In an Instagram post from Salvatore Ferragamo on Wednesday, the Italian leather goods and fashion brand announced that “Salvatore Ferragamo [has] become FERRAGAMO.” The revelation – which also included a subtly-stylized new word mark and a custom red-ish Pantone hue – comes on the heels of the appointment of 27-year-old Maximilian Davis in March to the helm of the Florence, Italy-headquartered brand and just ahead of his runway debut during Milan Fashion Week on Saturday. In addition to reflecting a number of recurring trends in branding (from the rising adoption of color marks and moves by companies to simplify their brand names), Ferragamo axing Salvatore and the cursive stylization of its previous mark and opting, instead, for a more pared back font, is a nod to the “blanding” trend that has found a home in the fashion/luxury goods space over the past several years.

The newly-introduced Ferragamo word mark and the 95-year-old company’s decision to bring the red hue (which has roots in the company’s branding to date) to the fore falls neatly in line with enduring trends in the realm of branding. Other companies are placing emphasis on signature shades to complement more traditional forms of source-indication, such as word marks and logos. Bottega Veneta’s green, Valentino’s PP Pink, and Tom Brady’s “Brady Blue” come to mind as recent examples. In addition to adopting color branding, Ferragamo’s decision to move away from its previous signature-style mark is not without precedent either, and is immediately demonstrative of the “blanding” movement.

Still yet, Salvatore Ferragamo leaning into a shortened moniker is not uncharted territory, as it follows from similar steps taken by the likes of Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, and Yves Saint Laurent. Fellow Italian fashion brand Ermenegildo Zegna became Zegna (and debuted a new logo) in December 2021. Shortly thereafter, Hugo Boss announced that it would split its formerly unified brand and create two distinct brands – HUGO and BOSS. And best known, of course, was a move by Yves Saint Laurent – under the watch of former creative chief Hedi Slimane – to famously drop the “Yves” for the ready-to-wear collection brand. (It is worth noting that this trend is not limited to fashion, and companies like The Boca Raton (formerly The Boca Raton Resort & Club) have simplified their names, as well.)

It is clear that companies across the board are opting to operate under more simplified branding, with a notable number of big-name bands following a very similar formula in recent years. The question is: Why? There are an array of reasons driving this branding stint but at least a couple stand out. Primarily, there is the enduring need for companies to create buzz around themselves – whether that buzz be for general brand-promotion purposes or to indicate new endeavors. This is very-easily achieved by way of changes to their branding)

In connection with its recent rebrand, Hugo Boss, for instance, is angling to regain relevance and in turn, boost sales. While the German fashion brand has “maintained its brand awareness” in recent years, CEO Daniel Grieder said earlier this year that it has “lost its relevance in the fashion industry,” prompting management to go back to the drawing board and “reframe” the valuable brand. Against that background, the bifurcated BOSS brand is aimed at catering to millennial consumers (think: ages 25 to 40), whereas HUGO is looking to find its footing among Gen-Z (i.e., those under age 25). 

Zegna similarly revamped its branding not too long ago as an indication of what is to come, namely, a planned initial public offering this year by way of a SPAC and a larger plan to engage in global expansion.

Other companies have opted to rebrand – or better yet, de-brand (complete with wiped-clean social media accounts) – to signal the start of a new creative direction. The Saint Laurent rebrand, for instance, coincided closely with the start of Hedi Slimane’s tenure, and the same is true for Ferragamo, which onboarded both Davis and CEO Marco Gobbetti over the past year, and is in the midst of a larger effort to attract millennial and Gen-Z consumers to the brand that has become a relatively dusty over the years.

Practically speaking, companies appear to have become much more willing to play with their valuable branding than they have been in the past. As a result, alterations to companies’ branding that follow from changes in creative directors – or that foreshadow other changes for a company – have become thoroughly commonplace, a sure-fire way to elicit clicks (and potentially, cash) from consumers. “Wrongly, or rightly, this has almost become the de-fecto way a traditional luxury brand communicates that they are having a bit of a rebirth and is still relevant and that it wants consumers to look at its offering with a bit more of a modern lens,” King & Partners founder and CEO Tony King told TFL. “It is almost a battle cry for luxury brands to signal to the world, ‘Hey kids, look at us! We still got it!’” 

Beyond the need to create recurring buzz in a crowded and largely-image-driven luxury market, branding changes are a way for companies to adapt to a growing number of markets and mediums, which have increased even further since the initial wave of blanding thanks to the rise of web3 and the metaverse. In addition to seeking “maximum impact” across the mediums where they simultaneously communicate – from smartphones to billboards, Base Design’s Partner and Executive Creative Director Thierry Brunfaut says that “most of these brands are global brands, and they believe that they need to get to the lowest visual and textual common denominator to reach a global audience.” 

The line of thinking here, per Brunfaut, is that “the shorter and bolder your name is” the more widely fitting it is and “the better the impact.” And ultimately, replacing stylized branding “with something bolder, simpler” enables brands to “pass the ‘Will this be highly recognizable on a hoodie?’ test,” King asserts. (He notes that the simplification of a brand name also sets companies like Ferragamo up neatly to use the dropped portion of a name for a diffusion or separate line.)

Blanded logos

Such de-branding – which is seeing brands “extract all the nuances and considered details of a brand that carefully evolved over decades,” King says, may prove to be an effective way to achieve appeal across markets and mediums, but it is not without potential drawbacks. One of the risks here, Brunfaut contends, is that such de-branding “could empty the brand of its story, heritage, and unique feel,” while at the same time, giving rise to “the danger that all these fashion mega brands today look the same,” thereby, giving consumers the impression that “luxury has become a commodity.” This might not bode well from a positioning and/or pricing point of view, which is the name of the game in the luxury segment. 

Finally, from another perspective, what is going on here makes sense. In reality, most of the fashion brands that are engaging in de-branding exercises have come a long way from their origins, with their founders either dead or otherwise not involved with the company, and this fact is being reflected in the removal of “original human/family heritage” elements, Brunfaut says. The message here is “clear,” he claims, these new branding efforts represent a shift “from a person to a corporation.” 

As for whether this overarching blanding (or de-branding) will stick – and/or whether it is what companies in the business of manufacturing the image of exclusivity, craftsmanship, and … luxury will want – long-term is not immediately clear. However, Brunfaut, for one, suggests that this may not be the end of the luxury brand as we once knew it. 

It is “all about cycles” when it comes to branding. “We could be surprised by the coming of a new trend that gets back to more human-centric branding,” he says. “I think we all crave that.” 

“The new logo has a heavier, bold look with a geometric sans-serif treatment.” This is what Bloomberg’s Rob Walker wrote about the newly redesigned Burberry logo. He could, however, actually be discussing any number of recently (and relatively recently) revamped logos – from Balenciaga and Berluti to Saint Laurent and Rimowa. As part of a larger trend in branding, or better yet, blanding, a growing number of high fashion and luxury brands – and other consumer goods and tech companies, as well – are looking to spartan logos, which are “designed not to stand out at all, but to blend in.”

Logos meant to blend in? That is an interesting notion if you consider the practical purpose of branding in the first place. Trademarks – i.e., brand names, logos, and even colors in some cases – have traditionally been used and have derived their value from their ability to enable consumers to easily identify the source of a product and distinguish that product from those of other companies. Given the increasing number of brands contributing to the mass-simplification of logos, it is worth wondering what, exactly, this means, legally speaking, how we got here, and what the broader cultural implications might be.

