Conference: The new luxury rituals, how to regenerate desire
The conference dedicated to “new luxury rituals, how to regenerate desire”, organized on 28 February 2022 by Luxury Tribune and the SCLR, invited Cyrille Vigneron, chairman and CEO of Cartier International to interact with over 200 students on HEC Lausanne campus regarding the importance of reinventing luxury rituals.
University of Lausanne, Campus HEC (Switzerland)
While rituals find their roots in mythology and spirituality, they are a way to tell, to scenarize milestone events. Mythology or luxury: both worlds enable elevation, accessing values. Today, luxury brands must reinvent their rituals and conceive new ones, in order to speak to tangible and intangible worlds, including the metaverse.
The conference about this theme “New luxury rituals, how to regenerate desire?” jointly organized on February 28th by Luxury Tribune and the Swiss Center for Luxury Research (SCLR) led to many interactions between Cyrille Vigneron, chairman and CEO of Cartier International, Cristina D’Agostino, editor-in-chief of Luxury Tribune, Félicitas Morhart, founder of the SCLR and over 200 students in the campus auditorium of Lausanne’s University. Snippets.
What is your definition of luxury rituals?
Generally speaking, a ritual gives meaning to our actions. There are of course rituals that are more significant, such as marriage, which implies strongly transforming one’s personal life. But daily rituals are also important. At the peak of the pandemic, to say hello and embrace one another was a ritual that became impossible, generating a deep feeling. The ritual has to standout from routine and be rhythmed by insignificant gestures. It also symbolizes the passing of time, a birthday, a cycle, like New Year’s or a graduation ceremony. They are events which assemble communities. Luxury is not, by nature, necessary, but a means to make life more beautiful, and will insert itself in these rituals to make them into precious moments. Entering a boutique, trying on jewelry or a watch, unboxing a wrapping shut with a wax seal, discovering a red case, and opening it are rituals which will reinforce the offering gesture, because it is a gift. An offering, be it religious or not confers a preciousness to the gesture of offering. But it is also accompanied by a sacrifice, as the preparation, the awaiting or the privation is in place to enjoy what comes after.
Do rituals gain value for oneself or for others and are they unchangeable?
The more collective a ritual, the more value it has. The pandemic disrupted this process. Part of rituals remain the same, boutique welcomes does not change. Tangible elements will continue to be passed on, such as proof of affection. Via the digital, rituals can be recreated, they don’t lose value if they are invested in the same intent. Rituals can be constantly reinvented, regardless of the medium. Rituals were spontaneously implemented during the pandemic, like the one of allowing to remove masks when in company of others. It was a highly important gesture.
You often talk about transforming boutiques into sanctuaries, can you tell us about it?
During the pandemic, there was a significant need to continue going to boutiques, to feel welcome, protected, like a sanctuary away from the outside world. This reinforced the preciousness of the moment. We refurbished them for people to feel good, surrounded by beauty. That is why great houses are becoming ever more precious and sophisticated.
Why do luxury brands need to rely on ancient myths, is this not a bit passé?
Myths are indeed very ancient stories, that tell in a metaphorical way our relationship to the world. They influence us, even subconsciously. The more ancient these stories, the more we can renew them and touch a greater number of people. The symbolic elements are strong. The panther is our emblem, but it also has a strong mythological dimension. Dionysos rides a panther. Its predator and protector role invoke a mission of intermediation between worlds. It accompanies one universe to the other, including a sanctuary-like space. A hundred years ago, we had already integrated it by showcasing the Goddess Tanagra with a panther by its feet. Today, it is everywhere, in mosaics and walls in our boutiques. It has become our guardian, just like in the Odyssey film of Cartier. It can be seen travelling the world, time periods, it is Cartier’s emblem, but also the emblem of travel. It is that which takes us into the secular, that of our daily reality and in the sacred world, symbolized by the jeweler’s magic which transforms matter to make the world more beautiful. They are nails, screws that one appropriates. The jewels Juste un Clou or Love are both design elements, but also encompass a strong anchor to mythology.
Why is this icon resurfacing today, why this need?
It is a reassuring image shared with the collective. Luxury is no longer only a sign of distinction, but foremost a sign of recognition. But one needs to be sufficiently iconic and adored to be one. The most powerful brands have iconic products which play this role, Rolex’s Daytona, Cartier’s Love or Hermès’ Birkin. The more an icon is exposed and seen, the more the desire to possess it is reinforced, which can seem paradoxical. As one generally desires what one doesn’t have. The icon plays the opposite role. It fulfills a function of aspirational social link. The important point for luxury and desirability is to reinforce the icon which one protects as well as rituals that surround it, and not to increase an instantaneous gratification and an encouragement to consumerism.
How do you explain the resurfacing of some icons?
Icons, like the artist’s popularity, have value. Their price on pre-owned markets constantly increase, regardless of the volumes sold. But it is also about the law of offer and demand on the market. We do not master all the parameters; tastes evolve on that which one can find beautiful.
Does rarity determine the price?
Not only. The price is the difference between offer and demand and depends on the buying power of those that can afford it.
Today, the battle of desirability of great brands happens around strong symbols, like love. How do you explain it?
Those are strong symbols. One must know how to represent them by a choice of sustainable associations, including in the personalities that embody them. It is nevertheless dangerous for a brand to associate its image to a sole person, as celebrities do not create icons, on the contrary. The myth of Cartier has always revolved around Eros, the child of Beauty. We love that which is beautiful or that which we love becomes beautiful. And red will remain the color of love…
Web 3.0 is a new space of freedom. Here as well new rituals need to be invented. How is Cartier thinking about entering this universe?
In a world like ours, nothing is ever truly new. While metaverse is a mental space invented to be another self or a self in another world, this has already been invented: it’s the Carnival. One wears a mask to live another being than oneself, with no constraints. Literature has always brought us into parallel worlds in which one can project. To play another person’s role is very ancient. The fundamental question of metaverse is to know what to do there and with what interactions. But this question is not technological, it is sociological. While the metaverse is an extraction of the world, what will we do there? If it is an extension of the world, it will be in human relations, which are already known.
Does the Cartier brand analyze this universe?
Yes, Cartier thinks and analyses platforms such as Sandbox for example, but only to find out what our clients could find tangible and intangible there. Our digital double will perhaps want an intangible ritual to be linked to our tangible world. Even if we analyze it, we think our products will remain in the real world, from which we cannot escape.
How is the value we put on a tangible or intangible object defined?
The defined value between humans is solely led by conventions. The survival value is the only value that has a strong functional role. The rest are conventions. Values of the past are not necessarily those of today. Perles had higher value than diamonds. Tomorrow, will natural diamonds confronted to lab-grown diamonds also lose their value? Everything is about convention. NFTs have the value one wants to give it. It is a virtual value. Not to mention there will also be a need to protect oneself against false NFTs. It is also about trusting the capacity to produce undecipherable entities. But humans have this capacity to crack codes, there will always remain a doubt when it comes to intangible value. While tangible products will remain longer, as they encompass a symbolic and historic value which cannot be disrupted.
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