Originally Posted by dirnelli
If you are a bespoke tailor who wants to cash in on your heritage brand name recognition by launching a ready-to-wear line, I would say there's never been a better time to do it than now. The big boys of Luxury are circling around tailoring houses like hawks, and are going to make offers that can't be refused. We can wager that they won't have the same reluctance about expanding these brands into ready-to-wear once they get their hands on them. So, for some of these tailors, expanding into ready-to-wear now, on their own terms, might be the best thing for the brand's integrity, rather than letting the LVMH's of this world screw it up for them (cf. Arnys).
It is a bit of a Catch 22 situation: to develop a RTW line (and publicize it and sell it…), you need pots of money. If you are an old traditional SR house, you do not have pots of money. There are exceptions: Anderson & Sheppard (Rowland money), Huntsman (Messrs L’Roubi and Lagrange’s money, I would surmise chiefly the latter’s), Gieves and Hawkes (Who owns them?) but, as far as I know, this is about it.
The others (Poole, Davies, Dege, Meyer & Mortimer, Benson & Clegg, Kent Haste & Lachter and all the rest -- I know I am forgetting some, with apologies) are probably doing well, generating enough income to keep their owners happy (I would also suggest that the owners in question are doing something which they like doing and which gives them deep satisfaction) but they remain small businesses, with low margins and difficulties recruiting, training and retaining qualified makers.
I cannot conceive of a large conglomerate bringing anything that will improve things for the customer of a small firm. Anderson and Sheppard have notoriety, especially in the US market (but did they not have that before “Tiny“ Rowland bought them?), a very professional website and, now, a side line in accessories and trousers. Is that going to change things for the better for their bespoke customers? Gieves and Hawkes are now chiefly RTW. Are their bespoke customers better off? We shall see what happens at Huntsman. I am not sanguine. If my tailor were acquired by PPR or LVMH, I would change tailors.
The only advantage I am willing to concede to adding pots of money to a small traditional SR firm is the opportunity to recruit talented young people and pay them enough to keep them going until they become proficient, keeping in mind the risk of their going out on their own or joining a competitor (Poaching talent is a SR tradition of long standing). Not a winning proposition for a large luxury group fixated on ROI. Otherwise, money will buy advertising, “branding” strategies, “synergies” and pricing power: in other words, the customer will get to pay more for, at best, the same product and, probably, an inferior one wrapped in a fancy package.
Brioni, as far as I know, were already a large enterprise, and active in RTW, before being bought. The “brand” was well-known in the world of “luxury”. Even Poole is by no means a household name. If I were LVMH or PPR, why would I pay good money to buy the Poole name, when I can use the magic words “bespoke” and “Savile Row” (I assume there is no copyright attached) for free?
My (tentative) conclusion: small existing SR firms can go on as small outfits, with prices rising, year after year, way beyond inflation and therefore relying increasingly on plutocrats to support them. Some will disappear because the cutter / proprietor retires and has no successor ready. Some of the “young upstarts” (single man- or woman- firms) may
grow into mid-size (by SR standards) but they are more likely to do so by being co-opted into an existing house. Result: there will be fewer and fewer firms, perhaps more single cutter / proprietors. The key factor will be the continuing supply of qualified workers (hence the absolute need for training and decent compensation) working more and more for a number of firms, rather than for a single one, and gaining some pricing power for their skill.
I realize this is terribly long-winded
Frog in Suit