Christian Dior CEO says no sign of China slowdown

PARIS Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:09pm EDT

PARIS (Reuters) - French fashion brand Christian Dior (DIOR.PA) sees no sign of a slowdown in China, and trends in Europe and the United States remain positive, its head said on Friday.

The upbeat comments from the biggest fashion brand within the LVMH (LVMH.PA) stable followed a buoyant trading update on Monday from Prada Chief Executive Patrizio Bertelli, who said Chinese demand remained strong and warned about "hysteria" over a downturn in demand for luxury goods.

Rival French brand Lanvin also said it was not seeing any weakness in Chinese demand, contrasting with rivals Burberry (BRBY.L) and Tiffany (TIF.N), which warned about a slump in recent months, suggesting the global luxury market might be entering a slower growth phase.

"We don't feel a slowdown in China," Christian Dior CEO and Chairman Sidney Toledano told Reuters after a presentation of the brand's spring/summer 2013 collection.

China, the luxury market's main engine of growth in the past five years, has seen demand become more sluggish for certain luxury goods, due to slower economic growth.

Toledano said Chinese customers were becoming increasingly sophisticated. He said Dior had purposefully positioned itself in China at the very high end of the luxury market, offering bags in exotic leathers, organising haute couture shows, showing fine Dior jewellery and offering VIP rooms in boutiques.

"I am not an economist, but looking at the fundamentals of demand in China, I am not worried," Toledano said.

Outside China, Toledano said Dior was holding up well.

"Trends are good even in Europe, where thankfully there are tourists" to drive demand, he said.

Lanvin CEO Thierry Andretta said the fashion brand would continue to have "double-digit sales growth this year." Sales in Europe had slowed somewhat but not in directly operated stores.

"We will have another good year," he told Reuters after the brand's fashion show.

NEW DESIGNER

Dior's chairman was speaking after the fashion house's new lead designer Raf Simons had presented his first ready-to-wear collection, which won praise from critics.

"I really enjoyed it," said Alexandra Golovanoff, a TV fashion journalist. "This is a completely new page."

Simons was hired by Dior earlier this year. The group had been without a lead designer for more than a year after the abrupt departure of John Galliano.

The Dior show featured modern-looking pieces with very short black dresses with flowing oversized bows and metallic belts. Other pieces had touches of fluorescent colours, metallic blue or pink.

"It is indisputably less flamboyant than in the past," said Antoine Arnault, son of LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault and head of the group's Italian shoe maker Berluti. Arnault was indirectly referring to Galliano's style which was known for being flamboyant and theatrical.

The star-studded audience sitting close to Antoine and Bernard Arnault included actor Robert de Niro, the rapper Kanye West, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, supermodel Eva Herzigova and France's former first lady, Bernadette Chirac.

Supermodel Natalia Vodianova, dating Antoine Arnault, said she expected the collection to please Chinese customers.

"I thought it was very modern, very young and very Asian also," Vodianova told Reuters. "I see all these Chinese actresses are going to go crazy, they love these neon colours and super-short dresses."

(Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt, Mathilde Gardin; Editing by Christian Plumb and Jane Merriman)

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