Luxury Institute News

October 26, 2016

96pc of Consumers Seek Others’ Opinions Before Making A Purchase
Wednesday, 26 October
By Sarah Jones

Word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted sources have more sway over consumers’ buying choices than any form of marketing, according to a survey by Influence Central.

Consumers are increasingly relying on reviews and social media to inform their purchase decisions, with 74 percent of shoppers saying they are more likely to ask their social network for opinions before buying than they were three years ago. With more information readily at their fingertips than before thanks to the Internet and smartphones, consumers are digging deeper than traditional media or the brand’s own channels.

“Our findings demonstrate that online reviews and recommendations play a powerful role in shaping the consumer purchasing journey, with 96 percent of women consumers saying they’re likely to seek out opinions and recommendations from others before they buy or try, and 91 percent looking beyond in-person family and friends to tap social networks when looking for a recommendation,” said Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central. “Seeking out trusted opinions has become step one for consumers in today’s path to purchase.”

Influence Central’s Consumer Insights Study is based on a survey of 400 American women in late summer 2016 conducted using an online questionnaire.

Social Networking

Nearly all consumers say they are apt to look for recommendations from others before buying a service or product. Slightly less, 91 percent, go beyond their immediate circle, expanding their search for opinions to social networks.

For 72 percent, this prevalence toward consulting social connections goes beyond considered purchases to everyday buying decisions.

About three-quarters say that they are more apt to turn to social media for advice than they would have been just three years ago. Reasons for this rise in use of social media for this purpose include being more active on social media with more connections and being able to better identify whose opinion to trust.

The most popular identities of social influencers for respondents included friends or friends of friends, extended family and family friends and former schoolmates.

Beyond merely consuming others’ opinions, 72 percent of women say they share their own recommendations on social networks.

Consumers are confident in their ability to determine the credibility of a review, with 93 percent self-identifying as skilled at picking which information to trust.

When trying to figure out whose word to trust, consumers look for reviews with lots of detail and turn to sources they have already deemed trustworthy.

In the rankings of trusted sources, traditional media comes in last, trailing close friends and family, other moms, Web searches and the consumer’s social network.

With more information at their disposal via search engines and social media, 56 percent say they collect more content. Only 17 percent say they take in less material.

However, 93 percent of women say they search for more types of information, with 88 percent seeking out more global influencers than they did just three to five years ago.

All of the sources at a consumers’ disposal can simultaneously be a help and a hindrance, as it means more to wade through and the prevalence of untrustworthy information.

When asked to describe what makes a review useful, 65 percent of consumers noted both an objective point of view and honesty. Another sign that a reviewer can be trusted is their status as a verified purchaser of a particular item.

Consumers trust peers over experts when looking for objective views of a product, with 80 percent seeking out consumers’ opinions compared to 59 percent looking for experts’ thoughts. When evaluating others’ recommendations, women look at a reviewer’s experience with the product and their identity, looking for those who have similar lifestyles.

“Luxury brands know their products typically don’t prove to be impulse purchases but instead they’re seen as investments where consumers do their homework upfront,” Ms. DeBroff said. “In fact, more than 85 percent of consumers use Web sites and social media to access recommendations they use to make purchasing decisions.

“By listening – and engaging – with consumers on these platforms, luxury brands can gain valuable insights on potential brand affinity and lifestyle aspirations, as well as learn what drives purchase.”

Ratings and Reviews

Social media content has implications beyond retail brands.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company leads online conversation among hospitality brands in the United States, according to a new report by Engagement Labs.

While word of mouth is still important among high-end goods and services, online conversation, hashed out on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, is steadily becoming a strategy for brands aiming for consumer retention. In Engagement Labs’ first “Total Social” ranking, Ritz-Carlton ranked the highest on social media, but fell when it came to recommendations made by offline word of mouth, presenting an opportunity for the hospitality brand (see story).

Being popular does not always lead to strong word of mouth, according to a recent survey of affluent men conducted by the Luxury Institute.

The top five brands listed in the men’s consideration sets were not the same as the five they would be most keen to endorse to family and friends. With luxury consumers, particularly those in emerging markets, becoming more sophisticated shoppers, smaller boutique labels have the opportunity to expand awareness by leveraging the recommendations of existing clientele (see story).

“Producing a great high-quality product always will be a strong first step, and luxury brands also need to understand that what really resonates with today’s savvy consumers proves to be authenticity,” Ms. DeBroff said. “Moreover, 93 percent of women consumers describe themselves as skilled at determining which information to trust, and as they look at online recommendations, ‘speaks from firsthand experience’ and ‘verified user/purchaser’ appear as the top two signals that the recommendation can be trusted.”


October 21, 2016

This Is Probably The Most Ostentatious Christmas Catalogue You’ll Ever Flip Through
By Abha Bhattara
Thursday, October 20

What do you get the man or woman who has everything?

Neiman Marcus has a few suggestions, starting with a $1.5 million Cobalt Valkyrie-X private plane in rose gold. There’s also a $93,000 ruby-and-diamond-encrusted Chanel watch or a $100,000 collection of classic children’s books. Or you could buy yourself a walk-on role in the Broadway show “Waitress” (price tag: $30,000).

The newly released Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, an annual exercise in all things excessive, includes more than 700 items, ranging in price from $10 (for a package of six snowflake-shaped marshmallows) to the $1.5 million private plane.

In the mood for a vacation? There’s a weeklong stay at three estates in the English countryside — which also comes with a helicopter trip to a castle — for $700,000. Or a slumber party for 12 at the company’s flagship store in Dallas for $120,000.

Or perhaps you’re feeling a bit distrustful. The luxury retailer says it has you covered, with a $25,000 mattress with a built-in fireproof lockbox.

Extravagances aside, the company says about 40 percent of the catalogue’s offerings are priced under $250. There’s a bracelet made of paper beads for $25 and a stainless steel beer growler for $60.

Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, says those lower-priced items are particularly important this year as high-end retailers struggle to stay afloat. Neiman Marcus has battled slipping sales for four quarters in a row. In September, the Dallas-based company posted a quarterly loss of $407.2 million.

“This is the most democratic Neiman Marcus catalogue I’ve ever seen,” Pedraza said, citing a $35 tube of Dior lipstick. “They know they need to appeal to millennials if they’re going to survive two decades from now.”

The uncertainty of the upcoming presidential election, combined with fears about the effect of Brexit on the European economy, are contributing to general unease, he said.

“Luxury is in a very challenging spot right now,” Pedraza said. “The world economy is flat and young customers are struggling. When millennials as a group have $1.3 trillion in student debt, it’s hard to splurge.”

But that doesn’t mean Neiman Marcus is completely holding back.

The company — which sifts through thousands of submissions in the spring — is offering 12 “fantasy gifts” in all, including “quarterback fundamentals” lessons with four-time Super Bowl winner Joe Montana ($65,000), his-and-hers island cars designed by Lilly Pulitzer ($130,000) and a trip to the Grammy Awards ($500,000).

