FT Business of Luxury Summit Day One – Monday 23rd May


The first day of this conference both started and ended with two of the most inspirational speakers I have heard in a long time. These two gentlemen were so motivating that had they been born in earlier times, they would have certainly been explorers of undiscovered countries, encouraging others to follow in their footsteps. Perhaps, as we move into the unchartered waters of the new age of communicating with our target audiences, they are doing the same.


The man who held the starting gun was James Curleigh, President of Levi’s. James, told the audience about how this iconic brand, which made the first blue jeans in 1873, still looked back to its heritage by providing customers with its authentic 501 jeans. Yet the brand remains innovative, looking forward with their latest project, the launch with Google of a jacket where multi-touch sensors on the cuff will be part of the Levi Commuter collection of clothing aimed at urban bike riders. The jacket will be available in 2017. (www.levi.com)


The last speaker of the day, Michael Evans, the President of Alibaba, enlightened us to the power of the Chinese e-commerce company. Only founded in 1999 and yet has revenues of around 964 billion Yuan or $147 billion. You had to catch your breath at the statistics and the future for this company. Michael is ‘mission driven’ and highly competitive, he rowed in 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles with his twin brother, Mark on the same team. Not content with this, Michael went on to become Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs and now he is with one of the fastest growing e-commence companies. The company which 18 Maserati cars within minutes of the cars becoming available on the site. Michael reassured the audience that Alibaba do everything possible to protect the luxury brands looking to reach the new consumer in the East, driven by their desire for Western brands both high end and middle market. (www.alibaba.com)


Sarah QuinlanWe were given a fascinating insight into the consumer by Sarah Quinlan, Senior Vice President of MasterCard Advisors. Sarah shared with us the figures of shopping in capitals around the world including New York, London and Hong Kong using MasterCard. The charts were ‘not pretty’ for clothing, department stores and shopping malls. MasterCard is a ‘jeans all-day company’ and this reflects the trends in spending. According to Sarah, ‘we are spending time with our friends and family and not buying stuff’. Retail spending in hotels and restaurants is up everywhere. The British like their drink and are the highest shoppers online.

I had the pleasure of listening to Francesca Bellettini of Saint Laurent and then sitting at dinner with Brant Cryder, President Americas for Saint Laurent. Quiet controlled, un-flashy and for a consumer who does not want to wear labels or jeans all day, this must be the go-to brand.

Francesca Belletitini

The audience included the icons of many of the leading brands, not content to sit on their laurels but to drive their businesses forward. Craig Bethell and his team have pulled together speakers to inspire, shock. The strap line for the summit is New Creative Synergies and the illustrious line up makes you think of the future of how to secure and keep your customers and clients. (www.ftbusinessofluxury.com)

Levi photo courtesy of Levi’s Instagram. All other images courtesy of Financial Times Live.