Versace’s new owner wants to be a big beast. But it’s no match for Europe’s behemoths | Fashion industry

For the past two years, Coach, Michael Kors and Kate Spade New York have been the cornerstone of a particular type of New York fashion.

A bit ritzy without being eye-wateringly expensive, they mushroomed during the 1990s and 2000s, defining American leisure-glamour – the sort of thing you might see in Sex and the City then and Real Housewives of New York now – and rolling it out for a wealthy middle class who wanted attainable handbags they could save up for, rather than just the 0.1% who had money to burn.

So in one sense, having them under one roof at Tapestry, alongside old-school accessory brands Stuart Weitzman and Jimmy Choo – with a boost from the ritiziest of all, Versace – should be enough to shunt nostalgic American fashion back into the limelight.

After all, an $8.5bn (£6.7bn) acquisition is a lot of money. Except that, when you consider that French fashion colossus LVMH acquired Tiffany for $16bn alone back in 2021, it’s a drop in the conglomerate ocean. LVMH is worth more than $450bn. The Americans might be coming, but it’ll take a lot more to get anywhere close to the Europeans.

For the past few years, luxury fashion has been dominated by LVMH and its rival, Kering – two Paris-based conglomerates that own about 100 huge, household-name-level brands between them.

The ascent of LVMH, in particular – whose founder, Bernard Arnault, overtook Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos as the world’s wealthiest person at one stage this year – is not only a testament to the resilience of fashion, but the speed at which a brand can grow. LVMH controls 75 brands, including Louis Vuitton, Dior and Fendi, and has the power to get Pharrell Williams on its payroll. Even Kering, which owns Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga and is worth more than $70bn, is trailing in its wake. With six brands under its belt, Tapestry has a long way to go.

The window of a Jimmy Choo shop, with a single pair of high heels framed by a decorative window design and the Jimmy Choo logo
Jimmy Choo is one of six big brands now under the Tapestry umbrella. Photograph: Cate Gillon/Getty Images

There is a lot riding on Coach, Tapestry’s blueprint model for how to make a brand balloon overnight. It is run by the well liked, charismatic British designer Stuart Vevers, who this September will celebrate 10 years at the brand.

Just a few years ago, Coach was considered a bit beige and horsey. But with some clever campaigns and casting – Selena Gomez as a face, and Lil Nas X as a catwalk opener – as well as a sharpened focus on upcycling (its waste leather handbags were rolled out just as the industry was under peak scrutiny for wasteful practices), it has been adopted by gen Z, who will represent 40% of the luxury goods market by 2035 (according to a report by the consultancy Bain). In June, Versace followed suit, enrolling pop star Dua Lipa to work on a butterfly and Barbie-pink collection which was geared towards the younger buyer.

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It’ll take more than those two, of course. Kors himself is beloved in the industry but is also known for saying things like “What does it mean to look rich?” backstage. For context, you only have to look at New York fashion week, which plays host to these brands. For the past few years, it has been quiet, relying on the occasional big name to appear in the marquee slot to bring in the starry front row and the press. Sometimes, it’s Marc Jacobs. Last year, it was Tom Ford. In February, it was Luar, a young designer known for his cult handbags and cult following – but a far cry from the nostalgic banner names of yore. This purchase is as much about money as it about putting American fashion back on the map.

As fashion conglomerates go, Tapestry is about as American as it gets, the apple pie to Kering’s pizza and LVMH’s croissant. But it’ll take more than a big purchase to change the tastes of the growing rich.