Monthly Archives: April 2012

Luxury brands from PPR to LVMH may be announcing more banner results this month, but according to a new report from UK luxury consultancy Ledbury Research, their CEOs are probably a lot more worried about the industry’s prospects in 2012 than they are letting on. Read more

Recently, a woman in the midst of a career change came to see me. This former banker, who took time off to get married and have children, was on the verge of beginning a new life in the high-end fragrance business. Her launch product is a limited edition perfume called “Tiara” that will sell for $1,200 and features particularly glitzy packaging: nestling inside a white resin box is a glass vial shaped like a cupcake, “crowned” by a special silvery top studded with sapphire blue Swarovski ovals. The look was, she said, inspired by the late Princess Diana’s engagement ring, as now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.

Today at their AGM PPR came out and did two things that I don’t think any other luxury brand has done so far: publicly put its money where its mouth is, officially committing to a group of specific environmental goals for the Group to reach by 2016 and announcing them for all to see (and measure, and wave critically in the air in the company fails to fulfill them), and financially committing to a carbon off-shoot company by buying a 5% stake in Wildlife Works Carbon and getting a seat on the management committee. It all sounds great, but what does it really mean?
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Anyone else noticed that these days you can’t blink an eye without someone — a designer, blogger, brand — announcing they have just “curated” some on-line content? But isn’t this simply a new word for “editor”? And aren’t both terms being devalued — to the detriment of the consumer?

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So a precedent has been set in Russia. Yesterday the Swiss conglomerate won their case in the Russian Federal Supreme Court, where in they sued a Russian company that had registered the trademark Vacheron Constantin and applied it to middle-market clothes. The result is a new legal standard in Russia regarding trademark protections that will be very useful not only to any other luxury brand doing business in the country but any luxury brand doing business in other emerging markets.

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As if the Jubilee and the Olympics weren’t enough, this June London fashion will inaugurate its first ever dedicated men’s wear – well, not week. Three days! You have to start somewhere.The announcement marks an interesting evolution in British fashion thinking. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t go far enough.

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After YSL and Louboutin, after LVMH and eBay, comes Richemont and Russia. Yes, tomorrow the Swiss luxury giant comes out of the shadows and joins the fight against trademark infringement and IP theft that has been picking up steam across the globe. See, tomorrow the Arbitrazh court of Moscow will hear an appeal by Richemont’s Vacheron Constantin brand that, says the Chairman of the Chamber of Russian patent attorneys, could well determine the shape of Russian IP law going forward. And that, of course, will have wide repercussions for the greater luxury industry.
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On Sunday the French electorate goes to the polls for the first round of presidential elections, which are widely expected to result in a François Hollande/Nicolas Sarkozy face-off in round two. Much has been made of this being a quasi-referendum on the future of the euro, France’s relationship with Germany and the rate of taxation on the top 10 per cent of the population (not to mention whether or not France feels it’s time to get a Socialist back in the Elysée). But it seems to me there’s another issue also at stake that hasn’t really been discussed but is equally interesting: the question of what it means to appear presidential in a straitened economic era.

And so yet more proof lands in the in-box that people are still buying luxury – and this time I’m not talking about the products. I’m talking about stocks. Hot on the heels of the revelation that Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has bought a 5% stake in jeweler Tiffany comes the news that luggage maker Tumi’s value was up by over 50% after their IPO yesterday raised $338 million.

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Well, what else to conclude from the fact Ms Wang’s recent bridal collection (for those who don’t obsessively follow the endless show schedule, this is wedding season) featured 15 — count ‘em — red gowns?

