In my piece What is luxury?, I concluded that what defines luxury depends entirely on what the individual perceives as valuable to them. Although this has always varied according to factors such as region, age and whether or not the individual was a member of the nouveau riche or whether their wealth was inherited, there is no denying that the past couple of decades have witnessed a significant cultural shift away from luxury goods and much more towards luxury lifestyle experiences.
In the past there has been a desire for using luxury brands to display success. Although the concept of ‘luxury as success’ remains intact, the attitudes towards how that success is represented are expanding beyond tailored suits, expensive cars and luxury watches. Any person with wealth can buy luxury goods; what the affluent now really desire are stories and memories because these are truly priceless.
Philanthropy is an extension of this because not everyone can tell their friends or colleagues at a dinner table of unique worthwhile charitable endeavours.
The democratisation of luxury has meant that luxury travel specialists have had to become creative with their itineraries. In the past, it might have been enough to organise first class tickets to the South of France but since budget airlines started driving down prices, a trip to the French Riviera is a luxury available to the much wider public.
Luxury travel now might focus around much more exclusive services like a hideaway spa in the Maldives or being hosted by Richard Branson on his private island.
A big factor in luxury and premium pricing is personalisation. Many luxury brands offer goods from a production line, but travel itineraries have the flexibility to be truly bespoke. Luxury lifestyle experiences can also be enjoyed much closer to home; imagine hosting a party with a celebrity musician performing for your guests or being treated to private dining from a Michelin star chef in the comfort of your own home.
More and more, HNWIs are recognising that luxury lifestyle experiences gift a more subtle, authentic and deeper sense of permanent luxury.