Why marketing guru Acyde Odunlami believes the youth are the future of luxury

In Australia to speak at the Forefront Summit 18 at Sydney's Four Seasons Hotel, Acyde Odunlami says the rise of luxury brands and its cross over into mainstream culture is thanks to the 'show-off generation' who crave affluence.

"Nobody wants to be left out," explains the London-born club DJ with a penchant for smoking cigars.

"Instagram is like a global club for affluence. They want to show off what they have and to be part of the membership they need to spend."

Touch points

Before collaborating with "It" designer Virgil Abloh, the mid-30s Odunlami made a name for himself as a marketing guru by working with brands like Nike and Stussy. He connects consumers with brands by creating tactile experiences – he ditches traditional advertising methods for nightclubs, art gallery life and pool parties instead.

"Consumerism has grown and the level we're seeing now and the need to buy luxury is directly connected to the last recession and the influence of Instagram," he adds.

We're not going to produce items for the thrill of it. We'll do it when the world needs it again.

Welcome to the new age – the era of the show-off where online posers aren't going anywhere soon.

"Prior to the recession, luxury was for a certain type of man who could afford it. Then there was a massive crash in the 2000s and a generation that was there for that slowed down their spending, but the millennials that came after it took it on," he says of luxury's new peak.

"Luxury brands got smart again when they saw young people spending their money on street wear. Everyone is selling a brand, from Gucci to Off-White and Supreme – it's all about heavy logos. And what looks better on Instagram? A logo does."

Room at the inn

Odunlami also runs No Vacancy Inn – a global salon with a strategic marketing posse who host parties, pop-ups and podcasts with co-founder Tremaine Emory. They bonded over a love of beats, hip-hop and cigars. Together they lead the Internet Age to where youth culture began (well sort of) – in magazines, the clubbing scene and via vinyl obsessions to get a taste of what came before while still engaging young consumers in the here and now.

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While Odunlami makes a living holding down a corporate job at Converse's LA head office, he knows that in order to get the party started it comes down to knowing how to woo your audience. He says culture isn't dead, it's just that the new generation is too busy looking at mobile phones instead of actually getting amongst it.

With No Vacancy Inn, the idea is to chime in on the nostalgia of the past when presenting new product.

"It's all about the experience. People want to know they are part of something, so they'll come out and play if they can be part of a new buzz," he says.

No barriers to style

When his company collaborated with Off White for a capsule dubbed Art Dad LLC during Paris Fashion Week, it was a reaction to society's fascination with youth. The collection isn't age or gender specific as a result. This is the land of galactic jumpsuits, hoodies with retro futurism fonts and a space blanket for those keen to cosy up to luxury streetwear of a sub-cultural kind.

"Virgil is a good friend and he is very open to collaborating with his friends," says Odunlami of their 10-year friendship.

"We had this idea three years that was partially tongue in cheek and also deadly serious. It was a time everyone was obsessing over youth and how to look young when you're older. That didn't appeal to me at all. We don't need to hijack youth as a slogan for nihilistic existence. It's about ageing gracefully. I've been into long term style. Look at people like Patti Smith, Bjork or Pablo Picasso – their look is their trademark. They could dress and be stylish regardless of age."

While there are no concrete plans to roll out a third collection, Odunlami says the world doesn't need another brand for the sake of it either: "We'll wait and see what happens next. We're not going to produce items for the thrill of it. We'll do it when the world needs it again."

Words of wisdom

And Odunlami's advice to those wanting to get their brand off the ground?

"Messaging and how it's imparted are two separate things," he says.

"When you have clarity from a brand you get results. Don't pretend to be something you're not. The issue today is that there is a lot of information out there. How do you cut through? Engaging people is always a challenge, but this isn't about gimmicks."