So the other day I was talking to Josh Abram, who was showing me around his new luxury co-working venture Neuehouse and whom I have decided is potentially the most-quotable person I have yet met, when he mentioned that the guiding principle of Neuehouse (or one of them, anyway), was the opportunity to combine the best of the hospitality industry with the drive for co-working spaces for entrepreneurs. It gave me a weird sense of déjà vue. Because lately, I feel like almost every luxury strategist I run into keeps bringing up hospitality as the secret sauce of their success.
I’ve been fascinated recently by the game of semantics being played between “showrooms” and “flagships” – and wondering whether the evolution of the second into the first is actually the future of commerce. Or put another way, the place e-commerce and bricks and mortar commerce merge.
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).
I greeted my colleague Richard Waters’s column today on the new mini Ipad – Apple’s equivalent of a mini-clutch – with a roll of the eyes. Not because it demonstrates yet another way in which the tech giant is mimicking the fashion world (by filling out their accessory offering), but because a recent experience has me thinking that maybe Apple has not learned its fashion/luxury lesson as well as this might suggest.
The assertion that exclusivity is no longer a criteria for luxury came from PPR chief Francois-Henri Pinault when he opened our luxury conference last Thursday, and I have to say, it made me sit up in my seat. Not that that was the only striking insight to come out at the end of last week. Here, in no particular order of importance, are the top five items that stayed with me the most
Does anyone else feel like suddenly everywhere they turn, another erstwhile satisfied luxury brand is re-christening themselves a “luxury lifestyle” brand, talking about their “global universe” and otherwise attempting to own every aspect of a consumer purse? It’s like The Birds: you see one example circling and think, “oh, that’s interesting,” and the next thing you know the whole flock has obliterated the sky.
But here’s what I want to know: why? And what, exactly, do these brands mean when they attach the word “lifestyle” to themselves?
Today WWD heralded LVMH supreme Bernard Arnault as their Man of the Year, thanks to his Bulgari deal; relaunch of a new leather house (Moynat); shake-up of his exec ranks; and willingness to let Dior be designer-less until he found the right person to replace John Galliano – who was fired in March. Generally, I agree with their choice, mostly because of Arnault’s smarts in taking advantage of other luxury brands’ scardey-cat timidity in the face of economic crisis (they see consumer slowdown; he sees opportunity to grab market share). My only question is about Dior. I think this is becoming a problem.
Fashion, I understand, is a seductive target. It’s hard to resist attacking such a big, glossy, seemingly superficial industry. But please, can we stop now? Yesterday, reading yet another giant treatise (this one by Tom Sykes in the Sunday Telegraph) blaming fashion for John Galliano’s descent into addiction, I wanted to rip my hair out. Come on, guys. Can we get a little perspective here?