Luxury after Yves Carcelle: The decline of Modern luxury

As the luxury world mourns the demise of Yves Carcelle “the purveyor of modern luxury”, experts are also wondering if this marks the decline of modern luxury.Yves Carcelle Sept 2014 Prasanna Bhaskar

Carcelle is known to have created  a successful template in the 1990’s which infused modernity and creativity in European “luxury maisons” that emulated superbrand Vuitton’s  success story, in an attempt to create desirability among the growing tribe of young customers.

In the process one saw the exponential growth of the “Logo-emblazoned brands” as also a mass democratization of luxury across the globe – making luxury accessible to the lower end of the customer, and blurring the lines between craft and glamour.

Louis Vuitton Shanghai Plaza 66 Opening

Over the last 3-5 years however,  we notice more and more customers shunning the logo luxury brands and increasingly motivated by a lifestyle orientation which demands subtle elegance. The   luxury managers schooled under the tutelage of Yves Carcelle  are struggling to keep pace with this clear customer trend. Customers seem to be tired of the gimmicks and almost little differentiation in the campaigns launched by luxury brands. The truth is that most brands seem to be loyal to the template that worked in a different context, but the question now is whether this cookie cutter solution adopted across the industry has thwarted innovation born out of a leap of faith. The predictability makes the brands less desirable, whereas what made Louis Vuitton strong in the past 20 years was its novel and holistic management approach in supply chain, process, human resources and innovative products. The need for innovation is all the more urgent as we now see Apple and Google potentially entering this space over the next 10 years as technology underpins innovation in the form of wearable technology, data-capturing shoes, nano fibre- clothing with temperature control, and sunglasses that double up as internet platforms and cameras.

What would Carcelle, who is known to have re-written and changed the rules of the “luxury game”, advise the industry to do now? It is a billion dollar question and the past is no longer a good indicator of the future The Carcelle formula worked in an era when Japan was the growth engine of the sector;. the industry has tried to apply similar solutions in the current context hoping that China would become the new growth engine, but the reality has belied expectations leading to excessive investments without the concomitant payoffs. Fatigue has set in as fast as the increase in accessibility and investments in the Chinese market.

One wonders who will lead the luxury era post Carcelle? The truth is perhaps the answer does not lie in yet another formula but in going back to the main rule  in his book – the courage to dream of a vision, and remain steadfast in the execution of strategy in the face of naysayers; and to think of the long term. It has become a rather unfashionable term, but ironically the fate of the luxury fashion industry lies in an inspiring vision that propels the next growth curve.


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