The gardens of Trocadero are usually calm at night, glistening against the eternal glow of the Eiffel Tower. But on this rainy September night during Paris Fashion Week it is swathed in spotlight studded frenzy. The sky is magnified by the glow of a hundred, if not hundreds, of spotlights, all swaying in synchrony to the beat of the music. The air is electric as the soundtrack swells and swoons, theatrical and ethereal. Long legged models strut down the runway in Yves Saint Laurent’s signature smoking suits, reimagined for timeless modernity.
After the runway presentation, twenty or so people stand precariously on a ledge at the Trocadero gardens, a hundred more or so behind them. The drop to the ground in front of them is perhaps 1.5 meters, but they probably don’t care – mostly students and millennials, they are all starstruck and obsessed with fashion and celebrities, determined to see the stars exit from the event to be picked up by their suited chauffeurs.
This is Henry.
During the same fashion week in September, teen Youtuber Emma Chamberlain poses in front of the Louvre, decked out head to toe in Louis Vuitton. She had been invited to the luxury fashion house’s fashion show that season, a prestigious invitation many covet. Although undeniably popular on Youtube, most of her young audience probably cannot afford luxury fashion. Her ‘get ready’ video with Vogue for this event has more than two million views though, numbers so big you simply can’t ignore.
This is Henry too.
It wasn’t like this in the past. We know that fashion and celebrities have always gone hand in hand, especially when it comes to luxury fashion. Celebrities are not only just at fashion shows – they are on advertisements, campaigns, events, red carpets. The power of celebrity simply cannot go unrecognised. They carry great influence, with legions of fans who trust their style out of admiration and perhaps, a desire to be like them too.
Actresses and performers have been trendsetters since the 18th century, but the audience they performed to were a part of fashion-conscious high society. Haute couture designers fought to dress these actresses to attract potential customers they knew could afford their designs, and high society women went crazy over the newest styles debuted on stage.
Haute couture houses still dress performers of today, with Harry Styles touring in Gucci suits and Ariana Grande performing in Versace. Besides performances, fashion power houses now collaborate with celebrities on campaigns and collections, with actress Emma Stone fronting Louis Vuitton’s handbag ads and rapper Nicki Minaj releasing her Fendi capsule collection.
However, in this day and age, concertgoers who watch Styles and Grande are not necessarily from high society, and do not necessarily have the ability to afford luxury fashion. The same goes for those young celebrity-crazed fashion lovers at Trocadero, Chamberlain, and her young audience.
If this audience can’t afford lush Gucci handbags and elegant Givenchy dresses, why bother?
Simply because they can later.
Consulting firm Deloitte’s latest report on luxury goods shows that HENRYs (not Golding, but High-Earners-Not–Rich-Yet) are slowly taking over the market, with more and more millennials and Gen Z’s choosing to buy luxury. Although they may not have the spending power right now, they will make bank in the future, and trends show that they will choose to spend their money on luxury. Not surprisingly, luxury brands are more than ready to cash in on that.
By marketing to a younger audience now, luxury brands create awareness and visibility for themselves amongst this group. This is a hot opportunity to establish themselves firmly amongst the youth, and one of the most captivating ways to do so is through experiences.
Chanel often does beauty pop-ups in Singapore, installing highly ‘instagrammable’ backdrops and interactive experiences, encouraging those who come by to experiment with their cosmetics. Saint Laurent had also hosted a ‘YSL Beauty Hotel’ earlier this year, where guests could explore rooms bathed with neon light, cool music, and YSL products.
Such experiential pop-ups are often free when it comes to admission, and guests are not obligated to make purchases. It is an experience, one luxury brands hope is memorable, and one luxury brands hope will make them want to return to again. Data shows that such a strategy is working, where millennials and Gen Z’s are set to represent more than half of the luxury market by 2025.
Even though celebrity spotting after a fashion show is not specifically curated or designed as an event, it is a rite of passage – the young and hungry fashion fanatics will find themselves remembering this night, wishing for a taste of the life of luxury. Watching a young YouTuber attend a prestigious fashion show proves that anything is possible, and introduces those who are not even interested in fashion to a whole new world.
Luxury brands create dreams, and as dreams often power our actions, one day the HENRY’s may just find themselves owning a luxury bag or two.