New Codes of Luxury: Aspirational Shifts in North America

September, 2023

New Codes Of Luxury: From Fixed To Flexible

The world of luxury has been upended. Culture is shifting toward a growing resentment of not just the wealthy but of how their wealth is obtained. Driving this shift are factors like the lingering effects of inflation, the growing gap between worker pay and executive pay, highly publicized fights for fairness and equity – from Occupy Wall Street to the more recent strikes in Hollywood – and the rather unsympathetic response to the recent Ocean Gate submarine disaster that was rooted in schadenfreude, rather than sympathy.

Our Inflation Nation report highlights that a key component of the American Dream is no longer attainable for many: the promise that each generation will fare better than their parents. As a result, people have shifted how they view and value luxury. With this in mind, we set out to uncover what a broad cut of the North American population considers aspirational in 2023, and what luxury means to those who will likely never reach the wealth of today’s 1% or even 10%.

We found that while luxury has long been bimodal, there are three modes of luxury coexisting today, each characterized by different attributes and appealing to different audiences: 

  • Traditional Luxury is rooted in opulence and exclusivity — think tony enclaves, expensive jewelry, golf club memberships, and Italian sportscars. 
  • Contemporary Luxury reflects modern values that favor innovation and sustainability — think Apple, Tesla, Goop, Peloton, and Airbnb. 
  • Personal Luxury,the more recent mode,is defined by the individual, not brands, in the context of their own aspirations, financial circumstances, life stage, and social world. 

The prevalence of personal luxury reflects a broader societal move towards inclusivity, individuality, and a deeper connection with personal values. Brands looking to engage people in their individual worlds of Personal Luxury will require intimate knowledge of people’s beliefs and aspirations and a nuanced understanding of how culture and media are both influencing and reflecting their ever-evolving definition of luxury.

Click ‘Download PDF’ below for the full report.

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