After a turbulent and appalling 2020, the fashion and luxury industry has some homework to do. Following the shock of the global COVID-19 pandemic outbreak that rocked the whole planet, fashion and luxury brands are struggling to cope with the need to find a balance between business growth and change of attitude that the new consumer approach is imposing.
Despite the bold bulletins released by the companies that show optimism and faith in the next future developments, the feeling inside the industry is much more multifaceted than expected. While it is pretty clear that China will become the leading market for the industry in the coming years, and strategic countries like the USA and UK are still in the middle of a political and sanitary emergency, the industry is being forced to find solutions and business objectives that support their revenues and align with investors’ expectations.
This is not the time for the shy and short-sighted brands, but this also is not the time for arrogance either. The bar has been raised by this global pandemic and it asks increasingly for a more refined vision of the future and careful management of all aspects of a business. Meaning that the fashion and the luxury industry should lower the volume of the circus and train its perception and sensitivity.
Brands capable of capturing the weak signals of the market will get the most powerful fuel to escape a rough setback. Those that have developed strong internal antennas that are fully integrated into their management will hit the target. And, the ones that will leave back all the stereotyped customer targets will realise that every single customer can be conquered with knowledge, passion and savoir faire regardless the age, status and geography, finding the key to unlocking new and successful business expansion.
Think bold and different is turning into a very different meaning, and it also refers to a courageous attitude that falls outside the pre-packed and pre-cooked standardised solutions offered by the most prestigious consulting firms.
Unconventional thinking and strategising is becoming a top priority in a world that is increasingly challenged by rapid changes of perspective.
In a rich landscape of not unexpected directions taken by even prestigious brands to keep the business afloat and the brand awareness relevant (such as the high volume of collaborations that Gucci is developing – from Disney to The North Face and the freshly launched Doraemon that puts the brand at risk of a “Pierrecardinisation” or the “Enjoy the Silence” mode decided by Bottega Veneta that recently shut down its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts – but not the Chinese ones like Weibo and WeChat) the actions taken by widely renown fashion and luxury brands highlight a specific direction chosen to align with the market turbulent changes.
The most enthralling ones are the following:
The integration of cult brand Stone Island in a group with iconic Moncler.
Remo Ruffini, the charismatic re-founder of French turned Italian down jacket brand Moncler, nailed it again with the announcement of the acquisition of Stone Island last December. Carlo Rivetti, co-founder and owner of the brand, said that he decided to sell the brand to Moncler because “they share the same elective affinities” and because “Remo Ruffini doesn’t want to change the brand”. Rivetti chose the offer made by Moncler instead of other ones that were more lucrative, because he wanted to stay on board. As the two brands communicated on the social media, they share the same values, management accuracy, passion for innovation, love for their people and desire for the future. Certainly, they share the same long-term enduring success and Italian roots of excellence in design and storytelling. Stone Island turnover grew 5 times in the past ten years, from 50 million to around 250 million euro and it was acquired by Moncler for 1.5 billion euro in 2020.
This might represent the first step of the creation of a new entity that stands exactly in between fashion and luxury, a glorious past and a brighter future.
LVMH beating all the odds with the takeover of Tiffany’s
While many already gave for granted the failure of this operation, LVMH top executives worked very hard to succeed in the purchase of US jewellery titan Tiffany’s. With this major strategic move valued $15.8 billion, the first luxury group in the world secured another star in its portfolio, expanding the hard luxury segment and targeting Richemont-owned Cartier market share.
It seems that the French group will invest time, money and lots of efforts on this brand, considering the appointments of Michael Burke as Chairman and Alexandre Arnault, son of Bernard, as VP product of communication. Michael Burke is the closest aide of the French luxury mogul, having worked with him since before the foundation of LVMH. Burke, a senior executive is the man behind the unexpected relaunch of Fendi, the only one able to manage the complexity of the brand during the very challenging reset and for this outstanding success rewarded with the seat of CEO of the group flagship brand, Louis Vuitton. Pragmatic and with a great brand vision, he will surely guide the newly appointed executives in such an exciting venture with strength and wisdom.
The recruitment of Raf Simons by Prada raised some eyebrows, also considering the lack of performance of the Belgian designer at Calvin Klein and, partly, at Dior. Despite the like-minded duo sharing the same essential and eccentric view of fashion, and a sort of allergy towards and excessive and noisy media exposure, many thoughts that this conversation was condemned to be difficult for the brand. So far, the projects developed at long distance because of the coronavirus pandemic, raised the level of intellectual attitude of Prada and created some unique moments due to make fashion history: from the Spring 2021 collection presented in an acid yellow set with a digital project to new same season advertising campaign it seems that the conversations between Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada are more than inspiring and refreshing. Prada announced, despite the first semester of 2020 being heavily hit by the pandemic outbreak, “a progressive recovery in sales, culminating for the retail sales in a full recovery to 2019 levels in the month of December 2020.”
Those fashion conversations between two heavyweights of the industry are seeding the future of the brand in a healthier way compared to the tons of no-purpose collaborations developed by some competitors.
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When the going gets tough, the tough polish their iconic products… From Prada with the Re-Nylon project to the auctions of the Hermès Birkin bags and the astonishing 337,500 CHF paid at a Christie’s auction for a Patek Philippe, platinum and emerald-set perpetual calendar chronograph with moon phases, leap year, day and night indication, the most prominent fashion and luxury brands take care of their iconic products and collections as they were the Crown jewels.
In this sense Cartier has unveiled its most recent brand campaign on the “Culture of Design” and around the “Magnificent 7”, the iconic creations of the French maison. The campaign focuses on the Maison best hits and evergreen: the Santos, Tank , Panthère and Ballon Bleu watches, the Love and Juste un Clou nail bracelets, and the Trinity triple ring.
A project aimed at conquering the hearts and wallets of different generations of customers all over the world.
Bold moves are expected by the most relevant brands and groups in the fashion and luxury industry in 2021.
And boldness is not just shown in terms of pushing sales to increase revenues no matter what nor in terms of creating buzz around the brand with pop up statements that only in part correspond to the reality.
The boldest are the ones that will develop the business following a very precise trajectory with resoluteness and clarity, that will refuse short-term compromise to benefit long-term growth, that will protect and leverage on their assets instead of spoiling them.
The boldest are the ones that have the courage to go from planning and strategising to executing with grit and sangfroid.
Because as Winston Churchill used to say “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”
Cover Image: Prada Menswear Autumn/Winter 2021. Photo: Courtesy.