And now the LVMH young designer prize finalists are out! It’s been a big week for prize announcements, what with the CFDA and now this. In fact, it’s kind of instructive to look at the two together, because it underscores how global fashion has become – and the problems that arise when you try to think of it in the national context. Think how much more fun it would be if everyone could be considered for “womenswear designer of the year” or “accessory designer of the year.” Now that would be really interesting!

Nominations please. Read more

Today the FT is reporting that Blackstone is the clear leader in the race for the Versace minority stake – which is surprising on the surface, given that the private equity firm has never made any forays into high fashion, and private equity as a sector has had mixed results in the sector, sic Permira and Valentino, and TPG and Bally. So why the mutual attraction? I was speculating with a colleague recently, and she mentioned what is probably the magic word: hotels. Aka the Next Big Brand extension of luxury. Read more

Today is travel day, as the fashion flock leaves Milan and heads to Paris, the last leg of the four-week marathon that is the womenswear collections, and often the week one that produces the most highs and lows and sheer spectacle. So what are we looking forward to? Four major debuts are taking place this week – more new names at old houses than in any other city. Here are the big ones to watch: Read more

LVMH has confirmed it has taken a minority stake in Young Italian Designer (we will not acronym that for obvious reasons) Marco de Vincenzo, making him the second such up-and-comer to receive such investment from the luxury behemoth, and underscoring the increasing competition among the established groups to identify, and potentially own, new talent. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but there’s no question, it’s putting its money where its mouth is. At least some money. 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

OK, giant luxury conglomerates: time to think even more broadly about brand extensions. According to a new report from Boston Consulting Group, the luxury experiences market is now worth a whopping $980 billion (luxury experiences being defined as cars, art, home, tech, dining, hotels, travel, spas, yachting, etc.). Aka almost $1 trillion. By comparison, the personal luxury goods market is a piddling $390b. Now, where would YOU put your investment? Read more

Bet corridors were buzzing over at Hermès yesterday when LVMH announced Francesco Trapani, the executive who engineered the sale of Bulgari to the French Group and was then elevated to head of LVMH’s Watch & Jewellery division, the better to ease the family firm’s incorporation into the LVMH fold, was stepping aside. He is to become a “senior advisor” to LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault, and keep his seat on the board. LVMH didn’t say much about the move, other than to suggest the decision had been Mr Trapani’s, and that it was prompted by Bulgari’s successful integration – ie, his operational job was done. In the press release, though there was a quote from M Arnault about Mr Trapani’s contribution, Mr Trapani himself did not say anything at all, which was a little weird. Read more

In Paris for the couture shows, I was tooling around yesterday to some appointments, and stopped by JW Anderson’s showroom to see his pre-fall, pre-Versace (for the latter, if you want to know: Swarovski, skin and very Sunset Boulevard). Anyway, we got to chatting about the change in his life since he signed on as Loewe’s creative director, and LVMH took a minority stake in his eponymous brand, and the YBD (young British designer) reeled off some pretty interesting numbers. 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

Whoopee: the very fun holiday game of “Who’s Going to Buy Who Next Year?” has officially begun with a launch entry from Bernstein Research, an arm of AllianceBernstein. And what are they thinking? Watches. Watches and jewellery galore. Read more

Forget obvious battlegrounds like stores (who has got the biggest/luxist/most special) or designers; the most heated fights in luxury are clearly taking place behind the scenes, in the back-end and backrooms. The latest entrants: Chanel and Paco Rabanne, which stepped into the supplier/accessories arenas respectively. 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

What a week. Monday, LVMH announced it was opening a giant, Google-like beauty campus in central France to help research and the local economy; Tuesday, Kering announced it was entering into a JV with Bottega Veneta designer Tomas Maier to grow his eponymous business. Yesterday, LVMH announced the establishment of the LVMH Young Fashion Designers Prize, which would award a young designer E. 300,000 and mentorship, from an LVMH exec (plus three grads a smaller amount and a year’s employ at LVMH); today, Kering announces it is creating the “Python Conservation partnership” in conjunction with the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN SSC Boa & Python Specialist Group) “with the aim of contributing to the improved sustainability of the python trade and helping facilitate industry-wide change.” (Kering likes snakeskin; that’s a look from the Gucci spring/summer 2013 show, above left.) Zowie. What are they putting in the water over there in Paris? Anyone else feel competition to be good heating up? Read more

Today LVMH unveiled what as far as I can tell is a first of its kind in luxury: a beauty “campus” in Saint-Jean-de-Braye comprised of 18,000 square metres of buildings on 55 hectares of land “dedicated to research and innovation”, and housing 250 cosmetic and perfume professionals from Parfums Christian Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy Perfumes and Fresh. Sound familiar? Yes: it’s Google for beauty: great minds in a bucolic space designed to make creativity bloom. Think I’m reading too much into this? Consider the explanation. 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

A few final thoughts on the last weird development of the week, which is to say: LVMH’s first planned IPO of one of their brands. It’s been rather overshadowed by the news of Twitter’s IPO, which granted, is a more immediate offering, but does anyone else find the Marc Jacobs listing drumroll as odd a development as I do? After all, LVMH has NEVER – let’s repeat that – NEVER, listed a brand they own before.  Read more

Sometimes I think over-protecting a brand may not, actually,be the best thing for the brand. Consider the news, making waves at fashion week, that Saint Laurent has decided to pull all its business from Colette, the Paris super-boutique so dear to the industry, because they are mad about it selling a brand-mocking T-shirt. The big, global company slaps down the little, independent boutique. So who looks like the bully here? It makes me wonder if they really weighed the public image consequences of their action. Read more

Yesterday LVMH announced it had signed up YBD JW Anderson to be the new designer of Loewe, and taken a minority stake in his brand. Anyone notice anything funky about this? No? It was expected? Well, kind of. But what shouldn’t have been expected, but seems to be increasingly the case, is that while they hired him to be the creative head of one of their not-quite-there-yet brands, they allowed him to keep his own line. And therein lies a change in strategy. Read more

Take that Kering. You have a hot young British designer? Now WE have a hot young British designer. Today LVMH announced it has purchased a majority stake in UK shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood for an undisclosed amount (that’s actress Rooney Mara wearing his shoes, left), making him the second YBD this year to get snapped up by a big brand, following Kering’s acquisition of Christopher Kane. As one British style watcher said, “they’re buying like it’s 1999.” So what’s going on? Read more

Anyone else think this is a halcyon time for young designers? I mean, first the big luxury groups make their first investments in new names since way back at the turn of the millennium (back in the day when Tom Ford built Gucci Group by adding Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen), with Kering buying a majority of Christopher Kane and a big minority of Joseph Altuzarra, and LVMH helping out Maxime Simoens, and reportedly scouting JW Anderson. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read more