Trademark Considerations

From a legal perspective, one of the key concerns when it comes to rebranding is the potential loss of trademark rights in a prior logo or specified stylization of a word mark. After all, trademark rights are amassed and maintained in many jurisdictions, including the U.S., as a result of actual – and consistent – use of a mark. As such, discontinued use of a stylized brand name or logo could give rise to complications even when a brand maintains registrations for such marks.

A chart of logos before and after their blanding makeover

This issue is “particularly relevant if that previously-held logo was used for an extended duration, and was recognized and beloved by consumers,” as Sterne Kessler’s Ivy Estoesta and Monica Talley have noted. “At issue in such a scenario will be the need to establish trademark rights and consumer recognition from scratch in a new logo, which will take time and resources, and will also require ensuring that the new logo does not infringe any other parties’ already-existing marks.”

As such, “Companies that wish to refresh their branding but benefit from the goodwill surrounding a prior mark should consider modifications that update – but do not completely change – the commercial impression of the brand.” In such a scenario, “a brand owner may be able to rely on the doctrine of ‘tacking’ in a later procurement or infringement matter, which allows a trademark user to ‘clothe a new mark with the priority position of an older mark.'” While this “sounds simple in theory,” Estoesta and Talley caution brands, noting that the application of the doctrine “is more challenging because the determination of legal equivalency depends on whether the two marks ‘create the same, continuing commercial impression such that the consumer would consider them both the same mark,’ as the Federal Circuit stated in In re Dial-A-Mattress Operating Corp.

At the same time, it could be argued that brands actually stand to increase the strength of – and the scope of protection for – their marks by adopting this less-is-more approach. As London-based intellectual property lawyer Birgit Clark told TFL, a brand “should always try to register a plain word trademark.” That way, she says, the distinctiveness of the mark “will rest on the word(s) rather than any stylization of those words.”

With that in mind, brands will be able to “go after similar or identical trademarks in any kind of stylization or in combination with a logo,” for example, as opposed to merely being able to claim infringement if the name and any decorative elements are similar. In short: the more distinctive a trademark, itself, is, the wider its scope of protection will be. From this standpoint, the new trend of bland logos bodes well for brands.

“Just Good Business”

Speaking more broadly, there is something to be said about the simplification of logos, a move that has largely been attributed to the desire of brands to use the same logo more seamlessly across multiple format – i.e., on Instagram, billboards, and shopping bags, etc., alike. In this way, creative director Thierry Brunfaut wrote for Fast Co., the adoption of bare bones branding “is just good business.”

The widespread adoption of newly sans-serif-centric logos is also likely due (at least in part) to the reliance of the same handful of individuals’ or companies and their aesthetics. Famed graphic designer Peter Saville, for instance, created both Calvin Klein and Burberry’s new logos and related branding. German creative firm Bureau Borsche was responsible for Balenciaga and Rimowa’s rebrands, as well as recent bland-centric revamps for menswear site Highsnobiety and Nike. The list of commonalities goes on, just as it does elsewhere in fashion.

Blanded logos

Beyond that, the uniformity in design is part of the larger approach to modern fashion, which is becoming more formulaic, corporate, and spread sheet-driven. Because a sizable number of fashion brands are owned by publicly-listed parent companies, the stakes, from a bottom line perspective are higher, and as a result, they tend to be increasingly risk averse. Thus, much of what they produce – from garments to branding – is the product of trend forecasting and careful metrics.

As for the trend, itself, it speaks to the larger state of things in consumer goods sales, as well. After all, consumers – particularly high fashion ones – are not necessarily shopping in the same way as they used to. The rise in omni-channel operations calls for  is a “tremendous design challenge,” per Brunfaut, and as such, brands have opted for the straightforward, easily-transferrable and super-scalable logo.

More than that, an ever-growing percentage of luxury goods sales, for instance, are occurring online, where labeling tends to be clearer than it is in multi-brand stores, and this has had a practical impact on the need for – and the utilization of – logos.  Look no further than the Saint Laurent Sac De Jour bags being offered up by Net-a-Porter. They have the simplified (under the direction of Hedi Slimane) Saint Laurent logo on them. The bags are also being sold under a bold Saint Laurent brand identification tag on the website.

This is demonstrative of the fact that the practical need for a super easily-identifiable logo on a bag, itself, is in the digital era is arguably less intense than when consumers were shopping in brick-and-mortar department stores. Whether that means brands should continue to opt for logos that look very much alike, all more-or-less blend together, and potentially, fail to distinguish one brand’s products from another’s (even if that is less likely than in generations prior), that seems like a negative.

This article was initially published on December 19, 2018.

A growing number of M&A deals and investment rounds are bringing together some of the biggest names in the fashion and luxury space. In November, a $1.15 billion deal came to light, bringing together Cartier’s parent company Richemont, Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba, and fashion retail platform Farfetch. The headline-making transaction followed from reports that a “mega deal” was in the making. In addition to proving noteworthy because it brought together three very big names in the fashion sphere in furtherance of an effort that largely focuses on “providing luxury brands with enhanced access to the China market,” the alliance is striking, as it has given rise to speculation about a potential consolidation, with at least some analysts wondering aloud whether the $1.15 billion tie-up could be “a preamble” a larger M&A effort, namely, Richemont merging Yoox Net-a-Porter with Farfetch or the Swiss conglomerate selling the fashion e-commerce pioneer to Alibaba. 

Around the same time, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton decided to make good on an acquisition effort of its own, the one it had also been quietly (and then not so quietly) working towards: Tiffany & Co. Just a matter of days before the Farfetch-Alibaba-YNAP deal was confirmed, LVMH and Tiffany revealed that they had managed to put their rival lawsuits to bed and come to agreeable terms under which the famed New York-based jewelry stalwart could be brought under the ownership umbrella of the Paris-based luxury goods titan. In exchange for $15.8 billion, LVMH would acquire all shares in the formerly publicly-traded Tiffany & Co.

Both instances come as consolidation has been top of mind in the luxury space, where the biggest groups, such as Louis Vuitton-owner LVMH and Gucci’s parent company Kering, have amassed sizable rosters of brands over the past several decades by way of various fashion and luxury-centric M&A transactions, thereby, enabling them to benefit from sheer size and scale, while making it more difficult for independently-owned brands to compete. The havoc wreaked on brands’ balance sheets by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shift online (and the expenses that come with doing that and doing it well) is expected to accelerate that existing fashion industry M&A activity even further. 

“With the financial difficulties [brought about by COVID] in mind, many players, and in particular the smallest, will become more-affordable M&A targets,” according to Isabelle Chaboud, an Associate Professor in the Finance, Accounting and Law Department of Grenoble Ecole de Management. “The most financially solid players – such as LVMH, Kering or Chanel – will no doubt have the option of buying out competitors, subcontractors and even suppliers.”

