British Luxury Summit

Meet the Speakers: Anant Sharma, Matter Of Form

Before the Walpole British Luxury Summit 2022 takes place on 23rd May at The Londoner hotel, we would like to introduce you to some of the speakers, panelists and moderators who will be appearing at the event. Today, we're talking to Anant Sharma, Chief Executive Officer of luxury brand and digital agency Matter Of Form, as he teases what he'll be speaking about at the Summit next week...
17th May 2022
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British Luxury Summit Meet the Speakers: Anant Sharma, Matter Of Form

Can you share a couple of the key insights that you would like to share at the event?

Firstly, the rise of NFTs and virtual realms have forced a re-inspection of status and value. This has happened cyclically over time, from the value of nutmeg or cloves in the Middle Ages (you could buy a ship with a handful) through to the value ascribed to modern art (Warhol’s Campbell Soup screen print, for example).

Secondly, context and community matter more than ever for brands. It takes constant energy and work. Your brand is very much the sum of its interactions and there are so many other interesting ways to gamify engagement.

Thirdly, design is now 'on the inside'. What was once a logo is now a 'trail of breadcrumbs', ending in the product: the story, the context, the cultural reference, the collaborations, the supply chain. The design of the outside has become, on occasion, equally or less important than how we got there. Pangaia, while not traditional luxury, is a good example of fashion turned 'material science'. The ‘clues’ that provide a platform for personal interpretation.

What do you see as some of the most important opportunities for the luxury sector?

Understanding the role brands can play in helping activate digital identities. While the metaverse might be seen as the preserve of the gamer, or the backdrop to fashion campaigns and technology gimmicks, it is increasingly where emerging audiences will establish status and influence. Being pragmatic about this will help define the role a brand has in the metaverse. Gucci has done well here, most recently with VAULT (and previously with unexpected collaborations with the likes of North Face).

Encouraging action. Action creates a relationship and brands should think beyond what they say or do, or how they make people feel, to what positive actions they believe they can encourage. The rest will follow.

Creative confidence. Brands should reinspect their founding spirit and use this as a lens through which to interpret the future. Heritage and provenance alone are no longer enough, nor are they tolerated as a means to establish positioning at the expense of a deeper and more confident perspective on the now and next.

And finally, sustainability. An obvious point, driven home by brands like Chloe becoming B-Corps, but at a more nuanced level, understanding what role you might play in circularity (repairs, renewals, re-sale, for example).

What are some of the greatest challenges for the luxury sector?

The luxury sector is one full of healthy tensions. As we enter a cost of living crisis, emerge from Covid, and suffer the impact of war and conflict, tonality is key. Luxury is a celebration of craft and design. Luxury should lighten a mood, but how this is framed is the difference between fun, fame and faux-pas. The Met Gala is an interesting example recently in the public eye. Increasingly we expect brands to have a socio-political stance, but this is dangerous and can backfire. Finding a balance between confident, purposeful creative thinking and a sensitive and well-thought approach is becoming a fine line to tread.

‘Operationalisationing’ luxury brands can often be at the expense of a brutal focus on design. This is as evident in luxury fashion or hospitality as it is for mainstream premium brands like Apple in a post-Jobs/Ive era.

Why are these events so important to you, your business and your industry as a whole?

Firstly, it is such a joy to come together in person. Understanding the sequence of talks and how they fit together; it very much feels that there is a baton to be passed. We’ve all been through the wars in our own ways, making sense of a world that's changed so dramatically. Societal change creates room for commentary and bold creative thinking.

I feel the luxury industry had become rather complacent pre-pandemic, often turning its nose up at both digitisation and human-led narratives. This all feels disarmed. We have now a more approachable, more zany, more innovative version of luxury that, in many ways, helped define the brands in the space as category leaders to begin with. That excites me.

At Matter Of Form, we happen to love luxury, but only because we’re driven by organisations preoccupied with the pursuit of excellence in craft, engineering, and innovation. For us, this is luxury. And helping a brand break those design codes, cultural codes and, occasionally, the complacency that comes with a prestige brand, that's exciting. Discussing those topics in a forum of smart minds, well, that gets us all up in the morning.

See the agenda for the Walpole British Luxury Summit 2022 here.

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