Luxury & Fashion Biz News: Marni is the new Diesel, Perfume is the new Atomic Explosion, and Luxury Brands narrow their focus

*Another One Bits the Dust: Diesel Jeans founder Renzo Rosso has purchased a majority stake in quirky-contemporary fashion brand Marni, known for their retro inspired prints and colours, architectural silhouettes and chunky platform heels.

Marni joins a small stable of high-fashion brands that Rosso has collected under his Only The Brave holding company, which includes high-fashion/high-concept brands like Maison Martin Margiela and Victor & Rolfe, contemporary streetwear from 55DSL, and Staff International, a company that manufactures and distributes clothing for other fashion brands, such as DSquared2 and Vivienne Westwoood.

Marni Spring 2013 — canvases for the modern woman

Rosso was said to have expressed an interest in purchasing a controlling stake in the Marni brand back in July of 2012 when Gianni and Consuelo Castiglioni (Marni’s founding couple) were floating the idea of taking the company public on the stock exchange in order to raise money to fund the brand’s global expansion plans.

At the time of the reporting, both Rosso and the Castiglionis denied a deal was in the works, with Gianni Castiglioni reluctant to relinquish control of the brand to someone else — apparently, today’s difficult financial climate forced him to change his mind; happily, Consuelo Castiglioni will remain as the brand’s creative director . . . at least for now (see: Renzo Rosso buys Marni stake to boost multi-band conglomerate plans).

I say “for now” because it didn’t take very long for Martin Margiela to flee his namesake brand once Rosso acquired a controlling stake.

*A Seeming Coincidence?: Marni and the Rosso-owned Maison Martin Margiela had back to back collaborations with fast-fashion retailer H&M, with the Marni collaboration a bigger hit with shoppers than the more experimental Margiela, which some sources claimed was too expensive and conceptual to adequately connect with mainstream consumers.

*Speaking of Maison Martin Margiela: It was announced just this past week that the House of Margiela was awarded official haute couture status by the French fashion’s governing body, the Chambre Syndicale. The house was previously a “correspondent member” of the haute couture society, and has been showing artisanal collections that coincided with the Paris couture schedule for the past several years — but now they can show as part of the official schedule along with the other thirteen haute couture members.

Margiela’s first official haute couture showing will be January 23, 2013.

Maison Martin Margiela artisanal collection for Fall 2010

I do find this announcement, so soon after the Margiela H&M collaboration, to be a bit of a fashion-industry whiplash moment.

*Point of Interest: Brands like Giorgio Armani and Azzedine Alaïa are correspondent (rather than official) members of the haute couture society. There are also eleven designated guest members. And Givenchy, one of the fourteen official members, announced that it would not participate in the upcoming haute couture calendar, though they’ll still create haute couture for private clients and celebrity studded events, like the Oscar Awards and the annual Met Costume Institute Gala (see: Givenchy Won’t Show Couture this Season).

*Related in a Tangential Way: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the child-star TV actresses turned high-end fashion designers, have saddled up with contemporary pop-artist Damien Hirst for a limited-edition collection of uber-expensive backpacks decorated in Hirst’s famous polka dots and pills.

You can read a fantastic (and fantastically scathing) article about Damien Hirst’s transformation from artist to luxury brand here: Damien Hirst’s Transition from Artist to Luxury Brand Is Complete — after all, why simply lend your name and artistic credibility to a luxury-brand collaboration when you can be your own luxury brand (and keep the profits all to yourself, naturally)?

*As Long as We’re On the Topic of Art and Luxury: Fashion journalist Cathy Horyn wrote a terrific article about upscale department store Barneys and its new pop-art collecting, hedge-fund managing owner, Richard Perry: Barneys Remakes Itself for the New New York — ““Sure, bags are profitable, (Richard Perry) said, but look how they have become these highly sought-after objects. They deserve to be presented in a gallery, which in his view is what the (newly remodelled) main floor resembles. ‘But it’s a sea of bags,’ I said. ‘Is that really Barneys?’ He smiled. ‘I think bags are the most beautiful art in the market today.'”

It pretty much sums up in eight short pages *everything* that’s wrong with the contemporary luxury and art markets today.

The EU recently announced a proposed set of new raw material restrictions for the fragrance industry, which has been met with an uproar from perfumers and consumers alike.

From the Reuters article, EU threat spotlights perfume makers’ secrets: “If new, even stricter rules are adopted, hundreds of perfumes would have to be reformulated with synthetic allergen-free contents. That, many in the industry fear, could threaten their business. ‘If this law goes ahead I am finished, as my perfumes are all filled with these ingredients,’ said Frederic Malle, who owns high-end perfume company Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. The impact on luxury perfume brands as a whole would, he said, be ‘like an atomic explosion and we would not have the means to rebuild ourselves.'”

Victoria Frolova of the fragrance-centric website Bois de Jasmin has more information for those interested in the future of the fragrance industry and how these proposed EU regulations might affect their favourite scented products: Fragrance Regulations Q and A: “Like an Atomic Explosion”

*Speaking of Perfumes: Did you know that Chanel No. 5 is cheaper by the litre than buying ink for your printer?: “A 3.5ml cartridge of yellow HP ink costs $10.50 through the Good Guys, meaning consumers will pay $3/ml — or $3000 per litre . . . Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just said the price of printer inks was “notoriously high” and on a per-litre basis it is ‘one of the most expensive liquids on the planet’.”

*And as Long as We’re Talking About Chanel No. 5: Brad Pitt’s near-incoherent star-turn in Chanel No. 5’s latest ad campaign is allegedly responsible for sending the actor spiralling into a mid-life crisis: “The Sun reports a ‘source’ in the Pitt camp saying that the backlash from the Chanel ad and the approach of his 50th birthday has left the actor in the grip of ‘a classic mid-life crisis’. Pitt is ‘not in a great place at the moment’, the source says. ‘He’s like a parody of himself in that ad — and he’s not used to being the butt of people’s jokes.'”

