China

Earlier this week Hermès’ womenswear designer Christophe Lemaire announced his impending exit from the ultra-luxe label to focus on his namesake collection.

This news, coming just days after the company undershot expectations in its latest quarterly performance, got me thinking about the rapidly evolving status quo forming for one of the star brands in the luxury galaxy. Read more

Another day, another high-profile auction house hits the headlines with a juicy legal scandal. Weeks after a 6-month siege of the Sotheby’s boardroom by Dan Loeb ended in a trip to the courthouse and the activist hedgie getting a seat at the top table, Christie’s is facing a $60m lawsuit filed by a rival for allegedly poaching its luxury handbags experts.

Does this mean that accessories could be the new flashpoint in the fight for market share in the auction world?

Papers were filed in Manhattan last Friday by Heritage, a Dallas, Texas-based company that specialises in auctioning ultra-luxe accessories. It was behind the sale of the world’s most expensive handbag in 2011 (this $203,150 scarlet red crocodile skin Hermès Birkin bag below in case you are interested, and the price included a juicy buyer’s premium of almost 20 per cent.) Read more

Despite the economic slowdown recently felt across much of the region, all eyes continue to be fixed firmly upon Asia Pacific, still considered to be the hothouse of luxury industry growth over the next decade: Euromonitor expects sales of goods within the region to hit $125bn by 2018, a spike of 45 per cent.

Recent public plutzing by the industry over the state of China’s softening sales last year now appears to be abating, as the dip proves a short-term bump in the long-term road.

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After two weeks in the mountains of Wyoming, come home and what do I find? Not only is Mulberry without a CEO (and still without a designer), but all that conventional wisdom about the super-duper high-speed growth of the Chinese luxury market (shock! Trauma!) slowing down may have been wrong. Or not wrong, exactly, but slightly misguided. Read more

There’s an interesting report in the FT today about declining sales of China’s local-brand cars, and it’s got me thinking about the benefits and problems of “national” brands – which is to say, not state-owned brands, but rather the perceptions surrounding the name of a country, ie its own brand, when attached to product, and the way this can work for and against manufacturers. Blame it on the Made in Italy and Made in France strategy the luxury industry so cannily implemented back in the day (a recent BCG/Altagamma/Sanford Bernstein Global Consumer Insight study found a whopping 80% of consumers think “Made in is key”) but seems to me, when it comes to consumers, products don’t just have to be good, they have to somehow come to grips with national stereotype, and either neuter it or exploit it. But what they can’t do is ignore it. Read more

This Sunday is the Oscars, which as we all know is the be-all and end-all of red carpet dressing, and may explain the notable lack of Hollywood celebrities at Paris Fashion Week thus far: they’re all back in Hollywood, juicing in order to get their stomachs flat. Or, in fact – and here’s what I am thinking – there may be something else going on. Something that has to do with changing markets, and marketing. Read more

All that stuff we’ve been hearing about the Chinese market moving toward the exclusive, the subtle, and the non-logo? It’s happening in beauty too. The other day I was chatting to Christophe Robin, the Paris hair colourist, and he mentioned that his line of products had really taken off in China. They’re called “Christophe Robin.” Heard of them? No? Well, that’s the point. “Last year sales were up 53%, and this year we think it will be 70%,” he said. Given that Bain reported luxury market growth of about 2.5% in China last year, that’s saying something. Read more

Just after Burberry’s nice third quarter results prompted a rash of headlines (including in this paper) about positive returns “easing [the industry’s] China slowdown fears,” especially when combined with similar happy stories from Swatch and Tiffany, today we came down to earth with a bump courtesy of Richemont. In their third quarter trading statement, things looked not so rosy in China. In fact, they looked pretty doldrum-like. Read more

As this is my last post of the year I thought I’d leave you with a few ideas about the five main thing I’m going to be watching in 2014, and where the action might be (aside from the already well-documented worlds of M&A and IPOs), from store wars to legal battles, consumer behaviour and designers that will make the difference. Read on! Read more

