Luxury brands tap philosophers for direction

Sophie Chassat doesn’t look like a typical philosopher, because she isn't. With an impeccable blond hairstyle and a determined voice, she works as an advisor to Parisian luxury brands: “Often it’s about looking at a problem from a different perspective to find original answers,” she has said.

Foto: Ansa

She is part of a group of French philosophers who are quietly working with luxury brands to find new solutions to a range of problems. From Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent, Hermès and Lancôme – luxury labels are turning to this ancient science to add value to their businesses. “Between the rational and the emotional, brands often forget the question of credibility”, writes Chassat in her blog.

Through her consultancy agency Angie, she helps her customers find their "verbal identity”, unearth their language heritage and dismantle verbal clichés. Similar strategies are followed by Adrien Barrot, who works with Hermès, and Alain Etchegoyen, who advised many luxury brands until his death.

Meanwhile, Chanel and YSL philosopher Gilles Lipvetsky favours a slightly different approach, namely how the richness of language can enhance the value of a brand. “Luxury is now multi-layered”, he said. “A part of it is unaffordable for most people, but the other part – shirts, lipsticks, key rings – can be afforded by almost anyone”.

Luxury philosophers do, however, have one thing in common: they are against the misuse of words such as “innovation”, “unique”, “passion”, “DNA”, all constantly thrown around by advertising agencies. “Clients today want to buy not just things, but meaning,” said Chassat in an interview.

That is why Lancôme commissioned philosopher Vincent Cespedes to create the manifesto behind its “La vie est belle” perfume. At the height of the financial crisis in 2008, the fragrance managed to become the 4th most popular perfume within months.

Indeed, philosophy can be considered a language discipline that is continually looking for the right word for every occasion. Rates for such services remain a mystery, but French newspaper Le Monde estimates that brands pay their philosophers more than 1,000 euros per session.

When questioned about the activity, philosopher Olivier Assouley said such business is a one-way street and that his colleagues are selling their souls to the devil.

Translated by Susan Spies

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