We hadn’t heard that Coach had poached a Vice President from Louis Vuitton, but the news came to us yesterday by way of a The Fashion Law post detailing Louis Vuitton North America’s new lawsuit against the American leather goods stalwart and one of its newest executives, Joon Ma. Apparently there’s some bad blood between the handbag giants.
According to The Fashion Law, Ma left her spot as Vice President of Canada and Bermuda in early April to take on a new role at Coach on April 28. LVNA believes that violates the six-month non-competition clause in her employment contract, which is often enough for a jilted employer to file a lawsuit in and of itself, but the rest of the details make things a little bit more interesting. LVNA claims that before leaving, Ma transferred confidential trade secrets about Louis Vuitton’s business and strategy to her personal accounts, and then tried to erase the evidence that those transfers happened.
From where I sit, there are two important points here: First, Louis Vuitton considers Coach a competitor. While the company may only admit to it in legal terms, it seems as though it wasn’t that long ago that LV probably wouldn’t have deigned to admit it at all, even for the benefit of suing someone. Second, Coach is very serious about making an upmarket swing under new creative director Stuart Vevers (who is, notably, also a former LVMH employee who left the company to go to Coach.)
LVMA is seeking damages, as well as a six-month timeout for Ma before she can start her new role at Coach. Although it remains to be seen how the lawsuit will transpire, we hope that Coach keeps in mind the plight of Mulberry, a brand that also went about poaching premier designer executives and raising prices, only to be frantically trying to undo the whole debacle two years later. Raising prices is a tricky task, especially for a brand with an ardent following that’s long been used to a friendlier price structure.