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LVMH aims to become leading luxury start-up hub in Europe

The big luxury conglomerate recently announced a start-up programme to support 50 businesses a year in Paris.

France's LVMH is helping projects by upcoming entrepreneurs in the luxury goods space, including a start-up whose software might help detect counterfeits. The owners of Louis Vuitton, aim to support the new businesses by hosting them in a mega-campus where they can collaborate with its in-house brands.

LVMH, the world's biggest luxury goods group, is following in the footsteps of French cosmetics giant L'Oréal in grabbing a corner of Station F, a vast startup incubator in Paris where it offers rent-free space to the startups.

"The idea is to animate and activate those conversations around the things that might affect the luxury industry," said Ian Rogers, who is a former Apple executive who joined LVMH in 2015 as chief digital officer.

Paris is among one of the major European cities bidding to displace London's dominance in the startup scene as BREXIT looms and President Emmanuel Macron pushes a pro-reform agenda to promote business and investment.

Station F was launched last year by French billionaire Xavier Niel, who is also the partner of Delphine Arnault, an executive at Vuitton and daughter of LVMH boss Bernard Arnault.

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Start-Up Sells Luxury Items, Minus the Branding

We all know that markups in luxury fashion can be ridiculously high. The journey from the factory to floor, gets items to be priced at higher than they cost.

Now E-commerce site Italic is betting that removing the branding and the mark-up will prove a hit with consumers. A big bet indeed!

The start-up’s members-only marketplace, which launched last Thursday, allows manufacturers that create products for luxury brands to sell directly to consumers without the LOGOs adding markups. Shoppers who pay a $120 annual membership fee can choose from a selection of unbranded luxury goods, from bags and wallets to prescription eyewear and leather jackets, produced by the same factories that count names like Prada, Givenchy, Celine and Burberry among their clients.

The company has raised $13 million in funding, from various top end investors. Over 100,000 people joined a waiting list to be notified when membership opens, with signups initially limited to the US, said company founder Jeremy Cai.

Upon launching, the platform will have nearly 60 styles live on the site, with a view to double this number by the end of the year. However, customers won’t find unbranded versions of the Gucci Dionysus bag or any of the latest Celine creations. All products sold on Italic will be unique and exclusive to the platform to avoid infringing on brands’ intellectual property / copyrighted designs.

The start-up joins a growing number of brands, including Everlane and Warby Parker, which provide a premium-feeling, minimally branded product at relatively affordable prices. Within the luxury sector, high-end retailers, including Mr Porter, Joseph and MatchesFashion, are expanding their private label collections, which tend to be priced below standard luxury fare.

Italic goes one step further, selling items that lack even the private label branding. The marketplace will instead focus on providing the infrastructure — from marketing, design and warehousing to customer support — to enable manufacturers to sell products directly. The company will take a commission on sales.

“We essentially do everything that brands do and more, but we do it for the manufacturers,” Cai said.

For example, Italic’s merchandising team will work with factories that have product and pattern libraries to tweak existing designs so they don’t mimic products already on the market. Italic also has two designers, alumni of Armani and Calvin Klein, to work with manufacturers that don’t have in-house creative teams.

“We are very careful about every single product that we sell being originally designed, you won’t find an exact product like it in the market,” Cai said. “We want breadth and coverage of a lot of different styles.”

Branding can be a powerful tool, especially in a sector like luxury, where purchases are emotional rather than practical. That’s especially true for “statement” products, like handbags.

“People buy branded products to be reassured of the quality and style of the item and also for their projected image: they somehow communicate to other people the style, sophistication and preferences of their owner,” said Mario Ortelli, managing partner of luxury advisors Ortelli & Co. “You want to feel and show that you are part of the brand story.”

But Cai doesn’t anticipate the manufacturers on Italic’s marketplace competing head to head with luxury brands.

“For a person who is going to buy a Gucci bag, we are never going to win them over with unbranded product,” he said. “That doesn’t mean in some avenue of their life, they wouldn’t be open to switching up their sheets or maybe a shirt, or a leather jacket, where they actually don’t like a logo on there.”

As well as geographical expansion and international shipping, the platform’s short term goals include expanding into product categories like activewear and beauty. The focus will remain on luxury, Cai said.

“The reason we want to start in luxury is because we can say to the customer: we can make premium product effectively and replace a lot of your aspirational shopping,” he said.


