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  • Massimo Casagrande

The Future of Education and the Impact it has on the Luxury Sector

…I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…’ sang George Benson in 1977. Although achieving moderate success in the R&B charts, it wasn’t until eight years later, by introducing a Yamaha DX7 Electric Piano sung by 22-year-old Whitney Houston that the song topped the charts, peaking at number one in many countries.

The younger generation has always had a knack for taking something old and transforming it into something new and disrupting the familiar.

Benson’s and Houston’s lines do ring true; children are our future and we need to teach them well so they can lead the way. As educators, we consider ourselves to be fashion facilitators; the bridge between the educational world and the industry. It is our role to prepare the next generation to be ready and to understand what the future holds for the luxury sector.

In this ever-shifting climate, one of our biggest challenges is to identify what it means to be a luxury brand. How do we redefine craftsmanship, artistry, and customization in this digital age?

Millennials are becoming the biggest generation ever, overtaking the baby boomers. According to a report by Deloitte, by 2025 Millennials and Generation Z will be more than 40 percent of the overall luxury goods market. They are a consumer group that interacts with brands across multiple ranges of digital platforms, ignoring traditional channels, and disrupting the norm.

Disruption is a term we have come to hear and use a lot of late. We have disrupted markets, attitudes, business models, and ways of thinking. We need to adapt our curriculum to teach students the necessary skills needed when facing this disruptive change and adapting it to a changing luxury market. The modern consumer is moving away from omnichannel luxury and is craving a more omni-personal luxury approach from the brand; expecting a high-value, customized experience.

We also need to prepare students to understand how the luxury sector needs to change its business models to meet the demand for sustainability. The highlighting of renewable, organic materials and the efforts of impacting the environment less is crucial. Teaching new business models such as Alpha Growth, successfully implemented by Gucci, is an initiative we can bring to the classroom. In this three-step process, luxury brands identify what is choking the brand's performance, thereby leading to ‘re-invention’ by considering an outward move to new territories. Collaborating with new markets, and influencers, and finally, the leverage on new technologies will help brands maintain a competitive advantage.

Focusing on new consumers such as HENRYs (high-earners-not-rich-yet) who are becoming ever-important for the luxury sector is imperative. They are better educated, and more informed and set the trends that their lower-earning peers will emulate. HENRY millennials approach the luxury market with new ideas of what luxury is and what It means to them; they are the customers that luxury brands need to identify with now in order to nurture future growth.

In the digital age we need to understand and not compromise, but reconsider the brand’s heritage, history, and values, and how to convert ‘likes’ into an engaging experience and opportunity for the consumer. Pushing them to reconsider and keep up with the rapid change in new retail technologies will enable luxury brands to engage their consumers in new and innovative ways. This confirms what José Neves, founder, and chief executive of the online luxury fashion retailer Farfetch said, that through AI the stores of the future are changing, and we need to consider how people will shop in 5, 10, and 20 years.

So, our main task in the educational world is to get the next generation up and ready to face the fast, ever-changing pace of the industry by giving them the employability skills, confidence, and foresight to redefine the luxury market so that they may become the successful entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

*Published article I wrote for the 9th edition of LuxuryLab Global, held in Mexico City on June 2019.

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