In her latest article exploring the evolving frontiers for luxury, Nina Plowman discusses the role of personalisation, as evidenced by a growing desire for high-quality experiences and premiumisation in the wine and spirits space - all of which is a preface to the AI innovations taking place.

After a Spring clean at the weekend, I salvaged a much-loved pair of hefty lace-up boots once worn at university. I hadn’t seen – never mind worn – them for years, but they are comfortable, sturdy, and the casual look works in the office these post-Covid days.  

Fashion comes around in circles, and, like all trends, by the time it creeps into wider popularity, fatigue may follow and a new trend will begin. Those rediscovered boots are still wearable because of their quality, but they are different as they are no longer available widely. Plus, I like the fact that they say something about an earlier version of me.

In today’s super-connected world, it can be different to find our own identity in our buying choices. The explosion of coffee culture recently is a great metaphor for our increasing affluence.  As wealth grows, so does our interest and desire for the ‘finer things in life’. We all seem to be on a journey of refinement, at varying stages. The ‘flat white’ (unheard of in the early noughties) is served across the country delivering an intensity of flavour to our increasingly educated palates. ‘Delicious’ outdates itself by ‘even better’, or ‘excellent’. How can we ever go back to that inferior cup of instant coffee?

The idea of coffee as a vehicle for, or an expression of, social change is not new. London's coffee houses in the 18th century became central to social life and political change. Today, social media does the same. It is a place that constantly gives us reason and opportunity to compare and contrast ideas and experiences. It is also a place where ‘luxury’ is much more accessible.

However, expanding our knowledge and go beyond our own reference points online, comes with its social media limitations - the echo chamber. I wonder whether there might be a danger of us all hankering after the same high-quality experiences that arrive through our internet ‘communities’, making them less personal and more generic?

Is social media a threat or support to our sense of self?

Human nature’s desire to be one step ahead of the rest is primal, but technology has accelerated and amplified this.  As fast as social media may compete with our sense of individuality, it cannot be denied that it can also be a way for us to discover our unique sense of self and style as well. This sometimes arrives through our purchasing and collecting decisions. From the wine and food choices at a dinner party, to the art on our walls and our home design - all creative expressions of our personal identity and passion points.

We are looking for stories and connectedness.

At Cultural Comms, on a daily basis we work with clients and buyers at the top-end of the market in a variety of collecting categories - from Wine and Spirits, Fine Art and Rare Books, Watches and Jewellery, among others.   The collector’s motivations vary and, as Dr Shirley Mueller comments, they are united by the desire to “connect with a community of likeminded people, a passion or an obsession... The reason we collect [art] is simple. It makes us happy". Mueller recognises it is a highly personal journey. It is interesting to see that, whilst collecting can be influenced by changing tastes, the motivations behind them are not all trend-based.

Some fine wine brands in ‘gold star regions’ of Burgundy and Bordeaux, are seen as “recession resistant” according to The Drinks Business. Their continued iconic appeal is one of the reasons behind this. These wines have a connectedness to family and a highly-prized heritage story, which has relevance to the land and the future.  

The younger, luxury Gen Z consumer is in a sense shaping the luxury market altogether. From top to toe they are what they wear and connoisseurs of taste. Vogue Business found that spend from the younger luxury buyer is growing three times faster than other generations, and by 2030 they will make up one-third of the market. Luxury labelling alone does not satisfy this generation. They demand sustainability, green practices (Gen Z is driving the resale luxury market), and they care about the story behind the brand.  In fine wine sales, this group is less interested in the critics scores and more so in a personal connection to a place, as told through social platforms.

Looking to reconnect with ourselves and more personalised travel experiences

Wellbeing is on our minds too. Business ‘small talk’ these days can range from meditation routines to screen-time reduction tips. It stands to reason that in a world of running at high-speed, “Slow Travel” is one of the fastest growing tourism trends. By 2027 it is expected to grow by $335bn[1]. More of us are booking breaks that involve a deeper connection with the place we are visiting, its people, and its culture and environment.  This may be entirely nature-based, involve a cultural tour, or a long-distance train journey or bike-ride to avoid road or plane travel. The result is a deeper understanding of a place and a more meaningful, personalised experience.

While true luxury is centred around artistry, craftsmanship and quality, our changing attitudes also mean we expect authentic experiences, connections and a personalised response from the brands we choose.  

In a progressively hectic and digital world, finding ourselves in a crowded market of choices and experiences can be a challenge. I ponder – is this becoming the luxury of our time?

Here's how a desire for connection and personalisation is shaping the modern luxury landscape:

We’re investing in our passion points – collecting in any discipline often stems from a genuine appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship behind a creative process. In winemaking or art this can become a satisfyingly intellectual hobby.

We're seeking rare, personal experiences – finding rare access experiences for our clients has always been our business 'bread and butter'. It’s about all the community, experience and intelligence associated with a purchase. Last October Last Drop Distillers Whisky Blending Experience sold as a one-off auction lot to a private client for £24,000.  

We want to find our ‘tribe’ - private members clubs are popping up all over town. Depending on your interest, there’s a club to call ‘home’. In the case of The Arts Club, member demand helps to shape a thriving community through cultural programming for the likeminded. 67 Pall Mall, another specialist interest club with iterations all over the world, centres this around wine masterclasses and tasting dinners.

We are actively developing an independent ‘eye’ for a buy – There are nearly 400 art fairs globally according to Dr Clare McAndrew’s Survey of Global Collecting[2] which also notes that 58% of art collectors purchased work at an art fair in 2023. Whilst social media algorithms are bound to influence, collectors are discovering their tastes independently in real-life. The upcoming London Craft Fair exhibits pieces in ceramics and jewellery etc. No one piece is the same. Those with deeper pockets will be visiting New York next week for Frieze and TEFAF whilst London will get its art fix in June when Eye of the Collector and Treasure House Fair open for business.



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