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How Victor Luis Is Building a New American Fashion Empire

As the sun set on the last day of October, Victor Luis posed for photos on the 19th floor of Tapestry Inc.’s stylish modern headquarters at Hudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in U.S. history.

Eight hours earlier, the CEO was holding court in another landmark New York property. He proudly rang the opening bell at The New York Stock Exchange and officially inaugurated the company’s new moniker. 

“It was a wonderful, symbolic day,” said Luis, who rebranded the fashion conglomerate, formerly known as Coach Inc., as part of his strategy to build a house of powerful, accessible luxury brands — which includes Coach, Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade.

There’s no question that the executive has dramatically overhauled the business since taking the helm in January 2014. His first task was to revitalize a staid Coach label, a tall order in a difficult climate. Luis, who had held various leadership roles at the label since 2006, was clearly up for that challenge.

But the executive, who spent time at LVMH and previously led Baccarat, knew there was more opportunity to unlock. His ambitions for the company extended far beyond one brand.

“Even at that time, when Coach was very much of a turnaround story, he had a clear vision of building a multibrand group,” said Josh Schulman, who previously headed Jimmy Choo and Bergdorf Goodman, and is now CEO and president of the Coach brand. “From the first time I met Victor four years ago, he articulated what he wanted to achieve, and went out and accomplished those goals.”

Coach Spring 2018 New York Fashion Week
Coach’s spring ’18 presentation at New York Fashion Week.
CREDIT: REX Shutterstock

After snapping up Stuart Weitzman for $574 million in 2015, Luis scored another blockbuster buy this year of Kate Spade & Co. for $2.4 billion. The deal generated huge buzz across the fashion world and instantly altered the playing field.

“Victor has great respect for brands, and he is laser-focused on the customer,” said Jeff Gennette, CEO  of Macy’s Inc. “He looked at Kate Spade as the younger sister of Coach, more whimsical and spirited. He is building out a different segment.”

As he plots plans for Kate Spade, Luis is making major advancements with the company’s other two labels. Weitzman embarked on a new chapter this year with the arrival of creative director Giovanni Morelli (and retirement of the brand’s founder and namesake). “There is so much opportunity for [the label] to stand for more across footwear and other categories,” Luis said. “Giovanni is focused on evolution.”

There are few fashion names that have evolved as much as Coach. Four years ago, the classic American label was struggling. It was overdistributed and largely out of the conversation. “A vital part of our strategy was for Coach to become a brand that consumers had a stronger attraction to,” Luis recalled. “We wanted it to play a much more important role in fashion.”

victor-luis
Victor Luis
CREDIT: Patrick Miller

But it wasn’t easy. The company’s financial results suffered as Luis and team began to exit stores and clean up distribution. “A lot of the steps we took involved pulling back,” the CEO said.

While Luis was doing the heavy lifting, executive creative director Stuart Vevers dreamed up a creative strategy to turn the brand into a formidable lifestyle player. Now consumers are clamoring for Vevers’ cool outerwear and must-have sneakers and boots.

Luis isn’t resting on his laurels. “There’s still a lot of work to do. We must continue to innovate, and we want to get our message out to a wider audience,” he said. To achieve that goal, the brand tapped Selena Gomez as its spokesperson this fall. Just last week, the pop star wowed the crowd at The American Music Awards in a custom Coach leather moto dress and embellished pumps. “We wanted to associate ourselves with an American who is authentic, real and shares our values,” Luis explained.

Chloë Grace Moretz, another one of the company’s celebrity partners, opened up about Luis’ innate talent and savvy leadership. “Victor was the first person I met when I started working with Coach in spring ’15,” said Moretz, face of the Coach fragrance. “He understands what it takes to be successful in this industry, and I am so glad to see his ideas and risks pay off. It has been incredible to witness the brand transformation firsthand.”

As Luis forges ahead with plans for his current portfolio, he’s scouring the market for new buys, but is careful about the fit and timing for the company, which reported $1.3 billion in sales for its fiscal first quarter ended Sept. 30.

Gennette, for one, believes Luis has plenty in store for the future. “You don’t have three things in a tapestry. You have many. It will be a bigger story.”

stuart weitzman bootie
Stuart Weitzman Clingy Bootie
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

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