Can the luxury industry be inclusive and exclusive at the same time?
Presented here for discussion is a excerpt of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
The luxury market has made a lot of progress in a short time by creating diversity councils, appointing chief diversity officers and developing special programs for underrepresented groups. But the very definition of luxury seems contrary to equality, raising questions about whether the industry can truly commit to the cause.
“I think it’s important to note that, by design, many luxury businesses are actually exclusive. That’s what we see in the media, that it’s something that only few people are supposed to touch,” Wharton management professor Stephanie Creary said recently on the livestream series, Leading Diversity@Wharton. “So, it seems a little bit of a paradox that an exclusive industry can actually begin to embrace the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Ms. Creary, who is a diversity and identity scholar, was joined by Kalpana Bagamane, chief diversity, inclusion and talent officer at luxury group Kering, and Dr. Atira Charles, head of inclusion, diversity and equity for North America at Moet Hennessy, part of the LVMH luxury conglomerate.
Ms. Bagamane argued that e-commerce and social media have extended the reach of luxury brands to every corner of the globe.
“The world has become a lot larger, which I think has made luxury, instead of exclusive, more accessible and aspirational,” she said. “We’re trying to be more aspirational, which is more inclusive, and we want to meet the consumers where they are. The last thing we want to do is exclude people.”
Ms. Charles said sorting out the complexities of diversity is a “daily conversation” in the industry because it’s about more than just race and gender.
“The industry is exclusive by product, but it should not be exclusive by identity,” she said. “Where it gets a little gray — and I think the industry is sorting this out — is how do we become inclusive by socioeconomics when, by definition, our price structure is high? And how do we also responsibly acknowledge that there is an intersection of things such as race and socioeconomic status? It really becomes this organizational dilemma that’s rooted in this larger societal dilemma.”
- How Can the Luxury Industry Become More Inclusive? – Knowledge@Wharton
- How Can the Luxury Industry Become More Inclusive? – YouTube
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is inclusivity an oxymoron when it comes to the luxury products industry? Do you see DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) challenges that are unique to the luxury industry?