The famous French luxury labels heavily dependent on foreign, read: Chinese, tourists, but after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, the number of tourists visiting Europe has decreased dramatically. The luxury goods expenditures of Chinese tourists outside of China dropped by approximately twenty-four percent.
Cartier and Louis Vuitton depend on these Chinese tourists for about half of their total sales. Globally, the Chinese tourist represents one third of the total luxury goods market. It is expected that in 2017, this 250 billion market will finally see an increase again.
With approximately eighty-four million visitors a year, France is still the most visited European country for tourists. But because of the attacks, the American and Japanese tourists in particular changed their plans. This takes its toll on the luxury goods industry, which is highly dependent on the spending of wealthy foreigners. Hermès and Louis Vuitton already reported disappointing sales figures.
“We do not see an improvement in tourism to France. This will not change as long as we are still at the ready, keeping tourists from visiting,” Alex Dumas, CEO of Hermès, notes. Last year, tourists were still queuing in front if the flagship store of Louis Vuitton in Paris, now they are only a handful.
Moreover, the purchasing behavior of Chinese consumers has changed over the last few years; they no longer purchase pricey products solely because of their status and wealth, but increasingly for their own pleasure. Visible logos are no longer a priority for them. And in addition to the well-known luxury brands, the niche brands are increasingly becoming the new pillars of luxury consumption. In China, Chanel is still the most influential brand, leaving Dior and Louis Vuitton tailing behind. Cartier comes third, and Dior ninth.
Not only Chinese tourist, but tourists from the Russian Federation as well have limited their spending in Europe by approximately thirty-seven percent. In times of crisis, the French luxury brands, such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton, are safe investments for the Russian consumer. In spite of the Russian economy falling by 3.7 percent due to falling oil prices and the international sanctions, luxury goods are seen as one of the most resistant segments in the fashion industry. For this reason, French luxury label Hermès has more than doubled its sales space in Moscow.
This season, the most striking silhouette comes from the Belgian designer Raf Simons; almost all the clothes are XL and oversized. In fashion terms it is now called: SUPERSIZED. The male models literally drown in it - the garments are cut that large. V-neck sweaters with big baseball letters above the knee with sleeves that are far too long; sometimes with frayed seams, and covered by vests in the same sizes. The men’s coats (sometimes in Sherlock Holmes-like tweed fabrics) and quilted ski jackets also come Supersized.
The short and narrow trousers strengthen the voluminous Supersized silhouette, with rectangular black leather bowling bags as accessories. I am curious to see if the XL versions will also reach the stores, or whether the sizes will be adjusted for commercial reasons. “This collection is a homage to the dark fantasies of David Lynch. The impact of the TV series ‘Twin Peaks’ greatly influenced my generation. I often think of nightmares and was always interested in horror movies,” Simons notes.
Last year, Raf Simons denounced his position as creative director at Dior voluntarily. Much to the disappointment of Dior, which tried everything to keep Simons, but the speed and time constraints with which the collections had to be made, were too much for him. Simons soon will start working as creative director for the American label Calvin Klein. Recently, the forty-seven-year-old Simons came out of the closet at an event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, making a public appearance with his thirty-seven-year-old French boyfriend Jean-Georges d’Orazio, a deputy director at Dior.
Less bulky than Simons’ silhouette is the silhouette shown by the German-raised designer Damir Doma. He may not be a household name yet, but he has gained working experience at Raf Simons, among others. This season, he is also preaching a large and oversized silhouette, and in line with the prevailing fashion trend, his clothes are suitable for both sexes - i.e. gender-blending. The borderline between what is masculine and feminine is increasingly blurred in the fashion world.
Doma shows the same silhouettes and uses the same fabrics for him and her, allowing the collection to seem completely unisex and mutually interchangeable. To emphasize this, there were also female models on the catwalk. “It is all about construction and deconstruction. Many of the jackets are wrapped around the body like sculptures. Usually a collection starts from an emotion, and this time it was a mysterious man and woman. Something in between masculinity and femininity. Something that is hard to describe. I like men who also show their soft side,” Doma states.
The classic crème colored men’s jacket now comes oversized cocoon-like or like a kimono model without collar, but with a belt around the waist. Wide grey turtle-necks have black ribbon embroidered as decoration. The oversized black sweaters with XL sleeves and white graphic print are beautiful. Trousers come to the ankle, with the fluttering legs to a large extent giving them a men’s skirt feel. Not surprisingly, Doma will soon be presenting his men’s and women’s collections together, following Burberry, Tom Ford and Calvin Klein.
