Today the FT is reporting that Blackstone is the clear leader in the race for the Versace minority stake – which is surprising on the surface, given that the private equity firm has never made any forays into high fashion, and private equity as a sector has had mixed results in the sector, sic Permira and Valentino, and TPG and Bally. So why the mutual attraction? I was speculating with a colleague recently, and she mentioned what is probably the magic word: hotels. Aka the Next Big Brand extension of luxury.
Google has published its annual list of most-searched names in multiple categories in countries all over the world, and, as we know, there’s one category in particular that sets this blog’s heart to beating: fashion. Unfortunately, the search megalith doesn’t seem to track this particular segment globally (though they do track consumer electronics), or even in every country (surprisingly, for example, they don’t have a retail or high-end designer list for luxury hotspot Italy, nor, to my great frustration, for the UK), but in at least two, the US and France, the results are – well, not what one would expect, to put it mildly.
Stay out of the office (more or less) for a month to attend to personal matters, and what happens? Strange things! I mean, first Burberry makes its designer CEO; then Jil Sander departs her eponymous brand for the third time; and now it turns out Permira, the European private equity firm, is in the running to take a minority stake in Versace. Yup – that same Permira that in 2007 achieved the dubious distinction of paying more for a luxury brand – EURO 2.6 billion for Valentino Group – than any PE firm ever, only to write it down by more than half two years later. That same Permira that became a poster child for why luxury and private equity don’t mix. That same Permira that now, apparently, begs to differ. The question is why? Hope springs eternal? Or something a little more strategic?
The news today that Ottavio Missoni, known as Tai and co-founder of the fashion/knitwear brand that bears his surname, has died aged 92 has sent the fashion world into mourning, for a number of reasons — some personal, and some to do with the end of an idea about fashion itself.
Last night at a very glamourous Versace dinner (where I nevertheless managed to cover myself in shame by chatting briefly to – and not recognising – Lady Gaga, then asking the man next to me who the cute woman in the big fur (Chanel) hat was), which followed the Versace Soho store opening, I got to talking with chief exec Gian Giacomo Ferraris, who let loose some interesting stuff.
The branded jewellery game, long viewed as an area with the least players and the biggest potential pay-off, has a new entrant: Versace, which just announced it will introduce its first high jewellery line (one-off creations with emeralds, diamonds, etc) this Sunday during its couture show at the Paris Ritz. I’ll see your collection and raise you!
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?
After Nicole Kidman, after Audrey Tatou, after Carol Bouquet, comes…Brad Pitt? Chanel has just announced the latter will be the new, and first male, face of their cash cow product, aka the perfume Chanel No 5, aka the one of the best-selling perfumes in the world — since it debuted 1921. Now, that’s a surprise. Mr Pitt’s appointment, not the success of the scent.
Anyone else notice anything surprising about the Duchess of Cambridge’s appearance yesterday at a homeless shelter in a 350 GBP Ralph Lauren polo-neck dress? Let me repeat that: a GBP350 RALPH LAUREN polo neck dress. Ralph Lauren? An American designer on the Princess-to-be? Shocking!
Looking back over 2011, which I am currently doing for a Christmas Eve column, I’ve been struck by the fact that one trend dominates all others by a significant margin, having held true from last March through year end: the IPO.