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  • Posted by: Rebecca Robins on Wednesday, June 12 2013 06:06 PM | Comments (0)
    Cartier emerald, opal and diamond necklace

    As the world of luxury has turned its attention more seriously to the imperative of sustainability, continued initiatives of a number of leading brands demonstrate how their culture of excellence is fostering a more responsible business model, from the early stages of the supply chain through to the more microscopic touchpoints. Here we take a look at inroads that are being made by Best Global Brands Cartier, Hermès and Tiffany & Co.

    Sourcing of materials is an environmental challenge for brands and one that is creating new approaches in the process. Amongst its various endeavours in this effort, Hermès has adopted a beautifully literal approach to sustainability, repurposing materials with its line that would have otherwise been discarded for not meeting its quality of excellence criterion. An innovative and worthy approach that is manifest under the moniker of Petit h.

    Tiffany & Co Legacy CollectionCartier works to source gold from ethical and artisanal miners such as Goldlake’s Eurocantera. As a member of the Sustainable Luxury Working Group since 2009, the brand extends sustainable sourcing beyond the core of its jewelry portfolio to all aspects of its creations.

    Tiffany & Co. has continued to play a leading role in its efforts with the mining industry, working with IRMA (Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance). Currently 98% of all of the brand’s stones are directly traceable to a known miner, and an increasing number of these conform to high standards of social and environmental responsibility.

    Expanding their efforts across touchpoints, these brands have worked to address items from light bulbs to shopping bags. Cartier redesigned its entire lighting concept, has had its red box and bag paper content FSC-certified and commits to keeping both solvent and plastic free. Tiffany & Co.’s NY headquarters have been consolidated into a LEED-CI Platinum office space and its iconic blue box and bags are also FSC-certified.

    Tiffany & Co. has been awarded the US EPA’s Goal Achievement Award for excellent in greenhouse gas (GHG) management. The brand also works with NGOs such as EARTHWORKS and Human Rights Watch and has signed the United Nations Global Compact.

    Hermes“Corporate responsibility is integrated into every aspect of our business,” says Tiffany & Co. CEO Michael J. Kowalski. His words set the tone for a brand that is at the vanguard of a commitment to sustainability.

    The Fondation d’Entreprise Hermès, through its work with the French Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), supports a number of initiatives promoting the value of local traditional skills to help preserve communities and environments. Its internal brand engagement efforts include an “eco-action” day, to raise awareness across the business.

    Addressing supply chain, communicating their commitment and integrating their values throughout their organisations are the new imperatives for brands. Hermès, Cartier and Tiffany & Co. are demonstrating a combined breadth and depth that are setting a foundation for many years to come.

    Rebecca Robins is Director, EMEA LatAm, for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Karla Aspiras on Friday, August 10 2012 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

    Hotly anticipated this summer is the outcome of a court battle between two high-end fashion houses, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Louboutin. Today is the one-year anniversary of the decision in the case and now a decision on its appeal is awaited.

    The southern district court of New York that issued the original decision on August 10, 2011, which dealt with the issue of use of a single color for shoe outsoles. It started when YSL released a line of monochromatic shoes, including the soles, as part of its Cruise 2011 collection.

    Christian Louboutin first approached YSL regarding four models of monochromatic red shoes from the Cruise 2011 line. YSL refused to withdraw the questioned models from the market, so Louboutin decided to sue. He filed suit for trademark infringement, dilution, false designation of origin and unfair competition against YSL. Louboutin also asked for an injunction. An injunction would have the court order YSL to stop from manufacturing and selling any of the four red monochromatic shoes while all the above-mentioned claims are in the middle of litigation.

    Judge Marrero of the southern district court of NY ruled against Louboutin on the matter of this injunction. Therefore, YSL can continue manufacturing and selling shoes with red soles.

    One reason the court gave for denying Louboutin’s request for an injunction is color depletion. Color depletion theory addresses the concern that colors are limited, and to grant exclusive rights to colors is anti-competitive and would deplete the available stock of colors. They said that allowing Louboutin protection for the red sole would “cast a red cloud over the industry, cramping what other designers could do, while allowing Louboutin to paint with a full palette.” But this is inaccurate, because Louboutin’s trademark registration clearly limits the mark to “women's high fashion designer footwear.”

