Amongst the Ultra-High Net Worth shoppers of China, Louis Vuitton is now guilty of the unforgivable: becoming too widespread. "Everyone has it," sniffs one female billionaire about the ubiquity of LV. "You see it in every restaurant in Beijing." The horror. As a result, it's now been demoted by the superrich locals to the level of a "brand for secretaries." Apparently Gucci is in the same downmarket doghouse.
Who isn't? Bottega Veneta, for one. Chanel as well. Both are considered much more exclusive and therefore worthy of actually being seen with in public.
But why does this matter so much to the luxury sector? Because when it comes to flaunting one's wealth, the nouveau riche like to show it off with their choice in brands. "The brands bought are actually more important than the level of money earned," HSBC managing director Erwan Rambourg explains in his recent book, The Bling Dynasty: Why the Reign of Chinese Luxury Shoppers Has Only Just Begun. (image)
Rambourg compiled this interesting visual ranking luxuries, from the everyday (Sbux) to the Ultra (Graff diamonds) to the uber-ultra, Bespoke.
Other than just specializing in outrageously priced (and, in many cases, overly designed) diamonds and fancy gemstones a la Graff and Leviev (top image) which rule the the Ultra High End of the pyramid, how does one escape the secretary ghetto? Ah grasshopper, therein lies the rub. If said brand is to communicate said wealthiness, it must be known for its spendiness and exclusivity by enough people; otherwise it's the swag equivalent of a tree falling in a deserted forest, or perhaps the sound of one hand clapping: no one hears the message...or even really gets it, for than matter. But when too many of the "wrong" diners understand the message, then the messenger gets shot by being kicked to the secretary curb. Really, what an impossible tightrope for an exclusive luxury-brand to negotiate.
It actually made me feel for the corporate marketing monkeys at LV.
The answer, I think, comes down to the luxury-marketing equivalent of humblebragging: the fine art of subtly letting others know how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor or "woe is me" gloss. Except in the case of luxury brands, we can call it humblebranding.
As a helpful public service to would-be ninja humblebranders, here are some fine examples of the artform to learn from provided by Urban Dictionary:
Uggggh just ate about fifteen piece of chocolate gotta learn to control myself when flying first class or they'll cancel my modelling contract LOL :p #humblebrag
Your inflatable inner-tube is way cooler than my 80-foot yacht. You get to be so much closer to the water and to nature. I envy you, I really do.
I am exhausted from my two week vacation to Hawaii. I need a vacation.
- Lesley Scott
This post was about the Supremium fashion tribe - spendy, style-conscious fashionistas that enjoy jetsetting, globetrotting and shopping their way across the globe. For more of my posts about the Supremiums, CLICK HERE. To learn more about each of fashion's four mega-tribes that I track, START HERE.