Day 1 – 26 May 2021

15.30 – 16.30 – Panel 1 – Luxury and Innovation –  chaired by Chiara Colombi

Deepsagar Verma; Communicating Fashion – A Collaborative Approach through Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Fashion changes every day, so does technology and that too very fast. Keeping high volatility rate of Fashion, dynamic market, changed technology, smart customers and big data, it is quite important to communicate about fashion at right time to right people at right cost.

Fashion communication is a broad area, which strives to provide effective and financially viable communication solutions for the fashion and lifestyle industry. It integrates areas like visual merchandising, styling, graphic design, display/exhibit/space design, advertising and public relations, fashion journalism, creative writing, photography, interaction design, new media design and many more. It requires a number of equipment and tools to efficiently and effectively integrate the various areas of communication which would likely to be obsolete after a short span of time. In order to be updated, a huge cost is incurred in regular intervals.

Brands/Clients seek for exact communication solution to hit to the psychological behavior of the target customers.  Designers and marketers both think in their own perspective keeping customers in mind, but an exact understanding is quite difficult unless, high level technology is used. Concepts like neuro-marketing is helping marketers to understand the behavior of customers but it has its own limitations. Needless to say that communicating fashion is a costly affair. Traditional media is relatively costlier with respect to new media but one factor is common which is high level of engagement is required. High engagement would leverage high profits in long run but the cost of engagement is exorbitantly high. A small mistake in marketing communication may be fatal. Presently, in most cases, brands communicate on trial and error basis and calculate the return on investments later. AI and IoT would help in understanding the trends of response before communication is made public.

Method – An amalgamation of primary and secondary research on costing of fashion communication and implementing of IoT and AI would be taken place to understand the collaborative scope. Effective usage of equipments, machine tools, software etc would be studied to reduce the cost of operations. A study from the perspective of customer intelligence and its impact on communication would be also likely to be understood.

Conclusions – Since Internet of Things (IoT) are the interworking of physical devices, it can be used for collaborating cameras, computers, smart phones, notepads, software, sensors and other related electronic devices for effective communication while Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used as mimic cognitive functions of a human to effectively communicate at different business environments and handle new media.

Practical applications of Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can bridge the gap of Demand -Supply in communication model. It would also facilitate to understand the psychological behavior of customers and their needs and preferences. Communication can be studied as an integral part of supply chain. A collaboration of IoT and AI would likely to yield better results in communication model through personalization, product recommendation, descriptive analytics and prescriptive analytics.

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Keywords : IoT, AI, Fashion Communication, Customer Intelligence, Cost Analysis

Paula von Wachenfeldt; Luxury in the Digital Age: Challenges and Revisions

It seems like the idea of luxury is facing the same destiny as the one of art. The eternal “what is art” can also be applied to “what is luxury” leaving us with no simple answer but rather multidimensional ones. In order to explore existing conditions of luxury we need however to begin by reconsider it beyond the metaphysical notions of needs, desires and superfluity that are examined by Berry (1994). Thus, this paper intends on the first level to explore the principal aspects of luxury that I argue are the original, the timeless and the slow. At the second level it will investigate its status in contemporary society due to the impact of digital technology on the aforementioned characteristics. The work of R. Sennett (2008) on the craft, the original and the slow will help us define the theoretical framework for the different notions implied in a luxury product.

Social media, as a product of real-time technology, have set in motion new prerequisites for visibility and thus, novel advertising facilities. I have earlier explored the consequences of the mediation of luxury in social media where I see “mediation” as a contemporary social tool that helps us experience the everyday world around us through luxury items. I argue here that we need to examine further how the omnipresence of luxury brands in digital media and on commercial online sites affects the idea of luxury as something original and timeless. The live streaming runaways, the urge for the fast in online marketing, the rather fashion-oriented quest for novelties and the duplication of design and creativity, all mediated through current technology, will serve as examples of the new challenges that luxury is facing today. The two main research questions are: what are the outcomes of the interplay between luxury and the online technology? Could the original, the timeless and the slow yet be applied to the notion of luxury and to what extent?

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Keywords: luxury, technology, original, timeless, slow

Federica Carlotto and Andrea Tanner; New Old Stories: Fortnum and Mason’s Digital Story-Telling

Scholars on corporate and brand heritage define a story-telling strategy as effective when it embraces a multi-temporal perspective, i.e. it is able to select those elements of the past that are imbued with future relevance, in a way that is appealing to the current audience and their communication context. As such, the Internet platforms require companies to master the tempo of their social-media presence, and to synchronise their story-telling with the “hyper-now” of feeds and posts.

The talk proposed summarises our research about Fortnum & Mason’s strategy (which will be part of an edited publication later in 2020). It aims to assess the temporal articulation of heritage story-telling on the main digital platforms – official website, Instagram, Facebook.

The paper builds on first-hand insights from Fortnum & Mason’s marketing executives, and content analysis of heritage-related posts and campaigns – such as the Throwback Thursdays, as well as users-generated posts. The data have been be analysed along conceptual frameworks from the extant scholarship on heritage branding, digital sociology and time. Specifically, heritage story-telling will be considered through:

– the temporalities of heritage in branded communication, e.g.: history, custom, tradition, time point (event), recurring time (anniversary); archaeological trivia

– the temporalities of the communicative context, e.g. tempo, timing, sequence and extension

– the emotional temporalities of the digital audience e.g.: nostalgia, retro feelings etc.

