We all have brands that we know and love, yet more often than not these brands have been purchased by large-scale fashion conglomerates. The word is thrown around a lot, but what does this really mean and what does it mean for those brands that we admire?

A conglomerate, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is “A large corporation formed by the merging of separate and diverse firms.”  This is evident in numerous industries including food, beauty and media but it is also very much the norm within fashion. Aside from a few notable exceptions such as Chanel, who remains privately owned, and Michael Kors who is publically traded, there are a few key players who dominate the fashion universe.

 

LVMH

Perhaps the most well-known, as well as sizeable, of the conglomerate world is LVMH. French in origin, you are bound to have heard of them in one capacity or another and you’ve definitely heard of some of the brands in their repertoire. The acronym stands for Möet-Hennessy & Louis Vuitton, the result of a $4 billion merger that took place in June 1987. Both brands had embarked on acquisition sprees in their own right before combining in order to allow “Louis Vuitton to expand its investments in the luxury business while saving Möet-Hennessy from the threat of takeover”. The merger was meant to allow each to remain in control of their subsidiaries; however, there was a subsequent period of unrest and dispute as the two successful entities became one. The mid-1990s was a period of huge expansion for the company who, as well as fashion & leather goods brands, specialise in wine and spirits, specialist retailing, watches and jewellery, perfumes and cosmetics, and other activities. They have 70 houses in these 6 different sectors, and continue to expand; with five of these houses under five years old.

Their range of fashion and leather goods includes:

  • Berluti
  • Céline
  • Dior
  • EDUN
  • Emilio Pucci
  • Fendi
  • Givenchy
  • Kenzo
  • Loewe
  • Loro Piana
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Marc Jacobs
  • Moynat
  • Nicholas Kirkwood
  • Rimowa
  • Thomas Pink

 

Richemont

Another one of the big players is Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, better known as Richemont. The Switzerland-based holding company again specialises in luxury goods. Founded in 1988 by South African businessman Johann Rupert, they may not have the same level of history as their aforementioned competitors but as of 2014, they are now the second-largest luxury goods company in the world after LVMH. Although their primary focus is luxury watches and jewellery, they also own a few ready-to-wear fashion and leather goods companies:

  • Chloe
  • Alfred Dunhill
  • Azzedine Alaïa
  • Lancel
  • Peter Millar
  • Shanghai Tang
  • Investment in Yoox Net-A-Porter Group

 

Kering

Kering is another leading conglomerate with brands spanning luxury fashion, leather goods, jewellery and watches. But this is a far cry from its origins in France 1962 when François Pinault began trading timber and distributing construction materials as Etablissements Pinault. It wasn’t until the 1990s that they started diversifying into retail with a takeover of Conforama. They began to unload companies orientated around furniture and construction and through a series of acquisitions and mergers they owned stakes in La Redoute and Finaref. They continued to gain momentum in apparel and retail, under the name PPR, before beginning to reposition themselves in the luxury market in 1999 – gaining a 42% stake in Gucci Group. Throughout the 2000s they continued to build their brand portfolio and are now known as a leader in luxury and sport and lifestyle brands, as well as being at the forefront of sustainability in fashion. The group changed their name to Kering in 2013.

  • Gucci
  • Saint Laurent Paris
  • Boucheron
  • Bottega Veneta
  • Balenciaga
  • Stella McCartney (50% share)
  • Alexander McQueen (51% share)
  • Brioni
  • Sowind Group (51% share) with Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard
  • Qeelin
  • Pomellato Group with Pomellato and Dodo
  • Christopher Kane (51% share) and Tomas Maier
  • Ulysse Nardin

The ‘Sport & Lifestyle’ division comprises:

  • Puma (86% share)
  • Cobra Golf (golf equipment specialist)
  • Volcom

 

PVH Corp

PVH Corp is across the pond from the other groups discussed. An American company, their history has always been in textiles specifically shirting. In 1880, two separate businessmen Dramin Jones and Moses Phillips set up their own shirting companies, both moving to New York and enjoying success. In 1903 the two merged following Jone’s death. In the following years, Philips met John Manning Van Heusen, a Dutch immigrant who in 1910 invented a new process that fused cloth on a curve – this partnership is where the company gained its name, Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation. From the 1980s onwards, the company started to build their brand portfolio, today they own such brands as:

  • Van Heusen
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Calvin Klein
  • IZOD
  • Arrow

And licenses brands such as:

  • Geoffrey Beene
  • BCBG Max Azria
  • Chaps
  • Sean John
  • Kenneth Cole New York
  • JOE Joseph Abboud
  • MICHAEL Michael Kors

 

The above four are some of the largest and conglomerates within fashion, but they’re not the only ones. As you can see it’s very common for brands to be acquired by these powerhouses, the increased investment allows brands to grow and particularly smaller companies that may be struggling. They also bring new knowledge and skills, whether this is through access to equipment, people or other assets like distribution networks. It also reduces the competition and may also mean a reduction in outgoings through shared marketing budgets, increased purchasing power and lower costs.

Other notable conglomerates with stakes in the luxury fashion world include:

  • PUIG: Nina Ricci, Carolina Herrera, Paco Rabanne, and Jean Paul Gaultier
  • Aeffe Group: Alberta Ferretti, Moschino, and Pollini
  • JAB Holdings: Bally, Jimmy Choo, and Belstaff
  • OTB: Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Paula Cademartori, and Viktor&Rolf
  • Prada Group: Prada, Miu Miu, Church’s, Car Shoes, and Marchesi 1824