As this is my last post of the year I thought I’d leave you with a few ideas about the five main thing I’m going to be watching in 2014, and where the action might be (aside from the already well-documented worlds of M&A and IPOs), from store wars to legal battles, consumer behaviour and designers that will make the difference. Read on!
So yet another Brit has landed atop a fashion brand, adding fuel to the idea that London is having a moment not seen since its Cool Britannia heyday. Coach, the billion-plus American accessible luxury handbag line that is in the process of trying to become a “lifestyle brand” (like, dare I say it, every other brand on the planet), has announced that they have poached Stuart Vevers (below) from Loewe, the LVMH-owned Spanish leather house, to be its new executive creative director. Start date still TBD. But ooooooh, already the implications are huge!
The resignation of creative director Emma Hill from Mulberry yesterday for “strategic differences” with new CEO Bruno Guillon, has opened up a whole can o’ speculation, centring on whether on not the designer might end up at Coach, the American handbag behemoth that is looking to turn itself into a lifestyle brand, and – according to insiders — looking for a name designer to do it, replacing current creative director Reed Krakoff, who resigned earlier this year. Of all the possibilities that have been floated for the post Ms Hill makes the most sense to me, for a number of reasons.
So Reed Krakoff, executive creative director and president of Coach, the man who – along with CEO Lew Frankfort – built it into the $4.76 billion brand, is leaving after almost 16 years. Or will be leaving soon: officially, he steps down in June of 2014 when his current contract is up, which also happens to be just after Mr Frankfort retires as CEO (last September he announced he was leaving at the end of this year). Those are the facts; so what do they all mean?
Lew Frankfort, CEO of Coach. Getty Images
Today the Harvard Business Review has come out with a new ranking of the 100 best-performing chief executives around the world, as measured by shareholder returns and growth of market capital over their leadership tenure, and guess what? Despite all that ballyhoo about the absolutely extraordinary unprecedented growth of the luxury market, etc, etc, only three luxury CEOs actually make the list. Oops.
But who are these unmasked men? (They are all men.) Lew Frankfort, CEO of Coach, who leads the industry pack by a wide margin at number 21 – the only luxury name in the top 50 (by standard definition); Sidney Toledano of Dior, at 68; and Patrick Thomas, CEO of Hermès, who is retiring this year, who comes in at 72. Chapeau, guys.
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.
Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney celebrate their victory in the Illinois GOP primary. Getty Images
The elevation of Mitt Romney to Republican nominee presumptive appears to have acted as a sort of spur to his wife Ann when it comes to her entrance into the imagineering race.
Michelle Obama famously has a blog (mrs-o.org) devoted to her style, after all, which puts her front and centre in many cultural conversations and positions her as a champion of business without her or her camp having to say a word — other than “J Crew” or “Jason Wu” or ”Narciso Rodriguez.” It’s taken until now for Mrs Romney to begin to fight fashion fire with fashion fire.
Mitt and Ann Romney on 'CBS This Morning'. CBS image
Or so it seems. After a primary season marked mostly by a sea of unidentifiable red suits, earlier this week Mrs R appeared with her husband on “CBS This Morning” wearing a T-shirt printed with bird images by the New York designer Reed Krakoff. It was the first time as far as I know that Mrs Romney had dipped a public toe in the branded fashion world.
And it was an…interesting choice, for two reasons.
A few years ago during a Mulberry presentation I was talking to chief executive Godfrey Davis, when he asked me what I thought of the brand. I said I thought they should be Coach, the American handbag company having huge success by combining fashion with middle-market pricing – that I thought there was big opportunity in that space. Apparently, so does Coach.
It never rains but it pours (and in Brooklyn, where I live, it just hailed). After the Gap on-line logo hoo-ha at the end of last week comes a report from the Stern business school at New York University and the think tank L2 entitled “Digital IQ Index: Luxury,” looking at how 72 luxury brands are handling themselves on-line, on their websites, social media, digital marketing and mobile apps. Guess what? They’re stuck in the mud!