Sustainability is back

13 Jun 2017 , 7:18am

Luxury leaders gathered in London recently to look at the challenges and opportunities in a turbulent world. From building a sustainable company to selling it, the agenda covered a wide range of business and legal areas pertinent to the global luxury marketplace.

Selling an eponymous company can create a range of issues for founders – from losing their name to family rifts and lengthy litigation battles. Delegates at the Luxury Law Summit heard from three company founders who had taken such steps. US menswear designer Simon James Spurr' s experience was so bad that he strongly advised against using the founder’s name when setting up a business. Meanwhile Mario Buccellati, ex-president and COO of the longstanding Buccellati brand, recounted tales of family feuds over the Italian jewellery brand and a court battle. In a fascinating exchange, chaired by Doug Hand of Hand Baldachin Amburgey, the designers discussed with great honesty their experiences of working in a family business and selling it. 

The state of luxury

With Brexit high on the agenda of companies doing business with the UK and the impact of America First on doing business globally, the fifth annual Luxury Law Summit saw 200 global leaders in luxury join their counterparts in London for an intense meeting on the current state of luxury and its challenges and opportunities. Topics high on the agenda included the digital economy and how to make it work – from the connected consumer to wearable tech and big data. The key question -  how bricks and mortar is performing versus online - was tackled as luxury retail outlets come under the spotlight. 

Sustainability and building a good company

With regulatory and reputational issues viewed as a top concern for luxury companies, the group addressed a number of concerns in this area. Aspirations to build a good company were necessary but not every company was scoring high on the reality. Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, former Principal Secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and now a partner at intelligence company DS-48, pointed out that for a good brand to be sustainable, the brand had to be good in the first place. He noted that the brand was only as good as the individuals it was built around.  His view was that brands had to define their desired end state, realisable goals and think long-term. The perennial problem of supply chain issues in other markets was addressed by Jennie McCarthy, head of Vendor Compliance at DKNY and Kelly Koyama, general counsel of Marc Jacobs -their advice being to find a local operator who could be trusted to act on their behalf. 

Handmade is the new chic

Going back to basics was a prevalent theme – with Anne Muhlethaler of Christian Louboutin speaking eloquently on the contribution brands can make to the communities where they work. The theme of the artisan was also discussed with five entrepreneurs who had all set up luxury companies but with different approaches. However, all believed that handmade was the key to luxury. Mark Tallowin designed no more than 15 bags a year whilst Mesh Chhibber of Peau de Chagrin said luxury brands should be heirlooms which last. Sophie Habsburg of Sophie Habsburg Design said it was becoming more difficult to find boutiques which were willing to sell handbags in the tradional way as fashion increasingly goes online. 

Counterfeiting

The age old problem of counterfeiting was not forgotten with David Franklin of CSC saying that counterfeiters often have a bigger share of the market than the brands they copy.  Private prosecutions can be helpful in the fight against counterfeiting but must be used with caution, says Adam Glass of Lewis Silkin with Mulberry GC Kate Wilkinson pointing out that they could be a cost-effective way of disrupting counterfeiters but could something throw up irritating problems such as finding an address to serve the writ. The next event will be held in London on 15 May 2018.