Much celebrating (and some amazement) about the stellar stock market debut of Moncler yesterday, with some analysts attributing the excitement over buying into the brand to the idea it could be “ the next Burberry”. But is that true, or wildly optimistic? I can see where they are coming from, but am not necessarily convinced. Read more

Just as the Chinese government cracks down further on luxury spending at home, and more company results demonstrate a flattening of the local market causing fear and trauma in heritage luxury brands with major capex in Asia, enter Antonio Tajani, EU Vice-president and commissioner for industry, to attempt to stem the pain. Their hero! Mr Tajani, aka luxury’s friend in Brussels, has “an action plan on the competitiveness of the European fashion and high-end industries”. Or a kind-of action plan. A beginning action plan? A small movement plan? You know what I mean. The point is: there’s a plan. Read more

The latest global luxury CEO survey from Ledbury Research and Departures magazine contains some interesting nuggets of information from the 70 unnamed chief executives who talked — the un-named bit slightly undermining the survey’s results, it must be said, though also underscoring the a) super-secretive and controlling nature of many of these companies; and b) suggests they may be telling the truth about some things that are perhaps a wee bit controversial. Like, for example, two things in particular. Read more

Much drumroll comes around the world from China, where Chinese Vogue is celebrating its 100th issue (left), which also happens to be its first “all-Chinese” issue — by which they appear to mean all-Chinese models and subjects issue, as it was also all shot by Mario Testino, who is, of course, Brazilian. Still, it’s interesting, both for the content, and for the sheer fact that for 100 issues it hadn’t happened. I mean, the magazine was founded in 2005. What took them so long? Before you say “why do we, who do not necessarily read Chinese Vogue, care?” I offer you this: the advent of the all-China Chinese Vogue is less about China itself than about the relationship between China and Western fashion, and where exactly the balance of power lies. Read more

As any observer of the luxury industry knows, tourist spending is increasingly becoming the sales bread and butter of the world’s biggest brands. But it’s not just the flagship, department store and e-commerce channels that reap the multi-billion dollar rewards of cross-border luxury spending,

DFS – or Duty Free Shopping – the world’s leading premium travel retailer, now takes an increasingly hefty chunk of this seriously lucrative pie. Last year alone, they sold a staggering 70m products from 700 prestige labels in 420 locations across the globe.

But here’s a question – have you ever actually heard of them? Would you recognize their logo? The chances are probably not – unless you live or travel extensively in the Asia-Pacific, where the vast majority of DFS Gallerias and airport outlets are based.

But that may all be about to change. Read more

To kick off the Paris shows, the final leg in the marathon that are the modern ready-to-wear collections, Louis Vuitton did something I can’t ever remember them doing before: they announced the name of their new accessories designer with all the hoo-ha and accolades that usually come with the unveiling of a new creative director. Step forth Darren Sapziani. In the luxury power structure, things they are a-changin’. Read more

Ok, I know it’s the womenswear season and all eyes are on hemlines in New York (and soon London), but something is happening in menswear to which no one seems to be paying much attention, but that strikes me as worth a stop and think: various Chinese groups are snapping up classic western tailoring brands like they are M&Ms. And the ownership change is reaching critical mass. Read more

Here’s a question: what does NYFW’s Jewish problem and the Chinese version of “Project Runway” have in common? You know the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well, this is Six Degrees of Parsons. Read more

Seems to me the big question hovering over Apple and Tim Cook – should they or should they not introduce a cheaper iPhone next month, perhaps for the China market? – is actually obvious, or would have been so to Mr Cook’s predecessor, Steve Jobs. Yes, they should, and it shouldn’t necessarily be for China. Or not just for China. Why do I think this? Fashion, my dear Watson.

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Floriane de Saint Pierre, one of the most powerful luxury headhunters in France (she’s the go-to people placer for Kering), is spearheading yet another fashion award, Eyes on Talent, along with ITS (International Talent Support, an on-line platform) — this one specifically geared toward bringing up and coming design talent to the attention of big brands. Well, they just announced their 2013 winners, and guess what? Of the 13 awards, sponsored by brands like Yoox, Diesel and Swarovski, almost half the winners came from major new markets: South Korea and China. Think this is a coincidence? I don’t.
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