Inside: The Luxury Law Summit 2018

16 May 2018 , 9:30pm

Leaders in luxury gathered in London to discuss the world of heritage and emerging brands at the 2018 Luxury Law Summit.

London’s Luxury Law Summit 2018 was a celebration of - and investigation into - all things luxury; of what it means to be part of this dynamic, growing sector, and how best to navigate its challenges and opportunities. Now in its sixth year, the summit gathered together general counsel, specialist legal teams and luxury business leaders and teachers to focus on the particular issues facing the sector. From masterclasses on design rights and sustainability to the #metoo campaign, the emerging trend for casualisation of luxury, the cases for and against brand collaboration and the new movement towards conscious consumption, the summit was a chance to meet and share ideas with players at the forefront of the field. Representatives from established heritage brands such as  Lamborghini, Fendi, Gucci, Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren, Coty, and Net-A-Porter were in attendance along with newer and emerging brands Charlotte Olympia, Miller Libertine and Holly Fulton, to hear key speakers Jade Jagger and Arrigo Cipriani give their take on the business of luxury.

Personal and experiential

Pierre Mercier, Senior Partner at The Boston Consulting Group, addressed the assembled group with the news that growth has come back to the market for both personal luxury - ‘everything you can buy’, and experiential luxury - ‘all those things you can do, such as travel and dining experiences’. “How to win in luxury? Offer the traditional values of heritage, craftsmanship and quality, and combine these with an extravagant experience and newness. Speak to the individual,” he advised. “Keep in mind the changing market - younger people have less money to buy things and therefore value experiences more highly.” He spoke of the trend towards casualisation of luxury; the move towards trainers and athleisurewear which marks a sea change for luxury brands but also offers an opportunity for heritage companies to appeal to (and become relevant for) a wider audience. 

The growth of collaboration

Collaborations, he said, although not new, are growing in importance and prevalence and can impart the new values of cool, sexy and disruptive to otherwise very traditional brands. On a practical level, collaborations also present counterfeiters with a much more complex task. Law firm Mishcon de Reya’s Lewis Cohen later chaired a panel on collaboration in the luxury sector, and asked Holly Fulton, Creative Director of her eponymous brand, why collaborations were on the rise. “As a small label, collaborations for us offer another source of revenue as well as an elevation and association that enable us to reach a new strata of consumer.” Eytan Hannouna, Founding Partner of NEO Investment Partners, echoed that point. “Collaboration allows a certain amount of repositioning for a brand, generating new customers and creating a real sense of a buzz around it. But do not do it unless it makes real sense, because it is a lot of work and it can undermine your brand. Maintain control, and be prepared to walk away.” 

Social influencers

Mr Mercier honed in on the rising importance of social media and influencers which are now essential tools to work with, although he cautioned that controlling an influencer was ‘a much harder task than having a conversation with Vogue.’ The breakout session later led by Daniel Dominguez, chair of Fashion, Luxury & Retail from hosts Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg LLP, also addressed the importance of getting to know a potential brand ambassador well before committing to a relationship with them. 

Margarita Serrano spoke about her fashion brand Seranno’s big strategic break when sent a blazer to a well-known influencer. “Her style was really in-line with my brand, and when she posted about the blazer, I was suddenly in business.” She admitted using social media has been a great way to spread the word about the business but also cautions that it has potential downsides, such as loss of control over styling and brand reputation.

The risk factors

Barbara Kolsun, professor of fashion law at New York’s Cardozo Law School, director of Cardozo’s FAME centre (fashion, arts, media and entertainment) and past winner of the Luxury Law Summit’s lifetime achievement award, headed a panel from experts from Trussardi, Luxottica, Tapestry and Abercrombie & Kent on the role of a luxury brand GC and how they are responding to challenges in the sector. The GCs represented reiterated that early private practice experience had been fundamental to their abilities to managing demanding in-house roles, while challenges discussed included the difficulty of integrating two separate company cultures post merger and acquisition. 

As for what keeps GCs up at night, the panel responded by name-checking the growing importance of getting social media right, impending GDPR requirements, continued uncertainty caused by Brexit, and the sheer volume of the work the GCs have to get through, especially with small or non-existent legal teams. 

The art of title

Nicola Steel, General Counsel at Christies, held a masterclass on the legal challenges in the art world, touching on issues such as restitution of stolen artworks, the difficulty of establishing title and the tax implications of buying and selling artworks. She explained the complex ramifications of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) on moving art around, offering the example of Damien Hirst’s butterfly works where each butterfly wing must be listed and checked each time it is moved, in case a single wing becomes registered as endangered over a time period. 

A state of being

Other sessions looked at sustainability, challenges for on-line cosmetics companies, brand loyalty and design rights as well as the service, hospitality and food sector. Arrigo Cipriano - hotelier, restauranteur, writer, karate instructor and son of the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice - spoke movingly of his interpretations of what luxury really is. A state of being, as well as the possession of beautiful things, and a matter of form, but also one of substance. “Perfection of luxury is when the two sensations of form and substance go together and magically combine into one. When you have the first sip of a great martini, closing your eyes will help the joy of complete perfection,” he said.

The business of Jade Jagger 

The summit closed after an intimate interview session with Jade Jagger, British rock royalty, artist, jewellery designer and master collaborator. “I design to bring pleasure and beauty,” she said, recalling her time spent in Jaipur (‘the Milan of India’) sourcing precious jewels by hand for her collections with Garrard and Asprey. A history of collaborations with heritage brand Louis Vuitton, Kim Joes and MAC sees her very well positioned for her next big project, a venture between the Rolling Stones and Selfridges as well as an upcoming lighting collection with British designer Tom Dixon. Last words on being a player in the luxury sector? “Learn your trade, persevere and stick to the plan. It is a huge privilege to run a luxury company, so be prepared to feed your brand with the right ingredients in order to preserve it.”