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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.


Mario Testino and Bruce Weber Banned from Condé Nast over sexual exploitation accusations

Fifteen current and former male models and thirteen male assistants and models have accused top fashion photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, of coercive sexual behavior. The investigation has been in the works since the last couple of months.

Though representatives of both the accused have denied all allegations, publishing giant Condé Nast have announced, it will stop working with them. So far spokespersons for Michael Kors Holding ltd and Stuart Weitzman, have also said that they will not be working with MarioTestino in the foreseeable future.

Versace sold!

Michael Kors ( Capri Holding ) is in the process of buying Italian fashion house Versace for a value of approximately $2.12 billion, including debt, the company announced on Tuesday. That's 2.5 times the brand's current revenue. The primarily cash deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019.

In a presentation released to investors, Capri Holdings, outlined its plans for Versace, including increasing its global retail footprint from 200 stores to 300, building out e-commerce and expanding men's and women's accessories and footwear.

Under the new organisation, John D Idol will remain chairman and chief executive of Capri Holdings and also chief executive of the Michael Kors brand. Versace chief executive Jonathan Akeroyd will continue on, as will creative director Donatella Versace.

“This is a very exciting moment for Versace,” she said in a statement, adding that her brother Santo and daughter Allegra's stake in Capri "demonstrates our belief in the long-term success of Versace and commitment to this new global fashion luxury group."

“I am proud that Versace remains very strong in both fashion and modern culture. Versace is not only synonymous with its iconic and unmistakable style, but with being inclusive and embracing of diversity, as well as empowering people to express themselves," she said. "Santo, Allegra and I recognise that this next step will allow Versace to reach its full potential."

This will position the accessible the conglomerate, which acquired high-end shoemaker Jimmy Choo in July 2017 for $1.2 billion, to take a bigger slice of the high-end luxury market.

Versace is a world-famous name part of popular culture, but has been struggling to grow its business of similar scale for years. With the brand running losses from the late 1990s to 2011, the family sold a 20 percent stake to Blackstone in 2014 — a deal that valued the fashion house at $1.4 billion.


Nike Loses More People Amid Misconduct Probe

Nike Inc.’s Converse brand lost its chief marketing officer to streetwear label Supreme, Business of Fashion reports.

Julien Cahn resigned from Converse earlier this year and left the company in February for a marketing role at the up-and-coming brand. Cahn joined Converse in 2016 from parent Nike. Several executives have recently left Nike in the wake of an internal probe into misconduct, though Cahn’s departure wasn’t related, people said. Nike began an internal review of misconduct last month, after complaints from employees. A handful of executives have exited, including Trevor Edwards, who was one of the favorites to succeed Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker.

Last week, an analyst’s report said nine Nike employees at director level or higher, including Cahn, had left the company in the past 35 days amid “recent cultural turmoil.” Nike executives go from director to senior director and then vice president. The departures are seen adding additional “downside risk” to Nike’s long-term growth trajectory, Sam Poser of Susquehanna Financial Group wrote in a note to clients.

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