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Haute Shots

Lina Khan
According to the F.T.C., if the Tapestry-Capri merger goes through, the combined entity would control more than 50 percent of the “accessible luxury” market, possibly leading the way to higher prices, fewer discounts and promotions, reduced innovation, and depressed employee wages and workplace benefits. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
May 20, 2024

Three years into Joe Biden’s presidency, his neo-Brandeis antitrust brain trust has much to celebrate. From thwarting mergers like JetBlue-Spirit and Adobe-Figma to cracking down on noncompetes and junk fees, they’ve made Wall Street Journal op-ed writers apoplectic. For a victory lap this Tuesday, they’ll take center stage at the Anti-Monopoly Summit at the Westin Hotel in Washington, D.C., where the headliners will be Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, chair of U.S. Council of Economic Advisers Jared Bernstein, and of course, F.T.C. chair Lina Khan. Attendees, if they have any sense of humor, might tote this season’s hottest antitrust accessory—a stylish, mid-priced handbag.

Last month, after all, the F.T.C. filed suit to block the $8.5 billion merger of luxury fashion conglomerates Tapestry and Capri, prompting all sorts of groaning and eye-rolling from the fashion industry, which contends that the très gauche antitrust crew doesn’t understand a thing about how the luxury business actually works. For starters, of course, the market features hundreds of brands, fickle consumer tastes, and a low barrier to entry. Nevertheless, the F.T.C. has determined that the corporate marriage of the Tapestry brands (Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman) with Capri (Michael Kors, Versace, and Jimmy Choo) is too haute to handle. The agency’s complaint highlights how these brands compete in everything from “clothing to eyewear to shoes,” but the real crux of the case revolves around what the feds are calling the “accessible luxury handbag” market.