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Luxury Seizes the Vacation Dressing Boom

Camille Miceli’s Pucci debut on the island of Capri reflects the industry’s growing focus on resortwear — and resort retail — as consumers return to pre-pandemic lifestyles.
Camille Miceli's Pucci experience on the island of Capri shows how the industry's expansion into resortwear—and resort retail—is accelerating.
Camille Miceli's Pucci experience on the island of Capri shows how the industry's expansion into resortwear — and resort retail — is accelerating. (Pucci)

Key insights

  • Luxury players are betting big on vacation dressing this year as international travel looks set to rebound
  • Vacation lines target high net-worth clients, but they also provide an avenue to stay relevant with more aspirational, younger consumers
  • Retailers also see an opportunity to engage wealthy consumers while they travel, opening pop-ups and stores in resort hotspots like Capri and Saint Tropez

CAPRI — To mark her first collection for Italian luxury brand Pucci, creative director Camille Miceli axed the traditional runway show and took a different route: she organised a holiday.

The former Louis Vuitton accessories designer partnered with e-tailer Mytheresa to stage a three-day experience on the idyllic island of Capri, bringing together a mix of industry figures, influencers and top clients to live la dolce vita — Pucci style. That meant zipping around on speed boats, seafood risotto and champagne cocktails on the beach, and serenades by a traditional folk band; starting the day with morning yoga and singing along to classic tunes like Volare into the night.

Meanwhile, the house’s kaleidoscopic prints could be spotted all around the isle: on table clothes at the local bar; adorning the interiors of speed boats at the harbour; on seats of the island’s funicular cable car. It was Instagram catnip that assured an online splash for a brand that previously struggled to gain traction on social media.

“You don’t relate to seasons, you don’t relate to fashion shows, you relate to a spirit of mind,” Miceli said. “I wanted to emphasise even more the lifestyle — the Pucci lifestyle. It’s about a smile that it gives you when you look at the clothes and you look at the collection.”

Miceli's collection focuses around six different prints from the Pucci archives. “They all have to work together. They all have to mix together,” she said.

The trip exemplified Miceli and parent company LVMH’s vision to re-energise the house by leveraging its roots as a vacation label for fashionable jet-setters, just in time for a post-pandemic vacation surge expected this summer.

“We realised that Pucci was, first of all, a resort concept,” said Sidney Toledano, chief executive of LMVH Fashion Group. “The big names [like Dior] are also looking for the resort, for the beach concept. It’s a big opportunity.”

Pucci isn’t the only luxury player betting big on vacation dressing this season: Dior and Chanel are rolling out more beachside pop-ups in markets including Montenegro and Turkey. Matchesfashion is about to kick off what it calls a “Grand Tour of Italy,” staging activations in Florence, Naples and Ischia as part of a partnership with Pellicano Hotels Group.

The moves come as international travel appears ready to finally bounce back from the pandemic, with consumers in key regions like the US gearing up for their first mask-free summer vacations since 2019. Swimwear sales are set to surpass pre-pandemic levels to hit $22.1 billion in 2022, according to Euromonitor, suggesting shopping for vacation is ready to come back bigger than ever.

“Vacation dressing’s resurgence … is now at a fever pitch, with fewer restrictions around travel than has been allowed since pre-pandemic times,” said Kayla Marci, analyst at market intelligence firm Edited. “Both fashion and luxury retailers have adjusted their assortments to embrace a long-awaited return to normality.”

Resortwear was already becoming a key category for luxury retailers before the pandemic. Shoppers increasingly sought outfits to enhance their travel experience — and how it looked to social media followers back home — with each photo-op representing a bankable opportunity for brands.

For many companies, what started as seasonal marketing interventions quickly turned into a significant business. Just look at Loewe’s Paula’s Ibiza line: what began as a capsule collaboration between the Spanish luxury house and an iconic Balearic boutique back in 2017 has now flourished into a fully-fledged sub-label, spanning ready-to-wear, accessories, and even perfume. In 2019, Loewe acquired the Paula’s Ibiza trademark and archives, allowing creative director Jonathan Anderson to continue to build out the line as a brand within a brand.

