IHT Heritage Luxury 2010

IHT Heritage Luxury 2010

I've been away in the Outer Hebrides on a jaunt that will explode all over this page tomorrow morning because I went a bit mad with the camera.  Highlands, winds, sea, grass and rocks – is that a hip-hip-hooray cheer I hear out there?  Today though, it was back down to earth and quite literally down to business as I was invited to see the International Herald Tribune Heritage Luxury Conference where important people with CEO, director titles mingle in a room listening to an impossibly important group of people speak, chaired and hosted by Suzy Menkes.  Then all of these important job titled people go pick at asparagus, cous cous and invariably overcooked meats from metal trays whilst the press lot form orderly queues for computers.

Alright, alright, I jest.  We in fact FOUGHT for computers.  My signal on my phone was quite shady and it can't connect to WiFi so I was itching to Tweet throughout the day…


Order, order!  I'm resolved to keep this post on track in the dutiful and professional manner that Suzy Menkes kept the day going swimmingly despite speakers being late (*ahem* Karl Lagerfeld) and mic and sound problems.  The subject is of course how heritage exists within luxury brands and what is the relationship between the two – be it brands using heritage to revive themselves, using it to innovate the future and basically maximising the most out of whatever heritage each brand has got to get results and in most cases, this translates to expansion and profit.  I'm leaving Imran of BoF (who did Tweet successfully) to the monetary consequences of each brand case study… but aside from number crunching, most of the talks conveyed passion for their respective brand and their role that can't be quantified.  My tidbits may not tell you anything about heritage or luxury but they did stick in the brain.  I had to skip out on quite a few of them but these are the ones I saw…


Alber Elbaz, Artistic Director, Lanvin – Dancing with History
Elbaz doesn't really need fluidity or direction in his speech because he seems to have a charming way with words that means he could be reading out an ingredients list and it could sound vaguely interesting.  I know this from standing after his shows and literally being there for an hour as he does interview after interview and it's all absorbing…

"I'm married with Jeanne Lanvin – my mother will be happy to know that I married a lady!"

On the H&M collaboration…
"The project was more about being generous and to push H&M to become luxury – H&M being luxury, now that's a news story."

Candid honesty on a process that goes on A LOT in fashion houses…
"Or maybe we don't need luxury.  If you can go to Portobello market and buy a vintage piece to copy in an atelier."

When asked whether all fashion houses are revivable…
"Houses with tradition and heritage are harder to revive in a way as it can block you."

On the delights of guffing down a complex carbohydrate…
"I'm best inspired when I'm sitting on the couch eating potatoes."


Angela Ahrendts, Chief Executive Officer and Christopher Bailer, Chief Creative Officer of Burberry – Reinterpreting Heritage for a Digital Age
I didn't catch many quotes from Baily and Ahrendt's chat but they basically recounted the history and legacy of founder Thomas Burberry and the way the business and collections revolve around the trenchcoat which I guess brings us neatly to…

… one of the big news stories of the day, that Burberry will be launching Burberry Bespoke in early 2011, a website that will allow you to customise a Burberry trenchcoat to your exacting specification.  We all got a sneak peek of the behemoth site that promises to offer over 12 MILLION trenchcoat possibilities.  Of course, this is only possible because every facet of the trench is customisable. You know how you often see 'Customise' systems which are too often limited and well…a bit lame… Burberry Bespoke I think is going to be a different beast altogether with options for buttons, colours, linings, trims, embellishments, cut, fabric, fit on a site that at a quick glance looks like a riot to play around with.  When asked about pricepoints however, Ahrendt didn't really divulge.  It may not even be set out yet but I expect for example a trench with neon trim, a studded collar, leather buckles to cost a pretty penny.  Oh well… I'll just go on the website to create VIRTUAL DREAM trenches.  And err… I'll convince myself that it's the same as owning the physical thing.

Some other facts I picked up were…
The Burberry check was in fact invented by a customer, not Burberry themselves.  A French customer in the 1920s wanted something to distinguish her trench from others and chose a check lining as her mark.

The Art of Trench project was actually inspired by a book by Thomas Burberry called 'Open Spaces' which contained testimonials of people who wore the trenchcoat.

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Jennifer Woo, President of Lane Crawford and Alannah Weston, Creative Director of Selfridges & Co. – The Heritage Birthday Panel
Lane Crawford is a store that I'm only beginning to discover in the midst of its innovative period (despite my roots lying in Hong Kong), which started in 2003 when Woo became president and realised the department store needed a shake-up.  I'm personally loving the projects it's engaging in, and completely understood that during a time when retailers in Hong Kong and China were just throwing meaningless bargains and shouting at you to buy Cheap!Cheap!Cheap!, it must have been a risk to push things forward to the position they're in now and present what I think is an impressive edit.  Loved Woo's injection of her own archive photos of her ancestors to show that six generations of Hong Kong-ers have been shopping at Lane Crawford…

I'm not going to recap the birthday shenanigans that Selfridges did for their centenary as I did quite a bit on it last year when it was happening.  Needless to say Weston did a good job of recapping the events for those that aren't so familiar.  She may have said Pantone Shade 109 seven times in her presentation and put a yellow Kid Robot rabbit on the podium just to emphasise that EXACT shade of yellow.


