Luxury brands look back to their origins to re-discover their identity

In an exclusive interview to CPP-LUXURY.COM, Nicola Ko, Analyst at Ledbury Research speaks about how, nowadays, luxury brands look inwards to expand outwards

Which are the most effective communications channels for luxury brands to create awareness for their identity? (i.e. Made in)

Over the years luxury brands have undertaken a range of activities to create awareness of their identities. This has included producing books (eg. Bottega Veneta), creating films (eg. Chanel) and other video content (eg. Hermes), as well as educating consumers through museums and travelling exhibitions, amongst others.

What grabbed our attention most recently however, were the national, almost patriotic initiatives that brands undertook. These are Tod’s and Fendi’s financing of the restoration of the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, iconic sites in Rome. These large-scale projects highlight their heritage by reinforcing their Made in Italy label, but they also protect it and help to promote future tourism. This is particularly welcome at a time when the domestic situation in Italy is weak. Similarly Spanish brand Loewe inaugurated a leather-working school for professionals in the country, and plans to hire through the institution. This reinforces the Made in Spain label by preserving traditional craftsmanship, and also creates jobs for the country.

Compared to previous years, less luxury fashion brands stage catwalk shows outside their home markets. Why do you think this is the case?

Most likely because of their heritage. Brands want to get back in touch with their roots, where they were born. This is important- most brands do have flagships in their home cities and generate a significant amount of sales there, especially from travelling consumers. It therefore makes sense to also stage their catwalk shows at home and push it out globally from their home – it just makes for a more cohesive marketing movement globally.

How important is for luxury brands to create a genuine liaison with their domestic origins? (‘traveling’ exhibitions versus museums; catwalk shows in their home country versus repeat catwalk shows abroad)

We feel that this is very important – it is so much more authentic to showcase yourself in your home than overseas. This is not to say that travelling exhibitions and catwalk shows abroad are unimportant – they do extend the reach of the brand but it would not be as genuine as doing it at home and having consumers physically in their home country.

Many luxury brands (Dior, Loewe, Omega, Poltrona Frau etc) have set up museums near their production facilities, in most cases relatively far from big cities, therefore not within easy reach. Can this be a challenge in reaching consumers?

The museums may be relatively far from big cities, but having them so close to the brands’ manufacturing facilities adds another layer of authenticity. Compare sampling wine at a vineyard to doing the same in a restaurant in the city – the former is an authentic experience which cannot be replicated.

Visitors will travel a bit farther for this experience, especially those from emerging markets who are hungry for information and keen to learn about brands.

Not being in a big city also increases the rarity of the experience. Not everyone who visits France can say that they have been to Christian Dior’s museum, whereas most can say that they have been to Champs-Elysee. In a way, this elevates the visitors’ status.

Exhibition featuring Marlene Dietrich at the Christian Dior Museum

Luxury brands, especially watchmakers are reluctant to organizing tours of their manufactures to end clients. What is your view?

While it is good that brands are showcasing their craftsmanship by opening their doors or filming craftsman at work, they should also maintain an element of mystery. Luxury is afterall access to a dream, and the danger of organising tours to manufacturing facilities is showing too much, and to too many people, thereby lowering a brand’s perceived value instead.

What are the initiatives taken by luxury brands in other sectors, such as hospitality or beauty, to communicate their domestic origin?

Orient-Express is a prime example, as the group owns many hotels with rich histories such as Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy. Its ‘A Journey Like No Other’ digital brand awareness campaign back in 2011 highlights this well. 9 short films introduced experiences to be found at their properties – from the canals of Venice to the Lost City of Machu Picchu.

Which are the luxury brands investing most in promoting their origins?

We cannot say which luxury brands are investing the most in promoting their origins, because of the range of the activities being carried out. Some involve larger financial investments, others more time commitments; some are short-term initiatives, some are long-term. So they are not all directly comparable.

In many cases, the identity of a brand is not only about craftsmanship and heritage but also about lifestyle (certain companies are inherently associated with a particular sport i.e. Hermes with equestrian sports), however, few consumers would have access to such events. Please elaborate.

Using the example of Hermes- yes it is inherently associated with equestrian sports. But this again ties back to its heritage, of being a saddler. Its most iconic bag, the Birkin, was based on an 1892 design inspired by the tote bags that Argentinian gauchos used to carry riding equipment. This modern adaptation means that legions of women still want to carry the bag, and attend Hermes’ events. What’s important is that Hermes has a long history of craftsmanship, and that these skills have been passed on to continue producing items of outstanding quality.

Galería Loewe exhibition dedicated to the Amazona bag, Loewe flagship store in Barcelona