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LVMH's Fashion Brands Started 2016 on a Sluggish Note

A look from Louis Vuitton's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Pascal le Segretain/Getty Images
A look from Louis Vuitton's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Pascal le Segretain/Getty Images

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Louis Vuitton kicked off the week with this fun tidbit: its cruise show will take place on a spaceship! (Okay, the very futuristic Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio, technically.) Its parent company, LVMH, had some less jazzy news to share. Reporting its financial results for the first quarter of 2016, the luxury conglomerate said revenue from its fashion and leather goods segment grew not at all, while every other part of the business — alcohol, beauty, watches and jewelry, and "selective retailing" (Sephora) — rose by 4 to 9%.

In part, the results owe to decreased tourist traffic in France in the wake of November's terrorist attacks. It's hard to say how individual LVMH fashion brands fared. The company noted that Louis Vuitton has "maintained its creative momentum" under Nicolas Ghesquière's direction; Fendi "enjoyed an excellent performance"; Céline and Kenzo "experienced good starts to the year"; and Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs, which is expected to IPO in the near term, "continue to work on the evolution of their product lines." If you think on how a generous school teacher might pad his or her report card language to protect a less-than-stellar student's ego, you might derive some sense of each brand's relative performance. That's a speculative suggestion, of course.

Clothing and leather goods' underperformance is no laughing matter, though, since it accounts for more of LVMH's overall revenue than any other category. In 2015, it contributed 12.4 billion of the 35.7 billion euros (about $38.8 billion) that the company brought in.