The Myth Of Accessible Luxury And Why The Industry Needs More Straight Talking
You might have noticed several new brands, especially those born on crowd-funding platforms, are using the direct-to-consumer model to slash prices and therefore provide “accessible” or “attainable” luxury”. Maybe I’m a grumpy old cynic or maybe I’m just tired of seeing the same uncreative blurb pushed under my nose already well past its sell-by-date despite the enthusiasm of its presentation suggesting it’s the freshest of the day’s catch. But whatever it is, I’m thoroughly sick of this abuse of language and obfuscation of truth. Let’s spend a few minutes defining why this practice is a problem and actually serves to harm rather than help the segment of the market those peddling this nonsense pretend to and how we plan on going in a different direction.
The role of luxury
Let’s start at the beginning. The first goal of a human is to survive; the second is for it to live. Once basic needs are accounted for a human has the chance to shape its own existence in a way it finds personally palatable. That is, in itself, a relative luxury because, at that time in that particular human’s personal narrative, it is the highest level of achievement thus far. In that sense, things within our lives can be viewed as relative luxuries but not necessarily absolute luxuries. Absolute luxury (the kind spoken of in these press releases with which I take umbrage) exists at the top of the social pyramid. It is not about the personal journey as much as it is about a societal one.
Wristwatches are not a basic need. They are a luxury in themselves. Their existence embellishes ours. They give us gifts of intrigue, wonder, and conversation. Without them, all of our lives would be poorer. However, the sales pitches hijacking the word “luxury” because it can be used in a broader, more relative context, while subversively nodding to that top of the social pyramid I’m alluding to winds me up for a very good reason: it misses the point of what this hobby should be about.
Exclusivity is not for everyone
This hobby should be about shared experiences, about coming together to celebrate our interests. It should be about integrity and timeless design. It should be bold and brazen, not coy and calculating. I dream of an industry that welcomes all-comers with open arms because it has (if not nothing) less to hide. This isn’t about destroying the very notion of luxury as if it is some dirty word or concept. This is about refocusing our attention on the things that matter and learning to dismiss the things that don’t.
By its nature, “absolute luxury” is exclusive. The democratization of luxury doesn’t exist. Accessible luxury doesn’t exist. If an item is accessible or easily available it ceases to be luxurious. It becomes the norm. It is used as a hollow buzzword because the people being targeted by many of these smash-and-grab operations aren’t close enough to the real hobby of watchmaking or collecting to know they are being misled.
Floating in a sea of misdirection
And the worst part of it is that it’s all so unnecessary! Not all of the projects I’m alluding to here are bad. Some of them stand for excellent products. It’s just a real shame that these products are presented as a luxury commodity to a wilfully misdirected audience that deserves much better. The fact that genuineness is free is something emergent brands should remember more often…
What we should focus on is quality. Quality can be democratized. A good product can be made available to all. And that’s what we want for Fratello. Yes, the environment of Fratello has to be appropriate for luxury brands to proudly present their latest creations, but the environment itself needn’t be exclusive. We want everyone to come to these pages to read about watches and to share in the joy they bring. The last thing we want to be is a copycat of the luxury brands we’re here to communicate to you.
A more humble approach based on tangible quality
We need to forget about the idea of luxury in the first instance at least. If brands (and we) focus on quality, both ends of the consumer spectrum can be accommodated. The idea of adopting an exclusively exclusive manner of doing business is foolhardy. It alienates would-be fans and ringfences something that should be cast out into the world.
This year, we’ve embarked on some exciting projects with some of our favorite brands. As such, we’ve had to consider these issues of market presentation more and more. Sales models, which had never been our daily bread in the past have now become subjects of intense discussion. Why? Because we want to get better every single time we create something for the community.
There will be more projects like this in the future. While this year has seen some fantastic successes, we still have a long way to go on that journey, and I and the rest of the team, are determined to go on that journey with the Fratelli.
We are a group of like-minded individuals, first and foremost. We want to move forward together. Our next project will be coming to these pages in the next few months and it will be something we hope inspires the community. Is it accessible luxury? I don’t know what your bank balance is, so I don’t know if it’s accessible for you or not. Has it democratized luxury? No, because that doesn’t make sense. But is it a damn fine product designed for the Fratelli and with the community in mind? I think it is. And, when the time comes for us to unveil it, I hope you’ll think it is too. Check out our previous limited editions here.