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- 18 Oct 2011
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Suzy Menkes, IHT Hot Luxury Conference 2011


The International Herald Tribune’s fashion editor tells Luxury Society what’s in store for the upcoming IHT Hot Luxury Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

One of our priorities at Luxury Society is to bring you exclusive opportunities to engage with each other and with thought leaders from our industry and elsewhere. What better a place for our members to connect than one of the most important conferences in our calendar?

For the third year running, Luxury Society has partnered with the International Herald Tribune’s prestigious luxury summit, to bring our membership together and discuss the most pressing issues in our industry, led by some of the most influential figures in our industry.

As the official business network of the conference, we are delighted to announce a specially discounted rate exclusively for Luxury Society members to attend the upcoming IHT event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 10-11.

And to further pique your interest, we spoke to Suzy Menkes, the renowned fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, to learn more about the upcoming conference and what we can expect in 2011.

This year’s conference takes place in Sao Paulo, returning to a BRICS country for the first time since New Delhi in 2009. Can you tell Luxury Society members why Brazil the place to be to talk about the future of luxury?

I am amazed that countries that have their eyes fixed on the Far East – and especially China – do not look South as well. Latin American countries – and Brazil especially – have such a legacy of good taste and fine craftsmanship. The IHT conference has already visited Moscow, Hong Kong and India in the Bric countries. So the Sao Paulo conference is a natural progression.

The crucial thing about Brazil is that it understands luxury and also business. There are many home-grown brands within Brazil and luxury products such as jewelry, shoes and leather goods. I believe that there will be an exchange of ideas between Latin American, American and European delegates and that will be a very interesting combination.

China and its exploding middle class have played an enormous role in shaping luxury product development and the way brands retail. Do you think Brazil has the same capacity to change the playing field?

For high level consumerism, China has been an open playing field. Brands have been able to make a mark on pristine soil – which is why you can find anomalies, as when a brand lesser known in the western world has developed a high importance in the East. Potential Brazilian consumers are more sophisticated and, crucially, more travelled than their Far East equivalents. There are also existing brands – H.Stern jewellery would be an example – that have a strong local following and have already expanded globally.

But in many important ways, there are similarities: especially the demographics of Brazil and all of Latin America. As with China, the percentage of the population under 30 makes it imperative to woo, to inform and to educate young people for whom international brands are often just a name, with no understanding beyond that of heritage or true content.

So Brazil needs a similar approach to China. But since Latin America has not undergone a cultural revolution, brand management has to be respectful and mindful of the existing framework – both in retail and in the spirit of the consumers.

 The percentage of the population under 30 makes it imperative to woo, to inform and to educate young people for whom international brands are often just a name 

This year’s speakers mix prominent luxury brand creative directors with some of Latin America’s most knowledgeable local retail, communications and economic experts; what value are you hoping this combination will deliver to attendees?

The meeting of minds and exchange of ideas is vitally important in a global world. The International Herald Tribune luxury conferences offer an exceptional opportunity to discuss issues in the industry.I know that Brazil is proud of its own heritage of craftsmanship and also has already taken a positive attitude to sustainability and handcraft – subjects that have only entered the luxury world relatively recently in the West.

The business of ‘green’ has grown substantially since the IHT introduced in both Istanbul and in New Delhi the concept of sustainability as an element of modern luxury. Brazil has experience of these issues, whether it is using ‘green’ products or of designers using the hand work of poor people in the Favelas. But there are also many things to learn about retail in Brazil that may surprise some delegates: for example the widespread use of what are effectively retail loans – the ability to buy products and pay them off over a span of time.

How Brazilians choose to shop – mainly in upscale malls – is also crucial to the understanding of retailing. Although the “Les Jardins’’ area of Sao Paulo suggests that Brazil may be closer in spirit to Western retailing than many other Bric countries.

A lot of the meetings of minds will be about attitudes, rather than concrete issues. I think the go-go feeling of the Brazilian economy, combined with the country’s ingrained outgoing and sunny attitude, will be a retail culture shock for attendees from the West, stooped in the doom and gloom of economic uncertainty and shrinking customer enthusiasm.

You will be in conversation with Mario Testino, Sarah Burton, Carolina Herrera and Christian Louboutin to name a few. What are some of the key themes you wish to explore with these big names?

I hope that Mario Testino will talk about ‘giving back’’ to his native Peru, as well as his extraordinary career: his experience with photographing the British royal family from Princess Diana to William and Kate; all the many Hollywood stars; and his very Latin American upbeat attitude. The photographer himself says that it was when he went from Lima, Peru to Rio di Janiero his enthusiasm for life was born.

From Carolina Herrera, I hope to hear about her own latin American roots. But she is speaking in tandem with Puig, the Spanish based beauty giant that has a serious grasp on Latin America. Christian Louboutin will join other shoe makers – European and Brazilian – and I hope we will have a lively discussion about the sensuality of the shoe and why it means so much to fashion today.

Sarah Burton has never spoken publicly before about her experience of working with Alexander McQueen, whose exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan museum broke world-wide records. I am hoping she can also be persuaded to tell our delegates the inside story about making Kate Middleton’s wedding dress.

The Luxury Society team are looking forward to attending the conference and meeting you all there.


IHT Hot Luxury
São Paulo, 10-11 November

As the Official Business Network of the event, a special rate has been offered to Luxury Society members (£1,995 as opposed to £2,345), when booking online.

View the Event Page