After 16 wildly successful years heading fashion for Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs is stepping down to focus on an initial public offering of his own brand. With a global economy that could be generously described as sluggish and Vuitton parent company LVMH (LVMUY) showing signs of softness, it's easy to argue Jacobs is unfashionably late to the party. Is there really unmet demand for another high-end label?
Retail expert Hitha Prabhakar says both Jacobs' timing and taste are exquisite. "When Michael Kors (KORS) IPO'd they think it was ever even going to reach the likes of Ralph Lauren (RL) or Prada... now it's passing Ralph Lauren in market cap." Prabhakar says Jacobs is riding fine leather coattails of those $15 billion behemoths and taking advantage of the unfortunate "barbell" recovery that favors the wealthy consumer.
If anyone could make a freestanding brand works it's Jacobs. Even after his unusually extended run at Vuitton, Prabhakar says Jacobs has plenty up his sleeve. "He could probably clone himself, create different names and do well with all of them," she says. "He is branded times 1,000."
Maybe. Kors has nearly quadrupled since coming public but time isn't usually friendly to style. For every Ralph Lauren there is at least one Martha Stewart (MSO); a taste-making brand that went public to great fanfare before crashing to earth and costing investors millions.
Prabhakar is unswayed. She says if anything Jacobs' arrival will expand the pool for high-end brands. She loves the looks of Kors and Ralph Lauren while impatiently waiting for the curtain to rise on shares of Marc Jacobs.
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