Neue Luxury is a global dialogue on luxury in the 21st century.

Neue Luxury




The rules for a luxury brand used to be relatively simple. Be subtle, be exclusive, be surprising and create desire. However, with the rise of the conspicuous acquirer and the democratisation and proliferation of luxury, volume consumption and brand identity erosion seem to be the order of the day. Benefiting from an unprecedented increase in global wealth and the emergence of a mass class of high net worth consumers, luxury brands grew exponentially throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Buoyed firstly by conspicuous consumption and ‘logo-buying’, the last decade has witnessed the most tectonic shift in our engagement with luxury to date.

Today, creating memorable experiences is the clear priority for luxury brands coming to terms with an experience driven economy. While many search for strategies to enhance their story, others are looking for compelling and meaningful ways to engage with their clients. Having acknowledged that our engagement with luxury evolves over time—as does the diversity of the needs, behaviours and characteristics defining our purchasing rituals—luxury leaders are now faced with an even greater challenge; how will this evolving narrative apply to the youngest, most socially conscious, self-aware and adventurous luxury consumer to ever exist?

Today, creating memorable experiences is the clear priority for luxury brands coming to terms with an experience driven economy.

An elusive group, affluent millennials are seeking the new and the next, engaging with brands that reflect their own deep and genuine desires for fashion, culture and art. Set to become the largest consumer group in the world by 2020—and with a propensity to build their identity through the products they buy and experiences they have—perhaps the more pressing question for luxury brands should now be; what will we stand for in the 21st century?

Then of course, there are those brands who already understand their position upon the nexus of luxury, fashion and culture—those who seek not only to present and advocate on behalf of the world’s most coveted fashion, but who are simultaneously creating and celebrating fashion themselves. Their language of luxury is one that oscillates between markedly different worlds with traditionally different agendas.

As a luxury brand, retailer, advocate and ambassador, Harrolds Australia’s Luxury Department Store is amongst the most prodigious retailers in the world. A title bestowed upon them not simply for their ability to maintain and deliver upon a confident and extravagant statement of intent, but because they do so with a poise and grace generally reserved for the larger European houses whose movements have been refined following centuries of practice.

Founded in 1985, Harrolds’ relative youth belies its credentials. Having become synonymous with a luxury not defined by old world etymology, but by a contemporary understanding that luxury is as much about those who yearn for ideas, engagement and participation as those who desire discretion, exclusivity and the artefact. At 31 years of age, the business no doubt shares its birthday with many of its local and international high net worth clientele.

Wandering through the highly curated spaces within Harrolds’ flagship department stores in both Sydney and Melbourne, you are reminded of two things; the first, strangely, is that the naval term ‘flagship’ was fittingly reserved for the most impressive of the fleet, and whose function was to direct those at its stern towards victory. The second, more topically perhaps, is that the physical experience of each Harrolds store affords visitors the opportunity to be immersed, quite literally, within the values underpinning the brand: self-assured, refined, passionate and creative.

Harrolds clearly understand the unique signatures and design cues that make each environment unique, while elegantly reconciling the demands of a retail environment. “Lighting is critical. There should be some semblance of walking into a gallery. But instead of paintings, you can see and touch fabric,” says Ross Poulakis, general manager of Harrolds and son of John Poulakis, Harrolds founder. “We work hard to curate the experience and ensure that it’s consistently delivered across our footprint,” he adds. The Harrolds women’s store at Westfield, Sydney, replete with its Parisian style salon interiors, private VIP room and signature scent, also delivers upon this promise—a unique yet familiar experience when traversing to the more aggressive and monochromatic menswear store situated one floor below within the same complex.

A vital ingredient in the projection of Harrolds’ beliefs are its associations with the great fashion iconoclasts of our age. Cultivating fertile ground for a client’s development of self-image and self-expression, each of the brands presented at Harrolds not only reflect a strong curatorial vision, but speak to the changing composition of the Harrolds customer. With labels such as Rick Owens and Isaac Sellam hanging alongside Australian designers such as Strateas. Carlucci and Song for the Mute, classic men’s tailoring houses including Brioni and Pal Zileri stand stoically only a few metres away. A sentiment reflected within Harrolds’ women’s stores.

Then of course there are the staff. Equal measure consultant, stylist and confidant, all have been educated to respect the individual needs of their clients while offering intelligent and considered advice—delivered of course with Harrolds’ trademark blend of candour and discretion. With several of the Melbourne staff trained as fashion designers, one can easily move from wearing a piece to talking about its place within the broader fashion landscape.

While made to measure events from Tom Ford, Artioli and Brioni speak to the truly global reach of the brand, the business pursues its vision on its own terms. Soon to support the ‘See Now, Buy Now’ model adopted by Tom Ford, Harrolds will not only present Tom Ford’s collections in the hours following their presentation, but will stream the show live from all stores. “Previously, you would have to wait months to purchase the collection. Harrolds will take delivery three weeks before its presentation and on the undertaking to only release it after Tom Ford takes his bow,” says Mary Poulakis, Harrolds marketing and communications director, who also sees a champagne breakfast being offered to her VIP guests following the show.

Harrolds’ desire to continually develop their service portfolio while extending their national footprint will soon see the launch of their first namesake hotel open in Melbourne in 2018. Offering a commensurate level of service and attention to detail to that of their retail stores, guests will no doubt be offered a unique theatre of experience that will draw inspiration and gravitas from the brand’s retail pedigree.

In reflecting upon Harrolds’ ongoing success it is evident that those luxury brands that have the capacity to augment their culture, while developing a deeper and more meaningful engagement with culture, will not only benefit from an increased strata of luxury consumers, but will inevitably discover new and relevant ways to connect and embrace the next generation of luxury consumers. They will discover, as Harrolds have done, what it means to be relevant and authentic, and will, in turn, be viewed by their customers as cultural barometers and custodians of knowledge, integrity and quality.

Neue Fashion • Issue 1 • Fashion • Feature • BY Neue Luxury SHARE

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