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The Unsexy Luxury Edition
On service, craft, and a promise
Colin here. When we observe luxury brands, we notice the flashy things: the impeccable window displays from Hermès, the disciplined adherence to brand standards with Prada, the craftsmanship of Bottega Veneta. These brands make their money on presenting a tight, coherent narrative to the world, whatever that may be. And then this narrative extends to important elements like print advertising, retail, the products themselves, and even an Instagram or social worldview.
Why is this interesting?
But, to me, the most interesting part of luxury isn’t these things. It is the things that go on behind the scenes, and the promises that are kept for consumers when things go wrong. The true test of luxury is what happens on the back end. And the best brands do service, repairs, and customer service impeccably.
For example, I brought a battered Rimowa pilot’s case that had seen better days into their storefront. A passionate salesperson assessed what was going on, documented it all, and sent it away. The case returned perfectly repaired (while still carrying its nice patina), with clear communication throughout. Same goes for Rolex. When people send their watches in for repair, they come back looking like they came off the shelf, as good as new. Which is great, unless you want to preserve your finely aged tropical dial, of course.
Hermès has a legendary reputation for repairs to their leather goods. According to their site:
Some Hermès objects have reached a hundred years old. Their longevity is linked to the quality of the materials used and the know-how of the expert hands that manufacture them, as well as to the skill of those who find solutions to repair them. At Hermès, artisan-repairer is a profession in itself. They work within the after-sales service department, whose workshops are spread across France and abroad. Leather goods are a special case, for which artisans are expatriated to a dozen cities across the world to take care of the objects entrusted to them by our local customers.
These expert hands, responsible for some highly complex interventions, hold the house’s exceptional know-how, the secrets that contribute to the unique quality of objects designed and produced by Hermès since its origins. For these artisan-repairers, who undergo continuous training, the search for the original material is often a quest for the Holy Grail. They will sometimes even consider tanning in colours of the past to recreate the leather needed to restore a bag, or launch an appeal to find a piece of rosewood that could save a piece of furniture.
These storied brands, though they charge a pretty penny, remember their promise to the consumer: if you buy into our brand and worldview, we will take care of you long after you get through the marketing funnel. And the investments in repairs and after care are not insignificant. But when you get a perfectly repaired luxury product back, one can only surmise it deepens your appreciation and emotional connection to a brand. (CJN)
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On trade, vaccines, and sustainable and inclusive growth. From the ways the pandemic affected global trade to vaccine access in emerging economies and what an equitable recovery might look like, this lively conversation with the World Trade Organization’s first African—and first female—director-general covers a lot of ground. Check it out.
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)
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