An identity crisis at Hermès: AWOL Luxury brand

There seems to be an identity crisis at Hermès at the moment. People don’t buy a product; they buy into a relationship with a brand. So when your brand seems to lose its tone of voice (TOV), your personality seems to be inconsistent with what people have known and loved you for, there is a loss of trust for your brand. And therein begins a major problem for any brand, especially a prestigious brand like Hermès.

Hermès has taken the need to shake and shock its followers a little too far. In fact, it’s come off as cheap and tacky. Think “mutton dressed as lamb”. The new Hermès campaign rolled out on their social media has followers scratching their head wondering “what the heck is going on at the home of Queen Birkin?”

The current Hermès campaign

Hermes logo

The luxury brand Hermes logo

The current campaign is a series of memes with bizarre images taken “instore” of odd people doing odd things and really weird speech bubbles that apparently are trying to be funny with puns, but falling flat. It’s nothing short of embarrassing and purely confusing at best. (see below image) It’s a strange drop after a well-received campaign which involved a series of videos where it seemed that iconic Hermès products were being cut up, but in fact, they were well-designed cakes.

In its need to try to appeal to the younger consumer with the use of memes and an attempt at humour (a lacklustre attempt at that), Hermès has lost its sense of class, stability, untouchable aura and with it the reliability its brand is known for. This latest campaign has loyal brandists asking if there is an identity crisis at Hermès. The followers are complaining and threatening to unfollow in droves. Has it shocked them? Yes! Has it impressed them? Not so much!!

What are the followers saying?

One follower commented “Enough!! You’ve done 14 of these horrendous ads, and my estimation of you is dropping with each subsequent ad. This is poor, lowbrow and beneath the quality of Hermès. Stop it!”

Another said “Guys they are obviously not reading comments or they would have stop [sic] this gutter level campaign already. UNFOLLOW is probably the best way to get the message across that this is a massive mistake [cringing emoji]”.

@Jencliffordd said “This ad campaign is terrible and it feels like it was aimed at millennials but this isn’t how memes work.”

While many have simply commented “Cringe” and some with a hashtag my favourite comes from @kitistryingtosurvive “Hermès, is everything good at home-?” And that really is underlying question here. What is going on at the House of Hermès?


So I guess this beckons the question, does Hermès look at this and say “This is a successful campaign because we got them engaging with our brand and talking about it” (albeit negatively)? Or do they look at this and pull some people from the marketing department into a meeting room and ask “What the heck is going on? And how do we begin trying to fix this?”

Let’s face it, brands like Hermès don’t need to post off-brand content to get engagement. IT’S HERMÈS! Simply post anything that says or suggests Hermès and courtesy of the halo effect, you have your inbuilt cult following of millions liking, commenting, tagging and sharing your content. Right now, I estimate that nearly three-quarters of the engagement is for the wrong reasons [read: slamming their terrible campaigns, the ads, their marketing, their BRAND!]

Trying something new is great. It is important to mix things up. That said, the changes you make must align with your overall brand persona and not lose the appeal to your ideal market. Remember that no trust means no relationship, no brand equity and therefore no sales.

Let’s see if Hermès will heed the warning from the thousands of fans to get back to its core branding. Luxury brands like Hermès build brand equity based on their timelessness, heritage, exclusivity, class and a touch of arrogance. The brand loyalty of their customers and aspirational customers for such luxury brands hangs on this.

We can only hope that they shake off their identity crisis at Hermès. They need to remember who they are and veer off the path of cringe and back on to freeway of sophistication. #prayforHermès

The Psychology of nailpolish

There is an intense psychology to painting my nails. I used to be a severe nail biter right through my childhood. I suffered from separation anxiety when I started a new school at 8 years old and so started the nail biting. Just as I settled in and made wonderful friends, I was moved again and this time to an all girls private school where things turned into a disaster for me with consistent bullying every single day from the day I started. That was another 7 years of nail biting until year 12- where everyone else was getting nervous with VCE and studies and panic about embarking on the big wide world and uni entrance. Not me! I suddenly started to see the light and the end of the tunnel. I was finally going to be getting out of hell! That year I stopped biting my nails and for the first time, I was able to grow my nails for my school formal. Hello nail polish!


The day I finally realised I could paint my nails for my Yr 12 Formal.