The Balmain show was opened by the Spanish top model Jon Kortajarena in a bolero jacket decorated with golden braiding, immediately setting the tone - a richly decorated collection that has a lot of military influences. Many French cavalry uniform jackets in velvet with folded lapels and a battalion of golden buttons, with matching velvet Cummerbunds (including tassels) around the waist and knee-breeches. Or sometimes with trousers that are buttoned at the front, which quickly leans towards theater costumes. Large golden emblems and shiny appliqués on the clothing are a must here. All outfits have matching XL bags with dangling tassels and long black gloves. Less is definitely not more for the French Balmain “homme.” Sometimes it all just borders on kitsch, and many outfits could be part of a Versace show from the early 1990s style-wise.
“This season, it was important for me to play with accessories,” creative director Olivier Rousteing notes. “I think the wardrobe for men is important in terms of shirts, jackets and trousers, but this season I wanted to give it a militaristic flavor. Something aristocratic. I have obtained it through the high collars, the golden emblems, and shiny silver collars on clothes. To me, it is essential that men truly look sophisticated and distinguished - Like a Parisian dandy inspired by different cultures. I’ve incorporated that into the wardrobe for men because Balmain above all is a luxury couture house full of riches.”
Of a more refined class is the enviable collection “Future Heritage” by creative director Kim Jones for the luxury label Louis Vuitton. Everything exudes luxury and class, which is typical of this 162-year-old brand - Restrained luxury without the flashy bling-bling overdose. This time, the models came onto the catwalk through a square hole in the floor in the Parc André-Citroën building. The pale-white models have a fairly androgynous appearance and sometimes wear earrings or necklaces with all sorts of dangling charms.
Standard is a scarf tied around the neck, as in the last summer collection. All clothing is beautifully cut and manufactured with great precision and detail. Magnificent are the small attaché trunks and bags with the familiar L.V. Damier print, now stamped with an enlarged white vintage Louis Vuitton trunk stamp. This Trunks & Bags stamp can also be seen on various outfits, such as a silk trench coat, a smooth bomber jacket and a sweater of leather and fur. “This season, I was inspired by Paris, both old and new. It is a homage to this city of light,” Jones says.
Classic men’s jackets have waistbands made of fur, and (fake) fur coats have a diagonal Art Deco zigzag line as a print. All with matching gloves in Damier print. Beautiful is the pyjama outfit with the text “Volez Voyagez” as all-over print, derived from the eponymous retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris, “Volez, Voguez, Voyager,” or the night-blue silk shirt with the facial profile drawings by Jean Cocteau as print. Of all the luxury labels, Louis Vuitton is worth the most in 2015. That same year, its net profit saw an increase of sixteen percent to a record 35.7 billion Euros. In the first quarter of 2016, its turnover saw an increase of four percent to 8.6 billion Euros.
This year, several designers left their fashion houses. Alexander Wang left Balenciaga, Alber Elbar left Lanvin, Stefano Pilati left Ermenegildo Zegna, and Hedi Slimane left Yves Saint Laurent, but the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten stayed put at his fashion label with the same name. Van Noten is one of the few designers never to advertise or sell its garments online. This time, he presented his collection in the magnificent Grand Opéra Palais Garnier. “I have wanted this location for the past fifteen years, and we were finally given the opportunity. It is a dream come true,” Van Noten states.
The best of his collection this time are the beautiful dark blue woollen trench coats with ribbon appliqué resembling an Asian snake. Some trench coats have a militaristic character with large fur collars. The same ribbon appliqué runs like a thread through the entire collection and comes back on sleeved shirts, among other items. Beautiful are a slightly creased green military jacket on wide pinstripe trousers, and the amazingly cut oversized double-breasted Prince de Galles suit with super wide trousers.
“I wanted to create a masculine collection, inspired on the 1960s for a man looking for peace. He’s coming back from Vietnam. I was also toying with the idea to cut up garments and transform them. The trench coat, for example, becomes a skirt for men. I truly played around with this idea,” Van Noten states. This 1960s feeling is reflected in dandy costumes with psychedelic prints and large removable fur collars and fur stoles. At the end of the show, the models took a bow like actors. Van Noten also adorned lots of clothing with all kinds of golden appliqués and militaristic emblems. For clever men, it should not be difficult to decorate their own personal wardrobe this season.