Technology-Catalyst for Sustainability, Upholder of Luxury Luster?

When analyzing the modern-day luxury consumer, I believe that a certain hierarchy of importances can be linked to each luxury consumer’s decisions in the buying process, which is crucial to understanding where luxury is headed, how much of it’s “luster” will be lost, and where sustainability and technology come into play. The current luxury environment does not necessarily fully welcome or embrace this new e-commerce era-a rather scary one, arguably an oxymoron to luxury, if you will. So why should they accept it? Maybe the most pressing reason lies in the fact that luxury, (as is essentially all of retail) simply put, is suffering, and has been suffering for years on end now. Closures, downsizing and accruing debts are all results of this e-commerce monster growing in size and threatening to overtake luxury houses and all of retail if luxury does not wake up and start playing by the rules of e-commerce. The cure, many luxury retailers realize, as much as many of them may begrudgingly may hate to admit, is indeed a more esteemed and robust social media presence and cutting edge technology in stores and throughout the supply chain. From 3D models to developing new software engineering methods to ensure exact fit for customers, new methods of immediate ways to satisfy consumer needs in the most accurate ways possible are surfacing left and right. Amazon is already, of course, trailblazing this area of technological development and fashion and luxury brands are again realizing they must follow suit in order to compete. This then means that luxury companies will give the millennial generation exactly what it wants-more time. More technological investment equals less room for error, and even the opportunity, through Farfetch (the multi-brand online luxury retailer), to have the ability of matching existing inventory with consumer’s requests, which means less room for brand devaluation and less room for waste since the items sold are what currently exist, wherever they exist, not items that are produced according to expected or projected demand with resultant sad leftovers. This, and many other channels serve as possibilities for furthered sustainable brand practice. Sustainability, when it comes down to it, will end up saving companies billions of dollars if they allow for practices that streamline distribution to take effect. Even in the midst of the reversal on climate change efforts, leaders are coming forward in the fashion industry. Obvious incentives such as the 67 billion dollar potential gain from reducing energy emissions in the fashion industry, cleaner air, water, and better treatment of human capital, is all reason enough to invest in the kinds of technology to begin to make good on the inevitable positive returns. Waterless dye techniques, robots in factories (which are more sustainable through replacing multiple machines and allowing for distribution centers to be widespread and smaller, closer to customers, reducing carbon footprints as well as eliminating the need for poor human labor and arduous work) but maybe most important of all, and where I hope to leave this particular post, is where luxury will find it’s new roots through putting emphasis on humans and our environment. The room for human innovation will grow for those who have the ability to do so, and the lives of those whose jobs were lost by the robots will be enhanced by retraining programs into areas where their help is needed and their work is meaningful-such as in elder care or in artisan work. This new repurposed workforce will then leave room for the innovator’s visions to come to life, and for luxury to gain a whole new perspective with the marriage of innovation, practicality, technology and sustainability all coming into one. Luxury may not have the same salon-focused fittings, the same kind of uniqueness in the high propensity it did, and in the small amounts of it remaining now, but luxury will certainly see an injection of new creativity, of new human kindness, and this, I believe will serve luxury well if the right institutions take advantage of the right resources.

2018 Resort Season-Valentino, Dior, and Chanel Re-Caps

Gaining the opportunity to sample and savor resort wear collections showcased in opulent destination locations around the globe, each collection serves as a communicator in channeling the very nature of resort wear’s utter extravagance and dreaminess to the luxury consumer, and the ensuing mass market. The resort wear stage is where everyone lets their imagination run wild, and conventional fall/winter, spring/summer collections are forgotten about as soon as the ephemera of the grandiose locations and striking pieces of the resort wear collections hit the runway.

This being said, as we reflect back on the resort season collections for 2018, a few stood out to me in particular. First off, Valentino’s usage of their old school Italian roots fused with hip hop influence, followed by Dior’s references to Georgia O’Keefe and Vicki Noble, creator of the motherpeace feminist tarot deck, and lastly Chanel’s homage to ancient Greece. Each of these works inarguably represent the pressing need of our time to relate to other cultures, to understand, hopefully under the most authentic conditions possible, how our cultures are alike more than they are different, while holding necessity to cherishing the aspects setting each of them apart. I strongly believe fashion is a platform for doing so, when executed correctly.

