For years, the luxury apparel market has run on a model of exclusivity, and inaccessibility, but times are changing as millennials shape consumer demand. To be exact, generations Y and Z fuelled 85% of the luxury market growth states Forbes, but ironically have disproportionately lower salaries, plus more debt than prior generations.
It’s this paradox that has undoubtedly sparked a whole revolution of “affordable luxury.”
So what is affordable luxury? Traditionally, luxury was defined by the price point, but is now being redefined as a particular set of values. We’ve seen a boom of millennial driven startups like MVMT, Mejuri, and Casper, who sell a certain lifestyle ethos, rather than astronomically priced garments exclusive to the who’s who.
They’ve completely encapsulated the trend towards owning a perceived lifestyle that, for the most part, people in our age bracket can’t afford.
Don’t pretend you’re an exception! We’ve all laughed at memes asking how our friends afford their lifestyle or looking fabulous while my bank account is $5. It’s this mass attitude towards spending, as well as Instagram metrics, that feed into millennials’ obsession with luxury-deemed products.
But similar to many things on Instagram, it’s all about perception, not something tangible like money or actually having a lot of wealth.
While you may be wondering whether affordable luxury will replace high-end, it’s not likely as the two have seemingly branched off into different sub-categories. According to Forbes, labels formed before the consumer shift and that still tout a lot of weight with their name can be called “absolute luxury.”
There will always be buyers of extreme wealth, not to mention countries where luxury is a way of life and owning designer is still very much a status symbol.
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On the flip side, “affordable luxury” are brands that are made and meant to be more accessible to the masses, yet still carry an air of value. The best way to look at it is on a relative scale. Affordable luxury, while much cheaper than high-end designer, still falls into a price point that is at the top of its category.
This means that people like you and I (somewhere in the middle of the market) can afford it without having to save up for it.
Essentially, when we look at it in those terms, for a millennial who has bills and debt to pay, the brand still has enough value that we feel exclusive in having it, but it won’t break the bank.
Not to mention, these brands almost solely do their advertising on Instagram; probably the best way to sell a lifestyle. Because of this key difference, absolute and affordable categories seem to be able to coincide with each other. Just take a look to the streets or your Instagram feed and you’ll see what I mean.
More and more high-end labels are looking towards street style to stay relevant, meanwhile influencers are pairing expensive with cheap.
It goes with the long standing trickle down theory in retail that is now also the trickle up, and trickle across. Basically it’s trickling everywhere as brands high or low look to each other or the same sources for inspiration.
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So while there will always be a market for absolute luxury goods, more of the masses are opting to go to the affordable route.
In other words, things like expensive handbags will always be coveted. However, consumers now have other options like affordable luxury, or what I’m calling the price-removed revolution. What defines wealth may be becoming a more murky subject, but hey, I’m not mad about it.
Featured Image: Instagram/@mvmtforher
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