Through the discussion and the interpretation of the emerging themes, the chapter considers how Fortnum & Mason’s heritage story-telling relies on a varied range of temporal communication acts, which are able to generate emotional engagement among their audience, thus preserving and perpetuating the salience of the brand’s heritage.

Ngoc Cindy Pham; Modelling the Antecedents of Customer Experience When Using Virtual Reality in Fashion Shows of Luxury Brands

There is a strong competition among luxury fashion brands. Luxury fashion brands attempt to stand out over their competitors by impressing customers and striving to provide a satisfying customer experience with the help of innovative new technologies. An impressive fashion show at New York Fashion Week is one marketing strategy to impress customers via press coverage. Some fashion shows have recently used Virtual Reality (VR) to improve the audience experience of the show. However, luxury fashion brands typically do not use this VR approach and continue with the traditional way of conducting fashion shows without using VR. To effectively implement VR, it is necessary for luxury fashion marketers and fashion show producers to understand the antecedents of using VR from a fashion show attendee perspective. This paper proposes a comprehensive conceptual model that includes using VR for fashion shows of luxury brands.  The model is based upon the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology. The paper hypothesizes that customer readiness and customer value have significant influence on user experience evaluation. The paper suggests that positive performance expectancy with VR and social influence lead to customer satisfaction and recommendation of others to use this technology. The paper further indicates that individual differences play a vital role in the usage experience of VR technology.

Isabel Hiljding; The Role of Craftsmanship in a Luxury Fashion Company: The Case of LOEWE

Fashion has a robust intangible component and the luxury sector, mainly due to its attributes such as heritage, exclusivity and glamour. Luxury fashion, although it is an ancient phenomenon and has been studied for centuries, there are scarce academic studies carried out specifically on the competitive advantages of the luxury fashion company (LFC).

We propose craftsmanship as one of the core capabilities, source of competitive advantage of the LFC. Traditionally, the fact that luxury products were made by a craftsman’s hand was intrinsic to the product.

Craftsmanship is not only referred to the quality of manufacturing or raw materials but also assumed that labour was the source of said quality (Risatti 2007). In this sense, there is a large amount of literature that highlights the craftsmanship as a major intangible component of luxury (Nueno & Quelch, 1998; Okonkwo, 2007; Kapferer, 2012).

In this research, we attempt to analyze the craftsmanship’s intangible characteristics as a potential source of competitive advantage in an LFC. We based our research in the Resource-Based View (RBV) of the firm, and we have developed an explanatory-causal theoretical model which was used to test the sustainable competitive advantage of craftsmanship.

We use the case study as a research method and analyze in-depth the case of LOEWE as the most paradigmatic LFC Spanish company.  Fifteen in-depth interviews were conducted to managers, former senior managers, artisans and family members, analyzing craftsmanship’s main four characteristics (history and tradition, innovation, choice of raw material and country of origin). The interviews were codified and analyzed with the software Atlas.ti.

In the case of LOEWE, the results show that craftsmanship provides a source of competitive advantage to the company, whose sustainability relies mainly on history and tradition. The imperfect imitability and irreplaceability were weaker for innovation and country of origin and nonexistent for the selection of raw material. In order to maintain the craftsmanship as a competitive advantage over time, LCF should develop measures as, a “Development workshop” where the innovation and raw material selection receive the main focus. Furthermore, the LFC should decide to give more or less weight to their craftsmanship, which positions the company as more or less artisan. This strategic decision that must be made by each LFC is key to implement a strategy consistent with the brand and its DNA.

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Keywords: luxury fashion companies, craftsmanship, Resource based view, capability, intangible.

Beatrice Rossato; The Change of Luxury Perception in Jewellery in the Age of Digital Technology

The world of jewellery swings between handmade and machine made. Digital technology is increasingly affecting the production processes, the product itself and in the services connected to it.

This paper aims to identify how the relationship between traditional knowledges and technological innovation redefines the perception of value system of luxury in jewellery. In particular, the aim is to explore how contaminations from different areas and how design thinking can affect the value of objects and open new scenarios for their use.

Firstly, the ways in which the machine-made paradigm fits into the design, production or communication of jewellery are described. The case studies presented are identified from the second half of the last century until today. They show their evolution both in terms of product design both for the innovation related to the field of communication, retail and user experience. Artisans 2.0 and other jewellery realities reoccurring to open source technology, mass customisation processes, algorithms and 3D scanners are described. These identify how the machine enters the panorama of jewellery in supporting, imitating or replacing handwork. The entry of digital technologies and innovative materials are here pointed out, underlining the fact that they are far from the traditional goldsmithing system and therefore not conventionally recognised as holders of added value for said system itself.

Secondly, in supporting of aforementioned subjects, case studies of best practice from companies, designers and artisans from the world of jewellery will be presented. They witness the presence of the relationship between hand and machine by the description of their works. Innovation and technology redefine the stylistic features but also – and above all – deconstructs the classic concept of preciousness, resulting in the modification of the perception of the value. Those case studies prove also how design plays an important role in defining new concepts of value by becoming the bridge between luxury values, innovation and digital technology.

To better investigate this role of design, an academic workshop is presented. The design workshop has its main focus in investigating the relationship between technology and craftsmanship. Different projects prove how design can merge craftsmanship and technology together in order to create a link between past and present, shaping the future.

In conclusion, having collected different examples, the paper describes which kinds of innovative scenarios result from the change in luxury perception of value, formulating hypotheses and critical ideas for a constructive debate.

