Breaking Rules

Luxury Culture

Luxury Culture is a website that breaks rules. For that reason, and many others, I am an ardent fan.

First, before rule breaking, comes beauty. Around for at least five years, maybe more, this is a site that has long understood and capitalized on the power of simplicity, strong images and vibrant color. It's delicious. Or sexy. Take your pick.

Then, there's content. Founded and edited by Yaffa Assouline of Paris-based publishing house Assouline Media, the site, as its name implies, is devoted to the Art of Living Well. And week after week she and her team assemble just the right collections of fashion, accessory, transport, art and travel insights from around the globe, ahead of the curve (the site featured a gorgeous piece on El Bulli in 2006, long before Ferran Adrià's name entered the vocabulary of popular culture) and right on trend (a recent piece on L'Atelier Hapax in Paris is, at its core, about haute recycling).

There's frequently a touch of wit or whimsy to the products or experiences that are featured (see those Damien Hirst-designed Chuck Taylors, above). And often the insights come via conversations with interesting, curious and provocative creators, adding an intelligence quotient to the content that complements the site's design, amps up its sexiness. Men and women are catered to in perfectly equal parts--and this too contributes to the seduction.

And then, there are rules. In this day and age of high-speed, relentless information updates, this is a site that demands that you slow down, pay attention. Stories are long, multi-page, rich in images and also text. And the site is not easy to navigate. Not that it's difficult, but it's different. And we've grown so accustomed to every site following convention, that when one doesn't--you have to slow down, pay attention. When you do, you are rewarded by little extras: more images of beautiful products, unexpected pop-up boxes proffering details on travel destinations, links to related sites that may be of interest or offer additional, relevant information. If you take the time, Luxury Culture is generous.

The site itself is also is slow. Not in the typical internet sense of page load times. Rather, it's updated only weekly--not hourly or even daily. It's blissfully quiet--advertising is parked to the side, there is no commenting, no Facebook liking, no blog. And it's transaction free--you can buy the items featured on the site or book the vacations, but Luxury Culture sends you on your way to do so, connecting you to the stores and hotels directly for purchase. This is a site that is calm, meant to be savored and allows its content to speak for itself.

Over the last three years, the din of the chatter about how to best connect with and engage consumers via Twitter, Facebook, mobile, and apps has been deafening. Through it all Luxury Culture has resiliently stayed true to its spirit, integrating a few features in ways that are consistent with its look, feel and ethos--chic black and white social sharing buttons are identified simply by the word Share (suggesting that you be generous too)--and resolutely ignoring many of the others. And precisely because it has broken prevailing rules and wisdom of what makes a website successful, it has created what is one of my favorite destinations on the web.

Luxury Culture is digital craftsmanship at its finest. I have no idea if the site makes much money--that may not be the point, which of course allows its creators a certain freedom. But I also have no doubt that if it doesn't and they wanted to, they could--in ways that are creatively consistent with the voice and brand they have so carefully cultivated. However the site evolves--and it will, because that's one rule that cannot be broken--I do hope they continue to resist the call to speed and sameness that so many others have heeded--and perhaps even serve as a beacon for those who, at heart, are rule breakers too.