Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why Louis Vuitton hired a yogurt guy.

       LVMH has appointed a new c.e.o. for Louis Vuitton, and he's spent more time in the dairy section than looking in the closet. Jordi Costans is the little-known Spanish Group Danone executive who will be taking over one of the biggest jobs in fashion.

       He's not the first package-goods exec to be hired for a top fashion job. A few years ago, Gucci hired a c.e.o. from Unilever's popsicle division. The Louis Vuitton move is raising eyebrows anyway. Why is a company so famous for its initials on handbags going this route? Is it jeopardizing a business that generated $8.21 billion in revenue last year?

       I don't think so. I think the company is setting its sites on a different kind of future. Louis Vuitton has been listening to Bartok in a Pandora kind of world. Its staff was always formal, dressed to the teeth.  Mr. Constans may have to button his shirt and wear a tie, but he's a contemporary leader. He told the New York Times he values "openness, rapidity, and agility." He replies to emails personally and promptly, and piloted the yogurt division skillfully during tough times.

      Mr. Constans has said his philosophy of innovation is "avoiding the production of useless items". He looks at times like these as "an optimal time to innovate. Innovation comes from good conversation."

      It won't be easy for him; obviously a major shift, with a tough act to follow. Louis Vuitton has managed to remain a luxury brand --- "yet affordable for aspirational shoppers", says the Wall Street Journal. And rumors abound that Marc Jacobs will be leaving, and designing for Dior.

      Take off your silk stockings and put on your Nikes. I think this new c.e.o. is going to just do it!

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