Miss tweed
Astrid Wendlandt.

Introducing the untameable Miss Tweed

A rarity in the world of luxury, independent Paris-based media outlet Miss Tweed is an ad-free entity that prides itself on unbiased, quality stories from the fashion and luxury sectors.

A rarity in the world of luxury, independent Paris-based media outlet Miss Tweed is an ad-free entity that prides itself on unbiased, quality stories from the fashion and luxury sectors.

Founder and editor-in-chief Astrid Wendlandt launched Miss Tweed in 2020, receiving press accreditation from the French ministry of culture the same year and securing a €50,000 grant from the ministry in 2021.

Today seen as a leading source of breaking news, Ms Wendlandt explains Miss Tweed’s raison d’être to WatchPro and talks about her plans moving forward.

Interview by Tracey Llewellyn.

WP: You were already in demand as a reporter on the luxury industry. Why did you want to strike out on your own and start Miss Tweed?

AW: Before I launched Miss Tweed in 2020 I had written for news organisations such as Business of Fashion, The New York Times and Fashion Network.

I was European luxury goods correspondent at Reuters for 13 years and I left in 2017 to publish a book, How Luxury Conquered the World: The Inside Story of its Pioneers.

At a wire service, your stories have a shelf life of a few hours. I knew I had a lot more to say and I wanted to really sit down and provide analysis.

I felt that I had some insight to bring to the luxury industry. And that’s what this book was all about.

I wanted to launch my own media because I could see that everyone – even the venerable New York Times – depends on the advertising budgets of luxury brands, so most of the titles I was working for were effectively writing the stories that luxury brands asked them to write. That’s not what I call journalism.

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WP: So what is different with Miss Tweed?

AW: My mission – if we want to use that word – is to simply inform. There is an information war going on right now and right in front of us. We all saw it unfold with Trump.

There are so many AI trolls out there, and even without them you’ve got lots of malevolent people who are putting out fake news for the benefit of a group or an organisation, or to attack somebody or to seek revenge – it’s happening now at an unprecedented scale with the war in Ukraine.

That’s the sole aim of Miss Tweed – to inform readers of what is going on in the fashion and luxury industry. Within that, I have a great interest in the watch and jewellery industries and I follow those sectors closely as well. I think my subscribers know and feel that.

My main concern is to deliver what people want to read – not what the brand or somebody else is telling me to write.

I only work for my readers. I constantly ask in my head this question: ‘What do Miss Tweed’s subscribers want to read now?’ I own 100 per cent of Miss Tweed Publishing, so I am not accountable to anybody but my readers.

Such freedom may look enviable but in fact, it’s a huge responsibility. My main asset is my reputation and I am fully aware that I can lose it in 30 seconds.

So far, so good. I am very careful about the accuracy of my reports and the preservation of confidentiality of my sources.

Exactly how many subscribers I have is a bit of a secret, but let’s say that there are enough to give Miss Tweed enough money in the bank to want to hire and expand.

WP: So you believe that the information you provide can’t be found anywhere else?

AW: What I do is unique. I stay away from gossip – my readers are not interested in those kind of stories. My audience is made up of luxury industry CEOs, Wall Street analysts, luxury investors, private equity firms, hedge funders.

A lot of these people built up major positions in Kering or Richemont shares. They need reliable, verified information. That’s why they subscribe to Miss Tweed.

For example, I recently published in the weekly highlights yet another profit warning from Estée Lauder. It keeps issuing profit warning after profit warning. So, it begs the question: what is going on? They keep blaming China, but how is it that LVMH and L’Oréal – who are just as exposed as them to China – just published bumper results?

Investors are not buying the China excuse anymore. Calling a spade a spade, that’s what Miss Tweed is about.

Some CEOs who are Miss Tweed subscribers are also good sources. They trust me by now and know that if they want to try to control the information I am going to publish, it’s better that we have a chat.

To cut a long story short, I made a request to attend Watches and Wonders this year, which was refused.

WP: Many people see luxury reporting as frivolous and fluffy. Why did you decide that the industry needed this type of straight investigative reporting?

AW: I decided to concentrate on the luxury industry because of its sheer size and strategic importance. LVMH’s revenues for example are bigger than France’s education and defence budgets. LVMH has a market cap of $500 billion.

Fashion and luxury is worth more than the auto and aerospace industries in France, and the more powerful the companies grow, the more they control the media.

Bernard Arnault owns Le Parisien and Les Echos. Les Echos’ editor of 10 years Nicolas Barré recently left after the newspaper published a story about LVMH being raided by French tax authorities in 2019 and another that gave a positive review of a book that criticises Vincent Bolloré, the billionaire owner of media group Vivendi. [Arnault and Bolloré have reportedly signed a “non-aggression pact” agreeing not to publish negative stories about each other].

So they just chopped off Barré’s head.

