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As a consumer, Marty Wikstrom appreciates Chloé’s face-flattering color palette, its intricately detailed blouses and its Marcie bag, which the executive deems ideal for her frequent business travels.
This story first appeared in the September 28, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
As president and chief executive officer of Compagnie Financière Richemont’s fashion division, parent of Chloé, Wikstrom has a host of other reasons to appreciate the brand, which in her view could harbor billion-dollar potential.
“Why not?” she said, while not setting any timelines to reach that revenue threshold. “That’s up to the consumer.”
The Swiss luxury group does not break down its revenues or profits by brand. However, it is believed Chloé is the largest of its fashion and leather goods businesses, which also include Azzedine Alaïa, Dunhill, Lancel and Shanghai Tang.
Chloé is grouped into Richemont’s “other business” segment, along with online retailer Net-a-porter and the group’s watch component manufacturing activities. For its fiscal year ended March 31, 2012, revenues in the “other” segment vaulted 27 percent to 1.231 billion euros, or $1.7 billion at average exchange rates for the period. That represents about 13.9 percent of the group’s total revenues.
“Across the board, it was the best year we’ve ever had in the business,” Wikstrom said.
A decade earlier, the “clothing and other” segment saw sales grow 7 percent to 618 million euros, or $546.6 million at average exchange.
While Richemont’s long-term commitment to fashion has occasionally been questioned over the years, Wikstrom stressed that the London-based conglomerate is putting resources behind its successful houses, as its investment to add 20 Chloé stores to its network attests.
“What’s important about the fashion business is it gives us a third leg to our stool,” Wikstrom said. “We are very patient. We won’t force things.”
She characterized Chloé as a “significant pillar” of its fashion business.
“It’s also one of the most diverse of all our maisons,” she noted, referring to the fact that the Chloé brand extends from its core ready-to-wear and leather goods to fragrances and See by Chloé, a second fashion line.
“This house has always been about real women,” she enthused. “It’s always had a modesty, and I think that goes back to [founder] Gaby [Aghion]. She grew up in a stiff world of couture, and she injected effortless style. She kind of freed women — and they looked beautiful and dressed well, but they weren’t confined.
“It’s a confident, very self-assured brand,” Wikstrom continued. “Chloé is less apt to chase trends and instead chase the consumer who loves the attitude of Chloé.”
Wikstrom said the brand personifies the founder. “She has such a head for women. She really did this to modernize and free women, and we should all be grateful for this contribution to the industry,” she said. “She’s the one who really had the initial idea of this feminine, modern, confident, self-assured house providing effortless, rather than structured, fashion.”