Is it a high-end luxury car, or a bespoke watch, or the finest suit from Saville Row? What exactly is luxury? Most speakers and moderators at Mint’s Luxury Conference as well as Bollywood celebrities gathered at the pre-event dinner hosted by celebrity designer Manish Malhotra were unanimous in saying that luxury is something that reflects one’s attitude.
“Luxury is something that makes your life easier and reflects your attitude,” said actor Kangana Ranaut, who considers the BMW 7 series car as the most luxurious thing she owns.
For Malhotra, luxury is the house that he owns. “Luxury is something you like and something you can associate with.”
But beyond the material possessions and the comfort factor, luxury is also about a host of other things such as knowledge, experiences, finding your own self and creating a perfect brand strategy.
It is knowledge for Parmesh Shahani, head of Godrej India Culture Lab, who also is a Yale World Fellow. Shahani doesn’t own a car because he feels it is unnecessary in the age of the “Uber economy”.
“It is not that I can’t buy one,” Shahani said. “I’d rather invest that money in buying scores of clutches. Who knows, by the time I finish, I might have a museum of clutches.”
Acquisition of knowledge is his idea of luxury. In a fast-moving world, time is almost a luxury in itself. And the way the world is connected via the Internet, all the information is just a click of a mouse away.
“So in that fast life, taking the time out and researching and investing yourself in knowing something in detail is the greatest luxury,” Shahani said.
Not to forget about relationships, friends and families and, sometimes, beyond that.
“Look at these trousers,” Shahani said pointing to his pink khaki trousers. “Now the fight with the tailor was about the cut. It might not be important to him, but it is to me... So luxury is about taking the message forward and making people understand what you believe in.”
In terms of material possessions, he counts the art collection that he has as the most luxurious.
“Relationships are a luxury at times of acquisition, where everything is done for business and is put on show as a status symbol,” he said.
Vivek Ramabhadran, MD of Swarovski India, thinks luxury is about creating the perfect brand strategy. It all starts with an attempt to create an iconic brand, which also has a wide appeal. “If you look at all the iconic brands, they started with the same concept. They had to express themselves.”
Swarvski started with the same material but with a different outlook and different level of skill-sets and, over time, there were cost overruns.
“Having said that, the final products were different from the others, special if you may, and could be marketed as exclusive. And that’s exactly what they did,” Ramabhadran said. “So it is about creating the perfect brand strategy to express the philosophy about the brand.”
For Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, luxury is about seeing his dreams come true.
“Luxury is not about the things that you own. It is about something that reflects your personal values, something that shows the choices that you have made in your life,” Wanders said. “I have 60 people working for me in my studio. That’s luxury if you ask me,” he added.
“I just dream. Tell those people that I want a certain thing. Those people will then invest days, and sometimes, months, in bringing that idea to life. What more could you ask for?. That’s luxury for me. A car or some other such thing has very little value for me in comparison.”