HOW IS ITS DEFINITION CHANGING?
How we perceive luxury depends on one’s stage in life, where one lives, one’s income and direct environment. It is influenced by context, time and place. Luxury has other connotations in Russia than in England. We can be critical of opulent wealth and view it as shallow and garish but it all depends on which commodities are scarce and the relationship people have with money. In Russia people see money as perishable, you never know what it will be worth from one day to the next. It is better to spend it, to invest it in durables.
Luxury used to mean craftsmanship, beautiful precious materials, real materials that you can touch, made with love, skill and knowledge. Now luxury is becoming more elusive and intangible, a floating and weightless concept. The edge where the surface of our phone screens ends is blurring, disappearing. Space is expensive, one of our most precious commodities. Designers design our spaces to be emptier, imparting more tranquillity.
The luxuries of life are education, time, knowledge and insight. Yet we should also feel free to enjoy our luxuries and not feel guilty for the cows that were slaughtered for the leather, the exploited craftsman, the pollution caused by the manufacturing processes. Luxury should be fair and honest. Guilt-free enjoyment of luxury is our biggest indulgence.
LUXURY AS A STATE OF MIND
It is a luxury is to live a happy life. It is possible to view extra luxuries as superfluous and unnecessary, and to feel we should be happy and content with what we have. But we are seeing a shift in this attitude; after years of austerity, luxury is a human need. The new definition of luxury centres on the more easily attainable aspects of luxury. We are returning to the essential things we have lost through our modern way of life: time and attention.
The basic things we need in life can also be beautiful and well designed. Functionality can also be luxurious and beautiful. Technology can be attractive. Sustainability need not be dull or ugly. It is the role of designers to work together with technicians and scientists to create beauty, to inspire the industry and impart emotion. Perhaps mass manufactured products need to raise the bar and return to a state of higher quality, as opposed to their current highly disposable nature, in order to restore consumer confidence.
THE VALUE OF GOLD
Luxury can involve not discarding something that is broken but instead investing time and attention in repairing it. The golden joinery project by Saskia van Drimmelen is a workshop where people bring their torn or aged garments and repair them with golden threads, somewhat like Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold.
Time is a scarcity; how do you invest your time? Take care of yourself and invest time in yourself by learning something, reading, walking, or talking to somebody. Switching off our phones allow us to devote our full attention to an activity. Investment in education, healthcare and retirement has a major impact on people's quality of life.
It is important to understand history, the cultural heritage of people or of a location. Cultural heritage is reflected in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the religions we follow and the skills we learn. Sometimes we can touch and see what makes up a culture; other times it is more elusive. We constantly see the news from around the world; however, if we lack knowledge about other cultures, cities, countries or religions, it is hard to understand and be empathetic towards others. We can learn from the wealth of information and knowledge about other cultures and their traditions.
For luxury brands it is an interesting time for exploring their own identities and becoming attuned to the new ideas about luxury, translating these into products and services for their global customers.
LUXURY IS TIME
Invest in time capital; trade money for time. Investing in free time has an abstract value. Giving ourselves a bit more time may make us a great deal happier.
LUXURY IS EXPERIENCE
Learn a new skill, keep developing yourself, stay curious. Experiences that help us develop new skills or apply our talents in novel ways make us feel more confident.
LUXURY IS SIMPLE
Do not underestimate the everyday luxury of perfect functionality; it is the simple things that make life beautiful.
LUXURY IS CULTURE
The intrinsic value that arts and culture imparts to society can enrich our emotional world.
Key inspiration Rethinking Luxury event at Droog
Banner image, The golden joinery project by Saskia van Drimmelen