15 Jun 2018

Luxury needs imagination

At a time of real emotion, there is a need to bring back a sense of wonder, intrigue and discovery when luxury brands create new experiences. 

Camille Yvinec, Co-Managing Director & Strategy Director, Superunion France

In a world dependent on technology, luxury hotels, hidden destinations and other new and original collections are located, photographed, viewed and reviewed, leaving no room for the surprise of the unknown. While it’s certainly reassuring to find out about quality standards, the level of finish or the breadth of services of certain places or items, knowing too much can kill the intangible yet oh-so-important element of the world of luxury: dreams. And therein lies the potential danger: losing the thrill and excitement, becoming bored when experiencing things which have already been seen on a smartphone.


The relationship with time and the effect that a brand can have on it have always been part of the mythology which surrounds luxury. For a long time, brands have focused on their

heritage and traditions, shaped by their products. Today, they’re interested in their future and their imaginary, fantasy power, combining tradition and innovation. What could be better than the unknown nature of the future to create the myth surrounding a brand? If luxury is closely intertwined with mythology, secrets and exclusivity, then the future’s intangibility and mystery are its embodiment.

“100 YEARS, The Movie You’ll Never See”

To promote its Louis XIII brandy and its slogan “Enjoy the flavour of time”, Rémy Martin had a film made by Robert Rodriguez with John Malkovich, among others. Presented, or rather exhibited at the Cannes festival, the only copy of the film is now locked in a safe that will open automatically in 2115. The film, which imagines what the world will be like in a century’s time, will then be seen for the first time.

“Cellar in the sea” 

The story began in 2010, when a team of divers discovered 47 bottles of Veuve-Clicquot produced between 1839 and 1841 in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. This discovery was an opportunity to taste

200-year-old champagne which demonstrated the incredible quality of Veuve-Clicquot’s wine, given that it was largely unaffected by time.

Following this discovery, the brand decided to immerse 350 bottles in the Baltic Sea at a depth of 43 meters for a period of 40 years. Some bottles will be removed over the years to study the alcohol’s ageing process. But beyond the scientific aspect, it’s the dreamy quality inherent to a “scheduled rediscovery” which make this such a charming campaign. Tasting sessions are planned for 2054.


Like art, luxury is about creating emotions and creating sensory

experiences. From time to time in our daily lives, we feel surprised as we discover new things, experiences and situations. Knowingly provoking such emotion is one of the new challenges facing brands. In over-soliciting the senses, some brands have chosen to transport their consumers by means of their own feelings and sensations.

“Flavour Conductor ” 

Somewhere between the “Pianocktail” of Boris Vian* and the “Mouth Organ” of J.K Huysmans**, the Flavour Conductor is an organ created by Johnnie Walker to emphasise the complexity of the flavour of its Blue Label whisky.

The instrument was presented at an event during which the public tasted the spirit while attending a sound & light show. Different notes and changing colours have been scientifically proven to have an impact on the perception of taste. The public was taken on an auditory, gustatory and visual journey.

*”L’écume des jours” (Froth on the Daydream) **“A rebours“ (Against Nature)

“Les crayons de la maison” 

A streamlined, elegant design with an almost raw feel for an unparalleled feel on paper. Caran d’Ache was eager to provoke the senses of their users with their pencils. A series of these pencils was scented in collaboration with Genevoise Mizensir, a brand which specialises in candles and home fragrances, offering a unique experience between the “Tibetan wood” fragrance given off by the pencil, its design and the artwork of its user.

Inspiring pencils, breathed in by inspired designers.

Floraïku – July 2017

Floraïku’s fragrances are inspired by haiku (Japanese poems consisting of three lines), written by Clara Molloy, the brand’s co-founder. A subtle combination of words and scents. In this way, the brand has the ability to transcribe the intangible, expressing words through an inspired fragrance.


There’s nothing more magical than the ephemeral. The feeling of being present in a moment which, as soon as it’s over, will belong to the past. This elusive, intangible nature which brands are cultivating has contributed significantly to the success of pop-up stores. These evanescent experiences are now being extended to the worlds of gastronomy and hospitality. It’s about enjoying the moment at any price because nothing’s more precious than time.

“Fera development kitchen” 

The gourmet restaurant Fera opens the doors of its kitchens to create a uniquely magical moment for its customers. It’s impossible to find out about the menu in advance (all ingredients are seasonal) and the unique, exclusive dishes are created before your very eyes by the chefs of this Michelin-starred restaurant. An intimate, interactive experience to be shared

with a maximum of five other people. In short, it’s as much a show as it is a dinner. By offering this experience, the restaurant of the Claridges hotel in London creates a unique, unusual and short-lived experience. A magical moment in time to delight diners’ taste buds.


With the motto: “Blink and you miss it”, Black Tomato offers a trip, in its pop-up hotel, created just for you, to some of the most unspoilt and unknown destinations on

the planet. The guest chooses the destination and Blink takes care of the rest. Glaciers, deserts, jungles, savannahs: nothing is impossible. Blink provides an incredible service: a pop-up and entirely customised travel service which gives guests the chance to experience luxury their way. No two trips are alike: each one is unique.


Memories are daydream fodder, intangible whilst being so close to reality: they make us unique. Everyone has their own Proustian madeleine: a sound, a shape or a taste which immediately takes us back to our childhood. By calling on the somewhat old-fashioned poetry which often accompanies these intense memories, luxury brands create an immaterial, personal experience, just as a work of art or an everyday object can do. Memories are both frivolous and essential, two characteristics which the luxury industry has turned into qualities.

“Le Porte Galet” 

The creativity of childhood at the heart of a major Parisian brand: therein lies Petit h’s very DNA and simplicity. It has an approach to recreating things which combines design and art, with the help of the brand’s unused materials, as part of a clear commitment to combining Hermès’ creations with poetry, all whilst maintaining the carefree nature of a child. For some, “Le Porte Galet” will evoke childhood walks on the beach, spent picking up large pebbles which were polished by the waves. For others, it will remind them of hours spent painting, creating animals and other creatures with the end of their brush. All this work around memory and poetry emphasises one of the brand’s slogans: “When I’m older, I want to stay young.”

“The Last Watch” 

Who hasn’t dreamed of stopping time? In the collective imagination, it has always been the symbol of life and its major stages: it’s the reflection of man’s

mortality. The very perception of having time changes from moment to moment, depending on our actions and emotions.

By creating a watch which doesn’t tell the time, the designer and artist Quentin Carnaille offers to stop time, just like Dali. He makes time elastic and eternal.


The nonmarket value of the imagination takes us to an attractive playground: one of the intangible delights of the moment, the ravishingly useless pleasures, the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the experiences. In a world where everything is owned, it is now a matter of (re)possessing one's own imagination.

Published in Stratégies.fr.