Day 2 – 27 May 2021

14.15 – 15.15 – Panel 2  – Luxury and the Circular Economy chaired by Shaun Borstrock

Annette Condello; Crafting Pearlescence: Brutal Luxury at Valerio Olgiati’s Pearling Gateway in Bahrain

In the era of mass consumption, the global demand for sea pearls extracted from its original source, such as the Persian Gulf, and the pearl rating system have influenced how we gauge the sustainable luxury practice in the built environment. In his book Architecture without Architects, Bernard Rudofsky once proclaimed in 1964 that, “what we need is not a new technology but a new way of living”. Yet when thinking about the intersection of luxury and the pearling industry in the context of the circular economy, preceding or new structures are bound to continue to make a profit in the real estate sector with the use of both technology and upcycling waste. In reconsidering the concept of “sustainable luxury” as a “returning to the essence of luxury” and “respect for social and environmental issues” (Gardetti and Tores, 2015), this paper will look at how “brutal luxury”, defined herein as comprising a building’s gritty composure, upcycling waste and emitting variegating levels of concrete lustre, affects coastal environments.

Brutal luxury has become a green adage. What specific traits have made architecture brutal but luxurious? Why pay an exorbitant price for an upcycled brutal concrete bunker? Attracting or repelling people, “brutal luxury” is a paradoxical expression used for implementing the crafting of lustre, not only in terms of pearl’s iridescent nacre, but also in terms of a building’s raw or polished concrete surfaces. This is especially the case when observing the multi-star-factor of contemporary architecture, including the green rating of upcycled existing landscapes. In regard to the technological affect luxury possesses within architecture, more specifically the idea about “waste as a raw material” (2016), instigated by celebrated Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, critics have otherwise neglected the incongruous expression as a form of luxury. Instead, they use it as a marketing ploy. It is more beneficial to market the crafting of an upcycled building’s pearlescence. Interpreting Bo Bardi’s idea about raw material, this paper argues how luxury-as-waste can inform designers’ alternative ways to regenerating Brutalist structures by implementing a new green rating system, which is environmentally responsible.

Identified in this paper as exemplary of crafting pearlescence, Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati’s contemporary works, for instance, his Céline flagship store in Miami (2018) contributes to the innovation of brutal luxury. Moreover, Olgiati’s concrete gateway in Muharraq (2018-19), Bahrain, located at the edge of the Persian Gulf, exudes brutal luxury as a cultural heritage expression as well as concrete pearlescence. Its brutal luxury presence of the historical site has increased the value of its original pearling bed paths. From a multi-disciplinary perspective, the purpose of this paper is to explore how Olgiati’s brutal luxury gateway has developed sustainable luxury measures within an environmental context, affecting the pearl rating system and future of sustainable luxury branding. Olgiati’s gateway provides an innovative way of implementing how brutal luxury and the existing built environment might coincide to contribute alternative ways to imagine how coastal regions can thrive again within minimal intervention.

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Keywords: architecture, sustainable luxury, luxury-as-waste, brutal, pearling industry

Tomas Lopez-Pumarejo; How Hemp May Transform the Fashion Industry and the Global Economy

This presentation aims to explain why hemp is likely to transform the fashion industry as well as the global economy during the next decade. The analysis takes into account the new role of sustainability in corporate, technological, political and cultural business environments.  The research analyzes academic and trade press sources and the author’s own experiences as a green business, urban sustainability and international strategy researcher.

Hemp textile is likely to become pivotal to the luxury brands of the fashion industry in the next decade because of the following reasons. First, sustainability-engaged brands attract more (affluent) consumers and socially responsible investors (SRI), for which the fastest growing enterprises, big, medium and small, link sustainability to their brand essence. Second, luxury and fast fashion brands alike have started to incorporate hemp to their lines to imply quality while appealing to the ‘woke’ consumer. Haute couture itself is inherently sustainable.  One could make an argument that luxury fashion is less environmentally harmful than ordinary fashion in that it is at the opposite end of the spectrum from fast fashion.  Nevertheless, the luxury industry also contributes to pollution, waste and environmental damage.  The excessive expenditure and waste of its extravagant shows alone call sustainability claims into question. Luxury brands like Chanel and Dior rank lowest in socially responsible rankings. In contrast, Prada’s corporate culture, like Eileen Fisher’s has embraced sustainability. US HEMP has, since 2016, claimed that they launched the first luxury clothing line made entirely from the plant. H&M is ahead of the curve in offering a true hemp and silk collection under the “Conscious Exclusive” name. Third, technology may induce a hemp textile renaissance, 10,000 years after its first documented presence in China and Turkey.  It is now easy to discern between the hemp and marihuana plants, which prevents prohibition.  New loom technology set up greater versatility for hemp textiles to oscillate between sackcloth and denim to linen and silk.  Hemp is durable and biodegradable.  Being a weed, it does not require much water to grow.  It takes about 5,000 gallons of water to produce a cotton t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Hemp can transform fashion’s arguable reputation as the second most polluting industry to one of the most sustainable. Fourth, hemp may rearrange the global economy in outsourcing and trading textile. Milan, for example, used to a be center of high-end denim production, which was outsourced to China. If European hemp production progresses it may be possible to reverse the situation and bring it back to Milan. The state of Indiana seems to be ideal ground for a hemp mecca due to its weather, topography, and its agricultural know-how and facilities. If this became a reality the need for (imported) cotton would drastically recede in the United States.  And last, sustainability is by now too central to corporations and mass culture. Companies systematically seek accounting and official accreditation of socially responsible management, for which certifying organizations thrive. This transformation made sustainability a must in the benefit mix that the fashion industry offers in order to remain relevant.

