Even if you are not an ardent luxury follower, the growing emphasis on experience versus spending is hard to miss. Brands around the world are trying to bring a progression in what consumers “feel" when they spend an extraordinary amount of money. So if Nike’s running clubs work as advanced marketing offerings, enhancing sales of the brand’s apparel and shoes, or a luxury hotel like the Marasa Premiere Resort at Tirupati attracts religious tourists by its architectural interpretation of the Dasavataras (the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu), surely a festival like Cannes, a fascinating playground of a dozen versions of luxury, must be working on enhancing this notion too?

On the face of it, everything around the Cannes Film Festival, especially when gleaned from newspapers, videos, social media and television, appears as glamourous and luxurious as it always was. The aqua-white beauty of the French Riviera, the happy sea balancing pretty yachts on its calm surface, fabulously dressed celebrities wearing bespoke fashion and jewellery worth millions of dollars, dazzling parties that serve the finest wines and rare foods, and of course the world’s best films—which means a titanic serving of exceptional ideas in global cinema. Each aspect represents pure luxury—put together, it is like a small universe of sought-after experiences. That’s why Cannes is a fertile site to look for new lessons.

When I tried a simple Google search, I stumbled on an article called Guide to Living the Life of a True Billionaire at Cannes on Luxpresso.com. It served as a curiosity marker to explore yachting offers at Cannes. So if you are insanely moneyed and star crazed or if you have genuine film business to do, you can hire a luxury yacht that converts to a floating office by day and a party venue by night. Nothing new as a broader concept. Yet, when you zero into bespoke marketing details for luxury yachts, you find immense customization options. Should you want a yoga deck where you can take a privately hired yoga trainer and meditation guide for your trip, then so be it.

It’s all about the rapid growth of experience as luxury or what American authors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore called The Experience Economy in their 1999 book by the same name. Pine and Gilmore’s central assertion was the “transformation"—where goods and services are no longer enough. Instead the customer becomes the product.

When you clean the lens in this context to gaze at Cannes, you realize much is happening. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s purple “Avatar" lipstick, Hollywood actor Kristen Stewart’s sporty costume worn with sneakers on the red carpet and Julia Roberts’s barefoot appearance all strain towards transformation of different kinds. These are obviously encouraged by celebrity managers and the luxury brands they represent.

To mark the 69th year of the Cannes Film Festival, Chopard, the Swiss jewellery house which is in the 18th year of its official partnership with the festival, has put out 69 stunning pieces of Haute Joaillerie. All red carpet-worthy pieces, many of these creations feature titanium, a material that is used for atypical shapes and can be coloured with new hues, while the Green Carpet creations are exclusively made of Fairmined-certified gold and witness the first appearance of coloured gemstones by the brand.

Then there is the continuing pledge by Livia Firth, founder of the Green Carpet Challenge, to wear her past gowns (instead of new bespoke couture). Firth appeared this Monday for the premiere of the film Loving in a Stella McCartney gown made from Global Organic Textile Standard-certified organic floral cotton embroidery, organic silk georgette and crepe de chine with Chopard jewellery, a Roger Vivier clutch and Sergio Rossi shoes—all well beyond 30 wears (#30wears). She represents the reuse ideal instead of wear and throw.

Most brands and some celebrities are definitely curating new experiences, thus changing the economic promise of the core products they espouse. My vote also goes to saddi kudi Sonam Kapoor for wearing a blue and black metallic finish plastic yarn sari by designer Rimzim Dadu, a terrific instance of fashion engineering. Dadu, a talented conceptual fashion artist from Delhi who has never hankered for celebrity endorsements or even as someone who should be counted for fuelling fashion trends, has reason to smile. That’s what the transformation economy is about. You create an experience instead of just a product—then let the consumer give it meaning and mount.

Shefalee Vasudev is fashion editor at Mint.

Fine Print runs viewpoints on luxury and design by different writers.

Close