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The Luxury Value of Provenance

Wayne McMaster

14 March 2013

Provenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", refers to the history of the ownership, custody or location of an object.

The term was originally used in relation to works of art, the provenance of a piece of art was and is of great importance to the owner. Now provenance is used in similar senses in a wide range of fields, expecially the luxury and premium home, lifestyle sectors: the manufacture of many high-end interior products, furnishings, horology and jewellery.  Provenance or brand origins—where things are made, offer us one of the core values of luxury itself which begins in the workshop of the craftsman. Provenance is then a key element of a luxury brand’s DNA and can be boken down into three components:

Home of the Craftsman

Sam Waterfall puts it like this: "…we associate the finest chocolate with Switzerland and Belgium, yet neither grow the raw material, cocoa. Their reputation has been built by their chocolatiers and their skills in production and craftsmanship. Italy, likewise is famed for its espresso, yet no coffee beans are grown on its soil. The brand power comes from the expertise and the appeal is strengthened by the expertly crafted and repeatedly told and reinforced story of the location."

Many luxury brands use the location where their products are made to give their brands provenance such as Little Greene British paint manufacturer – drawn from their founding location, tied into their name and history. Another such as Halstock who design, manufacture and install bespoke interiors for the high-end residential market, based in Higher Halstock, Somerset.

Historical Pedigree

Other luxury interior brands can captilise on their time in busines to leverage their brand's provenance. For many the inclusion of the founding year in the brand identity is a mark of such longevity. 

Melin Tregwynt celebrated a century of Welsh wool at the their mill last year, and really pushed this in their 2012 marketing campaign. Cole and Son's 'since 1875' is joined by Little Greene's at 1773 with a slightly earlier founding date from the Fox Brothers.

Founding Ateliers

Some luxury interior brands have built their reputation on the founder's name, or their Ateliers (as we see in another blog post of Names types) where their founders did or still provide the brand's provenance. Here are some examples:

The Merchant Fox, Part of Fox Brothers, the renowned woollen and worsted cloth mill, offers luxury through craftsmanship, it has a rich heritage that creates an authentic story behind the traditions and craftmanship based in South West England, started by Thomas Fox.

©StuartScott Photography ©Peter Harper

Stuart Scott Associates is very clear in their brand story 'The Finest Tailored Furniture – Handmade in England' with their own workshops in Wiltshire and Oxford, clearly explaining how fabrics are supplied from leading clothiers Holland and Sherry, who in their own right have a 170 year historical pedigree in luxury fabrics.

Handmade / Made in Britain

There is a well documented shift from conspicuous consumption to discerning consumption and positive attitudes towards products and brands which reflect individuality and authenticity. The above are good examples of how luxury home interest sector brands can leverage the value of provenance. Provenance is one of the dominant trends of the moment in the luxury market and looks set to shape consumer demand for the foreseeable future. This fundamental change has implications for all players in the luxury interiors sector. Premium and luxury interior brands should develop or enhance their brand stories based by leveraging their provenance, but not getting lost in nostalgia, which in turn will provide a more authentic luxury brand. It seems only fitting that we end with another fine example 'The Original Morris & Company' which is 'still designed and made in England'.

Stuart Scott photo credit: Photography ©Peter Harper

Cover Image: Brand created for V&A by Devilfish, Creative director Richard Holman.

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