Seriously, when the ad’s relatively unknown director is even trying to put public distance between his career and the campaign, then you know the whole thing is a PR disaster. I’ve seen bad perfume adverts before, but I’ve never seen an ad’s director try to shift the blame onto someone else’s shoulders.

All I can say is, the executives at Dior must be dancing a happy little jig in their corner offices right now. They have their ever-popular Dior J’Adore commercials to seduce consumers during the holidays, while Chanel has . . . well, Chanel has this:

The ad campaign that threatens to derail careers and ruin lives

I don’t think I need to tell you who’s winning that particular public perception battle.


A.) Tom Ford has decided to abandon the VIP exclusivity of his tightly controlled, invite-only fashion shows for a place on the more publicly accessible London Fashion Week schedule.

So, does this mean that the lack of internet chatter about his collections was more damaging than the spectre of fast-fashion knockoffs?

B.) How the crappy economy put a stake through the heart of the conspicuous fashion and luxury consumption portrayed on TV shows like Gossip Girl.

Could this be why Anna Wintour is angling for a US ambassador position — because she knows the gig is up for “spend spend spend!”-era magazines like Vogue?

*Sealing the Deal: Another sign that conspicuous consumption is so last year? The biggest jewellery trend right now is in the obviously and overtly faux.

C.) Princesses vs. Pop Stars — how contemporary luxury brands are narrowing their target consumers.

With aspirational shoppers out of the picture, the big luxury brands have realised that fighting over the same customers is a losing proposition, so they turn to specialising — Dior makes an appeal for the feminine red carpet princesses, YSL aims at the rock star chicks, Chanel targets the casual conservatives, and so on.

This also helps them to establish a cohesive theme for their efforts. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, the heritage houses are going back to their roots; of course, it doesn’t hurt that going back to their roots is pretty much what the new globe-trotting Chinese consumer wants (see: British Heritage Brands Attract China’s Seasoned Shopper).


  • FiveoaksBouquet

    Nathan, what a gorgeous walking path in Albert Park!

    If Brad Pitt had washed his hair, put on a classy suit and had a cup of coffee before starting to speak, something better might have come from that ad. I don’t want to wish bad on anyone but frankly I’m glad they are getting the message that the ad represents un-Chanel-like behaviour. Chanel and the great unwashed do not go together. What I would like to hear is what the powers that be at Chanel are saying about the ad. I’m guessing their conclusions will depend on whether it paid off in profits, regardless of universal panning but one would hope they would also be concerned about damage to their previously impeccable image.

    I like the Marni look and I hope that type of style comes more into the popular domain.

    • Five — Thanks re: the pic of the park. I’m hoping to get out into the neighbourhoods and park this Christmas when the city is quiet and take a bunch of pictures undisturbed.

      Re: Chanel — I totally agree. It was such a misfire all around. I’m sure they thought, “Hey, we’re going to do something *completely* different. We’ll have a male sex symbol instead of a female celebrity, he’ll be dressed casually to appeal to a younger demographic, we’ll have him read semi-poetic thoughts that sound like they might be deep but are really just familiar platitudes. It’ll work like gangbusters!”

      And then everyone started making fun of the campaign and no one knew what to do. Brad Pitt was making the usual media rounds to promote a new movie, which is usually just fluff chatter about how great he is and isn’t this new movie going to be wonderful, but instead, the one thing the reporters wanted to talk to him about was what he thought of the Saturday Night Live parody mocking his Chanel No. 5 commercial.

      I can’t even imagine what the executives at Chanel who greenlighted the campaign are thinking right now. Probably eating TUMS by the handful as they see their perfume sales stay flat over the holidays. Because mainstream consumers are going to remember the public mocking, and they’re not going to want to present a Christmas gift that’s going to be made fun of.

      So yeah, I’m really interested in seeing what happens. If it worked for them, then I’ll be impressed. That maybe all that chatter, even if most of it was negative, provoked awareness that paid off. I doubt that’s the case, but I’m happy to be wrong.

      And I’ve been a fan of Marni for years. I’m not certain that Renzo Rosso is the right business partner for them to be taking on, but he does know his way around global distribution and expansion, and how to appeal to a mass global audience. And he has investments in two other very experimental brands that he’s helped mainstream a bit (Victor & Rolf and Martin Margiela), but still . . .

      I’m not convinced that Marni *needed* to expand. They have a great niche style and make very appealing, off-beat clothing and accessories. I guess though, anymore, that it’s necessary to partner up with deep pockets in order to stay in business, and Renzo Rosso has very deep pockets.

      So I’ll adopt your much more positive outlook and welcome the enlarging of the Marni influence on a broader playing field.

  • Little Red

    Those British heritage brands with their centuries-long history and tradition along with various royal warrants are pretty seductive to those of us who come from places which lack them but have a long-standing artistic traditions.

    • Hi LR — I think they’re just pretty seductive, period, but yes, especially so when they meet up with a culture that has a long history of valued artistic creation.

      It’s almost as if the West has become jaded from its long standing relationship to luxury, so when companies like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Ferragamo, etc. spread into China and Eastern Europe and South America, there’s a sudden gasp of recognition on the part of consumers who identify with the backstory and can appreciate what it conveys.

      Maybe Western Europe and the US will come back around to their own appreciation of artistic tradition once the glut of over-produced, over-glittered merchandise subsides.

      Wait — it is going to eventually subside, right?

      • Little Red

        I think so if only because nothing lasts forever.