Big names like Chanel and Dior bolstered their vacation offerings with dedicated capsule collections, while multi-brand retailers moved beyond bikinis and coverups to sell head-to-toe poolside ensembles. Today, holiday dressing assortments at the likes of Mytheresa and Matchesfashion include items like €280 Zimmermann beach towels, €450 raffia visors from Valentino and Gabriela Hearst, and €1,150 Saint Laurent beach bags.

“It’s really a very popular purchasing occasion,” said Paolo De Cesare, chief executive at Matchesfashion. “Going to a new place and meeting new people and going to new hotels — there’s nothing like this that sparks the idea of updating your wardrobe.”

Matchesfashion is about to kick off its “Grand Tour of Italy,” curated by Marie-Louise Scio and Robert Rabensteiner.

It helps that vacation lines and beachwear items tend to be more accessibly priced than luxury houses’ usual handbags or ready-to-wear lines. A raffia basket bag from Chloé costs about €550, much less than the French house’s classic leather styles that command a price tag of nearly €2,000.

Luxury brands offer these items as a way for high net-worth clients to accessorise their holidays. But they also provide an avenue to stay relevant with more aspirational, younger consumers at a time when prices for their flagship bags are headed skyward.

Consumers see value in the way printed summer dresses and designer basket bags can easily translate from the beach to summer in the city. “[Shoppers] may be buying for the purpose of vacation, they still want to be sure they will use these items again once they return back to their everyday routine,” said NPD analyst Maria Rugolo.

For many consumers, summer 2022 has already started. At Net-a-Porter, the retailer says it is already seeing success selling wicker bags from Loewe, Saint Laurent and Chloé as well as straw hats from Gucci and Valentino. It’s betting hot new drops like Louisa Ballou’s “Sex Wax” swimsuit, Dior sunglasses and exclusive swim pieces from Alaïa will keep shoppers spending as summer rolls on.

Last month, Mytheresa added a special “vacation” shopping tab to its homepage. In April, sales of the women’s vacation category have tripled compared with 2019 levels, according to chief executive Michael Kliger.

“There’s pent up demand,” he said, noting that this is the first season since 2019 when many Americans were willing to venture to Europe again. Brands like Zimmermann, Loewe and Valentino are particularly popular, he said. “It is just much more than beach and swimwear. It’s the full accessorisation … And so we try to offer the basket, the sandals, the sunglasses.”

Brands also see an opportunity to engage wealthy consumers while they travel, marketing special beach collections to a captive audience of resort-goers who have plenty of time to browse — and buy.

Chanel's seasonal boutique in Saint-Tropez.

Chanel just reopened its seasonal boutiques for its Coco Beach collection in Saint Tropez, Capri and Marbella. Dior, meanwhile, is expanding the reach of its Dioriviera beach collection, launching pop-ups in new locations like Bali, Montenegro, and New York’s Montauk.

This weekend in Capri, Pucci’s guests weren’t just posting their Chandon spritzes and beachside selfies online, they were buying too: Shoppers crammed into the brand’s boutique on Via Camerelle to purchase vibrant silk shirts, towering metallic wedges, and chunky pescare bangles inspired by the new brand logo, where two fishes intertwine to form a letter P.

“It’s perfect timing,” Mytheresa’s Kliger said of Pucci’s reboot, “because [after lockdowns] it is so much nowadays about going on vacation, having a party, enjoying life. And the DNA of the brand is very much joy.”

Disclosure: Tamison O’Connor stayed in Capri as a guest of Pucci.

Disclosure: LVMH is part of a group of investors who, together, hold a minority interest in The Business of Fashion. All investors have signed shareholders’ documentation guaranteeing BoF’s complete editorial independence.

Editor‘s Note: This story has been modified on 4th May 2021 at 14:00 BST. A previous version of this story misspelled the name of designer Louisa Ballou.

Further Reading

Social-media savvy consumers are seeking out Instagramable outfits for travelling, presenting a year-round opportunity for fashion brands and retailers alike.

Travellers returning to the airport for the first time since the pandemic will find a different retail landscape awaits them past the security gate.

About the author
Tamison O'Connor
Tamison O'Connor

Tamison O’Connor is Luxury Correspondent at The Business of Fashion. She is based in London and covers the dynamic luxury fashion sector.

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