Designers in the Premium/Luxury categories have always striven to differentiate their work from the great unwashed teaming masses of regular consumer products. In trying to communicate “I am better than you”, products in these categories have relied on such design levers as length (stretched limousines), height (top hats and rooftop penthouses), rare materials (gold, ivory, fur, or rich Corinthian leather), and form (both gaudy and minimalist) to communicate status, class, and power. However, in its struggle for self-improvement, the mass consumer market has steadily co-opted the visual vocabulary of wealth in a never-ending climb of the stylistic ladder. Now even the most common car brands feature wood and leather trim, entry-level homes include marble counter tops, and food-stamp recipients sport Coach purses and gold iPhones (according to Fox News). Nothing could be as un-classy as showing up for dinner at Nobu, and the valet is wearing the exact same Rolex…so what is today’s discerning millionaire to do? Well, much like the Seuss-ian wisdom of The Sneetches, a new trend is emerging to fix just this very problem: Generic Chic. Instead of the consumer co-opting the premium, we’re turning the tables. Premium is now co-opting the most basic, generic, neglected forms and icons of the masses. Designers are now taking everything from throw-away water bottles, to take-out boxes, to shopping bags, and giving them a luxurious veneer of gold plate or glossy porcelain (thankfully, encrustation by Swarovski crystals has not been a component of this trend as of yet). Borrowing from the cognitive impact of the Material Reinterpretation trend, the consumer is presented with an object that is both familiar and fresh at the same time. Generic Chic emerged in the Jewelry/Accessories categories first, and has steadily moved into up-scale housewares and furniture. Although there is a certain tongue-in-cheek playfulness inherent with this stylistic theme, there could be real opportunity for employing it in more visible categories like Fashion, Automotive, Consumer Electronics, or Consumer Packaged Goods. Diamond Tic-Tacs, anyone?
Written by AWOLtrends