Mary-Adair Macaire, CEO of Pringle of Scotland – Become Who You Are
I loved the honesty of Macaire's speech and her's probably gave me the most food for thought.  Heritage is all well and good but the question she raised was, can she make it sell product?  How attached do you need to be with heritage and ultimately, can it sometimes hold you back?  I'm a huge fan of all aspects of Pringle's recent revival – projects, imagery and the creative direction of the collection and I love that it is still a work in progress, one that will hopefully yield plenty for a brand that doesn't yet have the kind of retail penetration that the other biggie speakers have. 

"Just because you had it in the past doesn't mean you have got it today. No business can exist on its heritage alone."

On how the name Pringle of Scotland didn't really have the best conontations or even resonate at all…
"When I got the job, I was congratulated with 'Wow, that's so great you're taking on Nick Faldo's golf brand!' and 'You're really going to a different environment aren't you by switching to the fast food industry!'"

"It's an incomplete journey.  We're not there yet and we have to ask whether we can still be relevant today."

Also had no idea that Pringle coined the term 'knitwear', a word that peppers our fashion vocabulary as though it had ALWAYS existed.  I'm also looking forward to their upcoming collaboration with Central Saint Martins' BA Fashion and History Theory students on an archive organisation and revival project that I think will be unveilled next year.

Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, Non-Executive Director of Liberty – Liberty: A Soul Reprinted
I didn't take down many figures but this one did stick above anything else that Bourdoynnaye said, as he recounted the profit and image turnaround of Liberty, my most beloved 'emporium boutique' as he put it.  Turnover is up by 40% in 2010 and now FINALLY it's in profit and I no longer have to walk in fearing that it might be in trouble.  That left me happy, hopeful and all I really need is this Oscar Wilde quote about Liberty, that it was "the chosen resort of the artistic shopper" and me thinks that will stick for a while yet. 


Rosita, Angela and Margherita Missoni – Dealing With a Family Heritage
I never did state the obvious here and say how much I rated the S/S 10 campaign featuring the entire Missoni clan – comfortable, relaxed and being the best ambassadors for the Missoni brand as captured by Juergen Teller.  This spirit was on display on stage as three generations of Missoni women were gabbing with Menkes.  Ottavio Missoni coming on stage for a brief moment at the end saying "I'm husband, father and grandfather – that's my story!" sums up the current matriarchal setup of the brand with the reins slowly being passed over to Margherita, whose passion for the family business is captured here…

"If Missoni wasn't doing well, it was as if I got sick, like there was a cut on my arm…"

Rosita Missoni on knowing when to stop…
"For me fashion had become a task and duty.  I would bring home all these magazines and not recognise the world I lived in.  I was trapped in a zig zag cage."

Margherita on the backlash against her recent show and I think she gave a pretty good response that will bode for interesting things for Missoni's future collections…
"I'm glad it got a lot of dramatic reviews.  The thing is, Missoni didn't start off as a classic and pleasant brand.  Missoni was kicked out of Florence Fashion Week in the beginnning as Italians didn't like colour and it was rule-breaking.  I want to bring Missoni back to that.  Hopefully people will get used to the shows which may not be pleasant at first sight."


Victoria Beckham – Building the Victoria Beckham Brand
The surprise guest of the day was of course anticipated with frenzy and paps but in the end it was pretty calm as Menkes q and a'd Vicky B who announced "this (conference) was the most grown up thing I've ever done!"  She was also well excited about her Chanel shoes that she had just bought for the conference not knowing that Karl Lagerfeld would be appearing.  I respect the fact that Menkes rates Beckham's credentials as a designer and a brand-builder and gave her this suitably serious forum…

On David Beckham's role as fashion collaborator…
"Well he just looks good doesn't he?  David looks good and I'm the funny one…"

On red carpet dressing…
"I just want women to feel and look good from all angles.  It's not just the front and back."

On the possibility of designing menswear…
She recalled a convo she was having with Menkes and declared that "Men look better with their clothes off…"


Karl Lagerfeld – In his Own Words
I suppose there's not much that Lagerfeld HASN'T said.  Lagerfeld-isms are so rife, I'm not sure what else this adds but of course the audience were regaling with laughter at his particular turn of phrasing.  The key thing to take away though which he has emphasised before is his detachment to the past and archives, and that in order to be free to create you just have to concentrate on the present which I suppose wasn't the general consensus of the day as each brand valued the past in different ways but for Lagerfeld, capturing 'the moment' is still his main priority…

On reviving with a LACK of respect…
"If you want to revive something, don't do it with respect.  You just get a funeral parlour if you do it with respect.  Nobody wants to go to a funeral parlour."

