Meta-luxury: Defining the new luxury

The term “luxury” while once surrounded in prestige and utilised by only a number of selected brands, has, over time and overuse, diluted in meaning. What once defined luxury brands; exclusivity, price, quality and availability are now recognised as being too subjective and can often blur the line around what’s considered premium.

And so, Meta-Luxury, a term that goes beyond all obvious and superficial considerations of luxury was coined. In their book, Luxury brands and Culture of Excellence, Manifredi Rica and Rebecca Robins describe Meta-Luxury as being “luxury beyond luxury”. What really sets the two apart they say, is the concept of unique achievement. The idea that a brand has sought out, with intent and purpose to achieve something truly remarkable. And, it’s only due to the brand’s expertise and knowledge that they are able to achieve something so unique it surpasses time constraints and is remembered throughout history. In essence, this is what encapsulates Meta-Luxury; knowledge, purpose, timelessness and unique achievement. When we begin to look at brands according to these four pillars it becomes very easy to identify those, which are luxury, and those that are not comparable.

There are many brands that define themselves as belonging to the world of luxury but how many can claim a unique achievement, based on distinct knowledge, that pursues a purpose beyond commercial performance? How many have reached the stature of timelessness? A great example Rica and Robbins provide in their book is a comparison they make between a t-shirt sporting the logo of a well known expensive brand that in today’s view would be considered luxury, to a unique handcrafted watch embodying centuries and generations of unrivalled skill and innovation in time measurement. The watch involves skill and craftsmanship, intention and purpose and is not driven by commercial means but rather this pursuit of unique achievement. A recent project for one of our clients, took us to the Kimberley in Western Australia, the birthplace of the Argyle Pink Diamond, and then on to Perth, the home of the master Argyle Pink Diamond polishers, allowing us to see first-hand the level of expertise and craftsmanship involved during the process of unearthing and polishing the luxurious Argyle Pink Diamonds.

Meta-luxury brands do not have business results as their key driver, rather, they have an ambition for a place in history through unique achievement. Rica and Robbins make some great comparisons that can help set luxury and meta-luxury brands apart. They say that luxury is always a self-proclaimed status while meta-luxury is a restless pursuit. Luxury is about showing, meta-luxury is about knowing. Luxury is about stretch and surface. Meta-luxury is always about focus and depth. Luxury is often merely about affording, meta-luxury is always first and foremost about understanding.

Kiri White

Written by: Kiri White
Published: January 13, 2015
Luxury brands and Culture of Excellence, by Manifredi Rica and Rebecca Robins

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