Monthly Archives: July 2011

I admit it: I love a summer blockbuster. I can appreciate the allure of Eric Rohmer-school art-house talkies but, if I’m really honest with myself (and with you, too), it’s the explosive megaliths that get me every time. These are some of the few productions that still justify the whole big-screen-movie-going experience, as opposed to the relax-in-the-comfort-of-your-living-room experience. Surround sound! Flashing lights! The end of life as we know it!

It had to happen, I suppose. Post the huge-public-love-fest associated with the Kate Middelton/Prince William wedding, and the corresponding publicity and sales boost it delivered to many associated fashion brands from Alexander McQueen to Launer, maker of the Queen’s buttercup handbag, it seems every other English designer is hoping a royal nuptial association might have a similar knock-on effect. Any royal nuptial association.  Read more

Women’s wear daily is reporting today that PPR is in talks with Brioni about buying the Italian luxury brand. The PPR folk won’t comment, but I think this makes sense. Read more

Fashion can make allies of the most seemingly apposite of pairs. Last week, ex-US Secretary of the Treasury, current Harvard Prof and FT columnist Larry Summers announced that: “One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o’clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they’re looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole.” Then, yesterday, Peter Bingle, chairman of PR company Bell Pottinger, revealed in a blog that he had received “a letter informing me that my membership of Soho House and Shoreditch House was being revoked ‘effective immediately… because I have disregarded Soho House’s ‘casual dress code.’ I have been banned for wearing a suit!”

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Image of tributes to Amy Winehouse

Image by Getty

Today is Amy Winehouse’s funeral, and I hope, but am not convinced, the fashion world will acknowledge what it has lost.

She did, after all, provide the soundtrack to a season: just after her award-winning album “Back to Black” was released, when Rehab was the most popular track at fashion shows. I remember sitting in a Comme des Garcons collection listening to it; ditto Dior. If one song could work for both those brands, which stand for pretty diametrically opposed value systems (clothes as concept vs clothes as couture; clothes as challenge vs clothes as perfect costume), you knew it was something special. Read more

One of the more controversial, if obscure, practices in the fashion world is “sand-blasting”, the process by which sand is fired at denim at high speeds: pow, pow! While this can make the fabric look cool, it also releases silica dust which experts say can cause pulmonary disease. Good for the catwalk, not so good for the factory workers, as the Clean Clothes Campaign discovered, so last year it started asking brands, luxury and otherwise, to look at their production processes and do the right thing. Read more

Clamour for British brands among emerging market consumers has been the making of luxury brands like Burberry and Mulberry. The long-established British fashion houses have seen their share prices rise 93 per cent and 500 per cent respectively in the past year as overseas revenues soar.

Now another group of British entrepreneurs is looking to cash in. Known as The Brand Cellar, the London and Hong Kong-based group is busy snapping up what is calls “much loved, but dormant” British brands.

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I woke up this morning to two pieces of related, and interesting, news (news in my context, that is): first, Rebekah Brooks had NOT worn black after all yesterday in Parliament as I thought when I wrote about her on the day, but rather dark blue (my bad); and second, the heroine of the whole event was the woman in pink. Wendi Murdoch, who leapt to her husband’s defense and wacked his would-be “attacker,” is today’s hit of the blogosphere. Why does this matter? It points out the issues, good and bad, with the science of colour when it comes to dress and public appearance.
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So: for Rupert Murdoch, dark blue pinstripes, white shirt, blue tie with small pattern. For James, blue suit, white shirt, light blue tie with diagonal stripes. If I had bet on this, I would have done pretty well in the “what will the Murdochs wear?” sweepstakes. Read more

The thing I’m waiting for today is what Rupert and James Murdoch are going to wear to testify before Parliament. Appearance has played a not insignificant role in this drama: Rupert has, since his re-appearance in Britain to stem the scandal, been described as looking “old”; James as being less charming than his father thanks to his “Marine crewcut” (Newsweek) and little glasses; and Rebekah Brooks – well, let’s just say “hair.” If they were characters in a TV serial, these would be the distinguishing features noted by the script writers to encapsulate character.

