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The Strategies Behind Destination Shows’ Big Comeback

This week, more luxury labels announced shows in far-flung locations. BoF breaks down why brands from Dior to Balenciaga are doubling down on off-piste activations.
Dior staged its cruise 2022 show at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
Dior photographed models at the Acropolis following its cruise 2022 show in Athens, Greece. The rhythm of brands' far-flung destination shows is accelerating. (Dior)

Two years ago, as coronavirus forced the fashion industry to press pause, the far-flung runway spectacles luxury brands had been staging from Malibu to Kyoto were among the rituals some thought may never return.

With borders closed, flights cancelled and economies in freefall — not to mention the looming climate crisis — the idea that Paris and Milan-based brands would resume flying models, stylists, photographers, journalists, influencers and celebrities around the world for 15-minute fashion shows seemed both a logistical non-starter and increasingly difficult to defend.

Even Antoine Arnault, executive committee member at sector leader LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton and Dior, publicly questioned the practice: “Bringing half the fashion world to Rio for 48 hours for a cruise show was beautiful, but it was probably a bit too much,” he told Bloomberg in December 2020. “Maybe we ourselves have been swept into this whirlwind, to always want to offer something novel, extravagant.”

Since then, however, not only have luxury titans like Louis Vuitton and Chanel returned to staging extravagant international events outside the fashion week calendar this year; they are being joined by houses like Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen who had previously stuck to scheduled fashion weeks, as well as some young designer labels (albeit with big online audiences) like Jacquemus.

Despite the costs, both financial and environmental, the business benefits appear to be irresistible. Destination shows provide opportunities to create marketing imagery with a “wow” factor beyond what traditional runways offer. Plus, by staging shows outside noisy fashion weeks packed with rivals, and complementing them with plush experiences that can last for days, brands get a chance to dominate the fashion news cycle, in effect scoring “a fashion week just for me.”

The shows target the influencers, fashion editors and celebrities that drive media mentions, as well as top-spending clients, and can help activate key geographies. As new clients drive surging sales growth, many brands are following the money to global markets where staging a spectacular show can help cement their rising popularity and turn promising new clients into loyal spenders.

Last year, when the repatriation of spending to Mainland China was driving the industry’s growth, brands including Louis Vuitton, Prada and Valentino staged shows in the market.

The pace of China-focused efforts has since slowed amid continued travel and event restrictions linked to the country’s zero-Covid strategy, including the re-emergence of strict lockdowns in the past month as the country attempts to eliminate the more contagious omicron variant.

But another region has been stealing focus: US clients have become the industry’s most important growth driver — with an influx of new customers pushing up first-quarter sales in the region by as much as 26 percent for LVMH.

The region’s renewed importance for the industry is reflected in recent activations: After Gucci staged its “Love Parade” show on L.A.’s Hollywood Boulevard in November and Louis Vuitton’s menswear show in Miami in December, a flurry of brands followed suit.

In March, just after Paris Fashion Week closed, Jacquemus, who favours natural sunlight and picturesque backgrounds for his off-piste outings, staged his first show outside France on an ocean-side runway in Hawaii. (The Frenchman’s move to cast many Pacific Islander models echoed the work of post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin. It also helped the young brand to control costs, as did its decision to work with local production).

The following week, Alexander McQueen showed its Autumn-Winter collection in a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York. Following a show aimed at press and celebrity guests, the brand ran the show a second time to make room for an audience of top clients flown in from around the US and abroad.

VIP clients, not just media buzz, will likely be a focus for Kering stablemate Balenciaga, too, when it shows in New York in May, as the brand works to rebuild its couture business after a 53-year break.

The same month, Louis Vuitton is heading back to the US for a womenswear show at the Salk Institute in San Diego. Dior (which was the only brand that never stopped staging international shows during the pandemic, holding events in Athens and Puglia) is also heading to the US in May, with a menswear show in Los Angeles.

