECHNOLOGY
REALLY SO (IN)COMPATIBLE?
It’s an alliance between two seemingly diametrically opposed segments. While some applaud the convergence between the highly codified world of luxury and innovation, others view the merging of the two as being entirely debatable. Good sense or nonsense?
Mainstream ideological conformism would tend to place the luxury universe and technology at opposite ends of the spectrum. This somewhat arbitrary judgement is based on the hypothetical incompatibility between luxury’s values of exclusivity and favoring the exceptional on the one hand; as against the immediacy and ‘mass-market’ accessibility of digital technology on the other. After a reluctant start, it seems that the luxury sector is inclined to adopt innovation. Firstly, in order to continue inspiring dreams and retaining customer loyalty, but also to remain competitive and avoid the risk of getting left behind. While controlling their image, brands are adopting new technological standards in terms of communication, data, product creation, services, manufacturing, customer relations and personalization. Digital technology is thus a core strategic priority. It is proving to be a formidable tool for interacting with consumers, courting new markets, particularly the millennials (generations Y, Z) and focusing on individualization (customized experiences, interfaces dedicated to product personalization). The act of purchase is thus driven by an omnichannel approach: social media, online shopping (brand website or e-distributors) right the way through to brick-and-mortar stores. Meanwhile, points of sale are reinventing themselves and offering playful immersions (connected fitting rooms, holograms, virtual reality). As a result, the customer experience has changed, relegating the product offering to second place and make way for a service-based offer. This match between real life and virtual reality has certainly shaken up existing conventions, as well as giving rise to fruitful encounters between creators, artists and geeks.
Are traditions on their way out?
Many insiders are still firmly attached to this image of luxury and its mainstays of authenticity, hand craftsmanship and rarity. But in a constantly changing world, it must coexist with artificial intelligence. There is simply no choice. We can thus legitimately ask ourselves what happens to traditions, know-how and creativity if machines replace the human hand?
How can we continue to maintain the values of timelessness and heritage when technology swears only by updates and planned obsolescence? By becoming too democratic and giving in to technological overkill, luxury risks distorting its very essence and going against its values. Worse still, the place of human beings and their added value are being called into question. Although wearable technology (clothing, intelligent textiles) and connected objects are booming, craftsmanship cannot disappear. In addition, some major names still hold on to the famous ‘petites mains’ (small hands), like Chanel, which promotes crafts with the purchase of houses such as Lemarié (feather art) and Lesage (embroidery). For both customers and collectors, appropriating the history of a fragrance, a vintage wine or an haute couture dress is a means of nurturing desire and preserving the legend. A quest for meaning and heightened sensory perception, in order to avert the long-term decline of this elitist universe.
Net plus ultr@
The tentative alliance between these two industries – one historical and the other futuristic – continues to generate disagreements between supporters and naysayers. And yet creativity and innovation are more powerful growth levers than ever. These nascent ties can only be truly woven if each discipline remains true to its values. Technology must be placed at the service of luxury, must regain its role in complementing the human hand rather than replacing it; in revealing its excellence rather than misdirecting it. The idea is not to turn our backs on emotional aspects nor even on traditional skills. On the contrary! Luxury must achieve enhanced proximity without losing its desirability, just as technology must promote authenticity without self-censorship. This is all part of the balance required to be an integral part of modernity without betraying one’s identity. In the end, luxury is doubtless not as impervious to technology as one might think…
By Stéphanie Laskar
© P. Parasim
© R. Bianchi2