Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Luxury: myth or reality...

Luxury is about creativity and craftsmanship...

The day before yesterday I was thrilled to listen at a conference to someone who would talk in Bucharest about luxury and actually know what they were saying. You've guessed it, it was someone who had gained his experience abroad,...and a broad experience that must be if you are CEO of very famous fashion brand which is then turned to a luxury house. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't believe that Romania has no qualified people to talk about and represent this industry with a great know-how and a specific understanding (look at me, I'm trying to do this daily), but there is a certain lack of culture which is missing, and there are historic reasons for that. Hence the guests on Monday....mainly from a fashion background, but my deepest question was "what fashion?". Journalism and fashion, they seem to go well together, but there was a slight disappointment to be felt in the aiur when someone asked what the difference between pret-a-porter and haute couture would be in the luxury industry... (speechles!!!)

But let me tell you what it was all about!

We (us, the participants and you, the readers) can all thank L'Institut Francais du Bucarest for having this great initiative of calling Mr. Daniel Potard to have this "lecture"(because I am sure many had something to learn from his experiences and tellings) to Bucharest. It is strange that this initiative was taken by a cultural institute, nevertheless it is highly appreciated and I come to think that it fits well with the "Luxury is creativity" theme of the conference. But, seen that the guest stated that the nr.1 industry in France and the nr.2 exporting industry from France is the luxury industry, it looked like the normal branch to promote from that country.

Mr. Daniel Potard begins his "career" around 1976 when he joins his friend Jean-Paul Gautier in building the fashion house with the same name, later transforming it into a luxury house. He also becomes CEO of companies such as Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Emanuel Ungaro, and today he is the "Agent de Luxe", representing more than 100 fashion designers, people from the beauty industry, designers and luxury people/companies. Told like this, it all seems very impressive and intimidating, and then HE showed up, carrying a monogram handbag and wearing a very warm smile, talking to us with so much passion,...I felt he was such a down-to-earth person and so "normal", just like what I had seen in my mentor in Monaco while I was doing my Master of Science in Luxury Goods and Services.

I was very thrilled that, from what all he talked about, most of the things were common sense (for people with the know-how in the industry) and he reassured me that I have the correct understanding and knowledge on the difficult topic of what we call now "the luxury industry".

It was a bit of a shocking comparison, but I found his beggining of the speech very interesting as theory: "Luxury is a bit like God - noone knows for sure what He is, but everyone talks about Him", a theory which would be repeated relating to the way people nowadays buy luxury: they go to temples and worship certain values a brand stands for, they use rituals as they buy and use their products etc.

Another main idea was that luxury consists...or should consist in the first place of CREATIVITY and the savoir-faire of the craftsmen, because only like this luxury products can "talk alone" about themselves. An interesting point he made here was that artists would work better in times of crisis, when they are under more pressure and stress.

Why creativity and not "quarterly report culture", as Daniel Potard mentioned it? Because the second damages the luxury companies and, interesting enough, 80% of our choices we take when we go shopping are completely irrational. As an example he mentioned here the IPad story, a product which on the first place is being liked, excuse me, loved (note all the queues around the globe) before people noticing its utility. This is how creators nowadays are sociologues and marketers...

The second part of this conference was mainly on "the ten qualities of luxury", or better said, characteristics. I'm not going to go into much detail, but imagine how happy I was when the first thing on this list was the service. I have specialized in luxury services and I still remain to my opinion that luxury products are almost nothing if not being offered with and through the proper service. Being asked to work on a Luxury Portfolio during my Master Studies, I considered that the meaning of luxury for me can be only related to the five senses, to an experience which is yours and yours only (hint at the religious part mentioned before).
Here are some of the characteristics of luxury: service, pleasure, emotion, sacred, ceremony, rarity, power, price etc.

The third part and also the one to end this beautiful encounter was a Q&A round which left me rather disappointed. The audience was not what I expected it to be, nor do I think now that they could have gathered the right people. Only my friend Ioana understood what I mean. She lives for fashion, I live more for luxury, but she had the knowledge and understanding to take the message from the conference and separate it from Daniel Potard's past in the fashion industry. When I asked a question and started by saying that I have studied luxury and would work in this industry, people turned their head, as if I would be doing something that is great to talk and hear about,...but tabu otherwise.

I still hope that one day the mentality would change, the open fronteers to the Western world would bring enough culture and education in this domain that it will be regarded other than new-money-occupation and bling-bling-Dorobanti-people (note to foreigners: Dorobanti is a street in Bucharest with a lot of IT-coffee shops where young, beautiful women go to look for rich men and rich men go to look for armcandies and a good parking lot to show-off with the newest car acquisition). Yes, luxury is manipulation,....didn't your grandmother or -father try to manipulate you when you were a kid and she/he was reading you a story?! This is what luxury is in fact: a rational (but politically incorrect), beautiful story, which creates and satisfies your wishes while still surprizing you in a way you never expected it to, a proof of the power others have over you to direct you to a place of mistery, but your power of will to choose and to be free...or better said,....the unlimited freedom to choose...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prizes for rich people and premium businesses in Bucharest

Another evening, another event. This time about giving prices to people from the business sector in Romania who gain a lot of money and who are, according to the presenters, role models. Maybe because I have not been living in Bucharest for the last 2-3 years that I didn't know half of them,...and the ones I knew, everybody knows.

