We have been catching up with leaders in their fields to share reflections on this transformative period as well as predictions for what comes next. In the fourth and final installment of our year-end Q&A series, we caught up with Pascale Lepoivre, CEO of the Spanish luxury fashion house Loewe.
Taking the reins at the 174-year-old, LVMH-owned luxury brand in 2016 after a storied career that included nearly a decade at Celine and more than 10 years at Louis Vuitton, Pascale Lepoivre has presided over an exceptionally creative period at Madrid-based Loewe. Working closely with creative director Jonathan Anderson, one of the most influential forces in luxury fashion today, Lepoivre has been instrumental in expanding Loewe’s global footprint while strengthening its artistic roots and maintaining top-tier craftsmanship.
CCI: In 2020, due to the pandemic Loewe took a more intimate and engaging approach to new collection debuts via the Show in a Box and Show on the Wall, both of which attracted a huge amount of media attention. Is this personal and creative approach here to stay or do you expect it to be a time capsule of this year?
Pascale Lepoivre: Putting together both our Show in a Box and Show on the Wall have been very enriching, and a great, stimulating way to engage all teams creatively at a particularly complex moment. It really allowed us to connect with the audience and clients in a different, more intimate way than by just sending out perfect video images. Having said that, we miss the experience and the “moment” of the runway as well as the physical interaction with the clothes. So, we absolutely look forward to going back to live shows as soon as possible, while maintaining a more engaging and creative approach to content creation — keeping, for instance, our Loewe en Casa program with regular talks from artists and artisans throughout the world.
CCI: Considering your deep experience in the luxury industry, how do you see the impact of Covid in 2020 compared to past global events like the economic crisis of 2008-2009, in terms of how it could change consumer habits in the long term?
Lepoivre: We need to be very much humble when trying to assess the future. A lot of the predictions made since the beginning of this crisis have been proven wrong. The major impact, compared to previous crises, is on international travel, which plays a major role in the worldwide luxury economy. Will it resume as before at some stage and if so, when? We guess it will take some time, and that shopping locally and online will remain strong as these trends were already there. We do miss our international clients, but we have put unprecedented focus on connecting to local clienteles in our stores and online in a more personal way, and this has been key to getting through 2020 and now obviously 2021. The attention to local customers, to their shopping habits and needs, will remain at the heart of our actions and strategy.
CCI: Loewe is very well established in Europe and Japan, but is newer to the U.S. and China markets. How does Loewe plan to approach brand-building in newer markets in 2021 and onwards?
Lepoivre: In the United States we are indeed at the beginning of a new roadmap, it is less the case in China and the rest of Asia, where we have been growing at a steady pace for a number of years now. We have refitted our entire network with our new store concept, pushing the walls to feature more categories, and we have opened a significant number of new cities and a Casa Loewe store in Beijing. Online and omnichannel have been accelerating since last summer, and we have successfully localized a large part of our marketing and communication initiatives. This has been the key recipe for success in China and it is central to the way of approaching new countries or regions.
CCI: In the year ahead, do you plan to continue opening new stores or focus more on upgrading existing stores and building on your digital efforts?
Lepoivre: Of course opening new stores must be done in a more cautious way but it is part of our plans for the coming years. Loewe’s footprint is not yet at the level of the brand’s growing influence, so increasing our visibility is still a priority. We are planning to enter new cities in China such as Wuhan, Xiamen, or Ningbo in 2021. Opening a Casa Loewe in Shanghai is planned for 2022 along with some other adjustments to our current network. But for sure digital marketing and digital services will be crucial in addition to the development of our online distribution.
CCI: Many luxury brands are turning to content-commerce strategies like e-commerce livestreaming, brand collaborations, product placement, branded video games, and brand films to reach new audiences. How much does the content-commerce trend fit into Loewe’s current and long-term plans, if at all?
Lepoivre: Since before the crisis, at Loewe we have had a particularly strong focus on content and storytelling, whether working with athletes such as Ning Zetao for our Eye/Loewe/Nature collection, or launching our Casa Loewe Beijing with a William de Morgan themed event. Particularly now that we launched e-commerce in China this September, the content-commerce trend fits very well into our plans, and we are looking at new ways to connect commerce and culture, including new local partnerships, collaborations, and brand friends of house, as well as more video content to better tell those stories.
CCI: Loewe is on the forefront of more eco-friendly luxury fashion by using upcycling as a key part of its Eye/Loewe/Nature collection. Was this a conscious business decision that you expect the industry to follow, or was it driven primarily by consumer demand?
Lepoivre: We believe that the future of the fashion industry must be a more sustainable one, and we are more committed than ever to being a part of that change. We use Eye/Loewe/Nature as the testing ground for more sustainable practices that we can then roll out across the rest of the business. We also see that not only consumers but also our employees, wherever they are based, are becoming increasingly vigilant so we see this topic as a very key one in the coming years.
CCI: Turning back to China, in addition to holding a livestreamed concert this summer to promote the Paula’s Ibiza collection, Loewe has collaborated with The Beast on a flower arrangement gift box and actor Huang Zitao on a version of the Goya backpack. Does the brand plan to do more of these collaborations in 2021, and if so, can you tell us a little about how Loewe decides that a collaboration is the right fit for the brand?
Lepoivre: Collaborations are an important part of our brand, and we definitely have some more lined up for 2021. We have just announced our next collaboration which is a capsule collection with Studio Ghibli and their classic movie “My Neighbor Totoro,” launching in early January. We typically choose who we work with based on shared values, and a partner who we feel will add something exciting to a particular project.
Often these shared values are related to craft and artisanship, as they were with The Beast, or, for example, the ongoing partnership we have with Wallpaper where we work together to tell stories of Chinese craft traditions for Chinese New Year, but the shared values can also be cultural or reflective of a similar energy and spirit such as when we partnered with Modern Sky to create the “Club Paula’s” livestreamed concert which was watched by millions of people on QQ Music.
Special thanks to Pascale Lepoivre and Linda Ting for facilitating this Q&A.