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A new era of creativity in luxury

by Emily Gray

5 min read

When I was growing up, there were two markers of a luxurious lifestyle: a von dutch cap and a juicy couture tracksuit. Yes, I’m a proud 90’s baby. Today, I can have meals prepared and delivered to my home, skincare formulated to my personal physiology and a private car ready to whisk me off at a moment's notice. My parents can’t believe these services exist, let alone have become the norm for millennials like me. Whilst Juicy and Von Dutch do appear to be making some sort of disconcerting comeback, the shift in generational expectation of a ‘luxury lifestyle’ is seismic. For boomers, gen x and older millennials, traditional drivers of luxury like status and exclusivity helped fulfil a psychological longing for a sense of accomplishment. Whereby the pink juicy couture two-piece becomes a symbol of achievement and success. Zoomers and Gen-Alpha’s world view, heavily shaped by technological immersement, manifests with a new set of expectations of what luxury means. This piece examines these expectations, underlying motivations and how luxury brands can evolve strategically to win them over.

The Value Equation

Fine wines, fashion, cars; luxury goods have intrinsic and functional value through the sheer brilliance of creativity, design ingenuity and the scarcity and quality of the materials used.

Of course, the product is the articulation of the artist’s aesthetic, but equally, so is the story of the craftsmanship that enabled it.

From Loewe x Paula’s Ibiza fruit bags featuring over 20,000 hand-appliqued beads, to Rolex watches taking over 12 months to make, this meticulous attention to detail by skilled artisans adds to the allure and prestige of the product.

We only have to cast our mind back to the Maison Margiela 2024 Artisanal Collection to see how strongly this idea still resonates today. John Galliano, a totally flawed and complicated man, accomplished a moment of monoculture cut though where he is heralded for his genius and celebrated for his embrace of the female form.  

His ingenuity is the product. 

The luxury item is simply there to allow us mere mortals a little taste of that genius. 

To experience something truly rare and exceptional. 

To feel a proximity to specialness that in turn makes us feel seen. 

The New Luxury Paradigm: Gen Z and Gen Alpha at the Forefront

For the next generation of luxury buyers, being seen isn’t just about the physical world but also their digital personal expression.

These audiences are shaped by their digital upbringing. The result of the algorithmic echo chamber, and the rise of ideological identity means that for Gen Z in particular, they hold strong world views and expect brands to do the same. They are less preoccupied with status and exclusivity and instead see access, authenticity and greater self expression as meaningful drivers.

Gen Z and Gen Alpha’s constant connectivity exposes them to luxury lifestyles earlier, with Gen Alpha beginning luxury shopping at 15, compared to Gen Z’s at 18.

By 2030, the luxury market is predicted to expand to 500m customers, driven in part by the ballooning speeding power of these audiences. 

Whilst the wealthiest 2% of the planet (who skew 45+) accounted for 40% of luxury spending last year, millennials through to gen alpha accounted for all growth in the sector. All of it. 

Some traditionalists may scoff at the idea of targeting lower frequency luxury consumers, but it’s worth understanding that these emerging luxury brand shoppers account for a whopping 50% of the luxury brand market. 

Nurturing these audiences, understanding and segmenting them by needs and adopting nuanced strategies will ensure the staying power of next generation luxury. 


Next Gen Needs

Luxury brands must recognise that marketing physical products using traditional storytelling approaches no longer suffices to engage high-value aspirational audiences. They must adapt to meet these audiences’ expectations.

Owning a physical Chanel handbag may have been an achievement and status symbol for traditionalists, but with 60% of Gen Z saying they believe that the way they present online is more important than on their physical lives, digital identity and self-expression are imperatives. 

Brands should be partnering and experimenting with future consumers in niche and culturally connected media environments. 

Brands that establish genuine partnerships with consumers and offer immersive experiences across innovative platforms—like secondary markets, Web-3, and subscriptions—will gain the most insights into these valuable audiences.