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Keywords: hemp, sustainability, socially responsible investment (SRI), Prada, H&M

Erminia D’Itria; Fostering Socio – Cultural Sustainability. How Social-Cultural Values can Nurture Sustainability in the Fashion Luxury Sector

The current socio-cultural panorama requires a much more radical attention in redefining the values of the products that belong to the Luxury and Fashion sector through a research for authenticity in the productions, the incorporation of ethical values and social governance and through a more conscious consuming. According to this, Luxury Fashion brands, as demonstrated with the 2019 Fashion Pact, are constantly demanded in demonstrating a respectable, unequivocal and credible company reputation, not only expressed through the transparency and traceability of their fashion businesses’ operations, but above all through a continuous social and cultural exchange through on-going narratives with their consumers and their wider audience (Arrigo, 2015; Levitt, 1965).

The socio-cultural component is therefore an essential driver for culture intensive industries in differentiating products and gaining a competitive advantage (Bertola et. al, 2016). This variable becomes “cultural authenticity” which means both pinpointing on exclusivity, uniqueness and originality of the process that generated specific products or services, but also implying a strong connection with heritage, productive culture of a specific territory, the communities of workers, to which those very products and services belong (Bruner 1986, 1991; Vacca 2013).

According to that, the culture of design reconfigures socio-cultural sources in new artifacts not only developing highly narrative content, but also stimulating innovation, pursuing new languages, increasing the potential of the evocative dimension, moving along the value chain creating new meanings and promoting new models of socio-cultural sustainable development. Moreover, the socio-culture dimension reflects a specific identity through which it can be accepted and embedded into contemporary cultures and engage in a process of collective reputation in which brands and customers collaborate and co-create contents (Moisander and Personen 2002).

In those specific fields of practice, the paper will discuss, also thanks to case studies, how socio-cultural values can nurture sustainability in the Fashion Luxury sector, with an ostensibly emphasis on their attention to authenticity, respect for time, craftsmanship and ecologies and on their ability in promoting values for social justice, sharing practices, responsibility and sustainable development (Kim, Ko, 2010). In fact, if on the one hand, the intrinsic value in Luxury and Fashion production have a social impact on costumers’ behavior as there is a growing awareness of fashion consumption on people, of the ethical issues and more concern over the different stages of production. On the other hand, culture intensive industries, such as fashion, embeds cultural capital values (Throsby, 1999) as an aggregate of tangible and intangible factors which is continuously reinvested in the development of new artifacts, goods and services but also bearer of new values and meanings (Sennet, 2008; Vacca, 2013).

Fostering socio-cultural sustainability for luxury fashion brands allow to create strategic actions able to stimulate and develop the production and competences of local systems, engaging prestigious realities and communities which contribute to the uniqueness of the brands themselves, in triggering a sustainable innovation in the production sectors they represent.

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Keywords: socio-cultural sustainability, cultural capital, cultural authenticity, culture intensive industries

Steven Fischer; Tension Between Craft and Technology in the Production of Luxury

There is a “contradiction between technology and luxury as in value”, Johann Rupert of Richemont famously commented in June 2015.  He went on to state, “When your daughter turns 18 or 21, you are going to want to give her something that will last the rest of her life.” E.g. not a smart watch and insinuating that true luxury is that which is hand-crafted, demonstrating great time and skill were applied to its production.  Luxury has long struggled with the adoption of technology, technology in both production and the enjoyment of luxury.  This presentation will address this tension from the perspective of production.  At the same time, it will examine the value of provenance by exploring whether luxury can come from the United States.

Luxury has long assigned higher value to the hand-crafted.  Arguably, to be “pure luxury” it can only be hand-crafted.  It takes more time to produce an item by hand, thereby connotating rarity and higher cost.  That has been long employed by luxury brands, for example, Hermes’ attention to hand stitching or Bottega Veneta’s intrecciato method for weaving leather strips – for which the brands point to the deep training and the number of hours required for production.  Machine produced products are assigned lesser value because of the shorter time required to produce the item and their wider availability.   Moreover, in the craft of stitching leather, there is a quality difference.  Machine stitches are a replication of traditional hand-stitch methodologies.  There is a belief that the machine stitch delivers weaker joinery between pieces of leather, as it requires a vertical punch compared to the angled puncture that a hand stitch allows – thereby allowing greater contact between cording and the leather fiber with resulting greater strength.  Hence even greater value placed upon the hand-crafted. 

To provide increasing returns to investors, major luxury brands have expanded their consumer base, democratizing luxury by offering lower price products.  Those products are produced using mass production techniques such as machine-stitching.  This practice has reduced brand perception among true connoisseurs who originally built the brand, sending them searching for alternatives.  This is necessary to continue distinguishing themselves, preserving their place in the connoisseur class.

This presentation will feature lessons from an American leather goods line that utilizes saddle- and harness-makers and machined brass parts.  It will demonstrate how adherence to those timeless techniques, and eschewing all modern technologies, allowed the brand to quickly be recognized on the global stage.  Its aficionados replace existing traditional European brands that had “lost their way” with an American one.  The presentation will showcase the difference between hand and machine stitching technologies.  Along the way it will explore how modern techniques are adopted by modern luxury brands, and the difficult relationship luxury has with modern technologies.  Finally, it will explore whether it is possible for an American brand to truly compete on the global stage of brands on which the lure of the European has long held court. 

