How brands are navigating the terrain of luxury consumers with a misplaced compass, and what we can learn from TikTok trends.
Last year it was ‘quiet luxury,’ with its understated basics, old world brands, and minimalist ‘old money’ aesthetic à la Siobhan Roy from Succession or Sophia Ritchie wearing Loro Piana. “Money talks, but wealth whispers” was the motto from the runways of Celine all the way to Aritzia. Now, fashion forecasters are claiming that we’re ready for the opposite with a bolder expression of luxury in the form of the ‘mob wife aesthetic’ where ‘luxury’ is certainly present, but ‘quiet’ is not.
Scrolling TikTok and skimming the headlines of fashion magazines reveals a tension between these trends and debate over which direction luxury is headed and what it means for brands. Meanwhile, brands are panicking to keep up with the ever-moving goalpost that is luxury aesthetics, especially when these two appear so diametrically opposed.
Dominant fashion analyses credit the shift to a change in consumer values. Post pandemic dressing in 2022/2023 saw an uptick in basics that were comfortable and elegant, while emphasizing quality over quantity in line with fashion's sustainability problem. Using our Values Model, this trend could be characterized as leaning towards Tradition and Security. The Mob Wife is then a potentially reactionary backlash that embraces a bit of chaos and a freedom of expression as we enter 2024. If the 'quiet luxury' girl was reserved and put together, the mob wife is letting out her fun, yet powerful side with a brazen attitude, channeling the Values of Hedonism and Power.
Traditionally, the concept of ‘luxury’ has been deeply rooted in aesthetics and accessibility; the more rare and exclusive, the more luxurious. In today’s marketplace, ‘luxury’ brands are more accessible than ever. Brands like Gucci ensure a range of price options on their smaller non-fashion items, and Telfar (the ‘Bushwick Birkin’) has even introduced a consumer-defined pricing scale on handbags- not to mention tools like Afterpay and Klarna that enable you to pay-over-time.
So if we can all afford luxury, how is it defined?
The real essence of luxury lies not in price, or visual codes and appeal, but in the narratives that products carry. Today's luxury consumers, both existing and aspiring, aren’t satisfied with owning an object, they desire a connection- tales of provenance, cultural significance, and a rich history that transcends the surface allure.
So, where is the story in ‘quiet luxury’ and ‘Mob wife’? Quiet luxury is often characterized by understated elegance, an ‘old money’ look, and a timelessness symbolic of quality and taste. But what sets these minimalist pieces apart from their fast-fashion dupes is in the promised experience of owning and buying. It could be the experience of purchasing in a luxury store, having a piece recognized by a discerning stranger, or the satisfaction of owning something rare; think rich textiles, secret ateliers and faraway craftspeople…or it may be the brand’s legacy that weaves its way through generations, creating a shared history.
On the flip side, emerging trends like the 'mob wife' demonstrate a shift towards narratives that extend beyond the product itself and into the realm of personal identity. This trend encapsulates a story, a lifestyle, and a universe that consumers aspire to perform. ‘Mob Wife’ allows shoppers to embody a kind of intrigue, mystique, power, and rebelliousness under the umbrella of ‘luxury’. While brands are distracted by chasing these particulars, it’s not about the outfit.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cashmere blouse or a leopard print cardigan, it's about stepping into a character, adopting an enigmatic energy, and becoming part of a larger narrative.
In essence, what these seemingly disparate aesthetics have in common is the power of storytelling. This is core to the definition of luxury as it has always been, yet reveals a strong desire among people (especially today) to generate more meaning from their possessions.
Whether rooted in tradition or emerging as a cultural phenomenon, stories are a driving force of luxury.
Thought Starters for your brand...
Brands that understand this shifting paradigm are poised to thrive in the new age of luxury and create lasting connections with their audience. Thinking of consumers as humans in search of meaning can help. This isn't easy of course, as it requires knowing your audience on a deeper level, but ultimately it can help build connections over transactions, and a narrative that resonates with their values, aspirations, and personal identity.
How can my brand curate experiences through products, fostering a sense of exclusivity through the stories they tell?
Where are our touch points inviting consumers to become active participants in the unfolding narrative of a brand?
One Minute to Midnight will soon be launching The Heartbeat, a data-driven exploration of global Values. Stay tuned to find out if luxury consumers indeed align with the Values associated with dominant trends of the moment!
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From Human to Human