Luxury Fashion Takes a Cue From the Start-Up World

J.W. Anderson

J.W. Anderson is one of LVMH’s recent investments. 

For a couple years, headlines touting “new” luxury brands have been pretty focused on what are actually revived heritage labels — names that don’t really count as new, as much as they might have been totally forgotten.  Among others, last year the archives of Courrèges, Moynat, and Cacharel were all re-opened, re-issued, and re-entered into the public awareness, along with the expected media blitz, e-commerce launches, flagship openings, and so on.

Now, however, fashion seems to be looking in a more contemporary direction.  Even though we can’t go a day without reading about yet another app that finds clothes for you from the street style blogs with one click while organizing your closet, or something of that ilk, luxury’s equivalent start-up moves are pretty enticing.  Delphine Arnault, daughter of Bernard, is using her position at LVMH to seek out and invest in new and up-and-coming designers, shining the spotlight on emerging talent rather than dusty heritage brands.  Recent acquisitions include Nicholas Kirkwood and J.W. Anderson; the Italian designer Marco de Vincenzo may also be acquired.

Meanwhile, LVMH’s chief competitor, Kering, has also made recent investments in a few young designers, most notably Joseph Altuzarra and Christopher Kane.  The appeal of these small labels is partly due to the comparably minimal investment (a few million dollars, as opposed to potential billions to buy a heritage label) even if the payoff is risky.  LVMH, for instance, divested itself of young couture label Christian Lacroix, which then went bankrupt.  This too, however, is comparable to fashion’s current love affair with tech start-ups, as those also require smaller investments, with equally slim chances at succeeding.

What’s different, of course, between fashion looking to tech start-ups versus start-up labels, is that in the latter case, the big fashion conglomerates are supporting a potential revolution.  By nurturing these small labels and new ideas, they’re opening key doors in both directions.  While the designers get to exponentially spread their vision, fashion’s audience is bound to consume something entirely new.

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