Brioni

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. Read more

So now we are deep in the London menswear , the beginning of a three-week cycle through Milan and Paris, and I thought in honour of the start of the run, I’d share some astonishing facts I was told recently by the Brioni folks about employment and spend.

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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.

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It doesn’t rain but it pours! Following Swatch’s purchase of Harry Winston, PPR has announced it has bought 51 per cent of hot young British brand Christopher Kane. That’s him, left, with stylist Caroline Seiber.

This marks the third British ready-to-wear brand owned by the French Group (it also has a joint venture with Stella McCartney and 51 per cent of Alexander McQueen), the first such young brand acquisition by a major luxury group since the recession, and the third in a series of PPR purchases: first Italian menswear brand Brioni, then Chinese jewellery brand Qeelin, and now Kane. It is up to something, no question. Where some see risk – buying a luxury brand at a time when consumer attitudes towards luxury itself are uncertain and China, aka the promised land, is experiencing a slowdown – they clearly see opportunity. Read more

Oooooh those PPR folks are making the gossip waters churn. Today reports say NY hipster designer Alexander Wang is the top candidate for the artistic director job (artistic director, creative director, designer – does no one else wish these companies would regularise their titles?), while rumours are that Christopher Kane, the erstwhile favourite for that spot, is actually being looked at in the context of buying his eponymous brand! Good gosh and golly. Two young designers at once! Both would be surprising moves, however, seems to me.
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Anyone in doubt of the rising prominence of the men’s wear market, take note: super-dapper designer Stefano Pilati, who was rather unceremoniously dumped as creative director of Yves Saint Laurent just before his runway show last season, has found a new job as creative director of Ermenegildo Zegna and Agnona. It’s new role for the group, and it’s being announced with much hoo-ha. As well it should: it signals both an aggressive move to up their menswear designer profile, and a potential big move in womenswear. Read more

Even before its results announcement today, PPR had made some news: it was proceeding apace with its plan to dispose of no-longer-core assets (ie, non-luxury/sports lifestyle rbands), and had agreed to sell 29.8% of its stake in CFAO, an African automotive and pharmaceutical distribution company, to Toyota Tsusho Corporation. This should net the PPR guys about €980 million.The stated plan is to use the money to pay down debt, but in that impossible-to-control way of things, already there is speculation among some watchers about what they might buy, if they were going to use the money to buy something. I love a nice round of speculation. Read more

LVMH just announced the acquisition of Arnys, a family-owned French made-to-measure tailor established in 1933. It seems the plan is to combine it with Berluti, to give that brand, run by Antoine Arnault (aka Bernard Arnault’s eldest son) a super-high end suiting service. The former luxury shoe brand also launched men’s ready-to-wear last season. Take that, Savile Row! And take that, PPR! Read more

So it all came true, and PPR did, indeed, buy Italian men’s wear luxury brand Brioni. So far, so rumoured. But what does it mean? Seems to me there are two main implications to the deal. Read more

The stylistas attending Milan Fashion Week next month will find themselves with a spare 45 minutes to say, drink 10 espressos in a row, or add up the cost of Vogue’s Anna Dello Russo’s latest look. The reason behind this sudden gap in the schedule on September 25? Brioni’s women’s wear show has been cancelled, because more dramatically, the Brioni women’s wear line has been cancelled.

After speculation on Monday, the label released a statement on Wednesday confirming the news:

“This strategic decision has been made in order for the company to re-focus its resources on the men’s market, which is recently becoming both increasingly competitive and global.”

Brioni spring summer 2011 collection

Brioni spring/summer collection 2011. Image by Catwalking.

Brioni’s women’s wear line was far smaller than its luxury men’s wear business, and enjoyed nothing like the same level of cachet. However, the fact that the label hired designer Alessandro Dell’ Acqua to revamp its women’s wear range in May 2010 means the closure will surprise many.

While Dell’ Acqua’s shows weren’t exactly setting Milan Fashion Week on fire in creative terms, like a Prada or Jil Sander, Brioni showed many stylish pieces rendered in the extremely luxurious fabrics for which the label is known. A highlight of the spring/summer 2011 show was elegantly tailored high waisted red trousers worn with a pussy bow chiffon blouse. Autumn/winter’s tailored trousers were sleek and  flattering. The women’s brand could potentially have forged an identity as a go-to label for classic, but not staid tailoring that didn’t feel aggressive, masculine or corporate. After all, Alessandro knows how to do femininity. And where there’s a women’s brand, however small, if the name is big enough then there’s the potential to launch a fragrance and accessories… Read more