Lessons From the Conde Nast Mindful Luxury Conference

By Janetta Mackay
Suzy Menkes with designer Alber Elbaz in Oman, for the Conde Nast Mindful Luxury Conference. Picture / @suzymenkesvogue

Samantha Copland calls herself a perfumista. The founder of Perfume Playground is pioneering an expanding new business, so she was keen to hear from the experts on where they see the market for luxury goods going.

To learn more she travelled to Oman this month to attend Conde Nast's Mindful Luxury Conference. The publishing group behind Vogue assembled a heavyweight list of speakers, with fashion doyenne Suzy Menkes presiding. Their mission: to explore the new markets for luxury and help define a modern interpretation of how to sell it.

Samantha returned to Auckland feeling energised about her own approach. The key message she took from the conference held at the swishy Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa in Muscat?

“Collaborate with brands that dream big and want to design extraordinary, rare, immersive, customisable, sustainable, shareable and authentic experiences for their clients.”

With a collaboration of her own coming up next month at Auckland Art Gallery, Samantha came home thinking she was on the right track.

As part of a gallery outreach, her Perfume Playground Club concept will transfer there on May 20 for a #wearableart session allowing participants to learn about and mix scents. This builds on the club workshops she has been holding in Auckland and Australia since last year. This March she held her first workshop in San Francisco; it sold out, convincing her the market could be global.

Hands on activities like hers are in line with the sort of luxury experiences discussed at the conference. Guest speakers included designers Elie Saab, Alber Elbaz and Manish Arora, buzz beauty company founder Huda Kattan and company representatives from the likes of Salvatore Ferragamo, Vetements, Jimmy Choo and Facebook.

Samantha was further drawn by the chance to meet Menkes, who writes for 21 Vogue websites and also to connect with one of her fragrance idols, Frederic Malle. That the venue had a historic role in Middle East fragrance making was another bonus. "Oman built its trade on frankincense, my most revered therapeutic fragrance," says Samanatha.

Future luxury trade will be built around reaching out to younger, emerging markets, the conference heard. Mindful luxury would need to be front of mind for brands. Authenticity and traceability would be expected by more consumers.

A “product first, marketing later” approach was advocated. Samantha said the conference also heard that brands would need to better embrace technology and become more nimble. Living in the “now” and being bold, meant failure may occur fast, but using data would help overcome this.

Managing talent would be vital, as this could quickly transfer from local to global. Companies needed to find ways to allow talent to thrive.

When it came to sustainability the conference was told businesses needed to be looking ahead seven generations and getting social impacts sorted, including recognising the dignity of labour.

The 2018 Conde Nast conference will be held in Portugal next April, with a theme of the Language of Luxury.

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