Louis Vuitton and Gucci are the only 2 luxury companies to consistently rank among the world's most valuable brands for the last 20 years. Here's how they grew to dominate the high-end retail sector.
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- Gucci and Louis Vuitton are the only two luxury brands to have been ranked among the top global brands every year since 2000, according to a 2019 report by marketing and consulting firm Interbrand.
- But despite meeting at the top of the market sector, Gucci and Louis Vuitton had extremely different paths to the luxury summit.
- After years of stagnating sales, Gucci ended up as 2019's fastest growing luxury company with a brand valuation of $15.9 billion, according to Interbrand.
- Meanwhile, Interbrand ranks Louis Vuitton as the world's most valuable luxury brand. The company started off the century with a $1.7 billion lead in brand valuation over Gucci and has been on the rise ever since.
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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - and in the luxury sector, only Gucci and Louis Vuitton can truly say they conquered both.
A 2019 report released by marketing and consulting firm Interbrand revealed that Gucci and Louis Vuitton are the only two luxury brands to have remained ranked among the world's most valuable every year since 2000 - a feat not even achieved by other luxury giants like Burberry, Fendi, Prada, Hermès, or Cartier.
Louis Vuitton - the world's most valuable luxury brand, per Interbrand's 2019 report - started the century with a $1.7 billion lead in brand value over Gucci, and at the turn of the 2010s, it was nearly $13 billion ahead of the Italian fashion house.
But today, Gucci is the world's fastest growing luxury brand, with a brand valuation of $15.9 billion - though it's still trailing behind Louis Vuitton's current $32.2 billion valuation.
Despite the difference, however, both Houses have held steady enough to remain at the top of the luxury sector, and their separate journeys also highlight the increasing competition between the conglomerates that own them - Louis Vuitton's parent company LVMH and Gucci's parent company Kering.
For decades, LVMH and Kering have been in the ruling class of luxury goods, and the trajectories of Gucci and Louis Vuitton may reveal why.
In the early 1900s, Guccio Gucci had an idea that would change the world.
In 1938, the Gucci shop opened on Via Condotti in Rome. Nearly a decade later, the Gucci logo was introduced, and soon after, the brand's famous red stripe was born.
After the founder's death, the Gucci family opened other stores around the world, including in Paris, London, and Tokyo.
But then hard times came, and it would be decades until the brand saw the height of its early glory days again.
Long before Guccio Gucci was even born, Louis Vuitton — the founder of his namesake brand — had arrived in Paris and opened a luggage company of his own.
It was there that he and his craftsman created what is still regarded as one of the most iconic travel accessories of all time — the waterproof flat top luggage trunk.
In 1896, the iconic LV monogram was introduced — nearly 50 years before Gucci's emblem was designed.
In 1997, Marc Jacobs was tapped to be artistic director of women's collections at Louis Vuitton, and the brand was catapulted to the forefront of fashion's new era.
In 2013, Nicolas Ghesquière replaced Jacobs as the artistic director of women's collections. Ghesquière is now helping to lead the brand through a time where streetwear is the new jet-set, and tiny bags are the new trunk luggage.
In 1994, Tom Ford became creative director of Gucci, just three years before Jacobs took the helm at Louis Vuitton.
According to Interbrand, in 2000, Louis Vuitton had a brand valuation of $6.8 billion and maintained a steady-but-faltering single billion-dollar estimation until 2005.
In 2004, to celebrate its 150th anniversary, Louis Vuitton opened stores around the world, including in New York City and Johannesburg.
The brand grew steadily into the 2010s, reaching a $21.86 billion valuation in 2010 — the highest the company had ever been valued since Interbrand began tracking brand valuations in 2000.
Meanwhile, when the new century began, Gucci only had a brand valuation of $5.1 billion, which faltered until reaching its lowest value of $4.715 billion in 2004.
Ford, as reported by CR Fashion Book, is credited as being Gucci's "savior." He was creative director from 1994 until 2004 and was known for helping to infuse a "sex appeal" that wasn't found in high fashion at the time.
After Ford's departure in 2004, Alessandra Facchinetti stepped in to lead the womenswear division, while John Ray took over menswear and Frida Giannini was named creative director of accessories, Vogue reports.
As writer Kimberly Ong noted in her 2017 essay about the brand, Gucci had suffered a massive blow to its image during Giannini's time at the helm, which ultimately followed the brand into the 2010s.
Giannini left Gucci in 2015.
Louis Vuitton, meanwhile, entered the 2010s with a $21.86 billion brand valuation.
Ghesquière was then known for being the creative force behind the reinvention of Balenciaga.
In fall 2017, LV created a collection with Supreme — arguably one of the most profitable and influential fashion launches of the century.
In 2018, Louis Vuitton appointed Virgil Abloh, founder and CEO of the popular streetwear brand Off-White, as the artistic director of its menswear collection.
Interbrand reports that LV's brand value increased substantially between 2017 and 2018, from $22.919 billion in 2017 to $28.152 billion in 2018.
Meanwhile, under Giannini's successor, Alessandro Michele, Gucci became 2019's fastest growing luxury brand, with a growth rate of 23% and a brand valuation of $15.949 billion — nearly double the valuation it had when Michele first took over the reins in 2015.
Much of Gucci's success comes from the way the brand has been able to utilize social media as a digital marketing tool.
In fact, as reported by Forbes, Gucci's CEO Marco Bizzarri told the Julius Baer Global Advisory Board that Michele had designed nearly all of Gucci's best selling items.
Gucci has been able to appeal to younger audiences by teaming up with contemporary icons of the day.
"[Gucci] has become much more open, inclusive, transparent, and collaborative," Robins said. "It's almost a masterclass in leadership style, [of] a really powerful combination of creative and business leadership."
In turn, the "gaudiness" Gucci was once negatively associated with has become its signature. In 2019, Gucci sponsored the Met Gala, which had the theme "camp" — defined by Susan Sontag's 1964 essay as "love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration."
Gucci is, as many would say, the modern day example of "camp." Or, to others, simply "ugly fashion."
And so now it's the turn of a new decade, and Gucci's snake logos, butterflies, wolves, interlocking G-tights, clashing colors, textiles, and fabrics — once considered emblematic of the brand's "outdatedness" — has become a signature of the time.
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