Soulful is the new watchword for luxury

Map of Luxury goods in China

This morning I read an article about “Luxury: An industry redefined by cultural tension” and it raised a few interesting points about the new meanings of luxury.

The author pointed out that consumers still want more but what has changed is that conspicuous consumption is out of fashion and the logo-driven excess of the past decade is now disdained. Luxury must show a more gentle, discreet face. Quality is once again the watchword, authenticity is in demand and the rarity of an experience is key.  

Having worked with different fine art organisers, hotels and luxury brands in the past, I completely agree with the author that while luxury can mean so many different things to different people and across cultures, there is a common theme emerging for the new luxury – Soulful – even for Chinese tourists who used to be known for being label-chasers.

This emerging trend was echoed by Mark Lord, Head Beadle of the Burlington Arcade. Mark has been working at the Arcade for over the past 10 years and has seen a notable shift in the consumption behaviours of Chinese tourists. These days Chinese tourists come to the Arcade for rare, high-quality, well-crafted English pieces. They like English rich history and heritage. They are willing to pay for a high price for fine clothes, jewellery or bag without a label. They are more curious about their purchase and all the hard work behind it. Their purchase experience has become more soulful, sophisticated and sentimental.

The data of luxury goods in China

The new luxury has also changed the scene in the art industry in the UK, Hong Kong and globally, as Chinese people have become more interested in art – a new expression of luxury amongst China’s luxury consumers who are estimated to expand from 80 million to 180 million people by 2020. According to Arts Economics, China ranked the second (24%) on the global art market by value in 2013.

Pie Chart of the market share


The lesson for luxury brands here is straightforward: be soulful - give your brand a soul, a meaning.