So there we were, my friend and I, entering the "event location", a so-called IT-club in Bucharest, and we are sorry to say that we were disappointed...so small!!! Why does everyone make such a fuss about it? First of all, it's in the middle of nowhere,...second of all, it had more light in it than it probably usually has, so the walls, the deco etc was all visible. Not a very "premium" location,...but we then thought that, the dresscode being smart-casual, that it could fit that image.

Compared to the event the previous evening, I really enjoyed the fact that there were not as many sitting possibilities (still we had our small nice corner around a table close to the stage), as this made the people be more active in networking and in getting to know the person next to them as well as moving around the club. And so I met a person who has been a sort of guide or mentor on my first steps towards the luxury industry and who has transmitted me the passion for watches.

I forgot to tell you that the event was organized by the "Ziarul Financiar"'s supliment magazine "dupa afaceri PREMIUM", something like "how to spend it" from the "Financial Times". So now,...the moment you've all been waiting for, the categories with the winners:

  • Best dressed business woman - Nina Bratfalean
  • Best dressed business man - Alexandre Eram
  • Most stylish office - Ion Alexandru Tiriac (personal designer being Razvan Iordanescu)
  • Most appreciated car for business - Audi A8
  • Most beautiful holiday story - Emil Delibashev (British Airways Romania)
  • Watches of the year - Rolex Submariner Date (Chronolink), Zenith El Primero Striking 10th (Galt), Jaeger LeCoultre Grande Tradition Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar (Helvetansa), Perrelet Turbine (B&B Collection)
  • Perfume Shop of the year - Elysee Concept
  • Gadget of the year - Philips Heritage MCD909
  • Jewel of the year - Chopard Animal World (MicriGold)
  • The Concept Store of the year - IQONIQUE Class Studio
  • The Business Restaurant of the year - Uptown
  • The Premium Person - Alessandro Amato (Cellini)
Now, you can make up your own mind about how these people/companies have been chosen. All I know is that they did not tell any criteria on which they based their choice. As far as I know, that concept store is open since the 14th of July and yesterday, the 22nd of September it was awarded concept store of the year...

I do promise you that I will try to find out the criteria and let you know asap.

This poster is uploaded here with the permission of the organizers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How do wealthy Romanians party?

(Picture Source: http://theprivatenook.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/cuban_cigars_spain.jpg)

As I have changed my work place recently and moved back to Romania, I come now in touch with the HNWI of this part of Europe. So yesterday I had an invitation to an event which was called "Cuban Night" and took place at the LeGaga Club in Bucharest.

The company organizing it imports Habanos in Romania and distributes them.

When I arrived I felt a bit cold due to a part of the club being open and had to keep my trench coat on. The good thing still was that the ventilation plus the open area allowed the air to be breathable, as, I must admit, enduring the cigar smoke for me is a bit of a torture.

There was a Cuban band there which unfortunately did not bring Cuban dancers, but took Romanian ones. At a point given my boss and I were wondering if we are at a Turkish party or at the Cuban Night we had been promised.

The food was good. There was a great selection of cold fingerfood including caviar, smoked salmon, various sortiments of cheese, salads, mozarella-tomato-skewers etc. There was also the warm food corner, with diffrent steaks and boiled or baked vegetables.

The highlight for me still was this great and beautiful mature woman who, in all that noise and fuss, was doing what she knew best: her job. She was the torcedora Carmen Luisa Rodriguez Loinaz, and was producing just in front of our eyes the beloved (for some) cigars. This showed me that there is still passion for the things well done, for the art (of smoking), for hand-made luxury.

Funny thing about this story? The band was trying so hard to animate the people around, this woman I just mentioned was trying hard to cater to their smokers' wishes, the organized food was trying hard to satisfy any taste,...but the people there were so still, so ...grey,...so...without life...so why all the money and the fuss of coming into a Ferrari even if you don't quite fit in it beacause you're fat...why all that? Maybe one of them will tell me one day!

All in all....it was an OK evening...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Luxury - recession proof?

Everyone has been affected in a way or another by the crisis... or have they? At the Business of Luxury Summit 2009 in Monaco, organized by the Financial Times, everyone was screaming about the crisis, about going green and going East. So what happened? Montblanc is expanding, Hermes just launched its "baby", a new Chinese brand, and Louis Vuitton is expanding again. So now the crisis starts, at least for Louis Vuitton. Why you might ask? No, not because there are no buyers,...au contraire, because now there are too many and the logistics didn't bare this in mind. A new production facility is under construction and it will hopefully boost the current production power of the 11 centers in France. Until then, the sales will have to suffer? No, not because what they produce is not sold,...but they don't produce as much as they could sell, so Paris store will be closed down 1hour earlier until the Christmas season. They plan to avoid this way remaining with their shelves empty before the holidays. Great decision! Who was talking about financial crisis? Look at the picture below to see what craze this company creates!!! Wishing Louis Vuitton a Merry Christmas :)

(Picture Source:http://www.luxuo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/louis-vuitton-china.jpg)

Dedicated to my frequent reader I heard about on Friday. Thank you, Alex :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Support this project of Into The World!!!

Life and Luxury is trying to promote the following project which you can see on the next link http://www.intotheworld.eu/
Into the World is a bike-ride through Africa, which has more humanitarian and ecological reasons behind it. Please make their website popular and maybe you can help the team with any relevant information or whatever they might still need to make this expedition successful!!!

Thank you in advance!

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