Vanessa Friedman, FT Business of Luxury Summit 2011


Sophie Doran | April 20, 2011

The Financial Times fashion editor tells Luxury Society what’s in store for the upcoming FT Business of Luxury Conference in Lausanne

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? The annual FT Business of Luxury Summit.

For the third year running, Luxury Society has partnered with this prestigious event, to bring our membership together and discuss the most pressing issues in our industry, led by some of the most influential figures in both luxury and economics.

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 FT in Lausanne, Switzerland on June 5-7.

And to further pique your interest, we spoke to Vanessa Friedman, the renowned fashion editor of the Financial Times, to learn more about the upcoming conference and what we can expect in 2011.

This year’s conference takes place in Lausanne, a world away from 2010’s fast and flashy destination, Los Angeles. Why is Switzerland the place to be to talk luxury finance?

As a rule of thumb, we do Europe, away, Europe, away etc. because we are a Europe based newspaper and we think it’s good to come back to our home market every two years, and also because Switzerland is the home of luxury.

I was very keen to talk about hard-core financial issues as we come out of the recession, or theoretically come out of the recession, and I think with most people it’s a stereotype: when most people think about finance and Europe they do think about Switzerland.

In 2011 the roster of speakers mixes luxury brand executives with more generalised finance experts; what value are you hoping this melange will deliver to attendees?

There are two really interesting things for me: first there are a lot of speakers on the agenda who are not typical luxury conference speakers, they’re not executives that are very public with their experiences. Whether its Isabelle Guichot from Balenciaga or Marc Puig, Peter Kriemler or Burt Beetz, I’m quite excited to hear what they have to say and I think in that, there will be real value in their points of view, which will be new.

Secondly I’m very interested in discussions about currency issues, which are incredibly complicated, and for global brands really pressing. Also it’s not something that is generally talked about in the open luxury market, where we tend to concentrate on things like brands and brand image.

However, I think a lot of these not-publicly-sexy, but internally fascinating conversations, are actually going to be really involving. The whole question of pricing and what sort of range the consumer is willing to bear now. The question of counterfeiting, which is hugely important in the luxury world, and looking at where the biggest threats are – it will be really absorbing to see how the thinking has evolved in these areas.

What Price Luxury, as you’re calling the conference, will explore the effects of globalisation and currency fluctuations, pricing and positioning, the revival of mergers and acquisitions and the on-going issue of counterfeiting. Which issues do you expect to be most interesting for attendees?

I think M&A; is clearly an area that is reactivating in some terms, so one of the real questions I think we are going to look at is where are the areas for activity – who is buying, which kinds of companies are the most vulnerable or attractive – and I think that is definitely an area that everyone is going to be watching, going forward. There is a sense things are heating up, and exactly where the activity is going to be is something everyone is wondering.

Was the choice to focus on finance suggestive that, despite the return to pre-crisis consumption and record-breaking luxury brand performance, the industry is not quite yet out of the woods?

When you consider the recent events in Portugal, it’s clear we’re not out of the woods yet. I think that people are cautiously optimistic, and clearly the watch industry has had an incredible end of 2010 and beginning of 2011 and we are in Switzerland and that is one of the great positive signs. But I don’t think anyone would say 100% yes it’s over, we’re free!

I think there are still a lot of hard economic issues to deal with and I think one of the exciting things about this event, is that we have Gavyn Davies (Fulcrum Asset Management) and Jim O’Neill (Asset Management) and Martin Wolf talking about the macroeconomic state of the world, which will really effect the luxury industry because of course it exists in this context.

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