On Coco Chanel losing touch in the sixties…
"Nobody wanted to be told that blue jeans and mini skirts were not chic!"

On… well, his lack of modesty…
"The best idea they (Chanel) had was to ask ME!  It has become a blueprint for lots of other house revivals."

On computers…
"I don't really use computers and all that.  My brain is supposed to do the same job, no?  But computers are beautiful objects.  I just like looking at them."

(All images from Getty)

P.S. Sadly I may not be able to go along tomorrow but I recommend BoF's Twitter to keep everyone updated


Leave a comment
  1. shareitwearit

    2010-11-09 at 9:03 PM

    Wonderful sum up of day 1 I look forward to day 2! I am off to sit on my couch and eat potatoes. Thank you.

  2. Editors at Style Section LA

    2010-11-09 at 11:19 PM

    How does Karl Lagerfeld make fashion so humorous? Great article.

  3. Brandon Acton-Bond

    2010-11-10 at 2:03 AM

    Thanks for summing this up Susie. Very interesting maybe someone was hopefully taping the whole thing? I loved what the Missoni clan was talking about and how Margarita was totally fine with the dramatic reviews and her take on them, Good for her! Also Mary-Adair Macaire (which is kind of an amazing name!) from Pringle talking about how a brand can’t rely on heritage alone.
    Thanks again!

  4. ttv

    2010-11-10 at 4:42 AM

    Very impressive.

  5. paige

    2010-11-10 at 6:17 AM

    Such a wonderful sum up…

  6. Trevo

    2010-11-10 at 8:56 AM

    is there anyway we can watch this? was it recorded and be shown on tv at all? or can it be downloaded?

  7. Lara Maria

    2010-11-10 at 9:17 AM

    Oh i was planning on coming as well, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it …

  8. susie_bubble

    2010-11-10 at 9:28 AM

    Trevo: To gain access to the event, you need to pay like ¬£2,000! So they’re not going to be live streaming it and video footage is only for personal reference unfortunately and not for broadcast…

  9. Trevo

    2010-11-10 at 9:39 AM

    hey susie,
    oh right, wow, I understand its important but that price and event is aimed at professionals but events as important as this should be free or at least some sort of edited version to be placed on the site to watch.
    Thanx for your response,
    and thanx for your original post, i guess its as close as i will get as i refuse to pay such a fee.
    love all your posts

  10. susie_bubble

    2010-11-10 at 10:35 AM

    Trevo, I think that will happen but not right away… I’ve seen video clips from past conferences pop up on YouTube…. I will ask!

  11. moi

    2010-11-10 at 11:16 AM

    Margherita Missoni, now that’s a heiress… eat your heart out Paris Hilton.

  12. Trevo

    2010-11-10 at 12:40 PM

    Oh ok cool wikid cheers susie!
    i wish i would have bumped into you at tkmaxx i could have got you discount lol
    but yeah

  13. HCL

    2010-11-10 at 3:03 PM

    gah, wish I’d been there.
    I love Lagerfeld.. whatever people say. he’s German, he’s honest. just like me.

  14. Denise @ Swelle

    2010-11-10 at 6:20 PM

    Thank you for a fantastic read, you pulled some very interesting insights. It’s surprising and refreshing to hear such candid contributions to the discussion. What a treat.

  15. kim

    2010-11-11 at 9:56 AM

    Love this round up Susie, looks like a really interesting conference. (It beats the Microsoft ones I usually get to attend for work :D)

  16. Kendall

    2010-11-11 at 6:27 PM

    This is great to read. Love the Alber Elbaz quote about being married to Jeanne Lanvin. Looks like there was a good range of panelists representing some luxury brands with interesting heritage.
    Though a quick correction–It’s the BA Fashion History & Theory course at CSM doing the Pringle archive project. Their website: http://www.fashionhistorytheory.com

  17. susie_bubble

    2010-11-11 at 6:31 PM

    Kendall: Ah, in that case Macaire might have got the courses confused as that was what she said… will correct now!

  18. yve

    2010-11-12 at 2:59 PM

    I might faint if I ever get to talk to Uncle Karl. Either that or I’d start recording everything he says.
    How can someone be so intelligent and so darn humorous at the same time.

  19. Trevo

    2010-11-23 at 6:19 PM

    Yo suz,
    hope your well, love the most recent post about trimmings.
    just thought i would post on here because i was just on vogue tv and saw the some of the conference is on there, and thought some of the folk on here might like to watch.
    hope its ok to post a link to it?

  20. Trevo

    2010-11-23 at 6:32 PM

    dont think the link is workin?
    its in vogue tv anyway lol

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