Saint Laurent has undergone major changes in the last month. The fashion world rendered homage to Hedi Slimane’s departure from his position as creative director and welcomed Anthony Vaccarello as his successor. What’s more, last week Kering reported buoyant growth in revenues up 27% in the first quarter of 2016, driven by retail sales and double-digit growth in all geographies and all product categories. What are the pillars of this winning strategy?
Earlier this morning an interview with YSL CEO Francesca Bellettini by Imran Amed (BoF’s editor in chief), helped giving some clarity to the quasi-abnormal growth, and cleared the air after the confusion and press talk after Slimane left.
What constitutes success is Saint Laurent effort to maintain growth on a balanced path. This is translated in similar figures by geography, sales by nationality, product category, price points retail/wholesale, and gender equality: Saint Laurent is one of the few luxury houses that put the same weight to both male and female’s collections, and pioneered the launch of pieces with similar characteristics for both men and women . What about customers? According to Ms Bellettini, creating ties with local customers in an era where luxury spending is fueled by traveling and the “customer with no boundaries” is vital for building brand loyalty. Retail instead must be treated with caution. Opening a new store is a decision that must be weighted carefully: close those that are not performing and choose only the best locations. Wholesale, which was put under heavy strain by some luxury giants for not respecting brand values, is welcomed at YSL: clients must be free to shop wherever they feel more comfortable, as long as the shop offers a Saint Laurent experience.
Novelty is embedded in the definition of fashion. The concept of fast fashion has changed the rules of the game, pushing the creative anxiety of coming up with the latest trend even further. Saint Laurent is going à rebours by proposing a slowly evolving permanent collections featuring Saint Laurent intrinsic essence: the leather jacket, black and gold and feminine masculinity for both men and women. This not only a way of respecting Yves Saint Laurent’s genius, but it’s more of a smart move: in a business where 70% of clients are new to the brand, you have to give them time to feel the brand, to recognize it and spot it among your rivals. In a world dominated by fashion fads, that’s how icons persist over time and reach legacy status.
That’s where the agitated tones of the press have found fertile ground in the last month. Hedi Slimane’s departure raised tons of questions: will Vaccarello be able to fill this void? The secret lies in Saint Laurent DNA. Slimane has a lot of merits, among which a complete restructuring of the French maison, whose the epitome has been the rebranding of the prêt-a-porter from Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche to Saint Laurent Paris. ? Again, Ms Bellettini feels pretty confident: “Slimane left a strong template in terms of branding, product strategy and retail concept that the business is well positioned for the foreseeable future”.