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Keywords:  Production, Provenance, American Luxury, Leather, Stitching

15.30 – 16.30 – Panel 3 – Democratised Luxury – chaired by Veronica Manlow

Steven Fischer; The Role of Images to Demonstrate and Democratize Luxury

Images have long been vital to the communication and consumption of luxury.  They inform what can be considered luxury, they create desire – and increasingly, with technological and social media advancements, they are a tool to demonstrate and democratize status.  This presentation will review the parallel developments between image technology and the evolution of luxury.

The paintings of the Old Masters many times demonstrated the social status of the commissioning patron.  Being painted by the leading master of the time was itself luxury consumption, for it demonstrated status and the financial capacity to engage with that artist.  Those paintings now create a historical record for status during their times. 

Publications such as the American magazine Peterson’s (1842-98) provided hand-drawn and colored illustrations to communicate the latest Parisian fashions to women across America, and provided patterns for creating such clothing.  Wearing the latest Parisian fashions in America demonstrated status, and by being so widely available, magazines began to democratize what was considered en vogue and in turn democratize luxury.

While Peterson’s was enjoying popularity, George Eastman’s Kodak brand began allowing ordinary people to take and collect photographs.  Eventually magazines such as American Vogue (1892) were launched, heralding a new era of print publications showcasing what was fashionable.  While it first began with illustrations by artists such as Erte, eventually photographs began to be featured.  The wider dissemination of such images further created and demonstrated desire, continuing the democratization of luxury.

Photographers who made their names in fashion magazines, such as Mario Testino, became the new Old Masters, conferring status upon their subjects.  At the same time, the role of the editor was key in deciding what would be published and shown as luxury. 

The technology behind photography continued to evolve, eventually becoming digital (Nikon, 1989), marking the beginning of a transformation of images as physical objects to instantly shared and infinitely storable media.  The marriage of the digital camera and telephone (Sharp J-SHO4 J-Phone, 2000) democratized the capacity to more widely share images.  The subsequent development of social media platforms such as Instagram (2010), which currently holds over 40 billion images.  That gave way to the evolution of images as social currency, launching a hyper-development of both the sharing of images and a new way of demonstrating luxury, democratizing it in the process.  Social media has allowed new brands to be launched by completely bypassing traditional launch patterns.  For example, Kylie Jenner cosmetics in 2016.  

Instagram as a platform has dramatically challenged the traditional role of print media’s capacity to influence and demonstrate luxury.  According to Instagram’s then president, the first industry the company engaged with in monetizing the platform was luxury.  In the process it has not only transformed the role of print media, but also architecture, restaurants, hotels, and ways of engaging with the natural world.  Along the way, it has created an entirely new way of demonstrating luxury – through capturing both the geography and image of one’s experience.

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Keywords:  Photography, Images, Editors, Social Media, Instagram

Nigel Lezama; From Unvalued to Surplus Value. ‘Made-in-Canada’ Luxury at Eaton’s in the 1920s

This presentation investigates the “lowly luxuries” of Canadian working and rural classes in the 1920s. How do basic or ordinary commodities become luxuries? What processes are involved in this form of democratized luxury? In the first decades of the 20th century, domestic manufacturing was at the heart of Canada’s economic and foreign affairs policy: how to protect nascent domestic industries and how to stimulate Canadian consumption of ‘Made-in-Canada’ goods. The T. Eaton Company Limited, ‘Canada’s Department Store,’ founded by Timothy Eaton as a small dry goods store in Toronto, Canada, in 1869, was one of the key players in the ‘Made-in-Canada’ movement and is central to the argument that, once properly defined, luxury as a category does not exclude based on expense or rarity. Rather, following Sombart (1967 [1913]), a commodity’s luxuriousness comes from a process of refinement that foregrounds non-economic factors, for example, the ideal of civic duty that emanates from domestically manufactured goods. The impact of Eaton’s ‘Made-in-Canada’ campaign of the 1920s comes out of the changing economic and social conditions, from which emerged two seemingly distinct motivations for the wider ‘Made-in-Canada’ campaign: firstly, to build economic capital and, secondly, to assert a national cultural identity. In this context, three aspects of Eaton’s strategies, namely the importance placed on domestic manufacture over foreign imports, the mail order catalogue’s discourse surrounding foreign and Canadian-made fashions, and, lastly, the company’s project to build a prestigious new site using all Canadian materials, highlight a distinctly Canadian luxury, based on civic ideals rather than social distinction. These ‘Made-in-Canada’ goods offer an example of democratized luxury available to the working classes in peripheral markets that can counter the excessive value attached to elite European luxury goods and American “masstige” offerings. In this context, ‘democratized luxury’ is not determined by price, exclusivity, or rarity, but by the surplus civic value attached to these humble commodities.

Keywords: T. Eaton Co. Ltd., democratized luxury, peripheral markets, Made-in-Canada, 1920s consumer society.

