“Quartering the topmost branches of one of the tall trees, an invisible bird was striving to make the day seem shorter, exploring with a long-drawn note the solitude that pressed it on every side, but it received at once so unanimous an answer, so powerful a repercussion of silence and of immobility, that one felt it had arrested for all eternity the moment which it had been trying to make pass more quickly.”
― Marcel Proust, Swann's Way
What qualities convey the idea of timelessness, when time itself is subjected to physical realities? Following Proust’s metaphor, time would not just be a flickering notion, but rather a more important and profound experience. What we call "timeless" might just be something more important than time itself. We can relate this idea to the luxury industry today. In a world surrounded by cosmetically enhanced perceptions of our realities, ephemeral through trends of neurotic fashions, aren’t we all paradoxically seeking for authenticity to stabilize ourselves peacefully into timeless values? Shouldn’t luxury today be a matter of achieving timelessness, reaching for that point in time where we can strike so beautifully into people’s hearts that time itself becomes irrelevant?
At the epitome of the luxury business, I would place the art of selling emotions. Deriving from our circumstances, mood, or relationships with others, we feel and so we are. Emotions help us highlight what is important and therefore identify ourselves in time. Creating an emotional experience during a sale is therefore essential to transforming a commercial transaction into luxury. What price would you pay for time? At what cost would you be ready to forget about time? And finally, isn’t the experience of living a timeless emotion priceless? The beauty of luxury arises when we realize how sublime our human condition becomes when emotions are discovered and protected.
As I look back at past sales in high jewelry, beyond the satisfaction to have surpassed personal record amounts was sometimes the pride in having participated into something more meaningful and spiritual. For example, a woman comes into a precious room surrounded by rare jewels. She has the means to acquire any of these pieces. A soft music hums in the distance and the different decorative ornaments surrounding her echo elegantly institutional promotional messages about the brand she is visiting. A modern painting here, a flower bouquet there, portraits of the founders smiling in the distance and art books promoting the brand's legitimacy and credibility. The brand is famous. Everyone knows it. It is seen on billboards and the glossy pages of international publications. The mere name of it inspires awe and admiration. The sales people in the room are smiling at her and, at this moment, right now she knows she is the center of everyone’s attention, the star of a show and the muse of the sales artists standing in front of her and at respectful distance. Sometimes she will pout, with a blank expression hiding her emotions, just to make it a bit more challenging for the others to conquer her. And sometimes she will look straight at the sales people’s eyes, and smile with a polite and serene confidence. If she knows them already, it will be like coming back home. If she has never met them before, right now will be decisive in deciding whether or not this moment will be memorable or forgettable.
She sits down and the presentation starts. She will ask the usual technical questions, sometimes by genuine interest; sometimes to check the sales person expertise level, and maybe, just maybe sometimes just to kill time…Does she want it? Does she need it? For this potential transaction, what benefit will she really gain from acquiring it? When she goes back home a few hours later, and when she will wake up the following morning, back in the trivial realities of her existence, will this moment right now have ever mattered? Or will it forever matter? And if I turn back to think of the salesperson who performed this presentation, will he or she remember it in the future? Or was it all just for the sake of a commission?
After a few minutes, the lady stares at a brooch in a nostalgic contemplation. The brooch represents two lovebirds singing together on a branch, ready to take flight. The sales person explains the design, the choice of stones and the intricate craftsmanship. The choice of blue sapphires for the eyes was made to purposely highlight a poetic under meaning (in French we say “Yeux bleus, yeux d’amoureux” or “Blue is the color for lovers”). The choice of marquise cut diamonds forming the wings was in reference to a historical love story (according to legend, the French King Louis XV commissioned his court jewelers to create a diamond to match the smile of his chief mistress, Jean Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour). The delicate setting and overall architecture of the piece involved skilled artisans working for months to give birth to the unique design. And the brooch was just received a few days earlier, to this salon, for this appointment with her. Nobody but her has been able to see it yet.
The lady finally reveals why she feels drawn to the brooch. Her husband passed away a few months earlier. They were married for 30 years. They met in university, when they were still kids. And they fell in love like kids do, with passion, with joy and excitement. They stayed together over the decades by choice, because they had become a team, life partners. They built a business together, created a family together, went through the ups and downs of life together, and they always stuck to one another. Last year, they had celebrated their 30 years anniversary. For the occasion, they had organized a celebration, gathering their family and friends. He was sick already at the time, but nevertheless he had wanted this celebration. During his speech he called her his lovebird… And so the lady purchased the brooch.
Will she ever wear the brooch? Does it really matter anymore? Her children will one day open that box, and they might remember their father’s speech during that wedding anniversary. And hopefully they will feel proud of their emotional heritage, and pass this energy back on to their own children. And the brooch will carry far more than a materialistic value. It will symbolize a life well lived, an emotion with a meaning, a timeless value.
I thank you, my lady, for with you we have lived a true experience of Luxury. Moments like these teach us about timelessness. There is beauty in sharing these stories. They are here for us to be reminded that whatever marketing campaigns are done, however famous brands may try to boast about their conquests, and how expensive the decorum may be, in the end, luxury is beyond all of that.