A Timeline of Transactions

With the foregoing in mind, here is a running timeline of the most recent fashion and luxury-focused M&A and investments dating back to LVMH’s headline-making deal with Tiffany & Co. … 

Sept. 16, 2022 – Everlane Secures $90 Million in Debt Financing

Everlane has secured $90 million in debt financing, including a $65 million revolving credit facility and a $25 million first-in last-out term loan, according to releases from Houlihan Lokey Advisers and CIT Northbridge Credit. “This financing will provide acceleration for our business through new stores and product expansion and allow us to continue to extend our mission of sustainability at a much-needed time in the world,” Everlane founder Michael Preysman said in statement. Beyond that, Everlane revealed that the funding will enable the company to “refinance existing indebtedness and provide incremental liquidity for growth initiatives as well as to pay transaction-related fees and expenses.”

“With the trends we’re observing in the apparel space and the heightened focus on sustainability and environmental impact, we are pleased to work with Everlane to be on the front lines of this transformation,” Neal Legan, managing director at CIT Northbridge Credit, said.

Sept. 15, 2022 – Prada Takes Stake in Tuscan Tannery Superior SpA

Prada SpA has acquired a 43.65 percent stake in Tuscan calfskin tannery Superior SpA, further “tightening its grip on its supply chain,” per Reuters. “The acquisition of a shareholding in Superior represents another important step in the strategic direction towards vertical integration of the Prada Group’s supply chain,” CEO Patrizio Bertelli said.

Sept. 6, 2022 – D’Amelio Family Raises $6 Million to Launch Brands Venture

The D’Amelio family, which includes sisters Charli and Dixie who are two of the most heavily-followed and top-earning TikTok personalities, has raised a $6 million seed round to launch a new fashion and lifestyle-focused venture. The new project, D’Amelio Brands, “will create its own brands in a variety of industries including fashion, beauty and lifestyle that are 100 percent owned by the family,” per CNBC. Investors in the round include Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin, entrepreneur Richard Rosenblatt, and Apple Senior Vice President of Services Eddy Cue. 

Sept. 5, 2022 – Alexander Wang Raises First Outside Funds

Alexander Wang has announced its first-ever outside investment, with two China-based entities – venture capital fund Challenjers Capital and apparel manufacturing and real estate firm Youngor Group – taking an undisclosed minority stake in the New York-based brand, whose eponymous founder and creative director has faced sexual assault allegations in recent years. According to Vogue, “The investment will be used to support the brand’s rehabilitation efforts, which began with a comeback runway show in Los Angeles in April. Wang projects that the funding, along with the external expertise that accompanies it, will help to double the company’s revenue within five years — it currently turns over $200 million annually.” Such anticipated growth is expected to come by way of the Asian market and an expansion of the brand’s offerings.

Aug. 24, 2022 – Farfetch to Acquire 47.5% Stake in Yoox-Net-a-Porter

Richemont and Farfetch have finalized the long-rumored deal in furtherance of which Richemont will sell a 47.5 percent stake in Yoox-Net-a-Porter to Farfetch. In a statement on Tuesday, Richemont revealed that Symphony Global, one of the investment vehicles of Mohamed Alabbar, which currently maintains a Middle Eastern joint venture with YNAP, will also take a 3.2 percent stake, making YNAP “a neutral industry-wide platform,” and “lay[ing] a path towards FARFETCH potentially acquiring the remaining shares in YNAP [and] bringing together these highly complementary businesses.” The partnership marks “a step change in Richemont Maisons’ omnichannel distribution capabilities,” the Swiss luxury goods group revealed on Tuesday, noting that the “landmark transaction” represents a move “towards the digitalization of the luxury industry.” 

Aug. 21, 2022 – Noon to Acquire Namshi for $335 Million

Middle-Eastern e-commerce retailer Noon will acquire Namshi for in a deal that values the fashion retailer at $335.2 million. Emaar Properties announced on Saturday that it reached a deal “in-principle” to sell of Namshi to Noon, the latter of which is backed by Dubai billionaire Mohamed Alabbar and Saudi Arabian sovereign fund the Public Investment Fund. “The planned divestment is with a related party to the Company,” Ahmad Thani Al Matrooshi, the Director & Managing Director at Emaar Properties, said in connection with the impending deal, seemingly referring to Alabbar’s role as the Founder and Chairman of Emaar Properties, as well as a co-founder of Noon.com. “Detailed information will be disclosed once the approvals of Noon Board are received formally,” Al Matrooshi said.

Dubai-headquartered Emaar, the company behind properties, such as the Dubai Mall, first acquired a 51 percent stake in Namshi in 2017 for $281 million, and acquired the remaining 49 percent in 2019.

Aug. 16, 2022 – Authentic Brands Snaps Up Ted Baker

Authentic Brands Group has agreed to buy British fashion company Ted Baker in a deal that is worth approximately 211 million pounds ($254 million). “Pandemic-related losses forced Ted Baker to put itself up for sale in April,” Reuters reports, with a rep for New York-based Authentic Brands stating on Tuesday that it “believes there are significant growth opportunities for the Ted Baker brand in North America given (its) … strong consumer recognition in this market.” Authentic Brands has built up its portfolio of companies significantly over the past several years, with Barneys, David Beckham, Forever 21, Juicy Couture, Vision Street Wear, Brooks Brothers, and Aeropostale, among others, falling under its ownership umbrella.

August 8, 2022 – Sequoia Capital China Acquires Majority Stake in Holzweiler

Sequoia Capital China has acquired a majority stake in Holzweiler to help accelerate the Norwegian fashion and lifestyle brand’s global expansion. The 10-year-old company, which was founded by siblings Andreas and Susanne Holzweiler, said in a statement, as reported by BoF that the strategic partnership with Sequoia Capital China will accelerate its direct-to-consumer business internationally, including the United States, United Kingdom, China. It expects consolidated turnover to amount to $50 million in 2022, up 60 percent year-over-year.

June 13, 2022 – Zalando Acquires Highsnobiety

Berlin-based e-commerce platform Zalando has acquired a majority stake in Highsnobiety, the global pioneer of the new luxury culture, in furtherance of an effort that will see the two companies “join forces to lead the way in engaging and inspiring customers.” While continuing “independent operations,” Zalando says that Highsnobiety “will act as a strategic and creative consultant helping [it] develop new inspiration-focused spaces and formats on its platform.” The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, aside from the parties confirming that Highsnobiety founder and CEO David Fischer will retain a minority stake in the business.

Prior to the deal, Highsnobiety had raised $8.5 million from investors, including Felix Capital, Torch Capital, Reimann Investors, CASSIUS Family, and Holt Renfrew President and CEO Sebastian Picardo, since its founding in 2005, according to Crunchbase.

June 8, 2022 – H&M Group and Lululemon Lead Investment in Climate Fund

H&M Group and Lululemon are among the leading investors in a Fashion Climate Fund spearheaded by nonprofit Apparel Impact Institute. The $250 million fund aims to “support new programs and solutions with a structured pipeline for getting from pilot to scale,” Apparel Impact Institute stated in a release. “We believe it provides a powerful mechanism to overcome the challenges of getting new solutions implemented by the industry, and thereby accelerate the progress on climate action.”

According to Axois, the fund has “attracted $40 million from H&M Group and Lululemon, plus the H&M Foundation and the Schmidt Family Foundation,” noting that further lead partners are expected to each invest a minimum of $10 million over the next eight years.

