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The changing face of luxury fashion

From Juliet Mann, CNN
February 16, 2012 -- Updated 1827 GMT (0227 HKT)
  • Antoine Arnault heads up luxury fashion label Berluti, part of the LVMH group
  • Arnault says the market for male fashion is growing twice as fast as that for woman
  • Last year menswear spending grew 14% globally

(CNN) -- For years it has been dominated by women, but now luxury fashion is kicking off its high heels and slipping into something more masculine as it strides through the economic downturn.

The market for male fashion is growing twice as fast as that for women, according to Antoine Arnault, son of one of Europe's richest men and board member of luxury group LVMH.

The uptick in male customers is credited with keeping the industry buoyant while Europe slides toward recession. Last year menswear spending grew 14% globally, according to consultancy firm Bain & Company.

"The luxury industry has always been a little bit counter-cyclical," Arnault says. "There's no real strategy behind it, I just feel it's a time where quality and craft is of the utmost importance."

Arnault heads up luxury fashion label Berluti -- part of the LVMH group which includes brands such as Louis Vuitton and Moet & Chandon -- and has overseen its recent expansion into menswear.

Berluti is targeting the top end of the market, with shoes that can take their craftsman in Italy about 20 hours to make. Arnault describes the "Berluti man" as "one and unique. First of all, he travels a lot. He can be Chinese, but he often comes to Paris, he often goes to New York. It is global."

Being part of LVMH's empire gives Berluti financial support and the backing of experienced hands, Arnault says. "LVMH senior management come to see us very often to see how things are evolving, see what we're developing and to give us advice," he says.

This nurturing environment will ensure a long future for the brand, according to Arnault. "Think about at Microsoft and Apple, they are the most important brands today, are you sure that in 100 years these companies will still exist? You can't be sure of that," he says.

"Our brands, Louis Vuitton, Krug, Dom Perignon... Berluti will almost for sure still exist in 100 years, and that's thanks to the fact that we're all together and we're nourishing each other's positive sides," he adds.

CNN's Emily Smith contributed to this report

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