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Luxe Pack Explores Packaging Trends Key to Strategic Brand Planning

Among the highlights of Luxe Pack Monaco, the Luxe Pack Monaco Trends Observer was created to be an essential strategic planning tool for brands. The experts on this committee, in conjunction with Formes de Luxe magazine, unveiled four revamped trends at the October 2012 event.

Pink Lights Up

Pink is symbolic of happiness, says the committee. Brightening up everyday life, Issey Miyake chose it for the Pleats Please fragrance and Viktor&Rolf used it for the limited edition Flowerbomb, among others. “But be aware”, warns Béatrice Mariotti, vice president of Carre Noir and Trends Observer committee member, “that this color isn’t being used on a girly or regressive level. It stands out for its sophistication and depth.”

Depth is further enhanced by lighting effects. The bottle for Balenciaga’s Flora Botanica, for example, uses pink only on one lateral face, allowing the color to reflect and diffuse. “We are not limited to a flat color, but it adds subtlety and strength by being a gradient,” says designer Fabrice Peltier, founder of Fabrice Peltier Création and another committee member. For La Petite Robe Noire, Guerlain made it denser as it approaches the base of the bottle—an effect Nina Ricci reverses for Mademoiselle Ricci. “One could talk about a ‘new nude,’ which, while it is focused on pink, is also expressed in other colors. There is a maturity of color,” offers committee member and sociologist Patrice Duchemin.

The Hyper Material

While technological advances have raised colors to their maturity, they also allow materials to be used in new and unexpected ways. Cardboard, thanks to complex printing, lacquering and embossing, transforms into wood, metal or leather. Metal is transformed into leather or fabric, while glass and plastic employ surprising tactile effects. “We are seeing veritable cloning,” says Peltier.

The lacquered glass bottle for Blanc by Courrèges could pass for porcelain, and the cap of Pleats Please mimics crumpled paper. But far from merely settling for optical effects, consumers are looking for haptics (the pleasure of touch) and the real rather than the virtual—hence the need for illusion both in appearance as well as in density. “Equilibrium plays out on levels: visual, texture and feel,” says Mariotti. It is an equation that allows packaging to go another step beyond playing a simple protective role.

My Little Show Off

Driven by consumers, overt bling is being succeeded by controlled bling. While for some, in times of crisis, the overly eye-catching is becoming too difficult to bear, others do not want to give it up but opt to showcase it more discreetly.

“Normality is making bling look outdated,” says Trends Observer committee member Isabelle Musnik, director of content and editing at Influencia. “A new style of luxury is taking hold, less oriented toward the desire for admiration from others and more toward the search for experiential and aesthetic pleasures.”

It is a movement that results in a more sparing style. “Brands are retaining their traditional motifs, but in a purified form. They are responding to a growing need in developed countries affected by the crisis to be visible, but not overly so,” says committee member Rémy Oudghiri, director of the trends and prospective department at Ipsos.

The mesh found delicately hot stamped in gold on the secondary packaging of Mon Jasmin Noir by Bulgari are typical manifestations of this trend. The bottle of Lolita Lempicka's Les Dressings de Lolita is decorated with illustrations symbolizing the world of perfume.

But such subtleties and overstating the product/brand story in details may have pitfalls. “When the story is told in every last detail, it lacks mystery and spontaneity and therefore ownership opportunities. We are almost in riddle territory,” says Mariotti. And the danger is losing strength in iconic brand marks.

“[Consumer] imagination is no longer put to use, passivity is mandatory” says committee member Lan Vu, founder of the trend company Beautystreams. “And for brands to avoid this pitfall,” says Jean-Paul Cornillou, professor at Strate College and committee member, “they must reintroduce creativity and take risks, even if that means setting aside marketing requirements.”

Back to Front

Previously relegated to the back of bottles, ingredients are being put front and center. Maison Martin Margiela highlights the origins of the key note ingredients the basis for the decoration of its Replica perfumes. And as Kiehl’s and L’Occitane dissect their formulas and their list of ingredients, it may be surmissed that their goal is to demonstrate an expertise and a certain pedagogy.

“In terms of consumers, the need to know and to be reassured is fulfilled by this traceability,” says Oudghiri. But far from falling into the overly-factual or the down-to-earth, this movement is opening up a new creative path.

Luxe Pack New York will be held May 15–16, 2013 at the Metropolitan Pavilion and Altman Building in New York. Luxe Pack Shanghai takes place April 23–24, 2013, at the Shanghai International Convention Center in Shanghai, and the next edition of Luxe Pack Monaco will take place October 23–25, 2013 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.