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Go away for a week in July when things are supposed to be on a restful downward slump post-men’s wear, pre-collections, and couture, and what happens? Action! Kenzo has gone and appointed a new design team, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of US high hipster retailer Opening Ceremony to replace Antonio Marras; Harvey Weinstein and Sarah Jessica Parker have disengaged from Halston entirely; and Bernard Arnault has given an interview to Newsweek announcing the end of the “star designer.” If I was a paranoid conspiracy theorist, I might see all of these as related.

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Who knew lawyers could get so poetic about IP protection? Not me, which is why I wanted to share the following email message, from Susan Scafidi, academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School in New York. She is writing about new legislation, being discussed in the US House of Representatives, that would help to protect fashion designers from the jaw-droppingly fast ability of high street shops to pay immediate “homage” to their hit designs the day after said designs are shown on the runway/worn by an influential celeb. Read more

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wore Alexander McQueen again to the royal couple’s “hotly anticipated” black tie BAFTA dinner in L.A. As a super-secret dress choice, it was a little anti-climatic compared to the wedding reveal, but as a choice that could have meaningful repercussions for McQueen the business, it was pretty significant.

After all, you know the rule: once (the wedding) could be a fluke; twice (the sailor dress in Canada) is a coincidence; but three times (last night’s gown) makes a trend. And the winds of trend are indicating that the newest, most-photographed, royal family member has settled on McQueen as the brand that will define her style. Read more

Just so you know, that title is meant literally. If it read metaphorically, I might have had to say “the future of couture” or “the meaning of couture,” for this morning Azzedine Alaia — yes — ended the couture season and was effectively elevated from designer to national treasure.

Returning to the fashion calendar after eight years, he produced a no-frills (well, not literally; there were frills, tiers of them — but no bells and whistles) couture collection in front of an audience that included the French Minister of Education, the ambassador from Jordan, designers Marc Newson and Pierre Charpin, and women in more Alaia than I’ve ever seen, including in the Tunisian-born designer’s own store. And he demonstrated pretty effectively that couture is above all about the clothes, as opposed to concept or image or branding. Read more

Today, Jean-Paul Gaultier introduced a new idea to his women’s couture catwalk: men.

Interspersed with the models in extraordinary elegant feathered and silk creations were dudes in equally elaborate silk and velvet skirts, fur and feather capes, and some very startling beaded leggings. Read more

Chanel dethrones Napoleon - and replaces him with Coco. 

Well, not literally, but conceptually. Following their now-signature “more is more” approach to shows, Chanel recreated Place Vendôme inside the Grand Palais for its couture, complete with nine glass lamp-posts and a soaring neon-tuned plinth topped by - yes - a statue of Coco, instead of the Little Emperor. Not sure about that symbolism, really. What were they saying? We dream big? We are going to rule the world? We forgot pride goeth before a fall? Read more

I just learned something interesting: the made-to-order line is actually the biggest part of Loewe‘s clothing business. Granted, clothing as a category is only about 20 per cent of sales – the rest is leathergoods: handbags etc – but it’s still a notable fact.

Why? Well, if one were looking for, say, ad-hoc proof that consumers are still very interested in spending money on luxury goods, but they want to do so: 1) in privacy; 2) with discretion; and 3) on items with tangible value, well, this is the info you need. Read more

Today Christian Dior effectively opened the couture season with a “team” effort from the atelier under Bill Gaytten, John Galliano’s long term design director. There are earlier shows, but it’s the first big one.

A nice way to describe the result is to say it was a really good example of why a house needs a designer. Or more specifically, a point of view; an idea about what, exactly, it is doing and why. Read more

OK, John Galliano made her actual wedding dress, which was pretty, but also pretty unsurprising (inspired by the beautiful and damned Zelda Fitzgerald, who was also the theme of Kate Moss’s famous 30th birthday celebration). But – and this a big But — Stella McCartney made six – count ‘em! – dresses for the Kate Moss wedding extravaganza that began yesterday and is continuing through the weekend. Now, who do you think is going to get the most press pictures sent round the world, and thus the most profits?
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