Ghesquière, Gvasalia and others speak on FT Luxury Summit’s first day
On 15th and 16th May Lisbon has turned into the European luxury industry capital. The Financial Times Luxury Summit brought together 400 industry professionals in the Portuguese capital, from directors of leading groups and prestigious labels to emerging companies in search of partners.
The event was opened by the Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa, who underlined how the industry plays a key role for the future of Europe. "The luxury industry is an opportunity for the whole of Europe," he said. "Only we Europeans are able to blend creativity and tradition at such a high level." Costa also emphasised to business investors how Portugal "has preserved its tradition of being open to the world."
Indeed, in the first part of this year the industry has had its share of worries, from Brexit to Donald Trump, to the fear of an extreme right-wing presidency in France. According to former EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso, France, owing to its pivotal role, has a wealth of opportunities, though a mass exodus of corporations from London is by no means expected. "London remains a key economic hub. It enjoys a great competitive advantage through its know-how and expertise in trading with America and Asia, something other countries do not have," added Barroso, now at Goldman Sachs.
One of the high moments in the summit's first day was undoubtedly the video-conference talk from Japan by Nicolas Ghesquière, in the wake of its cruise collection show. It was the chance for Louis Vuitton's womenswear Creative Director to underline how the luxury industry's outlook is changing, notably owing to the impact of social media and, as is the case for the Cannes Film Festival, of red-carpet events. "A few years ago, [the outlook] was highly conservative, and reactions were negative right from the word go, he said. The mood has changed."
Among the great innovations of the last decade, one in particular is significant for Ghesquière. "I find it very interesting that all artificial fibres are now regarded as quite high grade. Several designers are now using them extensively, notably here in Japan." Asked by FashionNetwork.com about his opinion on 'see-now, buy now', his reply was as suave as it was sharp: "The results are highly debatable (...). Consumers must be made aware of why they need to wait until after the shows."
Some are claiming that catwalk shows are on the wane, but they are "more than ever crucial," according to the Creative Director of Loewe and J.W. Anderson, Jonathan Anderson. "Nowadays, when you stage a catwalk show, people talk about how to get there, about the anticipation and the after-show. This builds a mind map around the show that lasts at least one hour. And one hour, in fashion, is huge." The designer claimed he is waging a "crusade" against the luxury industry, and has taken up the gauntlet of making labels more enduring, now that customers are fickler than they ever were.
It is easy to understand contemporary consumers, according to Federico Marchetti, CEO of Yoox Net-A-Porter: "Be the consumer!" is Marchetti's solution. He underlined the key role played by innovation in his website's success, adding that innovation is only valuable if consumers can benefit from it. Asked by FashionNetwork.com about his perception of LVMH's 24Sèvres website, he told the audience: "There is room for competitors, this is a fast-growing market. Especially for a healthy competitor like LVMH, provided it will adopt a considered approach to image and pricing."
Another eagerly anticipated speaker was the CEO of Vetements, Guram Gvasalia, who travelled to the summit from his headquarters in Switzerland, where they have recently relocated to from Paris. "To describe fashion, you need to look at it from the outside," said Gvasalia, adding that "it's possible to remain outside without being an outsider." After causing amusement by advising labels to eliminate their merchandising departments, Guram Gvasalia explained why Vetements is now no longer keen to expand, while still leaving the door open for new product lines. "Our model corresponds to our DNA: it isn't necessarily going to work with someone else," he added.
On Tuesday, the FT Luxury Summit's audience will be addressed notably by Jean-François Palus (Kering), José Nevec (Farfetch), Elio Milantoni (Deloitte), Cyrille Vigneron (Cartier) and François-Henry Bennahmias (Audemars Piguet).
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