Luxury brands have always forayed into homeware. In the eighties, designers began branching into the category to tap the appeal of aspirational living: Ralph Lauren launched its home collection back in 1983, and Armani established its furnishing line at the dawn of the new millennium.
But in recent years, there has been an upsurge of luxury brands entering the interiors market. In a bid to capture a more demanding, connected consumer, they offer a whole lifestyle that extends far beyond fashion. Now, according to retail decision platform Edited, in the US it’s a $226 million industry.
Soaring property prices worldwide are potentially responsible for this growing demand: professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests home rentals in the UK alone have more than doubled over the last two decades, while homeownership is on the decline. Thus, designer homeware is striking a chord with a generation of renters who are looking for stylish pieces that are maneuverable for their on-the-go lifestyle and can personalise their spaces.
“'Generation rent' isn't looking to buy big-ticket bulky items as their flats usually come pre-furnished,” explains Kayla Marci, a market analyst at Edited. “They want small pieces such as lighting, wall hangings, rugs and cushions, to personalise their homes and create covetable spaces to display on social media.” In fact, making the home Instagram-worthy is a powerful driver for increased consumer spend in the sector.
“'Generation rent' isn't looking to buy big-ticket bulky items as their flats usually come pre-furnished.”
Alexis DeSalva, senior analyst at research firm Mintel, echoes this. She suggests that most consumers “take pride in their home and its appearance, believing that it mirrors their personal style.” Consequently, they are willing to invest in quality. “[They are] wanting to ensure they reflect a good home style, just as they would approach their own fashion style choices.” Mintel’s data reveals 71 percent of US consumers see their home as a reflection of their personal style, leaving a sizable space for luxury fashion brands to capitalise on the market.
DeSalva continues: “Consumers are willing to pay more for homeware from brands they like or perceive to be of high quality. Well-known names, especially heritage or luxury designers like Gucci, can pique the interest of consumers who are already familiar with them from their fashion collections, and have an established level of trust.”
The luxury powerhouse has indeed been successfully capitalizing on the trend. In 2017, it launched Gucci Décor, including embellished candles, incense, cushions - priced from USD$70 - and chairs embroidered with its trademark tiger emblem - worth upwards of USD$3,000. On the other end of the spectrum, emerging designers have also been tapping this burgeoning thirst. Last year, up-and-coming London talent Richard Quinn teamed up with MatchesFashion to create a line of satin floral-print cushions, priced at an affordable GBP£198. According to Edited’s Marci, these entry points allow consumers to “indulge without breaking the bank.”
Fashion-first retailers are also cashing in: Moda Operandi, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman are increasingly broadening their assortment to include home décor. Homeware from designers like Tory Burch, Etro and Hermès have been populating their shelves in recent years. “Such collections create buzz and drive demand, especially those that are popular in the apparel and accessories market, and can rely on already established fan bases,” says Mintel’s DeSalva.
“Retailers should offer limited edition or small capsule collections to engage interested shoppers while protecting margins.”
Furniture retailers are also looking to luxury fashion houses to elevate their offering. In 2018, kitchen appliance brand Smeg tapped Dolce & Gabbana to create a line of kettles, toasters, juicers and blenders. That same year, furniture brand Habitat teamed up with emerging London-based label Shrimps on a limited-edition capsule-collection of hand-woven rugs, pillowcases and bedding flashing the label’s signature playful prints and vibrant colour palette.
This November, furniture giant IKEA will release its highly anticipated collaboration with of-the-moment brand Off-White: several items were unveiled during the label’s Paris Fashion Week SS’19 presentation. Unsurprisingly, consumers are already shelling out thousands of dollars online for some of the pre-drop pieces (including modern interior objects like wooden chairs, doorstops and rugs), which has undoubtedly elevated IKEA’s cachet.
Considering the swelling number of brands dipping their toes into the sector, it’s clear luxury homeware is here to stay. DeSalva, for one, believes the category will continue to make strides: “Most consumers will likely always feel their home style is important and be willing to invest in quality in some way, at least occasionally.” But she warns that investing too heavily is risky, suggesting instead to offer “limited edition or small, capsule collections to engage interested shoppers while protecting margins.”
Marci agrees, stating that the more successful ranges will likely consist of unique items and “small drops to test the waters.” In an Instagram era, lifestyle aesthetics are everything; home style is now an extension of a consumer’s personal style, and it better impress - before the Instagram bubble bursts.