Luxury vs authenticity.

The definition of luxury is about having things that are considered beyond necessity “a material object or service, usually a delicacy, or refinement of living rather than a necessity”.

These purchases are more personal and so it is no surprise that the top luxury brands offer us products from the decorative world of fashion rather than things that meet our more functional needs. Chanel, Gucci, Prada and friends feature regularly in the top global lists, with Louis Vuitton sitting strongly at the top in 2015. But these lists also show another factor, which is that European brands still dominate, and that has a lot to do with provenance.

Provenance comes from the French word provenir, meaning ‘to come forth’ or ‘originate’. Having provenance is something used to authenticate an object, and so for brands this leads us back to the all-important foundation of ‘authenticity’. To hold a solid position of luxury, brands have to be built on authenticity. And we don’t mean authenticity as an aesthetic style — applying hand-written fonts or colour schemes that suggest ‘hand crafted’. That approach has been applied to many brands in order to jump on the premium ‘authentic crafted’ bandwagon just as many times as a black background and some gold embossed lettering have been slapped on a box and used as visual short-cuts for ‘luxury’.

Authenticity means being genuine — being honest, being transparent. It’s not a certain look, it’s a story about quality and origination that will hold up under scrutiny.

So although luxury items may have a more decorative role in our lives compared to other purchases, that does not mean they can get away with the superficial attraction of just waving the highest price tags. In fact, we see some opposite conversations happening. Smart people with money don’t want ‘flashy’, they want to know more about where that premium price is coming from. A deeper understanding of that provenance story is important, which means it must come from fact rather than associated myth.

Discerning customers are harder to please, and that is true across cheaper as well as expensive items. We only have to see the shifts being made to supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi by people who previously were considered ‘Waitrose shoppers’. The message here: “why be stupid and pay more for everyday items when it’s just a different label and logo”. At the same time, with higher-end purchases, people are spending more on real differences — products that have genuine craftsmanship, services that genuinely take the time to be personal. This type of luxury is not about price tags and is not about ‘looking posh’. Genuine quality is more expensive because it takes more time and knowledge to create and maintain – and the role of branding is to reveal this story to those who want to invest in something deeper.

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