According to recent reports, there is “growing evidence” that luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci are losing sales to newer, more affordable luxury brands. Reuters reported this week that after years of expansion, “Kering and LVMH (Gucci and Louis Vuitton’s respective parents) are finding the likes of Michael Kors are proving smarter at tapping the fast-growing middle classes, particularly in big markets, such as China.” The publication further alleges that “emerging market customers — the industry’s main growth engine — were previously ready to save up to buy traditional status symbols such as a Louis Vuitton canvas bag, but now they are showing stronger appetite for new brands such as Michael Kors that cost less.”
The most interesting aspect of Reuter’s analysis, however, is what it attributes much of Kors’ success to: “Part of Kors’ success is that its products subtly replicate the style of big luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton’s cylinder Speedy bag and Chanel’s quilted leather tote. Kors’ $300 Weston shoulder bag has the same fringed pompom and shape as Gucci’s $2,650 Jackie shoulder bag.”
This is the second claim in the past month alone that Kors’ success can be derived from copying. Notoriously outspoken designer, Roberto Cavalli, spoke about the NYC-based company and its newly-minted billionaire founder, but without such diplomatic terms. Cavalli told Miami’s Haute Living magazine: “Now you have designers and you have Zara, which is meant to be fast and sold at a very cheap price, so you expect [copying]. But Mr. Michael Kors, he copies everything! It’s really a scandal and nobody has the courage to say anything. It’s really not fair.”
You may also recall that we suggested some strong superficial similarity between Kors’ best selling watches and some of Swiss luxury brand, Rolex’s celebrated styles, which also implies some potential patent infringement on the part of Kors.
Almost as undeniable as the similarity between Kors’ “original designs” and some of the designs of legitimate luxury design houses, is the fact that Michael Kors is extremely profitable and growing. The affordable luxury brand recently reported another strong quarter, as earnings and sales came in well above expectations. The company announced that its sales rose 59% in the past quarter to just over $1 billion. Sales in North America rose 24%. In Europe, sales soared 73%. You’d think that with so many resources at hand, the brand would bring in a team of designer to produce more original designs. Thoughts?