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Can luxury be sober?  - Trends-Trends on PC

Can luxury be sober? – Trends-Trends on PC

During the Brain & Breakfast event organized in Geneva by ISG Luxury Geneva, on October 19, we were invited to hold a conference on the theme: “The future(s) of luxury”. Instead of embarking on the thorny exercise of forecasting which others do perfectly well by scrutinizing the 2035 or 2050 horizons or by drawing up a list of probable scenarios, it seemed to us preferable to answer the question “where is luxury?” asking us where he came from. Propose a compass rather than a map of the future.

During the Brain & Breakfast event organized in Geneva by ISG Luxury Geneva, on October 19, we were invited to hold a conference on the theme: “The future(s) of luxury”. Instead of embarking on the thorny exercise of forecasting which others do perfectly well by scrutinizing the 2035 or 2050 horizons or by drawing up a list of probable scenarios, it seemed to us preferable to answer the question “where is luxury?” asking us where he came from. Propose a compass rather than a map of the future. For this, the art world is of great help. Admittedly, the affinities between luxury and art are well known. We cannot count the references made to art by the luxury trades; and the reverse has become just as true: art is inspired by luxury to promote its artists as Maisons. But something deeper binds them: a homology between their different evolutions. Indeed, the three great ages of art that Nathalie Heinich identifies in her essay Le paradigme de l’art contemporain (Folio) following three successive paradigms – classical in the 17th and 18th centuries, modern in the 19th century and contemporary from 1950 – find their correspondence in the way luxury also evolved later. To the first classical age of art, which essentially consisted of the application of academic conventions, corresponds the classical age of luxury based on know-how of excellence in the rules. To the modern age where the work of art no longer becomes respect for standards but the expression of a vision of the artist freed from academicism (as with impressionism, symbolism, surrealism, etc.) corresponds the age of modern luxury with the arrival on the scene of designers such as Chanel, Saint-Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana or Jean-Paul Gaultier, all of them with a vision. As for contemporary art, which in the 20th century freed itself from all rules, even refusing the imperative of beauty, bringing the work out of its frame between installations, performances and conceptual devices, it corresponds to the luxury that is today today the work of deconstructors like Demna Gvasalia, the artistic director of the Balenciaga house, who moreover openly claims the heritage of Marcel Duchamp… Thus, the luxury market today, like the contemporary art did in the 1950s, he addresses the question of his own practices, testing his limits day after day. He questions his modes of appearance between “installations” with stores that increasingly resemble museums, “performances” through parades experienced as happenings or festive and virtual immersions in gaming, and “conceptual devices” with the foray into the digital world via NFTs and early forms of metaverses. He questions his very definition of beauty, erecting bad taste into a new kind of elitism… As such, the last Balenciaga parade in the mud offered a shining example. How far can this game of deconstruction/provocation go? Doesn’t it risk, in the long term, undermining the legitimacy of luxury? Some fear it. Without however forgetting that luxury has always known how to compose with provocation: it is its very essence, from the outset. But another imperious and urgent requirement arises for luxury: that of sobriety. However, it will have to deploy treasures of creativity and inventiveness to meet this imperative of society. Because isn’t luxury always defined by a form of excess, radicalism – even in its minimalism – and provocation, if only in its prices? Namely by the exact opposite of sobriety.

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