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. 

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.
 

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. 

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.

 

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.
 

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.  

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.
 

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! 

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!