The Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, welcomed delegates from 36 different nationalities to the inaugural Condé Nast International Luxury Conference 2015 in association with Swarovski and Place Vendôme Qatar. Held in the Salone dei Cinquecento, part of the Palazzo Vecchio, Suzy Menkes, International Vogue Editor, was handed the keys to the City by the Mayor, in recognition of her continued services to the fashion industry, and for the passion Menkes shows towards the City.
Opening the inaugural event Jony Ive and Marc Newson discussed their goal to make the most beautiful products possible, while ensuring they are consistent by investing care and attention. Discussing the fact both grew up surrounded by traditional craft, this was credited as the reason why they love the skill it takes to put something together. Regarding the Apple Watch, rather than being in competition with the traditional luxury watch marques, Jony and Marc spoke of their focus on developing a beautiful and useful product, with the wrist such a fabulous place for technology, so their motivation was different. The reason they chose one of the materials – the gold – wasn’t due to a predisposed price point, but selected simply because they loved it. Rather than buying it off the shelf, they developed their own gold, which is harder-wearing than traditional gold. Newson remarked he and Jony were at the beginning of a very long journey that will evolve in ways as yet unpredictable. Jony Ive discussed the path they are on in order to make technology approachable, relevant and personal, and if the customer feels ostracized in using the technology, then they would feel they’ve failed. Their intent is to try and take what is remarkable technology and to make it more personal. The fact remains that the Apple Watch will be able to offer things in six months time that can’t be imagined now.
Karl Lagerfeld spoke of his career, commenting it’s a very healthy thing to live in a high speed professional life, while ensuring you take a moment to concentrate on your work. Lagerfeld stressed one should take no credit for past, there are no second options – you have to think first before making the decision – and to never look back. “I’m not vintage myself,” Lagerfeld said, preferring not to take inspiration from his past, never sourcing from archives, adding “I don’t even know where they are.” Lagerfeld also noted that in the past designers wanted to be socially acceptable, while now they want to be artists. Citing fashion as an applied art designers should not be pretentious, thinking of their work as art, rather creating pieces people want to wear. When asked about working across brands, Lagerfeld commented Fendi was his vision of Italian, while Chanel his vision of French fashion.
In a keynote session, Antoine Arnault , CEO of Berluti, referred to that fact that a few years ago a technology company opening a luxury conference would have appeared strange, yet as with other sectors, the luxury industry is being reshaped as world of luxury and technology merges, a co-existence only just beginning. Arnault compared the relationship built with customers via digital as akin to that relationship of the atelier and the customer 100 years ago. However, stores will remain the most critical element of the customer purchase journey. Elements of timelessness will prevail; in 20 years from now people will still drink Dom Perignon, but will they still have iPhones or will there be another product that has taken its place?
Nadja Swarovski spoke of the Swarovski 120th anniversary, talking of the changes to the industry over this period of time, the varied creative collaborations the company undertakes with the fashion industry and their sustainable initiatives. Tory Burch, Chairman, CEO and Designer, talked of the need to ensure the customer has a seamless experience, and technology has a big hand in that, in terms of what the customer wants for the future, and other speakers included Frédéric Cumenal , CEO of Tiffany & Co; Michele Norsa , CEO and Group Managing Director, Salvatore Ferragamo; Sophie Hackford , Director of Wired Consulting; Axel Dumas , CEO, Hermes; Albert Bensoussan , CEO Luxury Watches and Jewellery, Kering; Delfina Delatrez Fendi , Founder, Delfina Delettrez; Eugenie Niarchos , Founder and Creative Director, Venyx; Gaia Repossi , Creative Director, Repossi; Caterina Occho, Founder, SeeMe; Nicholas Bos, President & CEO, Van Cleef & Arpels. Menkes was awarded the Fiorino D’Oro of the city of Florence in 2013.