From Givenchy to Michael Kors, from Ralph Lauren to Prada, a number of luxury fashion brands are seemingly ‘soul searching’, some ‘lost in translation’. At the same time, a new wave seems to have emerged.
Alessandro Michele has been overturning and norms and rules, staging at #GucciAria anniversary collection with a ”hack” by sister brand Balenciaga, a first such cross collaboration (both brands are owned by Kering). Michele launched a stunning high-jewellery collection available exclusively in a dedicated Gucci boutique on Place Vendome.
This was followed by a collection of watches including mechanical and haute horologerie. His #Gucci100 centenary celebrations have culminated with the launch of #GucciVault, probably the most complex digital project to date. Without any doubt, this is THE YEAR OF GUCCI, with ”The House of Gucci” movie out in cinemas this November.
Since he took over the creative helm of the storied Maison, Matthew Williams is striving to ‘simplify’ the codes of the brand, focusing on few pieces, mostly accessories, however, completely losing out on fashion. Brand communications has become more and more predictable, with the same ”magnetic” approach to Instagram. The brand may have been selling more sneakers and athleisure pieces but the fashion DNA seems to be missing. Not even celebrity endorsements at major events such as the Cannes Film Festival, The MET and Venice Film Festival seem to have created any headlines.
Schiaparelli is by far the biggest revival of an iconic fashion brand in the past decades. Daniel Roseberry has not only revisited the house archives but has also re-written a completely new language for the storied brand. Roseberry’s first two Haute Couture collections for Schiaparelli have catapulted the brand to directly compete with Chanel and Dior. Mention must be made that Elsa Schiaparelli was at the time Coco Chanel’s biggest rival. Roseberry has been delivering the same WOW factor for the Ready-To-Wear collections. He has been instilling a novel approach in every single detail, from custom made shoes to spectacular jewellery.
Bruno Siaelli had some brilliant initiatives which sensibly re-interpreted the DNA of the brand, with a very aggressive presence on social media and a superb catwalk show in Shanghai for Fall Winter 2021. However, for the past 8 months, the brand has gone silent and has since re-emerged with a lacklustre ad campaign featuring Bella Hadid, which has failed to garner the attention which may have been intended by the designer when he had conceived the campaign. Could it be that Bruno Siaelli may soon be replaced?
The stubborn yearly push for all things ”ALTA” has once again delivered an unwearable theatrical collection, this time in Venice. The mens’s sartorial collection was probably slightly more appropriate for the grooms who are in search of a more unique wedding attire. Equally irrelevant seemed the lavish Alta Gioelleria Collection (high jewellery) which is no position to compete the likes of Bvlgari or Cartier. Nevertheless, the most recently presented Dolce & Gabbana Spring Summer 2022 Collection at Milan Fashion Week was sexy, daring, dazzling and eye-catching reminiscent of the days of Tom Ford at Gucci.
Despite insisting the company is sitting on a pile of cash reserves, hence no need to bother with the creative direction, the past years delivered the same collections, same aesthetics, same brand communications, for both men and women, especially the first line which is now overshadowed in many ways by Brunello Cucinelli which is excellent at everything Armani used to, many years ago. Emporio Armani, Armani Exchange and EA7 have blurry differentiating factors, all seemingly the same, just more affordable than the main line of Giorgio Armani.
Despite Lagerfeld’s last ”move” was to somehow distance himself from his work, Virginie Viard is trying very hard to bring back that grandeur of the brand. While craftsmanship has remained intact and all the speciality metiers maisons continue to be actively involved in each collection, most of Viard’s ‘creations’ are more and more predictable. Since she took over, Chanel has released no new ”must have’ items, not even bags and advertising campaigns continue to feature, by rotation, the same ”muses”. The ”safe” approach and lack of innovation is more than evident, Viard opting for the least of perils. But has Chanel’s audience given up on the brand or they have also lowered their expectations.
The ”King of Cashmere” has been unstoppable – with a superb new home collection and the first ever eyewear line in collaboration with Oliver Peoples. The brand opened several stores in the past two years culminating with a new flagship store in Paris at Avenue Montaigne which was opened earlier this year. The brand continues to master ”ultimate sophistication through simplicity” registering positive financials throughout the entire pandemic.
The success of Dior under the direction of Maria Grazia Chiuri does not come from the creative aesthetic of the collection but from an impeccable global merchandising ‘machine’ which is delivering almost on a weekly basis a new capsule, a new pop-up, not to mention the most diverse collaborations. Accessories also play an important part too, however, the fashion collections are far from those of the days of Gianfranco Ferre or John Galliano. Circus, dance and theatre have become repetitive themes – and most recently the world of casinos.
By contrast, Dior Homme which is headed by Kim Jones has been booming with probably the most desirable sneaker in the word Air Dior. While developing several collaborations, Jones has been still focusing on the men’s classics too.
Piccioli has been on an incessant rollercoaster in launching new capsules, collaborations and projects, some of which with an exceptional impact. Each season, he continues to deliver not only ”must have” accessories pieces, including shoes and handbags but also dresses, including evening gowns. The choice of Zendaya as a brand ambassador was brilliant, as she perfectly embodies the spirit and the DNA of the house. He also seems to have found a viable ”dialogue’ with a growing new segment of Valentino consumers, while he is still delivering sublime Haute Couture Collections. He has so far resisted to over-diversify the brand, for example into watches or home collections.
