The balance of fashion power is shifting in luxury brands, with leadership changes highlighting the sector's uneasy transition to an era of younger customers.
Louis Vuitton has just named musician Pharrell Williams as its new creative director for menswear. Problems at Gucci, which named Sabato De Sarno its new creative director last month, mean the brand may be losing its cool-kid status faster than many realized.
Kering, the parent of names like Yves St. Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, reported substantial fourth-quarter gains in some divisions. But sales sank 14% at Gucci, by far its largest brand.
De Sarno, who joins the company from Valentino, will reveal his first work for Gucci in the fall. His appointment follows intense speculation on what Gucci's new vision will be following the departure of Alessandro Michele in November. That shake-up has led many fashion critics to wonder if the label can maintain its hold on trendsetters like Harry Styles and Jared Leto.
Kering's revenue rose 9% for the year, but fourth-quarter results slipped 7% to $5.67 billion, failing to meet expectations.
Those results "are not uniformly up to our ambitions and potential," says François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer, in its announcement. The drop in Gucci’s sales came as it was "significantly affected by the situation in China during the quarter."
Revenues also dipped 4% at its "Other Houses." That division includes a scandal-rocked Balenciaga, which the company says "had an excellent 2022, despite a difficult month of December."
That's quite an understatement, as the brand struggles to shake off the controversy related to advertising images that appeared to use children dressed in S&M bondage gear.
At LVMH, the appointment of Williams as the creative director of Louis Vuitton's men's division signals additional changes of the guard. The position has been vacant since the death of Virgil Abloh in late 2021.
Last month, LVMH elevated Delphine Arnault, who had been executive vice president of Louis Vuitton, to chairman and CEO of Christian Dior Couture. She is the daughter of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault. Alexandre Arnault, his son, has been the chief executive at Tiffany & Co. since 2021.