The action isn’t limited to the US, however. Dior is set to show its women’s pre-fall collection in Seoul in June as the country reaffirms its ambition to reopen for international business and travel.

Europe, too, is set to host a slew of destination shows this spring. Southern European havens for the rich have been driving growth among domestic clients, as well as making for glamorous destinations for international guests. Cue shows in Seville for Dior womenswear; Florence and Monaco for Chanel; and Puglia for Gucci. In July, Valentino will stage an haute couture outing in its founding city of Rome, where its design studio is still based.

These venues allow brands to enrich the storytelling of their fashion shows by highlighting local craftsmanship traditions, as well as burnishing their cultural credibility by aligning themselves with historically significant locations.

Europe’s round of destination shows is set to kick off on April 29, when LVMH’s Emilio Pucci label relaunches with an unusual outing in Capri. While Pucci isn’t the sort of multi-billion dollar brand that can typically attract an audience outside of fashion week, owner LVMH is eager to shine a light on a new strategy driven by resort-wear and resort retail.

Under Camille Miceli, a longtime merchandising master for Vuitton’s accessories (who surely wants to come in with a commercial bang) the brand is expected to deploy its colourful signature prints on summer party dresses, beach cover-ups, totes and sandals. It’s been focusing on stores in cities like Miami and Saint Tropez while pulling back from its previous attempts to sell expensive leather goods on Avenue Montaigne.

The luxe setting and partnership with luxury e-tailer MyTheresa aim to attract a new generation of top-spending clients 10 years after the brand associated with the 1960s jet-set was being name-checked by Real Housewives during an earlier (short-lived) renaissance under LVMH ownership.

A tie-up with a single retailer is hardly typical for a designer’s debut show. Brands normally focus on winning over a broad spectrum of industry allies. But MyTheresa will help attract both eyeballs and high-spending clients by staging a co-branded soirée alongside the event, as well as launching the collection with an exclusive “see-now-buy-now” release online.

But whether these shows will land with consumers is hardly a sure bet: Gucci’s LA outing was a coup, garnering visibility on social media and in the press worth an estimated $33 million, according to consultancy Launchmetrics. By contrast, Jacquemus’ show generated memorable images but garnered much less online buzz than some of the star designer’s previous outings in France (likely due to the time difference between Hawaii and key global markets, and a tiny in-person audience).

Travelling shows don’t always go down well with the wider public: Bottega Veneta was criticised for Covid insensitivity over its destination show in Berlin last year, after footage leaked of a packed, maskless afterparty. (While much of the world had already resumed such activities, Germany was still under strict lockdown at the time.)

Brands will also likely face “flightshaming” as concern over the climate crisis grows. Brands say they are taking steps to offset the environmental impact of their shows. Valentino inked a partnership with Air France-KLM to support the implementation of sustainable aviation fuel just before announcing its Rome event. But such strategies often fail to convince critics.

For now, it seems, many of the industry’s biggest brands have decided: the destination show must go on.

THE NEWS IN BRIEF

FASHION, BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY

Sales growth at Hermès eased in the final quarter of last year, missing market forecasts and sending its shares down as much as 7 percent.

Hermès Sales Jump on Ready-to-Wear Clothes, Leather Bags. Revenue rose 27 percent at constant exchange rates to €2.77 billion ($3.02 billion) in the first three months of the year, the Birkin bag maker said in a statement Thursday. Analysts had expected a gain of 15 percent. The standout performer was the ready-to-wear line which grew 44 percent, more than double estimates.

LVMH Expects China to Bounce Back Quickly From Covid-19 Lockdowns. Fashion sales grew by 30 percent in the first quarter, despite a rocky start in the Chinese market, the world’s largest luxury group said. The news comes as LVMH runs into a tough basis of comparison: fashion sales had already jumped 52 percent in the prior year’s quarter.

