The second day of the conference was as good as the first, if not better for sharing of knowledge. A series of experts discussed the future of creative leadership, retail, branding and building in today’s world economy. The creativity oozed out of the speakers and it was difficult to edit what was a fascinating morning.
In the section devoted to leadership, manufacture and innovation, Floriane de Saint Pierre, based in Paris and Milan, whose company is recognised for organisation, design, board strategy and executive search, kicked off a stellar performance. If Floriane was a footballer, she would be playing and scoring goals for Chelsea. An inspirational woman of huge talent. Floriane insisted that we think, listen and learn that luxury is obsolete. Stating in her presentation that having a car is obsolete and not luxury, it is an essential if you live miles away from the nearest corner shop, but for a city dweller, luxury is having a driver, be it your own chauffer or Uber. Wallets are obsolete, now we have contactless card, you buy a wallet for the craftsmanship. Country houses are also obsolete, why own something you only use occasionally, we can use Air B&B to stay in amazing homes around the world and let someone else worry about cutting the grass and cleaning the pool.
You may not agree with Floriane but it shows how fast things are changing; Uber was founded in 2009 and now operates in 50 countries. Air B&B was founded in mid 2008. Whatever you think about these companies they are phenomenally successful despite the fact they have not reached their teenage years.
Another impressive speaker Robin Derrick was creative director at Vogue; this man really knows what he is talking about. A slick presentation followed on the digitalisation of Media and Branding. Robin started with a subject so close to my heart, the inability or refusal of some heritage brands and industries to move with the times and recognise the advantages of on-line. I have been pushing this subject with property developers for years. “Technology has changed everything. A lot of new start-ups are more agile because they are open to the digital channels.”
Robin’s first slide was of a London phone box with a ‘no to Uber’ sticker in Marylebone (the first person to identify the phone box with the sticker and send a picture will get a bottle of champagne from luxurytopping) Robin commented
“what is it that all Uber users have in common? A smartphone. And where do black cab drivers choose to put their anti-Uber campaign? In a phone box.” The Alice in Wonderland quote comes to mind ‘if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there’. A clear demonstration of not understanding technology.
He went on to say “bloggers are on the same platform as mainstream magazines. The ability to understand the audience through click through and number of views, which is much easier digitally and will definitely show the board, return on investing.” Best phrase of the conference from Robin “we are fishing where the fish are”. This man has gone to the very top of my hero tree.
Finally to Cyrille Vigneron, the Chairman of Cartier. Smooth, urbane and very charming he embodied this premier luxury brand. They are approaching digital carefully and refused to be drawn on the drop in sales of watches generally. Cartier has an illustrious history of producing amazing pieces of jewellery. His customers may check out the pieces online, but walking through the door or attending a special event with others who can afford the stratosphere figures for the one off pieces is how they like to buy. When pressed by Gillian De Bono the Editor of How to Spend It on their p digital strategy, Cyrille said “with Cartier, you have to learn the virtue of patience”
The FT Business of Luxury Summit happens in May each year in a different city in the world. Further information from www.ftbusinessofluxury.com
Image of Floraine de Saint Pierre, Robin Derrick and header image courtesy FT Live; Villa Imperio image courtesy Air BnB; Tricia Topping images courtesy Geraldine Larkin.