The Christmas Book began in 1926, when the retailer released a 16-page Christmas booklet to its most loyal customers. Neiman Marcus offered its first “fantasy gift” in 1959: a black angus steer, either on the hoof ($1,925) or cut into steaks ($2,230). It was purchased by a customer in South Africa.

In the years since, Neiman Marcus has served up a steady — if jaw-dropping — selection of offerings, including his-and-hers mummy cases (one with an actual mummy), and his-and-hers camels (a customer in Texas bought the female camel, which boarded an American Airlines flight on Christmas Eve to arrive in Fort Worth on Christmas morning).

The most expensive item offered to date: A $33 million Boeing Business Jet. It didn’t sell. A $6.7 million helicopter with built-in entertainment system, however, did.

For the majority of Americans, though, Neiman Marcus’s “fantasy gifts” will be just that. Americans on average last year spent $800 on all of their holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s enough to buy an orange hippo figurine from the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.

Or if that seems too pricey, you could just buy a copy of the catalogue — for $15.


October 19, 2016

Urgency for Luxury Brands to Adopt Mobile Clienteling
Wednesday, October 19
By Kevin Nix

Luxury brands all know that maintaining a high level of personalized service for their discriminating and well-heeled clients is an imperative.

Often referred to as “clienteling,” high-end retailers rely on data about customer preferences, behavior and purchases to establish long-term relationships with their top customers.

But, according to Bain & Company (2016), there is declining growth in the United States luxury market and slower overall global growth. So, luxury retailers are under pressure to up their game and take every measure to meet the high expectations of its top customers.

Making A Point

If you are a Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton or Rolex, to name a few, your customers want and expect a VIP buying experience. And no wonder – if someone is spending thousands of dollars, even tens of thousands, on designer watches, haute handbags and bespoke suits, they want to be treated accordingly.

Purchase frequency varies as well, so how can luxury brands engage with their high valued customers to keep brand loyalty and increase their share of wallet?

It is not through traditional methods of discount coupons and loyalty points.

In fact, Michael Kors and Coach both announced in August that they will be limiting distribution of their products and not participating in department store couponing or friends/family discounts – a practice they believe could be eroding their brand’s cachet.

During the company’s quarterly earnings call in August, Michael Kors CEO John D. Idol explained the brand’s decision, saying “We think that this is critical for us … to protect our brand image.”

Enter clienteling, a masterful way for luxury brands to demonstrate their brand image with a first-class customer experience.

Hold A Mobile Tablet With That White Glove

Capturing and leveraging knowledge about your top customers and their preferences is key to providing the kind of white-glove experience that luxury consumers expect.

To deliver meaningful 1:1 personalized service, high-end salespeople need to know not only birthdays and anniversaries, but color and style preference, size, past purchases, wish lists and maybe even the names of their customers’ children or pets.

Some customers want Champagne served as they browse, while others do not care to imbibe.

Successful salespeople recognize opportunities to recommend purchases for key events – a husband’s birthday, perhaps – and also highlight the new handbag in a color/style that fits their client’s preferences.

Traditionally, this kind of information was kept in the salesperson’s “little black book” or customer log.

Fast forward to today and that little black book can be digitized on desktops – and even more accessibly on mobile devices – with easy access to a wealth of information to complement and supplement every customer profile.

Of course, it is not just luxury retail brands who should be getting in the mobile clienteling game.

Luxury hotel chains strive to master this 1:1 VIP experience by maintaining key facts about their top customers so that they can anticipate needs and recreate preferred experiences.

If they like classical music playing in their room on arrival, and a current copy of The Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times with their breakfast, that is what they will get.

Capturing all these guest preferences, attributes and interests and sharing it across all hotel properties, and ensuring that employees have this information at their fingertips at the right time – this is where mobile clienting can make the VIP experience a reality.

In 2013, the Luxury Institute reported that with clienteling, “data collection rates can triple and retention double, especially for the top 20 percent of customers who drive 70 percent of sales.”

And Exane BNP Paribas reports that interactions based on mobile clienteling “are expected to equate to about 40 percent of the luxury market’s growth by 2020.”

Yet where are luxury retailers today – really and truly – on mobile clienteling?

The truth is, not nearly far enough.

There is much greater adoption that needs to happen to reach the tipping point where effective clienteling reaches mass scale.

Evaluate Your Own Mobile Clienteling Readiness

Surprising and delighting your customer is nowhere more critical than in the luxury sector.

What are the key factors for evaluating your mobile clienteling readiness?

Do you have the right underlying technology platform to deliver the right customer information at the right time to the right sales people?

Good clienteling is only as good as the data that fuels it. So, the ability to gather the right data quickly, access it and make it actionable at the point of customer is paramount.

Are you empowering your salespeople to take action that will surprise and delight, such as an on-the-spot upgrade, custom perk or VIP treatment delivered right to the customer’s mobile device?

Are you tying clienteling to loyalty? Think about strategies to empower your sales associates with the ability to recognize and reward your customers in a unique manner.

For example, set up a program with important metrics such as customer spend per year and referrals and track them internally – as an “invisible points” system.

Then when a client reaches a milestone that only the sales associate is aware of, he or she is empowered at that moment to offer the customer an experiential reward, such as VIP access to an event.

How is your clienteling strategy related to the customer’s own mobile experience?

Whether you are considering a native application or responsive Web on the smartphone, a good clienteling strategy should work hand-in-hand with the mobile experience in your customer’s hand.

Whether it is to socially promote a particular purchase or research a product, these experiences should be integrated into your clienteling approach.

Why not have the customer’s mobile phone both greet the customer as well as notify the clienteling app when your valued client enters the store?

There has never been greater urgency than now for luxury brands to adopt mobile clienteling as a way to demonstrate brand value, maintain their reputation and image, and increase customer loyalty.

Doug Stephens, aka “The Retail Prophet,” recently predicted that “a new breed of experiential retailers will use their physical stores to perfect the consumer experience across categories of products. They will define the ideal experiential journey, employ expert ‘product ambassadors’ and technology to deliver something truly unique, remarkable and memorable.”

If luxury retailers do not get on board, they will soon be eclipsed by mainstream retailers – and that is not good for appearances or the bottom line.

Luxury purchases are driven in equal parts by both the quality of the product and customer emotion about the entire buying experience.

Clienteling significantly enhances that experience. The time for mobile clienteling is right now.


Luxury Brands Play Catch-Up: Ralph Lauren, Hermes, Burberry

By Sarah Mahoney
Tuesday, October 18

When it comes to shopping the latest looks from luxury fashion brands, the rich aren’t so different than the rest of us: They want what’s new, and they want it now. But that drive for instant gratification has rattled the fashion world’s sturdiest brands, as they continue the struggle to reinvent themselves in a “but Amazon can get it to me tomorrow” world. 

That has contributed to sluggish sales in luxury goods, and many brands are trying to change their game. Ralph Lauren, in the midst of a massive turnaround effort, had its first shoppable runway show last month, for example. So did Burberry, which is pushing both its digital and straight-to-consumer efforts hard amid declining revenues decline. And even Hermès, one of the most elite luxury labels, is reported to be opening a pop-up shop in Nordstrom in an effort to broaden its appeal.

