Why Donatella, why? Versace fans angry at Michael Kors sale take to social media

Instagram account of Donatella Versace bombarded after sale of the Italian fashion house for US$2.1 billion, while others wonder which independent label will be swept up next by a big conglomerate

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 3:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 4:08pm

Michael Kors’ swoop on Versace leaves a shrinking universe of fashion brands determined to go it alone and fend off luxury empire builders, raising the pressure on those struggling financially to lift sales or sell out.

This week the US fashion giant confirmed the US$2.1 billion takeover of Versace while announcing plans to open about 100 new stores.

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Asian markets including Japan and South Korea, as well as China’s growing middle class, are key targets.

The move has outraged many fans of Italian fashion house Versace. Some have bombarded the Instagram account of Donatella Versace, the creative director of the Milan-based brand who will continue in her role.

Others took to Twitter to voice their disappointment.

Others sent sympathetic messages mentioning Gianni Versace, the brand’s founder who was shot and killed on July 15, 1997, on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion. He was 50 years old.

The Italian red-carpet favourite is the latest label to be picked off by a conglomerate after years of expansion by European groups like LVMH, which now has a stable of 70 brands that ranges from fashion to champagne to watchmakers.

But growing cash piles at LVMH and its Paris rival Kering; the emergence of aspiring conglomerates like US-based Kors and China’s Shandong Ruyi; and a widening gulf between performing brands and those straining to catch up could propel more deals, according to some industry watchers.

The industry still boasts some big-name independent successes such as France’s Hermes or privately owned Chanel. The latter, long lusted after by rivals, revealed this year it was roughly neck-and-neck with Louis Vuitton – owned by LVMH – as one of the biggest luxury labels by sales.

But in a fickle industry where trends come and go and demand can take sudden hits – such as by a drop in tourist flows, for instance – conglomerates have been among the stronger performers recently amid booming demand from Chinese consumers.

Revenues at Kering and LVMH have thrived thanks to their respective Gucci and Vuitton labels, helping them to offset blips at others like Bottega Veneta or Marc Jacobs.

Versace joins Bulgari as an example of family-run businesses that eventually sold. LVMH bought Bulgari, an Italian, jeweller in 2011.

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According to sources, Italian fashion editors attending Paris Fashion Week have been mourning the loss “of another great piece of Italian fashion”.