Today the FT is reporting that Blackstone is the clear leader in the race for the Versace minority stake – which is surprising on the surface, given that the private equity firm has never made any forays into high fashion, and private equity as a sector has had mixed results in the sector, sic Permira and Valentino, and TPG and Bally. So why the mutual attraction? I was speculating with a colleague recently, and she mentioned what is probably the magic word: hotels. Aka the Next Big Brand extension of luxury.
LVMH has confirmed it has taken a minority stake in Young Italian Designer (we will not acronym that for obvious reasons) Marco de Vincenzo, making him the second such up-and-comer to receive such investment from the luxury behemoth, and underscoring the increasing competition among the established groups to identify, and potentially own, new talent. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but there’s no question, it’s putting its money where its mouth is. At least some money.
Yes, it’s that time again: the time to tally up the celebs to find out which-brand-won-the-red-carpet! I mean, clearly big awards shows are no longer simply about the work, are they? They’re about who wore it best, and whose picture will then get sent out to a quazillion media outlets, and which brand will then get tons of free advertising, and so on. We know this. So let’s take a look at last night’s BAFTA brand-dressed list (not best-dressed list). And the winner was….
I know this is heresy of a sort, but sitting in the opening shows of New York Fashion Week, a thought keeps niggling away at the back of my mind: maybe being marketed by Mrs O (because, let’s face it, when she wears your dress it’s free global marketing on an unprecedented scale), is NOT helpful. Maybe, in fact, it creates expectations some designers are simply not ready to bear. Before you rant and rave, hear me out.
Calling Bill de Blasio: Just in time for fashion week, New York has been crowned “Top Global Fashion Capital” in Digital Language Monitor’s 10th annual survey of most-discussed fashion cities. For a fashion world nervous that post-Bloomberg the City Hall regime might not be quite as friendly to the industry (smacking, as it does, of elitism), this is good news. After all, New York edged out Paris by a mere .005%, while the 2012 and 2011 winner London fell to third place. And there are more surprises!
Conventional wisdom dictates that a spot in the Super Bowl (which is to say, an ad) is a highly desirable thing, given the game is watched by approximately 100 million people, give or take. And all those eyeballs on your product, be it Audi or Chrysler or David Beckham’s H&M undies, is an invaluable communications moment; hence the enormous cost ($4 million for 30 seconds) for a slot. So how much more lucrative would it be, theoretically speaking, to get your product on the halftime star – effectively free promotion (minus the cost of the garment, possibly)? It’s the equivalent of red carpet PLUS Super Bowl. It should be a mind-blowingly GIGANTIC in terms of marketing potential. So you can understand why Hedi Slimane of Saint Laurent created a custom-made outfit – gold leather tux, black trousers – for Bruno Mars’ 12 minute half-time show at last night’s game (above left). What an advertisement!
What’s the point of fashion week – or maybe more pertinently, are we missing it? I was wondering this last week at couture, as I complained about the lack of daywear and subtlety, and got told off by a young stylist, who said, simply, “Isn’t it all about the red carpet?” Maybe so, given that a Valentino dress just showed up on the Grammy red carpet on Katy Perry (left). Which got me to thinking: maybe the reason we complain so much about fashion weeks is because what we (critics, consumers, viewers) think they are for, and what brands and designers think they are for, are no longer the same thing. Reality doesn’t meet our expectations, because reality is trying to meet different expectations. Adjust the expectations, and you may change your reaction too. As the ready-to-wear shows loom (they start in NYC a week from Wednesday) I think maybe it’s time to try to pin this down.
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.
Bet corridors were buzzing over at Hermès yesterday when LVMH announced Francesco Trapani, the executive who engineered the sale of Bulgari to the French Group and was then elevated to head of LVMH’s Watch & Jewellery division, the better to ease the family firm’s incorporation into the LVMH fold, was stepping aside. He is to become a “senior advisor” to LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault, and keep his seat on the board. LVMH didn’t say much about the move, other than to suggest the decision had been Mr Trapani’s, and that it was prompted by Bulgari’s successful integration – ie, his operational job was done. In the press release, though there was a quote from M Arnault about Mr Trapani’s contribution, Mr Trapani himself did not say anything at all, which was a little weird.
If there is any doubt that menswear is now the Next Big Hope of luxury, let that be put to rest by last night’s Golden Globes. This morning, waking up as one does to the quazillion emails from brands trumpeting their celebrity “gets,” I was struck – as if by a 10-foot-pole – by how bigged up the men were. This can mean but one thing: glossy fashion brands, historically known more for their womenswear than menswear, are putting even more marketing muscle behind growing the male side of the business.