The Millennials, a generation that deviates from the norm and continues to puzzle FMCG companies, is turning the sacred tables of the luxury industry. When I wrote my PhD Thesis in the late 1980s on "Counterculture in America 1960s-1970s", I covered the societal changes that created the petri dish for the "Flower-Power" and the "Psychedelia" generation. Today, as a data scientist analysing behaviour, I find the Millennials an incredibly rich source of societal anomalies and mindsets shifts. In specific, and at this very moment, the "older" Millennials are creating their "mature" lifestyles applying a polarity of attitudes that is still undetected for many. Here is what I have unveiled so far.
While this generation lives the present like no else, preferring the "now" instead of self-sacrificing for an "unknown future", ditching the corporate careers for more "meaningful" jobs, some of them, who can afford it, are taking the luxury industry into a realm that many did not foresee: the mindful luxury buyer. Be not mistaken: Net-a-Porter, ASOS, Lyst, continue to sell to them the Celines, the Chanels, the Missonis, yet there are independent designers bringing forth the angle that the Millennial generation seeks: Authenticity. The term takes an intricate journey in the minds of the Millennials, because its meaning offers a beautiful range of emotional values: not just honest, but real, that is, uncompromised, focused on values that one can connect to, crafted not just with heritage, but with "loving hands", able to transcend beyond what the eye can see.
Luxury retailers focused on independent designers are creating manifestos that frame this state of mind. Some of these designers take pride in remaining independent, not just because this creates a more direct connection with their audiences, but principally to be able to guarantee the integrity of their providers. From materials sourced to how they treat their workers, the mindful value chain is carefully overseen. Espinela, a shoe label taking the Spanish heritage created by Manolo Blahnik into the Millennial generation, is one company adopting authenticity in its business practices. Embedded in their brand ethos, the label stresses the importance of offering their clients a shoe manufactured at artisanal shops where workers are looked after and hired with proper contracts, something that the brutal outsourcing to India and China by the big luxury conglomerates no longer offers.
The Millennial Luxury is actually the opposite concept of what the luxury conglomerates sell to the masses . It avoids the bling effect of a logotype splashed all around an object, preferring the object to stand out by its own values. The independent labels favourited by the Millennials are almost imperceptibly neutral, the labels are on the inside, and the tailoring and the materials speak for themselves. They even explore the high tech wearables, the intelligent materials that adapt themselves to temperatures yet remain light and comfortable, for the Millennial is a digital citizen that seamlessly navigates life within diverse contexts of tech and wheat-free smoothies. It's the Allternet generation where "all" is inter-connected: our souls, minds, emotions and bodies, and so, our clothes, as a representation of who we are, in all aspects of the Me/We consciousness.
Lilian Güntsche, a Millennial herself, digital technologist turned mindfulness author, is connecting the dots in her book "The Dignified Self: Mindfulness in the Technology Age". "The Dignified Self movement", she explains, "sees itself as a complement to "The quantified self" and focuses on people and their intuition to creating a life with both spirituality and the growing dependency on technology and data." How can these opposed forces co-exist, you may wonder? My own work in analysing how Millennials hack their own lives, that is, re-interpret established societal patterns and create new individual patterns for themselves, has thrown some interesting insights. Polarity and ambivalent forces collide and create new realities in the Millennial mind because they see life as a realm where there should be no rules and where everything should be repurposed.
Maybe, just maybe, these Millennials have a thing or two to teach us all.