2 November 2018 Courier Weekly

Understanding modern luxury

PLUS: Working lives – Revolutionary tech – ModMag – AI art

‘The new luxury’

This week, we attended a small gathering in London hosted by Highsnobiety to discuss what luxury means today. It’s a topic Courierspends a lot of time thinking about and covering, too.

According to a white paper carried out by the fashion and streetwear website, based on the responses of around 7,000 16- to 34-year olds around the world, nearly 50% of the luxury market is set to be made up of Gen Z and millennials by 2025. For those with a ‘new luxury mindset’, the paper goes on, exclusivity is not enough.

Here are some takeaways from the event:

Jeehae Kim, head of digital at luxury leather goods brand MCM says: ‘Millennials have a high bullshit radar. A brand can’t pretend to be something it is not. We’re seeing that the new luxury consumer likes challenger brands that put across a strong point of view.’

Grace Wales Bonner, one of the UK’s most exciting young designers and founder of her eponymous menswear label says: ‘Luxury is much more about emotion these days. As designers, we have to build authentic communities around our clothes.’

Andrea Brugnoni, who founded Promenade du Port in Sardinia as an alternative to luxury shopping malls says: ‘Heritage and craftsmanship is no longer enough. In this new world of luxury, brands need to build up playgrounds for collaborations to happen in.’

Dean Cook, menswear buying manager at luxury fashion retailer Browns, says: ‘The past two years have been crazy. Not since the 1970s has consumer behaviour changed so fast and so quickly. Here at Browns we do drops now. So does Apple. In fact, everyone follows the sneaker model. It keeps things hot and alive.’

Will ‘996’ working catch on?

Chinese startup culture is known for its relentlessly long hours. One particular trend – ‘996’ working, which refers to working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week – has attracted the wider tech community’s attention.

Skillshare founder Michael Karnjanaprakorn sparked the conversation by tweeting that 996 is the reason behind many Chinese startups’ successes. Silicon Valley investor Brianne Kimmel also shared her holistic approach to 996; she applies it to personal as well as work goals.

Startups tend to attract driven, self-starting employees, so it’s no wonder this sort of productivity-worship has taken hold. But allowing staff to burn out isn’t ‘smart’ working. In a market with a finite number of brilliant employees, a company which develops a reputation for having a tough working culture may struggle to bring decent talent on board.

The problem with revolutionary tech

Many tech solutions touted as revolutionary follow a bumpy path. From excitement, to media overhype, to failing to live up to expectations, and subsequently being written off. With time, though, most applications find their natural place. Take the QR code.

A report this week said that beacons – once considered a game changer in retail tech – have failed to live up to their potential.

Beacons push messages to customers’ phones as they walk past items in-store, providing extra product information. The key problem is the fact that, beyond retail operators, pretty much no one is aware of them. As a result, consumers haven’t bothered to download the apps that make them work.

Until tech has been tested in the wild, it’s impossible to know how it might fit into consumers’ current habits – and whether any other necessary elements needed (for example, high-speed internet) are up to scratch.

Magazines are businesses, too

At yesterday’s ModMag London 2018, an annual magazine conference, the founder and director of Eye on Design delivered a helpful reminder that the independent magazine sector is not just occupied by hobby businesses. Like any market, it’s tough, but businesses that get it right will make money.

The New York-based creative website launched a print magazine in March. A major lesson Perrin Drumm has learned: ‘So many magazines launch without a P&L or even a business plan. And that’s so frightening. It’s like being in the middle of an ocean and only then realising that you need a boat. We won’t get rich making the magazine, but we want to do right by our investors.’

Courier’s founder and editor-in-chief Jeff Taylor also shared how our title has transitioned from being a free magazine in London to becoming a 150-page magazine distributed around the world.

The first piece of AI art is auctioned

Legendary auction house Christie’s put the first piece of AI-generated art under the hammer this week.

Le Comte de Belamy was created by the French collective Obvious and was sold to art collector Nicolas Laugero Lasserre for around £9,000 in February 2018. When we spoke to Obvious earlier this year, Pierre Fautrel, one of its three founding members, hoped that ‘after the auction, we will be taken more seriously. But for that to happen, the portrait had better sell.’

It did, for about 40 times its original value.

The £334,000 sale has not been without controversy. The collective has been accused of using code created by another artist. Others have questioned the value of a piece of art produced by an algorithm. Following the sale, Obvious told Courier: ‘Our hope is that the spotlight will bring forward the amazing work that our predecessors and colleagues have been producing.’

It’s a pivotal moment for the art community, demonstrating the power of computer code and bringing into question the role of the artist. This piece from Artsy is an interesting dive into the history and impact of algorithmically generated art.

Five things on our radar this week