What does luxury mean?

What does luxury mean?

Polish luxury brands are becoming increasingly successful in many industries. Tomasz Sikora, Ph.D., lecturer at the Warsaw School of Economics and Luxury Goods Marketing specialist, explains how the concept of luxury has changed and how it should be understood today.

What are the characteristics of the Polish luxury goods market which, unlike French and Italian brands, is devoid of a long tradition?

The number of Polish luxury brands that do not gleam at least partially with the “reflected glare”, in the meaning of selling the products of other prestigious brands, is limited, and the turnover value of the goods sold by them is very little. Without a doubt, the examples of luxury may be found in the hospitality sector, but there are also restaurants, yachts and beauty products, the proof of which is the Dr Irena Eris brand. But when it comes to designing clothes or accessories, our counterparts of Dior or Armani enjoy rather greater publicity than revenue from their luxury activities.

A while ago we started to notice the blurring boundary between the old luxury and new brands that do not need a long tradition or a centuries-old history to join the previously very hermetic group of luxury brands. For instance, Comité Colbert accepted brands established in the 18th or 19th centuries, such as Louis Vuitton or many champagne houses, but also brands created at the end of the 20th or at the beginning of the 21th centuries.

Since 1960s, specifically since 1959, when the haute couture designer Pierre Cardin released the prêt-à-porter collection signed with his own name, we have witnessed the so-called process of “accessorizing” luxury. For instance, the price of a small Louis Vuitton purse which may be bought in Warsaw boutique is lower than the minimum wage. In short, “accessible luxury” has emerged next to elite luxury. This term was proposed at the end of 1980s by Danielle Allérès, French author of books on luxury goods management. In an extreme case, an accessible luxury class product is a product whose luxurious character is defined only by the presence of a luxury brand logo.
What matters for the youngest generations is the impact of the promotional message "here and now".

Luxury begins to be perceived in a completely new manner.

A certain client group from both the elites and the youngest generations – Generation Y, also known as millennials who are 21-35 years old, and Generation Z, meaning the youngest cohort aged 18-20 – is aware that in many sectors you shouldn’t expect timeless quality. What matters is creativity, and in such case young brands and emerging designers have much room to maneuver. Also, studying the centuries-old history and tradition of brands is not a hobby horse of the youngest generations. What matters is the impact of the promotional message “here and now” and the effectiveness of the brand’s Internet and social media presence. In this case, luxury begins to be perceived differently; it is not distant, exclusive luxury, but luxury with which you can establish a personal connection via social media (on the other side, that is on the side of the luxury brand there is someone who answers and posts comments) and virtual reality online.

Do the behaviors of Polish buyers of luxury goods differ from those of buyers from Western Europe or North America?

Buyers of luxury goods from both highly developed regions and Poland vary a lot. Obviously, on a very general level, it can be seen that Polish buyers pay more attention to prices, which is related to lower income. However, in many developed countries going through stagnation younger generations are also sensitive to high prices.

You have launched the project www.luxury-research.info, the partner of which is Dr Irena Eris — it is an interesting and innovative venture. There are not many studies on the luxury goods market. 

At www.luxury-research.info new chapters of “Luxury products buyers’ behaviour” will be published. Besides the Introduction, Chapter 3 and the first parts of Chapter 5 are already available. I hope that Chapter 3 provides valuable information concerning the evolution of the world of luxury, from the first attempts to differentiate the range of products by haute couture designer Paul Poiret before the First World War, to the process of “accessorization” and the previously mentioned Pierre Cardin in 1959, which have led to the modern democratization of luxury.

Interview by Joanna Łodygowska.

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