“Luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends” (Coco Chanel)
I’ve been thinking a lot about luxury, in part because I’ve recently returned from my second Nat Geo “Around The World By Private Jet” trip.
- In doing so, I learned a lot about different kinds of luxury. I also realized how personal and specific luxury is. What is a priority to one person, may not be to the next.
- People indulge in luxury on a select basis. There is not an omni-luxury consumer. For example, one of the women on the nat geo trip, did her own laundry while traveling. She considered $12 too expensive to have her nightgown washed and yet she and her husband had just spent $150K for the trip (and it was their 3rd private jet trip)!! Go figure.
- Having also tracked retail throughout my career, I’ve witnessed firsthand how people are switching out “things” for experiences.
- This seems to be happening at an accelerated pace in luxury.
- The shift from things/logos to experiences is also impacting how we talk about luxury. For example, the way something is “made” becomes less relevant when it’s an experience vs. a thing. However, attention to detail and service become much more important.
- Luxury is also a moving target. Remember when Starbucks was a luxury?
Read on below for my personal take on luxury including the top 5 luxuries in my own life as well as the characteristics that define luxury today. Overall, it is much more nuanced than it was in the days of logo-luxury.
So what is luxury today?
- I’m going totally rogue and personal. I could have dug into a series of research studies (which I have done in the past), but I decided it would be more interesting if I explore five ultra-luxury things from my life.
- Hopefully, you will be inspired to explore what you consider luxury as well.
- And what you may find (as I did), is that forcing yourself to whittle your list down to 5 things reveals a lot about your priorities, tastes, and values. For example, based on my list, it’s all about experiences, learning and relationships.
- So after reading this, if you do come up with your own list, please share it with me – perhaps it will become another blog post.
Here are the top five luxuries from my own life:
1. Around The World By Private Jet
- Nat Geo’s Adventure Trips. What can I say? Beyond amazing!
2. My Loft
- I absolutely adore where I live.
- It reflects my taste 100%.
- Having this amount of square footage in NYC is pure, unadulterated luxury (and I know for those of you who live in houses around the country, my place might be considered a “tiny house”).
3. Soho/Ludlow House Membership
- Private membership club where I work three days a week
- My most frequent go-to spot for drinks/dinner.
- Our favorite place for friendsgiving, birthdays and any other group get-together.
4. The Opinionator
- Having the freedom (time and money) to create this blog is pretty amazing.
- Everyone should consider having a platform for their ideas
- Additionally, and most importantly, it feeds all of my interests and passions
5. Indulging My Inner Dilettante
- After years of being laser-focused on all things related to my business (Zandl Group), I’m in broad based learning mode.
- And what I’ve discovered is I have a lot of gaps to fill.
- I’m attending conferences, taking courses, reading.
- And most importantly, I’m learning for the love of learning – as opposed to having a specific problem to solve.
- Major luxury! And as someone mentioned, approaching life and learning as a dilettante is the first step to becoming a renaissance man or woman i.e. you explore all the things that interest you and then go deep once you find the things you are most passionate about.
Based on the above, here are the characteristics that define luxury:
Scarcity and rarity vs. a commodity
- This is key to luxury and makes an experience or thing worth the splurge
- My Nat Geo trips fall into this category e.g. limited availability, rare exposure to things/people, learning from high-level Nat Geo experts and academics
- Cost based on rarity is entirely different than something being expensive because it comes from a name brand designer or has a celebrity-association e.g. I have never owned a designer bag (a former husband once bought me a Hermes Birkin bag but I returned it, it did not make me feel good to own it).
Personal and Specific
- I am a big fan of businesses that go the extra distance to understand and cater to my tastes.
- This goes along with being made to feel like an insider as opposed to a random customer.
- The staff is always a key factor in the luxury equation.
- Businesses that provide exceptionally warm and welcoming experiences – EVERY TIME – are the epitome of luxury.
- My Soho/Ludlow House membership fills this need. And, of course, membership is somewhat scarce.
- This is an often overlooked – but very important – aspect of luxury.
- Whether it’s traveling via private jet or having the freedom to travel for 23 days.
- The freedom that space provides e.g. in my loft. Not feeling cramped is extremely liberating.
- Freedom to come and go e.g. at Soho House my membership allows me to drop in whenever I want at all locations
- With my blog I have the freedom to pursue and write about topics I am most intrigued by. With work, I have the freedom to know which projects make the most sense for me and my new dilettante phase provides absolute freedom when it comes to what I want to explore and learn.
Here’s one last thing to consider as an amenity in the luxury realm:
- A quiet restaurant where you can actually have a conversation
- According to Eater, “quiet has become a luxury amenity – particularly sought out by the rich”
And now a quick look at all the areas where luxury plays absolutely no role for me:
- No designer clothes, shoes, accessories
- Would love a Comme des Garçons wardrobe but COS is good enough
- COS makes up at least 90% of my wardrobe. Love the fact that virtually nothing costs over $200
- Any indulgences I buy come from Anthom – generally in the $300 – $500 range
- My shoes are always Vans
- I use only mass brands, no department store brands
- Primarily L’Oreal
- Sephora’s house brand of lipstick is my only exception.
Avoid cabs and Uber when in NYC
- Always use Citibike, walk or subway
Loft Building is Self-Managed/No Luxury Amenities
- We each have a full floor (luxury of space) but NO doorman or full-time janitor
- Building is a walk-up
- Being self-managed means we each have tasks.
- I’m the treasurer and the chief trash collector