Luxury & Fashion Biz News: Nothing Sells Like Cars and Boys

Obi-Wan Kenobi: I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror . . . I feel something terrible has happened.

From the Elle article, Chanel’s Peter Philips resigns: “Team ELLE Beauty is in shock today as we announce that Philips, who has been working his creative magic at Chanel since 2008, has resigned (as Creative Director of Chanel beauty). This is the man who bought us so many covetable, trend-setting nail shades like the turquoise Nouvelle Vague (the most-wanted polish in 2010) and the mocha-toned Particuliere that caused a stir at the Spring/Summer 2010 show. Oh, and who can forget those Chanel ‘tattoo’ transfers.”

“You can cover up your weaknesses, you can enhance your beauty”

Chanel is one of the biggest names in luxury cosmetics with a fragrance and beauty business that reportedly pulls in over a billion dollars a year, but it was under the creative direction of Philips that the brand’s appeal broadened even further and sales increased to the point where his creative work behind the introduction of new colours and formulae has been recognised and honoured by his industry peers.

For example, Philips received the creative influencer of the year award in 2011, and is credited for reviving consumer interest in both the lipstick and nail polish product categories, with nail colour sales up 70% in 2012 alone (after increasing by an impressive 54% the previous year), and new hydrating, matte and sheer lipstick formulations outpacing lip gloss sales.

As Suzy Rushton wrote for The Independent: “The closest most of us get to owning a piece of Chanel, one of the world’s most successful and fiercely guarded luxury brands, is its lipstick, nail polish or a bottle of its bestselling No5 perfume. So the person who creates those desirable items is, in artistic terms at least, in charge of the greater part of its business.”

Interestingly enough, in that same interview, Philips noted that his creative predecessor stayed with Chanel for several decades, and that if he were happy with his position as Creative Director, “maybe I can stay here till I’m 80” . . . now that he’s stepped down after only five years instead of forty, does that mean he stopped being happy with his job at Chanel?

There is, however, something to be said for walking away while you’re still at the top of your game.

*Speaking of Millions of Voices Screaming: Abercrombie to close up to 50 US stores“Abercrombie & Fitch said it would close 40 to 50 stores in the US this year as the youth fashion retailer’s shares tumbled following weak sales in the crucial Christmas quarter . . . In an attempt to offset slower US growth, Abercrombie, which operates namesake stores as well as surf-themed Hollister and Abercrombie Kids, has made a big push overseas and online. But its international segment performed even more poorly than the domestic stores, with like-for-like sales down 14 per cent.”

Ouch. That’s a big drop for a company that used to epitomise teen-to-twenty-something cool. Granted, the A&F + Bruce Weber train has been coasting on its former “cool” for what seems like aeons (the homo as forbidden exotic meme is so last century), but maybe all they need is a tank fuel of Ferrari juice and they could jumpstart that particular dead engine (see: And the world’s most powerful brand is . . . Ferrari).

*NOTE: Prada ditched the gender subversion tactics for classic male profiling almost immediately after the financial earthquake shook the banking and monied crowds in late 2008, and their sales have soared ever since (see: Prada Sales Jump 29% on Higher European Luxury Demand).

*Weirdly Related: If Ferrari has the most powerful branding on the planet, then Miuccia Prada’s “Girls Who Love Cars” collection a few seasons ago was a way of tapping into that Ferrari vibe that never fails to result in the ka-ching of cash registers.

Prada Spring 2012 — rev it up, girls

That was right around the time of the Prada Hong Kong IPO, when Prada desperately needed to convince nervous investors that their brand was a sure thing — so obviously nothing sells like boys and cars.

Well, and lipstick and nail polish, too, I guess, but that probably has more to do with boys and cars than anyone cares to admit.

*So Hot Off the Presses (it almost hurts): Fashion journalist (and stale hamburger) Cathy Horyn caught the just-debuted Fall 2013 Prada womenswear collection in Milan and writes that “male designers have never been good at the kind of fashion known as ‘ugly chic.’ That emotional territory belongs to female designers. Actually, the territory belongs to just one (Miuccia Prada)”.

I personally think the “ugly chic” club could be expanded to a membership of two by including the talented Consuelo Castiglioni of Marni.

*Related, yet not so weirdly: Miuccia Prada reworked forty dresses from her design archives for use in the upcoming Great Gatsby movie, which (coincidentally?) seems to feature *a lot* of cool cars:

I’m sensing a theme, and rolling right along with that theme, I’m suggesting snow tires: Winter for luxury in China“Report from Bain & Company confirmed that the growth rate of Chinese luxury market significantly decreased to 7% in 2012 from 30% in 2011. The increase of Chinese consumers shopping overseas is believed to be one main reason for the slump of Chinese luxury market . . . According to data from Bain & Company, 60 percent of the total luxury consumption of Chinese people was taken place overseas. The huge price gap in between Chinese market and overseas market has largely encourages the overseas consumption.”