After delivering a superb men’s collection for Spring Summer 2022, Hermes’ new Women’s Spring Summer 2022 could not be more simplistic and lacklustre. Despite the outstanding quality of the finishes, including leatherwear, the new ready-to-wear collection is almost invisible in the array of other collections. It is common knowledge the brand is relying on its accessories, especially handbags, however, the introduction of new models seems to be ‘hesitant’ and reserved.
With each new collection Jonathan Anderson has never ceased to impress, with superb collections of ready to wear and apparel, both in perfect synch. Men’s and women’s collections are equally impressive and the demand has been growing exponentially. With each new store featuring a distinct design and concept Anderson is adding to the desirability factor. The quality of all LOEWE products is of the highest standard, with an emphasis on the unique craftsmanship for which the brand is so renowned.
Despite creative direction now being shared between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, Prada has yet to find a coherent new aesthetic path. Collections may have a different edge but far from regaining desirability. Collections keep being repetitive and predictable and so is branding. After the fastest and biggest expansion of the retail chain of any major luxury brand 4/5 years ago, brick & mortar physical stores have become irrelevant at least from the point of view of the philosophy the new Creative Duo is pursuing.
Without the creative head or team even made public, Swiss luxury brand BALLY has been seeing a major revival in the past 2 years with a sophisticated sleek aesthetic which is drawing on Swiss Made and the theme of the mountains. The brand’s showroom and headquarters in Milan made headlines when opening, with a major surprise factor. The quality of its products, many of leather or including leather is among the finest in the word.
Since acquired by Capri Holdings, Donatella Versace has been unstoppable, completely transforming the brand, while maintaining its DNA. From times when it would be considered kitch or tacky, Versace is now back in the game. From breaking the internet and making history with a revisited look of Jennifer Lopez, Versace has recently hosted a surprise private collection, with Versace being designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi of Fendi and Donatella Versace designing a collection for Fendi #Fendace #VersaceFendiSwap.
Also known as the ‘Italian Hermes’, Loro Piana remains undeterred in its pursuit of perfection – with ultimate innovation through simplicity and timeless designs. The brand successfully launched Sesia, a new IT bag and has hosted pop-ups and installations of its shoes. Although the brand remains extremely discreet in advertising, it is a constant sponsor and partner of major sailing and golf competitions. Earlier this year, Loro Piana opened in Ginza Tokyo its largest store to date.
Despite its immense heritage, Ferragamo fails to accept that the owner family has to once and for all agree that an independent Artistic Director is critical and immediate. The departure of Paul Andrew earlier this year was a major lost opportunity. He is probably among the very few designers who has the talent to create ultimate luxury shoes, not to mention handbags and apparel. His campaigns were fresh and novel, instantly regaining a top spot.
With Kim Jones heading up Fendi Women’s including RTW and Haute Couture, the Italian brand has made a powerful come-back, Jones’ second collection being highly praise. The grandeur and size of the collection shows LVMH’s trust in the potential of Fendi to follow closely LV or Dior. Silvia Venturini Fendi has also been delivering better and better Fendi Men’s collections, gaining momentum for all product categories.
Since being acquired by Renzo Rosso’s OTB (Diesel etc), Jil Sander is hotter than ever with a novel aesthetic and expanded collections. Several exceptional new launches are making headlines – handbags and denim. The brand is also expected to renovate and redesign some of its flagship stores and open new ones. Apparel product categories are also expected.
With living legend and fashion icon John Galliano heading Maison Margiela the brand is still not showing consistency and coherence. Striking fashion and accessories pieces blend with more predictable ones. With the company making a fortune with its luxury ‘Tabi’ sneaker, we may conclude there is less pressure on Galliano to produce the spectacular. Last month, Dust Creative and Dust Magazine released an erotic ad campaign for Maison Margiela S.W.A.L.K. II Bag.
Ralph Lauren seems to have completely lost its artistic direction, with collections seemingly identical to past seasons. No ‘stand-out’ pieces – apparel or bags. The house has not opened a mono-brand Ralph Lauren store in over 3 years – also no renovations, all while Polo Ralph Lauren has been expanding globally (franchising). The only major breakthrough came with Ralph Lauren Home, the licence now being controlled by giant Haworth which is already grouping all luxury brands under Luxury Living Group.
Hottest luxury shoes speciality brands:
Giuseppe Zanotti, Aquazzura, Sergio Rossi, Gianvito Ross, Rene Caovilla
Hottest luxury handbags specialist brands:
Goyard, Delvaux, Mulberry, Joseph Duclos
Lost in translation and in need of a major Creative Direction shift or ”U-turn”:
Daniel Lee is still riding high the desirability factor at Bottega Veneta, each item generating incredible demand. As to how long this ”hysteria” will last, that remains to be seen. Ditching instagram was a bold move and he seems to have succeeded delivering intriguing ”Books”, more like catalogues, integrating actual looks. Without any brand ambassadors, Lee has been brilliantly involving regular consumers to post and share about their Bottega Veneta. He sensibly terminated the home collection (furniture & interiors) and he has opted for surprise pop-up boutique in most unusual locations.
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