Yesterday I wrote about the PPR group working on an e-commerce venture with Yoox SpA and now it looks like other big luxury brands are also embracing innovative online platforms. Last week the New York Times noticed that within 24 hours of images of the Oscar de la Renta resort show being placed on TheFancy.com, a green and white sequin silk baseball-style sweater had 500 people endorse it. While that may not sound impressive, the fact that the site had received several advance orders for the sweater, which is priced at $2,490 might get your attention.
'Selling five of those baseball tees is not going to change our lives,' Alex Bolen, chief executive of Oscar de la Renta said, 'but I have got to say, I was surprised.' For me, the news doesn't come as a surprise. Recent research has unearthed the reality that these new social media platforms are having a serious impact on sales beyond simply redirecting traffic. Take Pinterest for example. Despite being the newbie on the scene, results released last week shows that people are 10% more likely to purchase something they see on the platform.
Despite the prevalence of e-commerce today, many of the leading fashion brands have still been reluctant to sell online but it looks like that's about to change. Today PPR reportedly signed a letter of intent with Italian online retailer, Yoox SpA, to set up a site to see their brands' collections.
The letter is non-binding but what it does show that the fashion conglomerate is seriously planning to commit to an e-commerce venture, which naturally includes their brands like Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga. 'PPR and Yoox intend to continue negotiations with the aim of closing a definitive agreement in the comings months,' a source from the company told Bloomberg in an email. The new venture is part of PPRs bigger plan to reach 1 billion euros worth of online sales by 2012.
As soon as Yves Saint Laurent confirmed that they would not renew Stefano Pilati's contract at the house, Hedi Slimane's name was instantly thrown into the hat of designers who could replace him. Last night, the speculation came to an end as YSL's parent company PPR confirmed the reports saying that an announement would be made today. The move marks Slimane's return to the brand after serving as the head of menswear from 1996 to 2000 before taking the helm at Dior Homme until 2007.
Rumours surrounding a possible departure of Stefano Pilati from his role as creative director at Yves Saint Laurenthave not gone away and this morning the brand has released a statement confirming the reports. This comes as no surprise. We knew that Pilati's contract with the house was coming to an end in March but the news is interesting because PPR boses, who own the label, have continued to argue that Pilati isn't going anywhere.
Although Raf Simons seemed like the obvious choice of replacement, especially considering the uncanny timing, reports allege that Hedi Slimane will take the role. 'The contract has been signed by both sides,' a source alleged over the weekend. 'He is becoming the new director at Yves Saint Laurent.'
Much has been made of Suzy Menkes' comments over the weekend discussing the common belief in Paris that Raf Simons will take over the helm at Yves Saint Laurent, replacing Stefano Pilati. Despite reports to the contrary, Menkes was simply discussing what others thought and at no stage did she confirm whether the reports were true or not and today, Yves Saint Laurent have been quick to label the rumours as "unfounded".
"Stefano Pilati continues to dedicate his talent and energies to Yves Saint Laurent and the coming fashion show,” PPR, the group who own YSL, said in a statement today. According to WWD, earlier in June Rimons renewed his contract at Jil Sander for another year and Pilati's contract is said to end in March next year leading many to believe that there may be truth to the reports. After all, doubts about Pilati's position at the brand have been circulating for a long time now.
Despite hiring Allessandra Dell'Acqua in May 2010 to reinvigorate their womenswear line, bosses at Brioni have announced that the womens collection will not continue making many question whether the brand will show their womens collection in Milan next month as planned. Dell'Acqua was not ready to leave, reports allege. The designer was said to be in the process of extending his contract with the label for another three years before the decision to terminate was made.
WWD have put the move down to the brand being in talks with PPR about a possible acquisition. “PPR may only want to focus on men’s. It already has so many women’s lines,” a source revealed. “This was supposed to be a long-term investment for Brioni. The collection was selling very well, and Brioni was planning to open a number of women’s stores, so I can only assume the entrance of a new shareholder was instrumental in determining this new course.”
Stefano Pilati has had a hard time over the past year. Sales figures have reportedly been low at Yves Saint Laurent over the last few seasons and critics are continually predicting that his time at the brand is coming to an end. In a recent interview Pilato reiterated that the criticism is still not easy.
"To tell you the truth, [the pressure] more coming from outside than from myself," he explained. "I try to understand where the negative reviews are coming from. I'm very surprised when criticism comes from a very shallow approach. We can discuss it if there's something you don't like and that's fair enough, but what I don't like is when they say, 'Oh, it didn't look great.'" What didn't look great, from what sense? From a pattern point of view, from a fabric point of view, what?"
As Fashionologie so rightly put it, the Phoebe Philo effect is upon us. Gone are the days when people were more interested in making a point to the world by bagging an item with the biggest logo. Today the economy is making consumers seriously re-think their purchases and as Maria Grachvogel told me yesterday, customers want their wardrobes to work hard for them.
With that in mind it came to no surprise that last week, PPR CEO and chairman Francois-Henri Pinault said that bosses at the conglomerate are supporting the shift.“Our groups are moving toward fewer logos, more discreet luxury," he said on Friday. "It's a question of adapting our ranges very rapidly to this new perception of luxury, a luxury which is more subtle, more sophisticated — which is what we are doing.”
The Times' fashion editor Lisa Armstrong tackled this new seismic shift head on in the August issue of British Vogue heralding 'the cult of the restrained' as the way designers are moving and rightly so. 'Designers have finally got their heads round a much more cautious economic reality, we've finally getting clothes that make sense," she wrote.
So what does this mean for the likes of John Galliano and our avant garde designers known for fantasy and innovation? Will they follow suit now the big conglomerates are supporting a restrained luxury? Only time will tell....
For a while now, rumours have been circulating in the UK financial markets that Burberry, one of Britain's most famous labels could be acquired by one of the big luxury conglomerates - with talk usually focusing around LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. This time however, word on the wire is that PPR, a French multinational holding company who are currently "in the process of building [their] brand portfolio", are in talks with the heritage brand.
According to Peter Farren, an analyst in the London office of Bryan Garnier & Co., Burberry are "an attractive bid target, thanks to its strong brand momentum and 100 percent free float," he told WWD on Friday, although spokespeople for both PPR and Burberry declined to comment. Watch this space...