With the economy still lagging, political uncertainty surrounding the US fall elections, a weak European market, and a number of retail stocks downgraded last week, it certainly is a surprise that the highest tier of luxury sales are actually doing extraordinarily well. “It’s our best year ever in couture,” Chanel’s president of fashion Bruno Pavlovsky tells WWD yesterday, citing record sales in their couture division for Spring 2012. And things certainly continue to look up for the brand as Karl Lagerfeld unveiled yet another acclaimed couture show in Paris just hours ago. So why does the couture market continue to look so sunny while everyone else is proceeding cautiously into the second half of the year? Well, part of the reason is simply that the “super rich are still super rich,” as explained by Puig Fashion Division’s president Ralph Toledano, who saw the brand’s Jean-Paul Gaultier couture collection revenues jump 23 percent this spring.
Many couture brands continue to see their loyal customers from Europe and the U.S. returning to purchase new pieces season after season. But perhaps the larger force behind the luxury sales may actually be coming from demand in emerging markets that are still relatively new to the couture scene. This past weekend, The New York Times Sunday Styles section paid tribute to one of these demographics, the young Russian Czarinas, who after decades of being dormant are now some of the most visible clients to grace the seats at the couture shows. And they are spending as well. Karl Lagerfeld has said that some of his Russian clients buy as many as 35 Chanel couture suits in any given season.
There’s also a noticeable influx of new customers from Asia and South America with particularly strong showings from China and Brazil. Pavlovsky estimates that almost a quarter of Chanel’s couture sales originate from Asian clients and the brand has taken its collection to major cities across China in recent years. Other ultra luxury brands such as Dior, Armani, Valentino, Gaultier all agree there’s lies even more potential in the Asian market, which currently already drives significant sales- and that their work in China has only just begun to scratch the surface. Similarly, couture brands are starting to embrace the South American client; Gaultier, for example, will be showing couture in Colombia for the first time this fall.
Speaking to the potential of these new markets, Christian Dior Couture President Sidney Toledano says: “Having couture is a key asset–this is the difference between real luxury a the rest of the industry.” And the new international jet-set are accepting no imitations.
(Image via Style.com)