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By Vanessa Friedman
Friday, July 04, 2008
As he takes his front row seat at the Christian Dior couture show this afternoon, Dior's chief executive, Sidney Toledano, may be hoping he does not get a repeat of his experience following the last show.

That was in May at the Dior Cruise event in New York. It had started out well enough: after a well-received show, Mr Toledano went out with the Dior crowd to the nightclub, Le Baron, to celebrate. He got back at about 1:30am, only to be woken up an hour and a half later by a phone call from Paris telling him about the earthquakes in Sichuan.

This was a big deal for Dior, which like many luxury brands sees China as a future engine of growth. It has 11 stores there, with four more planned for this year. So Mr Toledano got out of bed and went to work. He was concerned, first for the people involved in the disaster, then for his business.

"Every day you hear about something that has gone wrong somewhere in the world," he says. "There's a bomb or some huge write-off at a bank. You just have to get through it. It's like when you're on a plane and there's turbulence, and you sometimes think: 'why doesn't the pilot just change the flight path?' Well, he can't, of course. You just have to continue on course."

Mr Toledano, 56, has been at Dior for 14 years, 10 of them as chief executive. He has been through a good deal of turbulence during his tenure, including 9/11 and Sars.

In fact, just after the Sichuan earthquakes, he ran into some more: the suggestion by Dior's "face", Sharon Stone, that the natural disaster was karmic retribution for Chinese actions in Tibet. This is not the sort of comment a luxury brand chief executive looking to sell products in a new market needs. Still, they talked, Ms Stone issued an apology, and Dior dropped her from its advertisements in China - but not the rest of the world.

As a compromise, it was quintessential Toledano, and speaks to the reasons he is one of the longest-serving CEOs in the luxury industry. As the industry goes global, the art of balance - between the demands of shareholders and the values of a historic label, the need for exclusivity and the need for expansion - has become ever more important, and Mr Toledano is widely regarded as a master.

He routinely navigates, for example, between his famously undemonstrative but demanding boss, Bernard Arnault, main shareholder of Christian Dior, and a number of mercurial creative types, including Dior's women's wear designer John Galliano (famous for donning pirate and astronaut costumes at the end of his fashion shows) and jewellery designer Victoire de Castellane (who has a tendency to wear Mickey Mouse ears). He exudes both competence and self-contained charisma, and has been called a "rock star" by one PR executive who used to work with him. This refers more to his magnetism as a manager than any habit of making noise or demolishing hotel rooms - although he does like to go on tour.

"The best advice I ever got was that, when times are bad, you need to get out of the office; when things are good, you can spend time on the organisation," says Mr Toledano, who, despite being married with three children, travels almost every week to one of Dior's 224 stores round the world. "You have to walk the streets, look for newness, look for what is happening next. Forget the calculator. Understand the people in different countries and what they want."

It was by spending time in China in the 1980s, for example, when he worked at the French leather goods house Lancel, that Mr Toledano says he first realised China would one day be prime territory for luxury.

"I met some factory owners and they were working so hard, but then they would bring you to a restaurant and it was clear they wanted to enjoy life," he says. "And I thought: one day these people are going to have money and they are going to spend it." In 1994, the year he joined Dior, the brand opened its first store in the basement of the Peninsula Hotel in Beijing.

Born in Casablanca to a Turkish mother and a father in the paper industry, Mr Toledano acquired his wanderlust at a young age. "We used to go all over Europe in the summer because Morocco was so hot," he says. "One July we crossed Spain, France and Switzerland. For me, France was the new frontier."

He conquered it at 18 when he began a degree in applied mathematics at the école Centrale in Paris. After graduation, he got a job as a marketing consultant doing forecasting at AC Nielsen, working with companies such as Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, but, he says: "I was playing with all these numbers and, after a while, I started wondering what was behind them."

This led to a job with an acquaintance who had a shoe factory, which took him to the French leather goods company Lancel, where he became managing director and "fell in love with leather". A few years later, Bernard Arnault came calling. The interview took 15 minutes.

"He knew exactly what he wanted," says Mr Toledano: to take a small couture house he had bought out of bankruptcy and build it into the biggest luxury group in the world. In the decade and a half since Mr Toledano has been complicit in this plan, Mr Arnault has used Dior to create LVMH (Mo?t Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world's largest luxury group, which is in fact owned by Dior - convoluted but true). Christian Dior has gone from 127m in sales in 1994 to 787m (£624m) in 2007. (The sales figure does not include Christian Dior Parfum, which is owned by LVMH, but estimates of the Diors together put the business at about 2bn.)

Just as significantly, the number of licences has been reduced from 70 per cent to almost nil as Dior bought back control of its products and image to create a vertically integrated company. And in spite of fears of a recession in the US and Europe, Mr Toledano is convinced there are more good times, and profits, to come.

"Christian Dior can double in five years," he says. "There may be difficult times coming but, if you look at the Middle East, China, even Europe, I believe there is growth coming, and we have to develop our network and perfect our supply chain."

The next wave of luxury buyers is now in new territories: the Middle East, Russia, Hong Kong, South Korea, and the industry has moved too. This has been criticised by its old European power base, but Mr Toledano dismisses such carping. He believes not only that a brand should go to its customers but that it should anticipate their needs and invest early in markets that may not show real growth for up to six years. It is an unusual statement from the head of a listed company.

