Springtime has arrived to Paris. After a long winter, the city awakens to the warmer weather. Mark Tungate, British freelance journalist and writer, and a nomad for some years around Eastern Europe and the Middle East, has lived and worked in Paris for the last ten years. Tungate awaits us first time on Tuesday morning at the emblematic (and central) Café Ruc to talk about his latest book “Luxury World”, a journey through the past, present and future of luxury brands.
Paris and Mark Tungate are the starring roles of the fourth stop for the Global Nomads Project. A nice, enriching and very pleasant meeting with a man who has made a name for himself within the fashion journalism, owing to his analytical capacity and very peculiar writing style.
Mark Tungate in 41 words
Preventi continues to travel to different cities around the world and now heads off to France to visit the birthplace of luxury, Paris. How far do you want to go?
What’s my colour? Blue, according to reliable sources. And of course Roland Barthes wrote a book called Blue is in Fashion This Year. As long as there is society, there will always be fashion. Being English in Parisis a constant source of amusement.- for all concerne. Authenticity is becoming the new consumer sensibility. Time and the Weather are my favourite designers. The personal touch confers status and implies respect. I never travel without my diary. You can create an impression of luxury. Whether your brand has substance, validity and longevity is a different matter. I really feel at home in a café. I likethe taste of coffee and tarte au citron. ”Between Meals” by AJ Liebling is one of my favourite books. Luxury is an aesthetic pleasure. It is a form of evolution, a sign that we have learned how to enjoy life beyond the basics. Love is the ultimate inspiration. All good stories are essentially love stories. The next place I would like to visit? Somewhere with a mythical name, like Ophir. I have a dream, and it usually involves a deadline of some kind. Writing professionally is about chasing the clock. To me, luxury means living where you choose. There is something irresistible about a perfectly imagined world.
“I like this model because it’s traditional and understated, but the suede gives it a dapper twist. It looks like it belongs in railway carriages and steamships. My idea of the nomadic life is ridiculosy old-fashioned and luxurious- what Bruce Chatwin would have called “nomad deluxe”.
The “Mark Tungate” is a suede leather model, with a natural peened Italian leather sole, machine washed, naturally dried and hand finished, made with the Black Stiching tecnique.
Preventi: As a freelance writer specialising in fashion, lifestyle and trends. How did you manage to get where you are?
Mark Tungate: I started when I was 19, working for a local newspaper in the west of England. During over three years I did all kinds of stories and interviews, until ambition and glamour drove me to London when I was 21. An agency in the Soho hired me as an editor. This was a good job to live on, but there was no real journalism involved.
For that reason, after some time I took the leap to Media International, a magazine where each journalist covered a number of countries. It was the 90’s and I was covering the Arab countries and Eastern Europe. It was very interesting. I went to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Cairo (a place I love), Istanbul….That was a good base. Then I moved to New York and worked there for about 4 months before I decided to return home to England.
But by then I had already realised that the world was a much bigger place than I had thought. So when the French magazine Stratégies proposed me to launch their English version in May 2000, I did not hesitate and moved to Paris. We were working for a year and a half, but the 9/11 crisis and the dot-com bubble meant that the project never really took off.
Preventi: Since then you have been publishing books non-stop: AdLand, Fashion Brands, Branded Male and the recently released Luxury World. What is life for a freelance writer like?
Mark Tungate: My first book was basically an introduction to the editorial world. When I look back, I feel that “Media Monoliths” had a touch of naivety, although I was already reaching interesting and risky conclusions like the shift from the newspaper to online journalism or that advertising agencies needed to offer their customers a 360 degree global communication service. As the years go by, you become more secure, but your strongest points stay the same. I personally have a certain ability to analyse a situation and come up with a new direction for change.
