The authors of the book “Meta-luxury, Brands and the Culture of Excellence,” believe that the term “luxury” has been “overexposed, overstretched and diluted” as they coin the term ‘meta-luxury’ to recognize what is beyond a word that is now devoid of meaning. We reviewed the book a couple of weeks ago, then asked authors Manfredi Ricca and Rebecca Robins to dig a little deeper for us. Here’s a Q&A we recently engaged with them:
THE FIVE-STIR ASKS: What inspired you to write the book? Where did the idea come from and how (and why) did you decide to publish?
I think a book is, invariably, much longer in the making than one, perhaps, first realises. The idea had been germinating for some time and, as we started to seed the concept of meta-luxury in conversations with the wider community of ‘luxury’, from clients, to academics, to journalists, it gained, quite rapidly, both traction and momentum.
We would all agree that the term ‘luxury’ is one that has long been problematised. It has been stretched, overused and abused to the point where it is now devoid of meaning. In the context of a space that has become cluttered and confused, perhaps to the point of crisis, we set out to define the ultimate meaning of true luxury, exploring it as both a culture and business model. We coined the term ‘meta-luxury’ to recognise what is ‘beyond’ a word that is now devoid of meaning and to define the world of excellence as a conviction rather than luxury as a convention.
THE FIVE-STIR ASKS: Tell us a bit about the writing process--how did you work together, how long did it take, what resources did you use, what was the publishing and promoting process like?
Approaching the notion of writing a book through a co-authorship model could indeed be a challenge, but in our case it was the very opposite. Having worked together at Interbrand and known each other for many years played a vital part in making it happen, and we shared the same fundamental outlook and ambition that true luxury is ultimately about passing the culture of excellence across generations. We also had in common a passion for language, literature and a genuine love of words. As a result, while fundamentally hard work, the writing process was not only seamless, but also a joyful one.
One of the most inspiring parts of the writing journey was the series of discussions that we had with business leaders, brand owners, creators, masters in their field and academics, which are manifest as the Conversations in the book. We talk to passionate creators of brands that are beginning to make their mark in history such as Fazioli Pianoforti (only 30 years old and heralded as the creator of the best-performing pianos in the world) and Pagani, recognised as the creator of one of the world’s best supercars – and not yet 15 years old). Dr. Michael Scott, of Cambridge University, affords a compelling narrative on the history of luxury through the ages. We talk to Kazumi Murose, one of only 116 individuals to be afforded the status of Living National Treasure of Japan, for whom the culture of excellence folds into a fascinating debate on the notion of tradition as innovation. We explore the history of the St Moritz brand, before the very notion of destination branding ever came into existence.
As regards the publishing and marketing process, it’s a continual journey. Meta-luxury launched in Europe and Asia at the end of April and in the US in June and with that comes the constant need to be on tap for launch events, book signings and interviews. It’s been an exciting time!
In the UK we received an early review by the Financial Times: “Introducing Meta-luxury”, which acted as a powerful catalyst for a lot of positive attention around the book. We also received a great introduction to the US market, courtesy of the Luxury Marketing Council.
THE FIVE-STIR ASKS: What is the one big message that you want the book to deliver?
We have a very simple, but fundamental ambition, that "Meta-Luxury" will help change the debate on luxury.
Meta-luxury brands are created, managed and sustained on the central organizing principle of excellence, and that has profound implications – and indeed inspiration – for every leading business and aspiring leading business in the world.
THE FIVE-STIR ASKS: How do you envision readers using the book in their business lives?
What we’ve found interesting is that alongside the discussions that we’re having with luxury brand owners, we are also talking to businesses outside the world of luxury about how the principles and pillars of meta-luxury can be applied to their issues and challenges. Meta-luxury brands challenge conventions about concepts such as craftsmanship, innovation, pricing, extension and profitability. As such, these are concepts which resonate far and wide.
THE FIVE-STIR ASKS: Why should META-LUXURY be at the top of everyone's summer reading list?
Whether you start with the chapters on the four pillars of meta-luxury: Craftsmanship; Focus; History; Rarity, or immerse yourself in the fascinating conversations with individuals including Francesco Trapani and Renzo Piano, “Meta-luxury, Brands and the Culture of Excellence,” is an enjoyable and thought-provoking Summer read.