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Prada Theories, WME Fashion Whispers & Net-a-Porter Murmurs – Puck

Hi, and welcome back to Line Sheet. I’m in the home stretch of this New York trip. I’ll be back soon, I’m sure. I can’t believe the cost of cabs these days.

Last night, I canceled three meetings uptown to squeeze in an extra hour of work (I know, it doesn’t compute), tried to get a manicure at Jin Soon (booked solid, bless them), then headed over to Genesis House for a dinner hosted by Alina Cho in honor of Cate Holstein, who was wearing a beautiful striped blouse of her own design. Vanessa Traina, Lauren Santo Domingo, and Khaite C.E.O. Brigitte Kleine were all there, too, looking fabulous. The food was very good, and Cate and I discussed the greatness of Rebecca Ramsey, and Nicole Phelps and I somehow managed to get into it about The Idea of You with Cate’s husband (and store architect) Griffin Frazen. (I hope he doesn’t mind me revealing that he liked it!) It was a perfect post-Met dinner with the most New York fashion brand.

🚨🚨 Programming note: Tomorrow on Fashion People, I talk with High Sport founder Alissa Zachary—who actually used to work at Khaite—about why everyone is so obsessed with her and her stretchy pants. Subscribe here.

Also: If you’re reading this huddled over your boss’s computer because you’re worried I’ll be able to tell that she’s been forwarding my work to you… you should be worried. I am coming for you! Why not organize a group subscription instead of behaving so reprehensibly? Email for more details. Or just sign up here.

Mentioned in this issue: Susan Plagemann, IMG Models, Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada, Armani, Bella Hadid, Ivan Bart, How Long Gone, Victoria’s Secret, Carolyn Murphy, Shalom Harlow, Amber Valletta, WME Fashion, NYFW, Net-a-Porter,, Kering, LVMH, the Wertheimers, Chanel, and many more…

Anyway, absolutely no one should be surprised by the younger Bertelli’s remark. Remember, Prada is preparing for its debut on the Milan Stock Exchange, and it’ll need to continue to figure out ways to increase shareholder value that don’t require an 89 percent jump in sales at Miu Miu every quarter.

Don’t forget, though, that 25 years ago, Prada did try to build a group to rival a then-nascent LVMH and Kering—picking up Jil Sander, Helmut Lang, and Church’s. It kept the English brogue-maker but sold off Jil Sander and Helmut Lang within a few years. (There’s a great 2005 piece by Eric Wilson, my all-time favorite Styles writer, about what happened. In short: It wasn’t easy for Patrizio Bertelli to deal with creatives like Lang and Sander.) Building a group now, given the market dominance of LVMH, is obviously even more challenging. But perhaps the Bertellis see an opening for a pure-play fashion group as LVMH moves further into the lifestyle business and Kering shakes off its demons.

As for whether Armani would be a good first move: They like to call a brand like that a “sleeping giant”—i.e., the bones are there for it to be far bigger than it is. However, it’s a clothing business, not an accessories one, and it’ll take a lot of work to adjust those priorities. I’d be more interested in seeing a Kering-Prada Group merger—it would give everyone involved a real fighting chance. As for that pesky rumor about the Wertheimers being interested in acquiring Prada? I still think it’s a good idea. Actually, Kering-Prada-Chanel altogether is the best idea.

But fashion being fashion, the take-private was the latest in a growing litany of grievances, both real and imagined, swirling around WME Fashion. The fashion group, after all, was already undergoing a significant and long-overdue restructuring, starting with the hiring of former Condé Nast executive Susan D. Plagemann as president. Since her arrival, in 2022, Plagemann had shuffled staff, reorganized divisions, and eliminated others, all in the name of focus. Alas, fashion people don’t like change, and there have been audible rumblings. But as the fashion world corporatizes—migrating from a madcap collection of family-run firms to modern C.P.G. conglomerates—the agencies needed to do the same. (Disclosure: WME represents Puck. I’m represented by UTA for book-related stuff.)

