“The rise of curated travel is really important. People don’t want to be on the internet and scrolling for a hotel. They want an expert they can put their trust in — someone who understands their dreams.”
Walpole is an association for British luxury brands that promotes, protects and develops the luxury sector in the UK by speaking to governmental bodies and influential stakeholders. The person leading the charge? CEO Helen Brocklebank. She describes Walpole as "the love child of the CBI and Annabel's", which paints a picture of its supportive and empowering community. We speak to Helen about the seismic change to the luxury industry over the past few decades and what this means for its future.
What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury is the most incredible business - it's worth £48 billion to the UK economy. It's creative, entrepreneurial and nurtures a real love affair with customers. To me personally, it's about treats. It's not about things that are insanely expensive. It should be about having the best version of the thing that makes you happy.
How has luxury changed over the past 40 years?
I started my career about 30 years ago and luxury then was seen as something for the privileged few. Slowly, luxury has been democratised. If you really like Chanel, for example. you might not be able to buy couture, but you can buy a lipstick or a perfume. It's become more accessible. The other massive change, of course, is mobile. Mobiles have brought luxury into everyone's pocket. You can have a window into that world all the time, which has made people very luxury-savvy.
You've said before that luxury is undergoing "a discreet revolution". What do you mean by this?
The pandemic has had such a big effect on all of us in so many ways. It's made people think differently. Being stuck at home has now made people ask: "what's the treat that I deserve?". There is a real sense that you only live once, so now's the time to buy that item you've always wanted, or enjoy that trip you've saved up for. The other effect is that people are choosing something that is going to last. It might be an experience that's sustainable or an item that you can keep forever - but whatever it is, it's special.
What trends do you see emerging this year for travel?
The rise of curated travel is really important. People don't want to be on the internet and scrolling for a hotel. They want an expert they can put their trust in- someone who understands their dreams. This is where specialists like Carrier really come into their own. Nowadays, less is more. Instead of taking six trips, you might just take one long journey with the people you love. Travel is all about the ultimate luxury of time and having that time to have an emotional connection with the people you care about. Time has become more precious than ever. The other trend I see is cultural experience. Travel is about learning and self-discovery. People will want to come back with skills from a certain place, like learning about Renaissance frescoes in Tuscany or how to cook the best cannoli in Sicily.
What does travel mean to you?
I like to have the time and space to turn off the quotidian pressures of every day. It's about being present in the moment with the people I love, but also finding time to recharge. I love a digital detox. I always put my phone in the safe and replace it with a sort of burner phone for certain people who may need to contact me in an emergency. I like to keep my family occupied with the things they like to do, like sailing or something, so I can get through the 25 books I've brought with me on holiday!
Carrier has been a member of Walpole since 2019. For more information on Walpole, please visit: www.thewalpole.co.uk