Welcome to a new series where we bring the BoF community even closer together by getting to know some of our key members.
BoF: What is your current role?
Danielle Lesage-Rochette: I’m the worldwide merchandising manager at Loro Piana, a well-established ready-to-wear luxury company owned by LMVH that specialises in precious fibres such as cashmere, baby cashmere and vicuña.
BoF: What were you doing before Loro Piana?
DLR: I’ve been with Loro Piana for one year now. Before that, I was at Valentino for five years as a ready-to-wear and fur buyer for their 24 European stores.
BoF: What do you wish more people understood about your job?
DLR: I have the impression that people underestimate how numerical our job is. Yes, we deal with beautiful fibres and high designs, but at the end of the day, it’s very number-related. Everything comes down to investments, KPIs and performance.
BoF: What was it like working with the fur industry, particularly given the controversy surrounding it in recent years?
DLR: On a personal level, I am against fur. I would never wear mink, but I own two shearlings because it’s part of the food chain. My experience with buying fur for one of the most luxurious fashion houses was reassuring because there are a very small number [of products] produced every year. It’s super controlled as a supply chain and made by wonderful artisans in Italy. I was able to go to the atelier and speak with the family that owns the business.
Of course, it’s not beautiful to kill animals for fur, but what I really appreciated was the artisans’ love, dedication and respect for the animals and for their work and the product.
At the end of the day, it’s a very small part of luxury consumption, but on a personal level, I’m happy to see that the market is shifting away from fur — Prada has stopped, Gucci has stopped.
BoF: What is the number one lesson you’ve learned during your career?
DLR: I have found that resilience is one of the biggest skills that you can have. Working hard, showing up and giving everything [are all important] because we work in the fashion industry. If you stay enthusiastic and always do your best — in the medium- and long-term — the industry will give back to you and you will grow.
When I started in fashion 14 years ago, I was really fascinated by the fashion of the “cool” world. I wanted to become a buyer at Urban Outfitters. But 10 years later, all the luxury brands wanted to be “cool” because of millennials hungry for luxury — or accessible luxury — especially from markets like China. 14 years ago, it wouldn’t have been conceivable that a luxury brand would do a collaboration with a brand like Supreme. This just shows how unlimited the possibilities of fashion are.
BoF: What is the number one challenge you are facing in your area of expertise?
DLR: As a merchandiser, the biggest challenge you face is having the right product in the right place at the right price, displayed in the right sort of way.
At the moment, competition is super fierce. There are a lot of similar products on the market and to differentiate yourself and have the right product, price etc. is an everyday challenge. Working at Loro Piana and having the very best fibres, we are able to have a unique selling point and we are protected from certain aspects of this competition, but it [still] forces you to stay curious, alert and reactive to your environment and competitors.
BoF: What industry shifts are you most optimistic about?
DLR: The two biggest changes are sustainability and inclusivity. 10 years ago, [sustainability] was kind of a niche topic, [but] now it’s on everybody’s lips — everyone from Zara to H&M and Arket are using sustainable fibres. Everybody in our industry is getting conscious about our impact on the environment, as well as how popular and sales-driving it can be to become more eco-responsible.
10 years ago, luxury fashion was in a way quite segregated — it was people speaking among themselves. Now, with social media, it’s become a huge conversation and a party everyone can attend — and celebrated as such. I think it’s very encouraging.
BoF: What topics should the fashion industry be debating more vigorously?
DLR: In my personal opinion, one of the biggest issues at the moment is overproduction. There’s too much product and too many collections. The market is oversaturated. I don’t know how this trend could stop but, the industry — both fast fashion and luxury brands — are moving towards the concept of dropping small capsule collections with the aim of selling out. This could be a test for being more limited in production.
BoF: How do you hope the industry will evolve in 2019?
DLR: I have the impression that, because there is such fierce competition and so many players, so many [are] trying to take market share from the other.
Consequently, I think we see the biggest and best players like Kering, LVMH or Inditex [staying put] and we also see the rise of the new innovative disruptors, like Instagram and KOLs online. All those that could not adapt or continued business as usual — like Cavalli and Topshop — are starting to disappear.
BoF: What are you doing differently in your role this year?
DLR: My roles at Valentino and Loro Piana are the complete opposite of overproduction. We actually want to produce and sell just a bit less than what people are going to buy because in luxury, we are all based on rarity and desirability. We cannot — and do not want to — overproduce. It has to remain a very special and precious style that you will keep for years, if not generations.
At Loro Piana, our ultimate focus is quality, durability [and] sourcing the most precious fibres out there. On a professional and personal level, it’s already going against this overproduction and overconsumption, as it’s a kind of conscious consumption.
What would you like to ask Danielle?