The Global Sale

Live Video Shopping in a Covid19 World

Video platforms like Zoom have rekindled the technology side of businesses, and helped reimagine how retail can target everyone working from home, to shop from home and new creative partnerships are springing up.

In June, Frame entered into a four-month pilot agreement with Bambuser AB to bring its consumers a new kind of shopping experience through live video shopping.

“This partnership allows us to create an even more immersive shopping experience and engage with our customers in real-time in circumstances when we can’t interact in-person,” said Jens Grede, cofounder and creative director of Frame. “We’re always looking for ways to enhance our shopping experience and Bambuser’s live shopping video feature allows us to blend our off-line and online channels in an engaging and entertaining way that more prominently highlights our current collections.”

Bambuser was founded in Stockholm in 2007 as the “world’s first company with a platform for interactive mobile live video broadcasting” though introduced live video shopping just last year. The company’s proprietary streaming technology is an end-to-end solution that enables mobile livestreaming directly on a brand or retailer’s web site.

“With the live shopping videos, we’re taking a leap into the future of retail and allowing brands to interact with their audience in the way they interact with each other, online or via smartphones,” said Sophie Abrahamsson, chief business development officer at Bambuser. “As the e-commerce space has grown over the past few months, retailers are looking for more efficient ways to deliver their products and brand experience to their consumers while they’re unable to interact in-person.”

“Brands like Frame are interested in taking their e-commerce channel to the next level by creating an even more engaging digital shopping experience where consumers can shop their latest pieces while also asking everything they want to know about it and getting feedback in real-time,” Abrahamsson said.

“We’ve seen an increase in e-commerce sales over the past few months and believe that consumers will continue shopping online even as some cities begin to reopen,” Grede said. “We pride ourselves on providing authentic and seamless customer experience and believe that brands need to create an e-commerce platform that helps consumers shop on their terms. Right now, consumers are looking for seamless and contactless ways to shop their favorite brands whether it’s shopping online, curbside pickup or one-on-one virtual shopping appointments — and our biggest priority is to continue to ensure the health and safety of our customers and workforce.”

Through the new functionality, Frame will be hosting live shopping videos on a monthly basis tapping into its large base of influencers and stylists to present the newest products and collections. The videos will highlight clothing fit, fabric technology and styling.

“Working with influencers and stylists has been a part of Frame’s DNA since Day One having collaborated with notable names in the industry like Imaan Hammam, Karlie Kloss and Tamara Mellon to name a few,” Grede said. “It only made sense to continue providing our customers with the best content and insight into fashion with stylists and influencers who’ve been longtime friends and supporters of the brand.”

The first live shopping video was hosted by Zanna Roberts Rassi, E! News style correspondent. During the session, Roberts Rassi walked through how to style various looks from the brand’s latest products and answered questions submitted by viewers.

According to Bambuser’s web site, its live video shopping technology sees an average of 6.2 times engagement rate compared to the industry average and 4.7 times the add-to-cart rate.

“Technology is a driving force that’s helping consumers and businesses alike navigate through the new normal we’re living in. It can help us now more than usual, as it allows us to connect people, products and data together, as well as give you access to share information around the world practically instantaneously so that everyone can stay connected. For businesses, this is crucial in order to survive during these unprecedented times by efficiently connecting virtually with their teams and customers,” Abrahamsson said.

On July 10, Bambuser announced a new partnership with Moda Operandi.


LVMH aims to become leading luxury start-up hub in Europe

France's LVMH is helping projects by upcoming entrepreneurs in the luxury goods space, including a start-up whose software might help detect counterfeits. The owners of Louis Vuitton, aim to support the new businesses by hosting them in a mega-campus where they can collaborate with its in-house brands.

LVMH, the world's biggest luxury goods group, is following in the footsteps of French cosmetics giant L'Oréal in grabbing a corner of Station F, a vast startup incubator in Paris where it offers rent-free space to the startups.

"The idea is to animate and activate those conversations around the things that might affect the luxury industry," said Ian Rogers, who is a former Apple executive who joined LVMH in 2015 as chief digital officer.

Paris is among one of the major European cities bidding to displace London's dominance in the startup scene as BREXIT looms and President Emmanuel Macron pushes a pro-reform agenda to promote business and investment.

Station F was launched last year by French billionaire Xavier Niel, who is also the partner of Delphine Arnault, an executive at Vuitton and daughter of LVMH boss Bernard Arnault.

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