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
This will be my last post for 2012, barring an extraordinary luxury industry news event. However, before I don my skidoo suit, I wanted to leave you with two thoughts: one has to do with the new luxury buzzword, and the other with a new kind of luxury group.
The annoucement today that Michael Burke, one of LVMH’s longest-serving executives, would become chief executive of Louis Vuitton, LVMH’s biggest brand, was an interesting one. Not because it reflects any Machiavellian planning on the part of the Group — Mr Burke’s predessecor, Jordi Constans, who had joined Vuitton from Danone, was forced to step down for health reasons — but because it’s a very safe decision on the part of LVMH.
Two interesting announcements this morning, both of which are worth examining: First Labelux announces instead of embracing (and chasing) hard luxury, it is exiting the segment to focus entirely on leathergoods; then Mulberry rejects the outlet model to take its bags and other products further up-market. The moves are complementary, in the context of general industry strategy. They both indicate that in the highly competitive world of leathergoods, current theory says it’s the most special, elaborate, highly worked pieces that sell.
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. Read more
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. Read more