LVMH

Ok, I know it’s the womenswear season and all eyes are on hemlines in New York (and soon London), but something is happening in menswear to which no one seems to be paying much attention, but that strikes me as worth a stop and think: various Chinese groups are snapping up classic western tailoring brands like they are M&Ms. And the ownership change is reaching critical mass. Read more

Anya Hindmarch is going to be late. I know this because her office emailed me twice on the day of our dinner to alert me to the probability; she is coming from a meeting with Bergdorf Goodman on 57th Street and we are eating downtown and, well … traffic.

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.
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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. Read more

So after the Louboutin vs YSL tangle over the use of red soles, we have Thomas Pink vs Victoria’s Secret over the use of pink. See, Pink likes to refer to itself as…well, PINK. And VS, since 2001, has had a secondary line aimed at tweens and 20somethings called (under 32 different trademarks, including “Pink Beach,” “Aolha Pink” and “Oh what fun is Pink”) VS Pink. And therein lies the conflict.

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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.
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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

Finally, some female executives at fashion brands. Yesterday Kering named Francesca Ballettini CEO of Yves Saint Laurent and then Lanvin announced Michèle Huiban was being promoted to CEO from the deputy general manager spot. This practically doubles the number of female CEOS in fashion. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. But it’s also a valid generalisation.
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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

So yet another Brit has landed atop a fashion brand, adding fuel to the idea that London is having a moment not seen since its Cool Britannia heyday. Coach, the billion-plus American accessible luxury handbag line that is in the process of trying to become a “lifestyle brand” (like, dare I say it, every other brand on the planet), has announced that they have poached Stuart Vevers (below) from Loewe, the LVMH-owned Spanish leather house, to be its new executive creative director. Start date still TBD. But ooooooh, already the implications are huge!

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After Dolce & Gabbana, after LVMH & Hermes, now we have…Kering and Nicolas Ghesquière! Yup, the French Group is suing their former designer for saying bad things about them. Is it a smart move? I wonder. And who will really come out of it the winner? Depends how you define caring, I guess. Read more

We all know that part of Steve Jobs’ genius was taking the rules of fashion and applying them to technology, be it the importance of must-have seasonal design, or gadgets that are actually accessories, and hence identity totems. As Michel Kors pointed out to me recently, however, fashion has never exactly turned the tables; it hasn’t figured out what it should absorb from Apple. Well, today BCG is publishing a paper that suggests things might be changing. They have pinpointed a lesson. And they want the luxury world to learn it.

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Interesting move on the part of incoming Hermès CEO/family member Axel Dumas to start off his leadership with an aggressive anti-LVMH statement. Presumably the idea was to do two things in one fell swoop: herald a new sheriff in town and demonstrate his toughness (despite his relative youth, at almost-43). I wonder, though, if it’s also doing a third, perhaps less intentional – or at least, less obvious: giving Hermès , aka the ultimate in classic luxury, some street-fighter edge. And if so, is it actually good for the company’s image, or a mistake? Read more

We all know menswear is seen as a Great Luxury Hope, what with the Chinese market being driven by male consumers with money. Hence the Kering acquisition of Brioni; LVMH focusing on Berluti and buying French made-to-measure tailor Arnys to make apparel; Hermes and Coach opening mensonly shops, and so on. Now, however, it seems the on-line folks are also thinking along these lines. Yesterday MenInvest, the slightly cringe-worthy-named Paris-based e-commerce group bought the even odder named upmarket UK site Oki-ni.com, which specialises in “cutting-edge” menswear, for an undisclosed sum.

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Forget art collaborations – they’re so yesterday. Mobile phones, ditto. These days, it seems, the must-have accessory for a luxury brand (not, note, a luxury consumer) is a gig creating costumes for the ballet. It’s the newest stamp of high-art approval. The latest to join the club: Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. So what does it mean? Read more

LVMH, the largest luxury group in the world by an exponential margin, has a dumb blonde problem: it seems to be the winner in the sector, so it gets attacked and mocked most of all. For a long time, the Group’s reaction to the situation was frustration, retreat, and confusion (or sulking, depending on how you want to spin it). This week, however, they have gone on what appears to be something of a charm offensive.
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Maxime Simoens' couture collection. Getty Images

It seems LVMH has taken a new approach to its investment in young fashion brands having made a minority investment in 29-year-old French couturier Maxime Simoens. The company has snapped up between a 20-30 per cent stake in the business, according to an LVMH spokesperson. This means Mr Simoens will not officially become part of LVMH (not yet, anyway), but that the group will act as advisers on the growth of the brand – in particular, Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano, who was the driving force behind the investment. Dior, as the group likes to point out, is the main holding company of LVMH.

Mr Simoens had been rumoured as a candidate for the Dior artistic director job, and though that went to Raf Simons, Mr Toledano and Dior deputy managing director Delphine Arnault were impressed. Their first move now: helping Mr Simoens hold his debut ready-to-wear show on March 3 (he already does couture, which may seem odd, but it does not require the same up-front funding for wholesale orders as RTW). Read more

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Two interesting developments today: Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy has announced that Bulgari, less a chief executive since Michael Burke was moved to Louis Vuitton last December, finally has a new leader: Jean-Christophe Babin, who for the past 13 years has been CEO of LVMH’s watch brand Tag Heuer.

And Hermès, which has publicly battled LVMH over the latter’s purchase of Hermès shares, has released news that 2012 sales (annual results are officially due out next month) were so good – up 22.6 per cent – that they predict “for the full year, given the excellent performance in the fourth quarter, the operating margin is expected to be slightly above the all-time high achieved in 2011″. Read more

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It’s couture week in Paris; but we’re a show down on the schedule: Givenchy, which under Riccardo Tisci has held an up-close-and-personal presentation of a handful of elaborate pieces, is taking time out to, well, ease up on the pressure. Meanwhile, it has emerged that Alexander McQueen will also not be holding a show in March during the autumn/winter shows, as its creative director, Sarah Burton, pictured left, will be on maternity leave.

Instead they will have a small presentation; a variation on the tactic Celine’s Phoebe Philo used when she was last pregnant. Her show fell in her third trimester and decided to eschew the stress of a full show for small talk-throughs with tiny groups.

Could it be that both the corporate and creative sides of the business are beginning to think shows may not be the crucial component of a business they have been previously considered? Holy hemlines, Batman! Read more

I was struck, when reporting the PPR/Christopher Kane deal, by a comment from Hugh Devlin, a lawyer with Withers LLP who acted as a strategic advisor to Mr Kane. Specifically, Mr Devlin said, “We would anticipate that there will be other investment transactions involving London designers in the coming 12 months.” So let’s have some fun! Let’s speculate about who could be next. Read more