The direct-to-consumer trend is continuing to shake up the fashion world, with L2 Digital — a market research company — reporting that last month, 21% of the brand’s participating in New York Fashion  Week had some way of making collections shoppable, either online, in stores, or both.

“It’s a mixed bag,” says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute. “There are consumers who definitely like clothes right off the runway and into their hands. But there are also some brands who are saying, ‘we need time and we do it right.’ And vive la difference.” But when brands do decide to pursue new avenues? “Then they need to execute it brilliantly,” he tells Marketing Daily. “If you’re going to act like H&M or Zara, you better have a supply chain that good.”

Because luxury fashion brands “derive their value from scarcity and exclusivity, the current fashion cycle is unsustainable and dissonant with what the consumer wants,” reports L2. “In response, brands are starting to experiment with DTC models that cut out the wholesaler and focus sales operations in-store and through e-commerce.”

And of course, marketing is still important. Ralph Lauren just launched a new campaign,  shot by fashion photographer Steven Meisel, that highlights “ten iconic pieces worn by ten iconic women,” the company says, including Vittoria Ceretti, Margaret Qualley, Stella Tennant, Fei Fei Sun, and Lady Jean Campbell. The collection includes such classics as the $2,700 peacoat, and its $1,000 black cashmere turtleneck.

The ads support the September collection that was, in a first for the brand, shown in real-time so consumers could buy the clothes right off the runway. The fiercer focus on the evolution of the ways women want to shop, including a more sophisticated digital offering, is key to the turnaround plan the company launched earlier this year, following steep losses and declining revenue.

Burberry, too, is struggling, but counting on digitally adroit young fashionistas to pull it along. In its just-released financial results, it says retail sales increased 2%, despite on overall revenue decline of 4%. The store gains came, it says, as a result of brand elevation efforts. And consumers seem responsive to the see-now-buy-now approach of its recent runway show.

And Hermès, not the kind of brand that would normally stoop to the level of mere department store, is opening its first-ever store-within-store project, partnering with Nordstrom. Luxury Retailerreports the pop-up shop is selling silks and jewelry.

Pedraza thinks it can be a good fit, as long as the goods “are more affordable and very now. Nordstrom is a full-price store with a reputation of impeccable service. And in terms of similarity in ethics and social responsibility, this can be a good partnership.”

But luxury sales may not pick up anytime soon. Bain & Co., which tracks luxury spending around the world, says it expects the affluent to continue to be stingy, and that the gain of just 1% in the first quarter of the year is likely to continue throughout the year.


October 7, 2016

Coach turns 75: Brand Remains True to Its Heritage While Finding New Inspiration From American Culture — Past and Present
October 7, 2016
By Melissa Magsaysay

What do iconic American references like Elvis Presley, exploring the Midwest by train and Southern California’s skate and surf culture have to do with handbags, clothes and accessories from Coach?

Stuart Vevers, executive creative director at Coach, says those American staples have been key influences in his work at the fashion brand, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with a new book, a revamped fragrance and a fashion collaboration with Disney.

The nostalgia isn’t completely out of left field given that the New York-based company’s founders, Miles and Lillian Cahn, were initially inspired by the supple leather and stitching of a baseball glove when they were first creating bags in 1941. But for Vevers, who was born in Yorkshire, England, and who lived and worked in Europe as a designer before taking the helm at Coach in 2013, the fascination with Americana is paramount in disrupting current ideals of luxury in fashion.

“We are living in a world where people aren’t aspiring to stereotypical images of luxury,” says Vevers, who worked at Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and Loewe. “Luxury to the next generation could mean a T-shirt or fun playful backpack, and I want Coach to stand at the forefront of the new codes of luxury that are being created right now.”

A look inside the new book “Coach, A Story of New York Cool,” written by Joel Dinerstein and designed by Fabien Baron.

A look inside the new book “Coach, A Story of New York Cool,” written by Joel Dinerstein and designed by Fabien Baron.

The designer has been implementing plenty of playful elements that still manage to feel incredibly elevated across the men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, bag, shoe and leather accessories categories offered by Coach.

This level of flexibility to adapt to the ebb and flow of fashion and luxury are part of what has kept Coach relevant for more than seven decades.

“Coach has stayed true to its core values and yet has remained flexible to the needs of not only American women but also aspirational women worldwide,” says Milton Pedraza, chief executive of Luxury Institute, a brand consulting agency based in New York that has worked with Coach and other companies. “Its designs adapt to the changing tastes of contemporary women.”

Bold color, metal rivets, floral appliqué and embellished patchwork have reinvigorated bags, which still stand on a foundation of quality leather, brass toggle hardware and detailed stitching — all hallmarks of the brand.

The fall 2016 ready-to-wear has the same unselfconscious nature and everyday appeal of the bags, seen in Western-style studding on a leather jacket, ’70s-inspired scarf print blouses and crewneck intarsia sweaters emblazoned with a dinosaur named “Rexy.”

It’s what Vevers is calling an “American take on luxury” and what Coach stands to represent through Vevers’ versions of classic staples including varsity jackets, sweatshirts and saddle bags, punctuated by the practical elements that have helped keep Coach a consistent commercial success.

“American values come through freedom and an openness,” Vevers says. “I like that our client works, and our client needs their clothing and accessories to work just as hard.”

Further illustrating this American spirit and marking the brand’s milestone anniversary is a new book out this month called “Coach, A Story of New York Cool” written by Joel Dinerstein and designed by Fabien Baron. The collage-style coffee table tome chronicles the brand from its beginning in a small SoHo workshop in New York with six employees to the 1960s when pioneering sportswear designer Bonnie Cashin took over creative duties. The book also highlights the decades of celebrity fans wearing and carrying Coach clothing and bags.

Additionally, the brand has revamped Coach the Fragrance, a perfume that originally debuted in 2007 and was reintroduced this September, as a scent that is inspired by the energy of New York City, and includes contrasting notes of raspberry, Turkish rose and musk.

From Ali MacGraw to Chloë Grace Moretz — the current face of  Coach — Hollywood has also been an integral part of the brand. “I think it has to be authentic,” says Vevers about Coach’s appeal and relationships with celebrities. “I like connecting with people I admire for their work or style, but the authenticity is crucial. It’s just like with our clients; it has to be natural.”

The diverse mix of front-row celebrities at the spring 2017 show in New York included Courtney Love, Moretz and “Stranger Things” stars Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown and echoed the designer’s ethos for bringing a broad set of cultural references from music, film and art together.

“I really want, with the music and culture references, a more modern vision of America,”  Vevers says. “Diversity is modernity, and as a designer, I want to include all of America in Coach.”

From original silhouettes of the 1950s to Coach staples festooned with C logos and newer, popular styles like the “Swagger” and “Rogue” bags, the house has set out to demonstrate the breadth of its work as well as its customer service. Check out the new Craftsmanship Bar at the Rodeo Drive flagship store in Beverly Hills.