Kenneth Appiah-Nimo; Kente in the 4th Industrial Revolution; Balancing Innovation and Sustainability

Africa is home to some of the most prolific textile cultures in the world. Woven textiles and other indigenous fabrics are ubiquitous across the continent and remain a fundamental part of the continent’s material culture.  Overwhelming evidence avails to support the existence of thriving textile cultures before the arrival of the first colonial ship, and the deliberate deindustrialization of local textile economies through the infamous policies of cotton imperialism. Despite the devastating impact of cotton imperialism and the progressive threat posed by rapid advancements in textile manufacturing technology, a number of indigenous, albeit fragile textile industries remain. These industries are small and informal, often cast to the peripherals of the local economy, and yet perceived as a crucial agency in the preservation and promotion of ancient textile heritage. One of the most resilient indigenous textiles is the Kente Cloth, a widely known cultural symbol associated with the West African country of Ghana. Kente is perceived to be the most laborious of all weaving techniques, requiring substantial time, detail and dexterity at the hands of master craftsmen. Indeed, the colorful and intricately woven textile has for centuries been valuable as a store of wealth, and the textile of choice for perpetuating social distinction by the elite and Royal fraternity. However, the Kente cloth, once the epitome of luxury and regal expression is faced with its greatest threat yet, its democratization and subsequent devaluation of its inherent luxuriousness. The sustenance of this already fragile cottage industry is hinged on the continuous use and incremental adaptations of the traditional loom, which has undergone negligible transformation in the past centuries. However, the demand for new designs and mediums of presentation as well as the quest for efficiency and innovation in the production of Kente warrants the introduction of advanced manufacturing technologies. The sustenance of an ancient textile and its fragile cottage economy is under threat as the world reels into the 4th industrial revolution, with the imminent development of automated weaving technology and the application of artificial intelligence to design practice. This research examines the interplay and impact of progressive technology in a traditional craft economy that is in dire need of efficiency and innovation, and yet contextualized by the need to sustain its allure and the livelihoods associated with it. This research is in progress and will employ qualitative methods to explore the various dimensions of the phenomenon. Its outcome is expected to contribute to the discourse on sustainability in ailing indigenous craft industries around the world and facilitate a strategy for the development of a versatile Kente weaving industry at the threshold of the 4th industrial revolution.

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Keywords: Luxury, sustainability, Kente, 4IR, Ghana

Nermeen Mustafa; The Co-Creation Of Chanel in The Age of Technology: Consumer Narratives, and Social Media Engagement Dynamics

In the age of social media, consumers play a key role in the narrative that surrounds and creates the brand. It is therefore vital that luxury brands understand the dynamics of consumer engagement on social media platforms, and to be able to shape or trigger those interactions in a certain direction.

The proliferation of social media has provided luxury marketers with more personal and powerful ways to interact and connect with their customers (Dhaoui, 2014).  Consumer engagement with brand and the resulting content on social media platforms is a form of brand co creation.  This study aims to address the dynamics of consumer engagement and interaction with luxury brands online. By understanding how various brand expressions trigger certain types of engagement, and certain content types, the findings can help brand managers to strategically shape and leverage engagement behaviour on their social media platforms. This can act as a competitive advantage in the scarcely understood medium of social media world.

A social networking site such as Facebook allows consumer engagement and interaction with the brand, thus paving the way for a co creation of the online presence of the brand. It is therefore paramount that brands understand the dynamics of consumer engagement with different brand expressions in the social media environment.

There is evidence that fashion luxury brands are expending more effort in creating successful social media platforms for consumers. This growth in interest started in 2009. Gucci created a social network site, “Guccieyeweb.com; while Burberry launched a social network site, “Artofthetrench.com,” in November 2009 to elicit admiration for the design of the trench coat.  According to a study, 90% of luxury brands are on Facebook and 48% are on Twitter (L2 Think Tank, 2018). Since Facebook is the most often used social networking site by luxury fashion brands, this study sets out to examine brand pages on Facebook.  More specifically, the study aims to examine the content produced by consumers and the relationship of the type of responses to the posts produced by the brand. This is particularly important since content on Facebook is a form of brand interface.

The study is framed within the stream of literature that addresses consumer engagement and interaction with the brand’s online content (Kwon, Kim, Sung and Yoo, 2014; Enginkaya and Yilmaz, 2014; Kim et al, 2016; Dolan, 2016;  Hodis et al, 2015; Schivinski et al, 2015).

Data related to the published videos on Chanel’s official Facebook site between 2015 and 2019 is collected and analysed.  Qualitative data includes all consumer content written in response to each published content and is categorized into types of engagement, types of content, and level of engagement. Quantitative data is included  in order to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between social media content and social media engagement behaviour in the context of luxury brands.

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Key Words: Consumer narratives, Luxury Brand co creation, Social media engagement

Emily Huggard and Patrick Lonergan; Luxury in the Age of Hypermodernity: Shifting the Cultural Authority from Brand to Online Subcultures

Hypermodernism has blurred the boundaries between high and low, between luxury and streetwear, and between different artistic fields.In a hypermodern context, where the logic of fashion is ubiquitous, luxury brands have moved from frivolous symbols of status—defined solely by their products—to agents that the consumer actively interacts with, shapes and builds relationships with.

The traditional strategy used by luxury brands, which solely involved establishing and communicating the history of craft, exclusivity or material expertise and pushing this version of their story out to the consumer is no longer sufficient. Luxury brands now engage audiences in meaningful digital and online experiences, collaboration and co-creation that respond to their values, ideologies and tensions. Brands must now look at the culture (music, art, film, entertainment, politics) that their consumers are a part of, and tell stories that integrate them into their world, building an authority that exists in popular culture.