June 2, 2022 – Pinterest Acquires The Yes

Pinterest will acquire AI-powered shopping platform The Yes. The deal, the terms of which have not been disclosed comes as the San Francisco-based image sharing and social media service looks to double-down on the shopping aspect of its platform. In furtherance of its mission to “learn what you like and get smarter as you shop,” The Yes, which was founded in 2018 by former Stitch Fix COO Julie Bornstein and Amit Aggarwal, maintains “an extensive fashion taxonomy that uses human expertise and machine learning to power a comprehensive algorithm in fashion.”

“THE YES team are experts in building an end-to-end shopping experience. They share our vision of making it simple to find the right products that are personalized for you based on your taste and style,” Pinterest co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann said, noting that in the months following the closing of the transaction, “Pinterest plans to sunset the THE YES app and website to allow the merged teams to focus on technology integration and evolving our shopping vision.”

May 17, 2022 – B2B Fashion Supply Chain Marketplace Fashinza Raises $100M

Fashinza has raised $100 million in a Series B round that co-led by Prosus Ventures and Westbridge with participation from Accel, and Elevation, among others, valuing the B2B fashion marketplace at $300 billion valuation. The Delhi, India-based company describes itself as the “fastest apparel manufacturing platform” that “solves apparel/fashion supply chain challenges by connecting fashion brands to experienced manufacturers.”

The round brings Fashinza’s total funds raised to $135 million, which CEO Pawan Gupta says the company will use to “refine the company’s supply chain technology and expand into new markets, including raw materials procurement.”

May 4, 2022 – Kering Invests in Alternative Leather Startup VitroLabs

Gucci-owner Kering is one of the investors in a $46 million Series A round raised by VitroLabs, along with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, agriculture-focused VC Agronomics, Bestseller’s Invest FWD innovation arm, Khosla Ventures, New Agrarian, and Regeneration VC, among others. California-based VitroLabs, which makes cellular-cultivated leather that “replicates the structure of animal hides,” will use the funding to scale-up its operations and expects to start pilot manufacturing this spring.

“At Kering, a chapter/pillar of our sustainability roadmap is dedicated to sustainable innovation and actively looking for alternative materials that can reduce our environmental impact over the long term is part of the solutions we have been exploring for years. We believe that innovation is key to addressing the sustainability challenges that the luxury industry is facing, which is why we are very interested in the potential of biomaterials such as cultivated leather,” Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability and Institutional Affairs Officer at Kering, said in connection with the finding announcement.

May 2, 2022 – G-III to Acquire Remaining 81 Percent Stake in Karl Lagerfeld Label

DKNY and Sonia Rykiel-owner G-III Apparel Group will acquire the outstanding 81 percent stake in the late Karl Lagerfeld’s eponymous label for $210 million in cash in a deal that will make it the sole owner of the brand. G-III, which first acquired a 19 percent stake in the brand in 2016 after launching a joint venture in 2015, says that it expects that retail sales for the Karl Lagerfeld label could eventually surpass $2 billion.

Apr. 20, 2022 – Destree Raises Series A from Beyonce, Rihanna, Sequoia Capital China

Destree, the Paris-based fashion brand founded by Géraldine Guyot and Laetitia Lumbroso, announced a Series A round that includes big-name investors, such as venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Reese Witherspoon, Gisele Bündchen, Gabriela Hearst, Carmen Busquets, Jessica Alba, Glossier founder Emily Weiss, and Amy Griffin of G9 Ventures. Financial terms were not disclosed, per WWD, but it is understood Guyot and Lumbroso retain majority control of the business, founded in 2016. WWD reports that the funding will be used to “almost double the size of their small team; open Destree’s first freestanding stores; expand into new or underdeveloped markets like the Middle East, China, Japan and the U.S., and supercharge e-commerce operations and digital-native marketing.”

Apr. 5, 2022 – Farfetch Takes Stake in Neiman Marcus Group

Farfetch announced that it will make “a minority common equity investment of up to $200 million” in Neiman Marcus Group in furtherance of a global strategic partnership.” According to a statement from the two retailers, “The partnership builds on Farfetch’s Luxury New Retail vision and advances Neiman Marcus Groups’ pioneering strategy to revolutionize integrated luxury retail, with an initial focus on re-platforming the Bergdorf Goodman website and mobile application to expand its global capabilities and services.” Neiman Marcus says that it will use the proceeds to “further accelerate growth and innovation through investments in technology and digital capabilities.”

In a note about the deal, Bernstein analyst Luca Solca stated that it provides Farfetch “a strategic opportunity to stand out among service providers and to benefit from the strength of the local US customers,” namely by way of its and its Luxury New Retail and Farfetch Platform Solutions, its suite of commerce solutions and retail technology for luxury brands and retailers.

Mar. 14, 2022 – Kering to Bolster Eyewear Unit with Maui Jim

Kering Eyewear has signed an agreement to acquire Maui Jim, Inc., the French luxury goods conglomerate revealed without disclosing the terms of the deal. On the heels of Kering snapping up Danish eyewear brand LINDBERG in July 2021, the group says that “this second key acquisition is also a major step for Kering Eyewear, which has now become unparalleled in its market segment, further validating the strategy that laid behind its creation by Kering in 2014.” The transaction is subject to the clearance by the relevant competition authorities and is expected to be completed in the second half of 2022.

Jan. 28, 2022 – Farfetch to Acquire Violet Grey

Farfetch will acquire beauty brand Violet Grey for an undisclosed sum, the e-commerce platform announced. In a nod to larger implications of the deal, Violet Grey founder Cassandra Grey will act as chairwoman for the brand, while also becoming Farfetch’s global beauty advisor and the co-founder of NGG Beauty, a division of Farfetch’s New Guards Group, with both entities seemingly ramping up their intentions to launch into the beauty space. The launch of a beauty category on the Farfetch marketplace is scheduled for later in the year.

“Farfetch has a really strong track record for acquiring really special, founder-led brands and celebrating and protecting that kind of brand equity,” Grey said in statement inn connection with the confirmation of the deal.

Jan. 27, 2022 – Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS Raises $240 Million

Kim Kardashian’s shapewear label SKIMS raised $240 million in an unknown-series round that was led by hedge fund Lone Pine Capital and that also included D1 Capital Partners, along with existing investors Thrive Capital, Natalie Massenet’s Imaginary Ventures, and Alliance Consumer Growth. The round doubles the barely three-year-old brand at $3.2 billion, up from $1.6 billion in April 2021. Kardashian and SKIMS CEO Jens Grede will retain a controlling stake in the company after the investment, according to Bloomberg.

Jan. 18, 2022 – LVMH Luxury Ventures Invests in Aimé Leon Dore

LVMH’s Luxury Ventures investment vehicle has taken a minority stake in budding New York-based fashion brand Aimé Leon Dore. While the terms of the investment – which appears as though it might be the latest deal to have been brokered by Alexandre Arnault – have not been disclosed, LVMH typically Luxury Ventures typically targets investments ranging from €2 million to €15 million. In a statement on Tuesday, Aimé Leon Dore founder Teddy Santis stated, “LVMH’s vast network of global leaders across the industry and its rich history in growing exceptional storied brands offers a truly unique partnership opportunity to fuel the next chapter of growth for Aimé Leon Dore.”

