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The Luxury Entrepreneur: Disrupting the Rules of Luxury Retail

I had lunch in NYC last month with Stella Xu, luxury entrepreneur, and was mesmerized by an exciting new dimension in luxury and luxury retail…not merely a new format but a dramatically different way of creating, curating and presenting accessory products at retail which changes the luxury game!

Enter the Luxury Entreprenuer, who:

” …builds her business by embracing artists driven by passion for life and a search for

personal identity rather than pure commercial values.”

A new age for luxury retail has begun. It’s foundation is a philosophy of living and spirit of creativity. The sensibilities driving this new creative force can be summed up as follows:

  • A global outreach by the luxury entrepreneur to artisans who share an Eastern cultural sensibility about a spiritual lifestyle.

  • The search for artists & artisans whose creativity is a passion for life & a quest for personal identity through their work.

  • Artists who offer a unique integrity in what they create, as their art precedes the product as a seed precedes a flower and its bloom.

  • A curator-designer approach to both product development and merchandise presentation where “selecting” the artisans art & “consuming” the resulting products become one in the same.

  • Where products and presentations are so unique adding “modern heirlooms” to the luxury consumer’s purchase drivers.

In accessories, the result at retail is nothing less than revolutionary. The entrepreneur’s brand is showcased with traditional luxury brands! The price of entry is not how popular they are but how they work as complementary works of art.

The presentation is in a museum like setting in specially lighted minimalist formats; brands, previously seen purely as competitors and housed in separate shops, fixtures, cases are now integrated in lifestyle presentations—hats with scarves and handbags, for example. Cross merchandising the brands recognizes the reality of how consumers shop and dress, mixing brands for their own unique lifestyle identity. Complementary color, texture, prints and the like, that is the design elements, unify the presentation.

A case study can be found in Zivarly®, a luxury accessory brand born in China and finding its unique opportunity there as well. It’s founder Stella Xu, ex-Principle of BCG, had strategic vision on marrying classic luxuries with new luxuries. Stella believes classic luxuries and new luxuries share the same gene of original design and best quality, while new luxuries having more younger energy and sense of coolness. It will be interesting to mix match them to attract both young and sophisticated shoppers. Stella then talked to the general manager at Upper Luxury® an extraordinary free standing retail format in Beijing and in other China locations and established the strategic partnership.

Exterior of Upper Luxury

Zivarly is a high-end artistic accessory brand focusing on fashion accessories. Upper Luxury’ original plan is to sell top European luxury brands’ apparels, bags, and shoes. Under the new partnership, Upper Luxury becomes the concept store in Beijing to showcase how to make style statements by accessories classic looks with the modern/artistic designs of Zivarly®. The store’s display and collections are contemporary, sophisticated and unique. The gallery type of presentations also helps educate consumers on lifestyle concepts, specifically providing examples on how to use accessories to make their style statements. This “mix-match” was a win for both. As the new experiment, the merchandise teams from each met and determined the merchandise/mix strategy. This was followed by the joint visual merchandising team to design the “gallery” presentation at retail.


Zivarly’ headpieces and scarves make visual display more interesting.

Stella Xu

Stella Xu, founder of Zivarly, is curating the products. Zivarly scarves made from US artist Patty Hudak’s paintings are displayed in both frames as a piece of art work and also on model as wearable art.

Zivarly Hat

The process began 8 months ago and the results are impressive: an increase in foot traffic, “hang-time” for these consumers was up as were their positive feedback. And finally the traditional metrics, sales, and sales uptick followed accordingly. Last but not least, the store’s galley setting makes it a perfect venue for small salon events. Zivarly kicked off the store salon event by hosting a series of “When fashion meets art” talks. At the first event, Stella invited American artist Patty Hudak to come to share her inspirations and stories on her color series paintings. Zivarly’s scarves made from Patty’s color series are displayed around, so salon guests can easily appreciate the scarves’ artistic value, feel and touch the material, and also learn from on-site Zivarly designer on interesting ways to wear a scarf. Scarf purchases were carried out after the event as expected.

Zivarly Team

This case study shows, while luxury is developing its new meaning as the pursuit of high quality and personal style, a set of values and sensibilities transforming art and new energy into products and displays need to be addressed in retail.

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