They’ll also have a deeper understanding of customer needs.

Digital self-expression should strive for the same level of craft and design ingenuity in creating a coded digital twin, as the original physical Chanel handbag. This will require investment in new wave design expertise and extension of the creative canvas.

Secondary markets will become increasingly important and should be a key part of customer strategy.

With TikTok Shop now allowing listings up to £4000 through partnering with 5 luxury resellers- Luxe Collective, Sellier Knightsbridge, Sign of the Times, Hardly Ever Worn It and Break Archive- luxury brands will be pushed out of important conversation around sustainability and circularity.

Rather than marketing a product, or a singular brand narrative, luxury brands should be creating accessible pathways for that individual to meaningfully participate in that brand story. Creating a multifaceted brand web with different sticking points: entertainment, experiences, gateway products, with one objective in mind: to nurture and learn more about the individual’s preferences.


Here are 4 key observations that can help focus strategic shifts:

1. Code as Couture 


In a sentence:

Digital craft is as valuable as physical craft. The makers of today value digital craft, from coding, to 3D modelling to prompt engineering, just as much as pattern making and needlework. 

Why it matters:

  • We’re spending more time and effort than ever curating our digital lives. 
  • Already the digital fashion industry is worth $40billion a year; the NFL collection alone on Fortnite staggeringly made over $50M.

Tell me more: 

  • There are two categories emerging, ‘On Real Life’(ORL) which is web-2 based and refers to digital fashion being worn by humans via augmented reality. Then there is ‘Un Real Life’ (URL) which refers to digital fashion being worn by avatars. 
  • Digital fashion, unlike physical fashion, isn’t bound by the same material or structural limitations so presents a broader creative canvas for designers to work from. 
  • Alongside smaller emerging designers, established brands are already experimenting with digital fashion as both a vehicle for self-expression which doubles as access. Louis Vuitton just dropped their third phygital NFT as part of their VIA project, whereby NTF holders can buy the jacket via a token-gated website, and will receive the physical version in late 2024. The cost, a cool €7,900.

2. Phygital Provenance & Ownership 


In a sentence:

Incorporating digital technology to track the provenance, ownership, and history of an item and its composite parts. 

Why it matters:

  • You can increase personal and cultural value through understanding the item’s personal history 

Tell me more:

  • Cultural Clout: Let’s take Kim Kardashian wearing Bob Mackay’s Marilyn Monroe dress to the Met Gala. This item was already highly valuable because of who wore it originally (and depending on whether you’re a Kadashian fan or not will determine whether her wear will add or detract value from the piece). This value exchange can be tracked and owned by the fashion house but would create more value through ‘on-chain’ means. Leveraging blockchain technology to record and verify history and authenticity makes it immutable, accessible and trustworthy. 
  • Personal Clout: As far as I know I don’t have a family crest or clan tartan, but there are items of significance in my family. From a coveted 1970’s Burberry’s Mac, to a very specific vintage Barbour jacket that was made the year I was born, these items have significant emotional value, and this presents an opportunity for brands to participate and elevate a conversation about vintage and repair items. 

Luxury brands never sell, rather they inspire us to buy through imaginative storytelling about the origin, ingenuity and rarity of the goods creation. Alongside ownership, digitising provenance stories concerned with process and supply chain allows increasingly discerning customers to better understand the brand’s story, especially when delivered through immersive experiences.

3. World Creation & Expansion 


In a sentence: 

Reaching beyond traditional owned sales and marketing channels to increase discoverability and create engagement. 

Why it matters: 

  • There will always be a new channel, TikTok, Roblox, Substack. But luxury brands need to think more strategically about the world they want to create, forgetting individual channels and instead thinking about the total cumulative experience for specific audiences. 