The heart of the matter, according to the aggrieved, was that Bart was the glue that held IMG together. Many of the models who left were Bart’s loyal clients, so in many cases there probably wasn’t much IMG could do to keep them. And there’s no doubt that WME higher-ups expected to lose clients when Bart stepped down. A representative shared the following statement with me from WME co-chair Christian Muirhead: “We are invested in the future of our fashion portfolio and will continue to make necessary changes that anticipate the evolving landscape to best meet the needs of the clients and partners we serve.”

Plagemann has made branding WME Fashion a major component of her role, even running an advertising campaign featuring the company’s talent roster during New York Fashion Week. Jeni Rose, a longtime Bart deputy, and The Wall Group’s Kate Stirling and Ali Bird, were elevated to manage the stylist and modeling businesses under Plagemann, which they have done profitably. A few months later, Plagemann hired her own girl, Sally Singer, to run Art + Commerce, with the idea that the former Vogue creative’s deep industry connections would be enough to keep that network of photographers and art directors happy.

Plagemann’s directive was likely to standardize these niche businesses to better mirror WME, the talent agency and the main revenue generator in Endeavor’s $1.5 billion representation portfolio. It wasn’t always going to be an easy fit, however. Talent representation is pretty straightforward: You book a talent on a job, and earn a 10 percent commission. Modeling agencies are muddier: Agent-manager hybrids can earn anywhere from 5 to 30 percent. Models also tend to start when they are very young, and so people like Bart serve as parental figures, adding to the complexity of the relationship.

Recently, she sent an email to the division sharing a Bloomberg article about Kering’s financial slump, asking the team to share ideas on how WME could help support the French luxury group. “An important read for everyone given our relationship to not only Kering and LVMH, but all beauty, fashion, and luxury,” she wrote. “Earnings are being posted so this is a time to lean in and think about how we can all be solutions-oriented to these companies. It’s clear they need ideas.”

For years, agencies have tried to contort themselves as brand advisors, using their elan and expertise to extract retainer fees. Plagemann is really only doing what other executives across the business do. But these sorts of directives have nevertheless rubbed some critics and lifers the wrong way. “She doesn’t understand that the employees of WME Fashion are not consultants, but rather managers and agents that should be more focused on booking their talent than thinking of strategies for other organizations,” one person said. “She’s trying to turn the division into a Condé Nast publishing company, which is far from what made all the divisions of WME Fashion successful.”

Meanwhile, IMG Models has been reconfigured to look nothing like a traditional modeling agency, even discarding the traditional concept of modeling boards, wherein agencies typically have a main board for top talent, a development board for up-and-comers, etcetera. Today, IMG employees are instead divided into “pods of excellency,” grouping teams by their role rather than the types of talent they represent. Some industry observers have asked if WME should simply absorb the IMG Models roster into its own since there are few models left who generate enough money to justify the work that goes into a 10 percent commission.

Naturally, as Plagemann reorganizes WME Fashion into a more modern structure, plenty of people have wondered if all its shingles should be absorbed into WME. For now, though, management seems to have decided that the names are important enough to keep, and the services are distinctive enough to require unique branding. In the past few years, Hollywood has finally realized how lucrative fashion can be, in part because its core business is dwindling. But there are few people working in Hollywood who understand the nuances of fashion. And Plagemann, who spent most of her career selling the easiest media brand to sell—Vogue—happens to be one of them.

Tapestry says that the F.T.C. lawsuit against the merger with Capri “makes no sense.” [WWD]

Zalando is reportedly putting money in to help get the Saks-Neimans deal completed. [WWD]

Interesting that Richemont bought Vhernier, because there were some false Italian reports last summer linking the jeweler to Kering. [WWD]

Amanda and Juliet are the last word on Met Gala fashion. (No, really, let’s stop talking about it now.) [Jam Session]

One last thing, actually. Tory Burch did the Met theme justice in a Sarah Burton-designed Alexander McQueen dress, from her own closet, at the gala. Also, listen to her on Pete Nordstrom’s podcast. [Nordy Pod]

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