The Mean Girls

Everyone is known or complimented for something. For me it’s been my nails. Even in those times of bullying at high school, I remember our Religion teacher doing an exercise where we all had to pin a piece of paper on our backs and write something nice anonymously on our classmates’ back. I can’t even begin to tell you the dread I felt about this exercise because I was so sure I knew how nasty they were all going to be. Turns out, they were braver about being nasty to my face than behind my back. Majority had complimented me on my nails or hair. Interestingly, not one bad comment. Teenage girls are interesting species, aren’t they?


Finding Me

After high school, I started painting my nails regularly. In my 20’s I would get them done professionally and then children happened and I started painting them myself. I have painted them a different colour every 10 days or so since. WHY? Because it’s my “thing”. I had spent so many years hiding ugly bleeding nail beds and suddenly I had nails that looked like my mother’s nails. Mum’s nails were the one thing I was always in awe of growing up, so I was determined to make the most of it.

My friends or acquaintances often ask “Hey Lüt, let me see. What colour are your nails today?” or wonder “how on earth do you manage to paint your own nails so well?” Practice my friends! LOTS AND LOTS of practice!


The Psychology of Nail Polish

This year I have had a few points where ill health and stress meant no time (or desire) to paint my nails. (You can read more on this here.) My friends started to worry about my mental health based on the state of my nails (absolutely no exaggeration)! I often had people look at my hands and say “hmmm.. no nail polish. Are you ok Lüt?” and It’s not coming from a place of pretentiousness, it’s self care for me. I feel good when my nails are done, but apparently I also need to feel good to do my nails. It doesn’t hurt that as a luxury brand strategist, I also appreciate the finer things in life. My daughter loves that she gets to reap the benefits of living in a house that has an OPI nail polish range to rival any department store or nail salon. Reds are my favourites which is interesting given I never touch red nail polish until about 6 years ago. But I have every shade imaginable now. So in short, I am back people! Here’s my current colour for the week/10 days.


Current nail polish colour- OPI nude tone to brighten the winter blacks “Don’t Bossa Nova Me Around”



Tell me, what is your “thing”? What are you known for?

Time for change: my body’s wake up call

I know it’s been a long time in between blogs. Heck it’s been a long time in-between any true online interaction, but I really needed the time away. If you are in the business of stress like I have been, you will appreciate how overwhelming running a business can be. We get sucked into “just one more thing” and  suddenly you are in over your head. This pace ended up sending me to a very scary place. I lost my inner balance and my body forced me to stop and listen. It’s time for change.


The realisation

I don’t need to tell any of you how stressful life is. We are all busy trying to row our own boats, which sometimes feel like they are loaded with rocks. In my case, I seem to have too many boats, each with its own excessive weight and responsibility. I have my family, which is my number one priority. Admittedly, while I have been maintaining my responsibilities for my family, I haven’t been great in being present the last six months. Overloaded by Astara Creative work, building The Vault Mastermind with my Co-Founder/business partner Tanya and meeting the needs of a third company that I “inherited” Directorship of a few years ago as taken its toll. I was always on the go, stressing, stretching, on alert and it became evident that I had given control of Me to others so long ago, I really needed help gaining back that control. I was so concerned about what others thought of me, it was wearing me down. It was time for change. So I did something I can’t recommend highly enough- I got myself a fabulous Psychologist. We immediately started working on my self-worth, resetting distorted perceptions of myself, changing the stories I was telling myself about Me etc.

Coming undone

Fast forward to May and the onset of social media fatigue. I mean REALLY stressing about having to be on there ALL-THE-TIME. Constantly being glued to a screen, trying to create fresh, valuable and interesting content- the struggle is real when it comes to turning up. I should also point out that my social media presence is merely about brand awareness and education. My clients are generally through word-of-mouth. It suddenly hit me- did the ends justify the means? Well, I can now tell you it really didn’t. And you would probably do well to take stock of your ROI on socials too. More and more I am finding that new clients are coming to me stressing about their follower numbers on Instagram not growing to which I point out- are you an Influencer? No. Then those numbers don’t mean a thing! Perhaps it’s time for change for you too?

