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The tourist trap!

Do luxury brands reflect local culture or are they merely tourist fodder?

Our previous post Beware of the Temptation of Emerging Markets prompted some interesting questions from our readers regarding issues of brand identity and brand consistency and at 2OPINIONATED we felt that they warranted further exploration.

One of the key considerations in the luxury brand decision-making process is actually buying into the particular brands country of origin. French brands are considered timeless and chic, Italian brands are sexy and superbly crafted and American brands are fresh and uncomplicated. This factor had us pondering two things..

  1. Firstly, does our own shopping behaviour change when we leave our own country of origin
  2. Secondly, have  tourists have become more important than locals customers in luxury brands marketing strategies and product development?

Brisbane is not quite in the same league of Paris, London, or NYC but it’s definitely a go to destination for Asian tourists. When Chanel opened their first store in Brisbane in Queensland in Australia they celebrated by commissioning the Brisbane bag below

It almost makes a trip to Brisbane worthwhile!

This is how it should be done…fantastic execution. This bag appeals to both locals and tourists alike, the bag is distinctly Chanel and completely respectful to the traditions of the brand – Hannah Brooks

And then…by direct comparison we have the Louis Vuitton Paris bag and the Gucci range that was created for the launch of the new Sydney flagship store last year.

‘Are they just selling an idea of a country or are they true representations of the local culture? Would any fashion forward LV Parisian customer ever carry the LV “Paris bag” and would any Australian Gucci fanatics don the Gucci “Australian Flag Bag”. We suspect it all comes down to design, execution and marketing’ .- Olya Bell

‘I hope it comes as no surprise to any of our readers that I wouldn’t purchase either of these bags – they are just snow domes for the well-heeled!’. Sure, I might make a purchase to remind me of a particular holiday but it would always be from the regular product lines and something I can wear everyday. No amount of limited-edition hype would make me buy a “luxury souvenir”.- Hannah Brooks

Are we being too judgemental? Travel does crazy things to otherwise fully functioning people. We have seen exceptionally fashionable friends feel the need to buy Teva velcro sandals just because they are travelling to South America and they may go on a hike while they are there. Perhaps these products are just providing the less intrepid traveler with an alternative shopping experience.

To get to the bottom of this (and in the interests of full disclosure),  we felt the need to examine our own shopping behavior on our holidays. We were left asking ourselves …would any self-respecting Parisian cringe at these holiday snapshots?

Let us first present Exhibit A ….here we are at the champagne bar at Galeries Lafayette

‘I think we can all agree on two things in regard to this image. Firstly, dark hair really isn’t a good look for me and secondly the only people who appear to be drinking in this Parisian experience are tourists’ – Hannah Brooks

and then…

Exhibit B – Another holiday snap of us outside the Louis Vuitton store on the Avenue des Champs Elysees

Simply having a store in a premier location like the Avenue des Champs Elysees or the Rue Saint Honore in Paris makes a statement about the band itself.

Flagship stores have become tourist destinations and the actual location of these stores is as much about marketing as it is about showcasing the latest collections. Even in a digital age  flagship stores are the ultimate expression of a luxury brands personality. In visiting them we are actually able to  live and breathe the brands true essence. This is especially important for those labels who retail outside their own standalone stores. Flagship stores provide these brands with an opportunity to carefully control their image and, in doing so, they are able to showcase the ideal version of their brand experience.

You might be surprised to know that in a previous incarnation of myself I was actually a sporty girl. It was forever ago, but I can still vividly remember my first  visit to a NIKE Town store in San Fransisco.  At the time the Australia retail scene was years behind global trends, the store was awe-inspiring and it made me a dedicated Nike customer for years and I suppose that’s exactly what flagship stores are meant to do. The best example of this today is a visit to the Apple store, where a cheerful, well-informed staff member can make light work of even the most exasperating technical problem and they will probably sell you another Apple product in the process – Hannah Brooks

If you love visiting the famous flagship stores when you’re traveling then we highly recommend you read the Prada book, edited by Michael Rocks. It gives an amazing insight into all things Prada and it will give you a much greater appreciation into how a flagship store is conceived by a luxury brand. For your shopping pleasure, each year Louis Vuitton also produces a Guide to European Cities (featured at the top of this post). At $130 it’s an absolute steal and it will coordinate beautifully with your matching set of Louis Vuitton luggage.

So what conclusions can we take from our extensive shopping research?

Firstly, at 2OPINIONATED we love shopping in any location that has a Champagne Bar – as we all know shopping can be hard work! Lastly, we would like to think that ultimately there will always be a  distinction between being a “fashion tourist” and buying a ‘luxury souvenir”.

What are your thoughts? In the name of fashion…do you become a different type of shopper when you travel overseas?

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hmm. Dubai – a holiday destination for thousands each year, and particularly so at present; now that “summer” (what ever this means here in the desert) allows a more comfortable shopping experience. Your musings have made me ponder what Dubai’s iconic brands would look like manifest on fashion. A camel? Arabian falcon? Barrels of oil??? Either way, my feeling is that “crass” and “unseemly” would perfectly describe the train-wreck translation into our fashion local culture. Keep up the postings. Please.

    February 16, 2012
    • Too funny Alice. When I was last in Dubai I actually saw a gentleman walking around with a red and white Valentino Shemagh (I hope that’s the correct term of the headscarf men wear in Dubai) and I thought these people really know how to shop!

      February 17, 2012
  2. Sadly, I still tend to look at the same sort of shops whether I’m in Sydney, London, Geneva or Paris. Plus I find that many of the shops these days, whether they’re a High St behemoth or a luxury label are the same everywhere. Shopping ‘overseas’ ain’t what it used to be, when you can buy half the stuff in an airport at 11pm while waiting for your connecting flight, what’s left to salivate over in the big smoke? Very little, and most of the other customers look like tourists too!

    February 16, 2012
    • So the global shopping mall isn’t turning anyone on! Sally makes such an interesting point…how can we label a brand a “luxury brand” when can buy it at Heathrow with our duty-free vodka. As famlily owned companies get bought out bythe conglomerates like LVMH the brands themselves tend to lose an element of what made them so special in the first place.
      We are actually in the middle of drafting a post talking about the demise of the independent boutiques that I hope you both like.

      February 17, 2012
  3. I totally agree with Sally. Especially after living in the middle east & now Asia!

    February 17, 2012

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