One of the main reasons I decided to come to Portugal was to attend the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit. The “who is who” of luxury flocked into the brutalist Ritz Four Seasons to pat themselves in the back and brood around philosophical questions like “what is luxury”, “who buys luxury” and other meaning-of-life sort of stuff.
Some of it was actually inspiring. Axel Dumas, one of the industries foremost aristocrats and head of Hermes, offered the attendants his straight to the point, no bullshit approach. The centuries old saddle maker doesn’t give out clothes to celebrities, doesn’t have a marketing department and spends close to nothing in advertising. Instead, all efforts are put into making timeless pieces with a stern focus on the house’s iconic style and keeping as much production in France as possible. Refreshingly obvious.
Miroslava Duma, the young Siberian girl behind the very exciting Büro 24/7 talked about the brave new world of cutting edge fashion and all the new challenges the industry might face. Sustainability is key, as the fashion industry is a leading polluter, and wearable technology is the way to go to reduce environmental print. I can’t say I was thrilled with the idea of wearing a sweater made of faux silk weaved from locally sourced orange zest, smeared with bacteria that will absorb my sweat, and a chip to let my iphone know how I’m doing. But you get the point.
The usual suspects came up, such as online shopping, bloggers and influencers, the decay of the physical store. And the age-old panaceas were suggested: luxury as exclusivity, as storytelling, as heritage, as engagement… and whatever will make people spend the extra dime they are so unwilling to dole out these days. Farfetch, the Portuguese online shopping sensation was there represented at its highest level by José Neves himself. He’s a very busy bee, so no time to catch up. It’ll happen sooner than later, right José?
And then there was Ana Moura at night, entertaining the millionaire club with some nostalgic Fado along with some perkier tunes. Portugal is brimming with optimism these days and it’s great to be joining the party.