PPR

Luxury brands from PPR to LVMH may be announcing more banner results this month, but according to a new report from UK luxury consultancy Ledbury Research, their CEOs are probably a lot more worried about the industry’s prospects in 2012 than they are letting on. 

Today at their AGM PPR came out and did two things that I don’t think any other luxury brand has done so far: publicly put its money where its mouth is, officially committing to a group of specific environmental goals for the Group to reach by 2016 and announcing them for all to see (and measure, and wave critically in the air in the company fails to fulfill them), and financially committing to a carbon off-shoot company by buying a 5% stake in Wildlife Works Carbon and getting a seat on the management committee. It all sounds great, but what does it really mean?
 

There’s a new entry in the ever-evolving luxury lexicon courtesy of the folks over at Interbrand: “meta-luxury.” The term, coined to replace that old catch-all “luxury,” refers to “luxury after luxury.” For those in search of a fuller (or more logical) explanation, two Interbrand directors, Manfredi Ricca and Rebecca Robins, have written an entire book elucidating the concept, called, not surprisingly, “Meta-luxury.” It’s not perfect, but I think it may come closer to rationalising the current situation than anything else I’ve seen thus far.

 

An interesting policy shift is creeping through the luxury industry: from being terrified of talking about their environmental/CSR initiatives except in the most covert whispers, slowly a number of voices are being raised.
Following PPR’s announcement that they were creating an “environmental profit & loss account” for Puma, today Tiffany & Co unveiled a new web site dedicated to their CSR policies. 

So it all came true, and PPR did, indeed, buy Italian men’s wear luxury brand Brioni. So far, so rumoured. But what does it mean? Seems to me there are two main implications to the deal. 

For everyone who was super-hyper-over-excited about the recent rumours, sparked this weekend by a report in the IHT, that Jil Sander’s Raf Simons was going to take over for Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent – well, Paul Deneuve, the chief executive of YSL, just told me it wasn’t true. 

The stylistas attending Milan Fashion Week next month will find themselves with a spare 45 minutes to say, drink 10 espressos in a row, or add up the cost of Vogue’s Anna Dello Russo’s latest look. The reason behind this sudden gap in the schedule on September 25? Brioni’s women’s wear show has been cancelled, because more dramatically, the Brioni women’s wear line has been cancelled.

After speculation on Monday, the label released a statement on Wednesday confirming the news:

“This strategic decision has been made in order for the company to re-focus its resources on the men’s market, which is recently becoming both increasingly competitive and global.”

Brioni spring summer 2011 collection

Brioni spring/summer collection 2011. Image by Catwalking.

Brioni’s women’s wear line was far smaller than its luxury men’s wear business, and enjoyed nothing like the same level of cachet. However, the fact that the label hired designer Alessandro Dell’ Acqua to revamp its women’s wear range in May 2010 means the closure will surprise many.

While Dell’ Acqua’s shows weren’t exactly setting Milan Fashion Week on fire in creative terms, like a Prada or Jil Sander, Brioni showed many stylish pieces rendered in the extremely luxurious fabrics for which the label is known. A highlight of the spring/summer 2011 show was elegantly tailored high waisted red trousers worn with a pussy bow chiffon blouse. Autumn/winter’s tailored trousers were sleek and  flattering. The women’s brand could potentially have forged an identity as a go-to label for classic, but not staid tailoring that didn’t feel aggressive, masculine or corporate. After all, Alessandro knows how to do femininity. And where there’s a women’s brand, however small, if the name is big enough then there’s the potential to launch a fragrance and accessories… 

And so the McQueen blockbuster has finally come to an end, the most successful fashion show the Metropolitan Museum has ever put on. So where, inquiring minds want to know, will it go next? No where. Apparently, unlike almost every other cultural arena, from theatre to musicals to music to books to film to other museum shows, a sell-out fashion show is not a transferable proposition. Yeah, right. And I have a bridge I can sell you. 

Women’s wear daily is reporting today that PPR is in talks with Brioni about buying the Italian luxury brand. The PPR folk won’t comment, but I think this makes sense. 

VF Corp’s $2.3 billion acquisition of Timberland, and the fact that the see the brand as one way to “up their apparel content,” as CEO Eric Wiseman said to Women’s Wear Daily, has my trend sensors all-aflutter. After all, it was one thing listening to Francois-Henri Pinault talk about his acquisition of California surf brand Volcam earlier this year in a bid to increase the “sports lifestyle” component of PPR. But now there’s another big group getting pro-active in the sector. We have competition!