Back to the F**kture: Carlota Rodben

sector - media & technology
type - podcast
In our latest Back to the F**kture podcast, Beyond Luxury: The Promise of Emotion author and innovator Carlota Rodben discusses the future of luxury and emotion with The Future Laboratory co-founder Martin Raymond. 

There are two great quotes at the beginning of Carlota Rodben’s latest book, Beyond Luxury: The Promise of Emotion, which very much sum up luxury’s future: ‘What got us here, won’t get us there,’ and Gabrielle Chanel’s observation that ‘luxury is a necessity that begins when necessity ends’. 

Both quotes remind me that luxury, like art, is wholly ephemeral (and thus vital) and that current attempts to anchor luxury to the past (cue provenance, authenticity, rarity) are increasingly challenged by concepts and technologies that are of the future – AI, VR, AR and cloud anything and everything.

Her book – and indeed her conversation – riffs on this in our latest Back to the F**kture podcast, reminding us that words like ‘heritage’ and ‘origin’ have less and less to do with luxury as we grapple with concepts such as the metaverse, blockchain, NFTs and dupes or deep fakes. In the metaverse, after all, can deep fakes be distinguished from the real or for that virtual real thing? 

Okay, so what, then, is luxury really about? And how, in this eternal shuffle between now and next, does it preserve its value, positioning, relevance and sense of purpose? ‘The key to the longevity of luxury brands,’ she tells me, ‘lies in their ability to adapt and evolve, crafting narratives that captivate each successive generation while harnessing the power of technology to remain relevant’. 

Published by:

19 December 2023

Author: Martin Raymond & Carlota Rodben



‘This delicate equilibrium, struck through enthralling storytelling and inventive technological applications, harbours the potential to secure the luxury industry’s continued triumph in the face of looming challenges. But it also reminds luxury to sit up and take note that it’s no longer just about the designer or author, but about the client and customer as co-creator of a more hyper-personal brand, product or experience.’

Essentially, she believes – and as a one-time innovation leader at Chanel, she probably knows this more than most – that we are witnessing the dematerialisation of luxury: how we can now buy, wear and create virtual luxury in virtual worlds for virtual avatars, but also how and why luxury needs to become more hyper-bespoke – ‘our grandparents were able to have clothes made and dresses altered at reasonable cost; despite technological advances this is ludicrously still beyond us at scale’ – and more sustainable. 

But for her, sustainability isn’t just a planet-related issue, but one that focuses on new material innovations, qualities and processes that can be about bringing new garments into virtual and real worlds that refuse to leave a negative mark on either, but it can be about re-investing existing pieces with a second life.

‘So it’s about mindful consumption, about buying less but buying with a greater purpose and awareness. It is also about co-creating, or engineering, what is new or what already exists into something that is vital to you, so its vitality and essence compels you to own less, and see that one garment or bag or accessory as something more, an object and a moment that is unique.’

Her understanding of what is unique is tied into why we tell stories (to be, and to make sense of our lives); how we tell stories (the narrative structures we use to convey them – a poem, a play, but equally, it could be a dress); and what we embed or seed them with (a memory, an idea, a stitch that triggers a new thought) to keep that story alive and moving forward. 

Luxury, then, isn’t just about the object, it is about how you use all current and future technologies, materials or innovations to capture and accelerate emotion. ‘Luxury is emotion, and emotion luxury, and both should be used to create connections and bonds and sparks that connect across mediums, formats and generations – and the best kind of luxury always does that; revealing itself expressively, whether that sense of ‘self’ is virtual or real and NFT, or a one-off piece of couture.’

‘Luxury,’ she concludes, ‘like the future, or indeed like being a futurist, is all about co-sculpting an ideal moment or an exceptional self. And just like the future, we don’t ‘predict’ what luxury is, we sculpt and forge it, using possibility rather than heritage to make it happen.’ 

You can listen to Carlota’s Back to The F**kture podcast here , or find out more about her thinking or how you can work with her here.
Her latest book, Beyond Luxury: The Promise of Emotion, is now available from Amazon

Tune in to the podcast on Audioboom, Spotify, Apple.