When you feel it coming

I started switching my screen downtime mode on my phone. It basically shuts down the majority of my apps at 7:30pm and turns them back on at 7:30am. About 4 weeks ago, I was sitting down on a Sunday night watching a movie with Tark (my husband) when I went to lean on him and something didn’t feel right in my right breast. I can’t describe it, but it was a strange sensation. Was it tenderness, burning or pain? I touched it and felt a lump. I suddenly had a matching one in my throat. OH SHIT! WT? So I sat upright, switched my screen downtime off and did what every woman whose cycle has synced with their girlfriend’s cycle does- I Messengered Tanya. “Tan, when is our period due?” (I should point out that I knew the answer and I even have the app that confirmed it but I was really hoping that my app and I were wrong. Spoiler Alert: we weren’t!) Tanya replies back with “in 8 days”. OH F@ So I reply back with “Umm.. I just found a lump in my breast”. Our lives and sleeping patterns collectively went downhill from there. My son sat there next to us and Tark kept asking me “what’s wrong?” and I would say “nothing” while my eyes said “Don’t ask me anything. I can’t say in front of him.”

All the sleepless nights

I was fortunate that I actually had an appointment booked with my GP the next morning to get results for my recent blood test checking my iron but there was no sleep that night. The first of many sleepless nights. You see I am one of those people who have “lumpy breasts” so self-examinations are very difficult for me. I usually have to get my GP to do my exams and compare to past mammograms and ultrasounds. The next morning my GP confirmed “Definitely a lump. But the upside is it’s mobile. So don’t panic yet. But of course we need to be sure so you need another mammogram and ultrasound.” Off I went and of course the next available time wasn’t until the end of a VERY long week! At this point I was busily trying to keep it together so my kids didn’t find out and trying not to make eye contact with my husband, who was obviously struggling with waiting for answers too. All those negotiations we start with God, the Universe, your conscience.. “I get the message. Please don’t make me go there and I PROMISE I will be a better person, living a better lifestyle. I will change everything. I will even eat less sugar.” So already, deep down, we all know that it’s time for change.


Support is everything

Can I just jump in and acknowledge how lucky I am when it comes to support? My parents now live overseas and I didn’t want to worry them unnecessarily. I didn’t want my kids to know unless there was definitely something to worry about, so I didn’t tell anyone but Tark, Tanya, my girlfriend Mine and my girlfriend Emine (who lives in Colorado, so we went global for prayers people). This right here is a prime example of how quality will beat quantity EVERY-SINGLE-TIME! My team are the best! Now add to it that my 16-year-old daughter is too smart for her own good and figured out something was up the day I was heading to the mammogram. So I now had her there juggling VCE, support for her Mum and her own fears (which she kept in check beautifully, I might add!) Tanya did what she does best- kept us calm and ORGANISED! (Benefits of having a Neurocoach as your business partner.) She contacted clients who were expecting replies to calls and emails and explained that I was unexpectedly away and made arrangements for time. They were all fantastic and obviously know me well enough to know I don’t usually disappear so something was up. Tanya also insisted on taking me to my mammogram, while Adam (her husband) had the day off to be there for their kids and to pick up my kids from school if need be. See? I told you- my team ROCKS! Support is everything in life.


More questions…

To cut a long story short, ultrasonographer was encouraging “It’s really big, but I think it’s a cyst”. The mammographer kept making strange sounds, giving me concerned looks and talking to the Dr in the hallway without closing the door. (Nothing like sitting there topless with a growing lump in your breast and hearing alarmed tones in the corridor, let me tell you.) I was later told they needed my old scans for comparison because they were unsure about what they were seeing. Dropped those off. Monday I call to see if I can make an appointment with my GP for results and I am told she is away this week with 2 sick children. Another Dr will be in touch if anything of concern comes up in the meantime, otherwise see her next week. Well that was 9am Monday. Imagine my anxiety when I get a call at 5:15pm that evening from the reception saying “your Dr would like to see you about your results at 10am tomorrow morning.” UMMMMMMMMM……. That doesn’t sound good. Didn’t feel good. Also, the lump seemed to have grown and was now extremely painful and protruding. It was waking me up as I moved in my sleep (apparently pain is a good sign.. but not when you are trying to forget it’s there in-between appointments.)


The storm before the calm

Tark took me to get my results where my GP told us the results were not conclusive. The lump needed to be removed for testing and she made an urgent appointment with my amazing Breast Surgeon. Only my breast surgeon was overseas for a conference so I had to wait another week. The anxiety levels in this time were mind blowing. If anyone was looking for me, I would have been sitting on a toilet somewhere. The following week came about 100 years later and Tark took another day off and took me in to get my now egg sized, painful lump removed. My breast surgeon was confident that it was nothing sinister so we are one of the fortunate ones. I now have to take supplements to calm my system down so I don’t feed the cysts with my stress levels. The conclusion my Drs came to was that for the lump to have grown so much, so quickly, I have been under immense stress in recent months. Guilty as charged! The need to do it all and please everyone has manifested as a physical wake up call.


