Luxury fashion business model transforming to better harness technology and circularity

  • New customers and new demands leading luxury brands to address sustainability concerns and build cross-sector coalitions 
  • Luxury customers increasingly expect sophisticated, longer-term relationship with brands, access to seamless post-sale services, unique experiences and transparency – all enabled by digital technologies
  • Wealthy Chinese customers, HENRYs (high-earners-not-rich-yet) and Gen Z driving transformation and growth in luxury 

1 December 2020, London – Mazars, the international audit, tax and advisory firm, today announces the release of its new report, Conscious, collaborative, connected: making over the luxury business model. The report, published in partnership with the Arianee project consortium, reveals how the luxury sector is shaping a new business model that allows customers to experience and engage with brands in new ways and to purchase goods knowing they can be easily and expertly repaired and resold.

Conscious, collaborative, connected includes insights from luxury sector leaders, including Breitling, Comité Colbert, Kering and Vacheron Constantin and draws from an extensive desk review of over 150 articles, reports and other sources.

Changing world of luxury

The luxury business model is transforming in response to a changing world: in 2010 luxury customers spent €4.3 billion online; in 2019 that figure rose to €33.3 billion. China is now luxury’s number one growth market. And the global second-hand goods market has reached €30 billion annually, thanks to 12% average annual growth in the last five years.

According to the report, the new business model taking shape addresses the expectations of these new customer cohorts, prioritises luxury experiences, engages in partnerships and adopts circular practices in pursuit of greater sustainability.

Customer cohorts 

Luxury customers are increasingly younger and predominantly come from China. The country is the number one growth market for luxury and home to millions of wealthy customers eager to buy top-end goods. China’s wealthy luxury customers make up one of the three new ‘cohorts’ identified in the report. Other cohorts are: HENRYs (High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet)[1], found in China and elsewhere, and Millennials and Generation Z – both driving luxury fashion’s market growth potential. Each new cohort brings its own distinctive opportunities and pressures for client-centricity. 

Pivoting to experiences and partnerships 

Throughout a series of interviews featured in the report, luxury sector leaders highlight that ‘clienteling services’ have become the leading edge in luxury’s pivot to customer experience, especially services coming after the initial sale of a luxury product. One example is the take-back and recycling programmes for customers seeking sustainable consumption, including Eileen Fisher’s pioneering Renew programme.

Partnerships have become vital in ensuring greater transparency, circularity and sustainability. The Fashion Pact is one example of successful collaboration: a global coalition which helps major luxury Houses such as Burberry, Kering and Prada to collaborate with smaller ones by offering brand-to-brand exchanges. In doing so they deliver on the environmental sustainability promise that consumers want.

Some of these partnerships have been formed to expressly fight counterfeiting. Fake luxury merchandise is estimated to account for 60 to 70% of the €3.8 trillion of annual counterfeit trade flows.[2] 

New luxury technology 

Technological innovations helping luxury fashion brands to update their model include:

  • Digital certification to prove the authenticity of products. Leaders in the field include Arianee, which is currently working with Breitling on a unique digital passport where the watchmaker offers watch owners a complete and continuous service from purchase to repair to resale or transfer – all powered by blockchain.
  • Offering live experiences such as concerts, special sales, art previews and access to capsule collections – all linked to customers’ social media use and their followers.
  • New digital technologies, such as chatbots and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to speed up and smooth the customer journey. 

Looking ahead: key challenges and opportunities

The report covers key challenges and opportunities ahead for the luxury sector, including the impact of Covid-19. This includes how the pandemic has provided the luxury resale market with extra momentum to drive investment in new services. In North America and Europe, many of luxury’s young and affluent customers have suffered a loss of buying power, making the resale market even more attractive to them.

All brands are expanding their digital presence: Hermès and Tiffany, for instance, are adopting digital marketing tools such as livestreaming which they had rejected in the past.

The report finds the brightest long-term future for luxury players that take seriously customer desire for sustainable consumption. That starts with circularity and finding solutions for recycling luxury products. But it also means going further, to develop new materials and production processes that do not harm the planet, and to bringing supply chain partners along on their sustainability journeys.

Isabelle Massa, Partner, Mazars, says, “Luxury brands have long been known for their ability to control how their products are presented and sold. This report uncovers how they are shaping a new business model to match the new market reality. Coalitions that empower brands to be more innovative and circular, and business practices that prioritise a younger, more diverse customer base are becoming the norm.” She adds, “This report reveals the new approaches taken by luxury brands: how they are expanding their digital presence to respond to the pandemic and shifting their models to build sustainable businesses and serve all their customers more effectively than ever.”

Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel, Arianee CEO and co-founder, says, “Our findings uncover how the luxury sector is undergoing a makeover, and why. The industry as a whole is evolving, culturally and organisationally, to meet new and old challenges. Technology and partnerships are at the heart of this evolution: as luxury brands find ways to deliver experiences, services, and circular opportunities like resale, so they can keep up with the demands of their increasingly younger, globally-minded customers.” 


- ENDS -


This study draws from an extensive desk review of over 150 articles, reports and other sources, and in-depth interviews with luxury sector leaders and experts carried out between May and September 2020. The report was created and published in partnership with Arianee. 


Edward Baggaley, Global Campaigns Manager,

About Mazars

Mazars is an internationally integrated partnership, specialising in audit, accountancy, advisory, tax and legal services*. Operating in over 90 countries and territories around the world, we draw on the expertise of 40,400 professionals – 24,400 in Mazars’ integrated partnership and 16,000 via the Mazars North America Alliance – to assist clients of all sizes at every stage in their development. 

*where permitted under applicable country laws.  

About Arianee

Founded in 2017, Arianee is an independent consortium whose mission is to build a global standard for the digital certification of valuables. The Arianee protocol makes it possible to associate a unique, unfalsifiable, and augmented digital identity with any item of value. This digital “identity card” opens up a new channel for interactions between brands, owners, and objects that is permanent, secure, and anonymous. Based on blockchain technology, the solution implemented by Arianee is open-source and decentralized. Arianee services offer the first SaaS certificate management platform and mobile wallet applications leveraging the Arianee Protocol.

[1] The HENRYs are a global cohort of affluent Millennials and Generation X who earn between 100,000 and 250,000 USD per year.