I’ve been making my way through The Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands by Jean-Noël Kapferer and Vincent Bastien (see my Twitter thread of highlights & excerpts from the book). It’s an informative and fairly dense book about the qualities of a luxury brand and what these brands can do to maintain their status and business health.
The authors define the “essence of luxury” as the desire for social stratification, to signify one’s superior place in the social hierarchy. But in addition to this social function, luxury plays the role of giving “access to pleasure” and has “a very strong and hedonistic component.”
There are other qualities to luxury that we may all be familiar with: it’s multisensory, its price is not tied to function or features, and a certain time devotion is required to enjoy it. A Michelin-starred white cloth restaurant experience, the smell and sound of a Ferrari, or the full experience of buying at a Rolex or Hermès store all come to mind.
What I found most compelling was the concept of the “dream” and how luxury products project themselves into a hypothetical future state in which the dreamer happily possesses and enjoys the product:
The luxury product corresponds to a dream. Dreams are an integral part of human beings: ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on’, said Shakespeare. They do not necessarily need to be satisfied: sometimes, their existence alone makes us happy. They are outside time, and often last forever (the dream of travel is not extinguished by taking this or that journey). Dreams are beyond need or desire; the role of the luxury product is to respond not to individuals’ needs or desires, but to their dreams.
I grew up with very little regard for luxury brands. As I got to learn about them, I never found myself excited about watches, cars, or hotels. When I got to a point where I could afford something nice, the thought of these products never entered my dreams. But as I made my way through the book, I realized something – I had very little in the way of dreams in general. Besides the ambitious dreams I had for my business or of personal productivity, I rarely ventured into thinking much about dreams around pleasure and enjoyment.
Below are a few thoughts I jotted down as an initial step to open myself up to thinking more about personal dreams that can manifest as my own version of luxury. My initial instinct was to think of these as action items, as plans to be executed within a certain timeframe. However, as I eased the pressure of needing to “do something about this”, I found myself enjoying the imagery and the possibilities in and of themselves – the dream that lives “outside time” and continues to exist even after I’ve lived out parts of that dream.
Dream #1: Gardening
I dream of tending a small plot of land, rich with veggies, fruits, and herbs. I’m proud of having poured in a great deal of time and effort into getting everything set up, and I’m capably ensuring that it’s well-maintained throughout the different seasons. I enjoy getting a bit of sun while pulling weeds out or putting up fencing to keep the animals out. My kids also help out, running around and pointing to different plants, recalling their names.
The garden produces bountiful harvest, supplying the ingredients for our salads, pastas, and pizzas. We marvel at the “garden to table” setup we’ve got going and talk about what new plants we can try growing the next year.
Dream #2: Making Pizza
I dream of a family tradition, perhaps during the warmer months of the year, when we’re able to be in the countryside. We make our own pizza from scratch on Fridays. The kids help roll out the dough, we make a mess on the kitchen counter, there’s tons of laughter. We’ve got fresh cheese from a local farm along with basil, tomatoes, and other veggies from our garden.
When we’re ready, we trot outside to our pizza oven that’s piping hot. We use our wooden pizza peel to slide our pizzas one-by-one into the oven. They’re done in minutes. We set up on the deck outside and tell ourselves to wait a few minutes for the pizza to cool so we don’t burn the tops of our mouths. There’s rosé and salad on the table as well. We give the kids the okay to finally dig in and they go to town, three pies gone in a flash.
We talk about which topping combinations we liked the best and take note of what we’ll try the next week.
Dream #3: Family Cycling
I dream of a time when my kids are old enough to ride road bikes and are game to take on the steep climbs of the Catskills or the windy roads of the Hudson Valley. We’re kitted out in matching cycling gear and sleek bikes. We like going out to ride on Saturday or Sunday mornings before it gets too hot. On ambitious rides, we end up putting in 50+ miles, but we’ll usually keep it to 30 miles so we can be back in time to enjoy breakfast at home. We love hitting big inclines and racing each other to see who gets to the top first (last one does the dishes!). We know of the prime lookout areas where we can get gorgeous views of the mountains and Hudson River.
Dream #4: Summer BBQs
I dream of hosting BBQ get-togethers for family and friends throughout the summer months. I’ve learned my way around a grill and love to mix things up, from traditional ribs and burgers to shellfish and chicken. I catch up with people while manning the grill and keeping an eye on the kids playing in the pool. We’ve got bright music softly playing over the speakers and a nicely curated ice box full of craft beers. We start nice and early and linger on till sunset, people coming and going throughout the day.
Dream #5: A Reading Place
I dream of a nook in our home where I can sit back and read intently for hours because the seat is so comfortable and the lighting so pleasant. There’s a side table with a stack of books so I can choose based on my mood. I also sip on my glass of wine or Scotch. It’s quiet with no distractions. Sometimes, I fall asleep on the lounge chair. Other times, I’m inspired to take careful notes and full of new ideas. I look forward to my evenings here.
The Common Thread Across These Dreams
I’m in no rush to turn these dreams into reality. And now that I’ve spent some time living in the possible details and imagery, they’re more likely to happen. But the question is, will I be ready to fully enjoy when these dreams do become true?
What’s striking is that these dreams have a commonality to them: they all require me to slow down, put in the time, and to be present in the moment. No version of these dreams show me holding my phone and staring at my Twitter feed or responding to emails. The dreamy quality comes from the very absence of things like work, external noise, and the need to be distracted.
Already Living My Dreams
At the end of every yoga session, one of the instructors on Peloton ends with a reminder that “everything you could possibly want and need is here inside of you.” It’s a platitude that can easily come out the other ear, but the more I think about it, the more truth I see in the message.
If I’m to be honest about how I’m living my life, large swaths of my time are basically in react mode switching between routine actions and information gathering. Mindfulness comes in small slivers and everything feels like they happen in a blur. I’ve often blamed this on external factors–the pace of modern life, juggling work and parenting, the distractions of unlimited media, etc. But I know deep down that these are all choices I’ve made to feel busy, to stay distracted, and to avoid being with my thoughts for too long.
Exploring my personal dreams is one way to make the prospect of being with my own thoughts more pleasant. I think spending more time reflecting on the pleasures and conveniences I already enjoy is also another option (see my attempt from 5 years ago). I think about Marcel Proust and his madeleine cookies, the ability to appreciate the small and the mundane. Writing more about the various pleasures in life that already exist may be a way to slow it all down and to realize that I’m already very much living my dreams.