Is this the end of the experiment with celebrity high fashion designers? It turns out that even Rihanna can’t do one thing: sell high fashion clothes during a pandemic.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the French luxury group, announced the Fenty fashion house in 2019 as a big fanfare. However, today they announced that together with Rihanna they had “made the decision to discontinue the European-based clothing activity until conditions improve. “
Translated, this means that the luxury fashion arm of the Fenty empire (an empire that includes the Savage X Fenty lingerie line and Fenty cosmetics and skin care lines separately) no longer produces collections even though it is not officially closed, and Rihanna remains a part by LVMH.
Talks are currently ongoing with the brand’s employees about their future, although Bastien Renard, the label’s managing director, is still in the position. The news was first reported by Women’s Wear Daily.
Though it is shortly after a successful $ 115 million donation round to Savage X Fenty by L Catterton, LVMH-affiliated private equity firm, the exposure of the Fenty ready-made clothing is a rare failure for the World’s Greatest Luxury Group , which also includes Louis Vuitton, Dior and Celine. It’s also the rare misstep of one of the world’s most effective celebrity polymaths: a reflection of both the market’s tepid response to the Fenty collections and the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the luxury sector.
And it’s a reminder that someone who has a tremendous cultural following and unparalleled taste doesn’t mean they’ll be making great, original clothes.
Only the second luxury fashion house LVMH ever attempted to build from scratch (the first was Christian Lacroix, who opened LVMH in 1987 and sold in 2005), Fenty was initially introduced as the group’s foray into the future: a new brand Who is run by a black woman with great style and popular influence but no formal, old-fashioned design training, who eschews the calcified system of runway shows for regular drops and focuses on digital direct sales and communication.
What could go wrong?
A lot of.
Starting a new luxury fashion house from scratch is enormously expensive for any investor and usually takes time. But 2020 was the worst year for the luxury industry in history. While LVMH, the top-selling luxury group, has seen sales surge in recent months, largely driven by Chinese consumers, lockdowns continue to create persistent disruptions and dampen net income. LVMH announced last month that its profit in 2020 was 4.7 billion euros, down around a third from 2019.
And unlike some other LVMH brands that proved resilient during the downturn, like Louis Vuitton and Dior, the Fenty clothing line’s daring experiment struggled to find its booth, prompting Jean-Jacques Guiony, chief financial officer by LVMH, alluded to last October The Group’s third quarter 2020 results were reported during a news call.
“At Fenty Fashion we are obviously still in the start-up phase and have to find out exactly what the right offer is. That is not easy. We started from scratch, ”he said. “Of course we have the great help from Rihanna, but I would say there is still work to be done if it comes to really defining the offer.”
Indeed, “the offer” was unclear from the start. When the house was founded, a statement from LVMH said that the new brand would “focus on the Rihanna she created” and “take shape with her vision”.
While Rihanna built her profile in part on her own strategic and adventurous embrace of high fashion, she received the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers of America’s “Fashion Icon” award in a see-through crystal-speckled gown, thong and white fur boa – she seemed often better at choosing meaningful looks for themselves than creating new ones for their followers. In general, clothing ranged from oversized to body-hugging, with curved streetwear, and came across as derivative rather than pioneering.
They were also potentially more expensive than many of Rihanna’s fans expected (albeit less than the usual LVMH deal): $ 940 for a padded denim jacket; $ 810 for a corsetted shirt dress.
Meanwhile, Savage X Fenty made headlines with Song-n-Dance-n-Celebrity-filled lingerie extravaganzas filmed live and then streamed on Amazon, positioning itself in a post as the most capable, comprehensive answer to Victoria’s Secret -MeToo world.
This time out, granted to clothing brand Fenty, could allow it to reposition itself and refine its offerings to grab a better moment to return – perhaps after the pandemic’s pent-up party desires are unleashed. There’s a reason they didn’t shut it down completely.
On Wednesday, as news of the LVMH partnership spread, Savage X Fenty issued a statement detailing the new funding round in which Jay-Z is an investor through its Marcy Venture Partners. Last year the brand saw “explosive sales growth of over 200 percent,” the statement said, and the “heavily drawn” round would spur investment in customer acquisition and expansion into retail.
“The brand strikes a unique balance between affordability, fashion and comfort, represents inclusiveness and diversity, and has differentiated itself through an exceptional level of affinity and unsurpassed customer loyalty,” said Jonathan Owsley, partner in L Catterton’s growth fund.
Neither the Fenty line nor the suspended experiment with LVMH was mentioned.