Wouter du Toit

At Station F to Discover the Future of Luxury

Wouter du Toit
At Station F to Discover the Future of Luxury

I’m at Station F. I’m here for a talk about the luxury of the next decade, and the place is rather packed. It’s Paris, the capital of luxury products and brands, so a talk packed with insiders is expected. I’ve walked past Station F a few times before, but I’ve never been inside. It’s an old train station, and it’s modified to be the tech hub of Paris. And it’s doing a great job at that.

 

Station F is owned by Facebook. They basically bought a train station and filled it with incubators, restaurants and startups. It’s the Parisian version of Silicon Valley and is in based in one of the ultra-modern areas of Paris. It’s huge, and so are the projects that comes out of it.

Julien du Tavel & Laura Perrard

Laura is from the SALON DU LUXE. Her team spoke about trends and forecasts concerning luxury.

 The Trends They Identified:

I’ve always considered luxury to be for the few, wealthy members of society could afford. Fabrics, materials, ease of use and the overall design was to be thought of as being of the best there is, and people paid a premium form it. But what I’ve never considered is that luxury can defined as something that contains emotion, excellence and/or exception as she mentioned. Luxury is essentially an art form. Laura continued by saying that if you want your products to poses these characteristics, it must be innovative. She completed her introduction by saying that if you are selling luxury products, you’re essentially selling a feeling. Whether it’s the feeling of wearing the garment or the feeling you get when you have all the eyes in the room on you. 

The interesting part for me was where she went through the various trends, that she divided into #hashtags, which I thought was smart. It’s something relevant, and it sticks. 

Hashtag #1: Offline / online

The trend of speaking through and via every channel has become more important. Her advice was that we must be fluid, everywhere, and at every point of contact, providing the same brand story that we want to be known for. 

She mentioned that what the luxury houses are struggling with at the moment is the difficulty in combining the long-term brand story, with excellence and heritage as the core values, with the instant and the ‘now’ of our modern day lives today. The irony here is that we believe luxury products are hand-made and takes time and precision, but we want it customised and we want it now. 

Hashtag #2: transparency and proximity

This was an obvious and known aspect of what people are demanding, but it is worth mentioning. The title essentially speaks for itself. 

Hashtag #3: Inclusiveness

She started by asking if this year will be the year of luxury of all. She mentioned Rihanna’s line of foundation for all colours of skin that was a first for the beauty industry, received a lot of media coverage, and with that has record-breaking sales.  

Hashtag #4: Values

Sustainability and being as carbon neutral as possible is an important aspect of modern life. Luxury brands are now developing and looking at alternative plant materials to develop new fabrics for garments. It’s now a norm. 

She mentioned Chanel and how the company has ceased using exotic skins. According to her, the main point here is for the luxury houses to communicate their “why?”.

Hashtag #5: Experience

We are concerned with what people are experiencing. There is a sense of compersion now, and experiencing joy when others are too is a noticeable change. We are now more human-centric than ever, and it’s a growing trend.  

Her message was clear here and she finished the category telling the audience that the luxury brands are not selling products or services. Instead, they are selling suppliers, origins and its stories. 

Hashtag #6: Business model

The last hashtag was about new business models, and what we can expect in the not-too-distant future. She mentioned luxury through subscription, which already exists in many product and service offerings. To get out of your comfort zone to look at your business and the needs and wants of your clients and deliver something in a new way can often lead to new business ventures and opportunities. 

What could luxury be in 10 years?

Julien took luxury from a different angle. He started asking how luxury can make us transcend and whether it can change who we are for that moment, and affect our bodies and minds. 

He showed a brain sensor that tells the wearer what piece of art in a virtual gallery they should buy based on their brain’s reaction to it, and which ones shouldn’t. 

He mentioned the micro-dosing trend that’s taking place, and how professionals are more productive and more sociably capable of building relationships. The trend called Hybridisation was interesting too, and he showed images of a company providing medicinal tablets that are custom-made and based on the activities of your week. So if you’re going to have an important meeting on Thursday and need to focus and prepare, there’s a pill for that.

He mentioned a company called Field, which is aiming to be the spa for your brain, so you can be more social and more open minded. 

He referred to the audio hardware company called Devialet and asked whether it’s possible to create cognitive enhancing speakers.

He referred to new symbiosis and the was nature and our environment is intertwined with our inner consciousness and that the new way moving forward is about more than being green. We must explore new links between ourselves and nature. He referred to the virtual model that Balmain launched last year and mentioned the personality traits of the virtual personified alien. 

I’m not sure these models was what he said were aliens, but these models are virtual and created by Balmain.

