Even Midas, the Phrygian king with the ability to turn anything he touched into gold, would have struggled to turn a neat profit during COVID-19. With travel on hold and boutiques only just emerging from hibernation, consumers have had an existential revaluation of sorts – what will I buy, if anything?
ISO Luxury may have the answer. Launched by Julia Carrick OBE, former publisher and founder of the FT’s How To Spend It magazine, ISO Luxury is an exclusive, invitation-only app that connects luxury brands with discerning customers. “Along with my co-founder Andrea Koday-Vörös, we decided to reinvent the foundations of traditional luxury shopping using modern app technology to establish a community of brands and luxury buyers,” Carrick explains.
“In recent years, footfall to shops has decreased and high streets disappearing. Loose brand loyalties, the rise of online shopping and changing consumer habits, combined with high rentals and business tax, are all causing uncertainty to the sector. Brands are seeking new, innovative ways to target consumers and drive traffic back to brick-and-mortar boutiques. In launching the app, I wanted to promote the industry and use my connections to match global luxury brands with like-minded consumers, who appreciate and value high-end luxury and fine craftsmanship.”
In 2000, Carrick was influential in building Walpole, the not-for-profit, official sector body for more than 250 of the UK’s finest luxury brands. With it spawned the Walpole Awards, an annual dinner that celebrates the very best of British – previous winners have included Bentley Motors and Fortnum & Mason. It is thanks to the likes of Carrick – who has tirelessly lobbied for the recognition and renaissance of British brands – that the luxury industry is worth a staggering £48 billion to the UK economy.
So how will Carrick’s latest venture, ISO Luxury, contribute to the reboot of the luxury industry post lockdown? The ISO Luxury app works in tandem with physical retail to create unique, money-can’t-buy experiences that foster meaningful brand connections. While luxury used to be associated with the price or status that accompanied a certain object, today’s consumers are looking for something intangible – an experience that “touches the client and remains with them, through the product, service and retail environment. Bespoke, individual and personalised designs and services are at the forefront of consumers’ minds when shopping for luxury items.”
The app is connected to more than 130 luxury brands, including Tiffany & Co., Mulberry, Backes and Strauss, Jimmy Choo and Amanda Wakeley, as well as hotels including The Goring, The Savoy and the Grosvenor House Suites. Members receive unique privileges including exclusive promotions, VIP appointments, invitations to members-only events and a concierge service that is expert in tracking down rare and hard-to-find items.
“At ISO Luxury, we are becoming the digital connection point between stores and shoppers,” Carrick states. Upon the discovery that the government was ordering a lockdown of all retail stores, the team contacted every one of their 130-plus brands to understand how they were operating during the lockdown. The primary focus, it seems, was to offer ISO Luxury members unique experiences, albeit virtually. 67 Pall Mall, Mosimann’s and The Athenaeum Hotel offered members behind-the-scenes tours and daily wine tastings; David Morris, Theo Fennell and Kiki McDonough gave one-to-one telephone consultations via Skype or Zoom to discuss their jewellery pieces.
The main purpose of the app is to direct members to the retail ‘theatre’, which Carrick is so adamant on preserving. On the 15th of June, retailers were allowed to reopen their doors in London, much to the delight of shoppers. Harrods this week saw lines of customers eagerly awaiting outside, a raft of chauffeurs could be seen on Sloane Street and further abroad, the Hermès boutique in Guangzhou generated $2.7 million the day it re-opened.
With team members based in London, Rome, Stuttgart and Dubai, ISO Luxury is poised to offer high-net-worth individuals the chance to connect and become part of a unique private community – indeed, its current members range from Russian billionaires to Sheikhas of the Middle East all the way to double-barrelled British families.
“I strongly believe that the future of luxury lies in bringing back the traditional way of shopping, with private appointments, bespoke products and a unique consumer experience.” After a testing few months that have been unsparing, to say the least, shoppers can count on the luxury sector for a champagne toast – and with Berry Bros & Rudd listed on ISO Luxury, that shouldn’t be a problem.