Jan. 13, 2022 – LVMH Luxury Ventures Takes a Stake in Heat

Mystery boxes are the latest target of investment for LVMH’s Luxury Ventures, with the French luxury goods conglomerate’s fund among the parties to a $5 million round raised by Heat. OTB Group board member and BVX CEO Stefano Rosso, Singapore-headquartered VC firm Antler, L Catterton partner Michael Mitterlehner, Spotify Director of Global Growth Sven Ahrens, and the Hermès family are some of the other investors in London-based Heat’s seed round, the funds from which will be used to “implement gamification, AI-driven personalization, and interactive drops, all while driving sustainability,” the company revealed.

Nov. 22, 2021 – CVC Capital, HPS Investment Take Stake in Authentic Brands

Private equity firms CVC Capital Partners and HPS Investment Partners have acquired “significant equity stakes” in Authentic Brands Group, putting a a $12.7 billion enterprise value on the company and prompting it to postpone a previously-planned planned initial public offering until at least 2023. In a statement, ABG said that “since its founding in 2010, [it] has experienced significant growth by implementing a proven playbook that connects strong brands with best-in-class licensees and a network of partners to optimize value in the marketplace.” Among the 30 or so brands under its ownership umbrella are Forever 21, Barneys New York, Aeropostale, Brooks Brothers, and Vision Street Wear.

Sept. 23, 2021 – G-III to Acquire Sonia Rykiel

G-III Apparel Group revealed that it has entered into an M&A agreement to purchase Sonia Rykiel, with plans to accelerate the relaunch of the French fashion brand primarily in Europe, for the fall of 2022, with collections across multiple categories. The transaction, which comes less than two years after brothers Eric and Michael Dayan successfully bid to acquire all of the bankrupt brand’s assets via a court-administered process. (Those assets included the brand’s intellectual property rights (namely, its various global trademark registrations, and decades of archives and product prototypes); the commercial leases for its brick-and-mortar outposts in France – from its Saint Germain flagship to a glitzy boutique in Cannes, among others; and its remaining stock of garments and accessories.)

The fashion-centric M&A deal is expected to close by the end of October 2021.

Aug. 24, 2021 – Chanel Takes Majority Stake in Paima

Chanel has taken a majority stake in Italian knitwear company Paima, a move that falls in line with a larger pattern of luxury giants looking gain greater control over their supply chains by bringing key third-party companies under their own roofs. “This decision has been motivated by converging interests,” Chanel asserted in a statement, noting that while Paima, which has been a supplier for the French fashion brand for 25 years, “has seen its development accelerate in recent years, it seemed appropriate to have a solid partner to help it grow [further] and invest.” More than that, Chanel revealed that the investment “provides a more sustainable collaboration framework by continuing an already established relationship.”

Aug. 12, 2021 – Authentic Brands Group Buys Reebok

Adidas is selling its Reebok brand to Authentic Brands Groups for up to 2.1 billion euros ($2.46 billion), with the German sporting wear group looking to “focus on its core brand after the U.S. fitness label failed to live up to expectations,” per Reuters. Authentic Brand, which filed its preliminary IPO documentation in July, has been on a buying streak in the past few years, with the brand developer buying up an array of fashion and apparel companies, ranging from Juicy Couture and Judith Leiber to Jones New York, Volcom, and Aeropostale.

Jul. 28, 2021 – Aeffe Takes Full Control of Moschino 

Italian fashion and luxury goods group Aeffe S.p.A. acquired the remaining 30 percent of Moschino in an M&A deal that will see it pay 66.6 million euros ($78.51 million), and bring its holding of the company to 100 percent and the valuation of the Jeremy Scott-designed brand to $261.7 million. Aeffe also owns Alberta Ferretti, Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini and Pollini.

In a statement, Aeffe Executive Chairman Massimo Ferretti said, “The operation we have just concluded has long been considered an important step in our medium-long term growth strategy. With the full control over MOSCHINO brand, we are now in the best conditions to manage all activities related to the brand’s value chain, from product to quality and with positive effects on image, distribution and communication.”

Jul. 20, 2021 – LVMH Takes Majority Stake in Off-White

LVMH announced on Tuesday that it is taking a majority stake in Off-White, the upscale fashion/streetwear brand that Virgil Abloh launched in 2013 via a new M&A deal. In a statement, LVMH revealed that in addition to taking a 60 percent stake in Off-White, it has entered into a new “arrangement” with Abloh to “jointly pursue new projects across luxury categories.” 

Jul. 18, 2021 – L Catterton Takes Majority Stake in Etro

Italian fashion brand Etro announced on July 18 that it entered into a binding M&A agreement to partner with L Catterton. Under the terms of the agreement, LVMH-affiliated L Catterton Europe will acquire a majority stake in Etro, while the Etro family will retain a significant minority. Etro Founder Gerolamo Etro will be appointed as Chairman of the company.

Jul. 12, 2021 – LVMH Takes Minority Stake in Phoebe Philo

Phoebe Philo announced that she is launching her own label after spending three and a half years out of the spotlight following her 10-year tenure with Celine, and revealed that LVMH has taken a minority stake in her soon-to-launch label. The size of LVMH’s minority position and the terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Jul. 11, 2021 – Nordstrom Takes Stake in Four ASOS Brands

Nordstrom announced that it has acquired a minority stake in four apparel brands owned by British fashion group ASOS. Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and the activewear label HIIT, which ASOS acquired from Arcadia Group for £295 million ($407.21 million) in February 2021, will enable the U.S. department store chain to target millennial and Gen-Z consumers. Financial terms of the M&A deal have not been disclosed.

Jul. 8, 2021 – Kering Acquires LINDBERG

Kering is bolstering its eyewear division by way of a deal in which Kering Eyewear will acquire 100 percent of the share capital of LINDBERG. The acquisition is “an important milestone in the successful expansion of Kering Eyewear and perfectly fits with its development strategy,” according to Kering, which launched its eyewear division in 2014, a venture that it says consists of “an innovative business model that has enabled [it] to reach a critical size in the market with close to €600 million wholesale external revenues” as of FY2019.

Jul. 7, 2021 – Glossier Raises $80 Million in Latest Round

Glossier announced that it has raised $80 million in Series E funding. The round, which was led by Lone Pine Capital with participation from existing investors Forerunner Ventures, Index Ventures, IVP, Sequoia Capital, and Thrive Capital, values the millennial-focused beauty company at $1.8 billion.

Jun. 30, 2021 – Richemont Acquires Delvaux

Cartier owner Richemont announced on Wednesday that it has acquired a 100 percent stake in Belgian luxury leather goods brand Delvaux in “a private transaction.” Founded in 1829, Richemont says that Delvaux is the oldest luxury leather goods Maison in the world. The Swiss conglomerate revealed that the transaction has “no material financial impact on [its] consolidated net assets or operating result for the year ending March 31, 2022,” and that Delvaux’s revenues will be reported within its “Other” business area.

The M&A deal appears to be a sign that Richemont is looking to bolster its softer luxury (and maybe even fashion) offerings, having built its name in the hard luxury (i.e., jewelry and watches) segment of the market.

