The House Of Luxury (HOL) had just opened its new signature gallery in London’s posh Mayfair district when the COVID-19 crisis broke in London. And it wasn’t just any luxury items that were in stock there. The inventory was a menu of the most expensive goods in the world, from Franck Muller watches to Bvlgari to Alessa Jewelry to Aisha Baker. At that time, as a nonessential retailer to most of the populous, it was closed down with the rest of the city as the virus took hold. It was a time for fast thinking and even faster methods to move millions of dollars in goods at a time when luxury items have taken a backseat to survival.
Enter Elio D’anna. He founded the company in 2009 with 100 pounds after a stint in the music business. He is a graduate of Berklee School of Music, where he majored in orchestration and composition, and for a time was signed to Universal. The tech team that he worked with in the music business is the same one that he brought to HOL, and together they are responsible for the quick pivot into what he calls “virtual experiential retailing.”
When the world dealt him a cold reality, D’anna turned to virtual reality (VR). The company’s first virtual trunk show went live at 11 a.m. (GMT) on April 11, with the aforementioned lineup. More than 2,500 daily customers later, D’anna has extended a business that could have been on the velvet ropes.
“There’s always a moment when art and luxury are super cool,” D’anna said. “And we like where we are right now. This is luxury tech. This investment in virtual experiential eCommerce demonstrates our long-term commitment to the success of our key partner brands. Once the crisis calms, we look forward to continuing our excellent business relationships with the global network of retailers we have built over the last 10 years. These new virtual experiences will simply become an extended offering."
The virtual trunk show starts with user registration. The user is then ushered into a room with high-contrast black-and-white lighting with jewelry displays at each end. A click presents a new menu of brands. Click on Alessa Jewelry, for example, and the photo experience becomes immersive, with 3D and high-definition looks coming onto the screen. And if the user is interested in any of the displayed products, which range from $20 to $200,000, she can use a wire transfer to make purchases at the show.
After the April 11 run, new virtual trunk shows will go live on April 25 and May 9. Luxury brands slated for subsequent trunk shows include YEPREM, Tabbah and Simone Jewels, as well as avant-garde brands like Avantist, MAYA, Dreamboule and Terizhan.
The highlight of each show will be a charity auction benefiting the World Health Organization (WHO).
D’anna’s sister company, the L.A.-based House of Fine Arts Gallery, actually preceded the House of Luxury VR shows. As founder and marketing director, D’Anna has leveraged social media for both businesses since the onset of COVID-19. He executes all social media campaigns with other luxury brands, with the idea that the synergy will build the House Of Luxury both during and after the crisis. D’anna aims o become a household name for luxury, both through his two galleries and through eCommerce.
The COVID-19 crisis has hardly provided the optimal atmosphere for the HOL virtual shows, but D’anna is grateful for his team’s agility.
“In some ways, it’s no different for any business in any market,” he noted. “This situation creates difficulty for everyone. Maybe the luxury space was starting to get a bit oversubscribed, I’m not really sure. But I know that we have stayed with our values from the start, and that means having the most exclusive product available at any time. This virtual show indicates just how agile we are.”
When asked what he would like to do most after the crisis has passed, D’anna said he looks forward to having dinner in a quiet restaurant with his team.
“It’s about the people in the business – that’s what’s important,” he said. “The product speaks for itself. If you don’t have a product that speaks to a consumer, if you don’t have amazing pieces to show, you can’t be successful.”