« The Appearance of Elegant Disruption: Theorising Sustainable Luxury Entrepreneurship. »
Authors: Bendell, Jem; Thomas, Laetitia
This paper draws upon theories of disruptive innovation to propose that disruption in the luxury sector is beginning to occur due to the efforts of sustainable luxury entrepreneurs. Creative destruction is typical in most industry sectors, including luxury, and disruptive innovation by entrepreneurs is key to that process. The paper proposes that the current time is potentially disruptive for incumbent luxury brands and groups, due to five key trends that are beginning to re-frame the markets that luxury brands sell to.
On the basis of five years of engagement with the industry, and appreciative inquiry to understand the motivations, approaches and successes of sustainable luxury entrepreneurs, the authors develop a theory of elegant disruption. That is, a well-designed intervention in markets that both uses and affects aspirations in ways that change patterns of consumption, production or exchange, for a positive societal outcome. They profile four sustainable luxury entrepreneurs from USA, UK, Philippines and South Africa, which typify aspects of an elegant disruption approach. In so doing, the paper argues that an assumption that disruptive innovations always start by providing cheaper options does not reflect the way potentially disruptive innovations are occurring in sectors like luxury.
In addition, the nature of the disruption need not be immediately about taking market share from incumbents, but by influencing perceptions about the value of incumbent offerings, in ways that generate major risk for the future of those businesses.
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