The Luxury Power List: Meet 20 key industry influencers

Words by
Simon Brooke

26th March 2018

From the financiers and tastemakers to the real estate experts, Sphere takes a look at the people who operate below the radar, but drive the luxury sector

 The Investors
Manfredi Corsini

Managing Director at 
Rothschild Global Advisory

For Corsini, the appeal of working with luxury companies is as much about their entrepreneurialism as their creativity. “This is an industry where the environment has changed dramatically over the past few years,” he says. “Increasingly, it’s how they interact with new consumers through new channels, so they have to be innovative and capable of adapting.” As an Italian, he believes that the large number of luxury houses that emanate from Italy is a result of the country’s culture of craftsmanship and design. He also thinks that, as well as new emerging markets such as China, millennials offer new opportunities. “They operate digitally and use social media and so companies have to respond to this,” he says, “as well as creating a mix of products that is relevant to them and speaks to their values.”

Sian Westerman 

Investment Consultant 

A Managing Director in the Global Financial Advisory Division at Rothschild, Westerman is also President of Business and Investment Pillars for the British Fashion Council (BFC) and a Non-Executive Director at Nicholas Kirkwood Ltd. With Tania Fares, she also co-founded the BFC Fashion Trust, which nurtures British fashion designers.

Carmen Busquets

Fashion Entreprenuer

Instead of joining the family metallurgical business in her native Venezuela, Busquets launched a fashion boutique and then co-founded Net-a-Porter, becoming its majority investor. Having earned 16 times her initial investment when the company was sold to Richemont, she set up Cabus Venture, an investment house dedicated to luxury and fashion start ups.  

Adrian Cheng & Clive Ng 


Founding Partners at C Ventures 

The duo recently launched C Ventures, an investment club that aims to foster a “cultural ecosystem” of brands that target millennials and Generation Z in both the West and China. Cheng is also an investor in Nowness, the culture and fashion site formerly owned by LVMH.

Marco De Benedetti

Managing Director at Carlyle Europe Partners

De Benedetti has been with The Carlyle Group since 2005 and is co-head of the private equity giant’s European Buyout Group. Its past investments include a stake in the Moncler luxury group, which was later floated on the stock market. It recently increased its stake in Italian fashion brand Twin Set and has invested in premium street wear label Supreme.

Andrew Rosen

Founder and CEO of Theory

Co-founding Theory in 1997, Rosen is also an investor in a range of fashion brands, including Proenza Schouler and Rag & Bone. He also snapped up fashion house Helmut Lang when Prada sold it off. More recently, Rosen has introduced Theory 2.0, an initiative driven by 28 rising-star employees that aims to execute their vision of Theory’s future through capsule collections.

The Fund Managers
Scilla Huang Sun

Portfolio Manager at GAM

As Head of Equities and Portfolio Manager for the Luxury Brands Fund at the GAM Group, Dr Huang Sun has seen luxury become a growth industry. “It’s growing faster than many other areas,” she says. “Luxury brands offer investors exposure to consumption in emerging markets where these major western companies are very attractive.” The higher prices that luxury brands can charge, so improving their margins and profitability, adds to their investor appeal, she says, as does the fact that they are “sitting on large piles of cash”, although their conservative nature means they’re often reticent to spend it. The luxury brands that can attract millennials and manage digitisation and big data will be the most appealing to investors, she says.

Laurent Belloni & Caroline Reyl 


Managers of Pictet-Premium Brands Fund
 

At Pictet Asset Management, Belloni and Reyl invest clients’ money in long-established luxury brands and those in emerging markets. “The luxury sector is attractive to investors because of the pricing power that the brands have and their know-how means there’s a high barrier to entry for other companies who might want to compete,” says Reyl. Increased travel by those from emerging and established markets is another driver of the luxury sector, she believes. And the appeal of the market for her? “You’ve got a fantastic set of products and the chance to look at a sector that is about dreams and aspirations, but where players still need credibility.”

