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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.