What is luxury? In a world where everything from toilet paper to cat food can be labeled as such, the term is becoming meaningless

To redefine luxury for a modern era, Selfridges presented The Flipside, a multisensory installation set inside the Old Selfridges Hotel in London. Part of the store’s year-long Radical Luxury program, The Flipside invited artists, designers and brands to contribute their concepts and interpretations of luxury for the future.

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Entrance

Guests were welcomed to the event by hosts clad in utilitarian jumpsuits, before being ushered down a tunnel that led to a dark hollowed-out space. Here, installations marooned on their own little islands seemed to float above a high-gloss floor.

Fashion designer Thom Browne’s Dreamscape explored the creative imagination in a unique rendering of an exclusive front-row runway experience. Fantasy silhouettes inspired by mermaids and unicorns appeared and disappeared in a revolving glass case, reminiscent of an old-fashioned musical box.

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Thom Browne’s Dreamscape
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At cult cocktail bartender Mr Lyan’s Libationary, hyperpersonalization was the ultimate luxury. Otherwise known as Ryan Chetiyawardana, My Lyan is the creative talent behind the Dandelyan bar at the Mondrian at Sea Containers hotel and at the Cub cocktail restaurant, both located in London. Libationary imagined a future where the perfect cocktail is tailored to your mood, passions and personality. Visitors chose from a series of inspirations—objects, words, sounds and scents—which collectively determined a bespoke drink sample that was delicately served by a mixologist.

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Mr Lyan, The Libationary

Nature was the inspiration for luxury Spanish house Loewe, in a concept entitled The Future is Green. Discarded household goods were piled high inside tall transparent cases, with old transistor radios and discarded portable TVs jostling for space alongside irons, kettles and rotary phones. Other cases were filled with the lush greenery and bark of a forest, with reflections multiplied infinitely by mirrored surfaces. Loewe looked hopefully to a future where craft works hand in hand with nature.

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The Future is Green by Loewe

Perfumer Byredo took a bleaker view, creating a dystopian future where clean, fresh water is a scarce and precious resource. Row upon row of plastic water containers were labeled with their country of origin and an ominous date, indicating when water there will eventually run out. For founder and creative director Ben Gorham, luxury “is closely linked to that of scarcity.”

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Bryedo

The show concluded with a giant sundial created by Selfridges, which invited visitors to ponder that most modern of luxuries: time itself.

The lineup of contributions was completed by Google Pixel 2’s luxury portrait studio; Gareth Pugh’s fourth-wall-breaking video meditation on the themes of freedom and escape; and a modern perspective on travel from Louis Vuitton.

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Google Pixel 2
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Gareth Pugh, Void
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Louis Vuitton, Radical Journey

The Flipside’s thought-provoking journey pointed to a future where brands will need to deliver deeper meaning and experiencesto keep pace with luxury consumers.

For more on the changing luxury retail landscape read our Transcendent Retail report.