I have had this confirmed by friends who work at Les Echos. And now Arnault wants to buy Paris Match.

So, little Miss Tweed is kind of a survivor, a David versus Goliath. But I’ve never been threatened. I’ve never been given a hard time by anybody – except for Richemont.

WP: What happened with Richemont?

AW: To cut a long story short, I made a request to attend Watches and Wonders this year, which was refused.

I had interviews lined up with several brands, so they put in a request for my attendance and I then got an invitation by email and a confirmation of my registration. On that basis, I planned lots of other things but when I arrived, I was told that my accreditation was no longer valid.

I was not happy as I was hosting an event in Val d’Isère five days later for 60 people and I could have done without the wasted three-hour train ride and having to pay for a hotel.

It’s OK to change things, and I understand that all of the maisons have to agree to a journalist being invited, but at least the organisers should have informed me. I found it quite disturbing that there was no reason given.

I was told that it was a directive from Richemont and nobody could go against it. If I had to guess, I would say that the problem lies with an article I wrote two or three years ago when I said that people were miserable working under Emmanuel Perrin [head of Richemont’s specialist watchmakers maisons] and they never forgave me for that.

Why would an activist investor go after Richemont but not want to buy the Swatch Group, which is more badly managed and has so many more governance issues?

WP: How do you feel about so much of the fate of luxury (including watches) lying in the hands of four big groups?

AW: This week I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s going to happen to the Swatch Group after the death of Marianne Hayek [wife of Swatch Group founder, the late Nicolas G Hayek] in April.

That’s something that Gregory Pons at Business Montres has been writing a lot about.

What will the consequences be? There are murmurs of a takeover from another group. Personally, I don’t think much will happen because I don’t think there’s enough friction among the remaining family members to force anything major.

I’m going to talk to some people, but why would an activist investor go after Richemont but not want to buy the Swatch Group, which is more badly managed and has so many more governance issues?

I am amazed that nobody has ever started a coup and tried to force them to sell Breguet or split the group with manufacturing on one side and the luxury brands on the other. But consensus among informed industry sources is nothing will happen.

Every week, I put out a scoop or an analysis and then you’ve got the weekly highlights which is a round-up of the previous week’s major events – they can range from a Paris Fashion Week review to a deal that was supposed to happen but didn’t, like the Agnelli/Armani deal.

Or, when Kering was taking forever to sell its watch brands [Girard-Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin] – I broke the story in July but the deal didn’t go through until the following January.

WP: You really came to the attention of the mainstream watch world when you broke the story last year about Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias leaving the company in 2023. People were quick to downplay the story but it turned out to be true. You also said that the new CEO would be a woman from outside of the industry. Again you were right.

AW: I don’t know much about Ilaria Resta [AP’s new CEO as of May 22] but I have to say that I do like the idea of new blood from outside of the industry.

Miss tweed audemars piguet ceo ilaria resta
Audemars Piguet CEO Ilaria Resta.

Look at Chanel. They took on Leena Nair as Global CEO last year. She was previously chief human resource officer at Unilever and everybody thought she was going to be a yes woman to Alain Wertheimer, Chanel’s executive chairman and controlling shareholder. But she’s much more hands-on than we think.

I find this whole concept of hiring from outside the industry refreshing. But how are you going to convince the veterans and purists?

WP: Is that a particular problem for the watch industry?

AW: LVMH took a long time to really gain respect and recognition in the Swiss watch industry. They were regarded as well-dressed outsiders and the Swiss watchmakers’ reaction was: ‘Who do you think you are?’

WP: As well as the editorial arm of Miss Tweed, you also host physical conferences?

AW: Luxury at the Summit is an annual event that happens just after Watches and Wonders in Val d’Isère. Luxury executives, investors, designers and consultants gather to exchange ideas.

It’s the whole ecosystem coming together and it’s wonderful.

Luxury at the summit 2023

You see a very different Miss Tweed in Val d’Isère. I don’t ask anybody any questions at all. I take care of my guests, and make sure that everything’s good, and I’m the moderator for most talks. People exchange freely. You don’t say the same things on a chairlift that you do in a boardroom.

Many people leave our summit with new projects and useful contacts. My heart was singing for days after the 2023 Summit because I felt that I gave so much fun and pleasure to people.

At the dinner we were 60. In the conference rooms, we were around 40-50. Last year, we were bit less and I want to keep it small so guests can really finish a conversation and get to know each other. If you go beyond 80, it becomes different.

I had people telling me this year “I haven’t danced like this in 10 years”, because we quite literally danced on the tables at the closing dinner. And at the end of the night, we privatised the lifts that take you up and down the mountain – people took bottles of champagne with them and the party continued.

There were a lot of really serious people there but there was no competition – big egos in the Alps really do get smaller, it’s like the gravity pulls them back down to earth and it’s a totally different spirit.

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