Bernard Arnault

Today WWD heralded LVMH supreme Bernard Arnault as their Man of the Year, thanks to his Bulgari deal; relaunch of a new leather house (Moynat); shake-up of his exec ranks; and willingness to let Dior be designer-less until he found the right person to replace John Galliano – who was fired in March. Generally, I agree with their choice, mostly because of Arnault’s smarts in taking advantage of other luxury brands’ scardey-cat timidity in the face of economic crisis (they see consumer slowdown; he sees opportunity to grab market share). My only question is about Dior. I think this is becoming a problem.

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Go away for a week in July when things are supposed to be on a restful downward slump post-men’s wear, pre-collections, and couture, and what happens? Action! Kenzo has gone and appointed a new design team, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of US high hipster retailer Opening Ceremony to replace Antonio Marras; Harvey Weinstein and Sarah Jessica Parker have disengaged from Halston entirely; and Bernard Arnault has given an interview to Newsweek announcing the end of the “star designer.” If I was a paranoid conspiracy theorist, I might see all of these as related.

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The Time magazine list of the 100 most influential people in the world is out and guess what: there’s only ONE fashion person on it: Tom Ford.  Read more

Hermes has released an annoucement noting they have received “an expression of interest from potential buyers in its 45 % stake in the Jean-Paul Gaultier company. Discussions have been initiated.” I find this logical (at least on their part) for a few reasons.

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Yet another one of Bernard Arnault’s designers is leaving his empire, although at least this time it’s not under a cloud.  Read more

Today the AMF, the French securities regulator, approved the defensive plan of a group of Hermes family shareholders to pool their stock to create a holding company for over 50% of the company equity without having to make a public tendor offer for other minority shareholdings. Given that the holding company has been engineered solely to make it impossible for LVMH, which before Christmas announced they owned over 20% of Hermes shares, to acquire a majority of the heritage brand, this seems to me to imply the belief that 1) the AMF accepts Hermes’ position that LVMH does not have the best interests of the brand at heart, but just Wants To Make Money (horrors!); and 2) Hermes has somehow transcended product status to become synonymous with France, or a certain French heritage/craftsmanship, and the regulators think this deserves protection like any monument.
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LVMH just announced that they had upped their stake in Hermes, picking up enough additional shares to cross the 20 per cent threshold. In other words, all that lyrical public posturing by the Hermes family members asking Bernard Arnault to leave them alone in their beautiful garden achieved exactly … nothing. My guess is it actually inflamed Mr Arnault’s famously competitive instincts. (Hate to say I told you so, but….)

LVMH’s official position remains the same: they want to support a French national treasure, no plans to take over, yadda yadda yadda — just, well, the opportunity was there (and, as someone said to me earlier, “20 per cent sounds so much better than 17 per cent”). Read more

Antoine Arnault, Bernard Arnault’s 33-year-old son from his first marriage, is stepping into the management hot seat. Though it has not been officially announced, insiders have confirmed he is leaving his current job as Communications Director of Louis Vuitton to become managing director of Berluti, the luxury shoe brand that LVMH bought in 1993, in the new year.  Read more

The Vanity Fair New Establishment 100 list has just been unveiled, and its criteria for picking “the 100 most influential” are increasingly impenetrable. Read more