Creating Culture: Why products are just the tip of the iceberg for luxury

By Marco Passoni

The announcement earlier this month that Pharrell Williams will become the new Creative Director of menswear for Louis Vuitton, succeeding the late Virgil Abloh, made headlines around the world. For me, and for many in the industry, it is an inspired choice.

It demonstrates LVMH’s dedication to much more than simply creating exquisite pieces to sell. It shows a focus on the culture of the day and being both a part of that and a leader in it. With this move, LVMH shows a desire to continue being a leading light, shaping and riding the trends of the world today.

It is also the continuation of a trend, one which saw LVMH bring in Abloh in the first place, collaborate with Supreme and cement a leading role in innovation and the luxury sector. Moves like this are a recognition that brands must be more than creators of products. They must be lightning rods for cultural change, excitement and newness.

Luxury brands must be more than creators of products; they must be lightning rods for cultural change, excitement and newness

LVMH is far from the only brand or Maison to be making waves in this way. Moncler has continued its run as, to borrow a phrase from JingDaily, the “King of Collaboration” thanks to its stunning array of partnerships showcased at the recent London Fashion Week. Moncler presented a new vision for its Genius line, with a spectacular live event, showcasing collaborations with Roc Nation, Rick Owens, Palm Angels and (interestingly) Pharrell Williams.

The concept here is fairly simple – and it is one which many in the luxury sector can learn a lot from. The Moncler puffer jacket is more than just a jacket now. It is a symbol. It is a canvas for partners to paint on; creating something new and exciting, while still being deeply and recognisably something from Moncler.

This is the definition of the “added value” which is talked about so much in this industry, but often in murky and unclear terms.

There is a central lesson for all brands here: Be more than products.

Shoppers today, especially luxury shoppers, and particularly young luxury shoppers, want culture, environment and community. These concepts are often tagged with talk of shared ideals on topics such as diversity and sustainability – which are very important – but they also go further than that.

The central lesson for all brands is: Be more than products

Customers want and need something they can engage with and inhabit. They want brands to create a world and experience for them, and the products are simply a piece of that. They are a memento to take away with them.

If luxury brands put their focus on being part of the wider world and creating experience and community, then the sales will come.

It is interesting to note that the same is largely true for travel retail. If stores, retailers, brands and airports craft something which travelling shoppers can inhabit and enjoy, then they are more likely to engage and take it with them. Even if they do not shop, brands have created equity and excitement which will be increasingly valuable going forward.

Marco Passoni has decades of experience in the travel retail sector. He has spent the majority of his career in senior leader positions throughout the market, including a 12-year tenure as CEO of a leading international Duty Free distribution company and a further 8 years running a retail firm that operated fashion mono-brand stores in several international airports.
Today, as Senior Executive VP and founding partner of 2.0 & Partners, he leads the company’s efforts in developing and innovating services which create new opportunities and partnerships for all members of the travel retail Trinity. A former elite-level sailor, with a World Championship to his name, Marco now spends much of his time airside, experiencing the changing travel retail industry first-hand, to better guide partners and clients on the best way to do business in this vibrant and unique market.