On Tuesday, Pharrell Williams will present his first collection for Louis Vuitton at Paris Men’s Fashion Week, one of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory. Details are being kept under wraps, but the marketing machine is already in motion: Last week, Williams posted an image on Instagram of himself standing in front of a Parisian billboard showing a pregnant Rihanna wearing a Vuitton plaid print and holding several bags.
Coverage in the months since Williams’ February appointment has focused less on the aesthetic direction and more on the scale of everything he and LVMH are planning for the luxury conglomerate’s flagship brand. Last year, Louis Vuitton became the world’s top luxury brand at 20 billion euros, so everything Williams, along with new CEO Pietro Beccari, plans to be big. On the business side, a playbook similar to Beccari’s efforts at Dior is taking shape: ever-larger runway shows and store footprints, including a rumored conversion of its Paris headquarters into a megastore hotel.
Tuesday’s show should provide clear signs of the creative strategy behind this expansion. Williams is a successful entrepreneur with his own lines of streetwear, skincare and sneakers. But the main reason he was hired is to cement Louis Vuitton as a “cultural brand” (previous examples include global activations by Yayoi Kusama and a campaign featuring Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi). The goal is to link Vuitton to art, sports, music, film and anything that occupies a place in the minds of consumers, in many ways an extension of the project that began with Marc Jacobs. 25 years ago to create fashion buzz around a dusty piece of luggage. brand.
The concept of cultural branding is less of a linear movement than the leap of fashionable travel. But once at the scale of Louis Vuitton, there is not a single category or a single market that will continue its momentum. The sample size is small, but with few exceptions, brands struggle to maintain their grip on consumers once annual sales reach eight figures. It’s hard to be cool when you’re so big, and it’s a rare new idea that can move the needle on this scale. Gucci’s troubles began just as it neared the $10 billion mark in 2021. In the mass market, Gap Inc. stagnated once it hit $16 billion in annual sales in early 2000s. He’s still looking for his next act. Nike managed to double its annual revenue to $20 billion in the 2000s and then to $40 billion in the 2010s, but struggled to maintain that pace in the 2020s.
In luxury, there are still growth levers to be pulled. Louis Vuitton can open stores in new cities and upgrade its flagship products in existing markets. He can stick his LV logo on the 2024 Olympics, ideally held in Paris, and sell NFTs for $39,000. And he can pass the reins to Pharrell Williams to put on a hell of a show on Tuesday.
Things to watch this week
Kick-off of the Cannes Lions Advertising and Communication Festival
Paris Men’s Fashion Week: Louis Vuitton
Paris Men’s Fashion Week: Bianca Saunders, Acne, Lemaire, Rhude, Wales Bonner
UK releases May inflation data
Paris Men’s Fashion Week: Rick Owens, Givenchy, Isabel Marant, Amiri, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Dries Van Noten
Bank of England interest rate decision
Paris Men’s Fashion Week: Junya Watanabe, Dior, Koché, Comme des Garçons, Kenzo
UK releases May retail sales data
Paris Men’s Fashion Week: Undercover, Kiko Kostadinov, Loewe, Hermès, Marine Serre
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