Is Exclusivity Only About Affluence?
In a world full of multinational luxury brands, it’s still possible to feel truly unique.
We can define exclusivity as the sensation of being on a summit, surrounded by a small and select number of peers, and gazing at the world from a more advantageous and inaccessible position. As much as money will always be one of its main components, the concept of exclusivity has also nobler and more sophisticated underpinnings: personality and style, culture, good taste, and personal connections have always been equally relevant ingredients.
But is this broadly accepted definition as encompassing as it might have been 25 years ago?
Globalization and availability are doing to exclusivity what Xerox has done to art: by replicating it and making it promptly available, they have undermined its true essence and diminished the special aura of uniqueness that once shone around it. Money plays the main role today, and there’s not much room left for unique personalities, original tastes, and individual innovation.
“Most luxury brands have become multinational chains that no longer offer something truly unique or rare” – says Matt Conable, founder and creative engine of William Henry. “For many of these companies, exclusivity is defined predominantly by price and status, and not so much by originality or by the limited availability of their offerings”.
”I think of luxury as exotic, rare, precious, and timeless. The status is conferred by the quality of the product and what it says about the owner, as opposed to the current model where status is conferred by ‘brand ambassadors’ and massive advertising budgets”.
Conable founded William Henry in 1997. He established the brand creating distinctive and award-winning pocketknives, effectively transforming the archetype of all tools into a superb personality statement. Today’s collections include men’s jewelry, pens, culinary knives, money clips, and William Henry has become one of the most exclusive and admired brands in the often-overlooked world of luxury for men.
But what makes this brand so distinctive is that it has proudly retained the aura and feel of an artisan workshop, where every piece is designed and created exclusively in small, limited, often unique editions.
The distinctive character of the artistry and the personality of the materials make this brand’s every creation truly original. No two pieces are alike.
“I like the idea that William Henry’s creations strike a personal chord in our clients” – says Conable. “Every now and then, it is important to invest in objects that are personal, immediately useful, yet timeless in their appeal and relevance – these rare pieces are imbued with the personality of their owners, and become part of their living legacy”.
In the past century, movie stars and royals played a fundamental role in propelling to fame brands like Bulgari or Cartier. It’s not surprising that today’s search for exclusivity is brought forth by personalities and individuals that interpret style and luxury as a means to affirm their distinctive personality, where choosing truly unique creations is just as important as their intrinsic value.
William Henry’s customers are treated - and indeed they feel - like a small, exclusive elite. The company is reserved about them, but we know their clients range from Hollywood celebrities to rock stars, royalty, and heads of state.
Understanding the thin line that separates fashionable from exclusive is an important challenge for most luxury brands. It describes the difference between the concepts of timeless and ephemeral, character and trend, and it defines the universally gratifying feeling of possessing a truly unique personality.
Exclusivity is possible today as it was 100 years ago. You just need to know where to look, and approach your choices with the right mindset. As Matt Conable puts it: “Exclusivity is about being you, not being like someone else”