The Entrepreneurs
Dame Natalie Massenet 

Co-Founder of 
Imaginary Ventures 

 

Her career began as a journalist on Women’s Wear Daily, but it was the launch of Net-a-Porter in 2000 that propelled Dame Massenet into the luxury business stratosphere. The magazine-style format of the website, begun in Massenet’s Chelsea flat with £1.2m from investors, was revolutionary and proved that luxury could embrace e-commerce. When Net-a-Porter merged with the Yoox Group in 2015, Massenet stepped down as Executive Chairman. Last year, she joined online retail platform Farfetch as Non-Executive Co-Chairman. She recently stood down after five years as Chairman of the British Fashion Council, although she remains on the executive committee. Massenet has recently teamed up with Nick Brown — a partner at venture capital firm 14W, which has backed several successful beauty and fashion brands — to launch Imaginary Ventures, which will invest in online retail, fashion, lifestyle and beauty firms.

The Dealmakers
Hugh Devlin 


Consultant at law firm Withers Worldwide

 

A leading advisor in the luxury brands sector, Devlin has advised the likes of Natalie Massenet, Anya Hindmarch on the investment by Mayhoola, and Christopher Kane being backed by luxury conglomerate Kering, as well as Marc Newson on his collaborations with Apple and Louis Vuitton. “It’s always appealing working with talented people and there are a good number in this sector,” he says. “It’s particularly exciting to see the impact of the combination of creative talent with business acumen. “At the same time, it’s frustrating where there’s an imbalance and business opportunities are lost. The luxury sector has been changing so rapidly that I’m afraid most of the business people haven’t been able to keep pace with their creative directors or, more importantly, their customers.”

Real Estate
Robin Zendell
 

Founding Partner at Robin Zendell LLC
 

Zendell has advised brands such as Dior, Fendi, Erdem and Gucci on where to situate their stores. “Stepping into luxury tenant representation was an organic transition for me after working in the New York art world for so many years,” she says. “I’d developed relationships with many great retailers over the years and I learned that what many needed was a consultant who could address their business issues as fluently as real estate issues, particularly as they contemplated expansions and overall growth strategy.” She adds: “We see a trend of luxury retailers prioritising the experiential nature of their stores, making them into unique destinations and sometimes only offering products in one city or at one location, tailored to the local clientele, instead of all their products at every location. We’re also seeing a growing trend in luxury pursuing pop-ups, whether it be for unique product launches, or connecting to customers in new markets where they wouldn’t typically have long-term stores.”

Peter Mace 

Head of Central London Retail Team, Cushman & Wakefield 
 

Mace has specialised in real estate for luxury companies for the past 27 years. His initial pitch for business was with Louis Vuitton. “My wife is a fan of luxury goods and she’d been invited to a party thrown by Louis Vuitton, so I went along and managed to meet the guy I’d pitched to earlier that day,” he recalls. “I think the fact that my wife had bought so many bags clinched it for me.” At property consultants Cushman & Wakefield, Mace has handled 70 per cent of the recent deals done in Bond Street and has worked for more than 60 luxury houses. The higher end retail property is vastly outperforming the general market at the moment, he reveals. “Last year, five major deals were done in Regent Street and just one in Oxford Street, but 14 were done in Bond Street,” he says. “Bricks and mortar are still important because most people who are going to buy a £5,000 bag, for instance, want to see it for themselves and touch it.”

Rob Hargreaves 


Director, Central London Retail, at BNP Paribas

One of BNP Paribas Real Estate’s major relationships within the luxury sector is with the LVMH Group. “We have worked with a number of its brands, including Chaumet, Bulgari, Dior, TAG Heuer and Hublot,” says Hargreaves. “One of the major appeals for me is the heritage that sits behind many of the luxury houses and brands. Many are business that have grown from small family firms or even ‘one-man’ artisans that have evolved over centuries into the houses that we see now.” He sees the physical store as an extension of the brand and its quality. “It therefore needs to deliver the appropriate experience for the shopper from arrival through to departure,” he says. “Some brands may be prepared to sacrifice an address for the right building. Others maintain the need for the exclusivity of the address and quality of adjacent occupiers. It’s an understanding of the brand and its ultimate ambitions that is critical.”

