So in addition to a bazillion shows in the past month, there have also been some important business announcements. The big one was certainly the departure of Marc Jacobs from Louis Vuitton, but I’d like to share a few thoughts on the recent, frenzied, acquisitions of small brands by some of the big conglomerates. The main ones are LVMH buying stakes in J.W. Anderson, Altuzarra and footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood (they also appointed Anderson as to creative director at Loewe.)
1. It feels like the big brands are panicking. Growths at LVMH have slowed down (note, they are still making massive profits) and since the fashion world is always about selling more! more! more! it seems like the conglomerates are trying to find the next big thing. I am worried that this will spell bad news for these little brands if they don’t become the next big thing super fast, becasue they will be sold off. This doesn’t strike me as an incubation move, I am thinking if these small companies don’t grow extremely fast, they will be discarded.
2. I’m worried these brands are going to be forced to expand too quickly. Honestly, who outside of the fashion world actually knows who J.W. Anderson is? And let’s face it, we can probably expect a full range of accessories, perfume, and other licenses within the next few years – now that LVMH have stepped in. I don’t think a small brand like him will be ready.
3. These guys are going to be puppets for the conglomerates. I’m primarily referring to the fact that many of them will probably find themselves in creative director roles, like J.W. Anderson at Loewe. Is he ready to work for a big brand like that, AND run his own company? I doubt it. But I’d be surprised if he was at the point in his career where he will be able to say no to 16 collections a year, insane working hours, and crazy sales targets. I think the “big” designers know what’s involved in being at the helm of a conglomerate-owned company, and are more demanding in their contract negotiations. I doubt the less-experienced guys are able to get great terms (let’s face it, they can’t be that demanding) and as a result, they will be overloaded with work and probably have a burn out, à la Christophe Decarnin.
I think there are going to be a lot more acquisitions over the next few years, as the big companies scramble to diversify their brand portfolios. While I do think it is wonderful that these small brands are going to have the backing they need to grow, I don’t think the brand’s best interests will be a priority, because with these big companies, it always seems to be about bottom line, at the expense of everything else – including people’s health and well-being.
Images from Style.com.