Jun. 24, 2021 – GOAT Nabs $3.7 Billion Valuation with New Round

Online sneaker and apparel marketplace GOAT Group has raised $195 million in a new funding round, which has “more than doubled its valuation to $3.7 billion,” per Reuters. The Los Angeles-based company, which was founded in 2015, boasts some 30 million customers across 170 countries, and “posted gross merchandise value, which represents the total volume of goods sold, of $2 billion over the past year as sales of sneakers and apparel surged.”

The buzzy platform made headlines early this year when it announced that it had welcomed a “strategic investment” from Groupe Artemis – the controlling shareholder of Gucci, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, and Bottega Veneta’s parent company Kering – as it “continues its expansion in fashion apparel and new categories.” (It also garnered attention in connection with a settlement in the trademark lawsuit filed against it by London-based brand Goat Fashion.)

Jun. 24, 2021 – Kering Takes Stake in Luxury Rental Co. Cocoon

Kering has taken an undisclosed stake in a luxury rental company. In a statement on Thursday, Kering announced that it has invested in Cocoon, a London-based startup that specializes in facilitating rentals for luxury handbags – including offerings from upwards of 30 brands, such as Kering-owned Gucci, Balenciaga, and Bottega Veneta – with the investment coming as part of a larger $3.5 million round that also included participation from resale platform Depop’s founder Simon Beckerman, among others. Kering’s chief client and digital officer Gregory Boutte said the deal is part of a larger strategy by the conglomerate to invest in innovative young companies. 

Jun. 22, 2021 – Prada, Zegna Take Stakes in Cashmere Supplier

Prada has partnered with fellow Italian fashion company Ermenegildo Zegna Group to acquire a controlling stake in Italian cashmere producer Filati Biagioli Modesto in furtherance of a quest to “secure a domestic supply chain and luxury-goods manufacturing expertise.” The two big-name fashion entities will each take a 40 percent stake in the Montale-based supplier, which is known for its Italian cashmere and “noble yarns,” while the Biagioli family will hold on to 15 percent of the company, and newly-appointed CEO Renato Cotto – who recently served as a director at LVMH’s Loro Piana – will assume a 5 percent holding. 

Jun. 18, 2021 – LVMH Takes Full Control of Pucci

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquired the outstanding 33 percent stake in Emilio Pucci just over two decades after it paid an undisclosed sum for a 67 percent ownership stake in the Italian fashion house in 2000. In a statement on Friday, as first reported by WWD, Toni Belloni, LVMH’s group managing director thanked the Pucci family, and in particular, Laudomia Pucci, the daughter of founder Emilio Pucci, who has served as the Deputy Chairman and Image Director of the brand, “for their friendship and collaboration over the years.” In conjunction with the deal, Ms. Pucci will step down from her current role and “dedicate herself to the archives and promoting the heritage of her late father.”

Jun. 10, 2021 – Fosun Fashion Group Nabs Sergio Rossi in M&A Deal

In a statement on June 10, Fosun Fashion Group revealed that it has signed a M&A agreement to acquire 100 percent of Sergio Rossi S.p.A from from Absolute Luxury Holding S.r.l., an independently-managed investment subsidiary of Investindustrial V L.P., for an undisclosed sum. The Shanghai-headquartered group stated that the acquisition will “further enrich FFG’s luxury brand portfolio, which currently includes Lanvin, Wolford, Caruso and St. John Knits, complementing the group’s core competency through luxury accessories.”

Jun. 8, 2021 – Sequoia Takes Stake in SSENSE

SSENSE announced that it has sold an undisclosed stake in the company to California-based venture capital firm Sequoia Capital in a M&A deal that values the fashion e-commerce retailer at 5 billion CAD ($4.13 billion). As for what the investment might entail, it appears that the high fashion-focused retailer has set its sights on expansion in China, as Angelica Cheung, the former editor-in-chief of Vogue China, who joined Sequoia Capital China as a venture partner in February, will join the SSENSE’s board in connection with the deal.

Apr. 22, 2021 – LVMH Boosts Stake in Tod’s

Tod’s revealed that LVMH will boost its exist stake in Tod’s to 10 percent by way of a new 6.8 percent increase. “A source close to the matter said the French giant does not expect to raise its stake further for now,” Reuters reported, noting that Tod’s founder and chairman Diego Della Valle has been a member of LVMH’s board of directors since 2002. While Della Valle has repeatedly denied longstanding chatter about a takeover, he stated on Thursday that “this may represent an excellent reason to consider further opportunities to be taken in the future ahead,” referring to LVMH’s stake increase.

Mar. 25, 2021 – Made in Italy Fund acquires Dondup

Made in Italy Fund has acquired Milan-based fashion brand Dondup from fellow private equity firm L Catterton for an undisclosed sum. “The fund said it aims at creating a fashion conglomerate with Dondup and other fashion brands it owns – 120%Lino, known for its linen clothes, and jewellery and accessories maker Rosantica – and expanding their foothold in Europe and the United States, Reuters reported. The firm also maintains a majority stake in 6-year old Italian streetwear label GCDS, which it acquired in November 2020.

Mar. 8, 2021 – Ferrari owner Exor takes 24% stake in Louboutin

Exor Group – the $30 billion Netherlands-incorporated investment group run by the Italian Agnelli family and the largest shareholder in Italian automaker Ferrari – announced that it will take a 24 percent stake in the independently-owned Louboutin in exchange for 541 million euros ($640 million), a deal that values the 30-year old Paris-based footwear brand at $2.3 billion euros ($2.73 billion) and sets it up for expansion, particularly in China.

Mar. 5, 2021 – Margiela-owner OTB acquires Jil Sander

Japanese apparel group Onward Holdings announced that it will sell fashion brand Jil Sander to Renzo Rosso’s luxury group, OTB, the parent of Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Amiri, and Viktor & Rolf. The financial figures associated with the M&A deal remain undisclosed.

Mar. 1, 2021 – Kering leads $216 million Vesitaire round

Kering and American investment firm Tiger Global Management are leading a new funding round that sees secondhand marketplace Vestiaire Collective bring in $216 million in new funding, along with existing investors, including its CEO Max Bittner, Vogue’s parent company Condé Nast, and the Eurazeo Group, among others. The deal gives Paris-based Vestiaire “unicorn status” – i.e., puts a $1 billion-plus value on the privately-held company – and “ideally positions it for its next cycle of accelerated growth.” 

Dec. 9, 2020 – Exor Group acquires Shang Xia

Ferrari owner Exor Group announced that it will invest “around €80 million [$96.9 million] in Chinese brand Shang Xia via a reserved capital increase that will result in it becoming the company’s majority shareholder.” Exor noted that Hermès – which “has accompanied Shang Xia successfully throughout the initial phase of its development – will remain as an important shareholder alongside Exor and [founder] Jiang Qiong Er.”

Dec. 7, 2020 – Moncler acquires Stone Island

Moncler announced that it will acquire Italian fashion label Stone Island for $1.4 billion. The Milan-headquartered luxury outerwear company will “purchase 70 percent of Stone Island’s parent company SPW from Chief Executive Officer Carlo Rivetti and other members of his family, [and] then buy the remaining 30 percent from Singapore’s state investor Temasek” in furtherance of a two-step transaction. 

Nov. 9, 2020 – VF Corp. acquires Supreme for $2.1 billion

Three years after Supreme sold off a reported 50 percent stake to private equity giant Carlyle Group, VF Corp revealed that it will pay $2.1 billion to buy popular streetwear brand. The deal – which was formally completed on December 28, 2020 – saw VF Corp. take full ownership of Supreme, with current Supreme investors Carlyle Group and New York-based private equity firm Goode Partners agreeing to sell their stakes in the New York-based brand. 

