Luxury industries have been an altruistic force for good during the coronavirus pandemic. From clothing designers to top cosmetic brands, world-class motoring companies to leading lifestyle labels, the finest names in luxury are making major contributions in our fight against the disease. LVMH, for instance – the luxury collection which includes such esteemed names as Louis Vuitton, Celine and Fendi – has donated funds to Chinese relief efforts while using its manufacturing facilities to produce colossal amounts of free-of-charge hand sanitiser. Individual brands are making equally impressive contributions: the Italian jeweller Bulgari has donated funds to a hospital in Spallanzani while Mayfair-based Claridge’s is providing essential accommodation and food for NHS workers.
The charitable goodwill of individuals also deserves applause as examples continue to amount: Donatella Versace and her daughter together donated $200,000 to Milan’s intensive care unit; Gucci’s chief executive Marco Bizzarri contributed $100,000 to Italian hospitals; Giorgio Armani gave €2 million.
As leading figures – rather than the big-name company titles they direct – continue to show such heartfelt benevolence, luxury industries shine ever more brightly as uniquely individual organisations with empathy, insight and human understanding. Luxury is revealing its beautiful personality – with brands that are about people and passions rather than emotionless, conveyor belt fast fashion.
The pandemic has, in contrast to their warm philanthropy, also foregrounded our materialistic tendencies. Fears of stock-bare shelves caused unsightly stampedes for household staples, cleaning supplies and medicines. We bought and stockpiled far more than we needed in a somewhat gross prioritisation of personal needs. To quote trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, Covid-19 ‘brings to light what is so terribly wrong with society’.
Over-consumption, materialism and sustainability have been placed at the fore and, as an antidote to the multiplicity which was so riotously pursued, experts foresee a renewed preference for unique goods and exceptional standards. Now seeking quality rather than quantity, we will opt for personalised and eminently superior shopping experiences rather than the instant click of an onscreen purchase.
It is this appreciation of inimitable quality, of extraordinary, singular finesse, that is the hallmark of luxury brands. As we reassess our values and dwell more on why – rather than what – we purchase, we will shun marketing-driven megabrands in favour of investment pieces and luxury, last-forever items; ‘it will take more to justify a purchase’, says Mario Ortelli, managing partner of luxury advisors Ortelli & Co. Prognoses suggest that we will want to buy less but buy better and, as such, will seek the unrivalled quality of the world’s top luxury brands.
Hand in hand with quality comes the appreciation of it. Luxury goods demand that we pause our daily rush; they ask us to look, to value the calibre of their production, the eye to detail in their design. Giorgio Armani has long been an advocate of the world’s need to ‘slow down’ and feels that luxury will aid us in our achievement: ‘luxury takes time, to be achieved and appreciated’, he maintains. And, with self-awareness and meditative gratitude being the way many have navigated through lockdown, Covid-19 might be coaching us towards a slower, more appreciative mindset.
We will seek beautiful goods to cherish and give thanks for; we will seek the elegance and individuality only pure luxury provides. As Mr Armani predicts, the pandemic has left us wishing to appreciate luxury and fine experiences: ‘we will all want to celebrate beauty’, he says. Brunello Cucinelli, a fellow Italian and chief executive of the luxe fashion brand which bears his name, makes similar prognostications as he foresees a human society ‘transformed’ and newly alive to ‘see things and life in a different, beautiful and enchanted light’. And, epitomising elegance and exquisite splendour, it is the ethics and defining attributes of luxury that will offer such beautiful experiences.
Predicting the true impact of the pandemic on luxury labels is an unprecedented challenge, but if anything looks likely, it is that the spirit defining so many luxury brands and experiences will soon adopt a welcomed new eloquence in our being.