Which would certainly explain why the state Chinese media is attempting to publicly shame their citizens who travel to other countries and spend money on luxury goods instead of buying bags, shoes and jewellery from stores at home: “China’s state broadcaster ran a story on Monday highlighting the vast amount of money consumers are spending overseas to buy luxury goods abroad, evading mainland tariffs that increase prices on goods by 30% to 50%. The broadcast came shortly after a commentary from China’s official Xinhua news agency that criticized luxury consumers, saying that they are avoiding tariffs that would benefit the nation.”

Wow. A 30%-to-50% tariff on luxury goods? No wonder Chinese tourists are spending like drunken sailors when they travel — everything must seem bizarrely affordable once they hit the department stores in Europe and the US.

To be fair, many Chinese prefer to purchase their branded luxury goods outside of China not because of tax avoidance, but because of the domestic counterfeiting problem. See: China arrests 73, seizes 20,000 fake luxury bags in busts and Fake Hermes factory busted in Heyuan and Luxury counterfeiting still big business in China’s southern cities and so on.

When Chinese tourists lug home an Hermes bag that they purchased from an Hermes shop in Paris, they’ll likely sleep a little better knowing that they spent their hard-earned money on the real thing.

The real, absurdly-marked-up-retail-price thing, I mean. Because even though Chinese tourists are spending outside of China to take advantage of comparably lower prices and a guarantee of authenticity, it doesn’t mean the brands won’t do their best to price-gouge them anyway: “Considering mainland Chinese constitute a large portion of overseas sales, hiking up prices seems to not only leave China’s nose-bleed ticket prices unresolved, but threatens the European market as well. Chinese tourists traveling to Europe in good faith that their favourite luxury items will be sold at more affordable prices could be discouraged from returning if the price gap is mitigated solely by price increases.”

*Related: Bottega Veneta to invest in building more boutiques in Europe, says Europe is a shop window for China. The idea being that Chinese tourists will travel to Europe, see a bunch of terrific Bottega Veneta boutiques where they’ll get an idea of a very successful luxury brand, and then go back home and purchase it there, too.

*Up and Coming: PPR recently announced a majority investment in Christopher Kane, one of London’s hottest young fashion design talents. Not to be outdone, LVMH secured its own investment in young French designer Maxime Simoens, a name that was rumoured to replace Galliano at Dior before Raf Simons was brought on board.

Christopher Kane Fall 2013 – The House that PPR is building

Christopher Kane’s name was floated as a potential head designer for PPR’s Balenciaga label after Nicolas Ghesquière left, but NYC talent Alexander Wang was hired, instead (see: Why Alexander Wang Was Given The Keys To Balenciaga).


  • Hi Nathan and good morning to you. I am not sure that I have ever said to you – but, one of my favorite things about your blog is the wonderful entre into foreign publications that you give us … especially into Chinese Publications. These more often than not are publications with which I have had no contact and that I am unaware of. So, thanks.

    OK … nail polish Mercedes? I get it. Or, I got it until going to the site and carefully viewing the nails – each very poorly painted. NP must be put on carefully and look beautiful. It was applied poorly. Very amusing.

    Something about fake luxury goods, they used to sell on the streets and I am sure that they still do. You know, fake Birkin for $50. Now one gets to buy a fake Birkin for $15,000. Now my figures are not accurate but I have seen that sort of thing now all over the Net. This is especially true when fakers are selling used items.

    • Hi Liz — I’m so happy to hear you say that, because one of the things I’m trying to do is show the broader international voice of fashion industry reporting. It can be very easy to focus simply on stories that come out of the US and the UK, but then that neglects the opinions and perspectives coming out of emerging (to foreign dominant) markets like China, India and the Middle East.

      So thank you for following the links. They’re deliberately chosen for how far afield they’ll lead you once you drop in. :)

      The nail polish story, too! There are some fantastic nail colour blogs with exquisite photographs of perfect nails, but I had to link to this one because the varnish was applied so badly that it seemed almost a joke at first.

      There was a recent scare in China over fake Birkin bags with counterfeit Hermes receipts out of Hong Kong. The sellers would supply these (very real looking) receipts to assure the buyer that they were getting the real deal, when, in fact, they weren’t.

      So yeah, the fake-bag industry has graduated from $50 knock-offs to $15,000 knock-offs. It’s no wonder that Chinese tourists would rather buy their Birkins directly from a boutique in Paris.