MOSCOW — Bernard Arnault, at least, is bullish about America.
Worries over the holiday shopping season, spiraling gas prices and the mortgage credit crisis aside, the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman believes the U.S. still represents a golden opportunity for luxury goods brands.
"The United States has massive untapped potential," Arnault said Wednesday at the International Herald Tribune's "Supreme Luxury" conference here. "It represents only 16 percent of global luxury sales, but 28 percent of global [gross domestic product]."
Arnault said that, despite the economic downturn in the U.S. spurred by the subprime mortgage crisis, global spending on luxury goods worldwide is expected to double in the next five years, to 300 billion euros, or $447 billion at current exchange. Russia, India and China will account for one-third of all luxury goods sales within 10 years, he said.
His optimism was echoed by other executives at the conference. "The growth of high-net-worth individuals will grow despite any economic problems," said John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos.
But amid talk of rapid growth in developing nations and the U.S., Tom Ford warned attendees that overwhelming consumers with new stores and products could fatally damage the luxury business.
"Luxury has gone from hard to find to hard to miss," he suggested. "To be blunt, we make too much stuff."
Ford later told WWD that, because firms now produce goods on such a vast scale, their quality has been compromised. "I don't think many luxury goods companies are luxury goods companies," he said.
This city of conspicuous consumption was an obvious choice for host: While a political clampdown is worrying Western governments, Russia's oil-fueled economy is booming. The country's flamboyant elite as well as a growing middle class are spending ever more money on luxury goods. Along with China, which is also experiencing rapid growth, Russia was singled out by most speakers as a crucial market for their companies.
The shift in fashion's purchasing base, from West to East, was underlined by the conference's guest list: Many participants were from China and the Middle East.The speakers on stage toward the end of the day, dealing in less weighty matters, seemed to arouse most interest among the audience. After showing a video of catwalk and red-carpet shots set to thumping dance music, Donatella Versace told how she cultivated interest in her brand among celebrities (for more on her visit, see related story).
And a panel of Russians were breathy and excited as they discussed the evolution of fashion sense here.
"We like to be sexy, we like to be beautiful and we take more time and effort to do this," said Alla Verber, the vice president of Mercury Distribution, which distributes luxury clothes to Russian stores. "Everything they have in London, Milan and Paris we have right now in Moscow."
The conference continues today with talks on how brands can succeed in Russia.
While sweatshops and global warming were only mentioned in passing, one topic likely to be added to the program next year is ethical business practices.
"Green issues are actually 'in' in fashion, everyone's talking about them," model Natalia Vodianova said. "I think big brands should take notice."
Vodianova had one particular suggestion to cut down on waste: "Don't be afraid to wear a dress again. Come on. You can always change a look around."
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye