Doug Logan

Redefining Luxury: The Role of Inclusivity and Authenticity in the Modern Luxury Market

Luxury was once a simple concept: extravagant, opulent, and for many, completely out of reach. At one time, this meant that luxurious items featured rare materials, plus a sumptuous or glitzy look.

In recent years, however, luxury has evolved considerably, to the point that it's increasingly difficult to define. The desire for high-end goods remains top of mind, but luxury is otherwise a subjective concept — what's luxurious to one person may be ordinary or even tacky to the next.

In the midst of all this change, luxury brands are presented with a new challenge: how do they maintain their elite identity while abiding by in-demand qualities such as tech-savvy or inclusive? It's not an easy balance to strike, but several brands have successfully made the leap. Keep reading to discover the nuances of modern luxury — and where this concept is headed in the future.

Not Exclusivity

Exclusivity and quality have traditionally been linked in the minds of consumers, but a closer look reveals that these concepts are not always one and the same. Many brands offer products that are arguably of a similar quality than their affordable counterparts, and yet, the mere prestige of their branding means that they're worth more in the eyes of consumers.

This is beginning to change, however, with Matter of Form's Luxury Report making it clear that quality is the ultimate priority among today's discerning consumers. According to this report, intrinsically airbrushed quality of luxury is dissipating, being replaced by a need for the raw and unscripted. This has been spurred, in part, by social media platforms such as TikTok and BeReal, although it's also a global shift that goes beyond the strictly virtual.

The ultimate example of this concept? Apple. For years, products such as the iPhone and AirPods have been regarded as luxury tech, even though a significant subset of the population invests in these devices. The price point is often higher than counterparts from Android, but that's not what gives Apple its prestige: rather, Apple owes its high standing to its exceptional reputation.

Apple consumers know that they can count on this beloved brand to release the most innovative, stylish products imaginable, in which every detail is shaped to ensure that user experience is nothing short of exceptional. As a result, Apple enjoys an extremely loyal customer base, with many enthusiastic consumers thinking of their latest devices as status symbols — even when, logically speaking, they're well aware that hundreds of millions of consumers own the very same products.

For many brands, quality as an emphasis is far from new. Montblanc, for example, has long been known for its luxurious, yet reliable watches and leather goods. Now, however, the brand is beginning to lure younger consumers with these concepts, emphasizing not only quality, but also, many of the traits we'll discuss later on, all while striving for an updated, urban edge. In the future, there will be a move towards well-made products, even when, aesthetically speaking, they don't always resemble the luxury finishes of yesteryear.

and Self-Care

The concept of keeping up with the Joneses once determined whether consumers invested in high-end products. These days, however, most are far more interested in treating themselves than in impressing their neighbors. They view luxury products as the ultimate reward for their hard work.

Yes, it's fun to show these items off, but that's certainly not the main goal when investing in high-end products. Rather, luxury becomes a form of self-care — a way for customers to demonstrate that, when they're so busy giving of themselves, they are still capable of giving to themselves as well.

In the aforementioned Luxury Customer Journey survey, self-reward was the number one reason respondents cited for investing in luxury products. To that end, language reflecting luxury items' emphasis on self-reward has crept into a variety of marketing initiatives. Louis Vuitton, for example, has regularly used the phrase treat yourself in Instagram updates, which encourage followers to make the most of life's little pleasures.

Keeping it Real

As a new generation abandons highly curated imagery in favor of less filtered TikTok clips, consumers are beginning to emphasize 'real' styles that feel authentic to who they are and what they prioritize. This reflects a clear departure from the luxury concepts of the past, in which exclusivity mattered far more than authenticity.

In some ways, this movement holds vintage appeal; it reflects the shift from 80s powerhouse styles to the grunge looks of the 90s. Similarly, many of today's top styles have shifted away from the strictly manicured looks that dominated just a few years ago. Instead, they're adopting purposefully raw styles that have an 'ugly' edge.

As Balenciaga's creative director Demna Gvasalia points out, the modern consumer would rather invest in products that stand out than those with an amazing finish that you would find with some brands. That's not to say that amazing finishes are gone for good — but rather, that the concept of luxury is expanding to include a wider array of styles that would have been deemed elusive in years past.

One of the most notable examples of ugly as high style involves the bulky sweaters that have so frequently been spotted on the runway as of late. During the 2022 season, bold vests and clunky knitwear dominated, with crochet-like details bringing a homey, crafted look to high fashion.

Meanwhile, TikTok has had a huge impact on the rise of other 'ugly' concepts, such as Avant Apocalypse. Heavy on subversive style, this aesthetic favors asymmetry and worn edges.

Gritty styles are nothing new for fashion magazines, of course, but these looks are becoming a lot more wearable and can be seen not only in the fashion world, but also, in jewelry, home decor, and even smartphone accessories.


As we've discussed, the luxury experience is no longer centered around exclusivity. Rather, a more inclusive version of luxury is about to take over, in which diversity is prized and actively sought after by designers and customers alike. Fashion designer Christian Siriano has exemplified this side of the luxury market by offering size-inclusive options and expressing interest in developing a line of adaptive clothing. Many other big names have followed suit by releasing adaptive-oriented capsule collections.

Gucci has also expressed a clear ambition to tackle the growing adaptive market. Rather than settling for short-term tokenism, the brand is taking a deep dive, promising to convene around important topics...disability inclusion is an important topic for society at large. This is just one of many examples of Gucci's effort to build a more inclusive brand. This innovative strategy is often referred to as exclusive inclusivity.

Going Digital

As consumer preferences change, the new frontier for luxury brands lies in the digital world. Already, many iconic brands have adopted advanced digital practices, such as virtual try-ons and NFTs. In the future, this will be more than a mere novelty — it will be an expected part of the luxury experience. This echoes the current preference for accessibility; no matter where they reside, customers always have the option to invest in virtual products or experiences, either as a form of self-expression or to show off online.

While many luxury brands are beginning to make forays into the digital world, this remains a huge area of opportunity. Until now, many have stuck with the status quo, as reflected in the Global Luxury Customer Journey. This study revealed that luxury fashion, in particular, was lagging with digitization, with only 16 percent offering eCommerce solutions despite this approach being more comfortable and convenient.

This slow move towards virtual may reflect, in part, the crucial role that in-person shopping has previously played in the luxury experience. Customers want to see luxury goods for themselves before they make considerable investments — and especially now that, with a more inclusive luxury market, these goods often represent special rewards, rather than everyday purchases.

While it may take some time for the new concept of luxury to truly encompass virtual shopping, there's no denying that the digital world remains important. Increasingly, traditional luxury sales are impacted by online content. As such, many luxury names are expanding their digital marketing reach. Bulgari, in particular, has demonstrated its commitment to digital outreach, having received the Genius score from the Digital IQ Index Watches & Jewelry Global ranking of digital competence.

There's no denying that the concept of luxury is undergoing a renaissance. These days, luxury isn't merely about appearances, although, of course, aesthetics clearly remain important. Rather, luxury depends on quality and personalization. This opens the luxury market to a new generation of consumers, who will be even more enthusiastic about — and loyal to — their luxury brands of choice. Brands that capitalize on this trend have the unique opportunity to position themselves not only as disruptors, but also, as the most influential luxury names of tomorrow.

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