digitalinfowave


Call it the Prada Exception.

So far, the luxury slowdown has followed a pattern: Stalwarts of top-end, logo-free fashion like Hermès, Zegna and Brunello Cucinelli have surged ahead in recent months while brands dependent on fashion-driven, entry-level luxuries, from Burberry to Kering’s Gucci and Balenciaga, struggled.

This week’s sales were no different. Hermès outperformed expectations as enthusiasm for its iconic Kelly and Birkin bags continues to mount, with many customers willing to buy deeply into the brand across categories. Ultra-luxe, so-called “quiet luxury” propositions outperformed for Italian companies, too: Zegna’s first-quarter sales climbed by 11 percent while Brunello Cucinelli surged 18 percent, defying predictions for a slowdown across the market.

Meanwhile, Kering confirmed its forecast for a 10 percent year-on-year drop in first-quarter sales, and warned investors first-half profits would likely fall by 40 to 45 percent. “Gucci is not in the sweet spot for positioning — it’s seen as not enough high-end, not enough affordable,” chief financial officer Armelle Poulou said.

And yet Prada, which deploys its triangle logo heavily on products which tend to be priced closer to Gucci than Hermès, is also in the winner’s camp. This week, the brand said retail sales rose 7 percent. Trendy sister brand Miu Miu, which has also applied its bubbly logo across collections, fared even better with sales popping by 89 percent.

Prada’s outperformance challenges narratives about quiet luxury and top-end items dominating the current market. Where customers are putting their money may be less about logos or not, but about what those logos stand for.

Gucci, of course, is coping with brand-specific challenges as it seeks to move on from former designer Alessandro Michele’s maximalist vision and build a new story with Sabato de Sarno, a first-time creative director with a more subtle, sartorial aesthetic.

But Prada also outperformed Louis Vuitton-owner LVMH, which is used to leading the pack during luxury results season. Fashion and leather goods sales at LVMH grew by 2 percent on an organic basis in the first quarter, less than a third the rate of Prada’s.

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In an era where seemingly every label is trying to be “cultural brand,” Prada is the original: For decades, Mrs. Prada and her husband, executive chairman Patrizio Bertelli, have worked to position their company at the intersection between commerce and the cutting edge of contemporary art, cinema, design and architecture. Initiatives include art foundations in Milan and Venice, facilities designed by Renzo Piano or Rem Koolhaas and campaigns featuring of-the-moment stars.

“They’ve been very good at telling the world that art is fashion, and fashion is art,” Citi analyst Thomas Chauvet said.

Prada’s longstanding involvement in those arenas, as well as the unfussy, sporty quality of many carry-over items means the brand’s logo is less of a badge of ostentatious wealth than one of cultural curiosity and style. “While both Miuccia and [co-creative director] Raf [Simons] love to weave social and cultural commentary into their collections, they are also product-first designers who create clothes that people really love to wear,” Mytheresa’s chief commercial and sustainability officer Richard Johnson said.

As such, Prada has continued to do big business in entry-level, logoed luxuries like nylon card holders and rucksacks even as demand from aspirational shoppers broadly cools off in the face of slowing growth in real wages and industry-wide price hikes. For now, being a part of Prada’s universe still feels worth it — a dynamic that’s particularly true at the moment for the group’s Miu Miu label, where viral runway shows featuring a twisted take on youthful street style have spawned a global fashion sisterhood.

Aspirational clients are just one piece of the puzzle. While Prada’s colourful, design-first aesthetic may have little overlap with the conservative look of luxury houses like Hermès or Brunello Cucinelli, the businesses have more in common than meets the eye. Prada’s ready-to-wear collections (co-designed by Mrs. Prada and Raf Simons) have attracted a loyal following of wealthy shoppers over the years, who continue to buy heavily into the brand. Hefty price hikes in recent seasons and a push by stores to get fashion-driven clients to place orders in advance (rather than keeping too many complex seasonal pieces in stock) has limited the margin risk from having a high exposure to ready-to-wear.

A healthy dynamic in luxury ready-to-wear seems like a key theme this quarter: coatmaker Moncler Group also reported strong growth. On the other end of the spectrum, LVMH’s sluggishness could be largely attributed to its dependence on pricey handbags (not all of which have the customer clout to command record prices).

“The big conglomerates could certainly be feeling some fatigue in handbags. The category might be suffering due to a lack of affordability … And it’s a harder category to differentiate yourself in than ready-to-wear or shoes,” Chauvet said.

To be sure, one quarter’s sales won’t make outperforming luxury’s biggest groups — which have an edge on competitors for everything from real estate to marketing, logistics and talent acquisition — a structural trend for Prada Group. The Miu Miu craze is sure to slow eventually, and Prada is not immune to downturns either. The company took 10 years to get back above its 2013 peak after a China-fuelled surge in revenues fizzled.

But for now, fashion’s most “cultural” brand is flying high.

THE NEWS IN BRIEF

FASHION, BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY

Chanel bag.
(Shutterstock)

Chanel CEO says price hikes are driven by inflation and craftsmanship. A classic medium-sized Chanel flap bag rose above the €10,000 ($10,731) threshold for the first time in Paris last month. The luxury goods maker is seeking pricing harmonisation across the globe and adjusts prices in different markets to ensure that the company is “fair to all our clients everywhere,” CEO Leena Nair said.

