You may have never heard of a company called Design Holding. That’s OK. Even its CEO, European luxury veteran Daniel Lalonde, doesn’t mind. “It’s not important for our end consumer to understand that all our brands are in the same group,” he tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. What is important? That those brands themselves—a fast-growing group including Flos, B&B Italia, Louis Poulsen, Fendi Casa, Maxalto and Lumens, among others—become, as Lalonde puts it, “big, global, desirable brands.”
Born out of a joint venture between two powerhouse private equity firms, Design Holding began in 2018 with the merging of B&B Italia, Flos and Louis Poulsen under one corporate umbrella. Since then, the group has been on an acquisition tear, snapping up seven brands to reach a total of 10 today. The ultimate goal, says Lalonde, is to become the first truly global portfolio of luxury design brands—something akin to the LVMH of home.
It’ll take a lot of work, and Lalonde describes an aggressive business strategy, ranging from better direct-to-consumer sales to expansion into China and within the U.S., along with a bigger brick-and-mortar fleet (Design Holding has been piloting a retail store that showcases all of its brands under one roof). “I think the high-end design segment will change over time,” he says. “And we as leaders have a responsibility to make that change—get closer to consumers, look at global markets and modern ways to communicate. … But we have a long way to go, and I want to accelerate that.”
Designers, says Lalonde, are a key customer—though he expresses some desire to move away from trade discounts as a default pricing model, and toward one-price-fits-all transparency. “I’d like to go back to my Louis Vuitton playbook where there’s never any discount for anyone anytime. That’s the ultimate luxury brand. You go even further, like Hermès—you’re lucky if you can even get in the line to buy a product they will deliver a year from today,” he says, laughing. “I’m not saying we’re there. There’s no magic solution today, but the ambition we have is to make that whole equation much more transparent and fair than it is potentially today.”
Of all the changes Lalonde is hoping to make, tweaking the portfolio brands is not one of them. Indeed, the entire premise of Design Holding, he says, is to preserve and leverage the heritage of its brands—a quality that can’t be faked or rushed to market. “There need to be stories of the past, a founding act, and you need to build that,” he says. “To create a luxury brand, in my view, takes time.”
Homepage image: Daniel Lalonde | Courtesy of Design Holding