What is luxury?

According to Andrew Winch, Luxury is being redefined by the advances in technology.

Andrew Winch

Andrew Winch has designed some of the finest yachts ever built. Since founding Winch Design in 1986, his company has designed a wide range of cars, helicopters, jets and superyachts, alongside a portfolio of extraordinary properties. Winch takes an uncompromising approach to elevate uniqueness and beauty.

The concept of luxury is heavily dependent on the culture of the person who defines it. In your life and travels, do you encounter differences in meaning – do you cross borders of luxury?

Having travelled around the world, I’ve certainly seen differences in the day to day meaning of luxury across different cultures, however I think the fundamental concepts of luxury, such as freedom and time, remain the same wherever you are. It tends to be the material goods that vary from culture to culture but no matter where you are in the world, a luxurious experience that allows the mind to relax will always provide me with the same feeling of pleasure.

“The fundamental concepts of luxury, such as freedom and time, remain the same wherever you are.”

Which qualities would you say are the vital foundations of an authentic luxury product, service or experience?

I believe luxury should be timeless, something that doesn’t lose its appeal after a few years. A luxurious product has to be perfectly tailored, it has to feel bespoke even if it isn’t and it needs to be a pleasurable experience to use. It is this pursuit of satisfaction that ultimately drives all luxurious goods, services or experiences, whether it be a fine wine, a holiday or a yacht.

When you conceive and create a luxury product or service – what essential elements must be present?

Rarity is of course an essential element in the creation of a luxury product or service, if there’s too much of something, it will lose its affluent appeal. The ultimate luxury is of course something that is one of a kind, an item no one else in the world owns perhaps, or an experience that can’t be recreated. Take, for example, a bespoke piece of furniture in one of our yachts. It will have been designed in the studio, approved by the client, hand crafted by skilled workers using carefully selected materials, and fitted on board before delivery. It will be a completely bespoke, one- of-a-kind piece found nowhere else in the world, and that is what a luxury product is all about.

“Advances in technology will be one of the biggest contributing factors to the evolution of luxury.”

How does your business view the range of growth opportunities within the emerging field of “sustainable luxury?”

Sustainability is something we care greatly about at Winch Design and we are committed to ensuring that the materials and finishes we use come from a sustainable source and even the correct certification of provenance where possible. I feel that this is something clients are becoming increasingly aware of and the scope of opportunities in this field is therefore huge.

Luxury can seem contradictory – the rarity of a desirable product is part of its appeal, and yet luxury is becoming more accessible – how do you view this delicate balance and the democratisation of luxury?

I think that the general democratisation of luxury has both positives and negatives; positives because more people are able to enjoy the things that were once off limits, but negatives because of the fact that luxury’s draw is inherently based on exclusivity, and without this, the whole concept itself is in danger of losing its initial appeal. However, I do think this depends on the kind of luxury you’re talking about, as not all luxury is becoming more accessible. The yachts, planes and properties we design are still the height of exclusivity and are by no means becoming more accessible. I think there will always maintain this ‘untouchable’ appeal due to their very nature and how utterly inaccessible they are to all but a few people in the world. With regards to the general democratisation of luxury however, I think it is generally a positive direction.

What is one luxury that you couldn’t do without?

My sailboat. The freedom it gives me to shut off from the rest of the world and spend time with my family and friends on the water is a feeling I can’t get anywhere else. It is my ultimate luxury.

“Time is of course the ultimate luxury.”

Could you choose one word to describe luxury now?

Freedom. No material goods or possessions even come close to the luxury of freedom. It’s always difficult to completely shut off and find time to relax but in the moments you can, be it with family, friends or even alone, nothing else quite compares.

How do you see the evolution of luxury and where is it heading next?

I think that people are starting to direct their focus away from material goods and one-off purchases in favour of spending their money on experiences instead. In the yachting industry, we are certainly seeing an increasing number of clients who want to use their yachts for exploration, on expeditions to Antarctica for example. Such an experience is of the utmost luxury, even for someone who has everything. I also think advances in technology will be one of the biggest contributing factors to the evolution of luxury, due to the ‘on-demand’ nature of devices such as our smartphones. Apps that can order private jets at the touch of button or self-driving cars that you can work in as it drives you, will all soon be common I hope. Anything that can get things done quicker or more efficiently will be hugely popular. Time is of course the ultimate luxury.