Milan – German accessories brand MCM is ready to open a new chapter in its history.
Ahead of the launch as part of the Milan Fashion Week calendar, Sabine Brunner, President of MCM Global AG, discussed the new strategic direction the brand has achieved and is building.
His main focus is to lead MCM as a digitally driven luxury brand with a new image and products that renew heritage codes – since 1976 – as well as expanding into a full range of accessories, ready-to-wear and lifestyle products. The goal is to further serve and engage MCM with both the brand’s customer base and the Gen-Z and millennial consumers, who Brunner describes as “digital nomads.”
“I don’t think it’s a change, but a re-evaluation,” Brunner said of the strategy. “Mrs. [Sungjoo] Brand owner and Chief Visionary Officer, Kim always has the right vision: she anticipates and can sense change in the market. MCM was a very diverse streetwear- and subculture-focused outfit, which brought the brand consistent and impressive success over the years. But we felt it was time for the brand to go back to its roots and heritage so that it doesn’t go completely out of tune because the market is not streetwear. So she had something to look forward to and we started working together on this about seven months ago.
The executive observed that the change in behavior between generations could play a key role in enabling the brand to gain more ground. “The parents and grandparents of this younger generation may be buying real luxury like Hermès or Chanel, but we know that this generation doesn’t necessarily want that today. They want something different, with value but maybe a different story and price point, so that’s where we try to break new ground,” said Brunner. I think the major luxury brands have all raised their prices too much and this has freed up a lot of space in the sweet spot in the mid-high range where MCM already is and needs to reassert itself.
To this end, Tina Lutz and Katie Chung have been appointed to lead and develop the new global design and creative direction, enhancing the brand’s signature codes and aligning them with today’s market demands. He succeeds Dirk Schoenberger, who quietly exited the brand earlier this year, after four years as creative director.
Notably, Lutz takes on the role of global creative leader and is based in the brand’s global design studio in Milan, while Chung holds the position of creative director and is based in Seoul.
“We like to keep the right balance between our Korean ownership – we have a lot of people working in Korea and Seoul is the center of the world right now – and in Germany and Europe. [side]. It’s a very interesting sight,” Brunner said of the double date.
“We like to work as a team, and we talk on the phone all the time. Since our geographical location is split between Seoul and Milan, the main challenges we face are mostly the time difference and the physical distance between us. However, we find collaborating online to be incredibly beneficial,” said Woyoungmi and said Chung, a graduate of Central Saint Martins who was creative director of Solid Homme.
Born in Germany and trained in fashion design and patternmaking at ESMOD in Paris, Lutz worked for Issey Miyake in Paris and Tokyo, before moving to New York where she worked for Calvin Klein in 1992. In the year A women’s ready-to-wear line specializing in luxury knitwear. After 24 years stateside, Lutz returned to Europe and launched Lutz Morris, a brand of German-made luxury handbags based on craftsmanship, responsible production and sustainability. Now based in Milan, Lutz will continue to lead her own brand.
Lutz confirmed the duo’s desire to modernize MCM by “reconnecting it to its origins in the Greenbook” that honors the 1991 MCM Catalog 15.Th Company anniversary.
Chung also identified four main pillars that represent the essence of this approach. “Shanapside [‘crazy idea’]Zeitgeist, sustainability and heritage: By combining bold innovation, a deep understanding of the current landscape, a commitment to ecological sustainability and respect for our brand’s heritage, we aim to create a forward-thinking and timeless brand identity,” she says.
The talents will announce their first joint collection with the spring 2024 season on Sunday. The clothing and accessories range is designed with a comfortable and travel-ready attitude and versatility in mind and introduces pieces such as the “New Laurel Monogram”, a minimalistic and modern version of the brand’s Visetos Monogram.
Overall, Bruner highlighted efforts to segment MCM offerings to better reach different targets. While the Visetos design remains a core part of the business, newly branded cotton canvas styles represent entry-level pricing. “We had to raise our prices like everyone else, so with this new offer we lost some customers to Visetos that we wanted to get,” Brunner said. At the same time, the brand is expanding its leather bags and building a high-end catalog. The executive sees the possibility of adding more to the latter to address more demanding customers in the coming seasons.
“It’s not that I want to make expensive things, but we can bring together a wide variety of customers,” she said, pointing to other product categories. In particular, the company will grow its footwear business and is committed to growing its ready-to-wear line into essential sportswear segments. Like accessories, apparel reconnects with the brand’s heritage and travel-based DNA, revealing clothes that “look stylish in your suitcase but don’t wrinkle,” Brunner says.
Lifestyle products will add to MCM’s portfolio and presence in Milan, as Bruner teased that the company is working on a project for next year’s Salone del Mobile edition.
In the meantime, the company will be busy renovating existing stores and opening new ones with an improved interior concept that honors the new brand image. Still, Bruner isn’t looking for a revolution, but rather a slight revamp of retail spaces, tweaking color schemes and furniture.
In September, all MCM stores will be updated with these elements, including the recently opened stores in Singapore Airport and Harbor City in Hong Kong. “We also have some stores in America. For one, Saks Fifth Avenue will open next week with the new concept,” said Brunner. In total, MCM is present in 650 stores in 40 countries.
Even with regard to the current balanced distribution, according to Bruner, the strategy is to adjust the network according to the new brand image, “doing some wholesale clearance”, especially stores based on sportswear. This optimization adds to some relocations, especially in China, to ensure the brand’s presence in ever-changing market hotspots.
Starting next year, Bruner will focus on opening in other key European destinations such as Milan and Paris, as well as in Spain.
Without disclosing specific figures, the executive said MCM’s top three markets are Asia, Europe (especially German-speaking countries) and the US, which account for roughly a third of sales.
Alongside the upgrade of physical distribution, the company aims to accelerate its growth by enhancing its online presence. To this end, MCM has tapped Marie-Laure Lequain as Chief Digital and Merchandising Officer.
With more than 20 years of experience in luxury and fashion, LeQueen held a series of leadership positions at Gucci, reshaping the jewelry business from scratch, rebranding the watches and leading the digital business to success.
“One of her main tasks is to analyze and review our e-commerce strategy, as we are reviewing our entire digital approach. And [Lequain] It has already built, especially with Gucci, a very good e-commerce system,” said Brunner.
As for Brunner herself, prior to joining MCM she held several senior positions, including Roger Vivier’s brand manager, where she led the brand through direct retail stores. As CEO at Bonpoint, she led a turnaround in visibility and profitability, previously leading the Hong Kong subsidiary and developing the Asian market for Todd Group.
When asked about the lessons she learned in her previous posts as she applied for her new job, Brunner pointed to the career path. “In luxury, every aspect is well taken care of. So achieving what we are achieving now requires staying very focused and consistent… not doing too much, but staying focused and taking the project from A to Z. Never stray from the goal,” she said.