2016 was the sixth consecutive year of growth for Yves Saint Laurent, with sales reaching 1.22 billion (+ 25.3%), and operating profit of around 268.5 million (+ 59%), 22% of sales. But the company CEO Francesca Bellettini said in an interview to CorrierEconomia that she is not satisfied: “Our target is 3 billion in revenues, because we have the strength and the talent to do it. About Anthony Vaccarello? It was a long weighed decision. He is the perfect man.”
In an interview to the FT, Belletini points to brand’s strength ‘as a recharged corporate identity’. “We have not grown the company in an opportunistic way. We have become a company that can sustain itself. And invest in itself,” she says. “The character of the company is growing, and the brand has become a corporation. But by maintaining a freshness and flexibility, we don’t feel like a big corporation.”
The growth is especially notable during a period of transition. Much of YSL’s success was attributed to the creative direction of Hedi Slimane who left the company last April after four years. Mr Slimane redirected the label’s offering towards a younger, more street-influenced consumer and was responsible for many of the cult items that became bestsellers, and in building the brand’s permanent collection. According to Ms Bellettini, his departure was preceded by a year-long search for his successor, Anthony Vaccarello . That such a seismic creative change should have proceeded “without a single blip . . . shows the strengths of the company as a recharged corporate identity”, says Ms Bellettini. Mr Vaccarello’s first collection arrived in store in January. Now, YSL is focusing on building the brand under his direction.
“It’s part of the character of the Kering group,” says Ms Bellettini. “To trust each other, and see where we can go. We can really push it. And I am reassured by this.” Kering, led by its chief executive François-Henri Pinault, “has always communicated that its chief executives should be autonomous within a framework: empowered and supported,” she says. “This culture is especially strong and I have tried to do the same with my team.” However, despite the robust growth at YSL, Ms Bellettini concedes that the luxury sector is under pressure. Groups have grappled with sliding or flat revenues for the past two years, as a slowdown in Chinese consumption and terrorism in Europe took their toll. Though there are signs of a return to growth. “The market is worrying,” she says. “The volatility is very difficult to predict. The only way we can overcome these challenges is to equip ourselves, with the best people on board [have a clear] clear strategy and be resilient.”
In the CorrierEconomia interview Bellettini said she believes now more than ever in the physical boutique, revealing more generally that for her “nothing replaces a phone call or a handwritten note.” Regarding the see now – buy now business model, she says it is not compatible with creativity. “If we lose the aspirational component that makes people dream, we become a commodity.”
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