Week in Review | Burberry’s Connected Culture, Acronym, Maria Luisa Poumaillou, Shaping Shanghai Tang, Airport Retail, Altuzarra and Kering

BoF editor-in-chief Imran Amed recaps the week in the business of fashion.

Angela Ahrendts | Photo: Michael Hemy for BoF

NEW YORK, United States — It feels a little bit like ‘back to school’ here in New York. Indeed, many of the industry insiders already here on the ground or soon to arrive from around the world have noted that the excitement they used to feel about fashion week season has begun to wane, what with the overwhelming number of shows and the so-called “circus” outside and around the core events. Every fashion season, it seems to become clearer that fashion week as it stands no longer works, something that Eric Wilson made clear in his opening piece in The New York Times yesterday.

Luckily, there are still plenty of people in fashion making inspiring contributions to the industry, however, several of whom we met this week, from London to Berlin, and Paris to Hong Kong.

To start the week, we published an exclusive interview with Burberry chief executive, Angela Ahrendts, who has masterfully led the British luxury brand to new heights, alongside her perennial partner-in-crime Christopher Bailey. The key takeaway? That transforming an underperforming brand into an industry (and stock market) darling has required changing not just the company’s image, but the way the entire enterprise works, something Ms Ahrendts calls Burberry’s “connected culture.” A fascinating discussion, with a visionary executive.

In Berlin, we also got to know Errolson Hugh, the enterprising man behind the renegade technical apparel brand Acronym, that — without any marketing budget to speak of — has built a cult-following with a single-minded focus on function. It’s another example of how to carve out a meaningful market niche by staying tightly focused on your key strengths.

Equally interesting was our chat with the multi-talented buyer Maria Luisa Poumaillou. Although she laments the fact that fashion today is “for the most part, a game of marketing with little soul” and struggled with the closure of her world-famous eponymous boutique in Paris, Maria Luisa has stuck to her guns, bringing her proven eye for talent to venerable Parisian department store Printemps, as well as a new chain of stores and a clothing label about to roll out in China.

On to Hong Kong, where BoF’s Divia Harilela met Raphael le Masne de Chermont, executive chairman of Richemont-owned Shanghai Tang, China’s first internationally recognised luxury brand. Mr le Masne de Chermont has played a critical role in re-shaping the brand to focus on the lucrative market of Mainland Chinese customers.

With all this flying around the world, I’d be remiss if I did not mention our piece on the burgeoning business being done by luxury brands in international airports. Whereas airport retail was once an afterthought, luxury brands and airport operators are taking the business to new heights, and capitalising on technology to exploit the so-called “magic hour,” the time between passengers clearing security and boarding their planes.

On a closing note, I was delighted to hear today’s news that Joseph Altuzarra has secured a minority investment from Kering, one of the world’s leading luxury groups, which earlier this year announced an investment in rising British wunderkind Christopher Kane. It’s great to see the industry getting behind the talents of the future.

And with that, I say, onwards and upwards: let the fashion circus begin!