Garance, our People Advisor, reminisces about her time working in luxury retail and why it really comes back to tapping into emotions via consumer experience.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had a passion for anything sartorial. However, for me, luxury was just images in glossy magazines. That was until I was 18 and randomly ran into the Area Sales Director of a French luxury brand. We talked, he asked me to come and interview, I got the job. Two weeks later I was wearing a uniform and strutting the shop floor surrounded by handbags I will never be able to afford. It’s easy to feel deflated when what you desire is out of reach, but really, how lucky was I to be surrounded by such beautiful things?
Luxury is art. The craft, the detail, the materials and everything else. Walking around a luxury boutique is like going to the museum, but without the smug art critics. I definitely wasn’t the only person queuing for four hours to see Retrospective - the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in Paris in 2010.
More and more luxury brands are turning to celebrating their heritage and launching exhibitions to highlight the craft in their work. Cartier in Motion is currently on at the London Design museum, exploring the unique story of Cartier’s approach to watchmaking and how the invention of the modern wristwatch came about.
Lacoste is also creating an ‘L for Lacoste’ exhibition, featuring a specially curated gallery displaying rare and historical pieces from the archives of René Lacoste, such as clothing, tennis racquets and replica trophies and Balenciaga has an exhibition on at the V&A.
Maybe luxury is just like beautiful scenery, it is just so much beauty to take on. What if luxury is simply this overwhelming feeling that there is too much to appreciate?
If luxury retail is about making people feel overwhelmed, then it is all about emotion. What triggers emotions? Experience. It is the seeing, the touching, the feeling, the hearing, the smelling and preferably all of it at once. When I think about my time in luxury retail, it is the scent I remember. They put something in the aircon and whatever it is, it is delightful. Years later, I sometimes walk past just to smell it. I will never be a customer, I will never be in the industry again, and yet, I am a loyal addict.