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  1. Luxury
June 30, 2023

Why hyper-personalisation is the key to ‘true luxury’

Spear's 500 Live: Leading luxury brands rely on a deep personal understanding of discerning UHNW clients 

By Will Wainewright

Personalisation  is everything when it comes to the super-rich and their idea of luxury, according to leading advisers in the field. 

‘Clients want their uniqueness recognised. They enjoy the process – the building of the yacht — as much as the sailing,’ said Aino Grapin, CEO and founder at  luxury yacht and private jet-focused Winch Design at Spear’s 500 Live, held on 28 June at the Savoy.

Her clients are also incredibly detail-oriented and like to be closely involved in decision-making.  

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She gave the example of Winch Design’s plans for the ‘beach club’ of a client’s superyacht. (A ‘beach club’ is a platform at the back of the yacht allowing guests easy access the water.) 

Winch designed a bespoke beach club with small steps leading to the water, rather than a ladder – a feature that was specifically added for the benefit of the client’s dog.   

Happiness is… a grand piano

Jules Maury, head of  Scott Dunn Private,  said it was critical to ‘share our passion with our clients but using their language… we have to be tuned into who they are and take our time to get to know them.’  

Maury  said her travel firm went to great lengths of provide ‘special and intangible’ personal moments.   

Highlighting the example of a client who recently undertook a special family trip, she said: ‘There are two grand pianos in Sri Lanka and we had one of them delivered so the grandfather could play Christmas songs to his family.’ 

It was ‘that tiny detail that turned something very luxurious on paper’ into an incredibly special moment.  

The panel discussed how luxury brands like Ralph Lauren treated their most important clients, for instance by hosting them at Wimbledon on finals day. 

What is luxury? Aino Grapin, CEO of Winch Design, addresses the Spear's 500 Live audience
Aino Grapin, CEO of Winch Design, tells the Spear’s 500 Live audience of personalising superyachts / Image: Aidan Synnott Photography

[See also: Nicholas Foulkes on why ‘stealth wealth’ is over, unless you’re being ironic]

What is luxury? Jules Maury, head of Scott Dunn Private, addresses the Spear's 500 Live audience
Jules Maury, head of Scott Dunn Private, said clients look for ‘intangible’ personal moments / Image: Aidan Synnott Photography

How to define ‘luxury’?

Nicholas Foulkes — expert observer of the luxury market, cigar aficionado and  Spear’s contributor — had a fixed idea of his own idea of a luxury experience. 

‘Please use my palazzo, here are the keys and I will send a plane to pick you up… these are the most beautiful words in the English language.’ 

A luxury experience is valued more highly than physical items or services for today’s monied elite, the panel agreed. 

‘People want experiences,’ said Maury. ‘People want to spend their money with their families. That is one of the biggest changes we have seen post-Covid.’ 

And how best to forge those elite relationships? It is not easy, as clients are so time-poor, but a personal connection is vital. ‘This is not something you do over email,’ said Maury. 

Grapin described luxury as an elevated state and ‘the disappearance of all material worry.’  

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The panel moved onto other trends in luxury, from fashion to geopolitical shifts.  

A typical billionaire ‘is half my age and wearing a black T-shirt and slides’, said Foulkes, explaining that the  signifiers of contemporary wealth had changed.  

Asked for the single most important factor that would shape the future of the luxury industry in the coming years, Foulkes said: ‘Knowledge.’   

What is luxury? Nicholas Foulkes tell's Spear's 500 Live
Spear’s contributor  Nicholas Foulkes tells of his dream of a private plane ride to a palazzo / Image: Aidan Synnott Photography

He gave the story of a recent meeting with a wealthy Chinese entrepreneur who, within just four years of smoking his first cigar, had amassed one of the world’s finest cigar collections. His newfound passion had inspired him to read, research and become a connoisseur in a remarkably short amount of time.   

‘This is why China is going to take over the world,’ added Foulkes. 

But he also discussed the tension between exclusivity and loneliness for many of the most successful, an important point for luxury providers to understand. 

Foulkes quoted the author EL Doctorow  in his 1975 New York novel  Ragtime, who wrote that tycoons such as John Pierpoint Morgan ‘knew  as  no one else  the  cold  and  barren  reaches of unlimited success’. 

Watch the full panel ‘True luxury and the value of the intangible’

Held at The Savoy in central London, Spear’s 500 Live 2023 was sponsored by Archax, the Charities Aid FoundationHCA Healthcare UKHenley & PartnersSt. James’s Place Private Clients, and Unica Capital.  

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