     Christian Louboutin Shoes

    It would have been a valid cause of concern if, indeed, Louboutin was claiming ownership of the color red, instead of use of the color red for the outsole for high fashion designer footwear. If it were the former, then it would be anti-competitive for all kinds of companies and industries across the board, not only for the fashion industry where use of color is ubiquitous.

    The court recognized that Louboutin’s red sole had acquired secondary meaning — that it served as an indicator of source of a product. But it was also decided that it did not matter.

    Christian Louboutin testified in the injunction hearing and explained how the red sole came about. He chose red for the outer sole because of its energy. The court took that to mean that the choice of red for Louboutin soles is solely for an aesthetic, ornamental, non-trademark purpose and therefore non protectable as a trademark.

    But what can be a stronger identifier of source than the red sole? You know it’s a Louboutin immediately, even from a distance, just by seeing the red outsole, than seeing the stylized “Louboutin” stamped underneath.

    Last May, French Cour de Cassation, the highest court in France invalidated Louboutin’s red sole mark in France. It was hinged on a technicality where the registration lacked a specific Pantone color reference. Louboutin is re-filing for a trademark in France.

    Louboutin is not the only luxury fashion house having trademark problems. Earlier this year, Hermes lost its suit against a Chinese clothing company that obtained a registration for a Chinese name very similar to how Hermes is pronounced in Chinese.

    Tiffany's Iconic BoxThese setbacks cause damage not only to the companies that own the marks, but also highlight very thin intellectual property protection for goods in the fashion industry. Fashion designers usually look to trademark for protection, but decisions like the denial of Louboutin’s injunction further erode the little trademark rights fashion designers have.

    We’ll have to wait and see until the New York appeals court decision on Louboutin’s appeal comes out and for the meantime, Tiffany's better watch its blue jewelry boxes and Hermes its signature orange.

    Karla Aspiras is a Trademark Analyst at Interbrand NY.

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  • Posted by: Bruce Dybvad on Friday, December 17 2010 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

    In 2011, retail will continue to undergo some of the most dramatic changes the industry has seen in half a century due to underlying drivers that have permeated society and shopping behavior. The most powerful, of course, is digital. Less immediate but also highly significant are demographic, economic and cultural value changes that are having an impact at both the local and global level.

    Consumers’ digital domination
    Nielsen predicts one in two U.S. consumers will own smartphones by the end of 2011. And yet, despite the rapid adoption of digital technology, the majority of retailers have been slow to respond to the opportunity. The coming year will be one of catching up. The lion’s share of capital budgets will be allocated to the online channel and its optimization for mobile use, while marketing departments will try and crack the code for connecting with customers through social media. To truly connect with shoppers who are adept at controlling the interaction, retail brands will continue to discover innovative ways to be invited into consumers’ closed loop.

    At the same time, consumers are increasingly more willing to allow access to their private information. Amazon.com now allows users to link their Amazon account to their Facebook account, so that the subjects in their social posts can be integrated into their Amazon recommendations. Keep in mind that in exchange for access, customers will expect to receive more value.

    As retailers rush to take advantage of digital’s new channels for customer insight, interaction and engagement, they will also be faced with data overload — more information on customers, transactions and operations than they know what to do with. They will seek to find ways to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of metrics, by way of refined research into the shopper’s path to purchase.

    The art of the deal
    While technology has allowed consumers to become increasingly savvy, skilled and sophisticated shoppers who gleefully drive deals, it also makes them susceptible to impulse purchases. The group bartering trend has been formalized through programs such as Groupon, where stores grant deep discounts if enough people sign up for them. Members only clubs for apparel like Gilt Groupe, are being adopted by other categories. Flash sales, or time-limited offers via text or Twitter, will continue to trigger impulse buying and give shoppers the smart feeling of having scored a great deal. Traditional retailers like J. Crew are already learning to use the flash sale: It recently opened an online factory store only on the weekends for deal-happy shoppers.

    Brick and mortar transcends itself
    Despite the fact that the point of purchase is now highly mobile, retailers are going to find that the physical store still needs significant investment. Shoppers expect it to be the epitome of the brand experience and the embodiment of all that is unique about the way a merchant does business. Otherwise, why go to the store? Stores will incorporate new services and experiences into their concepts to remain relevant and provide emotional engagement. This will be key to the increased importance of word-of-mouth as great service and experience will be actively compiled, commented upon and shared by wider audiences.

