To date, one of the biggest trends in luxury fashion acquisitions was suppliers. Chanel bought out the lamb hide tannery that had been providing it with leather. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton bought Heng Long, a crocodile tanning company. And Hermès, certain to not be outdone by any brand, started breeding its own crocodiles. Now that the top luxury houses and conglomerates have their supply chains on lock, they’ve turned to … patisseries. And not just in the Chanel café-themed Fall/Winter 2015 runway show sense.
According to the New York Times, Prada and LVMH are initiating a trend by acquiring heritage cafes. Prada, for instance, acquired, revamped and reopened (just in time for last week’s Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016 collections) Pasticceria Marchesi, one of Milan's most iconic cafes. Close by sits the LVMH-owned Caffe Cova, which the Paris-based conglomerate purchased last year.
Speaking about the LVMH acquisition, Yves Carcelle, the late chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, told System Magazine: “For LVMH, it is very important to own our own shops, but also to invest in the environment that surrounds them. We’re able to bring a broad concept that encompasses fashion houses, watch houses, Sephora, and now a café like Cova that adds a touch of class. I’ve nothing against Starbucks but I think it makes more sense to have a Cova next door to our family of brands.”
The brands join a handful of other fashion entities that have expanded into the hospitality industry. Chanel, for instance, turned the top floor of the Chanel Ginza building in Tokyo into Beige, a restaurant in collaboration with Alain Ducasse, the chef known for his three-Michelin-starred restaurants. Burberry's cafe, Thomas's, resides inside the brand's London flagship store, and is named after the the founder of the British luxury brand.
Ralph Lauren, who boasts Ralph’s Coffee in New York City (the iconic luxury brand has since opened a second outpost, Ralph's Paris, which is located in a former hotel in the 6th district and combines typical American character with the spirit of the Rive Gauche), and Roberto Cavalli who opened Cavalli Ibiza Restaurant & Lounge in Ibiza, as well as Gucci, which operates its 1921 cafe in Shanghai.
It appears that these forward-thinking fashion companies are not only looking to bolster their bottom lines by feeding hungry shoppers, they are aiming to add to the experience they offer in connection with their brands by enriching - in many cases - the real-world experiences of their brick-and-mortar stores.
And this makes a lot of sense. As noted by Highsnobiety's Alec Leach, "The retail business has never been tougher. As e-commerce continues to revolutionize the way people shop, brick-and-mortar stores are going to greater lengths to strengthen the one thing the internet will never be able to replicate: real world experience. Along with elaborate in-store installations and editorial content, some shops have added food and drink to their offerings, in a bid to attract more footfall, lengthen browsing time and – in theory – increase sales."