Nov. 5, 2020 – Alibaba, Richemont invest $1.1 billion in Farfetch

Alibaba Group Holding and Richemont announced that they will invest $1.1 billion in online luxury fashion retailer Farfetch and its new marketplace in China. At the same time, Artemis – an investment vehicle tied to Gucci owner Kering – simultaneously announced that it would increase its stake in Farfetch with a $50 million injection of cash in exchange for Farfetch’s Class A ordinary shares. 

Oct. 29, 2020 – LVMH and Tiffany & Co. agree to $15.8 billion M&A

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. managed to salvage their meger deal, with the French luxury goods conglomerate agreeing to pay a few dollars less per share to acquire the New York-based jewelry company. In a statement, the parties confirmed that LVMH will pay $131.5 per Tiffany share, down from the $135/share price tag they initially agreed to in November 2019 before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

*This article was initially published on March 1, 2021, and has been updated accordingly.

It has been a difficult few years for those in business. Lockdowns shut down whole industrial sectors worldwide, turning profitable businesses into loss-making ones, while a lot of smaller businesses went under entirely. Many companies have been hoping for a return to some type of normality after the enduring impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. However, there are strong signals that a resumption of how things were is not on the cards any time soon, as the world appears to have entered into an age of accelerating grand crises.

Even before the pandemic hit in early 2020, the climate crisis was increasingly disrupting the world (and the companies operating it in) through extreme weather events. Then, just as some countries had declared their war against COVID to be won, the invasion of Ukraine has not only reshuffled global geopolitics, but also led to a dramatic increase in energy and food prices, having big knock-on effects on a whole host of other sectors. And still yet, as of this summer, brands, including those in the robust luxury space, were cutting down their expectations for the all-important Chinese market in light of the latest wave of COVID lockdowns. (“Forecasted growth for luxury and premium consumer brands was cut by 15 percentage points, and down nearly 25 percentage points for luxury brands alone,” CNBC reported in June, citing the results of an Oliver Wyman survey.)

One day there may be a time after COVID, after the Ukraine war, and even after the climate crisis, but there is unlikely to be a point of general stability any time soon. Humanity is pushing environmental limits to breaking point, risking further crises – whether in terms of disease, conflict, or natural disasters. Businesses, therefore, need to shift how they operate. The most drastic example of such action to date comes by way of Patagonia’s recent restructuring, which saw founder Yvon Chouinard and his family donate their $3 billion ownership stake in the privately-held outerwear-maker in order to “preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe.”

Short of engaging in an unprecedented shift in ownership, there are things that companies and their leaders can do to respond to current crises, become better prepared for future crises, and address their own role in generating these crises in the first place. Here are three types of business models companies should start adopting now …

1. Respond to Crises

What is needed are reactive business models that can respond to crises at hand. Such adaptability will naturally have a survival element, in which organizations do whatever is necessary to mitigate negative effects on themselves. This means aligning companies’ management practices with the “new normal” after the crisis, instead of holding on to the old normal from before. Where appropriate, such models should also have a crisis-mitigation element, addressing the wider negative effects of the crisis at hand where they can.

It appears fossil fuel behemoths such as Shell and BP might be starting to do just that. Having long been under attack for knowingly contributing to the climate crisis and counteracting shifts to more sustainable energy systems, they appear to now be adapting to crisis forces. These forces include, most notably, the global trend towards phasing out fossil-fuel vehicles. As such, these companies have begun to transform key aspects of their business. A first move, for example, seems to be repurposing their petrol station operations into an electric vehicle charging infrastructure. As they ride the waves of the climate crisis, we can expect to see them make many disruptive greening changes like this.

2. Be Ready for Future Difficulty

Businesses also need to move from stability-based business models to accepting that the business reality is now one characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Value propositions encompass the benefits a business offers, for example to its customers, employees, and the community. Building business models for this new world means establishing value propositions for companies that are fit for the long run, that can morph into all kinds of crisis scenarios. It also means being agile and quick to adjust. 

One form this could take, for instance, is for a business to offer products and services that address timeless and fundamental needs like health, food, or security, rather than short-lived superficial wants like those related to fast fashion or the latest technological fads. A good example of such a business model is that of Chinese electronic goods corporation Haier, which has  explicitly tuned in to an ever-changing world, aiming to deliver “products that respond to the constantly changing needs of the modern home.” For instance, Haier responded to Asia’s air pollution crisis by developing an integrated air conditioner and air purifier.

Alongside this, Haier employs its unique “RenDanHeYi” (or 人单合一), which freely translates to “one single person in unity,” way of working, making it a collective of smaller, semi-autonomous companies that gives both individual freedom and collective responsibility to self-organized micro-entrepreneurs. This makes Haier a fluid, agile and resilient organization. By operating as a network of micro-enterprises, each of which works closely with customers to respond to their changing needs and situations, the business can evolve more easily as each new crisis plays out. Because of these features in their business model, Haier has done exceptionally well during and after the COVID crisis.

3. Help Prevent Crises of Tomorrow

Finally, businesses can better set themselves up for the future by adopting models that specifically mitigate or even prevent future crises. While COVID, the Ukraine crisis, and climate change are still ongoing problems, many business models have been geared towards keeping other things from becoming the next grand crisis. Some companies, for example, are adopting business models that promote reconciliation and peace, with view to preventing disruptive future armed conflict. Examples range from former Colombian guerrilla group members building adventure travel businesses that show the previously hidden side of the conflict, to coffee cooperatives in Rwanda designed for Hutus and Tutsis to reconcile through collaboration.

Managing businesses in an age of accelerating crises is challenging. However, transforming business models and managerial practices can go a long way in both making current and future crises manageable, and possibly even mitigating future crises.


Oliver Laasch is a Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Manchester. (This article was initially published by The Conversation.)

PART I – In March, Valentino showed a collection that consisted of almost 50 looks – from “tiny bubble dresses to sweeping opera coats to tailored suits and overcoats,” Vogue’s Sarah Mower wrote at the time – all in a hue that the Italian fashion brand is calling “Pink PP.” Creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli said that he opted for the vivid fuchsia-like shade for Fall/Winter 2022 in order to “remove distractions and concentrate the viewers’ eyes on distinguishing the differences between silhouette and detail.” Pink PP-hued garments have since found their way onto red carpets and into social media discourse – with consumers routinely commenting on the influx of “Valentino Pink” looks.   

There certainly may be design-centric reasons for the selection of a single color and the creation of a collection almost entirely in that single hue, as Piccioli says. But there is likely more to it than that. It is difficult not to see the branding angle at play for Valentino, which has since put the specific hot pink color that it crafted with the help of color-creating-powerhouse Pantone at the center of product packaging, ad campaigns, and “guerrilla projects to be executed globally.” Valentino has also taken to offering up hot-selling accessories in the new hue (and styling them on big-name celebrities) – from its $1,500 Vani Tan-Go Platform Pumps in pink, which have found their way onto the likes of Anne Hathaway, Gigi Hadid, Dua Lipa, and Florence Pugh, among others, to a specific Pink PP version of its One Stud shoulder bag.

