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

Wallpaper March issue 2018 magazine cover by American artist Lorna Simpson
Left, limited-edition cover by contemporary American artist Lorna Simpson, available to subscribers. Right, newsstand cover. Fashion: Isabelle Kountoure
(Image credit: Brigitte Niedermair)

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.

The ‘Galop’ bag, by Hermès

The ‘Galop’ bag, by Hermès

(Image credit: press)

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)

Wallpaper March magazine 2018 spread Hermes

A new Hermès bag fills us with unbridled pleasure

(Image credit: press)

Wallpaper magazine March issue 2018 fashion spread

A host of gifted movers and shakers is modernising fashion’s leading maisons.

(Image credit: Magda Antoniuk)

Wallpaper magazine March 2018 issue spread

Parisian watchmaker Laps is dialling up the fun factor.

(Image credit: Osma Harvilahti)

Marni in Wallpaper magazine march issue 2018

Marni’s new prince is happily going off the rails.

(Image credit: Francesco Nazardo)

Neil Barratt in Wallpaper March issue 2018

Expanses of concrete and light, as well as an expanding vision of the future, characterise Neil Barrett’s new Milan headquarters. Portrait: Piotr Niepsuj.

(Image credit: Alberto Strada)

Fashion spread in Wallpaper magazine March issue 2018

Milanese mannequin maker La Rosa – producer of fashion display models since the 1920s – is combining artistry with modern technology to smarten up the shop dummy’s act.

(Image credit: Image Group)

Peter Marino in Wallpaper magazine March 2018 issue

As he designs his seventh store on Paris’ chic Place Vendôme, New York architect Peter Marino on delivering the luxury goods.

(Image credit: Charles Petit)

magazine pictures

With the power to salve the soul and sell stock, sustainability is luxury’s new holy grail. As we investigate in two special reports, it begins with the pioneers rethinking the production of raw materials, whether that means being able to trace one’s organic knit back to a happy Patagonian sheep or delighting in denim naturally dyed with Tennessee-grown indigo.

(Image credit: Geordie Wood)

A savvy CEO of luggage brand Rimowa

A savvy CEO and a slick reboot sees luggage brand Rimowa take flight.

(Image credit: Albrecht Fuchs)

magazine pictures

We play fast and loose with form and transparency.

(Image credit: Brigitte Niedermair)

Sharp cuts are in order as London’s spruced-up Hayward Gallery enjoys a return to form

Sharp cuts are in order as London’s spruced-up Hayward Gallery enjoys a return to form.

(Image credit: David Abrahams)

magazine portrait of woman

We’re graduating in enlightened style at Rudolf Steiner’s Goetheanum in Switzerland.

(Image credit: Estelle Hanania)

Action man seeks Zen den for down time

Action man seeks Zen den for down time.

(Image credit: Liam Warwick)

Kenzo Takada’s miso soup in magazine

Kenzo Takada’s miso soup joins our Artist’s Palate feature. Interiors: Matthew Morris. Food: Liam Baker

(Image credit: John Short)


The March 2018 issue of Wallpaper* is out now. Subscribe here