Louis Vuitton is unveiling a new group of celebrity “ambassadors’ today via their web site, and it’s not who you might expect: instead of actress Michelle Williams, who currently fronts their women’s bag campaign, or Angelina Jolie, who has plugged the heritage line, we have a star-studded line-up of… Atiq Rahimi, a French-Afghan author and movie director whose book, “the Patience Stone” won the Prix Goncourt; Tom Reiss, whose biography, “The Black Count:” about the “real” Count of Monte Cristo just won the Pulitzer; political consultant Felix Marquardt (who has advised the Presidents of Colombia, Georgia and Panama) and Dr. Gino Yu of Hong Kong Polytechnic university and Lourenço Bustani, CEO of Mandalah, who is spearheading the cultural planning of Brazil’s 2016 Olympics — all photographed at the most recent World Economic Forum in Switzerland. So here’s the question: is this a super-clever new way of thinking about marketing, or a velvet rope that will prove too much of a barrier to entry even for the insiders? Read more
It yet another indication that high end fashion brands see growth opportunity in charging ever-further upmarket, today Ralph Lauren (that’s their most recent show, left) named Valerie Hermann, latterly CEO of Reed Krakoff, as President of a newly created Luxury Division. This follows announcements by Louis Vuitton and Gucci that they see their future on the tippy-top of the luxury pyramid. At the same time, the move puts the Ralph Lauren strategy at odds with that of his fellow American “premium brand,” Michael Kors, whose phenomenal growth has been driven in large part by exploiting the price-point opening left when peers deserted the high end for the highest end. It suggest Mr Lauren is going after European competitors, as opposed to Mr Kors. Read more
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! Read more
Delphine Arnault, aka the woman who is doing all that designer wooing/moving at LVMH (think Nicolas Ghesquiere to Vuitton, and J.W. Anderson to Loewe), is not the only tall, blonde, smart daughter of a luxury brand founder to be making an impact on the creative side of luxury; now Virginie Courtin-Clarins, aka the granddaughter of the founder of beauty group Clarins, aka the new Director of Development, Marketing and Communications of Mugler Fashion, has just announced the appointment of David Koma as Artistic Director. Like Mr Anderson, Mr Koma is part of the new wave of Hot Young British designers. And like Ms Arnault, Ms Courtin-Clarins, who is in her late 20s, is part of a new generation of luxury scions entering the business and reshaping their brands. Read more
Much ado in New York over the fact that yesterday, while on his “Yeezus” tour, Kanye West gave a radio interview on 92.3 suggesting his fans not buy any Louis Vuitton products from now until January. Apparently, he is upset that the brand’s CEO did not want to meet with him in Paris, and he wants them to feel his pain where it hurts. The problem is, he got the wrong CEO. Read more
Are accessory designers finally getting the recognition they deserve? Following Louis Vuitton’s announcement last summer that Darren Spaziani was joining the house as accessories designer, now Emilio Pucci is revealing a “get”: Elena Ghisellini, aka the woman behind Givenchy’s recent stream of It bags. She’ll work with creative director Peter Dundas. So far, so normal: both are LVMH brands, this is keeping it in the family. So why do we care? Lots of reasons! Read more
Having now spent an entire evening mulling over Nicolas Ghesquière’s move to Louis Vuitton – OMG! Time to think! Such a radical concept – I can’t help feeling a little tinge of regret that M Ghesquière ended up at another major brand, instead of opening his own house. Sure, I’m excited to see what he does at Vuitton, and how the brand gets re-imagined with a new team, both corporate and creative, but at the same time, the fashion world feels smaller, rather than larger: instead of adding a new brand, and maybe a truly new designer to an old brand, which would create two new opportunities, we’ve simply engaged in yet more musical chairs. And I keep wondering why? Read more
And so the collective breath can be expelled: the thing everyone expected to happen has finally happened, and Nicolas Ghesquière has officially been named artistic director of Louis Vuitton womenswear. Oh, the drama! But will it have a happy ending? Read more
