PARIS — Could digital start-ups be luxury’s next feeding frenzy?
Signaling its keen interest in the technology and digital innovation that are transforming the industry, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said Wednesday it signed on as a prominent sponsor of Viva Technology Paris, a new trade fair and conference showcasing an estimated 5,000 start-ups.
Scheduled for June 30 to July 2 and organized jointly by LVMH-owned media group Les Echos and advertising and public relations giant Publicis, the inaugural event is billed as a gathering of “all the key players in digital transformation.”
The LVMH sponsorship is one of the first visible initiatives of Ian Rogers, who was poached last year from Apple Inc. to become the group’s first chief digital officer.
Rogers said the Viva fair would shine a light on “the creative young enterprises that will nourish the future of luxury.”
According to him, the industry is at a “strategic juncture with respect to digital technologies, and an essential part of this transformation is recognizing the importance of entrepreneurial initiative.”
LVMH is to host a dedicated space at Viva for 50 start-ups whose initiatives are targeted at the future challenges of the luxury sector. All of the segments in which LVMH is involved — fashion and leather goods; perfumes and cosmetics; watches and jewelry; selective retailing, and wines and spirits — are to be addressed by start-up firms.
Participants will be selected for “their capacity to drive quality and excellence in customer relationships and to create unique, powerful experiences for consumers,” according to LVMH.
The fair is slated to feature demonstrations of the latest technologies, conference halls and “collaborative workspaces” devoted to 20 different industries, from food and medicine to finance. LVMH’s is to be titled “Lab.”
While best known for powerhouse brands such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Bulgari, Tag Heuer and Dom Pérignon, LVMH has a long track record of taking risks on small companies and keeping an eye out for the next generation of talent, dating back to the late Nineties when chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault tapped Marc Jacobs as the first creative director of Vuitton and invested in his New York-based brand. It was doing about $20 million then versus nearly $1 billion in 2013.
In an interview that year, Arnault called the Jacobs brand “a quasi-start-up” at the onset of the relationship.
More recently, LVMH has taken minority stakes in two small fashion labels: London-based J.W. Anderson and Milan-based Marco de Vincenzo.
In addition, the group in 2014 launched the LVMH Prize for Young Designers, one of the best-funded fashion awards aimed at up-and-coming brands. Unique in its online-only application process, the LVMH Prize is open to anyone under age 40 who has produced and sold at least two women’s or men’s ready-to-wear collections. To date, LVMH has hosted 55 young designers in Paris and handed out five awards.
Winners have included Thomas Tait and Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida, the Portuguese duo behind the Marques’ Almeida label — the first two winners of the grand prize — along with Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver, Simon Porte Jacquemus, and Nikita and Tina Sutradhar for Miuniku, recipients of special prizes from LVMH.
The 2016 awards will be given in Paris in June.
Fast-growing Sephora has also been a hotbed of technology and innovation. For example, its Sephora Accelerate Cohort program helps female-founded start-ups in beauty, a group that typically does not have the same access to funding and connections as their male entrepreneurial counterparts.
Speaking at WWD’s Beauty Digital Forum last February, Bridget Dolan, vice president of Sephora’s Innovation Lab, said her team “gets in the kitchen” with other companies — “the Googles and Apples of the world, so that we make sure we’re first to market with the things they’re cooking up.”
Besides LVMH, sponsors of the Viva fair include Google, Orange and BNP Paribas.
Spread across 430,000 square feet, the event at the Parc des Expositions convention center in Paris-Nord Villepinte is expected to attract some 30,000 visitors and feature 200 speakers and panelists.
Rogers arrived at LVMH last fall from Apple’s iTunes team, where he was a senior director around the time of the launch of its new streaming and radio service, Apple Music. He also has been ceo of Beats Music, a maker of high-end headphones, and was ceo for five years at Topspin Media. Prior to that he founded Mediacode, which was purchased by Yahoo, where he became vice president and general manager of music. Rogers also served as a Web master for Nullsoft and Beastie Boys earlier in his career.