The secret service

By Judy Cogan | 25 May 2021 | Wealth, Culture, Style, Design

Tempus looks at the über-luxury brands combining customer service with exclusive members’ club-style experiences

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Luxury is built on a foundation of secrecy. The high-end and unattainable will always be alluring, whether bound to the satisfaction of topping the waiting list for a rare and exceptional watch, or the anticipation to check in to the world’s ritziest addresses. Luxury has never really been about what looks good, but what makes you feel good.

With this is mind, recent research from the Global Web Index reveals 77% of luxury consumers prefer to buy a product or service simply for the experience of being part of the community built around it. As a result, luxury brands such as Rolls-Royce, Moët & Chandon and Chateau Marmont have upped the ante to offer exclusivity and privacy as a service through elevated invitation-only, experience-led micro-communities.

“Luxury is becoming more and more about experiences,” says Berta de Pablos- Barbier, the president and CEO of Moët & Chandon, a brand that has always pioneered exclusive experiences. “Beyond the quality of our champagnes our role is to craft – with our savoir-faire and creativity – experiences, such as a stay at the Chateau de Saran in the heart of the Champagne region, that are bound to create memorable and lasting impressions by immersing the consumer in epicurean journeys.”

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Dominating the landscape of Chouilly and the Côte des Blancs, in France the Château de Saran is an iconic invitation- only stately home owned by Moët & Chandon since 1801. A masterful five-year renovation, led by interior designer Yves de Marseille and landscape architect Peter Wirtz, was unveiled in 2019 and has revived its family spirit, while the château is now well-poised to begin a new chapter in its impressive 200-year-old history.

Priceless experiences here may include listening to the brand’s chef de cave tell the story behind an exquisite vintage rosé; having chef Marco Fadiga cook a lunch of saffron fish risotto sprinkled with courgette flowers, bacon and scallops; enjoying an early morning walk to a chorus of Eurasian blue tits around the manicured gardens; or simply basking in views over the fields of Champagne at sunset. The palatial suites pay homage to destinations such as Japan and former guests, who include Christian Dior and Napoléon Bonaparte.

“Experience and luxury have always gone hand in hand,” says Kathryn Bishop, foresight editor of trends intelligence platform LS:N Global, and consultant for the luxury sector. “As a luxury brand whether you are producing diamond rings, offering luxury yachting or you are Aston Martin, the whole point of what you do is to provide an elevated experience, a momentary thrill or that special sense of adventure unlike anything else.”

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Its owner, the famed hotelier Andre Balazs, is currently transitioning the hotel into a members-owned pad. Note members ‘owned’ not ‘only’ – access will be granted by owning shares in the property. In exchange for their investment, members will enjoy benefits such as private dining areas, a personal butler and the ability to stay for longer periods.

From here, Balazs plans to expand his supremely private concept globally in key cities such as London, New York and Paris, plus outlier properties are planned for the South of France and a private Greek Island.

“What we see here is this push to augment what the luxury experience is and so different types of services are coming to the fore,” explains Bishop. “In the next year we will see more of these very private hyper-personalised experiences as luxury brands are tuning into how they can provide less of a one size fits all experience.”

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In the wake of the pandemic, safety and privacy are paramount, both influencing a draw to this new luxury experience. If your invitation for Château de Saran gets lost in the post, for example, you can still block-book deserted resorts, such as Devil’s Thumb Ranch

in Colorado, or rent Kokomo, a private island in Fiji, for roughly £120,0000 per night with VIP access to all amenities and activities.

“We’ve dubbed these ‘anti-social sanctuaries’,” says Bishop. “They’re for luxury consumers who want to reclaim their liberation in the pandemic and maybe beyond.”

With the loyal, nuanced and long-term customer in mind it’s not just the hospitality industry that is elevating the exclusivity of its services. The Whispers app from luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce provides clients with rare experiences – including everything from painting tutorials to backstage-access at the Grammys and cookery classes with Michelin-starred chefs – along with secure, private connections to fellow owners and company executives.

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“Whispers is the digital house of Rolls-Royce and acts as a gateway to a curated world of luxury,” explains Verena Masters, head of Whispers at Rolls-Royce. “Our clients are patrons of the arts, philanthropists, collectors of fine and exquisite items; individuals untethered by common constraints such as time and money. They have been seeking a means to have more regular personal involvement with the marque – more experiences, more access, and more immersion in the luxury world.”

The fashion world is also encouraging the quest for unique and memorable experiences – such as the concept offered by luxury streetwear platform Scarce. “It has tapped into the surprise-and-delight aspect of this luxury trend by working with brands from Moncler to Gucci to design mystery boxes for those who follow high-end streetwear and fashion,” says Bishop. The content of the boxes can be worth from $3,500 upwards.

“You don’t know what you are going to get, but it will be surprising, luxurious and tailored and there’s this whole unboxing ceremony that makes it really special,” she adds. “It shows the alternative ways of providing a mysterious, private and rare luxury experience in a novel way.” Proving luxury is a feeling – not just a commodity.

lvmh.com; chateaumarmont.com; rolls-roycemotorcars.com; scarce.us