"When we first went to Moscow, I remember walking down a street, and it was snowing, and it looked like a little old village," he says. "Everyone said, 'what are you doing opening there?' Today that street looks like Paris."

In fact, Russia has become so important to luxury brands that one of the more popular critical slights is to say of a collection that it "looks as if it is aimed at the Russian market", meaning it is too ostentatious.

This has been said of Dior in the past but, says Mr Toledano: "I'm not interested in the kind of people who only want the egotistical thrill of being alone in having something. I'm interested in people who are ready to pay a lot of money for very high quality things because they are beautiful."

Ready-to-wear is key to keeping customer loyalty in the bag

"We are not an accessory company," says Sidney Toledano. Though Dior will this week unveil two ready-to-wear collections, this is still a surprising declaration given the importance of the handbag to the fashion business.

Profit margins on bags are among the highest in the industry. Mr Toledano's first great success at Dior was the Lady Dior bag. The Dior saddle bag designed by John Galliano has attained "It" status, and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (pictured above) was much photographed toting Dior "Babe" bags on a state visit to Israel.

The space needed to sell bags is significantly less than that needed to sell clothing. Mr Toledano estimates more than 1,000 sq m is necessary for ready-to-wear, whereas bags need less than half that. In a time of real estate upheaval, this matters. Yet Mr Toledano insists that bags, shoes, sunglasses and so on should account for no more than 20-30 per cent of Dior sales. The reason? "Loyalty," he says. "Ready-to-wear is how you build customer loyalty."

A woman will come in, he says, spend time trying on clothes, talk to the sales people, perhaps sit in the VIP room, and end up with a personal relationship to a brand that she will never develop if she just dashes in for a quick handbag fix. Besides, he says, "you can always present some accessories while she is trying on her dress".

作者:英国《金融时报》范妮莎•弗瑞德曼(Vanessa Friedman)
2008年7月4日 星期五

最近的一个下午,当克里斯汀•迪奥(Christian Dior)首席执行官西德尼•托莱达诺(Sidney Toledano)在迪奥时装秀的前排就坐时,或许他心中想的是:不要再出现上次时装秀之后的经历。

那是在5月份纽约的Dior Cruise发布会。开始都很顺利:在受欢迎的时装秀结束后,托莱达诺和迪奥的一群人去了Le Baron夜总会庆祝。他大约凌晨一点半回到家,仅仅睡了一个半小时就被巴黎的电话吵醒,从电话中得知了四川地震的消息。




事实上,四川地震刚刚发生,他就遇到了另一场麻烦:迪奥形象代言人莎朗•斯通(Sharon Stone)暗示,这场自然灾害是中国政府在西藏行为的因果报应。这可不是一位想在新市场出售产品的奢侈品牌首席执行官所需要的言论。尽管如此,他们还是进行了讨论,莎朗•斯通发表了道歉声明,迪奥把她从中国的广告中撤了下来——但在世界其它地方却没有。


例如,他经常周旋在迪奥主要股东、以含蓄著称却要求苛刻的老板伯纳德•阿尔诺(Bernard Arnault)与许多机智的创新人才之间,其中包括以在时装秀结束时穿海盗服和宇航服出场而闻名的迪奥女装设计师约翰•加利亚诺(John Galliano),以及喜欢戴米老鼠(Mickey Mouse)耳朵的珠宝设计师维克多•卡斯特兰(Victoire de Castellane)。托莱达诺散发出能力与自制力的双重魅力,一位曾与他共事的公关高管把他称为“摇滚明星”。这更多地是指他拥有经理人的吸引力,而不是说他习惯于制造噪音或毁坏旅馆房间——尽管他确实喜欢出去旅游。



他说:“我遇到一些工厂主,他们工作非常努力,但之后会带你去餐馆,很明显,他们想要享受生活。当时我就想,有一天这些人会变成有钱人,而且会把钱花出去。”在他加入迪奥的1994年,该品牌在北京半岛酒店(Peninsula Hotels)的地下楼层开设了首家分店。


他18岁时征服了这个领域,前往巴黎中央理工学院(école Centrale)开始攻读应用数学学位。毕业后,他找到一份营销顾问的工作,在AC尼尔森(AC Nielsen)做市场预测,与宝洁(P&G)和可口可乐(Coca-Cola)等公司合作。但他表示:“我一直摆弄那些数字,一段时间之后,我开始想知道数字背后是什么。”


托莱达诺称:“他确切知道自己想要什么”——将自己收购的一家濒于破产的小型时装公司打造成世界最大的奢侈品集团。在托莱达诺加入这个计划后的15年里,阿尔诺利用迪奥创建了LVMH集团(酩悦-轩尼诗-路易威登(Mo?t Hennessy Louis Vuitton),世界最大的奢侈品集团,实际为迪奥所有——有些复杂但属实)。克里斯汀•迪奥的销售额从1994年的1.27亿欧元上升至2007年的7.87亿欧元。(销售数据不包括为LVMH集团所有的克里斯汀•迪奥香水,但迪奥整体业务的估值约为20亿欧元。)









皮包是时尚业中利润率最高的产品之一。托莱达诺在迪奥取得的首次巨大成功就是Lady Dior包。由约翰•加利亚诺设计的迪奥马鞍包(saddle bag)已经赢得It(就是它)的地位,而卡拉•布鲁尼-萨科奇(Carla Bruni-Sarkozy)提着迪奥“Babe”包对以色列进行国事访问也谋杀了不少菲林。





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