Alex Assouline on the Business of Fashion Books Into the Digital Era – WWD

Alex Assouline, 29, grew up watching parents Prosper and Martine turn their publishing house into the gold standard for luxury fashion and lifestyle books, telling the story of everything from the Chanel house to Coca-Cola to the Carlyle Hotel.

He also grew up playing video games, more than his parents probably wanted, he admits. Well now that screen time could pay off for him. In his new role as head of operations, brand and strategy, next-generation Assouline is charged with bringing his family business into the digital age and nurturing a new generation of customers.

In his first six years at the brand, founded in 1994 and arrived in New York in 1999, he has already marked the business by introducing a private library design service. Other collaborations are also underway for product design and perhaps NFT, he said, discussing his plans during a Zoom interview from Paris.

But no digital version of the books, because Assouline considers her tomes beautifully illustrated, luxury items as precious as the coffee tables they sit on.

In addition to wholesaling to boutiques and e-tailers, Assouline has 12 stores, including the Assouline maison and the Swans Bar in London and the bookshop of The Plaza hotel in New York, as well as dozens of corners with the brand in culture hotspots around the world. from St. Joseph’s Arts Society in San Francisco to El Palacio de Hierro department store in Mexico City.

The most recent is a pop-up at the new La Samaritaine in Paris, located in the center of the ground floor, surrounded by the Dior, Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent and Gucci boutiques. “It’s good company,” she said.

Assouline produces more than 100 titles a year by insider authors on travel themes (“Gstaad Glam” was written by restaurateur Geoffrey Moore, son of actor Roger Moore); cities and towns (“Dubai Wonder” ships February 9); art, design and photography (“Art Deco Style” is new); “impossible” collections of yachts, watches and more.

It is also a tool for luxury fashion and jewelry brands to celebrate and perpetuate their legacy, even as they race to conquer the metaverse.

Coming in April, “Louis Vuitton Manufactures” offers a different perspective on the luxury home by highlighting its craftsmen. Out February 14, “Dior by John Galliano” chronicles the designer’s collections in the 1990s and early 2000s, in particular – and incredibly – without mentioning his dismissal and fall from grace after making racially insensitive remarks and anti-Semite.

The cover of “Dior John Galliano 1997-2011” published by Assouline.
Courtesy of Assouline

It’s no surprise considering that LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton – which owns Dior, Vuitton, Givenchy and La Samaritaine, to name a few – is a minority investor in Assouline, which often partners with brands on the books. (“John Galliano’s Dior” is the latest in a series that Dior and Assouline are making about the house’s couturiers and the fourteenth book the publisher has made with the house.)

“We regularly work with brands who understand its impact [a book] they can have as a gift for their clients or something that can live in their space as part of their brand, “Assouline said.” We are very excited about this book because we have been working on it for three and a half years with Andrew Bolton and Dior, “he said. said, noting that the first edition will be limited to 5,000 copies.

Alex Assouline on the business of

Assouline in La Samaritaine in Paris.
Courtesy

What has been particularly successful for Assouline are style books with an unusual vision, he said, naming 2014’s “Valentino: At the Emperor’s Table,” with an introduction by the late André Leon Talley, as an example. “He brought that look of table art and cooking and lifestyle through Valentino, who is a fashion icon, “he said, adding:” In the coming months we will be working on some things like that. “

The emphasis is always on elegant covers and luscious photographs, and he said, “95 percent of the time, it’s really an object.” As in, the book may not even be read. “This is what Proper figured out a few years ago, to devote our time and invest all our efforts on the packaging, creating those beautiful brightly colored covers … That’s why we started the travel series because this is not something that see from other groups, and to have them as collections for shelves or a coffee table ”.

Armchair breakout aside, when it comes to nurturing young clients, he has his work cut out for him. A 2020 Library Journal study found that Generation Z spend less time reading than previous generations, with 28% saying they rarely read for pleasure, compared to 6% of Generation X.

“People my age really enjoy books and tactile experience,” Assouline said, speaking for Millennials. “But Gen Z is different… Are they our customers? Not yet. It is important to understand how to speak to that new audience. To make them understand all these references it will be important to be transmitted through the books and in other mediums that I am working on and developing “.

Adding a digital component to the physical is a priority, perhaps through NFTs, “to bring that whole aspect of the storytelling and belong to our brand rather than just having a transactional aspect,” he said. They could be a natural complement to exaggerated tomes like the $ 4,900 edition of “Versailles: From Louis XIV to Jeff Koons”.

Someday there may even be an Assouline showcase in the metaverse. “Ever since I was a kid playing video games, the metaverse is something I understand the most,” said Assouline, who splits her time between New York and Paris, with a personal collection of 1,000 books in the mix. “Every brand in three years will need to have a digital component in the metaverse in order to be able to speak to another audience and portray their brand the way they want.”

IRL library design is the other aspect of the business it is looking to expand, for both private and commercial clients.

“I’m hiring a team,” he said. “In addition to being a book curator, we want to be an interior designer, bringing the carpet, the sofa and the coffee table. This is what really turns me on. I started working on brand partnerships, ”she said, citing the perfect reading chair and stool, plus vintage items and perhaps more clothing as opportunities. (In 2021, Assouline and Zara collaborated on a summer capsule collection for men inspired by the travel titles “Capri Dolce Vita”, “St. Tropez Soleil” and “Provence Glory.”)

“Every day in the company and in my work, I learn something new,” he said. “On the same day, I can work with a country, a luxury brand, a restaurant and work on a new destination. It keeps me going. “

A look at Zara's collaboration with Taschen.

A glimpse from Zara’s collaboration with Assouline.
Courtesy of Assouline.

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