PPR

I guess the non-disclosure has ended (well, it’s about six months since he left). The Businessoffashion has an excerpt from ex-Balenciaga Nicolas Ghesquiere’s first big interview – in the newly launched System magazine — since he quit the house he made famous last November, and it’s a doozy. Effectively, the designer is taking on the entire executive side of PPR-about-to-be-Kering, the Group that owns Balenciaga. The interview is sure to ignite the always-burning flames of the creative vs. corporate debate, which flared high post-John-Galliano’s implosion, but have of late been simmering rather lower.

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PPR-about-to-be-Kering is on something of another spending spree. In the last two days they have announced two (count ‘em) acquisitions in Italy: the jewellery brand Pomellato, and the porcelain house Richard Ginori. The first buy is getting the most press, but it’s the second that really interests me. See, it wasn’t officially bought by Kering, but by Gucci (though this could be semantics, since Kering owns Gucci), and the purchase is being spun as the rescue of an important “Made in Italy” brand. Add that to two other Gucci intiatives, and it seems an image change is in the works, and no one has really noticed. Read more

By David Hayes

With all the ballyhoo of a major Hollywood production, the Gucci-founded charity, Chime for Change, today launched its headline event for 2013, The Sound of Change Live, to be held at Twickenham on June 1.

Hosted at the screening room of a swish central London hotel, the media event didn’t hold back on pizzazz: Salma Hayek Pinault (wife of PPR’s François-Henri Pinault, resplendent in a figure-hugging deep red dress), Oscar winning documentary maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (in a waft of oyster chiffon and satin), Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter John Legend (in sensible leather jacket) and, drum roll, a larger-than-life on-screen Beyoncé delivering a special heart-felt message.

What was all the fuss about? The recently created charity, Chime for Change (say it with a comedic Italian accent and, geddit, it almost sounds like “time for change”), with Gucci’s Frida Giannini, Beyoncé and Salma on the founding committee, is a new global campaign to raise funds and awareness for the empowerment of girls and women in the developing world. Read more

Yet another small Italian family-run fashion firm has been snapped up by an outsider: Today NEO Capital, the London-based private equity firm, announced it had acquired a majority stake in Italian luxury accessories brand Valextra.

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Tomorrow French luxury and sports lifestyle Group PPR will announce it has a new name. Earlier this week, journalists received a mysterious evite to a meeting in Paris Friday to unveil the “new” PPR, one which has finally shed its old retail/catalogue arms, FNAC, Conforma and Redcats, to become a pure two-sector player. According to an insider, this unveiling is, in fact, the unveiling of the fact it is no longer called PPR. So far the Group has refused to divulge its new title, though it has registered at least two alternatives. Let’s see if they are any good.

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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

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It doesn’t rain but it pours! Following Swatch’s purchase of Harry Winston, PPR has announced it has bought 51 per cent of hot young British brand Christopher Kane. That’s him, left, with stylist Caroline Seiber.

This marks the third British ready-to-wear brand owned by the French Group (it also has a joint venture with Stella McCartney and 51 per cent of Alexander McQueen), the first such young brand acquisition by a major luxury group since the recession, and the third in a series of PPR purchases: first Italian menswear brand Brioni, then Chinese jewellery brand Qeelin, and now Kane. It is up to something, no question. Where some see risk – buying a luxury brand at a time when consumer attitudes towards luxury itself are uncertain and China, aka the promised land, is experiencing a slowdown – they clearly see opportunity. Read more

And just like that – OK, just like that with $750 million plus the assumption of up to US$250 million of pro forma net debt – Swatch becomes a major luxury jewellery player. Today they announced the acquisition of the luxury arm of Harry Winston Diamond corporation. It is an image-changing buy.
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I did a fairly long interview with Francois-Henri Pinault, ceo of PPR, that’s running in the paper next week, about the way he thinks of his luxury brands, but in the process of talking Mr Pinault dropped some titbits I wanted to pass on. Here are three juicy ones. Read more

