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Arnault’s Bet Pays Off: Christian Dior Hits Stride With $36M Profit in ’02

PARIS — Bernard Arnault is expecting another billion-dollar baby — and it’s due in 2006 or 2007.That’s when the Christian...

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"Frankly, I look more to Chanel than YSL," he said. "This makes a difference for us because [YSL] doesn’t make couture anymore and this you see in the products. It’s a feeling, it’s a know-how. I always insist the couture is not only to provide dresses to couture customers. Our designer, John Galliano, what he does in haute couture has an impact on all the other products. I see that at Chanel. I don’t see it at YSL."

Toledano allowed that it takes a good five to six years to rejuvenate a brand. "You don’t do it in three years," he said. "You need a permanent creative director and a permanent president and manager, plus you need the full backing, not only financial, but the vision, of the shareholder."

Dior has faced criticism for promoting an eclectic rather than unified brand image — sexy, outrageous and extravagant for women’s, austere and strict for men’s. Detractors say it’s a recipe for confusion. But Toledano insisted customers are tickled, rather than confounded.

"The fact that we have three designers for one brand gives us an edge in this period instead of the other formula: one designer for several brands," Toledano said, in yet another allusion to Gucci Group, where Tom Ford designs for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. "The universe of Dior is not monolithic. When [customers] go from one room to another in a Dior boutique, they look for something different. We see young couples going from the women’s area to men’s wear and having a different experience. It’s a source of diversity today and everyone’s happy about it."

Arnault went further, saying Dior’s progress is the result of a "perfect match" between the brand and its three designers.

"Had I hired Marc Jacobs for Dior and John Galliano for Louis Vuitton, it would not have worked as well for both brands, even though both designers are geniuses of their own," he said. "Similarly, Victoire de Castellane for fine jewelry and Hedi Slimane for men fully embody Dior today. I think a real match between a brand with such a history as Dior and a designer like John Galliano is a unique combination. It is working so well because the customer feels it is a natural association. Dior was in the blood of John Galliano long before he was working at Dior. I think Victoire and Hedi also have Dior somewhere in their DNA."
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