Back in the '90s, if someone asked you to describe something luxurious, they’d probably give you a dictionary definition of whatever was in vogue at that moment. It was hyped and expensive; it was probably unobtainable and that sheer exclusivity signified its value.
Now, the idea of what is considered luxury is shifting. It's becoming less about purely unobtainable, expensive product and more towards ideas, mindsets, or even abstract ideas like time itself. The values we associate to what is luxurious now are just as important, if not more important, than what a product actually is.
BMW has chosen to focus on this challenge for 2018. With its redefined luxury arm, Bayerische Motoren Werke, it is, with its very name, looking equally at traditions that established classic ideas of luxury as much as it is looking to the future of what luxury can be. It's new film, The Story of Luxury, attempts to encapsulate these ideas and emotions.
Added to this, the upcoming BMW 8 Series and BMW X7, as well as the BMW i8 and the upcoming BMW i8 Roadster, will join the BMW 7 Series in BMW's significantly expanded luxury segment line-up. Digitally smart and connected, with exquisite, dynamic design lines that speak to the brand's sporting heritage, and furnished in luxurious, sustainable materials and trim, the new cars are designed for the new luxury of 2018.
The introduction of the cars has been accompanied around the world with special experiences tailored around specific events. Earlier this month for instance, Bayerische Motoren Werke enlisted Amsterdam-based Studio Drift—Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta—to present their latest work "FRANCHISE FREEDOM" to guests and onlookers at this year's week-long Art Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach event. The installation, composed of 300 illuminated drones that moved across the sky above the ocean to mimic a flock of birds, created a performative artwork that was at the interface between technology, science, and art. It highlighted the technological prowess of the brand, the new smart connectivity of its cars, as well as creating an unforgettable experience for onlookers.
So what is shifting, why is the idea of luxury changing, and why would an experience like what happened in Miami be considered a great way for BMW to show this?
"Luxury is about every second in your life," explains Martina Starke, Head of Brand Vision and Brand Design BMW. "It's about time, personal time, a very personal experience. We have emphasized the quality of materials, so that our customers can really feel they are driving something special."
As we have grown more interconnected through the digital revolution, we are 'always on' and can do more in a shorter amount of time. But that has also meant that time away from our duties—to do things we want to do just for ourselves—has become more precious. This means we have now put a premium on our time and the way we spend it. In other words: time and experiences have become signifiers of luxury.
"At BMW, we're developing intelligent systems so that they develop time: time for you, for other people, and for other things," emphasizes Starke.
"Luxury is the ability to define an experience," agrees Maxime Büchi, the multi-faceted Swiss tattoo artist, designer and creative director. "It is a lifestyle that is tailored to you rather that pre-defined or codified. Luxury is the world around you adapting to you, not the other way around."
"The more we rush, the more I realize that the only real luxury is time," adds the stylist, consultant and L’Officiel Hommes Italia's fashion director Emil Rebek. "Feeling good about ourselves and having the possibility to spend time with people we like is what I consider precious. And timeless. At the end of the day, it all comes down to feelings."
Another theory on luxury concerns the shift towards a demonstration that when we buy something we actively, but subtly, show that we know what it is we're buying. Whatever we buy needs to illustrate our conscious connection to and understanding of the world around us, as well as our impact within it. So while changing attitudes favor the things that are less showy (e.g. vegetarian or vegan meal choices, subscribing to and reading certain publications, or driving cars that are smart and make less of an environmental impact), the purchases we make still speak volumes to those who know.
"I like the idea of sustainable luxury for this reason," explains Emily Oberg, creative director of KITH Women, and former editor-at-large for Complex in New York. "The current state of the world we live in, and how my decisions might affect our planet especially, influence my thinking.
"In fact, some of the most luxurious things are sustainable, because they are made in a way that focuses on quality and longevity," she adds. "It's the idea of taking care of yourself inside and out, and having the luxury of time to do so."
"I think we have to focus our ideas on what we could describe as 'progressive new luxury'," says Starke. "The BMW driver always wants to have a sporty and dynamic character of the car they're driving, but they're also increasingly looking to what pioneering steps BMW is doing for the future. These are some of the reasons why we are developing these new concepts," explains Starke. "At [BMW] design, I always say, 'we're rooted in history, moving forward in design.'"
Next up, how can BMW Motorrad’s futuristic new bike balance speed, danger, and the need to be safe?