Louis Vuitton, Dior Power LVMH’s Sales
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Louis Vuitton, Dior Power LVMH’s Sales

Big fashion brands bolster results, while Champagne revenue falls amid pandemic.

By Matthew Dalton
Wed, Jan 27, 2021 3:33amGrey Clock 2 min

PARIS—LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE said surging revenue at its biggest fashion brands, Louis Vuitton and Dior, propped up the luxury-goods company’s results during the fourth quarter, offsetting other businesses such as Champagne that have fizzled during the pandemic.

The Paris-based conglomerate on Tuesday said revenue in the quarter fell 3% to €14.3 billion ($22.4 billion). Sales at its fashion and leather-goods division—where Louis Vuitton and Dior account for most of the revenue—rose 18%. Revenue for all of 2020 fell 17% to €44.7 billion. Net profit for the entire year was down 34% at €4.7 billion.

The results show how some of the marquee brands of luxury fashion have gained market share during the pandemic. Louis Vuitton, the world’s top-selling luxury brand, Dior and Hermès have posted strong sales growth since boutiques were allowed to reopen after lockdowns in March and April. Smaller brands—both inside and outside LVMH—have lagged behind.

Drawn by the performance of Dior and Louis Vuitton, investors have sent LVMH’s shares to near record highs, brushing aside concerns about the future of the luxury business during and after the pandemic. The company’s market capitalization is now €260 billion, solidifying the place of Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chief executive and controlling shareholder, among the ranks of the world’s wealthiest people.

Jean Jacques Guiony, LVMH’s chief financial officer, said Louis Vuitton and Dior had a strong pipeline of new products that they continued to roll out despite the lockdowns. The brands also maintained fashion shows in reduced formats and continued digital-marketing efforts when others were forced to pull back drastically. Dior, for example, held a closed-door fashion show for its cruise collection in Lecce, Italy, in July, while rival brands pushed the unveiling of new collections until later in the year.

“We did it when nobody else was talking,” Mr Guiony said. “It was really Dior and Vuitton taking the bulk of the customers’ attention.”

Mr. Guiony said that Fendi and Celine—two of LVMH’s midsize fashion brands—also gathered momentum toward the end of the year. Marc Jacobs managed to turn a profit in 2020 for the first time in years, Mr Guiony said, though that came after a wave of layoffs at the American brand.

LVMH’s performance also benefited from strong consumption of Hennessy, the world’s top-selling cognac brand. Sales in the U.S. surged, LVMH said, bolstered by large government stimulus payments to consumers. Global cognac volumes were down only 4% for the year and rebounded in the second half, the company said.

That helped offset the poor performance of LVMH’s Champagne division, which includes brands such as Veuve Clicquot and Dom Pérignon. With weddings and birthday parties cancelled because of social-distancing rules, consumers had little reason to sip a glass of bubbly, pushing down Champagne sales by 19% for the year.

LVMH just completed its purchase of the American jeweller Tiffany & Co. at the start of this year, after the pandemic nearly cancelled the $15.8 billion deal. Mr Arnault pulled the plug on the merger in September before deciding to see it through after Tiffany agreed to a small discount.

The acquisition could be riding a tailwind: Jewellery sales in the final months of last year were one of the bright spots in the global luxury business, Mr Guiony said.



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”