Big (literally) news today in the FT that yesterday, thanks to a government recalculation, Nigeria’s GDP has not become the biggest in Africa, and the 26th biggest in the world, valued at $509bn. Why do we (we luxury folks, that is) care? “The revision will have a psychological impact. It underlines to foreign investors that this country has a large consumer base. It validates the investment thesis,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the minister for economy and finance. So will luxury, which has thus far been dancing around the edges of the country (only Zegna and Hugo Boss have stand-alone stores in Lagos, opened last year, and Diesel recently joined them), but which these days really loves a new consumer base, rush in?
Recently a new ranking – you know I can’t resist a ranking! – was release by the Ethisphere Institute, a US-based think tank that encourages good corporate practice, entitled “The World’s Most Ethical Companies”. And guess what? In all the 144 companies and 41 industries included, the only luxury companies on it were Shiseido and L’Oreal. Yup: no luxury clothing brands. No jewellers. Nada. Given how much lip service and is increasingly paid, and investment made, by luxury in the realm of ethics, this struck me as — well, striking. What, I wondered, was going on? Had we all been green-washed? Or was Ethisphere missing something?
Just after Burberry’s nice third quarter results prompted a rash of headlines (including in this paper) about positive returns “easing [the industry’s] China slowdown fears,” especially when combined with similar happy stories from Swatch and Tiffany, today we came down to earth with a bump courtesy of Richemont. In their third quarter trading statement, things looked not so rosy in China. In fact, they looked pretty doldrum-like.
And you thought their buying of Hermes stocks was sneaky. While everyone has been paying attention to THAT, LVMH has added yet more power properties to their hotel portfolio, slowly becoming a major power in the hospitality industry. On their web site, they list this as “other activities,” but it seems to me, at this point that’s pretty disingenuous, and it’s about time they owned up to their – well, ownership.
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.