From Swarovski to Brunello Cucinelli: Changing Dynamics of Luxury Leadership

Every economic depression has given rise to newer ideas, innovations and ventures that adapt to the circumstances and offer solutions. Times like these call for radical response, and thus, companies churn the leading team as new perspectives and approaches help them survive, and emerge victorious

By: Nikita Vivek Pawar 

Posted on: September 2, 2020

Virginie Viard for Chanel

With blurring boundaries, brands now have a global reach but also face brutal competition. But as Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility”, the leaders of such companies and brands need to acknowledge and appreciate the different mindsets and ideologies without hampering creative freedom as well as the financial numbers. As 2020 took an unexpected course of events, companies and brands have re-engineered their structure, welcoming new leaders with fresh perspective and energies to help the brands re-invent, re-innovate, re-think, and re-act better. 

According to the dictionary, a leader might be someone who drives and navigates the company towards a decided goal, but leaders in 2020 need to do much more. A creative director of a luxury brand is not only responsible for the design and products, but is also invested in various other business aspects of the label. Olivier Rousteing, who has been the Creative Director of Balmain since 2011, talked about his profile on Instagram being one of the important sources for business for Balmain as people were invested in what the Director does. Luxury leaders might majorly work behind the scenes, but they sure catch the eye of the audience. And if ‘change is the only constant’, the audience takes it quite seriously. 

Olivier Rousteing, Balmain

Carrying the legacy forward 

Houses like Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga have years of legacy and history. They have not just created a formidable reputation, but have also contributed to the luxury industry as a whole. A new leader is, therefore, expected to innovate and ideate without drifting away from the true ethos of the brand. When Karl Lagerfeld took over Chanel, he metamorphosed the brand by disrupting current trends, while keeping the core values intact. The current Creative Director of Chanel, Virginie Viard, is expected to walk on the same line. 

Similarly, for the first time in its 125-year old history, Swarovski has named Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert as its creative director. Fashion, jewellery and accessories are the natural sectors for the newly appointed Creative Director, but she will also oversee the Austrian company’s ventures in chandeliers and other design-led products. 

Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert Swarovski

“Swarovski, to me, is a platform to express creativity in a very cross-disciplinary way. I have a passion for the joyful Embellishment of Life [brand message], which ultimately is what Swarovski crystal is all about—whether it is around your neck, in your home, or your spirit,” said Ms. Battaglia Engelbert. “We are set to enter a new era and will reveal more in the collection for spring/summer 2021. I am proud to be part of shaping the future of Swarovski together with so many brilliant minds.”

Dr. Timo Gruenert started his journey with Oetker Group as Assistant to the Managing Partner in 2005. In 2009, Dr. Gruenert co-led the founding of Oetker Collection and has served as Co-Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer ever since. Now, as the new CEO of Oetker Collection, Dr. Gruenert commented, “I am deeply honoured to step into the role of CEO and continue the journey that Mr. Frank Marrenbach and I began over ten years ago. It has always been our aim to grow Oetker Collection into a brand that operates exceptional hotels – true Masterpieces – with a family spirit, elegance and genuine kindness. I firmly believe that this puts us in a unique space in today’s hospitality landscape. The company, its Masterpiece Hotels and my fellow-hoteliers around the world occupy a very special place in my heart and I could not be more excited to lead us into the next chapter. We will continue to write the story together.”

Dr. Timo Gruenert, Oetker Collection

New direction 

As a brand flourishes, it is recognised by a certain pattern, design, logo or product – a signature. But the challenge is to continue building on that same pattern, design, logo or product to maintain the consumer’s interest and will to buy. But building up in a new direction is necessary for all brands to sustain and thrive in the ruthless competition today. “Before moving ahead, it becomes important to de-clutter, clean up the visual language and upgrade it,” explained Mr. Rajesh Pratap Singh, the newly appointed Creative Director of the brand Satya Paul. The Indian brand, known for exquisitely detailed saris, eventually diversified into handbags, scarves, stoles and more. With prints at the ethos, the designer plans to explore more on the design frontier. “Changing techniques, designs, movement in voice and making it relevant for the times are a few processes we are working towards, slowly and gradually, but with innate focus. I want to get both the aesthetic and quality higher for all the products, not just the saris, though they will always remain at the core of Satya Paul.” 

Rajesh Pratap Singh

Taking forward the French luxury fashion and perfume house of Givenchy, American designer Matthew Williams has accepted the role of Creative Director at the legendary brand. He would be the seventh designer of the house, succeeding Clare Waight Keller. Talking about his design aesthetics, they match to that of Riccardo Tisci with hints of Gothicism and streetwear. Overlooking both men and women collections, the designer is all set to showcase his debut collection for Givenchy in Paris in October 2020. 

Matthew Williams Givenchy

Creative freshness

The luxury industry is often considered to nurture the classics and the evergreen, but getting too comfortable is dangerous in this business. Brands and companies need to reshuffle to make room for some fresh ideas, perspectives and experimental designs. Céline, the French luxury brand that was once dormant and outdated was revived by Pheobe Philo’s classic yet neo design philosophy. The brand reportedly drove upwards to €750 million in sales for LVMH. 

Isamaya Ffrench Burberry Beauty

Similar is the case with Burberry. The British luxury brand has been undergoing major renovation since 2018, and the latest addition to the team of Burberry Beauty is celebrated make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench, who has joined as the Global Beauty Director. “I’ve had such a wonderful experience working with Burberry over the past year and I’m incredibly honoured to be part of the team. Riccardo has a brilliant mind and is such an inspiring leader – he always pushes me creatively. It’s a very exciting time to be joining the company and I can’t wait to show the world what we have been working on,” said Ms Ffrench. Her bold and vibrant aesthetic along with the keen know-how would help re-shape the brand in the future. Her first campaign as Burberry Global Beauty Director will be released in Autumn 2020.

On the same lines is the iconic French luxury trunk-maker Moynat with the appointment of Nicholas Knightly as the new creative director for the company. Mr. Knightly succeeds Ramesh Nair, who was appointed shortly after LVMH took over Moynat in 2010. Mr. Knightly comes from being the director of design of leather goods for Louis Vuitton, a position he held for over 15 years. 

Nicholas Knightly Moynat
The appointment of some leaders is perceived to bring in growth in reputation as well as commerce. After Hedi Slimane took over the creative reign of Yves Saint Laurent, the business drove a revenue of €707 million in sales. 

Italian luxury brand Brunello Cucinelli recently appointed Luca Lisandroni and Riccardo Stefanelli as new CEOs wherein Mr. Lisandroni would look after the markets and Mr. Stefanelli would be in-charge of product and operations. The brand also hired Moreno Ciarapica as Chief Financial Officer. They closed the year 2019 with net revenues amounting to €607.8 million, an increase of 9.9% compared to €553 million in 2018. “I envisage that these two young men in their forties, individuals of huge professional value and in love with the great universal concepts of truth, beauty and humanity, will be able to lead the enterprise for a long time as examples of guardianship for future generations,” said Mr. Brunello Cucinelli.

Indeed, these are words full of wisdom, which many brands are hoping to come true with their respective new appointments, especially in a brave new post-pandemic world.

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