To begin with, Pierpaolo Piccioli drew inspiration for this particular collection from the Netflix show “The Get Down.” This collection took a distinct side step from Valentino’s more traditional fashion week representations and took to heart the zeitgeist of today’s climax in athleisure, paired with obvious street style references-notably the iconic Valentino heels with socks pairing, detailed embroidered bombers, and splashes color in jewel tone track suits. Fur clad athletic shoes, structured jackets with ornamental design detail with relaxed athletic flairs as well as classic ornate Valentino lace layerings and delicate designs all dotted this runway and made for a complete, reflective yet pointedly modern runway for Valentino.

Next, I have to state how completely enamored I was with Maria Grazia Chiuri’s representation of Georgia O’Keefe’s personal style, influence and her nod to feminist tarot culture. Chiuri brings this breath of fresh air to Dior in the sense that she creates a more humanist and humble approach to the brand, more than ever seen before. Although she harkens back to Dior’s archives, as many and most creative directors choose to do with brands that have such solidified DNA’s as Dior’s, she also recognizes how easily one can confine themselves in this process, and understands how important it is to bring one’s own personal touch. After separating from Pierpaolo Piccioli in their partnership as Valentino’s creative directors, she and him both, are faced with the challenge to represent their own voices within extremely iconic brands. This collection, for me, was completely dreamy, completely inspired, and completely encompassed all that I believe luxury consumers are looking for from a design and artistic standpoint with the logo’s incorporated in such a modern and fresh way, while the artistry of the fabric spoke for itself on beautifully tailored bodices and silhouettes.

The last designer, Karl Lagerfeld, drawing from Greek influence, poised the Paris based runway show with cracked pillars and olive trees in effort to amplify Coco Chanel’s own linkages to Greek history herself. Both an owner of a 1st century headless Venus that still rests in her paris apartment on Rue Cambon, as well as her contributions to famous costume designer Jean Cocteau’s reimagining of the ancient Greek tragedy Antigone in 1922, Chanel was an advocate for Greek style. Each of these pieces, ranging from highly brand specific boucle to looser, more relaxed garment structures, is represented beautifully. At certain points, the collection did stretch to overly literal representations for my own taste, but, needless to say, Lagerfeld executed pieces that were utterly stunning to balance it out.

 

Blackberry Lemon Curd Bars

Blackberry Lemon Curd Bars:

For the crust:
1 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup of sugar (I used Trader Joe’s organic sugar, and would highly recommend :))
2 cups of flour

Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix these items together in a medium bowl. I use my hands for shortbread type crusts such as this one! I sprayed the bottom of my pan with Trader Joe’s Coconut Spray, but an un-greased pan is perfectly ok, too. Press the dough you have formed into the bottom of the pan. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the crust is a beautiful golden color.

For the filling:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
3 whole eggs
Juice of 1 whole, large lemon
Zest of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons lemon curd (ok to be generous with the tablespoons. I used Thursday Cottage handmade lemon curd from Whole Foods and would highly recommend this ingredient also)
7-8 whole, ripe blackberries (Whole Foods)
3 table spoons sugar

Instructions:
Whisk together the sugar and flour, then whisk in the eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon curd. Once combined, pour into the crust that is hopefully out of the oven by now. In a small pan, combine the 3 tablespoons of sugar with about a half a cup of water to create a simple syrup and let simmer over a low heat. Immediately add in the blackberries and let them reduce. They will break apart and explode their wonderful flavor and color into the pan (yummy!) Once the glaze/puree is thick enough, let cool for just a bit, and then generously speckle the lemon curd mixture you have poured into the crust with the blackberry glaze/puree. If you would like, you can use a strainer to strain out the seeds, but I love the added texture in my bars (not to mention the color!!!)

Bake for around 20-25 minutes.
When will know they are almost finished when the top has a glazed over shiny texture and the edges have created a beautiful deep brown caramelization..amazing!
Pull out of the oven and let cool for about 30 minutes to an hour..depends on if you like them warm or hot right away 🙂

When finished, you know you have succeeded if you see the blackberry glaze/puree integrated throughout the bar allllll the way down until it hits the crust. The crust should also not be crumbly, but soft and almost chewy.

ENJOY! 🙂Dessert