Silver, Gold. Cashmere, Silk. Diamonds, Rubies, and Pearls. These are the materials of authentic luxury. In doing research into what defines authentic luxury, our team spearheaded by ROHL arrived at this definition.
Authentic Luxury is when original design and a commitment to craft come together. It connects the touch of the master craftsman’s’ ideas, using the finest, truest materials to create products that reflect the origin and provenance of where it is crafted.
Reflecting on the list of authentic luxury materials above, each is a gift from nature and there are only certain places around the globe where the finest, highest quality expression of each of those materials can be found. Pearls from the South Seas are the most exquisite. Diamonds from the Lesotho area in southern Africa are most prized. Mulberry silk produced by generations of Chinese farmers is the best in the world. And as with all precious natural materials, they are rare and limited.
It takes more than just the highest quality raw materials to create authentic luxury goods for people to use, wear and enjoy. Those exquisite natural materials must also be crafted. Even the finest quality diamond must be expertly cut and polished to bring out the stone’s unique properties. The highest quality Mulberry silk must be woven by expert craftsmen into fabric, with that raw fabric cut and sewn into apparel designed by an artisan.
It’s through craft and design that the finest quality materials are transformed into authentic luxury goods that people can use and enjoy. And like the finest raw materials come from special places on earth, so too do the designers and craftsmen and women who have the training, expertise, and experience to do justice to those finest raw materials. These craftsmen are grounded in a particular place and time where the art of the craft is passed down from generation to generation.
Hermès has over 180 years of authentic luxury, poised for 180 years more
The finest authentic luxury brands have these essential qualities: truth in materials combined with the touch of the master craftsman and a place of provenance where the two come together. These qualities are apparent in Hermès of Paris. Founded in France in 1837, the company has maintained the same attention to detail, quality and style it was founded upon. It is a completely vertically-integrated company, the modern term for a historical process that means the company controls the entire supply chain of the company, from the production of its raw materials, design, crafts and retail distribution.
Hermès’ commitment to authentic luxury is bred into its corporate culture, with each new employee participating in a three-day intensive training session called “Inside the Orange Box” that traces the company’s origins back to its founders and explains how each of its product categories were developed. This training is intended to make every employee, from warehouse workers to designers to management and sales staff, feel close and involved in the brand’s culture, philosophy and values. The brand’s quality is further maintained by a mandatory 2-year apprentice training program for craftsmen before he or she can start to make the company’s products.
Naadam completes the circle of cashmere from farm to closet
A company doesn’t have to have a 100-year history, however, to create authentic luxury goods. A modern cashmere fashion company called Naadam has the same commitment to authentic luxury goods that a long-standing company like Hermès does.
Naadam means “celebration” in Mongolian and the steppes of Mongolia are where it got its start. The company’s founders, Matt Scanlan and Diederik Rijsemus, ventured to the Gobi Desert on a motorcycle trip where they discovered local herders producing the best cashmere on the planet. Sensing a business opportunity, they bought up as much of the finest cashmere they could find and brought it back to a 140-year-old family-run mill in the Italian Alps to be spun into yarn. Today they are doing an incredible business, based on the premise that people don’t have to spend $500 for a great quality cashmere sweater.
Naadam represents a new kind of 21st-century vertically-integrated business model that stretches from the slopes of Mongolia to Americans’ closets. The company controls the entire production process by putting money back into creating a sustainable cashmere ecosystem. In Mongolia, it established a “privately-funded non-profit that provides veterinary programs, livestock insurance and breeding development. In return, Naadam is granted first access to the herders’ fleece,” according to the company website.
Today the company sells the finest cashmere yarn to other companies and produces its own range of cashmere fashions such as luxury sweaters starting at $250. The company’s tagline is “Ethical Luxury For The Way We Want To Live.”
ROHL searches the world for classic authentic luxury for modern American homes
And for the home, ROHL shares the same commitment to authentic luxury as Hermès and Naadam do. Every one of its kitchen and bath plumbing and fixture lines originates from places that reflect the highest quality craftsmanship, exquisite design and truth in materials.
In ROHL’s search for the most authentic, highest-quality products suited for the refined tastes of the luxury homeowner, they discovered the Piemonte region of northwestern Italy at the foot of the Alps on the border of France and Switzerland. This region has a rich tradition of cuisine and culture and is home to manufacturers such as Nicolazzi which crafts a range of hand-crafted fixtures for ROHL.
“The Italians have an age-old reputation for design,” says Ken Rohl. “They are the artisans of Europe with a heritage of craftsmanship passed down from generation to generation.” Working to ROHL’s specifications, Nicolazzi makes traditional products suited to the American home but with the special eye for design, artisan handcrafting and a feel for authentic finishes that this region is known for. “These products are exceptionally beautiful, perform flawlessly and are the perfect choice for designers and homeowners who value authenticity,” shares Lou Rohl.
In these examples – Hermès, Naadam and ROHL – the special qualities of authenticity are not immediately visible. They are only discovered by delving into each company’s story, history and culture. This is another quality of authentic luxury. It is by looking past the surface (though it certainly must look amazing) and digging deeply into the company, that true authentic luxury is found.