The Headhunter
Pauline Hudson-Evans


Co-Founder of Hudson Walker International
 

Having begun in fashion recruitment, Hudson-Evans spotted a niche for a discreet, boutique-style recruitment firm representing premium and luxury brands. It led to her co-founding Hudson Walker International in 1993. “We wanted to be almost hidden from view. Clients and candidates would have to put effort into finding us and we would be very selective with whom we did business,” she says. Today, the firm works with many of the world’s prestigious luxury brands. This sector, she says, “demands exceptionally bright and super-talented senior leaders with elite minds and sharp intellects. In response to this, candidates are becoming increasingly educated and serious. In the past, few clients stipulated a university degree as a candidate requirement, but this is now high on their list. Candidates from leading business schools and those who have had a period of international study, or who have an MBA in Luxury Brand Management, are at a distinct advantage.”

The Tastemakers
Hugh Morrison 


Founding Partner at Montfort Communications

A leading strategic and global transaction communications adviser for over a decade, Morrison co-founded Montfort Communications in 2014. Aside from advising LVMH since the mid-1990s, he also worked with the Pinault family on its acquisition of auction house Christie’s. His other work across the sector includes Net-a-Porter’s sale to Richemont, Jimmy Choo’s flotation on the London Stock Exchange and Matches Fashion’s recent change of ownership. “The luxury sector is fascinating, bringing together the best creative and business brains,” he says. “The brands are sometimes centuries old, but the sector as we know it today is relatively young. “The blend of creativity, quality, commerciality, innovation and entrepreneurship is compelling and different from many other sectors — one half of the brain focuses on creativity and aspiration while the other half focuses on the fundamental discipline of cashflow.” Morrison, who describes himself as “a major bull of the luxury sector”, continues: “The potential arising from an emerging, affluent middle class in many global economies will drive aspiration and luxury innovation for decades to come.”

Imran Amed


Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Business of Fashion 
 

Amed launched his Business of Fashion website from his sofa in 2007. Aiming to bring “a unique understanding of the creative and commercial sides of fashion”, the site’s arrival was timed perfectly, just as social media revolutionised the luxury sector and emerging markets offered Amed’s venture exciting new opportunities. He recently procured additional investment of £1.25m from Index Ventures, backer of online fashion retailer ASOS and investor in Net-a-Porter and LVMH. Previously a management consultant at McKinsey, Amed is also an Associate Lecturer at Central St Martin’s College of Art & Design in London.

The Philanthropists
Diana Verde Nieto 


CEO and Co-Founder of Positive Luxury

Together with Karen Hanton, founder of toptable.com, Nieto set up Positive Luxury in 2011 to highlight brands’ green initiatives. The company’s Butterfly Mark is a trust mark awarded to luxury lifestyle brands that demonstrate a positive social and environmental impact. Nieto, who was honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2011, also founded a sustainability communications consultancy, Clownfish, in 2002, developing it into five markets that included China and the USA. She left the business in 2008. Verde Nieto’s early life in Argentina under a dictatorship has inspired her to make the world a better place. “Luxury brands can have a huge impact because most of them are global businesses with hundreds of thousands of employees,” she explains. “However, at the very beginning of our journey at Positive Luxury, the challenge was to incentivise luxury brands to communicate their innovation in sustainability. Fast forward six-and-a-half years, and today it is an expectation.” She adds: “Perhaps the most important concept that luxury brands must master is that corporate social responsibility can no longer be skin deep; sustainability must provoke an emotional response. “Millennials are losing faith in governments and nation states and looking to other institutions to advance the sustainability 
goals they see as essential for a bright socio-economic future.”

Tania Fares 


Co-Founder of the BFC Fashion Trust

Fares, a Contributing Editor to British Vogue, co-founded the BFC Fashion Trust with Sian Westerman (see page 55) in 2011. Born in Lebanon and educated in Paris, Fares, who has lived in London since 2002, approached the BFC with the idea of setting up a charity that would connect investors with fashion talent. Its 140-plus members enjoy talks, studio visits and other opportunities to meet up-and-coming young designers. So far, the Trust has raised around £3m and last October HSBC became its official partner. Last year, with fashion journalist Sarah Mower, Fares released London Uprising, a book celebrating the 50 fashion designers whom the authors believe embody the city’s unceasing creativity.