In October, Monaco hosted the 27th Luxe Pack exhibition. We from
Landor headed to the airport at 5 am, just to be sure we wouldn’t
miss a thing. Obviously, the Luxe Pack is all about luxury, but
even at Luxe Pack not everything is luxurious. Instead of the very
chic helicopter we all hoped for, we reached Monaco thanks to a
free shuttle bus.
However, after an enjoyable sunny walk through Nice and Monaco,
we strolled in front of the Grimaldi Forum and could, at last,
start our journey in the land of luxury packaging. This gigantic
mall-like building held packaging, fragrances, spirits, bags,
ribbons, and papers of all kinds from 400 exhibitors.
When you entered this design treasure trove, what struck you
first was the profusion of colors and textures. Lots of packaging
had vivid colors, even that of brands traditionally thought of as
more discreet. For the renewal of its emblematic Vétiver fragrance,
Carven offered an astounding shade of neon green; Chloé livened up
its candles with red and orange; and Fendi, not known for being
subtle but not also not for being innovative, showcased a gleaming
redAcquarossa. All of these examples were lacquered, as if the
bottle had been dipped into its own colored varnish.
Did this come from the ongoing color block trend that we’ve
witnessed in, or have breakthroughs in technology made it easier
for brands to deliver high-quality results? In either case, Hermès,
Tiffany, and Veuve Clicquot were among the very first to bet on
garish colors as signatures. While before this was owned by brands
with lower standards, these brands recklessly entered the very
private club of color-daring luxury brands.
Another change was the overwhelming presence of gradients in
cosmetics. Gradients are difficult to obtain, especially on glass
and metal. That is why before only a few, well established brands
such as Stella McCartney and Lancôme brought them to the
shelves. But today, gradients have drifted down to niche products,
mainly because innovations in technologies are reinventing the cues
for modern luxury, encouraging brands to get rid of the usual
minimalist black, white, and gold and take on new horizons.
The numerous examples of highly textured packaging tended to
prove that minimalism is over, and that originality, exuberance,
and sensuousness now rule the segment. Lots of packaging also
played with unexpected textures, as pioneered by Burberry London a
few years ago. We found a Moët bottle with its own armor and
chainmail, and even hairy/grassy bottles from Selective Line. These
textures really made you actually want to seize the product, touch
it, and play with it. That was the whole point: To differentiate
from the competition of course, but also to be remembered by
offering a unique experience.
Another big trend in this exhibition was the introduction of
natural materials in package design. Some of this stemmed form
ecological concerns—every paper manufacturer would first present
its range of recycled material. Italian firm Favini makes paper out
of food wastes such as olives, cherries, and lavender. Cosmetics
brands opted for wood—from carved mascara bottles, to Armand Basi’s
Wild Forest fragrance that shows perfume through a tiny glass
window, to Guerlain’s Les Parisiens series. Wood’s natural origins
make it more emotionally resonant than metal or glass, again
showing that brands are betting on more emotional messaging.
This year’s packaging also revealed a growing trend for cut and
reveal in luxury. Catwalks were all about provocative cuts and
see-through materials this year, starting with Valentino. The cut
and reveal trend combines unexpected textures, lures the consumers’
attention, and leaves them full of curiosity and desire to actually
interact with the packaging. Where sensuousness is all about
touching and feeling, cut and reveal relies on sight to ignite
desire and leave memories.
Champagne brands mastered the cut out: Moët brought its leopard
pattern to life by playing with negative space, while Perrier-Jouët
uncovered only a small part of its product with its Belle Époque
pack. Fragrances followed suit, and Atelier Flou’s bottles,
inspired by Arabic patterns, were designed to mask more than
protect, showing the product as a treasure.
Beyond cut outs that are part of the design itself, brands now
also print on the inside of the packaging (Black Bowler Hat Gin or
Tigre Blanc for spirits or the limited edition of Yves Saint
Laurent’s L'homme libre for fragrances).
Fragrance brands even customized the spray canister like
Balenciaga did for Rosabotanica, or highlighted it and placed it at
the center of the design. Lancôme imagined a purple rose for its
fragrance Trésor Midnight Rose. Details are, more than ever, the
object of special attention, and every piece of the packaging—even
the most technical parts—now give life to inspiring
Package design today needs to be purposeful. Agile thinking is
required to achieve elegance without slipping into opulence.
Cartier’s new design for its mythical fragrance La Panthère is the
Cartier offers a suspended sculpture of its iconic panther head,
solely engraving the brands’ name on the bottleneck. No printing
whatsoever. No tags, either. Only the essential, yes, but sublimed.
This packaging is a proof that traditional cues are over; that
brands now have to think of packaging design as an art, as an
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