Fashion Industry Cautiously Stages a Comeback

WWD looks at companies from Chanel to Givenchy, Eileen Fisher to Juicy Couture, as they plan postrecession business strategies.

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Prada RTW Fall 2010

Photo By Davide Maestri

Sebastian Suhl

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Ralph Toledano

Photo By Courtesy Photo


“We don’t feel as if we’re coming out of a recession because we had a very good year last year with retail sales up 15 percent, profitability up as well, and like-for-like sales holding, though wholesale sales were a bit softer,” said Sebastian Suhl, chief operating officer of Prada SpA. “We were already cost conscious and try to control inventory and the flexibility of replenishments, especially in leather goods.”

Suhl said the top priority now is opening stores supported by significant public relations programs and in-store events such as cocktail parties during the openings.

“This year we plan 43 new Prada stores and 25 Miu Miu ones all over — in the U.S., Europe, Asia-Pacific and Japan,” said Suhl. “Speaking of special projects with great editorial return, the Prada Transformer event [in Seoul] was the de facto single largest project for the brand and a great platform, with 100,000 visitors on a limited reservations program.”


Chloé chairman and ceo Ralph Toledano is reaching out to customers in increasingly creative ways.

The Paris-based brand is staging exclusive store events such as trunk shows and cocktails for a handpicked crowd, but also launching more democratic online efforts such as a peek backstage at its fall fashion show with model Raquel Zimmermann.

“We have improved our systems in order to really better know the customer,” said Toledano.

Luxury consumers are seeking creativity, value and relevance, he said. With cautious retailers still keeping inventories to a minimum, the brand has lowered the average prices of its spring collection, in stores now, by 15 percent versus last year.

“We have seen that the customer responds very well, but delivering affordable prices for the sake of affordable prices doesn’t mean anything,” Toledano said. “If it’s not special, forget it.”

Resort collections account for 60 to 65 percent of Chloé’s ready-to-wear business, so delivering the right product at the right time is key. Iconic products remain especially popular.

“At the end of the day, strong pieces still sell even if they are very high priced,” he explained. “You should never compromise on quality, because that is what we are: Chloé is not a high street brand, it’s a luxury brand.”

Traffic started to pick up in the brand’s own stores in September, and April should see a strong rebound, he predicted. Growth is particularly strong in China, where Chloé hopes to open several units this year, though elsewhere it will focus on maximizing its existing store network.

The brand also is gearing up for the launch of a second fragrance in June.

“We have big expectations. The first one was a fantastic success and hopefully we’ll do it again,” Toledano said.


Burberry rocketed through the recession, and has no plans to pause and refuel. The brand, which reported a seven percent spike in second-half sales to 707 million pounds, or $1.1 billion, has a battery of fresh initiatives to spur consumers to shop.

In July, Burberry and its beauty licensee, Inter Parfums, will introduce the Burberry Beauty 96-unit makeup line, which draws inspiration from the brand’s signature trench. Initial distribution will be limited to 30 doors worldwide, and 30 to 40 more doors will be added next year. Industry sources estimate each counter will generate from 500,000 euros to 1 million euros, or $670,000 to $1.3 million at current exchange, at retail in their first year.

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