The fourth of its kind in North America, Coach’s Craftsmanship Bar is part mini museum, showcasing bags from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and part personalized customer service with cleaning, customization, monogramming and product repair.

The range of design from the last 75 years is clear when canvassing the display at the Craftsmanship Bar. Look for a ’70s saddle bag that has the wear of a baseball glove and a “Swagger” bag covered in cheeky varsity patches.

The styles are all vastly different, but perhaps it’s the level of accessibility in the price point and functional design that has made Coach familiar and aspirational to buyers for the last 75 years.

For Vevers, the formula for creating a successful collection that is steeped in the brand’s seven-plus decade heritage but still appealing to a new millennial audience is completely about relatability. It’s about those iconic American references of Elvis and wide-open plains now injected with flashes of visual inspiration the designer gathers while scrolling Instagram.

“My magpie is that of a digital magpie,” Vevers says. “The world is moving fast, and to be relevant, design needs to be connected to the street.”


The World’s Best Fashion Brands Aren’t Exactly The Ones You’re Thinking Of
October 7, 2016
By: Max Berlinger

Turns out people like really expensive things and really cheap things.

Each year the consultancy agency Interbrand releases its Best Global Brands list, a ranking of the world’s most valuable brands. And, according to their sizable data, it turns out that people like really, really fancy things and, conversely, really, really affordable things. Cool.

According to this year’s power list, French luxury label Louis Vuitton comes in at number one of the brands categorized in the luxury and retail sectors. Now here’s where things get interesting: the next two brands are mass labels that specialize in affordable versions of trendy runway pieces, H&M (no. 2) and Zara (no. 3). And then, to make it a bit of a luxury sandwich, the next brand on the list is Hermès.


Interbrand uses a three-pronged approach to ranking the brands, a mix of their financial performance, their ability to create loyalty, and the power that the brand’s name has, and gathers data from a variety of sources, including Reuters and Twitter. As Rebecca Robins, Global Director at Interbrand and co-author of Meta-luxury puts it in an article for Harper’s Bazaar: “The sweet spot is where integrity of product meets integrity of brand experience.”

When you pull back and look at all brands, Apple, naturally, ranks as number one overall, followed by Google. Interestingly, if you add the category Sporting Goods to the fashion mix, Nike actually comes out on top, beating even Louis Vuitton. “Many of the luxury brands have been going through various transitions over the past few years and the values of their brands are reflective of that,” Robins tells GQ. “In the context of the ‘luxury reset’, the growth is coming from brands who are working through those transitions with brand at the gravitational centre of the business.”

Interestingly, there’s no overlap with the findings earlier this year from the Luxury Institute of which brands men with discretionary income choose to buy. That study found Calvin Klein came out on top, followed by Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Burberry, and Giorgio Armani. Our official stance is why are we rating and ranking and numbering all these brands? Each one has a special place in our hearts and our pocketbook.



September 19, 2016

The Big Business Of Red Carpet Bling
By: Rina Raphael
September 18, 2016

Jewelry companies of all sizes compete to get their baubles on the right celebrities at the right time—including the Emmys.

Actress Cate Blanchett is celebrated for her unconventional, avant-garde awards-show fashion. But at the 2015 Oscars, it was her jewelry that stole the red carpet show: She paired a long, simple black Maison Margiela gown with a Tiffany & Co. turquoise and diamond necklace. It dominated fashion headlines and soon thereafter, inspired knock-offs and Etsy reimaginings. Us Weeklypromoted a $75 Blanchett-inspired jewelry giveaway.

“We didn’t plan on it,” says Blanchett’s stylist, Elizabeth Stewart. “But it worked.”

When it comes to Hollywood baubles, the motto is generally, “Go big or go home.” To compete with couture gowns and Cinderella moments, top jewelers such as Bulgari, Chopard, and Forevermark go all out to secure their celebrity endorsements. It’s a lengthy, complicated loaning process, and a chance at worldwide brand recognition.

Sometimes celebrities or stylists are paid to wear the accessories, with compensation potentially hovering in the hundreds of thousands. Sometimes the jeweler will “thank” the star by “gifting” them jewelry. Sometimes the generous one-night loan is the sum total. It varies, and those involved are historically mum on the transaction specifics.

[Photo: Flickr user Kyle Garrity]

[Photo: Flickr user Kyle Garrity]


It starts with the stylist, the unsung maestro of all Hollywood red carpets. Stewart, whose clients also include Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and January Jones, starts with the dress, then moves her way to accessories. “Often, the jewelry comes last,” she says, but stresses that it is “very important” to create a full look.

The next step is the insurance companies. Jewelers might provide the insurance, but most commonly, stars already have existing relationships with insurance agents and a policy that seamlessly weaves in additional loans.

“Individuals of some level of wealth normally have some kind of jewelry coverage in place,” explains Janece White, vice president, North American underwriting and jewelry specialist of Chubb Personal Risk Services, which counts high-profile celebrities as clients. Even if it’s just for what she calls “the basics”—their engagement rings or earrings—deep-pocketed celebrities often get covered.

If the client is a “good customer” who has had a relationship with the agent for years, Chubb will offer the additional coverage, but they need the specifics of the loaned pieces and how they will be stored, transported, and secured. “It’s usually not just one piece of jewelry,” White says. “The stylist brings back a number of pieces—sometimes a couple million dollars worth.”

White and her associates are available throughout the days leading up to awards shows, waiting on frantic last-minute calls from clients who might need to insure a $5 million diamond choker. It’s a frenzy. They also act as consultants, offering recommendations on services such as security firms that can provide armored trucks and guards, which could run well over $20,000.

“Would it be acceptable to throw [the jewelry] in the back of a cab? No,” White says. “Would it be acceptable to have [the client] come with someone very secure to take the items back by personal car? Yes.” Most clients, says White, take good care of their loans, because “they want to borrow something again the next award season.”

With all that prep work, there is still no guarantee the star will wear a specific item. A stylist has multiple looks on hold in the dressing room hours prior to an event, and sometimes last-minute decisions occur.

“I can’t tell you how many times the backup dress becomes the dress,” said Stewart. “You really don’t know until it’s all put together.” And if the gown changes, so too will the accessories. Stewart cites a number of reasons why one or both might not make the final cut: hair, makeup, and even just one’s mood.


For many companies, the goal is to tie themselves to the right star whose name signifies aspirational wealth and glamour.

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in terms of determining who that million-dollar actor is going to be walking down the red carpet,” says style expert Anna De Souza. “It’s not about selling that particular piece—it’s about brand recognition.” Celebrities are repeatedly asked, “Who are you wearing?” with designer names appearing in celebrity and fashion magazines for weeks thereafter.

For stars, borrowing baubles is a mark of success. And consumers understand that the bigger the star, the bigger the bauble.

