Essays

Is Luxury Anticipation or Instant Gratification?

Ah, the art of the tease. The first glimpse, just a flash of something amazing, with the promise of more to come. But not just yet. Wonders to be imagined and dreamed of, perhaps someday to become real. Anticipation can be delicious, in luxury purchasing as well as in love.

Isn’t that what a fashion show is really all about? A series of fleeting beautiful images, promising future satisfaction? And isn’t part of the fun of buying a luxury item the wait? It takes 18 months to build a yacht. Even longer to build a dream house. A friend waited in line for six hours to order a Tesla that she’ll take possession of a year from now. You have to wait six months after a fashion show before the looks hit retail, and even then, it’s a chase to find them before they sell out. The plotting, the planning, the joy of pursuit. Luxury marketing relies heavily on the art of seduction, and luxury brands are expert at the strip-tease.

But these millennials are ruining the show.

Suddenly, traditional luxury brands are facing demands for instant gratification. In February, Burberry announced that it would henceforth hold one fashion show, for both its men’s and women’s lines, and that all of the products will be immediately for sale. Tom Ford quickly followed suit.

Huh?

The new luxury consumer is in a big hurry. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (the CFDA) hired a consulting firm to take a fresh look at New York Fashion Week, and the consensus seems to be that products need to be shown much closer to the season in which they will be worn. No more wait. You see it on the runway, you can buy it tomorrow. Next!

Italian luxury leather goods group Tod’s is said to be planning to accelerate its 6-month production schedule, releasing new products monthly or bi-monthly to satisfy the demands of e-commerce shoppers for more novelty, more often.

Call me crazy, but I think something precious is getting lost in this hook-up luxury mentality. Where’s the romance? Where’s the fun of remembering that gorgeous coat you saw on the runway a few months ago that soon will be yours? Do you really trust the craftsmanship of “on demand” luxury? And why is everyone in such a rush?

Luxury, by its very nature, means a lot of things. One of them is time. The luxury to have sufficient time to get it right. The luxuriousness of knowing that something amazing is being made just for you, and all you have to do is wait for it.

I’m an old-fashioned girl, I guess. For me, the wait is part of the fun.