There’s no question that Coach Inc. CEO Victor Luis is transforming the company in dramatic ways.
The exec sat down with FN editorial director Michael Atmore at the FN CEO Summit to talk about big M&A moves, including this month’s deal with Kate Spade, his inclusive vision for the company and how he discovered that Stuart Weitzman was a big opportunity.
On being the hottest dealmaker in fashion:
“I don’t know that everyone wants to sell their company to us. We are focused on putting together a group of brands that allows us to create a platform that’s truly different than traditional luxury players. We want to be much more about inclusivity. Traditional luxury has been very much about exclusivity and country of origin. If it’s not made by a French or an Italian, it’s not great. For me that’s a little bit of an old-fashioned concept. We provide an opportunity for talent across the world. That is the platform for which we want to find great brands. We say we are New York-based and not an American house of brands. We could easily have brands based in Europe or Asia or anywhere else.”
Navigating the market revolution:
“We’ve been trying to stay focused on the consumer and where he or she is headed. We have a very global business — 60 percent in the U.S. market and 40 percent internationally. We try to understand what is happening in the three most important markets, which are Asia, the U.S. and Western Europe.”
On the challenges of running a public company:
“[Being a leader of a public company] is among the most difficult jobs in the world. Building a brand takes time. If you can continue transforming yourself, you can have long-term success. That doesn’t fit with the analyst who has just gotten his MBA and looking to fill excel spreadsheets.”
On the transformation of the Coach brand:
“The Coach brand been through a few chapters. The first was up until 2000. From 2000 on, we transformed ourselves into a lifestyle brand, but we weren’t really a fashion resource. Today, with Stuart Vevers, we decided to go all-in. It was about presenting a full lifestyle view of the Coach man and Coach woman, and presenting Coach in a modern context.”
On discovering the power of the Stuart Weitzman brand:
“We had a lot of brands we were looking at, and I can honestly say Stuart Weitzman wasn’t in the top 20. Someone raised it, and it wasn’t on our radar. I happened to go and visit Shin Kong Place in Beijing. On the shoe floor, Louis Vuitton was doing $6 to $7 million [a year.] Prada was doing $5 to $6 million, and Gucci, before the Gucci of today, was doing $4 to $5 million. Stuart Weitzman was doing $12 million. That opened our eyes.”