“Beyond the event itself, media will cover different celebrity looks—i.e., who wore what, not to mention a huge social media audience weighing in on each celebrity look, garnering mentions for brands,” says Crosby Noricks, a fashion brand strategist and founder of PR Couture. “When a company like Tiffany’s or Bulgari does a product-placement deal with a celebrity, if they get the right star, it can certainly add a valuable spotlight to their product, image, and brand.” It can also bolster a certain campaign. Cate Blanchett’s turquoise homerun served to promote Tiffany & Co.’s Blue Book collection.

Snagging an international star is paramount. This is especially true for smaller jewelry companies trying to secure placement in bigger retailers or to enter a new market, like Dubai. Being able to approach new opportunities with the claim that “Jennifer Lopez wears our jewelry” can be the ticket in.

Labels have their own specific needs and who they want to reach. For publicly traded companies like Tiffany & Co., which boasts over 300 stores and sells high and more modestly priced collections, it makes sense for them to place their products on a wide range of stars, ranging from Oscar winners to TV actresses, at various industry events. Chopard wants to master the red carpet, so you might see their products at movie premieres, in addition to awards shows.

Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie sells colorful jewelry with whimsical, intricate imagery like flowers and butterflies. Price points range from $100,000 to $7 million. The brand was relatively unknown until Madonna wore an Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie diamond cross pendant necklace to the 2009 Met Gala. “That put Anna on the global map,” says Carineh Martin, the company’s chief marketing officer.

Today, Hu’s styles adorn A-listers such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Emily Blunt—but only at the three high-profile events: the Oscars, the Met Gala, and the Cannes Film Festival. The designer takes the rare approach of relying on a select few celebrities to foster an image of exclusivity.

“It has to be the top event, the top actress, with the top jewels, otherwise it’s just not interesting for us,” Martin says. “If that means only one or two a year, that’s all we’re interested in.”

It makes sense, considering the brand has only one store, and most sales are private custom orders. That’s precisely what a certain clientele wants—the sense that they’re wearing something rare and special. “How can you be exclusive when you have 600 stores worldwide?” Martin says.

“We are about being private jewelers to a very small echelon of clientele, so everything we do is with that in mind, including our red carpet approach,” she says. “We could dress a lot more people and have a lot more awareness, but when you’re not readily available all over the world, what’s all that awareness going to do for you? We’d rather be known by fewer people, but the type of people who respond to our jewels.”


AS SEEN ON . . .

There are those who want exactly what the stars are wearing. Fine jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth has been contacted while celebrities were still modeling her designs on the red carpet. She sold two emerald cuffs, each at $150,000, while they were still on Julianne Moore’s wrist at the 2013 Met Gala.

Iconic moments can immediately help sell a style. Gwyneth Paltrow went down in fashion history following her 1999 Oscar win, when she clutched her gold statue in a pink Ralph Lauren gown and a 40-carat Harry Winston diamond necklace. The jewelry house immediately sold a few necklaces in the same style, reportedly at over $100,000 each. One buyer was Paltrow’s own father, who gave his daughter the jewels as a gift.

As for how this visibility affects companies’ bottom lines, that’s a complicated equation. According to Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a consulting firm serving more than 1,000 luxury and premium goods, what consumers consider the most prestigious and what consumers actually buy don’t always align. In a recent study, the Luxury Institute found that households earning over $200,000 were most familiar with the following brands, in descending order: Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Bulgari, Gucci, Chanel, Harry Winston, De Beers, Van Cleef & Arpels, Mikimoto, and David Yurman.

And here’s where they spent their money: Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Alexis Bittar, David Yurman, Gucci, Bulgari, Chanel, Boucheron, Mikimoto, and Judith Ripka. The two categories diverge, since consumers can’t always afford what they’re familiar with, but they still want designer.

Consumers with household incomes under $75,000 tend to own items from Tiffany (76%), Bulgari (32%), and David Yurman (21%).

“Millennials are very aspirational,” Pedraza says, noting their constant media intake of celebrity fashion and culture. They’re attuned to researching a product or a celebrity they want to emulate. “They are now in the know.” They might only buy a pendant necklace or bracelet, but they’re still buying.

The majority of Americans don’t have the means to even consider buying a pricey piece of jewelry that was seen on the red carpet, but there are other opportunities to partake in the luxury sector.

“The average TV viewer isn’t going to go out and purchase [the exact item], but they might pick up a pair of sunglasses, perfume, or wallet in order to align themselves with an aspirational brand worn by their favorite celebrity,” Noricks says.

Buying the jewelry isn’t necessarily the point of these celebrity endorsements. It’s to get the brand on your mind—for future purchases. They’re in this for the long haul.

As style expert Anna De Souza says, “It goes way beyond the 10-minute walk down the red carpet for these brands.”


High-End Shopping In The Sharing Economy: Now We Can All Have Couture
By: Rina Raphael
September 15, 2016

Between consignment e-tailers and luxury-label rental sites, consumers are approaching designer fashion with a whole new mentality.

The Kardashians don’t exemplify thriftiness, so it was surprising when Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie partnered with the luxury consignment site The RealReal in August. The sisters listed 200 pieces from their personal closets, ranging from Chanel purses to Christian Louboutin heels, at nearly 80% off retail value. “Now you can own pieces from my closet!” Khloé Kardashian proudly tweeted to her 21 million followers.

The entire collection sold out within 24 hours, a rep for The RealReal confirmed.

The reality TV stars’ participation confirmed the site as a destination for all incomes and demographics, including celebrities. Today, luxury rental e-retailers, consignment shops, and loan services are destigmatizing what was once considered the domain of aspirational shoppers. More than that, it’s democratizing high fashion and shifting how we buy (and keep) designer clothing.



The constant influx of celebrity news, celebrity stylists, and brand participation on social media means we know everyone’s fashion tastes. Whereas previous generations may have only been familiar with a few design houses—Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent, for instance—today’s woman is familiar with dozens more, ranging from big (Balmain, thanks to Kim Kardashian) to emerging (Jason Wu, thanks to the Michelle Obama).

Many women once dreamed of emulating Elizabeth Taylor’s wardrobe—and it remained just that: a dream. But today, a savvy shopper could potentially wear whatever Julia Roberts donned for the Oscars. The shopper might only rent the gown for a night, but the Cinderella moment is no longer a fairy-tale fantasy.

“Luxury is changing—and changing for the more value-centric consumers who are much greater in number than pure luxury [products],” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of the market research company The NPD Group.

“Something that used to be attainable purely for the elite is now becoming more accessible to those who are willing to splurge,” says style expert Jacqui Stafford. “It’s still a splurge, there’s no question about it. You’re still going to be spending at least $500 [to rent] a gown that you might have to pay $5,000 to buy.”

It’s not just Oscar winners who inspire the masses. Teen stars also employ celebrity stylists who deck them in Preen and Vetements. “These labels are definitely more accessible now, and we have social media to thank for that,” Stafford says. “Even Disney stars are sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week shows. You’re seeing the younger demographic really embrace couture, bringing it to a new audience.”

