LVMH is not sold on the idea that a single face of a brand is the right route, despite Alessandro Michele’s transformative effect on Gucci.
Unlike Kering, LVMH continues to appoint separate creative directors for menswear and womenswear for some of its brands. On Monday, it announced Kim Jones, who left Louis Vuitton in January, as Dior Homme’s artistic director, replacing Kris Van Assche and making Maria Grazia Chiuri his womenswear counterpart.
LVMH brands including Louis Vuitton and Fendi have long operated under a like setup. At Louis Vuitton, it was a Nicolas Ghesquière-Jones split from 2013 to earlier this year (there’s speculation Ghesquière will oversee both lines moving forward), and Fendi is divvied up between Silvia Venturini Fendi for him and Karl Lagerfeld for her. It works against the growing, industry-wide trend of showing a unified idea on a coed runway.
But with today’s pressure for the creative director to also serve as the face of the brand, on social media and beyond, LVMH’s strategy has its perks — namely, there are two people representing the brand and, ideally, forming connections with shoppers. And with a strict focus on the men’s or women’s market, they can better cater communication to their audience.
“You definitely get two personalities, assuming they are personalities,” said Mortimer Singer, president and CEO of business development firm Marvin Traub Associates. “A lot of the topspin brands get is from the personality at the helm. If you have a dedicated personality for each business — driving 60 percent and 40 percent of the company, because women’s businesses tend to be larger — it makes very good sense.”
For outsiders looking in, Dior’s artistic leads check different boxes: Jones has a cool factor, thanks to fueling the game-changing streetwear-as-luxury movement at Louis Vuitton, most notably with the brand’s Supreme collaboration. Grazia Chiuri’s appointment reads as progress on the part of LVMH, which is notorious for choosing men to helm brands. She’s Dior’s first female creative director.
But, looking at the recent success of Gucci — with Alessandro Michele bringing his signature quirk to everything from apparel (he moved to a coed runway starting with the fall 2017 collections) to home decor to restaurants since being appointed creative director in 2015 — it’s hard to deny the impact a single designer can make. The brand saw a 46 percent increase in sales in 2017, reaching $7.4 billion. (Overall, Kering brought in $19 billion. LVMH also had a strong year, seeing a revenue increase of 13 percent year-over-year, to $52 billion.)
Michele’s success is not typical. And, while his personal popularity seems staggering, his Instagram following is shy of Dior’s artistic directors’ — 320,000, compared to a combined 370,000 for Jones and Grazia Chiuri. To note: All but 14,000 of those are attributed to Jones.
On Monday, insiders including the New York Times’ fashion director, Vanessa Friedman, began to question what Jones’s appointment means for Grazia Chiuri. The brand’s new chief executive, Pietro Beccari, appointed in November, clearly isn’t afraid to make big changes — and Grazia Chiuri has been slow to win over the industry, by today’s standards, anyway.
“It is normal that you have changes at Dior, as LVMH has high ambitions for this brand,” said Luca Solca, head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas. “You have a recently appointed CEO who did very well at Fendi, and LVMH is just integrating Dior into the group.” In April, LVMH took full control of the Christian Dior label by buying out minority investors to the tune of $13 billion.
Of course, a social following isn’t everything. But, considering the inner workings of a brand are typically the same — ”Even if there’s one head designer who serves as ‘the face’ of the brand, there’s typically a senior men’s designer and a senior women’s designer concepting ideas and reporting in to them,” said Singer — LVMH may be onto something with its strategy.
Two influencers are better than one.
Image: Dior Homme fall 2018