Bernard Arnault

Pity the poor luxury CEO in Francois Hollande’s France: no sooner is your wife speaking to a foreign real estate agent than the rumour mill is rife with speculation that you are about to flee the country (and maybe all those proposed wealth taxes), and set up home somewhere else. What else to conclude from the recent furore over the sight of actress Salma Hayek, aka Mrs Francois-Henri Pinault, aka wife of the CEO of Kering, the second largest French luxury group, lunching with a UK broker earlier this week? Read more

It just keeps growing! As Forbes pointed out, the Versace stake currently for sale would value the company at $5.8 billion – most likely vaulting Allegra and Santo Versace into the B-league. They would join fellow Italians Giorgio Armani, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Renzo Rosso, and Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli at the top of the luxury earners list – at least as of last year (this year’s rankings are still being tabulated). That makes Italy, as far as I can tell, the land with the largest amount of luxury industry billionaires. Interesting, no? Read more

Just as her former Presidential First rival is inaugurated as the face of Bulgari, Valerie Trierweiler, current First Partner of France, also upped her lux ante, appearing during Bastille day ceremonies not just in a bright pink ensemble, but with a Christian Dior bag – one with little dangling C and D charms no less. Check it out by her feet, left. These things in these situations don’t happen just by-the-by. So what do we make of this? Read more

During the couture shows the hottest topic of conversation runway-side was, unquestionably, whether or not Marc Jacobs (left, at the last Vuitton womenswear show) was going to stay at Louis Vuitton – and if he wasn’t, if Nicolas Ghesquière, late of Balenciaga, was going to get the job. Well, since then, the rumour has only gotten stronger on the blogosphere — google “Marc Jacobs leaving Louis Vuitton” and you get over 3 million responses. But amid all the speculation, there’s one fact no one seems to know.
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So instead of buying Tiffany or Burberry, as long rumoured, LVMH has snapped up Italian brand Loro Piana, known for their baby cashmere and vicuna, which take soft to a whole other level. It’s a strategic move, on many levels that go far beyond quantifiable profit, even in a world obsessed with putting a number on that amorphous thing known as “brand equity.” There are a lot of reasons why, but if I had to pick the most important, I’d settle on the following: family.  Read more

In more LVMH news, after Stuart Vevers announced his departure from Loewe, Delphine Arnault (below), Bernard Arnault’s eldest child, announced her arrival at Louis Vuitton. Lose some, add some. Ms Arnault is being moved from deputy managing director of Dior to deputy managing director and executive vice-president (the latter title for use in the US; the former for France) of LV, in charge of products, especially leather goods, aka the profit-generator of the brand. Now let’s read the tea leaves! Read more

We all know that part of Steve Jobs’ genius was taking the rules of fashion and applying them to technology, be it the importance of must-have seasonal design, or gadgets that are actually accessories, and hence identity totems. As Michel Kors pointed out to me recently, however, fashion has never exactly turned the tables; it hasn’t figured out what it should absorb from Apple. Well, today BCG is publishing a paper that suggests things might be changing. They have pinpointed a lesson. And they want the luxury world to learn it.

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I wonder what the luxury world makes of the new French initiative to protect its culture in the digital age by imposing a tax on sales of tablets, smart phones, etc? They, after all, (the luxury folks, that is) have been promoting themselves as a “cultural industry” for the last few years. I mean, the name of their pan-European lobbying group is the European Cultural and Creative Industries Alliance. In case you missed it somehow. Yet as far as I know they don’t benefit from any protectionist legislation, in France anyway.  Read more

Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World is out, and there are three fashion names on it: Michael Kors, Jenna Lyons (of J Crew), and Tadashi Yanai (of Uniqlo). Notice anything similar about them?

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LVMH, the largest luxury group in the world by an exponential margin, has a dumb blonde problem: it seems to be the winner in the sector, so it gets attacked and mocked most of all. For a long time, the Group’s reaction to the situation was frustration, retreat, and confusion (or sulking, depending on how you want to spin it). This week, however, they have gone on what appears to be something of a charm offensive.
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The annoucement today that Michael Burke, one of LVMH’s longest-serving executives, would become chief executive of Louis Vuitton, LVMH’s biggest brand, was an interesting one. Not because it reflects any Machiavellian planning on the part of the Group — Mr Burke’s predessecor, Jordi Constans, who had joined Vuitton from Danone, was forced to step down for health reasons — but because it’s a very safe decision on the part of LVMH.

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Forget Belgium; Bernard Arnault should follow a number of his compatriots and move to the UK. The small country to the North (sorry) certainly appears to be doing its best to woo the mogul — aka France’s richest man, aka chairman of LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury conglomerate — anyway, by vaulting him up the honours ranks. Today, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced the Queen is giving M Arnault the relatively rare KBE, for “services to business and the wider community in the UK.”

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I just received what I think has got to be the most egregious example of mutual appreciation that I’ve yet seen on the part of luxury and the tax authorities that benefit from it. Which doesn’t mean it’s not significant. Read more

Reading my newspaper over coffee this morning, I almost fell out of my chair while perusing a tech story on Google, Amazon et al, which ended with the following observation: “Google, Microsoft and Amazon all have the potential to adopt Apple’s vertical model of combining software, services and hardware to gain complete control over the design and function of future mobile devices.” Because the thing is, dear reader, it’s not “Apple’s approach” exactly – or it is, but Apple got it from somewhere else first. And where would that be? Fashion, of course.
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Vanity Fair has released its annual international best-dressed list a few days earlier than the September issue where it appears, and though it is rife with the usual suspects (Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; Jay-Z; Diane Kruger) what’s really interesting is who is NOT on it.Michelle Obama, for example, who was on it for the last few years. Christine Lagarde, who made it in 2011. And any titan of business or banking other than super-social hedge fund czar Arki Busson, and Matteo Marzotto, who owns Vionnet, a fashion brand. This strike anyone else as implausible? 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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Time magazine has made its first foray into the world of best-dressed lists by releasing its own “All-Time 100 Fashion Icons” list, presumably in an effort to support its recently re-launched “Style and Design” issue.

The criteria, as stated, is “most influential”. This is fair enough, though vague: influential over who? The masses? The industry? International? The US? It’s unclear. The timeline begins in 1923, the year of the magazine’s birth. Again, fine. Fashion as we know it largely began then too (though it means Charles Frederick Worth is not on the list). It includes designers, brands, muses, photographers, models, editors and stylists — a good mix. The problem is in the seemingly random nature of the final choice. Read more

Bernard Arnault, LVMH chieftain, yesterday became the first luxury CEO to dare predict 2012 was going to be as good for the seemingly recession-proof industry as 2011 and 2010. Way to put himself out there!

The occasion was the release of LVMH’s 2011 annual results. Specifically, Mr Arnault said he was “fairly confident” about growth in 2012, which may not seem like a wholehearted rave, but compared to what I’ve heard from every other luxe CEO qualifies as super-positive. Read more

Today ex-P&G marketing guru Jim Stengel lists his top 50 brands of the last decade (out of 50,000) as judged by performance, consumer loyalty, and growth. These included the expected names like Apple, Starbucks and Amazon, as well as some less expected: the only fashion/luxury brands that make the list are — wait for it — Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, and Louis Vuitton. Surprised? How about now: Mr Stengel attributes their success largely to four factors, one of which is CEOs who are “artist-businessmen.” Read more

Here is a Christmas wish, courtesy of Diane von Furstenberg, who issued it during a conversation last friday: Bernard Arnault should take his place as the elder statesman of fashion (after all, he pretty much invented it as an industry) and solve the fashion week date problem once and for all. Read more