Crafting Luxury

Milan – Thursday 26 and Friday 27 May 2022

In Collaboration with Politecnico di Milano

The IPOL 2022 conference, Crafting Luxury will be held in Milan at the Politecnico di Milano on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 May 2022.

Politecnico di Milano, Materialise, Intellect Books, Design Observer, and All Saints support the event.

The conference explores the creation of luxury experiences and products, through both an industry focus and academic lens.

We take a cross disciplinary approach and consider and question the way in which luxury is defined today with respect to design, fashion, the retail environment, technology, architecture, craftsmanship, product design, the circular economy, big data and eco-design. We take a fresh, global approach, and work collaboratively, removing the silos that exist within disciplines whether they be located within academia or the commercial sector.

We invite you to join us in debating all of the above in Milan in 2022.

The idea of luxury has secured a place in contemporary western culture and the term is now part of the common parlance, in both established and emerging economies. In anticipation of the publication of Crafting Luxury a book authored by Mark Bloomfield, Shaun Borstrock, Silvio Carta and Veronica Manlow that explores the many issues and debates surrounding the idea of luxury, the conference will continue to explore themes addressed in the book adding to our existing knowledge and furthering the debate on luxury.

The conference will explore the many issues and debates surrounding the idea of luxury. The contemporary concept of luxury has been influenced by historical and social factors. These include when and where the concept of luxury emerged, its evolution in a variety of contexts, and its complex material history as an object of beauty, desire and commerce.  Each of these facets has impacted contemporary definitions of luxury which in turn influence practices by a variety of agents. While luxury has long been a marker of social status and class, luxury does not necessarily have to remain in the preserve of the few who are able to afford rare objects. The factors which contribute to an object or experience being defined as luxury have expanded. While traditionally high quality materials, craftsmanship and exclusivity were requisite features of luxury, more recently we have seen that mass-produced products have attained luxury status, sometimes entirely through branding and promotional strategies. In a global context, where consumption is increasing exponentially at the same time as the world’s resources are diminishing, luxurious consumption can be seen as politically and/or ethically suspect.  The political implications of conspicuous consumption take on greater resonance. What is the future of luxury in a world beset with financial turmoil, characterized by an increasing gap between the rich and the poor? A new movement has begun whereby quality handcrafted items, one off or made in small batches, are available to a larger audience at more accessible prices outside of a corporate context. Can these objects be classified as luxury or do they fall into the realm of craft? We look to explore too the role of the maker which has often been invisible or mythologized. 

The conference will also consider the industry structures with respect to production as well as the hierarchies that exist and the impact these have on both internal and external perceptions of luxury from the makers to the sellers and consumers alike. Further attention will be given to the working structures of the ateliers, production facilities, origins of materials and manufacture and the impact of technology on consumption, manufacture and sales providing a true insider’s view of this complex world.

This work addresses contentious issues surrounding perceptions of luxury, its relationship to contemporary branding as created by the marketers and the impact this has on the consumer and their purchasing habits.

Themes and Strands

This conference intends to expand the parameters of the debate around the concepts of luxury to provide a refreshing context to construe the familiar debates surrounding the subject. Indicative themes for the conference are:                                                             

Craftsmanship – The hand of the maker

Technology – Tools of the trade: data, artificial intelligence, machine learning

The Retail Environment – Shopping, space, virtual reality and the consumer

Contemporary Notions of Luxury – the changing luxury spectrum

Social Responsibility, Eco-design and the Circular Economy –  Waste, eco-thinking and luxury contradictions

The Supply Chain and Big Data – Exclusivity and mass production, the luxury Conundrum

Industry Perspectives – The Future of Luxury

The presentation format for those selected to present will be a themed panel discussion based on the themes and strands listed above.

We find that panels discussions are a more dynamic and interactive vehicle for the dissemination of research and new ideas and hence we have adopted this model instead of utilizing a traditional academic paper presentation format.

The 2022 IPOL conference in collaboration with FiP – Fashion in Process, research laboratory at Design Department – Politecnico di Milano / co-chaired by Associate Professor, Dr Chiara Colombi

Our key questions for IPOL 2022 are:

  • How is the luxury market changing? 
  • What role does craftsmanship contribute to the discussion around luxury? 
  • How are luxury corporations adopting technology? 
  • How has the retail environment changed? 
  • Labour practice and manufacture