LVMH Exec Talks Kirkwood’s Future

Pierre-Yves Roussel, chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group, sounds off on the firm’s newest star player and the hot shoe market:

When did you first consider Nicholas Kirkwood as a potential acquisition?
PYR:
[LVMH scion and Louis Vuitton EVP] Delphine Arnault and I met Nicholas as he was looking for potential investors. We already knew about his brand and were impressed by his success [in terms of] both fashion and quality.

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What sets him apart as a designer?
PYR:
Nicholas is an innovator, an architect of the shoe. He is always looking for newness and modernity, often blending in references to art and design. He also has demonstrated his ability to join forces with other fashion designers and brands — Erdem, Peter Pilotto and Suno, to name a few. He has a unique way of giving birth to exceptional shoes for fashion shows.

How can LVMH help fuel the label’s growth plans?
PYR:
To help a brand, we adapt to its needs. We have no set rules. At Nicholas’ stage of development, it is still a lot about helping him set up a great team around him. As their brands grow, successful designers are often overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done. But this is the time they need access to experts in different fields, from financial to commercial development, to set up the best partnerships in wholesale and retail. We believe in the brand’s strong potential, but you can’t buy time in luxury. You need to grow step by step, organically and naturally. It can’t be forced.

What have you learned about the shoe business since inking the partnership?
PYR:
We were interested in developing a footwear-based company since most of our brands are ready-to-wear or leather-goods based. This is fairly new territory for us, and we are obviously learning more and more as we work with Nicholas. Shoe production is so cumbersome [when compared with manufacturing in other industries]. There are so many components and suppliers contributing to making a luxury shoe. It involves some specific know-how at each stage. We had previously gained experience in this field with our own brands and we can now share that with Nicholas’ own experience. He is a genuine shoe expert … and an inspiring person.

Why is footwear such an exciting category right now?
PYR:
Shoes, along with leather goods, are one of the first luxury items you buy. In all our ready-to-wear fashion brands, [footwear] is a fast-growing category.