The luxury industry's new strategies for dealing with market instability

In an increasingly fluctuating market, the luxury industry is having trouble finding its feet. Over two days, the attendees of the New York Times International Luxury Conference, held in Brussels on November 13 and 14, attempted to see things more clearly and propose possible development strategies. Among those present, the CEO of Saint Laurent, Francesca Bellettini, voiced some of the most interesting thoughts. 


Steve Shiffman, CEO of Calvin Klein - The New York Times International Luxury Conference - The New York Times International Luxury Conference

"These days, customers are far more mobile, they buy everywhere. In fact, our customers aren't only those that buy our products, but also those who engage with the brand through social media", she noted. 

The Saint Laurent CEO also emphasised the importance of consolidating a business locally before working on international development. "If we focus too much on a single customer segment or on a given region, we risk losing a whole group of those customers in the case of a major incident or of geopolitical changes in that region. I think that we should seek to engage with the customer at home, before expanding into other countries," she stated. 

During the conference, there was also much debate concerning the importance of a brand's heritage and its logo. There again, Bellettini had an original point of view to share. "It's absurd to stake everything on the logo. Not long ago that was the only value a brand had. We can't keep trying to sell a label's product only through its name. Young people today have a greater need to feel like they belong to a community, rather than to relate to a logo. They buy because they share the same values as the brand. This is why being inclusive is so important," she analysed. 

Inclusivity is the new watch word for the luxury industry's leaders, as Victor Luis, CEO of Tapestry (Coach, Stuart Weizmann, Kate Spade), pointed out, explaining the importance of dialoguing and connecting more with customers. "We are totally and utterly inclusive both in terms of our employees and our customers," contributed Antoine Arnault, CEO of Berluti. 

However, being more connected and in step with younger generations must not compromise the exclusive, high-end image of luxury brands, which have to be careful to preserve their current positioning. "We do not do fast fashion! We have to remain a luxury product, something that not everybody can make. Otherwise, we risk destroying our business," underlined Francesca Bellettini, reminding those present that "these days, the creative director of a brand is its most important asset." 

This is all to clear for Calvin Klein CEO Steve Shiffman, who left creative direction in order to relaunch the American brand, best known in recent years for its jeans and underwear. "Reinvention isn't easy and it requires risks. But change is essential," he claimed. 

"We needed a revolution. So I decided to give the brand's creativity a boost by bringing in Raf Simons. I wanted to make the brand stronger by making it more fashionable and upmarket", he explained, celebrating the partnership which has breathed new life into the company at all levels. "Raf is an exceptional designer, who oversees all aspects of the brand, from collections to publicity, all in line with the brand image. It's very stimulating to work with him. He is unique," he concluded. 

Translated by Robin Driver

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