The Future of Luxury: Provocation

Posted 20/10/15 by Howard Sullivan


Well, luxury, of course, isn't dead but the way of categorising it, experiencing it, sharing it and engaging with it is under a radical stage of reinvention.

This week, the Frieze Art Fair gave us a sweep though everything current and exciting in the art world. Last week, FutureLab's talk #BeyondBorders was a brilliant cementing of thoughts we've all been having in the world of design- ie. words like 'crafted', 'artisanal' and 'experiential' have really lost their meaning. The high street has become an industrial-chic hall of mirrors but there is a new design epoch underfoot- hurrah for that! All the better for design companies like us who work from a conceptual and original stance. No more pastiche but time to flex the design muscle.

You want to engage with your audiences in a really saturated and high-quality environment, then you can't just do it with trite references to 'authenticity', the new authentic is provocation. Provoke people and get them to feel stuff in the here and now and then you've got the golden ticket to genuine interaction and experience. Take Eddie Peake's amazing exhibition at Barbican's Curve Gallery- I don't want to give away the surprise but just go and see it. Nothing like it and definitely something you'll only get from seeing it in the flesh, quite literally.

Here are a few experiences I've seen lately that I think really exhibit this kind of bar-raising attitude, and that we can really learn from. We might not be there yet in terms of mainstream brand activations but with audiences being wooed by the kinds of experiences below, be it from performances to art galleries to catwalk shows or art talks, there's revolution in the air. As designers we have a brilliantly shiny new dawn breaking, and consumers with a hunger for future memories. Now, let's create them!


Eddie Peake, Forever Loop, the Barbican

When art meets performance, dance, nudity and roller-skating.

 2Edie Peake pictured amidst  Forever Loop at The Barbican's Curve Gallery

Taking installation and performance to new heights, Eddie Peake's installation, Forever Loop at the Barbican's Curve Gallery mixes installation, sculpture, film, artworks, graphics and performance. The full mix then. Not like anything you'll ever see like it, definitely worth a visit.


Learnings: people want more and more....and more. Living so much of our lives vicariously through screen-based social media curtain-twitching, performance that jolts us into a real sense of the here and now (often that needs a 'shock-factor') is where's it's all at and what we need to get our over-stimulated brains to react.


Sean Rogg, Chapter Three/ FUTURO

A deliberately overwhelming experience of all the senses

 Sean Rogg takes his audiences through intense journeys of the senses, sometimes overlapped, mostly overloaded and in contexts that you wouldn't normally find yourself in. From disused tunnels under Kings Cross to large-scale environments he designs and builds with his team, these experiences take you into a completely different world that there is no way you've even come close to unless in some kind of hallucination or dream state. In terms of the 'fresh' and new,  Sean's immersive performances involve choreography, actors, food, aromas, light shows and sonic landscapes that all intertwine. He describes his experiences as getting away from the linear narrative and 'plunging people into an emotional soup'.

Learnings: senses are the last remaining untapped avenue of experience design. Why only get your audiences to see and touch your environments when you can get them to drink them in and taste them, quite literally. Experiences that involve all of the senses provoke deeper and more personal reactions.

 Waldorf Chapter3 Futuro Bg 6

Ken Kagami, installation for Frieze Art Fair, 2015, London

Would you like a portrait of your penis or breasts?

4Ken Kagami: one of the most popular stands at this year's Frieze London

5Two visitors exhibiting their portraits by Ken Kagami, Frieze London, 2015

Not a question you'd necessarily think would be an outright 'yes' but if the queues at Frieze were anything to go by. This cheeky art piece really got people intrigued. A one-man art installation, Ken Kagami set up a small stool at this year's Frieze London with a simple sign:

"Men = penis. Woman = breasts."

A quick 30 second sitting gave you an original artwork to keep from Ken of your cartoon (and imagined) genitals or breasts. 

Learnings: Think about what provokes the funniest reaction in children and this seems less strange. The weird and provocative gets a genuine reaction and people like to be provoked.

Not suggesting our next pop-up will be a penis/ breast-drawing bar but mark my words, in our share-share-sharing world, we will see brands and design experiences getting more provocative. 

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