LVMH

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. 

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! 

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? 

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. 

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? 

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.  

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. 

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. 

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? 

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.