PPR’s announcement last night that they had bought a majority stake in baby Chinese jewellery brand Qeelin – it was launched in 2004 by Dennis Chan and Guillaume Brochard– marks the third move on the part of French group with an Asian dimension. You know what that means: I smell a trend. Read more

Two interesting announcements this morning, both of which are worth examining: First Labelux announces instead of embracing (and chasing) hard luxury, it is exiting the segment to focus entirely on leathergoods; then Mulberry rejects the outlet model to take its bags and other products further up-market. The moves are complementary, in the context of general industry strategy. They both indicate that in the highly competitive world of leathergoods, current theory says it’s the most special, elaborate, highly worked pieces that sell.
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So it’s official: Alexander Wang, the 28-year-old wunderkind who launched his eponymous brand in New York only five years ago has just been handed the creative director reins at Balenciaga. He will continue to run his own brand (which is owned independently by Wang and his family), and split his time between New York and Paris. His first collection will be autumn/winter 2013 womenswear, next March. I’m wondering, does this indicate a new theory about/stage in luxury brands?

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Oooooh those PPR folks are making the gossip waters churn. Today reports say NY hipster designer Alexander Wang is the top candidate for the artistic director job (artistic director, creative director, designer – does no one else wish these companies would regularise their titles?), while rumours are that Christopher Kane, the erstwhile favourite for that spot, is actually being looked at in the context of buying his eponymous brand! Good gosh and golly. Two young designers at once! Both would be surprising moves, however, seems to me.
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Tiffany has announced it will open a flagship store on the Champs Elysées in Paris. Image by Getty

There’s a piece in the Financial Times today that should send luxury brands leaping for their lizard (and python, and shagreen, and croc and so on).

Discussing a new study on retail, my colleagues Barney Jopson and Tim Bradshaw note that it “suggests the most effective use of retail space is selling expensive products that are occasional purchases to well-off consumers.” This is like giving candy to a baby.

After all, this is what luxury has been saying all along – it’s what Burberry just announced it was going to do in china, and François-Henri Pinault described as PPR strategy as far back as 2006. My guess is the industry take-away from this will be simple: sell less for more. But I think that may be the wrong lesson to draw. Read more

Today PPR announced, in one of the terser emails I’ve gotten, that they had mutually decided to part ways with uber-designer, fashion favourite, and more superlatives like that, Nicholas Ghesquiere. November 30th will be his last day. So what do we think happened?

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There’s a really interesting study out today from the Digital Luxury Group. Based on data from over 31 million searches on Google, Bing, Yandex and Bai du, as conducted in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and US, it looked at which American luxury brands were the most popular globally (based on search, natch, not sales). The results would probably surprise you, especially when it comes to who’s on top, and emerging markets. Read more

Much heart-fluttering in recent days over the rumours that the luxury arm of diamond specialist Harry Winston may be snapped up by either PPR or LVMH. Oooooh! M&A action in the luxury sphere. It’s so hard to resist. Perhaps that why Winston actually issued an official “Nothing doing” statement – albeit with a bit of a sideways wink at possible suitors. It’s lips are saying no, but its eyes….
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Earlier today I wrote about the odd idea that came to me after reading Bain’s 11th Luxury Goods Market report, but now I’d like to simply list a few more notable — and surprising — conclusions from that exciting document, including facts on outlet shopping, Gen Z, and a new Chinese consumer segment. Read more

Sorry – that title is a bit misleading. I am not suggesting Jochen Zeitz, the chief exec of PPR-owned sportswear brand Puma, is in favour of counterfeiting. Rather, I was struck by comments he made as reported today in the FT regarding the benefits of synthetic fabrics vs leather in ye olde sneakers, and how the former were significantly better for the environment than the latter. This is something you actually hear a lot from various environmentalists, and it seems to me most consumers would consider it surprising. They also might be surprised to learn that fashion, whether driven by eco concerns or just the lust for the new, is fast going in the same direction.

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