China

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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’. 

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. 

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. 

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.

 

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.