Design on demand: Just a matter of time?
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Until recently, living the good life was about having it all: the clothes, the jewels, the cars, the house, the yacht, the private jet — whatever. All that is changing.
Today, living the good life is not about possessions but about possessing, having what you want when you want it, but not owning it. Status now comes not from what you have but who you are and what you do. It is a trend that is already driving a decline in the purchase of luxury goods and reshaping services catering to wealthy consumers.
Will interior design be one of them?
Trend watchers call it the sharing economy, the collaborative economy or the on-demand economy. What began as a matter of necessity during the last recession has now morphed into a matter of preference.
People are renting, borrowing, swapping and repurposing not just to save money but as a way of expressing their values. When it comes to consumerism, today "less is more." The savvy consumer is the one who keeps up with the latest styles, has access to everything he or she needs and owns little. It is an attitude well-suited to an eco-conscious, socially responsible, trend-sensitive, mobile lifestyle.
And it is not just up-and-coming millennials who have embraced this trend. It is cutting across all economic strata.
Fast Company magazine recently featured an article on the rise of luxury consignment and rental retailers for items like high-fashion clothing, shoes, handbags and jewelry. While these enterprises initially targeted aspirational shoppers who were willing to splurge a bit to don a designer gown for a special occasion, they now count among their clientele the highly affluent, including socialites, professional women, starlets and celebrities.
"It's not about ownership anymore. It's about being able to do something without all the responsibilities of ownership," states former interior designer Sallie Giordano, who has launched Couture Collective, a rental membership club in New York City.
"I think it's where the world is heading in general," comments Julia Gudish Krieger, founder and CEO of VillageLuxe, a community-based fashion borrowing website.
Milton Pedraza, CEO of the consulting firm Luxury Institute, agrees. Renting luxury goods rather than purchasing them appeals to young women minding their finances, true, but also to baby boomers who are downsizing and now see an alternative to constant consumption.
"Many older women want to declutter their closets," he says. "They don't want to be wasteful."
According to David Mattin, global head of trends and insights for research and consulting firm TrendWatching, status today relates to intangibles, like experiences, values and ethics. The focus is on self-actualization, and providers of luxury goods and services are retooling their offerings to appeal to the customers' desire to be healthier, more creative, more productive and an all-around better person.
Running parallel with this trend is the surge in on-demand services like Uber and Amazon Fresh. Mobile connectivity makes it possible to get what you want when you want it any day, any time, anywhere.
"Who needs a car when your smartphone enables instant access to a car and driver?" Mattin said. He cites the example of a company in London, Hunter VIII Hunter, through which one can order a complete gourmet, catered dinner party (including food, beverages, tables and chairs, table linens, flowers, candles, etc.) via an app on 24 hours notice.
Luxury apartments and condos are offering similar types of services, reports the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. Among the many amenities, features and options being made available to today's renters to compete for their business are on-site bike repair services, car-sharing services, cooking classes, personal shoppers and pet groomers.
It is not too far a leap from on-demand dinner parties to on-demand interior design for renters wanting a space that reflects their tastes and values or that will make the right impression on important guests without having to purchase new furniture or accessories. And not just for residential clients. Today's highly mobile workforce has more and more companies outfitting temporary office and meeting spaces rather than investing in properties, construction, equipment and furnishings.
What might on-demand interior design look like? Perhaps something like a cross between online design services and home staging, model homes and/or set design — with items rented, leased or purchased on consignment and returned or resold when the client moves on.
The technology to deliver it already exists. No doubt it won't be long before some enterprising designers are making headlines with their own, more creative business model.
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