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Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s former creative director, firmly believed that a better future could be made by developing elements of the past. Inspired by the words of the German writer Goethe, Lagerfeld always referred to elements of the past in his fashion collections.
Files are the secret weapon of luxury brands. By helping them balance the past and the present, they can also project heritage marks into the future. Harnessing the power of a brand legacy while projecting yourself into the future is a delicate balance. Without innovation, a luxury brand runs the risk of becoming a sleeping beauty. On the other hand, the soul would be lost if the past were completely discarded.
We explore the role of archives in building a legacy, preserving identity, and how they can help revive an inactive brand.
Related: The secret sauce to build a luxury brand
Files as a tool to preserve brand identity
The weight of history is not too heavy for modern life. If you add a touch of modernity to a long-selling product, you can surprise and delight your customers.
In my professional experience in the luxury industry, elements of the past, also known as archives, represent the secret weapon of luxury brands. When in doubt, take a walk through the store or take a closer look at old drawings from a century ago.
I will never forget when an internationally renowned designer developed one of the most successful crystal lights for the company. He visited the manufacturer in France and turned the iconic glass commissioned by the King of France a couple of centuries earlier. He just added a little light inside and a smoky finish to the clear crystal light, and voila: another bestseller was born.
Respecting a brand’s codes is necessary to build a legacy and preserve its identity. Codes are guidelines that link the past with future collections, and can be aesthetic elements, symbolic meanings, quality of the overall brand experience, and so on.
How to prevent a luxury brand from becoming a dormant beauty
Having a museum, organizing an exhibition, or creating many collections is not enough to build a legacy. The know-how passed down from generation to generation must support heritage. Having a mix of established and young designers on a business team can balance craftsmanship, tradition and innovation.
In 1983, Lagerfeld managed to revive Chanel by modernizing and expanding the brand while remaining true to what the company stands for. Lagerfeld constantly reinterpreted the classics, such as the iconic tweed jacket and the knit dress. He understood the role of logos as a universal language and the preservation of brand identity.
To prevent it from becoming a dormant beauty, a luxury brand should always seek to intercept new trends. Respecting the codes and reinterpreting them will ensure resilience, even during a recession.
The innovation must be done within the framework of existing codes and also incorporate the new post-pandemic code of conduct for luxury brands. Maintaining the practice of responsible living, valuing clients ’time, and building the brand experience around micro-engagement moments are new codes that emerged as a direct result of the 2020 health crisis.
Related: Why a luxury manager needs a combination of substance and style
A brand’s codes may change over time, but not its soul
In the end, heritage is a system of physical artifacts and intangible attributes that connect a brand with its past. You can break down the brand into codes and set guidelines for your organization. These references preserve the past to build the future of a brand.
Heritage must permeate all products, not with a spirit of nostalgia, but with a perception of consistency and quality. The archives used to be treasured by a few. Recently, they have been in high demand on social media and resale apps, and even streetwear and active clothing brands are picking up their works.
So remember, files are now the secret weapon, and restarting previous collections can bring your luxury brand back to life.