According to a new report published today by the Digital Luxury Group, Chanel has ousted Louis Vuitton for the first time as the most-searched-for luxury brand in China (that’s their Beijing store, below). Rock our little velvet-lined world. Especially because why is one of the best arguments I’ve yet heard for why a brand needs to hit every luxury market segment.
These days we all hold certain truths to be self-evident: 1) that the Chinese market, while slowing, is still expected to be the biggest fashion market in the world; 2) that the Chinese are attracted to the idea of European heritage and skills; 3) that there is an increasing drive in China to support home-grown design (or to create it); 4) that the Europeans are trying to figure out how to exploit all those two realities to their own profit. Hence, for example, Kering’s purchase last year of Qeelin, the Chinese jewellery brand, and hence Iceberg’s decision to partner with Chinese video artist Yi Zhou for a capsule collection of menswear, womenswear, and accessories, to be launched next Christmas. What’s interesting about both these choices is they are focused much more on East than West. Fair enough: you go where the money is. And with the Iceberg case we reach example number 2 of this approach, thus bringing us ever-closer to critical mass for a trend.
Stuart McCullough, the CEO of Woolmark, wants to relaunch wool as a brand. A luxury brand. Woolmark, of course, is already a logo, and there are unquestionably luxury fibres (see cashmere, vicuna, silk), but to turn a fibre itself into a brand seems like – well, a challenge. Isn’t it a material? Can materials be brands? Is this the ultimate example of the contemporary belief that everything, but everything – people, dogs, washing machines – can be a brand? Maybe. But the does have two recent developments going for him.
We’re used to hearing about how this luxury brand is suing that web site for false advertising, and that one is suing that third party enabler for allowing other to sell counterfeit products, and yet another is suing for a product that looks a little too much like their existing product (OK, can anyone say LVMHand Google or eBay? Gucci and Guess?), but this is largely because the big guys, who have the most money, make the most noise. In fact, talk to the legal set and one of the greatest problems facing young designers in a globalised world is “trade-mark squatting.” Thus far, it’s mostly caused a lot of breast-beating and wallet-opening, but now one young designer has come up with a solution of sorts.
So Havas Media got back to me with the rankings of the Top 50 meaningful global brands (you may remember, no luxury brand made the top 25), and guess what? We finally see some luxury names. Even more interesting, however, is the geographic breakdown of where those luxury names appear – and the fact that all that ubiquity conventional wisdom has is bad for luxury may actually help make it meaningful to more.
We all know menswear is seen as a Great Luxury Hope, what with the Chinese market being driven by male consumers with money. Hence the Kering acquisition of Brioni; LVMH focusing on Berluti and buying French made-to-measure tailor Arnys to make apparel; Hermes and Coach opening mensonly shops, and so on. Now, however, it seems the on-line folks are also thinking along these lines. Yesterday MenInvest, the slightly cringe-worthy-named Paris-based e-commerce group bought the even odder named upmarket UK site Oki-ni.com, which specialises in “cutting-edge” menswear, for an undisclosed sum.
So the other day I was chatting with Safilo CEO Roberto Vedovotto, trying to get to the root of the explosion in optics – they’re fast catching up to handbags as the super-accessory of choice – when he threw out an interesting theory: it’s the baby boomers, stupid.
Though much has been made of the fact that the luxury sector, which has been on a rocket to the moon, growth-wise, is finally slowing –Bain predicts 4-6% for the next two years – a new “UK Luxury Benchmark Study” from Walpole, the British luxury consortium, and Ledbury Research, begs to differ, at least when it comes to the UK. It’s full of surprises!
Interesting news today that fursales are at “a record high”, especially in the Far East: Korea, China and so on. So does this mean the animal rights folks have lost? They certainly haven’t ceded the cause – they still pop up on occasion in front of a show (Prada, last season) or a store (Burberry), but I think it has proved more complicated than they ever anticipated. Because they aren’t just fighting a basic totem of luxury, and an industry that is increasingly getting out in front of the issue (see the Origin Assured initiative), but the whole problem of seasonality: the end of.
I had a very illuminating chat yesterday with Jimmy Choo chief executive Pierre Denis. He’s been in the job not quite a year now (previously he was ceo of John Galliano, so you can understand the job change), and has started to articulate the brand’s story going forward. Put simply: it’s history, people.