Hermes

Watching Francois Hollande be sworn in as French president today, I was struck by how incredibly color-coordinated the hand-over of power was. I know it wasn’t planned — the Hollande and Sarkozy camps are not that friendly – but Tim Gunn couldn’t have styled it better if he’d tried. Read more >>

There’s a new entry in the ever-evolving luxury lexicon courtesy of the folks over at Interbrand: “meta-luxury.” The term, coined to replace that old catch-all “luxury,” refers to “luxury after luxury.” For those in search of a fuller (or more logical) explanation, two Interbrand directors, Manfredi Ricca and Rebecca Robins, have written an entire book elucidating the concept, called, not surprisingly, “Meta-luxury.” It’s not perfect, but I think it may come closer to rationalising the current situation than anything else I’ve seen thus far.

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Looking at the yesterday’s impressive Hermès results, it’s hard not to wonder if the much-bemoaned 22% stake that luxury conglomerate LVMH built up in the group has actually been good for it – as opposed to the end-of-the-world/ barbarians-at-the-gate scenario the Hermès folks were painting. Why has to do with pretty basic psychology.
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When the iPad 3 went on-sale at midnight last friday night it provoked the usual frenzy — miles of lines, ecstatic buyers — as well as one very interesting blog that somehow seems to have fallen through the cracks over the weekend. It takes a good, analytic look at the general perception that Apple is a luxury brand and points out that it does tick all the luxury boxes save one: exclusivity. But here’s what I wonder: is exclusivity really a luxury value these days?

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The flight to the highest-end continues. I know it doesn’t come that close to Hermes’s million euro bejeweled handbags, but yesterday news landed of eye glass frames for $2,950, courtesy of Tom Ford. If ever there was illustration that luxury brands are convinced their customers not only still exist, but are demanding ever-more extreme iterations of their products, I think this is it.

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Q: When is a hand bag not just a handbag ?

A: When it is also a piece of high jewellery and a sculptural object.

The crocodile skin and diamond Hermès bag (photo by Dan Tobin Smith)

Such is the case, anyway, with Hermès’s second foray into haute bijouterie (as opposed to haute joaillerie — the former starts with outrageous designs, the latter with mega stones). Their jeweller and shoe maestro Pierre Hardy created four different mini-handbags, in part inspired by the brand’s iconic handbags, using gold and a LOT of precious stones. They are each functionally a “bracelet” and they actually work as (very small) handbags.In theory, anyway.

It seems to me the idea of anyone actually carrying a handbag worth €1.5m and made of intertwining chains covered in 11,000 diamonds, or a rose gold version of the Kelly bag with crocodile scales and 1,160 diamonds is a little nuts, and I mentioned this to Patrick Thomas, the CEO of the brand. He laughed. Read more >>

After buying Hermes’ 45 per cent stake in Jean-Paul Gaultier last year and talking up its development potential, Spanish luxury group Puig has put yet more money where its mouth is and just announced the appointment of senior luxury executive Ralph Toledano to the newly created position of President of the fashion division. If you want to send a signal to the fashion community that you are intent on being a serious player, this is a pretty efficient way to do it.

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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 >>

Though in many ways the brands mentioned in the headline – Hermès and Donald Trump – are what one would think of (OK, I would think of) as polar opposites, the former being famous for its discrete elegance, the latter being famous for its in-your-face 24-carat bluster, they are nevertheless setting up house together in … the Philippines. Below is a rendering of their love nest.

Century Properties

The relationship was brokered by Robbie Antonio, managing director of Century Properties, and the man behind what is increasingly looking like a mini fashion-city in Manila: high-rise condos with public areas (lobbies, libraries, pools) and apartments decorated by Versace, Missoni (both Italian labels) and now Hermès. He already had a licence deal with Trump on the table to build Trump Tower Manila (the building is owned and operated by Century), which will become the most luxurious, expensive, property in the city, and thought, he said, it would be great to have “two very formidable brands involved in the most important single tower.” He approached Hermès, which had recently launched a furniture line, and the French brand agreed to create the building’s shared spaces. Read more >>

It’s never a dull moment with those LVMH folks. After being in the news for almost the entire last week thanks to various fashion shows, they’ve gone and extended their time in the limelight by announcing a joint venture with the Koh family of Singapore to take ownership of Heng Long, one of the most important suppliers of crocodile skins to the luxury industry — including Hermes.
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