A Bottega Veneta shoe and a Valentino sneaker

The element of branding is worthy of attention here, as colors are valuable assets for brands. One need not look further than Bottega Veneta, whose shade of “Bottega green” has dominated the fashion market over the past several years, being deemed the “color of the year” for 2021 by no shortage of media outlets. Thanks to a steady stream of “it” accessories and broader branding efforts by Bottega Veneta to incorporate the color into its ad campaigns, large-scale installations (including a takeover of the Great Wall of China), stores, and branding for its “Bottega Radio” venture, a connection between the hue and the Kering-owned brand was formed in the minds of consumers across the globe. 

Taken together, “Bottega Green” has come to serve as a designation for the fashion and leather goods company in largely same way as its name and signature intrecciato weave design have for decades. 

Color as a Calling Card

The notion that colors can act as indicators of source is, of course, not a novel one. The ability of companies to rely on trademark law – a form of intellectual property protection that applies to “any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof” that is used to “identify and distinguish” one’s goods or services from those of others – was confirmed by U.S. Supreme Court back in 1995. In deciding Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., a landmark case that centered on the protectability of the green-gold shade of Qualitex’s dry cleaning press pads, the Supreme Court explicitly stated that a color can be registered as a trademark as long as it identifies a single source for the products/services at issue. 

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Stephen Breyer asserted at the time that while “color [sometimes] plays an important role (unrelated to source identification) in making a product more desirable, sometimes it does not.” According to the court, the latter instance (i.e., when a color is “not essential to a product’s use or purpose and does not affect cost or quality”) demonstrates that there is not an absolute bar to the function and protectability of color as a trademark. 

A decade earlier, in 1985, a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the color of insulation-maker Owens Corning’s pink fiberglass materials (Pantone 210) was entitled to federal registration by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). The court was swayed by the substantial evidence of acquired distinctiveness provided by Owens Corning, including advertising expenditures exceeding $42 million and a survey data showing that 50 percent of respondents named Owens Corning as the only manufacturer to offer up pink insulation.

Qualitex and Owens Corning are not the only examples of companies that have built their businesses on – and looked to register – color trademarks. In addition to enjoying longstanding common law rights as a result of its consistent use of a specific color for the purpose of source identification, Tiffany & Co. has maintained federal registrations with the USPTO and other trademark offices for its robin’s egg blue color (Pantone 1837) for use on an array of goods and services – ranging from fragrance products, tableware, and leather goods to product packaging and retail services … and of course, jewelry since at least the 1990s. (Tiffany’s use of its signature blue dates back to at least 1889 and the World’s Fair in Paris.)

Swatches of companies' color trademarks

Christian Louboutin also famously maintains trademark rights in the “Chinese red” (Pantone 18-1663) hue for use on the soles of contrasting-color shoes. (In its September 2012 opinion in the Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent case, in which it held that a single color can be registered as a trademark upon a showing of secondary meaning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit determined that Louboutin’s famous red sole trademark for footwear is valid – albeit only when the red sole mark contrasts with the color of the rest of the shoe. At the same time, the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s refusal to levy a preliminary injunction against YSL in connection with its sale of monochromatic red shoes on the basis that the all-over red shoes fall outside the scope of Louboutin’s trademark rights.)

Beyond that, Hermès has built up rights in (and has registrations for) a shade of orange as applied to “the exterior of merchandise boxes for goods” ranging from handbags and clothing to jewelry and fragrances, as well as for retail store services; and millennial beauty brand Glossier has rights in specific uses of its millennial pink (Pantone 705 C), namely, on cosmetics-related product packaging. 

Outside of the fashion world, UPS has trademark registrations dating back to 1998 for its “Pullman” brown color “applied to the vehicles … [for] motor vehicle transportation and delivery of personal property,” and “applied to the clothing,” in connection with the “delivery of personal property by air, rail, boat and motor vehicle.” The shipping/receiving and supply chain management company also boasts registrations for the word “Brown” for use on “headgear, namely, baseball hats and caps, and visors; shirts; all used in connection with promoting or providing transportation and delivery services.” 

Still yet, T-Mobile has registrations for the shade of magenta that appears across its brand – for use on “telecommunications and information technology services,” among other things. Coca-Cola consistently uses its red hue in furtherance of its sale of soda, with James Sommerville, Cola-Cola’s former VP of global design, saying that the company’s use of its color red across the Coca-Cola ecosystem “reminds consumers that regardless of the beverage they purchase, they’re buying into Coca-Cola as a simple idea.” And the list of companies that use color as their calling card goes on. 

Color Trademarks in a Crowded Market

With Bottega Veneta, Valentino, Tom Brady’s brand (which debuted a Pantone-created “Brady Blue” (Pantone 112-22) last year), and watchmaker IWC, among others, currently pushing relatively new color trademarks, the adoption of color-centric branding appears to be finding favor among a growing number of companies at the moment. This makes sense, as against the background of a crowded market, in which consumers are inundated with branding, rebranding, co-branding, etc., the onus is on companies to not only stand out but to engage consumers, who will (at least in theory) help them to advertise their company and its products/services even further. As such, these recent embraces of color as an indicator of source by fashion industry/luxury players come as part of a bigger push by companies to go beyond – or better yet, to complement – their most obvious trademarks (namely, word marks and logos) with additional branding in order to denote the source of their goods/services in buzzy ways. 

Color swatches from Valentino, Tom Brady, and IWC

In this vein, color marks are also surely a strategy for coping with the state of the fashion/luxury goods market, which is thoroughly saturated with an abundance of trademarks – even ones that go so far as to mash two companies’ existing branding together; Fendace comes to mind here. (The sheer scope of trademarks that are currently in use by consumer goods/services companies makes it difficult, as some academics have argued, for brands to adopt attractive new marks, potentially forcing them to branch out beyond things like word marks to better capture consumer attention.)

At the same time, as TFL has asserted in the past, companies’ exercises in less conventional (although, not entirely unconventional) branding are also a response to the overarchingly visual nature of the Instagram and TikTok-dominated market and the consumers that comprise it. The pool of fashion/luxury buyers has come to include demographics like millennials and Gen-Z; these are consumers that face an endless barrage of ads, that engage with brands far more than previous generations, and that expect/demand more from companies. This extends to branding – hence, the success of Off-White, which has successfully adorned its offering with novel takes on trademarks, such as quotation marks and zip ties, and Glossier with its easily-identifiable pink-bubble-wrap pouches. 

Ultimately, branding is no longer just a tool for companies to distinguish their goods/services from those of their competitors (although, that it the critical function of trademarks) and consumers now interact with companies and their branding in ways that go pure source-identification thanks to the rise of smart phones and other tech. As such, branding enables companies to connect with consumers in new, engaging, and ideally, viral ways. And companies – from Qualitex to Valentino – appear to see clear value in the adoption and consistent use of color (piggybacking on top of what they are already doing with their source-identifying word marks, logos, patterns, etc.) to distinguish themselves and their offerings from others – as well as to potentially cut through some of the noise in the process … ideally, by creating noise of their own. 

This is Part I of a longer-running series on color trademarks. In Part II of this series, we will examine the issues that companies face in claiming rights in color marks and relevant strategies for successfully doing so.