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A New Tell-All About the Luxury Industry

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PARIS — This fashion week, Philippe Vasset, editor in chief of Glitz Paris, isn’t expecting any front-row seats. His new feather-ruffling publication, however, probably will show up in a few.

Glitz, a digital newsletter focused on exposing the inner workings of the luxury business, is scheduled to debut officially on Thursday, published weekly in French and in English. But during the Paris shows it also is to appear in print, handed out free of charge near selected fashion venues. And posters for an introductory advertising campaign already are plastered on kiosks all over the city.

Brands are on notice.

Luxury, and fashion in particular, is a brand-new world for Mr. Vasset, 50, who dresses more like a disheveled Left Bank intellectual than a cashmere-clad clotheshorse. Since 1999 he has been reporting on the shadowy world of intelligence and other hard-core subjects like mining for Glitz’s parent company, Indigo Publications. He also he briefly spent some of his early working career as a corporate detective.

“Our publications are focused on closed worlds, and the threshold to getting information and getting into those worlds is very high,” he said during an interview at Indigo’s headquarters, a suite of offices in the Second Arrondissement with slate-gray accent walls, armchairs in acid yellow and stools in magenta. The décor included both a vintage Olivetti typewriter and a crimson “Godfather” movie poster with the line, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

“We ventured into luxury,” Mr. Vasset said, “because it looked like a sector for us: closed, family-run, with very little available information and obsessive control about reputation. That’s the type of environment we thrive in.

“To us, it’s the same thing as covering coups in Mali or spies in China,” he added. “I’ve gone from coups to spies to handbags.”

What appealed to him most about infiltrating the industry, he said, was that “it’s a commodity in many otherwise different spheres. Watches and jewelry cut through various universes from oil dealers to arms traders to oligarchs vacationing on the Riviera.”

As a title, Glitz may ring more gossip rag than hard-hitting media, but the teaser stories it already has posted online are detailed financial and business articles and, according to Indigo, its target audience ranges from luxury consultants to media outlets. On its website, Glitz calls itself “the first investigative publication dedicated to the global luxury sector,” a market that, according to a recent report by Bain & Company, could surpass $300 billion this year.

The only criteria for choosing a story to cover, Mr. Vasset said, is that “no one else is writing about it.”

Indigo, a French media group founded in 1981, also produces three other niche newsletters: Intelligence Online, about the international intelligence community; Africa Intelligence and La Lettre A, about political, economic and media power players in France. Like the other newsletters, the Glitz website said, the new newsletter will be financed entirely by subscriptions, starting at 500 euros ($485) a year for individuals and a top rate of about €10,000 for corporate subscriptions of 50 readers or more. It does not accept advertising.

“We realized that virtually every single other publication had ties, one way or the other, to the industry,” Mr. Vasset said. “We thought there was room to cover luxury as you would the arms or the chemical industry.” 

And referring to the industry practice of “gifting” — brands sending products to influencers and editors in the hopes that they will wear them and in effect become free advertisements — he said: “It’s not like people covering chemicals get bottles of sulfuric acid as gifts.” 

Luca Solca, a luxury analyst at the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein, said Glitz’s approach may be a good one: “The industry needs disenchanted viewpoints.”

During the summer, Glitz quietly opened accounts on Twitter and Instagram and began posting teasers. Free stories were emailed to Indigo’s existing database of nearly 300,000 subscribers, said Quentin Botbol, Indigo’s chief executive and majority shareholder, and a son of the company founder Maurice Botbol.

One of the initial stories, posted and emailed earlier this month, was a three-part series detailing how the French luxury giant Chanel has been discreetly restructured into a British entity, a complex repositioning that Glitz said involved moving some offshore holdings and was linked to succession planning (There are no bylines on Glitz articles; Mr. Vasset said he ultimately is responsible for everything that is published).

Chanel’s global head of corporate communication, Kathrin Schurrer, declined to comment on the story, which appears in its entirety in the print issue. Other articles describe the legal battle between the rival luxury conglomerates LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Richemont over the use of the name “Vendôme” and how a recent legal decision against Ferragamo’s French subsidiary could have repercussions across the country’s retail sector in terms of tax reporting — and avoidance.

Delving into all that glitters — the industry’s strategies, power dynamics, cash flows and succession plans — had been on Indigo’s project list for a long time. And while Glitz has been in the works for two years, Mr. Vasset said, he still has a learning curve.

“When I was doing Africa or Intelligence Online,” he noted, “lawsuits were constant. I’m discovering that in the luxury world, people don’t bring you to court. That would be vulgar.”

Nevertheless, “they make their presence known,” he said — but declined to elaborate.

Mr. Botbol said Glitz represented an investment of “a few million euros,” and that he expected the publication to break even in four or five years. But before that, he said, Indigo plans to turn the weekly newsletter into a daily in 2024.

Bruno-Roland Bernard, a lecturer on financial and luxury management at the Institut Français de la Mode in Paris and a former group corporate communications director for LVMH and Yoox Net-a-Porter, said he thought Glitz will have much to report.

“Luxury is a very dynamic industry and there’s a lot of naïveté about how it works, so there will always be lots to say,” Mr. Bernard said.

Mr. Botbol and Mr. Vasset said they are building a 15-member team for Glitz, hiring reporters who can lure people into talking. “I think we’re going to have fun,” Mr. Vasset said.

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