A Return to Luxury – But Not As We Know It

By Paul McCaffrey

Over the last year, the pandemic has seen many of us take break a from social norms and none more so than that of work attire. Many of us have been on video calls dressed in smart clothing whilst sporting tracksuit bottoms underneath. The shirt has been replaced by the hoodie and shoes by slippers. Circumstance has meant that this new normal has been deemed permissible (when in reality the comfort of slouchy clothes has left us all looking a little unkempt).

So now, as we start to head back to offices, restaurants and bars, what changes will we make to launch ourselves back into post-pandemic life? I imagine that we are going to emerge from this elongated period in purgatory and want to ‘smarten up’. Comfy clothing will be long gone as people turn to luxury to bring a level of both glamour and civility back to their lives.

Recently, it was announced that French luxury brand house LVMH had seen its revenue increase by $17bn in the first quarter of 2021, a 30% increase year on year. It’s hardly surprising that luxury brands are doing well; a recent study showed that two third of Brits saved on average £7,032 over the course of a year. Consumers feel the need to spend and luxury is the polar opposite of everything we have experienced during the last year. 

Pre-pandemic, the discreet logo of fashion brands was replaced by garish logos emblazoned over every inch of their immaculately tailored garb. Constant reinventor Gucci went logo crazy to satiate this trend, with the more traditional fashion houses such as Balenciaga following suit. Heritage luxury brands continued to produce their timeless pieces which are seen as investments to last years. The one thing in common? All of these brands did well.

SEC Newgate client Grace Han saw sales of its luxury handbags increase by 400% during the pandemic following support from the Duchess of Cambridge. Despite the lockdown, Brits invested in timeless pieces to add an essence of luxury to their lives. 

But the consumer is also changing, with many looking for identity and purpose in new places, which has seen the advent of conscious luxury. We want beautifully crafted products but we want them to be ethically sourced.  Brands are tapping into this trend with companies like Nudie Jeans, which has made its production line completely ethical whilst also publishing its own third-party audits on its website. Bolt Threads in the US has created a new material called Mylo (made from mushroom roots). Fashion brands such as Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Stella McCartney are already looking to create pieces out of this ethically produced material.

The post-pandemic luxury boom has really only just started and will continue to go from strength to strength. Smart brands are adapting to these new consumer needs, whether that is a need to spend, to drive purpose, or to reinvent.

As a consumer, I welcome the return of this new luxury. I promise myself to embrace the movement and go back into society a smarter version of myself. And if I do wear tracksuit bottoms, they will definitely be Gucci.