This paper uses a case study on luxury fashion brand Gucci—including focused interviews with the Marketing and Communications team at Gucci America—to better understand this shift in the industry. Since 2014, Gucci has made a significant transformation, re-asserting itself as one of the world’s leading luxury brands. The brand’s proximity to the consumer (through digital channels) allows them to connect to cultural moments, movements and events, collaborating with online subcultures, influencers, art worlds and communities that are driving the culture they want to be a part of. Gucci mediates culture by recognizing that the cultural authority, or ‘taste regime’ now exists on social media, and influencers spread taste values (Chayka, 2018). Gucci gives creative freedom to influencers and collaborators who have significant cultural capital which allows the brand to reflect and adapt to trends that both fit the brand’s narrative and touch on cultural issues. Gucci uses the cultural and social influence of social platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and WeChat as an extension of the brand, featuring photography generated by consumers and fans, film, sneak-peeks, product drops, behind-the-scenes, editorial and strong visual content. They collaborate with online subcultures and art worlds to produce cultural content that is highly attuned to the brand’s audience, proving that the world of luxury is elastic (Bruni, 2018; Holt, 2016).

As part of the #24HourAce project, Gucci invited a series of emerging and established artists to take over its Snapchat channel and create video content inspired by the brand’s Ace sneaker. The brand’s #GucciGram project included a range of international online illustrators and image-makers who were invited to create work showing iconic Gucci prints for the brand’s Instagram account. Young audiences now shape their identity and image on social media, contributing to and debating current conversations on race, social justice, gender and sexual identity. Creative Director Alessandro Michele has been able to take this digital journey with his audience, providing them with a visual vocabulary with which to express it (Bruni, 2018). “The emotional genius of what [Michele] has done is to affirm their searching. The commercial genius is to create totems for it and, in the process, democratize what we historically called luxury goods” (Bruni, 2018).

This has allowed the brand to deepen their connection and relevance with their audiences. This transformation reveals a new democratized luxury strategy, one that shifts the cultural capital from brand to online subcultures and communities.

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Keywords: online subcultures, luxury brand strategy, cultural capital, hypermodernity, democratization

Day 3 – 28 May 2021

12.40 – 13.55 – IPOL Special Issue 7.1 – chaired by Chiara Colombi

Franck Delpal; The Different Determinants of Purchasing Luxury Goods Online: an International Comparison

In this article, we propose elements of explanations on the determinants of the act of online purchase by luxury customers from three countries: United States, United Kingdom and France. Our research questions are: 1/ What weight do cultural factors occupy in the act of buying online, compared to other socio-demographic factors (sex, age, income …)? In other words, to what extent would a French luxury customer with the same gender, age and income level as an Anglo-American customer be less inclined to buy online than in physical stores? 2/ How can we characterize these cultural differences? Is this the expression of a different relationship to luxury, different expectations or shopping habits more anchored in a historical context?

Purpose / audience

We explore the reasons why French luxury clients are less likely to shop online than in store compared to British and American customers. This research can give insights to researchers as well as practitioners on the behavior and expectations of different sets of luxury clients.

Methodology / approach

Relying on an exclusive set of customer data, we carry statistical analysis on a global panel of 2000+ luxury customers from three countries. We build a typology of motivations for luxury purchases and apply it for the different markets.

Findings

The influence of the country of origin is statistically established as the second most important factor after consumer’s age. Different purchasing attitudes among countries, with an emphasis put by French clients on emotional dimensions, can explain why an online journey might be less engaging for them.

Implications for practice, society, or research

We highlight the necessity to interact in a differentiated way according the different socio-demographic groups. While social networks are the most common tools used to address the age gap among luxury clients, other functionalities can help to adapt to the expectations of shoppers from different countries.

Originality / value

Our approach is dedicated to e-shoppers, while most of the research has been dedicated to luxury shoppers and their shopping habits offline. We also use independent variables that are not often introduced in customer choices analysis.

Mehita Iqani; Producing Aspiration Online: Local Social Media Marketing of Global Luxury Brands in Africa

This article explores the role of social media promotions in the marketing of luxury, from the perspectives of both representatives of global brands and the local influencers contracted to promote them online. It provides insights into role of social media in marketing luxury in “new” markets, and the complexities attendant to the relationship between brand representatives and influencers.

Methodology / approach:

The article reports on in-depth interviews with brand representatives and social media influencers working in the luxury sector in large Anglophone African cities.

Findings:

The role of social media was a key theme apparent in the interviews, which broadly encompassed what luxury means and how it is promoted by those working in the industry. Three key complexities to do with value, trust and authenticity were evident in how global brand representatives and local influencers discussed social media.

Implications for practice, society, or research:

In terms of value, influencers emphasise strategies for monetising visibility, while brand managers emphasize the need to get their money’s worth. Regarding trust, influencers express caution about brands trying to exploit them, while brands express scepticism about the extent of influencer’s abilities. On the topic of authenticity, influencers emphasize how the integrity of their personal brands are paramount, while brand representatives are mostly concerned with how genuine the social media posts seem.

Originality / Value:

The paper provides original empirical detail about the relationships between brand managers and social media influencers, as well as to the nuances of social media luxury marketing in African cities. It contributes to critical theories of branding practice in media economies of the global south.