Vera Wang

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And so Apple is getting the final ingredient in the arsenal of a luxury brand: a fragrance. Admittedly, it wasn’t developed by the company itself; it was commissioned from a scent manufacturer called Air Aroma by an Australian art collective called Greatest Hits as part of a gallery installation. Still, it pretty much confirms what we already knew about that brand: that it has transcended tech to become part of an individual’s socio-political identity — and hence open to artistic commentary. Now, what’s Apple going to do about it? After all, it may sound conceptual, but I think it has quite powerful real-world applications.  Read more

Briefly in Milan for the furniture fair, I was chatting at a Poltrona Frau dinner to Luca di Montezemolo, whose private equity firm Charme owns Frau, when he announced happily that this weekend he and Diego Della Valle, chairman of Tod’s (along with Gianni Punzo, Bank Intesa Sanpaolo, Generali and the French rail company SNCF), will become the proud parents of yet another luxury item: Europe’s first fully privately-owned high speed luxury train

The new NTV high-speed Italo train. Image by Getty

The new NTV high-speed Italo train. Image by Getty

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Aquascutum show at London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2012. Image by Getty

Aquascutum show at London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2012. Image by Getty

“Due to unforeseen circumstances the Aquascutum autumn/winter 2012 press day has been cancelled until further notice.”

That was the email that went to the fashion press yesterday, ahead of news that the British label has gone into administration. To be blunt, the autumn issues of glossy magazines aren’t going to collapse if stylists can’t get their hands on an Aquascutum trench to feature in their shoots. The wheels of fashion aren’t going to stop turning.

However, while Aquascutum isn’t one of the labels that shape the style landscape, like a Prada, or a major advertiser, like Armani, because there are few major British designer labels, when one is under threat it’s a big deal. Read more

I don’t know about you, but personally, I spent all day yesterday GLUED to
Hearst’s new YouTube video channel, Hello Style!

Hello, new marketing opportunity! Hello, potentially important brand
extension! Read more

I admit: it took me a while to dress for this particular costume party. When everyone in England discovered Downton Abbey and started bragging about how it was the most successful drama in more than 30 years, I shrugged and went on a TV vacation. When the New York Times wrote about Downton Abbey dinner parties, I convinced myself that it was a social, not a fashion, phenomenon for sad Sex and the City types who had been bereft of TV-obsessions after that show’s demise. When it swept the Golden Globes, I thought: of course, the voters want to prove their cultural credentials. Truth is, period dramas have never been my thing; give me a medical show with rare diseases and blue scrubs over petticoats and corsetry any day.

In a week of big American political news, from Rick Santorum’s campaign “suspension” to the furore over a comment from a democratic strategist over Ann Romney’s stay-at-home Mom-dom, one piece of new has, at least on-line, almost trumped them all: the bombshell revelation, in a piece in American Elle, that Hillary Clinton’s staff is secretly horrified at her penchant for hair scrunchies. If anyone wants to debate whether or not appearance matters when it comes to politics, I think the viral reaction to this information, which was buried in a much longer, non-fashion profile, pretty much answers the question.
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There’s a new entry in the ever-evolving luxury lexicon courtesy of the folks over at Interbrand: “meta-luxury.” The term, coined to replace that old catch-all “luxury,” refers to “luxury after luxury.” For those in search of a fuller (or more logical) explanation, two Interbrand directors, Manfredi Ricca and Rebecca Robins, have written an entire book elucidating the concept, called, not surprisingly, “Meta-luxury.” It’s not perfect, but I think it may come closer to rationalising the current situation than anything else I’ve seen thus far.

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Today the Hong Kong-based Fung family further enlarged their empire of Western luxury brands when Trinity Limited, the Hong Kong-based, publically-listed subsidiary of Li & Fung Group (whose two main shareholders are Victor and tk Fung) announced it had agreed to purchase British tailor extraordinaire Gieves & Hawkes from Wing Tai Properties Limited.

The deal was priced at £32.5 million “plus annual payments for 18 years up to a cumulative maximum of £60 million” accoding to the announcement.
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Ex-French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld’s transformation into brand is now complete: she has revealed her new magazine, due out next September to coincide with fashion weeks, will be called….wait for it…CR. Once upon a time if you were forced to leave one job, you looked around for another, but Ms Roitfeld offers an alternative career blueprint. The question is whether it will become the norm? Read more

After a year of rumour and speculation, Dior has finally confirmed Raf Simons, the fashion darling recently canonized after his abrupt firing as artistic director of Jil Sander, has been handed the keys to the house – just over a year after former Dior creative director John Galliano was handed his walking papers after an alleged anti-Semitic incident. The appointment will put an end not just to the constant gossip about who might be getting the job, but to suggestions that perhaps the whole concept of a creative director was outmoded.
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