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The Newsletter | Edition 058
Progress Report is dedicated to providing inspiration for action. In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

But in this special newsletter series, The State Of, we dive a little deeper into the long-term work that comes after, in the places where we’re seeing new types of progress in action. From brand strategy to design, internet trends to sustainability, music to science, beauty to travel, and more.

And this time, our illustrations from Christopher Campisi.


We’ve all seen the reports: luxury is evolving—from what we ‘own’ and ‘show’ to what we ‘experience’ and ‘know.’ But with the events of the past two years fundamentally changing the progression of so many of our lives (arguably, through a collective existential crisis), that evolution has reached a pivotal point. One in which luxury has found a new form. A form that empowers consumers to actually reimagine and reengineer their lives for the better, rather than only aspiring to. Enter luxury’s new era: agency.


We are living in an oddly paradoxical time; one in which we’ve lost so much control over our lives, but have also found new—and in many respects, better—ways of living. In the face of this profound reimagination of our lives and ourselves, old ideas of luxury have started to feel limiting, and even meaningless. Who cares about exclusive experiences or being ‘in the know’ when many of us are reevaluating our entire existences?

This doesn’t mean luxury brands have lost their purpose—but it does mean they must evolve how they create purpose for their consumers. We no longer want luxury brands to maintain the status quo, or stand for drastically aspirational ideals. Instead, as we try to regain control and rewrite the ways in which we live our lives, we want luxury brands to help us get there, and to take us further.

As fashion editor Vanessa Friedman once said, luxury at its best is a constant “exercise in projection, and a guess about what's next.” Luxury brands have always been in a unique position to inspire and elevate consumers’ imaginations. But while luxury has always been about imagining new realities, these realities have never felt so within reach as they do now. This presents a notable opportunity: to not just help consumers dream, but also make those dreams a reality.

It’s luxurious to feel like we are the agents of our own lives—like we can think for ourselves, pursue different experiences and determine our paths. Agency-as-luxury is therefore about helping consumers move through the world in new ways. The brands delivering on new ideas of luxury will be those that show us what’s possible, with products and experiences that provide a sense of reinvention, liberation, and empowerment.

So, how can luxury brands unlock agency for consumers?



First: Can your brand help consumers realize and even invent new ways to view the world (and themselves)?
During 2021’s Paris Fashion Week, Balenciaga did just that. When they surprised attendees by revealing that the show’s red carpet was also ultimately its runway, everyone in attendance was suddenly “both an actor and observer.” For those of us who unfortunately weren’t in attendance, it made us realize how we—as we’re increasingly living through our screens—have also become the protagonists and spectators of our own lives. This lack of separation made us more aware of the control we actually wield over how we experience our lives. And how anyone with a phone and social media can now be on the red carpet, too.


Then: Can your brand liberate consumers—allowing those realizations to be lived out—by breaking down conventional barriers?
Some luxury restaurants, such as Parisienne fine-dining Grand Cafe, have a fundamental understanding of this next step. After our definition of ‘premium dining’ dramatically expanded over the past year, Grand Cafe created luxury meal kits that don’t just aim to recreate the restaurant experience, but also leverage the home environment. With meal kits that include candles, flowers, interactive art projects, games, cooking instructions, and upsized packages of meals and snacks, they’re changing what eating at home can look like. The meal kits turn a generally unexciting experience into a luxurious one that’s about more than just food.


Lastly: Can your brand provide tools that give consumers the power to actually take part in new ways of living?
One of the ways luxury brands are doing this is by capitalizing on new ways of living online—ways that don’t try to replicate real life, but reimagine it in alternate digital universes (e.g., “the metaverse”). What would it be like to wear a dress that doesn’t abide by the limitations of gravity, or to have a meal that quite literally transports you to a different world when consuming it?

Gucci is already a big player in this space—it recently sold a unique digital version of its Dionysus bag for more money than the cost of the real-life bag. Spirit brands, too, are starting to think about what their entrance to the metaverse can mean—exploring “Alternative Reality Bars” with out-of-this-world digital cocktail and drinking experiences and virtual brand ambassadors ‘travelling’ around the metaverse ‘trialling’ products in tastings. So grand are the opportunities to super-power new realities, that luxury in the metaverse is estimated to become a $57B market.


If our idea of what constitutes luxury is changing, so does what we consider a luxury brand. Agency can be provided in many different ways, which creates the opportunity for brands far beyond “traditional luxury” to enter this category and deliver—from premium bikes to cookware to outdoor equipment.

Ultimately, luxury is becoming less about the brands themselves, and more about “empowering people to become more of what they are” (and can be). Because, as we’ve learned in the past year, agency is one of the few things left that money can’t buy. Isn’t that true luxury after all?

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