Bugatti’s first Luxury Summit, held at Château Saint Jean in Molsheim (once home to Ettore Bugatti himself) on the 14th of June, was designed to explore trends in luxury – present and future. Guest speakers included experts and CEOs of leading luxury brands, and the compere and host were Rebecca Robins, author of Meta-luxury: Brands and the Culture of Excellence.
Professor Ashok Shom’s opening keynote, Structural Changes in Luxury, outlined how the pandemic changed the mindset of consumers and forced brands to adapt. After two years of lockdown, customers were ravenous for new looks, new products and new experiences. And they engaged differently with brands, many of which ventured into unique multi-channel journeys for their customers, rather than a simple physical store and website experience.
Following Shom’s presentation, a panel discussion on Retail and Hospitality 3.0: Redefining Customer Experience expanded on Shom’s points about changing consumer tastes. Vincent Billiard, Managing Director of Hôtel de Crillon, asserted that it’s the human connection that generates a sense of desirability and luxury at his hotel, with a dedicated team of 14 butlers at guests’ service; in the handshake, the smile or the welcome, visitors find a service that is, as Billiard says, “informal and impeccable”.
“It is the human connection that generates a sense of desirability and luxury at our hotel.”
– Vincent Billiard, MD, Hôtel de Crillon
The panel also identified seamlessness as a key element of modern luxury. This doesn’t necessarily mean instant gratification, but a smooth transition between channels, countries and touchpoints; wherever customers interact, they are recognised. And while instant delivery, pre-Covid, was defined as luxurious, customers now face scarcity and long waiting lists. Savvy brands are finding innovative ways to stress that craftsmanship and quality are worth waiting for. In fact, the waiting itself can be seen as part of the luxury experience, giving brands a chance to provide impeccable personalised customer service.
At the heart of this service is not only the human touch but also technology that complements it. Ali Walker, Chief Creative Officer of Asprey Studio, explained Asprey’s approach to modernising a brand with more than 250 years of history: bridging the digital and physical by launching collections with digital components. He emphasised the rising value of digital assets, particularly among younger generations, and discussed Bugatti x Asprey collaborations, including the Asprey Bugatti Egg, a handcrafted egg with an NFT counterpart. NFT collections lead to physical experiences, with their owners invited to exclusive events or sent unique gifts, creating a full luxury experience that seamlessly bridges the digital and physical worlds. The bridge can be subtle, improving the luxury experience without consumers even noticing.
The Asprey Bugatti partnership began in early 2022. Produced both as physical objects and NFT generative work, the limited-edition egg collection uses a state-of-the-art technique of inscribing digital content on the Bitcoin blockchain, to ensure the artwork will last indefinitely.
In the final panel of the day, the focus was sustainability, a core component of the modern luxury experience. The use of blockchain technology and smart contracts will become ever more prominent in the luxury space to facilitate resale transactions and enable brands to earn royalties when products are resold, leading to a future where everything is traceable, sustainable and authentic. Mate Rimac, CEO of Bugatti Rimac, made it clear that Bugatti is already making decisions in the supply chain and production that will drastically cut the carbon footprint of its cars, by using suppliers that can trace and prove the sustainability of their products.
Mate Rimac, CEO of Bugatti Rimac (on the right), made it clear that Bugatti is already making decisions in the supply chain and production that will drastically cut the carbon footprint of its cars, by using suppliers that can trace and prove the sustainability of their products.
The day was crowned with the reveal of a secret Bugatti commission that represents the finest craftsmanship and bespoke personalisation offered by the team in Molsheim. In a sense, it is a distillation of luxury today, incorporating heritage with modern techniques, thousands of hours of skilled work, artistry and engineering. The result will be a timeless and incomparable one-of-a-kind car. More will be revealed on 10th August. Watch this space.
Words: Lisa Hillman