Saint Laurent Is Gaining On Gucci, As Alessandro Michele's Meteoric Brand Growth Slows

Gucci’s maximalist juggernaut is showing signs of slowing. In Kering’s 2019 first quarter report, sales rose 20 per cent on a comparable basis. Although Alessandro Michele’s maximalist vision still makes up almost three quarters of the conglomerate’s profit, the numbers pale in comparison to previous quarters, where Gucci has consistently topped 35 per cent growth. In 2018, it topped €8 billion in sales with 36.9 per cent growth.

Kering shares dropped as much as 7.6 per cent in Paris trading as the group’s revenue narrowly beat analysts’ estimates, but chief financial officer Jean-Marc Duplaix showed no signs of concern. “We’re in a phase of normalisation,” he commented, before adding, “I’m very comfortable with Gucci’s trajectory” of Kering’s all-star earner. Indeed, just when fashion assumes Michele has reached his zenith, he veers off into a new fantastical direction that delights his audience.

Gaining on Gucci is Saint Laurent. Sales are up 17.5 per cent on a comparative basis, which the company attributes to strong performance in leather goods and the influence of its high-profile fashion shows. Its €498 million turnover – no mean feat considering its one-fifth of the size of Gucci – is evenly split across markets, while Gucci’s sales are driven by China. Anthony Vaccarello’s rock’n’roll mood, inherited from Hedi Slimane and refined by his own hand, resonates the world over, and not just within the pockets of brand loyalists, it seems.

Kering also praised the momentum of other brands, including Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, within its stable and the “creativity of their offers and the innovativeness of their execution”.

The blip in its report card came from Bottega Veneta, which saw a profit dip of 8.9 per cent. Since Daniel Lee succeeded Tomas Maier as creative director in June 2018, the pressure has been on for him to reestablish the heritage brand’s identity for a modern audience. After murmurs that his vision could fill the void left by Phoebe Philo’s Céline (uncoincidentally his former colleague and mentor), sales of his “hotly anticipated collections”, as coined by Kering, which will be available in stores from mid-2019, are yet to reflect whether the customer has connected with Lee. Undeterred by its appointment, the group put a positive spin on the numbers: “As Bottega Veneta implements a fundamental reset, early indicators are highly encouraging.”

Kering surmised the “very good performance report” – a total of €3,785.3 million, up 17.5 per cent on a comparable basis – by forecasting an upwards trajectory, one which puts it in a financial position to keep donating to philanthropic projects, such as the Notre-Dame restoration. “The agility we have put at the heart of our organisation positions us well to continue achieving steady, sustainable and profitable growth,” it said.


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