THE LUXURY OF A LOCKDOWN

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While we’re all stuck at home without the services of our domestic help, let’s take a moment to look at the truer luxury of being at home during this period

Words Suhel Seth

Wars, plagues and famines are the ones meant to test human resilience.  It is during these times, that mankind goes through both social and economic upheaval: but then again, it is limited to those that are either deeply impacted by it or in the throes of it. What Corona has achieved is in making the world borderless again. Not for trade but for our collective health. And life itself.

But then again, the human spirit is never too weak to embrace and then overcome such challenges: time is not just the best healer but also the provider of those windows of opportunities that adversity might throw up, and this is what I feel of the human race in the years to come. If 9/11 changed the way we travel, this pandemic will change the way we live and the way we cohabit this planet. And amidst all of this, the paradigm shift will be in the way luxury is both served and consumed. We are already aware of the protocols that hotels and airlines have put in place as also shops and restaurants but the silent weapon is what is happening under our noses in our homes.

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Reading which had been given the short shrift as also communicating with empathy and realism, are all back in times which are both uncertain and unsettling. Human beings seek solace from stress in things that would otherwise be either taken for granted or seem commonplace. In countries with a huge reliance on domestic help, cooking at home was seen as drudgery and something that the homeowners never indulged in. A stage had come where even truffles and caviar had been commoditized only because there was plenty available.

Shortages make the smallest of things worth treasuring and this is what we are observing today in these times.

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People across the world have rediscovered their lives at home. Not the trite work-from-home bit, but the essentials of one’s home. They’ve discovered their beds; their living spaces; their studies; their kitchens and their washrooms all over again. These are what have held them together and these are what have offered them joy (or pain) in times of lockdowns. Which is why luxury will be sought in the simplest (and yet neglected) of things: from linen to thread counts of bed-sheets to the faucets in the washrooms to the air quality within one’s homes. I see more and more people seek this form of luxury since their homes have now become their world.

In a strange way, the absence of people at restaurants and bars will once again open the vistas of home entertaining. Hence, from tableware to glassware, you will see a tectonic shift for those brands that are in the luxury space in these categories. It may seem a bit simplistic for most but the truth is that luxury will now enter home more to avoid a self-image risk and discomforting rather than to impress peers in society.

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While many across the world saw an implosion of gadgets at home over the last few decades, I believe there will be fewer but then more luxurious than ever before. Be it your televisions or music systems and the philosophy of less-is-more will prevail. I also see, in an eerie way, luxury creeping into the personal products space as also the personal health space and here I am not talking about masks being made by fashion designers but something even more compelling like safety products and diagnostic products. The old-fashioned first-aid kit will give way to something far more complex: almost a James Bond-like tool.

Fitness and at-home fitness tools will also see luxury touches like we never imagined. More and more people will become health conscious like never before and thus invest in products that are more specific than the ubiquitous treadmill machine or a Pilates reformer. It is here that we will see a whole luxury market open up with both gender and age biases in mind.

Luxury, after all, is all about bespoke.

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The urbane home will reflect the aspirations as also the fears of its owners like never before and to expect people to embrace the ordinary when all their lives they’ve been immersed in luxury is too far-fetched. Which is why I envisage the new CREEPING LUXURY movement, which will travel with greater speed and efficacy across the globe. Some initial steps have already been taken by those brands that occupy the luxury space.

To understand the world of future luxury we only have to travel back in time.

And time will remain at the top of the luxury pyramid. Time to reflect; time to savour and time to collect. So be it art or for that matter silverware, luxury is coming back in a big way except in a different avatar. All we need to do is imagine that this is how the world will be for a long long time and then plan to up the ante as far as luxury is concerned. It will be a movement spurred by the self and for the few. Not for others and for the many.

In niches will lie ultimate riches. 

(Suhel Seth is Managing Partner of Counselage India and can be reached at suhel@counselage.com)