Julian Thomson: My 2013 Prediction, The Rise Of Luxury Design Culture

PSFK asks the Design Director at Jaguar what he thinks will dominate in 2013.

It used to be so easy to design a successful global luxury product. You’d look at your brand, study its history, future its values, built it next door then sent it on a slow boat to China where it would pop up at 3 times the price in a department store in Shanghai.

It would then fly off the shelves as an adorning local public bought a little piece of Harrods or Silicon Valley.

Modern product design has up to now been principally Eurocentric. You only have to visit the Milan Furniture fair to see that Europe designs the best, most desirable stuff available. It’s obvious isn’t it, or is it? The product design status quo is now changing. This somewhat imperialist tone that the West knows best is about to shift. We can no longer rather arrogantly design and sell products imposing our regimented styles and values to a new global market.

The tide is starting to turn and a global consumer’s view of what represents good design is changing. The biggest opportunity and thirst for new product is no longer just confined to the West and the appetite for luxury product is strongest no longer in New York but in Shanghai. Inevitably good luxury product will lead and heavily influence volume product, so what the growing ranks of the new global elite and China’s young emperors and empresses buy will have a significant impact on the design of all future products.

So, what do these new customers want to express their aspirations, lifestyle and taste?

It still starts in Europe, but as the West continues to crack by a self-imposed destruction of its financial markets, and as China, Brazil, India and other emerging markets continue to thrive, what represents success and an enviable lifestyle starts to also change.

In these new territories, the whole narrative of a good life is different. These new customers aren’t interested in weekends in the Hamptons, skiing in Gstaad, or a country home in Surrey.

The whole notion of what represents a well-designed product and how it fits into your life can be very different to this newly affluent audience. Initially these customers buy Louis Vuitton by the bucket load but as this becomes common place they start to look at wiser, more intellectual choices to demonstrate their knowledge and taste.

It then becomes about opinion, appreciation of craftsmanship and an intimate knowledge of heritage and design. There is also a pride in home grown talent and artistry in new products that has never been seen before, supported by proud heritage and optimism. The adoption of new technology is natural and expected, and will eclipse the western world much sooner than we expect.

What does this mean to my brand, Jaguar?

We are already very successful in these new global markets but fully appreciate the need for some very different thinking as we go forward. In 2013 we will continue to study these markets to gain a valuable insight into what makes our future customers tick. We’ll talk to car people but more significantly we’ll talk to Architects, Fashion Designers, and Artists to predict how people’s attitudes are different and changing.

We are seeing some key themes developing around innovation, product integration, craftsmanship, and personalisation but what is key, is that a well-designed product is no longer enough on its own, and that the whole product experience is what counts.

The Luxury experience, not the sole product is the new status.

Julian Thomson

Read more 2013 Predictions here.

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