That means a growing percentage of teens and millennials now look way beyond what’s available at the neighborhood mall. They want Gucci, Cartier, and Chanel and they’re getting savvier when it comes to acquiring those marquee designer brands. They are not a demographic to ignore: According to a recent study, millennials spend $200 billion annually and are set to outspend baby boomers by 2017.

The Kardashians don’t exemplify thriftiness, so it was surprising when Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie partnered with the luxury consignment site The RealReal in August. The sisters listed 200 pieces from their personal closets, ranging from Chanel purses to Christian Louboutin heels, at nearly 80% off retail value. “Now you can own pieces from my closet!” Khloé Kardashian proudly tweeted to her 21 million followers.

The entire collection sold out within 24 hours, a rep for The RealReal confirmed.

The reality TV stars’ participation confirmed the site as a destination for all incomes and demographics, including celebrities. Today, luxury rental e-retailers, consignment shops, and loan services are destigmatizing what was once considered the domain of aspirational shoppers. More than that, it’s democratizing high fashion and shifting how we buy (and keep) designer clothing.

Many of The RealReal’s customers are millennials with strong brand loyalty. And they tend to adhere to a specific strategy. They start as first-time buyers, enjoying their discounted designer item until they eventually tire of it and resell it. They then take the money earned to the primary market—to, say, Neiman Marcus, where they buy a new high-end item. Once it’s been seen enough times by their social group, they sell it in the consignment space. Then the process repeats itself. In a way, they’re learning about investment, depreciation, and retaining value, but in the context of designer fashion.

“They’re saving their money for that special Celine bag, and when they’re done with it, they’re consigning it,” says Rati Sahi, chief merchant for The RealReal. “You see them think differently about their purchases. They’re calculating [whether] they can get 60% back with the resale value.”

They’re willing to pay, up to a point. “Millennials are interested in high fashion but not willing to pay those high prices,” Cohen says. “So discount sites, secondhand sites, and stores, as well as auction sites, do well for the luxe millennial.”

If Selena Gomez’s fans are wearing Chanel in greater numbers, how does that affect the label’s mystique? “Ease of access to luxe helps, but also hurts,” Cohen says. “The luxe market is also so accessible it loses some of the panache.”

Former interior designer Sallie Giordano was surrounded by professional women in New York City who complained of the increasing cost of maintaining their wardrobes. They had full social calendars: speaking engagements, conferences, galas. With designer retailer sales so frequent, consumers “felt stupid” if they purchased full price, Giordano says.

In April 2015, Giordano launched Couture Collective, a luxury clothing rental membership club. It’s like a “timeshare” of seasonal designer apparel. Members pay an annual fee of $250, then each season, they can borrow up to five dresses from, say, Valentino and Christian Dior, after they’ve purchased a one-fifth share in an item, at 20% of the retail price. “If you look at the statistics, people will wear a dress three or four times and then they consider it an old dress,” says Giordano, who says she sees lots of women who will only wear current season styles.

Couture Collective’s clientele ranges from wealthy women to upper-middle-class aspirational shoppers, all looking to showcase a well-kept designer closet.

“I think the average person is interested in wearing these [designer] styles because honestly, they’re better styles,” Giordano says, noting how high-end garments are well made with quality fabrics and flattering cuts. “When you wear these dresses, there’s a huge difference. You just feel special and confident.”

For Couture Collective’s clientele, there’s an appealing ease to the idea of renting: No need to store or care for items they intend to wear once. “It’s not about ownership anymore,” Giordano says. “It’s about being able to do something without all the responsibilities of ownership … This allows them to wear the trends of the designers and not feel ridiculous then they’re sitting unworn in their closet the next season.”

Social media has certainly changed the amount of times we wear an article of clothing. Couture Collective’s clients don’t want to repeat an outfit, especially if their event is photographed for publication on Instagram or Facebook.

The Instagramming of outfits was a consideration for Armarium, an on-demand luxury rental site that launched in November 2015. It is a true high-fashion lover’s dream, featuring selections from the top design houses as well as emerging international labels. While the options on Rent the Runway can feel a bit sartorially safe, Armarium caters to those looking to get noticed in fashion-forward garments. Some offerings are exclusive to Armarium, which directly negotiates with fashion houses.

“Social media has drastically changed the game of how we access products, particularly with statement pieces,” Armarium cofounder and CEO Trisha Gregory says. Her business works in tandem with retail and e-commerce, with the goal of serving as a complement to full-price investment staples like black pants or a white shirt. Armarium partnered with Net-a-Porter to assist customers in putting together an ensemble that’s part rented, part purchased. For example, you can rent a statement Sonia Rykiel tunic from Armarium, then link out to Net-a-Porter to finish the look with a splurge trouser or investment stiletto.

“This is a smart way to complement [a customer's] existing wardrobe and the pieces she will buy for the season,” says Gregory, whose clientele is made up primarily of women aged 28-34. Helping customers discover new items is a big aspect of the service; the full range of offerings are visible on the site and there are also showrooms with experienced stylists on hand. “We want to give them access to shopping in an innovative way,” Gregory says.

Armarium sees two types of renters. The first is the busy, high-net-worth individual who values convenience. She’s on the move, attending multiple conferences or vacationing in St. Barts. “We’re packing her bags and getting her out the door, easing her schedule,” Gregory says. “We’re seeing the stigma [around renting] debunked with what the high-net-worth individual thought about the concept of renting…. For them, this is about access to statement pieces that aren’t in the market most times.”

Then there’s what they call the “HENRY,” the high-earner-but-not-rich-yet aspirational shopper. She’s social media-savvy and cares about brand identity. In Gregory’s words, it’s “very hard” for her to re-wear pieces. Both types are return customers, on average 28% of the time. Business is booming: Sales have tripled since Armarium launched its mobile app in April, with a 40% month-over-month growth of app downloads and site visits.

“Women are starting to shop in a different way,” Gregory says. “People want an experience, and that’s what we strive to give them. This is basically a celebrity offering.”



One thing celebrities have easy access to that the average woman does not: bling.

Flont is a jewelry loan service set to launch this fall. It plans to do for bling what Couture Collective does for fashion. Flont lets customers borrow a certain amount of designer jewelry at different membership rates. For $199 a month, you get $60,000 worth of jewelry a year. Up your monthly fee to $1,999 and you’re entitled to $100,000 worth of jewelry over 12 months. Designers include red carpet favorites like Irene Neuwirth and Paige Novick.

But why would the well-to-do woman rent when she could buy? Flont’s founder Cormac Kinney points to the private-jet industry as a comparison.

“Certainly, if you can afford a NetJets membership, you can afford a jet—but that’s not the point. The point is convenience,” he says. “It’s much more convenient to let someone maintain it and you just use it when you need it.”

The company commissioned a survey sampling U.S. women with a minimum household income of $65,000 who had purchased $2,000 or more in fine 18K gold jewelry in the last 12 months. They found that 88% said they would buy a piece they loved even if it was worn by someone else before, and 75% were interested in jewelry sharing.

