If nothing goes wrong, the U.S. will see its own luxury giant born sometime in 2024. The news of such a long-awaited birthday broke in mid-August, when the Tapestry, Inc. group formalized the purchase of Capri Holdings for about 8,000 million euros. A financial operation that, in the absence of support by the shareholders, will bring together six popular high-ranking fashion and accessories brands – Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, in the portfolio of the former, plus Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo, contributed by the latter – under the same roof of stars and stripes with the intention of standing up to the European leaders of the sector. "By merging with Tapestry, we will have better resources and greater ability to accelerate the expansion of our global reach, while preserving the unique DNA of our brands," John D. Idol, chairman of Capri Holdings, boasted after signing the deal. Both multinationals closed the last fiscal year with a combined balance of 12,000 million euros in sales, expected to double, at least, now that their unified presence will extend to 75 countries. Let the luxury hunger games begin.
That of the conglomerate of firms/companies of premium consumer products is an old aspiration of the American clothing industry, spurred on by its particular team of artisan leather goods, which is what usually gives quality to this film. Founded in 1941, in a Manhattan atelier, Coach is the Louis Vuitton of New York, with its stripes of excellence first earned with leather goods (bags and suitcases) and renewed by the relevant ready-to-wear collection with a star designer signature from 1996 onwards. The perception of the brand, however, has always been mid-range rather than luxury; a I want and I can't that was solved when it reinvented itself as a company and went public in 2000. It began to invoice more than 5,000 million euros and to feel an appetite for exclusivity: it acquired the shoemaker Stuart Weitzman for 480 million euros in 2015 and, two years later, the rival Kate Spade for just over 2,100 million. It was also in 2017 that the network resulting from the acquisitions was renamed Tapestry, Inc.
Carolina Herrera dress from the spring-summer 2023 collection.Kevin Tachman (Trunk Archive)
The financial adventures of the group formerly known as Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. are similar. Established in 2003 by the indefatigable New York designer for whom it is named, thanks to $100 million in cash injected by a pair of investors, he paid nearly €1 billion for Jimmy Choo in 000 and then ate up Versace for $2017.1 billion, rescuing the Italian firm from bankruptcy. All masterstrokes orchestrated by John D. Idol, in his capacity as president since 830. With such assets, the group renamed itself Capri Holdings five years ago. Before it became Tapestry's property, its market value was around €2011.3 billion. Together they are poised to dominate 600.5% of the world's luxury consumption, according to figures from the consultancy GlobalData, which makes the nascent conglomerate the fourth force in the sector for global purposes (second in the US, mind you), only behind the French Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy and Kering and the Swiss Richemont. Of course, they are not alone in this assault on fashion heaven.
Four years ago, Marco Marchi saw his dream come true: to create a business supergroup not only for the greater commercial glory of Made in Italy, but also for its preservation. Fed up with "seeing Italian treasures pass into foreign hands", as he told the FashionNetwork portal, the ideologue and president of Liu Jo acquired Blufin, the group founded in 1977 by the designer Anna Molinari and her husband, Gianpaolo Tarabini, and with it, two of the most revered transalpine labels, Anna Molinari herself and Blumarine. "My vision of entrepreneurship materializes: to bring together high-end brands with a common character and growth potential, with the aim of making them compete more efficiently on the international stage," he said when presenting Eccellenze Italiane Holding, in which he serves as sole administrator. And he looked directly at the French example: "They have shown that synergy brings objective results." Although he has not yet been able to hit the stock market as he had intended, he estimates his team at 500 million euros by the end of the current financial year. A record that trusts the appointment of Walter Chiapponi as creative director of Blumarine, a position he assumed at the beginning of November from Tod's. The move is not to be missed: by getting rid of his predecessor, Nicola Brognano, who returned the favor of celebrities with his high-end translation of the youthful aesthetic of the early 2000s, he seeks commercial consolidation through the fast track of accessories. "We must be coherent and responsible, this second phase leads us to achieve more ambitious goals," he explains. And he insists: "We are Italians, and leading a luxury company to success is a source of pride for all of us, as the others have already been taken away from us."
François-Henri Pinault (right), the man at the helm of Kering, surrounded by celebrities, in March 2013, at the Stella McCartney show.
Marchi's determination to bet on the national product contrasts with the international aspiration of the rest of the Italian conglomerates in contention which, apart from Only The Brave (OTB), Renzo Rosso's holding company based on Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni and Viktor & Rolf, have not gone very far either: the Prada group tried to do so by acquiring Helmut Lang and Jil Sander in 1999. but had to sell them six years later due to financial difficulties, while New Guards Group, home to the bestsellers Off-White, Palm Angels and Heron Preston, has been owned by Farfetch, a Portuguese e-commerce giant, since 2019, after paying 600 million euros. The two founders who remained at the top of the board, Davide de Giglio and Andrea Grilli, were fired last June. The third, Claudio Antonioli, preferred to take the door motu proprio in 2020 to launch a new adventure: Dreamers Factory, a business incubator that feeds on the revived Belgian cult label Ann Demeulemeester and the recently acquired clubwear brand 44 Label Group, while benefiting from a magnificent distribution channel of its own (Antonioli also owns the most exclusive chain of multi-brand stores in the country). The rest of the bastions of Italian excellence, from Giorgio Armani to Max Mara, passing through the Zegna group or champions of silent luxury such as Brunello Cucinelli, resist plundering as best they can.
In July, another hare jumped: it turns out that Kering has reached an agreement with Valentino's current owner, the investment company Mayhoola for Investments (managed by the Qatari royal family), to buy 30% of its shares. The move puts the French holding company in an advantageous position to acquire 100% of the Roman-born firm before 2028. The conglomerate of the Pinault clan – today led by the son, François-Henri Pinault – would also have gone for Tom Ford, but it was beaten by Estée Lauder, the cosmetic emporium that debuted in the fashion arena with an operation valued at 2,000 million euros, who knows if to rival Puig in the more or less near future, the Spanish luxury group that has been adding exclusive clothing labels (Jean Paul Gaultier, Carolina Herrera, Rabanne, Dries Van Noten and the most recent Nina Ricci) to its catalogue of fragrances, make-up and dermocosmetics to become a benchmark in the sector thanks to those historic 3,600 million euros of net income achieved in 2022. Curious, for that matter, that four decades later the dynamic of "and me more" is the one that still defines the sector.
Of course, luxury is still a French thing. As a concept, because it comes from the court policies of Louis XIV. And in terms of consumption, because it responds to the interests of the two corporations that have shaped their future in the market since the mid-1989s. Bernard Arnault, factotum of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (of which he became the majority shareholder in 2001, through a hostile takeover), and François Pinault, architect of Kering (first Gucci Group and then PPR), have taken care to redefine its meaning, weighting price over value. Hence the mad race to accumulate assets, sometimes almost in tatters – remember the so-called handbag wars, which pitted them against each other in a legal battle for the ownership of Gucci in the late nineties, resolved in favour of Pinault in 2023 – with the sole objective "of making as much money as possible", as journalist Dana Thomas notes in Deluxe: of how luxury lost its splendour (Superflua, <>). As Bernard Arnault, the second richest man in the world, sometimes even the first, once said: "What I like is the idea of transforming creativity into profitability. That's what I like the most."
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