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Party like a Russian? Observations on Luxury

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The FIFA World Cup kicks off in less than two weeks in Russia and who’s to know who will be partying on July 15th. And how!

Just under 2 years ago, Robbie Williams created more than a stir in Russia with his “Party like a Russian” song. Partly political but maybe also because it shows a stereotype that is feeling more than a little dated.

In our recent work in Russia* we have made a few observations on current developments in luxury and premium segments.

This is not an exhaustive list and these trends clearly reflect global shifts – but we think that Russia will add its own specific twist!

CONNOISSEURSHIP AND INDIVIDUALITY RULE!

Like in other regions, ostentatious displays of wealth are increasingly frowned upon and a luxury article needs to express its owner’s expertise.

Today it is not enough for a brand to be expensive and communicate quality, it needs to reinforce a sense of belonging to a circle of initiates and not just of wealth.

And more importantly reflect an expression of individuality.

IF EVERYBODY KNOWS IT. TOO BAD.

10-15 years ago luxury brands were brands that everybody knew but not everybody can afford.

Now luxury brands need to provide a sense of exclusiveness beyond price. New types of stores for those in the know, direct access to designers.

This is likely to increase further, with Russian teenagers to the fore:

“…Gen Z values individuality and exclusiveness more than others” (Vogue Russia)

HYPE OR HERITAGE?

In Russia, like in many other places, even luxury brands with an impeccable heritage need to create hype.

Tradition and experience are not enough as Russia’s younger consumers tune into the influence of international but also local bloggers, vloggers, rappers (the Oxford educated Russian rapper Oxxxymiron’s rap battles exceed 100Mio views on Youtube!)… and other more unpredictable celebrities.

LUXLEISURE OR ATHLUXURY?

The stereotypical style of luxury in Russia has transformed radically. Hardly a trace of bling in KM20, one of Moscow’s many luxury concept stores.

But what has remained is the Russian gift of carrying stylish audacity with confidence.

Even when it’s Yeezys that are involved instead of towering heels.

NEW BRANDS, NEW MEANINGS

The new luxury brands convey very different things to the new luxury generation than brands of the past did.

Luxury label Vetements is more than a sweatshirt, it is a reference to a modern ‘lifegeist’. “Meaningfulness” is the camouflage print of the season for brands – the must-have attribute.

As one Moscow student put it: “Off-White (the other label of the moment) plays with different styles and layers of life”.

РУБЧИНСКИЙ И СИМАЧЕВ

In the next couple of months, the world will see a lot of Russian design. The global fascination with the Cyrillic alphabet is on the rise again, hip Russian designers talked about both in and outside of Russia.

Fashion designer/photographer Gosha Rubchinskiy for example fuses Soviet codes with global streetwear styles (he also has a World Cup cooperation with adidas).

Denis Simachev’s international luxury streetwear style throws in some imperial inspirations too, fusing contemporary culture with Russian historical styles and references.

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

As Russia embraces international luxury trends, we are likely to see specific and individualistic local interpretations.

Russian luxury consumers are often highly educated and extremely cultured– they shouldn’t be underestimated in their capacity for subtlety, culture and critical questioning. As luxury evolves, brands will succeed by taking their Russian consumers seriously rather than just throwing ever more expensive products at them.

Tapping into Russian contemporary culture and arts in general (Russia has a dynamic contemporary art, performance and theatre scene) will provide opportunities for luxury brands to shine – if they do it well.

If you would like to learn more about this study, please contact vlada.gekhtman@happythinkingpeople.com or sven.arn@happythinkingpeople.com

* Happy Thinking People has been working for our clients continuously in Russia over the past 20 years in a range of categories, providing us with an in-depth understanding of the cultural context and emerging consumer mind-sets.



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