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Keywords: Luxury, marketing, influencers, social media, Africa, city 

Mark O’Connell; Browsing the Virtual Boutique with Baudrillard: the New Realities of Online,

Device-based, Luxury Fashion Design and Consumption

Contemporary engagement with fashion is with slick simulacra, daydreams, and digital fantasies; an impossible promise of a beautiful, de-corporealized perfection. The virtualizing of fashion consumption has in turn dematerialized garments completely. Although late to the party, the consumer engagement with online luxury fashion has grown exponentially. Extremely expensive items are now purchased before they are engaged with physically. Therefore, within the new realities of device-based, fashion design and consumption, the “wow” factor and virtual considerations are paramount. There should be no surprise though that these garments align so closely with our taste, our consumption habits, and our life patterns, they have been designed to do just that. In this research through observation of a garment that was virtual before it became physical, the ascendant contemporary structure of modern fashion retail is analyzed. This research explores how physical aspects of clothing have been de-valued by the technology of modern capitalism, even as the importance of the “look” has ascended. Another important aspect of the research is the seductive aspects of the marketing of fashion goods. The methods of procurement in addition to the physical characteristics of the object itself undergo a close analysis; how we as consumers are shaped by our methods of consumption as much as by our goods now. This research uses an object-based method, a process wherein both intrinsic and extrinsic information can be gleaned from the close examination of a garment; as well as an interview with a fashion journalist who witnessed the re-organization of a leading fashion website into a retail portal. This data is then combined with relevant theoretical frameworks to form “grounded theory”. The dematerialization of the modern “boutique” that has now migrated online, the incipient forms of marketing to engage consumers, and ultimately the re-contextualization of the body and understanding of the self, all catalyzed by online consumption are considered. True, we now have access to a nearly limitless array of offerings, but what is offered is only a perversion of a message of freedom and individuality through connection to this endless stream of what is fundamentally homogenous product. As garments are now as ephemeral and placeless as the mechanism for the acquisition, an examination of the manufacture and dissemination of fashion product is warranted; and this in turn provides a more nuanced understanding of the ontology of luxury garments as well as their consumption in the modern fashion retail agora.

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Key Words: Virtual Reality (VR); Luxury Fashion; Online Retail; Social Media; Jean Baudrillard

Olaposi Olumuyiwa Olatubosun; Rethinking Luxury Brands and Sustainable Fashion Business

Model in a Risk Society

This exploratory work investigates the burgeoning integration of ‘cradle to cradle’ practices into primary strategic activities of procurement, production and sales by five London based fashion businesses, analysing how profits are derived from offsetting the high costs of sustainable inputs against savings from innovative strategic choices in the production value chain. This research was influenced by the background knowledge that in the fashion industry globally, less than 1% of the recycled textiles are converted into new wearable materials, and even more end up in landfills. However, this unsustainable tradition may gradually give way to a future mainstream circular economic best practice in the fashion industry, even as Mckenzie Report (2020) found that sustainability will be a significant factor for consumer purchasing mass market apparels by 2025. 

Based on the semi-structured interview of the five fashion business owners and the analyses of internal strategic policy documents including budgets and financial statements, we adopted Garret Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” (2008) and Ulrich Beck’s “Risk Society” (2006) as the lens view through which the qualitative data derived from these fashion businesses were discussed in order to bring out the illustrative extracts and sub-themes. Through the application of interpretive methodological approach, we were able to generate the themes suggesting the ‘Becksian’ reflexive modernisation and dis-embedding mechanisms.

We were able to demonstrate the multidisciplinary and multifaceted nature of the use of modern technology in achieving a closed-loop circular economy in luxury fashion business and its interconnectedness within the concentric layers of the value-chain, which is part of the economy, which is in turn a sub-set of the society and the environment. As businesses are expected to adapt their strategies to the changing environment, we argue that dematerialisation in fashion is still at its infancy, and some deliberate actions on the part of economic policymakers may be required in due course as this is connected to social sustainability amongst others. 

This paper contributes new empirical data to the understanding of luxury fashion business in a circular economy, which is a departure from the linear economy with its attendant externalities. The adoption of a sustainable fashion business model may be pivotal to combating the inefficiency costs built into the fashion industry, and if successful, may be replicated in other jurisdictions in due course. 

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Keywords: Luxury Brands, Sustainable Fashion, Risk Society, Circular Economy, Tragedy of the Commons.

Shuchan Luo; Sustainable What…? The Role of Corporate Websites in Communicating Material

Innovations in the Luxury Fashion Industry

Covid-19 has heightened luxury consumers environmental and social consciousness in the luxury industry, which fosters luxury consumers’ appetite for sustainable luxury (D’Arpizio et al., 2020), and thus, puts renewed interest and pressure on the industry to act upon. Past research suggests that sustainability and luxury may be paradoxical, due to the materials used in luxury products (Achabou and Dekhili, 2013). Davies et al. (2012) indicate that this paradox is due to a lack of information. More recent research established that this is changing, with sustainable luxury products being positively perceived by luxury consumers, and thus, they see luxury and sustainability as compatible (Kunz et al., 2020). Material innovation can enhance this perception further, which needs to be carefully communicated.

Sustainability communication enables companies to broadcasts material innovation through a manifold channels. Luxury brands predominantly communicate these innovations through their official website (Wong and Dhanesh, 2017), as it is often the first touch point between consumers and the brand.

This study addresses a call for paper on how sustainable luxury can be communicated in an effective and efficient manner, by further focusing on a contextual novel area of material innovations that are increasing in popularity in the sector. This article explores, the role of corporate websites in communicating material innovations based on two luxury fashion companies. Data are drawn from company websites, thereby preforming a qualitative content analysis and mapping the consumer pathway to accessing information.

Data highlight that terminology used can impact information accessibility, whilst some information provided, whilst informative, is not necessarily acted upon. Sustainable information can be a key selling point for the newly emerging conscious consumer, thus it is vital to provide this information in a straightforward manner. Data may not be generalised form only two case studies, yet it provides key thinking points that can be considered as a starting point for future research.

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Key Words: Material Innovation, Sustainable Luxury; Sustainability Information; Web-based Communication; Sustainable communication