It’s time for change

I have since made changes in my life. I am no longer in the business of stress. I’m in the processes of officially resigning as Director from that third company. It never aligned with my work and it was just a source of extra time and stress for me. I was stretching myself to make life easier for others and I can’t do that anymore. It’s time to let it go. I am also refreshing my services to remove those that I felt I had to do, but I didn’t enjoy doing. So good-bye social media management. I will continue to teach social media marketing and create strategies for clients, but I will no longer be managing the accounts myself. Removing the stress of expectation that I need to be on Instagram all the time has been liberating. I am working on a new SM strategy for Astara Creative on Insta and will slowly roll that out once my website refresh has been completed. We had already streamlined The Vault social media. That burden has always been shared between Tanya and I, so that’s fine. And my screen time is now strictly 7:30am-7:30pm unless I am out at a work function. Business is stressful but it is up to us to take control of it, rather than let it control us.



It’s an amazing feeling knowing that even people who you haven’t met IRL notice your absence and check in with you. I am grateful to my clients who have shown understanding over the last few weeks, my team who have had my back and especially Tanya, who was everything I needed, when I needed it. Thank you!!! And a special mention to the cheekiest golden lab puppy, Axel, who spent hours cuddling me when I felt so stressed, a little lost and lonely, but not up for human interaction. Somethings don’t need to change.


Today’s parting thoughts for you

  • Check your breasts!!
  • Take stock of what you give resources to in your life. Eliminate anything that you don’t need. It’s time for change.
  • Only keep THE BEST people around you. The people you deserve and who deserve you.
  • If you need support, find a good psychologist. There is no shame in seeking help. It’s life changing.
  • Did I mention CHECK YOUR BREASTS!!!!??


Startup business tips & advice: Lessons of 2018

A while ago, on one of my Insta posts I talked about the realisation that 2018 was a year of growth for me of monumental proportions, both personally and professionally. It was by far the biggest growth in Astara Creative but it wasn’t an easy ride by any means. There were lots of doubts, tears, stress, sleeplessness and so many other symptoms of the life of an entrepreneur, but I won’t go into all of them now. There are so many business startup tips and advice I wish I had been told, aside from the “you need to register your business name” or “make sure you are on social media”. Entrepreneur life is about wearing so many hats, that your day feels like a series of costume changes..

Costume change- Entrepreneur life. Running a business is about wearing multiple hats and going in for costume change ALL-THE-TIME!

Is it just me?

I thought sharing those lessons would be helpful to other entrepreneurs who are experiencing similar problems and wondering “is it me? Am I doing this all wrong? Should I just give up?” The answer to all of these of course is, it’s DEFINITELY NOT just you. Who the heck knows what the right way is? And if everyone who came up against doubts gave up, we’d still be hunting and gathering around our caves. What satisfaction would we get if everything was easy? And imagine if everyone had the same determination to push through and achieve all their goals. At the risk of going cliché, this is what sets the doers apart from the dreamers. On that same post, I asked if my followers preferred a series of written blogs or videos of my lessons and it was hands down on VIDEO! So…

Here we go…

I have finally mustered up my courage to sit in front of my iPhone in all my transparency and share my lessons of 2018 with you. They are unscripted and non-rehearsed videos so please excuse the rawness but I thought it was the only way to convey the authenticity of my experiences. So here it goes. Without further ado, welcome to a series of videos where I candidly share my own business startup tips and lessons.. the insights I wish someone had shared with me when I started.

So far I have a series of 15 short videos (between 4-10 minutes in length), each a lesson I learned the hard way in 2018. These will be released one per week to my mailing list as a part of La Maison d’Astara Creative issues. So if you don’t want to miss any of the videos and you want to have them delivered straight to your inbox every Friday afternoon, along with the latest in luxury branding news, marketing trends, notifications of upcoming events, debriefs of past events, recommendations of useful apps, informative podcasts and inspirational books then don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list here

Which lessons will I be reflecting on?

