This article originally appeared on The Popular Times, our new sister publication on the intersection of popular culture and luxury.
For almost two years, our team has worked to bring you a new industry publication: The Popular Times. Alongside the rest of the world, these plans came to a halt back in March with the spread of COVID-19. Today, we’re here to share our core message: the luxury industry is operating on borrowed time.
The rise of popular culture and its convergence with luxury signals a new era. We’re faced with the reality that traditional luxury’s days are numbered, and we must instead look toward a new definition. For the luxury industry to adapt, it must embrace awareness and pursue systems rooted in equality. A word like “awareness” might feel too light to serve as a backbone for rebuilding an entire industry, but if 2020 has asked anything of us, it’s to pause and look more closely at everything we do.
Only a few months after the pandemic hit, society continued to witness and feel more pain. Sparked by ongoing police brutality and the unjust killing of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protests surged around the world. Communities are speaking out with more strength than ever before against systemic racism and societal inequality. Public discourse, meanwhile, has taken to both the streets and social media to demand a restructuring of power.
The end of the year has brought hope, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris winning the US presidential election and a COVID-19 vaccine reaching its first recipients. However, as US Vice-President-elect Harris said in her acceptance speech, “now is when the real work begins.”
And, as we examine the standards that allow structures of inequality to run rampant, the way forward becomes clear. Those in any position of political, social, and economic privilege need to take accountability for their roles in perpetuating inequality. That includes the luxury industry. At The Popular Times, we recognize our work in the industry as privileged in itself and establish this self-awareness as the basis for The Popular Pact, our industry audit and call to action.
On many levels, current global unrest has exposed the unessential nature of luxury. This reality is apparent in dipping revenues and shares, worldwide store closures, and the looming collapse of existing industry models.
The Popular Times is not here to represent traditional luxury. We are here to question it. To work toward an honest discourse that recognizes how traditional luxury impacts audiences. This energy is motivated by the rise of popular culture across fashion and art, which has rewired everything we once held true about this industry.
In the pursuit of new systems, this publication abandons the politics of the old guard and is, instead, born from the perspective of a new generation of thinkers in the areas of fashion, art, and culture. We look to these leaders to build a new model for the industry that can weather the next decade. But these thinkers are not limited by a generation. In fact, early on in our development process, Keith Haring’s Journals planted a seed for our work:
“The decision is basically, is art for an educated few, or is art for all people of the time.” Keith Haring October 14, 1978.
This question now permeates both fashion and art. In fashion, we have seen it clearly through the rise of streetwear. In the art world, it’s been happening even longer through the explosion of popular art. Over the past several decades, the two most important mechanisms of class distinction have become popular, democratic, and accessible on a mass scale. This holds a significance that is, perhaps, greater than the scope of our publication.
Here is also where we arrive at our new definition of luxury.