9 November 2013

There are few patterns in fashion from the business point-of-view that I notice, how to make a label BIG. And as big I mean, really big.

The first, for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Burberry, it is a story about very old and historic houses. Hermès was started in 1837 by producing one of the finest wrought harnesses and bridles for the carriage trade. Louis Vuitton started it in 1854 from a simple idea of creating trunks that was easily stacked (against rounded-top ones). Burberry has its own story with a quite similar plot. Begun in 1856 by a 21-year-old (!) Thomas Burberry, the company was established by developing outdoors attire, with many notable products worn by prominent adventurers; in 1911 they dressed Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole; Ernest Shackleton in 1914, who led an expedition to cross Antarctica; and in 1924, a Burberry gabardine jacket was worn by George Mallory on his ill-fated attempt on Mount Everest. It was quite impressive, indeed. And all those three have similar trajectory, with each of them represents what they are doing best–thricely hired creative directors (or designers as you'd prefer to call it) and release ready-to-wear collections aside accessory and appliances they initially did and are well known for. Three of them now have around 340, 440, and 500 stores respectively around the planet. I remember an article about how Louis Vuitton grew exponentially after they hired Marc Jacobs and released womenswear line. Or Burberry with Christopher Bailey.

So, how to make it THAT big if you have less-than-a-decade fashion house? Should you wait until it's rotten and resurrected by your descendants, but then you already leave the world, meaning you can only see it from heaven? Of course not.

You can. Few fashion house already did. One of them is the House of Valentino.

Giancarlo Giametti explains it very well. And that's why I love writing about haute couture, because this time, couture is the answer.

Giancarlo, a man behind the business side of a venerable label of Valentino, has the  point. Similar with Pierre Bergé at (and with) Yves Saint Laurent, Giancarlo, not only a partner in business but in personal relationship, had noticed, that the way of making it big, is to make impression, to make an image (isn't that what all in fashion is all about?). Sg. Giametti depicts it as an umbrella, as an establishment, to start there to become a very strong at the top, and then come down. In my opinion, there's no better way to flaunt and vaunt the spirit and characteristic of the house rather than releasing a couture line, the tip top of the extravagance and quality, the peak of a fashion pyramid. In there, in the laboratory of design, you can create literally anything without people calling you crazy or absurd, but also, you are pushed to create the best in everything, using the best materials, executed in the best and most intricate techniques possible. Overall, the best in all. Sydney Toledano, the president of Dior, gave a hint about it on BBC documentary The Secret World of Haute Couture, saying that haute couture is "not a volume business. We talk about very spesifc customers. We're going to take ideas of it, a part of it, the jacket, the embroidery... and then we develop the business".

It's been clear, that couture line doesn't necessarily generate revenue (actually only House of Chanel that admits they make a decent amount of profit from couture line). With a blatant proof of Chrstian Lacroix bankruptcy in 2009, in fact, many couture houses don't really make sky high sales, even though what they present on runway is something beyond magic. The actual money lies upon the marketing derived from there, the lower layer of the castes; ready-to-wear, accessory, and probably the widest, perfumes.

In summary, having old fashion house is not a guarantee of world-wide spread of success. Of course in some point it comes back to a definition of success. You can call Goyard store isn't available every few yards away, but who doesn't know and desire a Goyard bag. And having couture line doesn't promise it either. But it can be a way to become global, especially when you already have a ready-to-wear line. Show off what you've got to get noticed. Pull out the best in you. Go crazy. Get famous.

Signorfandi, or, in this riddiculus market, simply put a riddiculus price tag. I am sure some crazy rich asians will buy it...

ps. When are those old houses like Goyard and Fauré Le Page going to hire someone to create ready-to-wear clothing line?