Valentino chairman bets quiet luxury is over after Michele hire. Rachid Mohamed Rachid said it will be “a new chapter” for Valentino after the Italian fashion house hired Alessandro Michele as its creative director last month. He said colours and bold designs will “come back with force and we are getting ready for that.”

US sues to block $8.5 billion union of Coach and Michael Kors. Antitrust enforcers said Tapestry’s acquisition of Capri would raise prices on handbags and accessories in the affordable luxury sector, harming consumers. The FTC, which voted unanimously to block the deal, simultaneously filed complaints in its in-house and federal courts.

Nike says job cuts at Oregon headquarters to total more than 700. CEO John Donahoe said Nike would slash its global headcount by 2 percent as management seeks as much as $2 billion in cost savings over the next three years.

Chinese tourists are again embracing international travel. 63 percent of China’s residents say they’re ready to return to exploring the world, according to a survey published on Wednesday. They plan to venture further afield than previously, with just 10 percent spurning international travel altogether.

Express files for US bankruptcy protection and will close over 100 stores. The retailer listed assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion, according to a filing with the bankruptcy court in Delaware. The company also named Mark Still as its new CFO, effective immediately.

Chilean retailer Falabella aims to close several major asset sales this year. This is part of the company’s plan to raise $850 million to $1 billion and help improve its credit metrics, said chief executive officer Alejandro González. The strategy to improve credit metrics also includes cost cuts and a recovery in revenue and profitability indicators.

EU Parliament approves new business supply chain audit law. The new law will require larger companies operating in the bloc to check if their supply chains use forced labour or cause environmental damage and to take action if they do. EU lawmakers backed the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive by 374 votes to 235 against, with 19 abstentions.

LVMH Prize names finalists. On Sept. 10 the eight designers will present their collections at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. Designer Phoebe Philo and Louis Vuitton menswear creative director Pharrell Williams were added to the jury.

THE BUSINESS OF BEAUTY

TikTok is facing new pressures.
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TikTok’s crackdown on Ozempic influencers threatens the weight-loss drug hype machine. The platform will effectively ban most weight loss-related content starting next month. According to the new rules, the app will no longer allow the marketing of weight-loss products and will specifically restrict minors from viewing or sharing content that shows, describes “potentially harmful” weight management behaviours.

Unilever India is losing foreign shareholders on high valuations. Foreign funds reduced their ownership of India’s largest staples company to 12.7 percent at the end of March, down from as high as 14.5 percent in June last year. The firm’s shares have slumped more than 9 percent in the past 12 months.

Galderma sales top $1 billion. Within the injectables category were $263 million, up 20.4 percent, while fillers and biostimulators were $248 million, up 18.2 percent. Dermatological skincare sales were $351 million, with global expansion in Asia, as well as marketing efforts tied to New York Fashion Week and the Super Bowl.

Playground closes $2 million in funding round. This marks the brand’s first institutional raise since its founding in 2023. The company will use the funding to expand their retail network and the brand launches in Target this month.

PZ Cussons to sell St. Tropez. The fake tan brand could be worth £100 million, Investec analyst Matthew Webb said in a note. The company also put its Africa business under review, potentially pivoting away from the region in which it was founded to invest in its remaining business and pay down debt.

Unilever sales rise more than expected. The consumer goods group said sales rose 4.4 percent in the first three months of the year, ahead of analyst expectations of 3.5 percent. Shares of Unilever rose as much as 5 percent in early trading in London. The stock is down more than 9 percent in the past year.

Celine adds to fragrance line-up. Beyond extending into cosmetics, Celine is adding to its fragrance assortment with Zouzou priced at $280. Its name is derived for the affectionate term used for young girls with short hair, or also to convey fondness.

PEOPLE

Ganni backstage.
(Ganni)

Ganni hires new CEO from Balenciaga. Balenciaga’s deputy CEO. Laura du Rusquec will take the reins as chief executive of the Danish brand, replacing Andrea Baldo, according to the company. Baldo joined Ganni in 2018, shortly after L Catterton took a majority stake in the business.

Marcelo Burlon steps down as creative director of his namesake brand. Burlon, a former DJ, stylist and PR, founded the Milan-based label as a T-shirt line in 2012, inspired by ‘90s club culture. A successor has not been named.

Designer Nancy Gonzalez is sentenced to 18 months in exotic skin smuggling case. The designer had previously pled guilty to the charges. Her Colombia-based company Gzuniga Ltd was banned from selling any exotic-skin bags for next three years and ordered to forfeit all handbags and previously seized products.

MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY

Google is debuting an experimental new search experience and will use its shopping vertical as a key testing ground.
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Google postpones phasing out of ad cookies in Chrome browser. The company pushed the move to 2025. Google has been talking with publishers, marketers and regulators about its plan to replace cookies through an initiative known as the Privacy Sandbox.

Biden signs possible TikTok ban into law. TikTok’s chief executive said on Wednesday that the company expects to win a legal challenge to block the legislation. The bill gives China-based ByteDance 270 days to divest TikTok’s US assets or face a ban.

Italy fines Amazon 10 million euros for alleged unfair commercial practices. Amazon “significantly restricted consumers’ freedom of choice” by automatically pre-setting a ‘Subscribe and Save’ option, the regulators said. Amazon contested the decision and said it would appeal.

Compiled by Yola Mzizi.



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