The news yesterday that Marco Zanini, former creative director of Rochas, would become the new creative director of the relaunched House of Schiaparelli, which would also join the couture calendar, is the sort of news that normally would send the fashion world into such a frenzied show of breast-beating (what will happen to Rochas!!) and excitement (what will this mean for Schiaparelli?!) it would put the actual shows on the runway to shame. Except this time no one batted an eyelash. They yawned, and moved on. How’d that happen? Expectations management via social media. There are lessons here for us all. Read more
To kick off the Paris shows, the final leg in the marathon that are the modern ready-to-wear collections, Louis Vuitton did something I can’t ever remember them doing before: they announced the name of their new accessories designer with all the hoo-ha and accolades that usually come with the unveiling of a new creative director. Step forth Darren Sapziani. In the luxury power structure, things they are a-changin’. Read more
Sometimes, reading about brand expansion plans makes you long for the good old days when designers big market grabs had to do with sunglasses and fragrance. Today Marc Jacobs’ opened his new all-beauty store on Bleecker street in Manhattan, bringing his stores on the block to five. But why stop there? CEO Robert Duffy “hinted” that the future could hold “fine jewelry and furniture.” I bet he’s not the only one at LVMH who thinks so.
During the couture shows the hottest topic of conversation runway-side was, unquestionably, whether or not Marc Jacobs (left, at the last Vuitton womenswear show) was going to stay at Louis Vuitton – and if he wasn’t, if Nicolas Ghesquière, late of Balenciaga, was going to get the job. Well, since then, the rumour has only gotten stronger on the blogosphere — google “Marc Jacobs leaving Louis Vuitton” and you get over 3 million responses. But amid all the speculation, there’s one fact no one seems to know.
So instead of buying Tiffany or Burberry, as long rumoured, LVMH has snapped up Italian brand Loro Piana, known for their baby cashmere and vicuna, which take soft to a whole other level. It’s a strategic move, on many levels that go far beyond quantifiable profit, even in a world obsessed with putting a number on that amorphous thing known as “brand equity.” There are a lot of reasons why, but if I had to pick the most important, I’d settle on the following: family. Read more
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.
In more LVMH news, after Stuart Vevers announced his departure from Loewe, Delphine Arnault (below), Bernard Arnault’s eldest child, announced her arrival at Louis Vuitton. Lose some, add some. Ms Arnault is being moved from deputy managing director of Dior to deputy managing director and executive vice-president (the latter title for use in the US; the former for France) of LV, in charge of products, especially leather goods, aka the profit-generator of the brand. Now let’s read the tea leaves! Read more
These days we all hold certain truths to be self-evident: 1) that the Chinese market, while slowing, is still expected to be the biggest fashion market in the world; 2) that the Chinese are attracted to the idea of European heritage and skills; 3) that there is an increasing drive in China to support home-grown design (or to create it); 4) that the Europeans are trying to figure out how to exploit all those two realities to their own profit. Hence, for example, Kering’s purchase last year of Qeelin, the Chinese jewellery brand, and hence Iceberg’s decision to partner with Chinese video artist Yi Zhou for a capsule collection of menswear, womenswear, and accessories, to be launched next Christmas. What’s interesting about both these choices is they are focused much more on East than West. Fair enough: you go where the money is. And with the Iceberg case we reach example number 2 of this approach, thus bringing us ever-closer to critical mass for a trend.
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.
I wonder what the luxury world makes of the new French initiative to protect its culture in the digital age by imposing a tax on sales of tablets, smart phones, etc? They, after all, (the luxury folks, that is) have been promoting themselves as a “cultural industry” for the last few years. I mean, the name of their pan-European lobbying group is the European Cultural and Creative Industries Alliance. In case you missed it somehow. Yet as far as I know they don’t benefit from any protectionist legislation, in France anyway. Read more
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? Read more