The 5 Hallmarks of Luxury

Paul Russell of Luxury Academy London talks us through the 5 hallmarks of luxury.

Can luxury be affordable? Is there such a thing as an everyday luxury? And is it still luxury if we can have it all the time? The debate has been bubbling away ever since the first designer name landed in the high-street, bringing the unreachable within reach, and ensuring that labels would be worn on the outside for years to come.

For all the tremors and quakes in the consumer world, the cachet of luxury abides and remains undimmed, not least because its custodians stand sentinel over a gold standard that isn’t negotiable. We’ve taken up our assayer’s tools to identify five hallmarks of luxury.

Priceless – A while ago, the world was gifted the ‘reassuringly expensive’ price-tag. Depending on your point of view, it was a fiendishly smart marketing manoeuvre that shifted consumers’ expectations of what to pay for a brand of lager; or, with an insouciant shrug of the shoulder, it told us what we already knew: we get what we pay for. We are all, understandably, preoccupied with price; what luxury really delivers, however, is beyond price. A stay at a luxury hotel, a visit to one of the high temples of luxury retail, or a journey on a luxury train have little to do with the expense, reassuring or otherwise. It is, or it should be, unquantifiable. In other words, the experience of luxury is priceless.

Experience is the territory luxury has moved into and seems set to occupy. Global travel and instant communications have liberated us into previously undreamt of worlds. At the same time, they have left us with less to imagine, less to dream; when everything is accessible and knowable, when large-screen, high-definition TV screens can bring us all the sights and sounds in vivid, living colour, what can possibly be left to discover? Luxury provides the answer: first-hand experience, immersive journeys, and authenticity, not so much redefining travel as reclaiming it.

Cutting-edge – where luxury goes, others follow. The extravagance of luxury style has always quietly folded innovation and cutting-edge technology into its every seam – from electric light bulbs and hot running water in the dawning of the modern age, to smart technologies in every room. The sector has also been the first to recognise that software and apps are only a small part of what constitutes a hallmark of luxury. A sense of human connection is of greater moment to a guest or consumer than an app that turns off the lights or orders room service.

Expertise – nobody ever said delivering luxury was easy. The craftsmen and women honing their skills from apprenticeship to full mastery of their designer art, the concierge who makes the impossible possible, the staff who seem to have developed a sixth sense for what a customer or guess wants before the thought is framed; these are skills and expertise that are the result of professional dedication, often a lifetime. Luxury is nothing without the people who make it their career to uphold its standards.

Transformative – it’s arguable that the purpose of luxury is to take the simple utilities of life – the watch we wear, the car we drive, the room we sleep in – and transform them into something else entirely. Luxury is alchemy, a dazzling sleight of hand, a place where everything happens just as it should; the airy calm of a spacious lobby where the chaotic roar of the city beyond is muffled to a distant hum; an anticipated need or desire, swiftly met, a clear signal that this is a world apart. In the day-to-day, wishes don’t come true. Beyond the gilded gates of luxury, they do.

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