Chanel

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. 

Forget obvious battlegrounds like stores (who has got the biggest/luxist/most special) or designers; the most heated fights in luxury are clearly taking place behind the scenes, in the back-end and backrooms. The latest entrants: Chanel and Paco Rabanne, which stepped into the supplier/accessories arenas respectively. 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Today the third in a series of World Luxury Index BRIC reports from the Digital Luxury Group (and the Luxury Society) is released – after Russia and China, we have Brazil, and the “Top 50 Most Searched-For Brands”. Guess what? One of these things is not like the other ones! Though conventional luxury wisdom says emerging markets always look to the obvious, in-your-face icons of luxury first, Brazil seems the exception to the rule.

 

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One of the most surprising revelations to come from the FT’s recent mini Business of Luxury summit in NYC was the realisation that architect Peter Marino is busy creating a shadow art world in fashion under all our noses, and almost no one has put it together. At one point, about a decade ago, he noted, the grand pooh-bahs of luxury decided it was time to take things “to the next level” with their stores. And that next level was… art.

Consider: he says he has a deal with brands such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton that allows him to commission three to five pieces of new art from pretty much any artists he wants. And though he does recycle it from store to store on occasion, mostly this is new. So given that stores get refits every five to seven years – well, you do the maths. He says he has probably been responsible for commissioning about 200 or more works of art from artists including Vik Muniz, Jean-Michel Othoniel (that’s his glass swirl, above, in a Chanel boutique), Richard Prince, and others. That’s practically a museum in itself. You think it’s a coincidence that Louis Vuitton is opening its own art foundation in the Bois de Boulogne this year? 

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The continued preponderance of celebs at the couture show in Paris this week – Sigourney Weaver, Chloë Moretz, Jessica Alba, Rosamund Pike and Noomi Rapace, among others (left) at Dior; Hilary Swank and Uma Turman at Armani; Charlene, Princess of Monaco and Olivia Munn at Versace; Rita Ora at Chanel – has got me thinking about the expectation this has raised, and how that can backfire for a brand. And no, I’m not talking about the usual problem of celebs behaving badly.

I’m talking about the fact that these relationships have become so common and so public, that now when we see a star in pretty much anything branded, there is an assumption there’s a contractual relationship there. And a contractual relationship implies approbation and shared values. At our recent Business of Luxury conference in New York, Lisa Jacobson, head of branding for United Talent Agency, said there were “maybe” five celebs in Hollywood that didn’t want a relationship with a brand, and the endorsement contract had become a significant part of most stars’ income. 

For absolutely riveting reading, let me recommend the first ever World Handbag Report. It’s a collation of 120 million internet searches in 10 markets via four search engines (Google, Bing, Bai du, etc) by the Digital Luxury Group, and is it full of surprising facts – most notably, how incredibly imbalanced the handbag market is. The brands with big market share of search have BIG market share. The rest, well…have piddly squat. 

And so Mulberry joins that club no brand wants to be in: “luxury” brands that are experiencing surprising drops in demands and sales. Today they sent out a profit warning noting that due to a drop in wholesale revenues they “expect full year profits to be below last year.” Coming on the heels of Burberry’s profit warning last September, this is sure to send more luxury Chicken Littles scurrying through the streets crying that the sky is falling. This is wrong. It does not signal the end of luxury. It signals, rather, the end of the idea that consumers are suckers who will accept that anything is “luxury” that says it is so, and the rationalisation of the market.