Luxury & Fashion Biz News: What’s next for Missoni? Plus, Battle for control of Lacoste ends in defeat, and Downton Abbey rules the menswear market

WHAT’S NEXT FOR MISSONI? — This past week, newswires buzzed over the disappearance of Missoni’s CEO and executive marketing director Vittorio Missoni (who co-owns the Missoni brand alongside his two siblings, Luca and Angela) in a private plane crash off the coast of Venezuela. Five other passengers are also declared missing, including the plane’s pilots and Vittorio Missoni’s wife.

Some Missoni family members are clinging to hijacking and kidnapping theories, but it’s more likely that the twin-engine plane crashed into the ocean due to unexpected weather conditions, making recovery of the plane and/or the bodies of the missing passengers next to impossible.

*NOTE: Because of the Missoni family’s wealth and prominence among Italy’s movers and shakers, the news of Vittorio’s disappearance has consumed Italian media channels.

Under Vittorio’s marketing guidance, the Missoni brand has grown from a small family-owned business to an over $100 million dollar empire, branching out from its colourful striped knitwear into accessories, perfume, home furnishings, branded hotels, and recently collaborating with Target on a collection that sold out almost instantly, crashing Target’s website and causing a frenzy of reselling on eBay.

Missoni Spring 2013 womenswear — the brand’s 60th anniversary collection

Missoni’s Fall 2013 menswear line is scheduled to show in Milan this coming week, and the family has indicated that the collection will debut as planned, though it’s doubtful any of the family members will attend (and that includes creative director Luca and designer Angela).

The Missoni brand is one of the last global fashion brands still privately owned and operated by its founding family.

*SPEAKING OF ITALIAN FASHION BRANDS: Roberto Cavalli famously blasted Anna Wintour on his Twitter account this past April, accusing the high-powered editor of not attending his shows because he doesn’t advertise in her magazine — but have the two now air-kissed and made up? A Roberto Cavalli ad has just popped up in American Vogue magazine for the first time in years. I suspect Ms. Wintour will be sitting front row at Cavalli’s next womenswear show — quid pro quo.

MORE FAMILY DRAMA: The Lacoste family is no longer in control of the Lacoste brand for the first time since René Lacoste founded the sportswear company in 1933.

On the eve of the brand’s 80th anniversary year, a bitter family war erupted over the future of Lacoste which saw the forced ousting of Michel Lacoste as CEO by his daughter, Sophie Lacoste Dournel, and resulted in family members selling their shares to the Maus Frères textile group, ultimately ceding 100% control of Lacoste to the Swiss company that’s been a business partner with Lacoste for over 15 years.

*Related Aside: In 2010, Lacoste lost its head designer, Christophe Lemaire, to Hermes. Lemaire replaced Jean-Paul Gaultier, with Hermes expressing the desire to head in a more intimate, casual direction than what the flamboyant Gaultier was capable of producing for the French heritage-luxury company.

Some media outlets attempted to portray Gaultier as having been vital to reinventing Hermes womenswear, but the proof is in the pudding — Hermes has flourished without Gaultier while Gaultier has struggled for inspiration post-Hermes, falling back on tired 80’s pop-star retreads and an Amy Winehouse homage that prompted outrage from fans and criticism from Winehouse’s family.

Hermes Spring 2013 — a relaxed Lemaire cool

*Interesting Tidbit: Hermes CEO Patrick Thomas sat on the board of Lacoste until Michel Lacoste was forced out in 2012. Thomas then resigned his position as a voting board member of Lacoste.

Lacoste presently sells in 110 countries with reported annual revenues of $1.6 billion dollars. There was, however, a brief wrinkle in the storied Lacoste image when Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik insisted on wearing crocodile-emblazoned Lacoste shirts to his court appearances in 2011. The Paris daily Liberation said the Breivik-Lacoste connection was a “nightmare” for the Lacoste company.

Lacoste asked Norwegian police to forbid Breivik from wearing their clothing

*Other, Better Brand Associations: After rumours last year of going their separate ways, Tiffany and artist Elsa Peretti have renewed their partnership for another twenty years in a very generous deal that reveals just how important the Peretti product line is to Tiffany’s overall revenue stream.

“Peretti jewellery and other branded products accounted for 10 percent of Tiffany’s total net sales for the past three years,” writes Forbes in their article, The Tiffany-Peretti Deal Could Be Worth $436 Million. “If Tiffany were to lose this business it would have created a huge sales hole that would be difficult to fill—particularly during a time when consumers have become much more cautious of their discretionary spending.”

PLAYING THE FASHION GAME: Top sports figures are trading the downtown hip-hop-thug style for a kinder, gentler nerd chic“What’s most surreal about what LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are wearing is that the clothes are versions of what, in the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, got kids terrorised . . . Clothes that once stood as an open invitation to bullies looking for something to hang on the back of a bathroom door are what (LeBron) James now wears to rap alongside Lil Wayne. Clothes that once signified whiteness, squareness, suburbanness, sissyness, in the minds of some NBA players no longer do.”

Which helps explain why luxury menswear brands like Brunello Cucinelli are shrugging off the recessionary blues and selling like . . . well, geek-chic hotcakes, with WWD reporting that classic British menswear is predicted to increase sales by 16% over the next several years as male consumers (especially in China) embrace the pleasures of finely tailored and accessorised Saville Row style.

Of course, the wild popularity of the Downton Abbey series hasn’t hurt in that respect, either, and may be as much responsible for the resurgence of interest in tailored Brit menswear as anything else over the last three years. After all, if millions of women are swooning over a show where men dress in tuxedoes for dinner and don three-piece tweed suits just to stroll the grounds, that’s bound to have at least some small ripple of effect on real world behaviour.

*RELATED: GQ Magazine just recently named Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens as Britain’s Best Dressed Man, while Ralph Lauren has been shamelessly riding the Downton Abbey coattails to retail success, staging a live fashion show at the estate where the series is filmed and pledging financial support to the PBS Masterpiece series.

Hedge Funds are even snapping up Savile Row tailors in a bid to profit from the pop-culture mania for all things Downton: New owners bring hedge fund money and design skills to Savile Row tailor Huntsman

Ralph Lauren leaps aboard the Downton Abbey train

So, yeah, Downton Abbey is turning out to be an even bigger boon for the fashion industry than Mad Men ever was — maybe because the show’s late 19th to early 20th century layering and accessorising affords so much more room for exploitation than Mad Men’s simpler sixties-era style could support.

*Of Passing Interest: Get ready for an American version of Downton Abbey“(NBC) released the news that it is tapping the ‘Downton Abbey’ creator for a new series titled ‘The Gilded Age.’ According to NBC, it will be set in 19th-century New York and focus on ‘the princes of the American Renaissance’ which would include wealthy businessmen and high-society figures like Carnegie, JP Morgan and Rockefeller.

A stroke of luck for menswear designers on the US side of the pond. All those American made suits, plus the wide range of American vintage workwear that Japanese designers have been lately plundering to great success.


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