    In the past, the 80/20 retail rule of thumb said that 20 percent of a store’s SKUs equaled 80 percent of sales. That rule will be turned on its head. In a digital world with almost infinite choice, shoppers will be drawn to stores with a personalized focus. Physical store concepts will become smaller, better executed and highly tailored. Assortments will become relevant and finely curated as they evolve toward true demand.  As shoppers buy less of what’s mainstream and more of what suits them individually, 80 percent of units will earn 80 percent of profits. Additionally, private labels, localized sourcing and cultural influences will be further differentiators, as shoppers demand simplicity, convenience and closeness.

    Urbanization, empathy and emerging markets
    Two big demographic trends have arrived that will affect the retail industry’s long-term planning outlook. The first is a striking population shift. Today, half the world’s population lives in urban areas. Nearly 180,000 people move into cities daily, which will impact the retail landscape dramatically. Retailers will concentrate less on traditional malls in favor of heading back into the city. Real estate will become more of a challenge, as city lots require clever adaptations of core concepts. We are already seeing arguably more creativity from retail brands as they incorporate existing and sometimes historical architecture into the shopping experience, discovering new aspects of their brand personality in the process. The dense living and working environment will also spawn new retail business models, such as pay-to-share for large expensive items, like Zipcar and B-cycle car and bike sharing. As consumers, city dwellers tend to be more open to new concepts, so expect merchants to react accordingly.

    Corporate philanthropy and good citizenship will also be a growing expectation. Brands will learn to strengthen customer loyalty through generosity and acts of kindness, such as Dutch KLM’s campaign of spreading happiness by surprising passengers with unexpected gifts at the airport.

    Expect retail expansion into China and India to continue. Retail spending in China has risen by double digits the last two years and is expected to maintain that pace. Merchants, seeing manufacturers’ succeed by launching new products and brands that are culturally right for emerging markets, such as Levi’s dENIZEN jeans and Hermès’ Shang Xia, will adopt a similar strategy and create store concepts inspired by native culture. Barriers to global trade will continue to come down, which will encourage retailers to think and work towards a global customer base, sources, talent and reach.

    Look out for more sector predictions on Monday.

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  • Posted by: Interbrand on Wednesday, June 9 2010 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

    Interview with Jean-Baptiste Danet, CEO Interbrand Europe
    Published in La Tribune, May 31 2010

    (Lire en français ici.)

    Over the past few years, the luxury category has been influenced by a phenomenon called “accessible luxury.” How has this affected the luxury world?

    “Accessible luxury” is an oxymoron enabling those brands with a weaker heritage and less anchorage in the tradition of luxury to proclaim themselves as icon brands.

    This phenomenon has shrouded the luxury sector in a cloud of contradictions, made even denser by the economic crisis. It has shown how it is possible to either focus on dreams or on reality—but never simultaneously on both.

    How have the luxury brands reacted to this?
    Some luxury brands, like Ferrari, have chosen to control their growth and even limit production in order to maintain their legendary status. Others, like Armani, have deliberately adopted a volume strategy and endeavored to enlarge their customer base, thereby relinquishing the traditional notion of luxury. These two contrasting strategies have both paid off. It is important to highlight that the way in which consumers have reacted to the crisis proves that luxury is not a category a company can decide to enter. Rather, luxury is born of product excellence. Myths are based on reality, not the contrary. Today, it would seem that “genuine” has become “the exception.”

    Is this why some brands have returned to their origins over the past few months? 
    Genuine is the key factor of demand and therefore the factor that generates value. Those brands that have surfed on the “luxury for all” trend are no longer considered to be luxury brands per se. Well-established, historical brands have had to focus on their prestige/past glory—on what has made them legendary. Louis Vuitton has strengthened its “traditional” luxury status, notably with a well-inspired and successful advertising campaign highlighting its savoir-faire.

    For other brands, demand for perfection and excellence has enabled them to reconstitute a coherent positioning. This is, for example, the case with Hermès (see video below), which has always clearly expressed its positioning based on craftsmanship and the pursuit of the highest quality for its perfectly structured product catalogue.

    This endeavor to be genuine has also had an impact on distribution modes. All top brands—Gucci, Prada, Burberry, as well as Vuitton—have invested in expanding and/or realigning their distribution network. When it comes to preserving or communicating a brand image, sales outlets are just as crucial as the products themselves.

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