Taking cues from the outerwear brand’s successful Genius project, the LVMH-owned house said Thursday it is pursuing a new creative strategy focused around a series of guest collaborations. First up: Koché’s Christelle Kocher.
In recent years, Pucci has lacked direction. Since the exit of former creative director Massimo Giorgetti in April 2017, an internal design team has created collections for the runway. Now, it is looking to open its archives to “creative voices,” rather than appointing a singular creative director for the house.
Luxury brands are increasingly betting on collaborations and guest designers to keep consumers hooked. While collaborations are not a new idea, Moncler helped pioneer the concept of a constant pipeline of guest design talent. After the outerwear brand’s sales took off, labels ranging from Tod's to Calvin Klein have attempted to mimic its approach, to varying degrees of success.
This could be a way to bring new ideas to a brand that has ... failed to blossom — so far — and develop its potential.
The Italian resort brand, best known for its use of bold, colourful prints was founded in 1947 by Emilio Pucci. LVMH acquired a 67 percent stake in 2000, but the label remained largely dormant for much of the next decade. In 2009, Peter Dundas was hired to help push Pucci beyond kaftans and vacationwear, and Alessandra Carra was appointed chief executive in 2011 with a mission to kickstart global growth.
Carra departed in 2014, and Dundas left a year later. The brand remains one of the smallest in LVMH’s portfolio, though earlier this week Bernard Arnault, the conglomerate's chairman and chief executive, said he wasn’t interested in selling it or other niche labels.
Pucci needs to change, but its lack of momentum may hinder its ability to capitalise on fresh creative talent, analysts say.
“This could be a way to bring new ideas to a brand that has remained too close to its roots, and has failed to blossom — so far — and develop its potential,” said Bernstein analyst Luca Solca. “The big difference with Moncler is that Genius came to Moncler compounding strong forward momentum. Pucci is static instead.”
Kocher, a former LVMH prize finalist, is tasked with creating a collection that includes ready-to-wear and accessories. It will debut during Milan Fashion Week in February and arrive in stores in September. The designer told BoF that the tie-up is meant as a one-off collaboration. In a statement, Pucci said the brand was drawn to Kocher for “her unique blend of couture and street.”
Kocher founded her label in 2015 and won the Andam Grand Prize last year. She is best known for her haute-meets-urban aesthetic and generated revenue of €3.7 million in 2018. Last year, the brand inked a licensing deal with OTB. Alongside her brand, Kocher is also the artistic director of Maison Lemarié, a couture atelier specialising in flowers, feathers and pleats, owned by Chanel subsidiary Paraffection.
“It’s a collaboration, but with a very old fashion house with a strong identity … the print, the colours, the history, the story,” Kocher told BoF. “I find it very interesting to do an exercise on a very historic house where Koché could bring important creativity [and] freshness.”
She said her collection will introduce new fabrics and shapes to the Pucci identity.
It’s a collaboration, but with a very old fashion house with a strong identity: the print, the colours, the history, the story.
Pucci’s new strategy has had a mixed track record within the fashion industry. For Moncler, enlisting a mix of buzzy guest designers to design limited-edition monthly collections has generated enormous buzz on social media and driven renewed interest in the brand’s other offerings.
While just 10 percent of Moncler’s sales come from Genius collections, the strategy has helped introduce the brand to a younger demographic: now, 40 percent of brand customers are of the Gen Z and millennial generations. In addition, 50 percent of Genius customers are first-time purchasers of the brand, while 40 percent also purchased the brand’s other products. In the first nine months of 2019, revenue rose to €995.3 million, up 14 percent from a year earlier.
But the model isn’t a plug-and-play solution that will guarantee results for all brands. Dior, one of LVMH’s biggest brands, employs different designers for its men's and women's collections who frequently collaborate with outside brands and designers, often to great success. However, a Genius-like initiative adopted by Tod’s has failed to deliver significant returns. Calvin Klein’s collaboration programme, announced in May 2019 as inCKubator, has yet to materialise.
Whether Pucci’s approach will work depends on its ability to deliver desirable products and execute an effective marketing strategy. Moncler’s Genius project also worked well because every collaboration was centred around creatively reinterpreting its bread-and-butter product: the puffer jacket.
Emilio Pucci is, at its core, a ready-to-wear brand that shows seasonal collections at fashion week. But while it doesn’t have a business-driving hero product, it does have a heritage and strong creative identity rooted in vibrant prints — the Emilio Pucci archive houses over 20,000 of them.
“If you want to be a fashion authority, you are more or less linked to the idea of a single creative director with his specific fashion-forward vision,” said Mario Ortelli, managing partner at Ortelli&Co. “If you are a brand that is high-end luxury but is more focused on a specific product or on heritage, the Genius model is better because you keep newness continuously on the core attribute of the brand.”