Tony Chambers on why ‘less but better’ is the future for retail and design

Left, limited-edition cover by contemporary American artist Lorna Simpson, available to subscribers. Right, newsstand cover. Photography: Brigitte Niedermair. Fashion: Isabelle Kountoure.

We hear more and more that the younger generations are less interested in purchasing and owning things. They prefer to spend their money on experiences. Self-improving holidays, culture, live performances, eating out, eating in, yoga retreats, hiking Machu Picchu. While forensically documenting it all on social media of course. This naturally has been sending shock waves through the luxury industries. If this continues, soon nobody will be buying their products – no matter how good they are or how seductive their marketing campaigns.

But I beg to differ. I really don’t see that the love of experiences is at odds with the appreciation of well-designed, well-made goods. They are far from mutually exclusive. The stuff that surrounds the experience is still significant, if not more so. The enjoyment of a good wine is enhanced by the experience of drinking it from fine glassware. The rustle of tissue paper when you take out a new pair of socks is a pleasurable experience. Quality luggage – that should last a lifetime – makes your journey that much more pleasurable and, like your favourite watch or piece of jewellery, with time will be imbued with meaningful memories.

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The ‘Galop’ bag, by Hermès

The best stores, the bricks and mortar sort, now offer their own sort of experiential high; part art gallery, lecture hall, social space but always dedicated to enhancing the act of retail consummation.

Of course, we all now understand the endorphin surge, the quick chemical hit, of buying stuff. ‘Unboxing’ videos go viral as we enjoy the vicarious thrill of watching other people unpeel the packaging off buried treasures. And Apple and others have redefined the art and science of cellophane and cardboard boxes, given them extraordinary levels of care and attention. But the best brands, their designers, makers and craftsmen, know that a great product has to keep delivering on an experiential level, to become part of the way we do things and enjoy things, change our behaviours and enhance our experiences.

I’m optimistic about the future of the businesses and industries that we continue to champion in Wallpaper*. This more thoughtful, well-educated and conscientious consumer is a good thing. They may well buy a little less, but they’ll be buying better. Less but better, to quote Dieter Rams, is the way forward.

Tony Chambers, Brand & Content Director

As originally featured in the March 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*228)

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