Magazine article Newsweek International

Snakeskin, Meet Chiffon

Magazine article Newsweek International

Snakeskin, Meet Chiffon

Article excerpt

When Tom Ford took over as Gucci's design director in 1992, he rapidly transformed the aging Florentine leather-goods maker into the house of the hip elite--a place where women wait in line to fork over $3,000 for a beaded skirt. Now he has the chance to perform a similar feat at Yves Saint Laurent. On Jan. 1 Gucci Group NV assumed control of the troubled French label, whose classic chic look has grown tired and staid. Under the $1 billion deal, first announced last November, Gucci takes over Saint Laurent's ready-to-wear, cosmetics and perfume divisions, while Saint Laurent and longtime business partner Pierre Berge retain control of the $5 million haute couture line. The acquisition brings Gucci one step closer to fulfilling CEO Domenico De Sole's goal of building a luxury-goods empire to rival the dominant Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

Can Gucci really make Saint Laurent sexy again? The fashion world waits expectantly. This week in Paris, Saint Laurent will reveal his first haute-couture collection under the new deal. Shortly after that show, Gucci is expected to announce its plans for the ready-to-wear lines, as well as its overall strategy for remaking Saint Laurent. Both analysts and Gucci executives agree that the new owners face a tough task ahead. "Yves Saint Laurent is a globally recognized name," says Cedric Magnelia, an equities analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston in London. "However, it doesn't have a homogeneous image, because the breadth of prod-uct and the distribution haven't been tight. …

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