LUXURY AND THE METAVERSE: THE NEW CREATIVE PARADIGM

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Construct + Luxury Briefing




Some of you might still think the luxury metaverse is an overhyped niche. Sadly for a sector built on a history of bold innovation, luxury leadership can be slow to embrace change. Until quite recently the sector valued heritage ahead of almost everything else, condemning brands to repeat in a cycle of diminishing relevance and value. All that has changed. The luxury brands we admire today are the changemaker brands, it doesn’t matter how established they are, what matters is their attitude to the future, are they leading or following? Luxury after all, in every sense, is about leadership.


The changes I am referring to couldn’t be more profound, we have wrapped our heads around Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) but we are only just now unpacking the potential of what extends beyond this. The luxury metaverse is a reality in which consumers will decide how to engage with brands and branded experiences. To do this successfully brands need to achieve mastery of data to a level beyond anything they are currently capable of. We are talking about data generation (CRM), analytics (advanced AI) and data-driven actions (automated support tools). Jing Daily summed this up perfectly: “The luxury leaders of the future must fundamentally become data companies centred around the customer. They must provide a fluid metaverse experience no matter the customers global location, where they shop, and whether they experience the brand online or off.”

Reflecting on this statement it’s easy to understand the importance of data and the urgent requirement to invest in high quality data generation as the very foundation of all future expressions of brand. Data is the key to unlocking valuable commercial relationships with consumers, no longer about good management and sales optimisation, soon there will be no relationship without robust data.

Given my role as a brand and brand experience creator I can’t help but be focused on what this means for creative leadership. Once you wrap your head around the requirements it becomes clear that luxury brands will need to think very differently about this. How creative leadership is structured and what skill sets will be required to deliver success. Many brands purport to be a step ahead and already organised to respond to the opportunity of the luxury metaverse. However, in reality when I audit the very best I am struck by the disparate nature of brand expression. Every touchpoint of the brand in most cases feels separate, which means that as a consumer I am not able to experience a seamless brand relationship. To thrive in the metaverse this unified and continuous sense of 'brand self' will be essential.


It’s not surprising that so many brands are failing to create a singularity of experience. If we look at the way most businesses structure their organisations creative leadership tends to be a department with a product focus rather than a universal brief covering product and experience. Technology is often disconnected from creative and therefore not focused enough on the radical customer-centricity required to build data supported seamless brand experiences. And senior leadership in many cases lacks the creative flair for a connected universality of brand vision. All of which makes me question how luxury brands should be structured as organisations ready for the future. Who they recruit and access to inspire customers in a seamless experience of brand?


Creative leadership needs a broader brief, departmental integration and a respect and understanding of the consumer. The challenge today is discovering and developing the talent capable of designing the future. Future success will be in a large part predicated on nurturing creative leaders with a deep understanding of strategy, a mastery of data tools and an ability to inspire emotionally engaging brand experiences with flawless execution. As I stated at the start if Luxury is about leadership, In the Luxury metaverse Creative leadership will be king!


Image credit: Deezen / A. Reisinger
Luxury Briefing

FAWAZ GRUOSI

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Construct + Fawaz Gruosi



“My pursuit of beauty lies in the desire to seek out the life and poetry of stones through exceptional craftsmanship, freed from convention, allowing the stones to tell their own unexpected stories.” - Fawas Gruosi

Fawaz Gruosi sources precious materials to create sublime jewellery, taking influence from the beauty of nature to create singular and rare pieces of art and ornament. By using invaluable materials such as amber, Gruosi’s work showcases the wonders of the natural world in a refined orchestra of light, form and line. Fawaz Gruosi attributes his artistic attitude to his own roots, a blend of ancient Levantine opulence and Florentine Renaissance richness, complemented by his own passion for both antiques and modern art.



To illustrate the splendour of Fawaz Gruosi’s most recent collections, Construct was commissioned to create three physical catalogues to showcase the Amber, High and Fine collections, as well as digital catalogues of the lines.

For the Amber book, our focus was the rich tone of the natural material. We were fascinated by the possibilities it possessed, and how we could manifest the materiality of amber in new textures and forms. For example, we used two oversized ribbon bookmarks within the book to act like the precious resin inside a tree which is matured to beauty over time.



For the High Jewellery collection, we presented a concept that was almost exclusively in black, with a limited palette of black papers, silver Pantone and gloss overlays. This tapped into the psychology of luxury, in which black signifies the ultimate elegance, while providing an elevated canvas for celebrating the shape, form and texture of each piece, treated as its own work of art.

In contrast, the Fine Jewellery collection offered a celebration of colour – a key factor imbued in our concepts for this specific book. We presented the concept in a contemporary editorial format, utilising unique print processes that played with image, colour and material finish to let colour to be the hero.



While the books took different approaches aesthetically, they could be presented together as a complete set, highlighting how all Gruosi pieces, no matter how unique, are connected to the lasting legacy of the brand and the surrounding family of works. We bound the books in materials that connected to each collection through colour, separating them from other catalogues and establishing them as more substantial and long-lasting. To further illustrate this, the art direction took the same consideration and care given to art books through the use of imprints, and included ribbon bookmarks for a subtle yet elevated detail.






