The skill of luxury brand management

Posted on 6/09/2013 by Emma Dadswell


This week Jimmy Choo appointed a new chief executive, little over a year since losing joint founder and creative director Tamara Mellon. After replacing two key positions in such quick succession, how will this new internal structure affect the artistic direction of the company? Can a brand retain its desirability through such major upheaval?

Jimmy Choo has appointed Pierre Denis as chief executive, replacing Joshua Schulman, who left the business earlier this year. Shulman’s departure followed swiftly after that of Jimmy Choo’s joint founder and former chief creative officer Tamara Mellon, who quit when the brand was bought by Swiss company Labelux for around £500m in May last year. The current creative directors Sandra Choi – former chief designer at the brand and Jimmy Choo’s niece and Simon Holloway – who has previously worked at Calvin KleinMichael Kors and Ralph Lauren are no doubt experienced, but will their control change the brands direction beyond recognition?

Iconic figureheads at prestigious fashion houses often embody the brands which they create and manage. Think Tom Ford during his time at GucciStella McCartney at Chloe and Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. The designers and creative directors of these hugely successful institutions are integral to their brands’ image, perception and equity. Tamara Mellon, who was awarded an OBE for contributions to the fashion industry in 2010, co-founded the label with Jimmy Choo in 1996. The former accessories editor at Vogue magazine transformed the small Hackney cobbler into a global icon. The brand, which recently opened new stores in San Francisco, Hong Kong and Amsterdam, now has stores in 150 locations in 32 countries worldwide. Last year Jimmy Choo saw pre-tax profits soar almost 20% to £26.9m as turnover shot up by 34% - so Denis, Choi and Holloway certainly have large shoes to fill.

Fashion is an art as well as a business, and successful luxury brand management requires a traditionally corporate skill-set coupled with an understanding of the culture of high-end consumerism. Essentially creative directors and CEOs of prestigious brands are tasked with marketing exclusivity to the masses while maintaining a flawless façade across all touchpoints. As a result successful luxury brand management requires an all-encompassing understanding of the core values of the label in question.

The growth of the Luxury sector is one of the striking economic facts of the last thirty years, and although a relatively new concept, luxury brand management is now an academically recognised discipline. Business schools are now offering qualifications in managing and marketing exclusive labels, such as HEC Paris, which offers a Luxury Strategies Certificate in partnership with Yves Saint Laurent.

In order to maintain Mellon & Schulman’s legacy of quality, desirability and expansion, Jimmy Choo’s new management team must build on the brands heritage to propel the label forward while taking care to respect the intricacies of the luxury market. With growth plans for the year including targeting Chinese and Russian consumers, it seems Jimmy Choo is staying true to the label’s pioneering spirit – and will remain an iconic global brand despite the major changes. What’s your view? Let us know by commenting below.