Catch up on the musings of Grazia's Fashion Director Susannah Frankel in her blog, Fashion Victim
At the turn of the millennium the Gucci Group – as presided over by Tom Ford and Domenico de Sole – and owned by PPR (Pinault Printemps La Redoute) snapped up Alexander McQueen, and Stella McCartney in a blaze of publicity. Here was the chance for young talent to flourish with a solid infrastructure behind it in terms of both production and distribution. The move was applauded by all. The designers themselves both spoke of their excitement at the possibility of transforming their relatively small companies into globally recognized brands.
Amber Le Bon, Christopher Kane and Edie Campbell at the British Fashion Awards 2012
Once the dust had settled, though, the business brains behind them began to worry, issuing stern targets that both had to reach in a specific amount of time - it seemed as though any investment was under-performing. For that reason, perhaps, things began to slow down. Call it a change in the economic climate or perhaps just a lack of confidence in injecting huge sums of money into the businesses of such bright, young things. Ford and De Sole parted company with PPR in 2004 and since then the focus has been on developing labels it owns already over and above establishing new names.
Until this week, that is, when it was announced that PPR has acquired a 51 per cent stake of the British designer Christopher Kane’s business. If it feels like history repeating itself then to a certain extent that is the case. Kane, who has been critically acclaimed even since his days as a student (just as McQueen was way back when), is at a point when he needs investment in order to move on to the next level. His talent is in no way disputed but it takes money to turn that into the accessories, second lines, fragrances and so forth that spin the real money for many of the world’s most famous brands.
Backstage at Christopher Kane's Spring/Summer 2013 show in September 2012
As far as PPR is concerned, this is a risk that could end up paying huge dividends. Both Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen are now believed to be worth in excess of €100 million apiece and while that doesn’t mean they compete with the likes of Prada, Gucci and – the biggest of them all – Louis Vuitton and Chanel they are, increasingly, a force to be reckoned with. It has taken more than a decade, though, for that to happen. And that is in no way unusual. While the collective fashion consciousness is always in pursuit of the shock of the new – names are chewed up and spat out at a relentless place – giants as diverse and now legendary as John Galliano, Helmut Lang, Vivienne Westwood took decades and never just seasons to truly establish themselves and for all three it was a rocky ride. As for Kane, of all the designers to have emerged in London in recent years, for now his is the most significant break through.