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- 17 Aug 2010
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Rumours, Revamps & Risky Business

An analysis of the week’s luxury news highlights

Searching for the Superlative


Scattered among the many outrageous and outré products that can be found on websites dedicated to “the most expensive” of any given merchandise category, there are always a few inspiring ideas and business models to contemplate. Luxury does, after all, come at a price when you’re offering best-in-class materials, exceptional craftsmanship or unparalleled service. Parnian’s recent release of a bed costing between $38,000 and $210,000 may scream pure opulence in its ebony, sapele and horsehair exterior but its grandeur belies the firm’s commitment to intelligently discreet design counterpoints such as built-in iPad holders, charging stations, computer monitors, a pop-up swivel TV, and hidden storage compartments.


Speaking of iPads, Tod’s has cleverly timed the launch of its range of alligator cases (priced at $4,900 or around ten times what the device itself costs) with the unveiling of its first iPad app, called ‘My Life Is In This Bag’. And finally, a British entrepreneur flogging what’s being called the most expensive carwash in the world is apparently doing a roaring trade by charging up to £7000 ($10,900) to pamper the most exotic supercars. Some clients drive especially across the Channel from the European continent to Gurcharn Sahota’s Elite Detailing station in the middle of England. Others fly him and his equipment out to the Middle East business class for his finesse with imported Brazilian waxes, multi-temperature treatments and shampooings that take several weeks. Clearly, there was a gap in the market to provide an elite routine maintenance service for elite automobiles.

Born Rich
Luxury Insider

Revamped, Relaunched, Reconsidered


Imagine a company evoking the spirit of exploration, danger, unbridled plunder, lavish imported goods, decadent pioneers and a 400-year old legacy which began with the ever so stylish nod of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Now consider that it remains a household name to this day thanks to its prominent place in the world’s history books and that its trademark had lain dormant for the last century. Sound like a heritage brand just begging to be resuscitated as a modern-day luxury goods empire? It is.

The East India Company was arguably the world’s first multinational company and a byword for Britain’s colonial power and prestige in Asia for introducing tea, spices, indigo and textiles around the globe. According to CNN, Sanjiv Mehta, an Indian-born entrepreneur who bought the intellectual property rights to the company in 2005 has just relaunched the firm as a niche purveyor of gourmet foods and gifts based on London’s Regent Street. It seems like a very fitting 21st century reversal of fortunes to now have the old fleet under an Indian mast.


In other relaunch news, chatter about W magazine has been dominating conversations among the fashion fraternity. A lot of attention and pressure is on the new editor, Stefano Tonchi, who migrated with several of his team members from T: The New York Times Style Magazine to turn around the languishing glossy. For the complete story, read three different perspectives on how the newly styled September issue looks before it hits the newsstands from reports in WWD, New York Magazine and the New York Times itself.

Buying Out & Selling Up


Last month, all it took was a brief quote from a London-based investment analyst in WWD who speculated on the most likely buyer if Burberry were to go up for sale. The internet went wild with seemingly plausible rumours about a PPR-led acquisition – which has yet to be confirmed, denied or investigated further. This month, the merger and acquisition grape vine has once again gone into overdrive as a result of reports in The Daily Telegraph and The Independent which explored a possible Jimmy Choo sale. On this occasion too, the sources were also from the investment world. But before ruminating over the endless list of potential buyers being debated in the blogosphere, it’s important to remember that the only basis for the story seems to be an anonymous banker who stated that the iconic shoe brand had been exploring “strategic options”. At moments like these, one wonders if the beauty of online media isn’t all too often overshadowed by its tendency to propagate Chinese whispers.

Two other M&A threads being woven together in the people’s press are on emerging market investors looking to acquire Western luxury brands. The New York Post suggested that the Saudi Princess Maha al-Sudairi is on the hunt for American fashion brands and that New York consultant Malcolm Harris will be her broker. However, one important point that the article failed to mention was the background of Her Royal Highness which includes several run-ins with the law, as reported by the BBC in 2009 and 2001. Red Luxury focused on the apparent interest of Shanghai-based conglomerate Fosun International to invest in continental fashion and wine brands.


Meanwhile, two deals have been confirmed. The first is the sale of Malo more than a year after the Italian knitwear firm’s parent company IT Holding went into bankruptcy protection. WWD described Eventhe, Malo’s buyer, as a “general contractor that develops luxury stores for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Prada and Abercrombie & Fitch.” Bloomberg referred to a piece in La Tribune which confirmed that the Israeli company Alrov Properties & Lodgings Ltd. has agreed to buy the Paris hotel Le Lutetia from Starwood Capital Group. Le Lutetia is one of four iconic French luxury hotels the group owns which is said to be up for sale.