Tell me more: 

  • A recent McKinsey study broke out aspirational luxury audiences into 5 distinct segments which have very different needs, and take differing physical and digital pathways in search of them. It’s vital the marketers take a nuanced approach to developing engagement strategies to ensure impact. 
  • Increasingly, we‘re seeing brands go beyond targeting audiences on centralised platforms, instead looking for natural pockets to build community and facilitating connectivity at the moment curiosity strikes. 
  • From Marc Jacobs restaurant in Tokyo to Anya Hindmarch’s village, luxury brands are increasingly opening physical and digital third spaces to intercept and influence new audiences. This consumer-centric strategic channel diversification allows luxury brands to appear in unexpected places, and contextualise their brand in culture. The benefit to the consumer, they get to experience the joy and delight of that artist’s talent with an investment of £20 rather than £2000, and begin a journey of exploration whilst building strong emotional ties to the brand.
  • New wave community groups like Private Jet Pyjama Club are also part of an evolving new world of luxury where the lifestyle is curated to the groups needs. 


4. Quality Entertainment is a Luxury  


In a sentence:

Luxury brands are expanding their capacity for world class storytelling through entering the entertainment space. This is less about advertising, and more about compelling content. 

Why it matters:

  • From House of Gucci to Ferrari, the filmic glamour of luxury brands are intoxicating. It’s not surprising that where there is a strong creative talent, the medium becomes somewhat immaterial. Fashion houses have always collaborated with art and film. 

Tell me more: 

  • The difference between then and now, is that luxury brands can own the total experience from the way the material is produced to the conditions in which content is being viewed. The IP extends beyond the media file. 
  • LVMH’s creation of 22 Montaigne, a new division to explore content possibilities for its 70 brands, including Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Kenzo, Tiffany & Co., and Dior, will allow brands to communicate core messaging and reach new pockets of culture.
  • Harrods is about to launch its first virtual multi-sensory cinema in partnership with xydrobe, providing access to a diverse program of immersive experiences from the world’s most coveted luxury brands.


Summary: Creativity on steroids

Now more than ever, there needs to be a shift from thinking tactically about quick wins, to investing in the future and how to better serve new audiences. The reality is that an audacious and expanded creative vision will take time to execute, and new craft isn’t developed overnight. It requires a clear strategic vision, and a culture of bold brand world building.

There is an explosion of new age creative talent, with less barriers to enter than ever before. They are redefining how we create, access and authenticate our image. If luxury brands- who’s value is defined by their creative IP- don’t embrace these new drivers and new tech environments, they risk becoming left behind as demand grows.

Even for old timer millennials like me, there is value in experimenting and connecting web-2 and elements of web-3 in an effort to expand the creative canvas.

Let’s return to my beloved Juicy Couture tracksuit.

Supreme wearer of velour, Uggs and tiaras, Paris Hilton, created ‘Slivingland – a Roblox hotel game and scavenger hunt that unlocks rewards and experiences. ‘Slivingland is a creative way to promote what could have otherwise been just-another-hotel-rewards-programme. Through integrating Hilton Honours with this pink avatar filled world, it feels more expansive and engaging.

And no, I’m not going to fork out £250 to live out a childhood dream.

Well at least not IRL.

but who knows… perhaps digitally ‘On-Real-Life’ I will.

Summary of key themes: 

  • Crystallisation of raison d’etre 
  • Expansion of creative ‘web’ 
  • Multimodal World creation
  • Create a tapestry of touch points, not a linear channel strategy 
  • Archive-core and secondary markets are inroads to emotional and cultural value building. 
  • Code can be high craft 
  • Rarity through digital originality 
  • Embrace co-creation as inspiration
  • Advanced technology are vehicles for creative expression


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Emily Gray

→ Emily Gray brings extensive knowledge from her combined agency, client, and startup background, having worked with brands such as Diageo, Bank of New York, Vanguard, ANZ, SchweppesAsahi and O2. She specialises in connecting creativity and commercial outcomes and is a trusted advisor to both CMOs and CXOs alike.

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