I’m not sure these models was what he said were aliens, but these models are virtual and created by Balmain.

 He went on to say that the new concept of luxury should be responsive. It should adapt. He showed pictures of how Adidas or Puma (I honestly can’t remember) made a shoe with a sole made of bacteria, which analyses the activity and terrain and adapts to it. He spoke about living garments and showed an image of a dress made from living cells which repairs if torn and which can adjust to your movement. In the same category the concept of responsive functional products was mentioned, and how we can find new senses, which can possibly give us super powers or help us perform better or outperform our current selves and outperform our current lifespan by doing so. 

 He showed pictures of a suit that makes it possible for you to breathe under water and how a singer is actually cultivating algae when she sings. He showed a 3D printed outfit made with living cells that forms an eco-system that makes it possible for the wearer to travel to other planets and have it adjust to new conditions when needed. 

 He finished his talk stating that luxury is not a thing of the past but rather the future. It might and should create our tomorrow. 

 As inspiration the team then went through some flash messages. These were:

  •  To dare, and to be pioneering. If you don’t, someone else will. 

  • To be exemplary

  • To innovate, more than just with new technologies. Do more than just being trendy and inspire buyers. Luxury is more than just selling. We are the new creators. We should cultivate the savoir faire. 

The Second Two Speakers

The second set of speakers were from a VC group and managed the Institut Francais de la Mode. They were Brad Fujimoto and Geoffroy Rosset. I suppose what they spoke about was interesting, but I really struggled to hear. Now that’s not an excuse, but I saw myself as a guest, not a journalist, so I took in what they gave me as an experience, and unfortunately missed out on this talk. 

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FUTUR404 & Devialet

It was a team of three, each from a different organisations and projects. The idea was to showcase what each was working on. The first speaker, I think Noémie Balmat, started speaking about how we need to think before we act, especially now that we are on a level of playing god. She literally said we should think about the shit we are doing. According to her, the next generation is the “WE” generation replacing the “I” generation. According to her, this generation wants to share and help each other grow. She finished with how she wants us to think about our little brothers and sisters, our children and what future you will give them. She’s the founder of FUTUR 404. 

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There was then a speaker from Devialet, the amazing sounding speaker with technology to play music in a new, better-sounding way. The device was designed to change the way space occupies sound. The video below is the review of famous Unbox Theraphy Youtube channel. 

What I liked

Firstly, the speakers were great, even if they were mostly French and in France, they did their talks in English. This is a big deal, because it’s not common to have talks that are not done in French in Paris. I’ve been living here for over two years, and I can tell you it’s something you have to make peace with as an expat. I was pleasantly surprised. And this made me consider coming more often, although I should also be improving my French.

The sponsor for this event was a company called Meotion. It’s a company positioning themselves as the provider of retail as a service. Big-ups to them for arranging and hosting this event.

I enjoyed the topic, and I think it’s crucial to think about the effect of technology in all mediums, especially the high-end, leaders in culture, namely the luxury industry.

What was lacking

Some of the speakers remained seated

I am a business coach, and I specialise in coaching people on how to present and bring your point across in the best way. The research shows sitting down is not the way to do it. Sitting shows that you either don’t really think the people care about who’s talking or about what is being said. 

Even if you’re shy, something most people experience when they’re speaking in-front of a group of people. 

But, if you’re a speaker and there’s a large group of people attending the talk, stand. Use your body language to make your talk interesting. It’s not a show and you’re not there for entertainment, sure, but standing can show the passion, ambition and excitement you have about your topic. 

Secondly, standing is also about respect. For the people in the back you were a voice. And I listen to enough podcasts and audiobooks, I came to see a talk by a person, and for this event, I was unable to connect with you. 

The Sound

It’s a massive venue, and we had a section of it. There was a lot of ambient noise. Either get rid of it by putting up glass walls or get permission to pump up your speakers. The speakers can also be shown how to use the mics, or do a soundcheck beforehand, just to be sure that everyone in the space will be able to hear what is said. It was a struggle to to do so. Many people left, not because the talks weren’t interesting. They left because they couldn’t hear anything. I wasn’t able to hear the last two speakers so I couldn’t write about them. 

Conclusion

I enjoyed the evening, I learnt a lot about the luxury industry, what they predict will be crucial for luxury brands to lead us into the future. I enjoyed the time at Station F and had a dream of one day being part of the group with my start-up discussing the next move just after we launched. I am glad they host these events, and it was free, so I imagine these talks will only get bigger and have more influence in the days to come. If you’re in Paris, you should check Station F’s calendar on Facebook. It’s worth it. 

Here are some images of Station F. It’s amazing.