In 1899, the writer Thorstein Veblen coined the term ‘conspicuous consumption’ to describe how people spent lavishly on visible goods, such as silver spoons or corsets, to prove that they were prosperous. Over the past century, improvements in technology and globalisation have made consumer goods increasingly accessible to the average person. This democratisation of ‘conspicuous consumption’ has made flaunting obvious consumer goods a less appealing way for the wealthy to show their ‘class’ or spending power.
However, times have changed and given that everyone can now buy designer handbags and new cars, the rich are finding new, inconspicuous signals for flaunting their wealth. For many affluent consumers, it’s all about spending money on goods that others wouldn’t necessarily know cost more than normal. Take the recent Balenciaga £1,365 carrier bag that is essentially an expensive version of the .99p Ikea Frakta shopping bag. Because for many, it’s all about how those products make them feel.
With many new consumers now seeking understated luxury goods, it goes without saying that the packaging must follow suit.
Luxury items have always been perceived as being of a higher quality but modern luxury items have become even more dependent on quality, because there is no flashy label to hide behind. The product is the centre of attention and every detail including the packaging must be perfect. Products have been meticulously designed and how it’s packaged should complement what’s on the inside. As with the product within, the packaging should be well thought out in terms of the structure and functionality. Bonus points if the packaging can be re-used in some way, see the Tanqueray No. 10s cage edition pack. Equally important is the quality of the finishes, when opening an expensive purchase, you expect a little moment of excitement and joy not the struggle of opening a blister pack.
As with many new luxury goods, when it comes to the packaging, less really is more. That doesn’t mean less in the traditional sense, it means finding the perfect balance of craft and functionality.
At the end of the day, you feel guilty for even considering putting it in the bin.