Many don’t want the complications that come with owning burglar-bait. Jewelry insurance, for example, adds an extra layer of cost, which can run over $10,000 a year. With Flont, insurance is included.

Then there are those who, inspired by the cult decluttering bible The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, simply want less stuff. Excess is no longer chic.

“A lot of young women out there think, ‘I want to have a great dress and great piece of jewelry and I’m willing to spend a few hundred dollars but I don’t want to own it,’” says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the consulting firm Luxury Institute. On the other end, baby boomers now see an alternative to constant consumption: “Many older women want to declutter their closets. They don’t want to be wasteful.”

This mentality inspired VillageLuxe, a community-based fashion borrowing site that connects women’s closets. It extends the age-old “can I borrow that?” philosophy across entire neighborhoods, like an Airbnb for fashion.

“There’s this sense of wastefulness and this big gap between my ability to wear more than three pieces at a time out of my 300 pieces,” says Julia Gudish Krieger, founder and CEO of VillageLuxe. “The [designer rental market] is focused on that aspirational consumer, but I think you polarize and leave out a whole big part of the market of people who don’t need the money—it’s just the sense of wastefulness.”

Krieger launched the site in July 2015 after asking herself, Which of my assets that I don’t use every single day would people want to rent? “After my house and my car, it’s my closet,” she says. (Though, in New York, one’s closet might actually top that list.)

“I’m such a believer in the sharing economy,” says Krieger, a former VC. “I think it’s where the world is heading in general, and it’s not just that people are becoming more efficient with how they monetize things when they’re not using them. The more interesting element is the social barriers between what’s mine and what’s yours have blended so much more in the last five years.”

Village Luxe is currently invite only, with a heavy emphasis on influencers and fashionistas who lend as well as borrow. As of August, more than 10,000 women were on the wait list. Current members are quite active, having already listed over 7,000 pieces. (VillageLuxe intends to open the list once they’ve scaled the company.) For the moment, members include Upper East Side wives with extensive jewelry collections and edgy fashion bloggers like Leandra Medine, i.e.,The Man Repeller.

The startup emphasizes vintage styles as well as current collections. Many of their clothes are garments you can’t find anywhere else, like an Alaïa cocktail dress from the ’90s. “We actually had Vogue start borrowing from us for editorials,” Krieger says.


Like The RealReal, Village Luxe is watching customer habits shift in real time.

“Once [our members] find out that VillageLuxe exists, they buy fewer but much more expensive pieces—statement pieces—because you know you can pull value out of them between wears,” Krieger says. “Then you won’t feel bad about that McQueen blazer that you really had your eye on, which you can physically only wear once a month with different groups of people.” This buy-and-share mentality, Krieger hopes, will motivate shoppers to make smarter decisions.

These sites can also alter the calculus of hemming and hawing over a pricey outfit. A customer is more likely to swipe their credit card if they know they can make some of their money back. “Women list things as soon as they buy them—they’ll list the items sometimes before it’s even arrived.”

Krieger says that aspirational shoppers especially are changing their strategies. They’re more likely to go for a few select designer items than whatever is on the shelf at H&M or Zara. They see it will actually pay for itself and even create a revenue stream. “They can justify going higher market,” she said.

A high overlap exists between the renters and the lenders, with over 40% who lend using their earnings as credit to borrow. “There’s circuitry in the market,” Krieger says. Women now think one step ahead when it comes to their wardrobe, debating what’s worth what and where to put their next dollar.

It’s a whole new way of shopping—and experts don’t see the trend waning. As Giordano says, “Once you start wearing designer, it’s really hard to go back.”


September 6, 2016

The Hunt for Asia Watch Sales
By: Victoria Gomelsky 
September 6, 2016

Even as Swiss watch exports continue to decline, watchmakers are sharply focused on trying to find just the right combination of marketing and retail strategies in Hong Kong and mainland China, the industry’s No.1 and No.4 sales markets.

For the first six months of this year, exports totaled $9.9 billion worldwide, a 10.6 percent slide from the same period in 2015. The steepest drop came in Hong Kong, which underwent a 26.7 percent decrease, with June the region’s 17th consecutive month of decline. Analysts attribute the slump in the city, long a favorite tax-free shopping spot for mainland Chinese and Western tourists alike, to numerous issues, including Beijing’s four-year-old anticorruption crackdown on gifts, changing consumer preferences and global currency challenges, chiefly a soaring Swiss franc and a strong dollar.

“The near term doesn’t look optimistic,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the New York-based Luxury Institute. “No one is willing to bet that in the next 24 months there will be a turnaround.”

What makes this crisis considerably more daunting for the watch industry than the global recession of 2008 is that the Swiss brands now have thoroughly assessed the mainland Chinese market and no longer expect that its demand, which peaked in 2012, will propel a spectacular recovery.

Clockwise, from top left, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor featuring the FFF team logo; Hu Ge with a Piaget Polo S; and Li Bingbing with Sascha Moeri, chief executive of the brand Carl F. Bucherer.

Clockwise, from top left, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor featuring the FFF team logo; Hu Ge with a Piaget Polo S; and Li Bingbing with Sascha Moeri, chief executive of the brand Carl F. Bucherer.

  • In July, Swiss watch exports to Britain increased 13.4 percent compared with the previous year.
  • Watchmakers attributed the increase to the pound’s decline since the June 23 vote. “We kept our prices unchanged while the GBP went down compared to other major currencies,” said Fabien Dutriaux, vice president of sales for Arnold & Son, a watch company based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. “We believe that this gap attracted some customers and generated this uptick.”
  • One month, however, doesn’t tell the whole story, cautioned Jean-Daniel Pasche, president of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. “The growth of July follows a substantial fall in the previous month and is explained in part by a favorable base effect,” he said. “But we cannot exclude that it is also due to the weakening of the pound and the consequent increase of sales. We will see next month if this growth is confirmed.”

Some watchmakers, however, continue to hope. “The state of the market in China is not as bad as what you read about,” said Philippe Léopold-Metzger, chief executive of Piaget.

He acknowledged that a glut in wholesale inventories had pushed many brands to buy back stock from authorized dealers in Hong Kong — an unusual occurrence in the watch world — but, he added, “retail is doing pretty well.”

In its report for the fiscal year that ended March 31, Piaget’s parent company, the Geneva-based luxury group Compagnie Financière Richemont — owner of such high-end brands as Cartier, Panerai and Jaeger-LeCoultre — indicated that its watchmakers’ sales had increased 3 percent year over year but that its operating contribution had declined 29 percent, in part because of “a difficult environment in Hong Kong, Macau and the Americas.”

Mr. Léopold-Metzger said that, with the change in focus from gifts to personal purchases, price had become more important, and the brand had responded by introducing its first collection entirely in steel. The Polo S, a casual men’s watch Piaget unveiled in July, gave it a new entry price of $9,350. “Consumers are young, and they’re going to love the look of the watch,” Mr. Léopold-Metzger said.