Uniqlo Operator Reports Record Half-Year Profit Despite China Slowdown. Clothing brand Uniqlo’s Japanese owner reported a record half-year profit on Thursday, even as Covid-19 lockdowns in China hampered sales in its biggest overseas market. Fast Retailing Co said operating profit climbed 18 percent to 189 billion yen ($1.51 billion) in the six months through February from a year earlier.

China Aims to Recycle 25% of Textile Waste By 2025. As well as recycling a quarter of the 22 million tonnes of textile waste accrued each year, the country is looking to produce two million tonnes of recycled fibre annually within the next three years, according to an announcement from China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Ministry of Commerce.

Football Club Paris Saint-Germain Signs Sponsorship Deal With Sneaker Marketplace Goat. The club has signed a three-year agreement with Goat Group Inc. as the online sneaker marketplace moves into team sponsorships and looks to expand outside the US. The deal is valued at more than $50 million, according to a person familiar with the terms.

Australia’s Scanlan Theodore Doubles Down on US Market. The designer label said it will expand from two to six US stores in the next 18 months, opening four new locations in key luxury markets across the country.

Lululemon Expands Resale Programme Across the US. The fitness apparel giant debuted its in-store secondhand programme last year as a pilot in about 80 stores in California and Texas. Starting April 22, Lululemon will be bringing the programme to about 400 stores across the US, where shoppers can trade in their used clothes for store merchandise gift card.

Asos Warns Full-Year Target Is at Risk From Inflation, War. The British online fashion retailer said its full-year earnings goal is at risk from accelerating inflation and disruption from Russia’s war in Ukraine. Asos said Tuesday it’s maintaining its forecast for the fiscal year ending in August, except for the loss of business due to a suspension of sales in Russia.

Chinese Retailer Bananaunder Aims for $500 Million IPO. The Sequoia China-backed brand, known for clothing, footwear and accessories with inbuilt sun protection, has filed to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

African Brands Earmarked for €5 Million Annual Investment From New Partnership. Birimian Ventures, a Côte d’Ivoire-based investment company launched last year to help African luxury and heritage brands grow their businesses regionally and internationally, has partnered with the European private equity firm Trail Capital.

Franchise Group Joins Bidding for Kohl’s. Franchise Group Inc, owner and operator of retail stores such as The Vitamin Shoppe and Buddy’s Home Furnishings, has entered the race for Kohl’s Corp with a $9 billion indicative offer, three people familiar with the matter said.

Sri Lanka’s Apparel and Textiles Sector Struggles Amidst Financial Crisis. Kolonna Manufacturing chief Ranjith Koralage recently told the BBC that his factory, which makes garments for Levi’s, Puma and Victoria’s Secret, is among dozens struggling to meet production targets due to fuel shortages, power cuts and rising costs.

South Korean Sneaker Resale Platform SoldOut Raises $33 million. The operator of South Korea’s online resale marketplace for limited-edition sneakers and streetwear said existing shareholders Musinsa, South Korea’s largest multi-brand online fashion retailer, and Dunamu participated in the investment round of 40 billion won ($32.8 million).

Russian Celebrities and Influencers Destroy Chanel Bags in Protest of ‘Russophobia’. Following reports that the brand is refusing to sell products to Russians abroad unless they agree not to use them in their home country, some have taken to social media, cutting up Chanel handbags in protest.

THE BUSINESS OF BEAUTY

Bulgari perfume.

European Cosmetics Makers Face Supply Crisis Amid Scarcity of Ukraine Resources. The $500 billion global cosmetics sector is grappling with fallout from the war with key crops used by perfume- and cosmetics-makers coming from Ukraine.

PEOPLE

Zilingo ceo headshot

Zilingo CEO Suspended After Questions Over Company Finances. Zilingo Pte, one of Singapore’s highest-profile startups, has suspended chief executive Ankiti Bose after an effort to raise new funding led to questions about the company’s accounting, according to people familiar with the matter.

Compiled by Daniel-Yaw Miller

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