Shifts to more inclusive business practices ignore the very point of luxury goods

The LCC’s Leaders Forum on December 07th highlighted inclusivity and community in the luxury sector in 2023.

Research by the likes of Stylus support the view. Inclusivity is vital for brands as they establish more intimate relationships with customers.

From body diversity, to ethnicity and gender. Customers are showing greater allegiance to businesses that champion inclusive community-based approaches. And they expect more than tokenism and virtue signalling.

Inclusivity is big business, but can brands include where it matters consistently?

From a commercial point of view, inclusivity ticks boxes in core business areas.

Social media is a big factor in this. The internet has created a level playing field. Access to products and ideas is more democratic.

Likewise, business connections are not managed in tradional and stultifying ways any more.

And the biggest adopters of digital technology, Gen Z, is also more attuned to diverse points of view.

As promulgated through social media and online news.

Collective responsibility is a buzz-term for the way young people unite around inclusivity.

New luxury – like old – still champions exclusivism and aspirationalism

Brands like Unhidden and Liberare have been inclusivity front runners. And most luxury to high street brands embed community and diversity in their value statements.

And customers can unite in the shared causes (charitable or othjerwise) that brands promote.

Stats support a general sea change. Drapers reports stronger female representation on fashion retail boards in 2022.

And representation across the protected characteristics spectrum on the runway has also improved.

In the luxury world, financial inclusivity extends to manufactuers and suppliers, who are promoted as part of a more ‘organic’ supply chain. 

And brands market their goods with a broader demographic in mind.

A Hermes Birkin Bag at $50,000. Who does that include?

A stickier point is how brands can bind inclusivity and strong exclusivist maketing.

Hermes promotes a comittment to inclusion. But a Birkin bag still costs upwards of $50,000 new, which runs counter to their supposed stance.

And while diversity and inclusion underpin operations at Michael Kors’ holding company Capri, the brand itself still promotes old school luxury in its advertising campaigns. And this has proved very successful.

Of course, economic status is not a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010. So, luxury brands are entitled to promote ‘communal’ values and  still sell products that most can’t afford.

It’s unlikely that Kering or LVMH will call for price cuts any time soon. Or that Michael Kors’ adds will feature models on communal work holidays.

One of the great things about luxury is that it promotes aspirationalism. It’s one of the pillars of a healthy capitalist economy.

But in reality, luxury, by definition, stands in its own way of ever becoming truly inclusive.

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