In case you were wondering, here are just some of the lessons I will share with you:

  1. The importance of visibility (despite your fears)
  2. The power of leveraging collaborations
  3. Learning how to control your time on social media and make it count
  4. The importance of self-care to prevent burnout
  5. How to work around Imposter Syndrome (You can even join us in our Imposter Syndrome Support Group on LinkedIn here)
  6. The insight into why I struggle with meeting new people and networking as an introvert
  7. Dealing with the negativity around you
  8. Learning to say NO and how this will boost your self-worth. Change the perception of your value to yourself and others.. and many others.


So don’t forget to subscribe and grab your coffee as the first one will be dropping in your inbox on shortly. Let’s reflect together.

Coffee in hand reflecting

And as for all of those stressful mistakes and struggles we all experience along the way… well they are all important lessons.



Lütfiye Tahseen

Karl Lagerfeld- Will Fashion and Creativity ever be different again?

I’m not going to pretend to know all about fashion and design. I have no personal stories of drinks or projects with Karl Lagerfeld (if only!). As an avid follower of Lagerfeld’s work for Chanel for years, I have always been intrigued by his mind. How did someone so detached from society’s norms and expectations, always create work that left the masses drooling for more? He continuously created global desire for a piece of whatever he was baking up. The passing of Monsieur Lagerfeld has brought about some thoughts about where the world of fashion has been and where it is heading.

The Beautiful Mind of Karl Lagerfeld

Lagerfeld always fascinated me that as the head of THREE fashion houses, he managed to keep to the style and brand of each house individually. Let’s face it, we have several of the current “designers” who are guilty of merely recreating the same few items with only the slightest variation in the placement of a zipper or a few studs, and release it under a new fashion label. Karl Lagerfeld was different. He was a visionary and he liked to push the boundaries. His vision was trusted so much, that he was given carte blanche by the CEO of Chanel. Karl often stated that he did not worry about the cost of his designs, fashion sets etc.. that was not his problem.

The ROI on Karl was always high, hence why Chanel never questioned his extravagant requests to do his job. They simply provided him with whatever he needed to create.  Let’s not forget the life-like simulation of the rocket launch at the Chanel Fashion Show in 2017, the 265 tonne imported iceberg for the Chanel 2010 fashion show and the Chanel shopping centre complete with stocked aisles and baskets with Chanel logos. I mean the man was a creative phenomenon who put just as much a showman as he was a designer.

Outside the Box Creativity

The Grand Palais in Paris has seen amazing transformations including a convincing airport terminal, the Verdon Gorge, the cruise ship and the old-fashioned couture runway show as a tribute to the times of Coco herself. Karl knew that to create the full experience, he had to tell a unique story in a way relevant to the brand and appealing to all the senses of his guests. Sights, sounds, textures, smells and tastes that transported his guests to somewhere else. A different time and a different place for those few hours of a show. (If you have ever managed to catch any of them on a live feed, you will know that even over the internet, you capture the essence of actually being there. AMAZING!)

Karl appeared to lack a filter, evident in many controversial opinions he offered over the decades. While it his lack of filter appeared to serve him well when it came to his creativity. He drew, he painted, he took photos, he published books.. and yet when Suzy Menkes of Vogue asked the question-

“What do you want to be remembered for?” Karl Lagerfeld responded with “Forget about it. I couldn’t care less, I will not be around.” When he was  further prompted he said “No. I think things start with me, they end with me. After that the garbage can. I have not an idea. I couldn’t care less. I don’t make foundations. Foundation is something for me that people put on their face.” And I guess this is what sets a creative genius like Karl Lagerfeld apart from many others. Throughout his career, he performed from his soul and not from his ego. Lagerfeld’s goal was never to appease others, but rather to release what was innately within him.

What’s happening at Chanel now?

Virginie Viard was appointed as Karl Lagerfeld’s successor as creative director at Chanel. Why? Chanel is a brand that is proudly built on its heritage. The continued growth of a succesful brand like Chanel requires a designer who will respect the brand’s style and heritage. This is something Karl Lagerfeld mastered in his time at Chanel, where Viard worked side by side with Karl for over 30 years. It will be interesting to see where Virginie Viard takes the Chanel fashion house. I believe Viard is a good choice given she was mentored by the best in business. Whatever the case, there is no doubt that Virginie has some big shoes to fill.

RIP Karl Lagerfeld.

It is the end of an era in fashion and creativity. And so we arrive at the question that has been on my mind since I received the sad news on Tuesday night-

“Will fashion and creativity ever be different again?”



Lütfiye Tahseen

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