Conceptualized in Paris in 2000 by International Vogue Editor Suzy Menkes and launched in Florence in 2015, the annual Conde Nast International luxury conference is a much needed platform for reflection within the fashion industry’s radically evolving landscape. Previous conference themes include Hard Luxury and Future Luxury, with this year touching on Mindful Luxury - a relevant and significant concept within today’s turbulent political and social climate. With the current fashion industry in upheaval from transitional see now, buy now models and oversaturation of the fashion market as eCommerce and fashion-tech pertinently sweep in to take the world by storm, the conference considers these major industry shifts, drawing on the collective influence of Condé Nast International’s publications and the visionary insights of Suzy Menkes, featuring talks and discussions from a careful curation of the world’s most influential and discerning.
The third annual luxury conference was held on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th April, with designers, buyers, investors, innovators, CEO’s, facilitators, marketers, communicators, manufacturers, suppliers and developers all gathering in the breathtaking palm tree oasis of the Al Husn Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa in Muscat, Oman for a two day ordeal of story-telling, experience-sharing and contact and network-building. In attendance were 500 of the fashion industry’s most esteemed from more than 30 countries, including the likes of the CEO of Vetements, Guram Gvasalia, Designer Giambattista Valli, Designer Manish Arora, CEO of Pitti Immagine, Raffaello Napoleone, Fashion Features Director of Vogue India, Bandana Tewari, Founder and CEO of Farfetch, José Neves and the Foreign Affairs Sultanate of Oman. The conference further engaged in the fast-growing engines of luxury - jewellery, perfume and accessories - with keynote speakers including CEO of Jimmy Choo, Pierre Denis and Ferragamo’s new shoe designer, Paul Andrew.
Highlighting different segments of the luxury industry and not just fashion, the programme explored the evolution of consumer relationships, the power of trade and untapped markets and redefining concepts of luxury for a ‘post-luxury’ consumer. Entrepreneur Lapo Elkann explored ideas of creativity, customisation and personalisation as being at the heart of true and new luxury ideals. Rhea Saran, Editor of Condé Nast Traveller Middle East, furthered this discussion with her talk on The Rise Of Non-Material Luxury, underlining the growing importance and popularity of ‘experience as luxury’ in place of possessing physical commodities. Saran discussed how consumers are becoming increasingly perceptive and that “sharable, customisable, sustainable, authentic experiences” are fueling the shift in behaviour for the post-luxury millennial consumer, where they expect to be connected to the local life of their travels and to be immersed in a 360 degree extraordinary experience of a place.
“They don’t want to be sold something any more, they want to be a part of something.” - Rhea Saran
Editor-at-Large of Vogue India, Bandana Tewari gave an empowering presentation, examining the fashion industry in relation to the humbling introspective principles of Mahatma Gandhi. “Gandhi’s relationship with clothes was profound,” Tewari said. “There is no other example I could find in the history of politics that raises such an analogy between politics and clothing.”
Tewari called on delegates to think about slowing the pace of production in an incessantly fast-paced business, and that we should revert to focus on quality, skill, authenticity and taking the time to make beautiful work. Tewari explained “We have approximately 11 million people who make beautiful things by hand every day – and more along the silk route. If you don’t empower them and give them the chance to create, we will lose these trades and skills.”
As one of the pioneers of the radical Swadeshi (self-sufficiency) and Khadi (handmade cotton) movements, which ultimately lead to India’s independence, Gandhi’s unique sartorial strategy to achieve India's liberation from British rule and his philosophy on a homespun approach to clothing production was integral to his inner quest for truth. Tewari suggested that as creators, consumers and entrepreneurs, we all hold a responsibility to be more conscious about our business and consuming habits and our approach to luxury in general. In recognising the power and value of skilled production processes we can redevelop practices and principles that can propel the luxury industry forward with integrity and mindfulness.
“You can bring humanity into what could become a beautiful harmony between the creator, the designer and the producer – that would be a Gandhian approach to luxury.” - Bandana Tewari