Next, the outer packaging. For Amber, we discussed the seductive theatricality of reveal, playing with layers to create a golden gift. We chose sustainable mailer cartons to ship the standard copies, dispatching the rare 100 VIP copies in art crates branded with client identities, creating an enigmatic and unusual conversation piece.

The coloured gems Fawaz Gruosi adores are often juxtaposed, mischievously, with far more humble but no less beautiful or intriguing materials. This exploration of unexpected materials is an essential element of Fawaz Gruosi’s continually evolving aesthetic. He challenges preconceptions of value and preciousness, choosing stones and minerals, bio-organic materials, like coral and amber, as well as high-tech ceramics, purely for their artistic contribution to concept and design, and we wanted this approach and aesthetic ethos to be reflected and respected in the final designs.







THE POSSIBLE AND THE PROBABLE

Published on in

Construct + Luxury Briefing

"Most luxury consumers are looking for brands with something to
say and this will undoubtedly drive a shift from brand-centric
business to consumer-centric brand."

There has been an admirable sense of resilience and calm evident throughout the last 18 months. This impressive adaptability has given rise to a deep analysis of brand, business and consumer. Many businesses would even credit Covid-19 with precipitating a powerfully positive impact on future strategy. Planning teams have been busy plotting pivots, accelerating change and responding to a seismic shift in consumer behaviour. Initially, these changes were the result of restrictions that were forced on consumers rather than chosen. During this phase, businesses have been able to see and solve their problems. What comes next is the biggest question: how will this impact all of us in the long term? And what will the role of luxury be in the post-pandemic landscape?

Management consultancies, futurologists and strategists will tell you they know the answer. But the best of them will admit that, while they might be able to project likely scenarios, they have never been so unsure. This is because we don’t yet know what is happening in the minds of our audiences and consumers. It’s what they are thinking and, perhaps even more importantly, what they are feeling that will determine what's next. If you want a robust answer, you’re going to have to wait and see; any valuable qualitative or quantitative understanding will not emerge until the end of this year. One could argue that the true impact on audience psyche and, therefore, behaviour, will not be robustly understood until 2024 at the earliest. Johann Rupert, chairman and founder of Richemont, stated in May that he believed it would take at least three years to return to pre-pandemic results. This is not surprising given the 11 to 26 per cent drop in consumer spending in the first months of the pandemic across China, the United States and Europe.

There are already some positive indicators, however. The share prices of Hermès, LVMH and Kering last Autumn suggested the world would emerge into a frenzy of luxury indulgence, a return to the roaring ’20s that was tipped by so many. There are plenty of reasons to believe that this is the logical outcome. Unlike previous recessions, this one involves no consumer debt or asset price bubbles. This is likely to be short-term, a response to restrictions endured – consumer behaviour springing back to, and beyond, previous performance, a bounce back to better than before. The result will be a limited economic re-balance likely to settle down when the savings are splurged, and regular habits have re-emerged post-restrictions.

In March 2021, McKinsey Global Institute reported more than $1.6 trillion more savings in the United States in 2020 and about $400 billion in Western Europe. They say: ‘e-grocery shopping, virtual healthcare visits, and home nesting are likely to stick while remote learning, declining leisure air travel, and decreasing live entertainment will likely revert closer to pre-pandemic patterns.’

What will happen longer-term? The question of how the pandemic will impact consumer behaviour is complex, it will vary generation-by-generation and region-by-region. The prognosis for luxury brands is particularly challenging, as research suggests that many people feel more conflicted about consuming luxury goods, torn between a desire for the exclusive and growing concern about perception and consciousness connected to their sense of purpose and values. The increasing significance of serious long-term concerns like the environment and social equality indicate any boom is likely to be short-lived. Long pandemic lockdowns gave many luxury consumers more opportunity to reassess their values; they spent more time discussing social issues, they focussed more on nature and the environment, not just as a cause, but as an experience they valued and enjoyed.

It’s interesting to hear Sarah Willersdorf’s take on the impact on UHNW consumers. The head of luxury at Boston Consulting Group said: ‘Covid was the first time that a lot of people realised that their individual actions have societal consequences.’ Perhaps for this reason, philanthropy among UHNWs has accelerated when compared to other recessions. Some of this was already trending pre-pandemic. For many, the search for meaning and happiness has become more urgent and profound. The experiences and their outcomes were not universal, generational trends emerged and brands would do well to study them. For example, Millennial and Gen Z consumers are typically more engaged with social responsibility, while older consumers are more likely to be concerned with sustainability.

Underneath these differences, we must engage with and understand that there are some universal themes – the desire for relevance, brands with a focus on quality, design, sustainability and societal messages. Most luxury consumers are looking for brands with something to say and this will undoubtedly drive a shift from brand-centric business to consumer-centric brand. The question is, how much do you know about what your consumer is thinking? And is your brand really in-tune with how they are feeling?
Whilst so much is uncertain, it’s clear to see that customer-centric reactivity will be key to success in the coming years.