I do a lot of things apart from writing. You have to if you want to achieve more than just survival. As a freelancer, the most important thing is to build your own personal brand in order to achieve a reputation. I also work as a Paris correspondent for WGSN, a renowned trend consultant, writing articles a couple of times a month. And I am a columnist at the Stratégies magazine and a lecturer at Parson’s School in Paris. I also collaborate with several advertising agencies as a copywriter and organising media trainings…well, lots of things. And now I am working on a new book dedicated to the history of beauty. During the morning I devote myself to my several ongoing projects and the afternoons are for my book. Publishing takes about a year: 6 months for research and 6 for writing.
But this week I will make the most of the bank holidays, so I have decided to slow down a bit. I have many celebrations taking place: on May 12th it’s my 43rd birthday, and the 11th will mark my move to Paris ten years ago. Also this month sees my first wedding anniversary, so I am enjoying myself…
Preventi: Your last book Luxury World, is a journey through the past, the present and the future of luxury. Do you believe that the industry has changed, particularly after the last financial crisis?
Mark Tungate: Fashion is a cyclical phenomenon and during the last ten years, we have witnessed the democratisation of luxury. The process began with brands such as Louis Vuitton. They started to realise that, in order to expand their market, they had to turn their product into a “commodity”. For that reason, they hired Marc Jacobs in order to turn them into a very fashionable brand, a concept very similar to the It-Bag. And that is how the old concept of luxury transformed itself into “fashion brands”.
But since the crisis, less and less people are able to afford these “mass luxury” products. We are talking about new consumers that may not be able to afford a Luis Vuitton handbag so they would opt to buy a smaller accessory. With the crisis these people have stopped purchasing luxury items and the sector has suffered a hard adjustment. Right now the industry is going back to square one, relying once more on concepts like heritage, quality or tradition of a brand. They are no longer able to sell t-shirts or handbags at exorbitant prices without a certain quality.
Preventi: As an advertising expert and a writer specialising in fashion and luxury, what are the key concepts for a luxury brand when it comes to developing a coherent and efficient brand communication?
Mark Tungate: A brand’s heritage and the historic element are two key concepts. And then, there’s the quality of its products…. And a certain refinement. All luxury brands also incorporate some level of glamour and sophistication. And finally, some kind of aspiration. These types of brands make us dream. Although it may be a reality outside of our reach, luxury brands must be able to make people dream.
Some people think that luxury is only about fashion related accessories and items. But luxury is a much wider concept: it covers the world of wine, cars, leisure….To me, luxury is much, much more than fashion. And it must not be necessarily expensive. To be honest, what luxury refers to is the maximum refinement of any product: the pleasure of tasting a special chocolate bar with 70% cocoa and an exclusive texture can be an affordable luxury for anybody.
Preventi: At the end of your new book you refer to a vision of luxury that is more in connection with authenticity than superficiality. Does luxury imply evolution?
Mark Tungate: Luxury is basically an aspiration, and it relates to the universal human desire for progression. Throughout history, luxury has made us develop. The Renaissance, for example, brought about wonderful contributions to society. I do not believe that the concept of luxury is entirely negative: however, it may become something negative if it is used in excess. But not when it is aimed at creating something noble.
In my books I always try to avoid excessive criticism because I think that it becomes an easy target. Branding fashion as something superficial or lacking intellectual content is very common place. At this particular moment in time, I believe that the luxury industry has not yet reached its ultimate phase. At least not with regards to advertising: the entire world is trying to do something different, but different is not always right…
Preventi: Brands talk bout transparency, integrity and returning to the values. Is this not yet another way –whether more or less commercial- to attain the same goal of making more money?
Mark Tungate: Of course. One must not forget that, at the end of the day, we are talking about business people trying to sell. They can do it in a more or less pleasant or nice way…but they are still a business and, as such, they must be taken very seriously. Fashion brands should focus on making a contribution, in trying to add more meaning to the purchase process. As a writer, I am obsessed with the idea of offering content. I think that the new generations are tremendously curious, they cannot be manipulated so easily, and they are searching for content, meaning. And that is why the big brand names like the PPR group or LVMH are strengthening their bonds with art: in an attempt to create something profound and durable.