3 Thoughts on the Recent Acquisitions

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.)

J.W. Anderson, LVMH, acquisitions, young designers, the fashion industry

J.W. ANderson Fall 2013 shows. I’m not sure he is ready to lead a major brand and run his own under the eye of a big conglomerate.

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.

J.W. Anderson, LVMH, acquisitions, young designers, the fashion industry

Altuzarra Spring Summer 2014.

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.

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  • H.T

    Now that Alexander Wang is at Balenciaga, it seems that these big conglomerates are desperate to employ someone with the “cool factor” needed to reinvent staid luxury labels like Loewe. J.W. Anderson may not be well-known beyond fashion circles, but he’s young and cool and his profile is quickly rising (let’s not forget his work for Versus).

    This reminds me of what was happening in the late 90s. Tom Ford was already making big bucks for Gucci/PPR, so Bernard Arnault decided to fight fire with fire and hired three Americans to take over his LVMH brands: Narciso Rodriguez at Loewe, Michael Kors at Celine, and Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton. They were young and cool, just like Anderson and Altuzarra are now. Is history just repeating itself? Is Bernard Arnault THAT predictable?

  • Inés Cruz

    I think he is…

  • Rajan Sami

    Wang seems to be more commercial than the three listed above. His ability to shift product was surely a factor in him being chosen. I’m interested to see how Altuzarra and JWA will interpret their (at times difficult) styles for a more mainstream consumer.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Maybe my memory is shot, but it feels like Marc Jacobs was much more established when he got the LV gig, than JW Anderson is now. Maybe I am wrong. And I agree with Rajan, it will be interesting to see how they translate their style for a mainstream consumer – and whether these more commercial pieces will be on the catwalk or simply in the showrooms and stores.