Of utmost importance, he added, is that the brand expands its business locally. To that end, Piaget has teamed with Hu Ge, the Chinese actor, singer and social media darling, to appear in Beijing last month for the Polo S collection. Mr. Léopold-Metzger described Mr. Hu as a “game changer” and said that his ambassadorial role would be publicized primarily through digital media.

Piaget isn’t alone in trying to connect with new consumers in new ways.

Swiss watch executives are gradually embracing the idea that to entice young buyers, a “combination of a strong social media strategy with smart celebrity endorsements becomes really powerful,” said David Sadigh, founder and chief executive of the Digital Luxury Group, a Geneva-based digital marketing agency.

The watchmaker Carl F. Bucherer is a believer. With Digital Luxury Group’s help, the brand introduced a repositioning campaign at the Baselworld fair in March featuring a new logo, “Lucerne 1888,” to highlight the brand’s Swiss hometown and its founding year. (That the logo incorporates — and repeats — the number 8, considered a sign of wealth and good fortune in China, is serendipitous, said Sascha Moeri, the brand’s chief executive.)

It also announced Li Bingbing as its ambassador. Western audiences may know her only for recent additions to the “Resident Evil” and “Transformer” franchises, but she is a star in China. “Li Bingbing had 37 million followers on China’s Weibo at the time the partnership was signed,” Mr. Sadigh said.

Alliances also are being sought beyond film and television. In May, the Geneva-based watchmaker Roger Dubuis announced its sponsorship of FFF Racing, a new GT championship automotive racing team founded by Fu Songyang, the 31-year-old Chinese tycoon. And to mark its new role at 15 races across Europe and Asia, the brand created an eight-piece limited edition of its Excalibur Quatuor model in black DLC titanium featuring the FFF logo at 12 o’clock.

Jean-Marc Pontroue, Dubuis’ chief executive, said the FFF partnership was intended to support the brand’s retail strategy in mainland China. A year ago, Roger Dubuis opened a second boutique in Beijing, in the luxury SKP mall, “and that has given visibility, credibility and access to many new customers,” he said. He also noted that moving the company’s Shanghai boutique to a busier retail location in April had “created 10 times more traffic.”

Several watchmakers say the global answer to growth lies in reducing distribution costs while maintaining sales.

“Three to four years ago we were at 500 points of sale globally, and now we’re at 300 and we continue to go down,” said Tim Saylor, chief marketing officer for the Audemars Piguet brand. “Currently we have less than 10 doors in all of China, with only two boutiques. We’re not sitting on a huge number of stores with huge stock and collapsing demand.”

August 30, 2016

Parisian Luggage Maker for the Truly Rich Seduces Luxury Giants
By: Angeline Benoit
August 29, 2016

Only the really wealthy know Goyard.

Unlike Gucci or Louis Vuitton, the more than 200-year-old Parisian maker of luxury luggage and bags — with one of its 19th-century-style trunks going for 52,380 euros ($59,315) — maintains a studied silence. It doesn’t advertise in glossy magazines, and is among the last of its kind not swallowed up by a larger peer. So far, that is.

Photropher: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Photropher: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Kering Chief Executive Officer Francois-Henri Pinault wouldn’t be averse to adding it to his company’s stable of brands, a person familiar with the matter said. While neither Kering nor its larger rival LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton will officially comment on whether they’re interested in Goyard, industry observers say it’s unlikely they would pass up a chance to consider buying it.

“In the event that Goyard is for sale, LVMH and Kering will surely take a look,” said Mario Ortelli, London-based head of luxury at Sanford C. Bernstein. “The Goyard brand would be compatible with Kering’s portfolio, for example, or LVMH could seek to increase its market share in leather goods rather than let another company build up a competitor to its brands like Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Celine.”

Businessman Jean-Michel Signoles, who bought Goyard in 1998 from its founding family, won’t say if he wants to sell the company he turned around by expanding sales to the new, burgeoning wave of the world’s wealthy.

Aristocrats’ Bags

Luggage maker of aristocrats in the 19th and 20th centuries, Goyard counted the Maharaja of Kapurthala, the Rockefellers, the Romanovs, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Karl Lagerfeld among its customers, it says on its website. The company, which boasts a “complete disregard for marketing or mass-production,” also says it doesn’t engage “in any form of e-commerce.” It declined to respond to Bloomberg’s questions.

A visit to Goyard’s flagship Paris store on rue Saint-Honore, across Louis Vuitton and Moynard outlets, is a journey into the past, with trunks hearkening back to a bygone era. The shop also features an array of cases and duffle bags ranging from less than 3,000 euros to close to 6,000 euros, as well as tote bags from 1,560 euros and a red crocodile-skin number for 37,000 euros. Beach bags, towels, pouches, wallets, hangers, belts, dog collars, slippers, umbrellas, pens and pen cases complete the collection.

On a recent day, customers had to wait outside the shop because it could only accommodate a limited number of clients. Assistants in white gloves attended to the shoppers fortunate enough to have entered.

“Goyard has evolved from a very functional brand, and while it remains very classic, it’s technically and aesthetically appealing to people, with its hand-painted initials, seals and images,” said Dana Telsey, founder of Telsey Advisory Group in New York.

Burgundy Touch

The company traces its history back to 1792 when it was founded in Paris by Pierre-Francois Martin as a maker of cases and boxes to transport fragile objects. Childless, Martin passed his company on to one of his workers, Louis-Henri Morel, who hired 17-year-old Francois Goyard in 1845. Goyard took over the company after Morel’s death.

In 1885, the business was taken over by Francois’s son Edmond, who came up with the company’s emblematic Goyardine canvass, a soft and waterproof mixture of linen and cotton inspired by the clothes worn by the family’s water log drivers and their community in the village of Clamecy in Burgundy. The business was then handed down from father to son until it was bought by Signoles, who brought his own sons Alex and Remi on board.

Raking in Profits

For all its claims to “timeless elegance, craftsmanship and exclusivity,” Goyard was accumulating losses when it was taken over by Signoles, the founder of children’s clothes brand Chipie. Signoles pumped in capital, refurbished the Saint-Honore store and opened outlets in Asia and North America as well as a couple in Europe and one in Sao Paulo.

“The fact that it’s no longer family-owned, that it’s gained a better-known name, expanded its leather goods assortment and opened new stores, like the one on Madison Avenue in New York, that already says that the brand is aiming for greater reach,” said Telsey.

The strategy has paid off, regulatory filings with Paris’s Commercial Court show. Revenue surged to 41.1 million euros in 2013, the latest available data on the company, from 1.14 million euros in 2000. Profit rose to 12.8 million euros from 18,000 euros as exports accounted for a third of sales from less than 4 percent.

Brilliant Job

“Signoles has done a brilliant job of maintaining the brand heritage while growing it slowly,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, in New York.

Still, to be all that it can be, Goyard may need some help, he said.

“To reach a critical mass where it can survive and thrive on a larger scale, while remaining unique and exclusive, it will need the larger capital and know-how that larger groups can provide, as happened for Bottega Veneta with Kering, or Vuitton with LVMH,” Pedraza said.


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