Choosing accessories for your jet-setting lifestyle says a lot about who you are and what you value most. Are you all about function? Or are you a style aficionado? Or, like most of us, are you a happy marriage of the two? The high-end market for travel gizmos is full of expensive, beckoning sirens. But, often, luxury is more than just a price tag. Sure, spending thousands for a phone or a watch can set you apart; but true luxury is also about saving precious time and being prepared for what comes.
What was once reserved for the world’s elite is now available to everyone else. But is democratization the best thing for a luxury brand?
“We’re in a state right now of not knowing where luxury is created. Is owning a Louis Vuitton handbag luxury? Probably not,” says Philip Wood, creative director of Citizen-Citizen, a San Francisco gallery that specializes in limited-edition objects. “There’s a surfeit of objects now. We value them in such a poor way.”
Wood’s gallery, originally located in a discreet, unmarked space in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, shows and sells everything from one-off art pieces to quotidian objects in small production runs, each with the indelible stamp of its creator.
“I find the personalization of mass-produced objects really interesting,” he says. The gallery offers a limited-edition iPhone, with cosmetic changes outside (it’s black!) and some nifty gallery-curated additions downloaded on the inside.
Most frequent travelers value compactness, lightness and superior function in their gadgets. Innovative features, like a camera with a GPS device that “remembers” where you were when you took the picture (and can get you there again) help differentiate one product from the rest.
Quality and craftsmanship score points, too. “Give me something that is smaller and better, and I’m a happy camper,” says Tee Faircloth, owner of F.M. Allen, the full-service safari outfitter on Madison Avenue in New York. The firm plans expeditions and sells its own line of high-performance, hot-weather clothing. It also operates a boutique that sells such necessities as Swarovski binoculars. “They’re small, light and beautiful. Swarovski binoculars take in so much more light than any other binoculars, I don’t even bother to carry any other brand.”
Faircloth often travels to Africa, where it’s “murderous on equipment.” He averages one major piece of equipment lost per trip. For travelers like him, redundancy is therefore important. He should consider a handy back-up charger for his Blackberry from Tumi, which gives guys in the bush a place to juice their PDAs.
“When I’m on vacation with my wife,” says Tony Gervino, “she forces me to go dark.” Gervino is the editorial director of Antenna, a men’s magazine that acts as both shopping guide and keen aesthetic filter for design, packaging and function. He values a certain feeling of the personal. “Luxury has a certain hand, whether it’s a Loro Piana cashmere sweater or a Vertu mobile phone. When you hold the object you feel the quality of its source materials and a certain level of craftsmanship that indicates, at some point in its construction, human hands were involved.”
Perhaps he’d like a $4,000 MP3 player from Russia, made of exotic African blackwood with 18-karat gold trim. Such over-the-top objects, like a diamond-studded, $300,000 phone from Swiss company VIPN, are meant to appeal to a jaded and product-saturated market. But despite that been-there, bought-it attitude, there's still plenty on our list to add to yours.