Monthly Archives: October 2011

To a certain extent every national leader is in a form of costume every day of their term, but today this issue takes on a very specific meaning. Tonight, after all, thousands of children will dress up like everything from Leonid Brezhnev to Ninja turtles and though in 2009 the White House joined in the fun, with Michelle Obama dressing up like a cat complete with spotty ears and painted-on whiskers, this year, celebrating three days early, she opted for almost no costume at all. It’s a telling evolution.

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Early in October I was sitting in the Valentino show waiting for it to start, as one does, happily reading my Kindle to while away the time, as I do, when the fashion person sitting next to me leaned over and said: “What are you reading?” I showed him: it was Worth Dying For by Lee Child. “Vanessa!” he said, “you have hidden shallows!”

Frida Giannini, the creative director of Gucci, and Patrizio di Marco, the chief executive, are in the ornate restaurant of the George V hotel in Paris, posing for a portrait. They look uncomfortable. First they try standing near the marble columns, then they perch on a gilded sofa, Ms Giannini in front, Mr di Marco lounging behind. Finally Mr di Marco, fed up with the whole thing, rolls his eyes, sticks out his tongue and splays his hands wide. “Come on!” he groans.

In an example of truly portentous timing, just as the Chinese become potential players in the rescue of the Eurozone, Walpole, the British consortium of luxury brands (supported in part by this newspaper) announces they are awarding their 2011 medal of excellence, which is to say, their highest accolade, to…Dr Christopher Cheng, the Hong Kong-based property mogul and owner of Gieves & Hawkes.

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At the make-or-break Eurozone economic summit in Brussels yesterday, there may have been vociferous debate about what to do to solve the EU’s financial problems, but on one subject at least there was surprsing unanimity: what to wear to telegraph your feelings. Read more

You know that three’s-a-trend rule? Well, note FOUR recent events in four different countries, beginning with the Van Cleef and Arpels announcement of “L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels,” and the Instituto Marangoni and Ermenegildo Zegna announcement of the renewal of their Masters in Menswear. School, school everywhere! Read more

Last night Ralph Lauren was on stage at Alice Tully Hall being interviewed/memorialised for posterity by Oprah Winfrey. The nominal reason was a benefit event for Lincoln Center and the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, and the great and the good attended: Larry Gagosian, Bruce Weber, Jill Ambramson, Barbara Walters, and so on. The thing that really made the evening for me, however, were two comments buried in the interview. They reveal quite a lot not just about Mr Lauren, but fashion in general.

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More details are emerging about Karl Lagerfeld — aka “Kaiser Karl,” he of the white-powdered ponytail, high-necked white shirt, leather gloves, and Chanel fame — and his new business, which for the last year has been code-named “Masstige.” It has now been christened…wait for it!…Karl. But there’s more.

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I am sitting at my desk, looking at a pile of three new books. So far, so normal. But consider the titles of the books: Chanel: an Intimate Life (by Lisa Chaney, 2011); Intimate Chanel (Isabelle Fiemeyer, 2011); Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War (Hal Vaughan, 2011). Plus, as it happens, these three are actually sitting atop two other books I received last year: Coco Chanel, the Legend and the Life (Justine Picardie, 2010) and Dreaming of Chanel (Charlotte Smith, 2010). Notice anything?

The Dior third quarter 2011 results are in and, contrary to what everyone predicted back in March when Dior designer John Galliano was fired for saying bad stuff, they are good. In fact, they are very good. What do we make of this? The conclusions, it seems to me, are pretty obvious.

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As the fight against counterfeits gets ever more pressing – as the need to protect trademarks and intellectual property, including fashion design, gets ever more obsessive, sparked by economic fears and a sense of waning consumer confidence – law makers are getting ever more involved. Today I discovered, via Harbottle & Lewis, that the UK patent office has created a “once in a generation opportunity to reform UK design laws and make them more suitable to protect Britain’s design community.” Wow. Read more

Though in many ways the brands mentioned in the headline – Hermès and Donald Trump – are what one would think of (OK, I would think of) as polar opposites, the former being famous for its discrete elegance, the latter being famous for its in-your-face 24-carat bluster, they are nevertheless setting up house together in … the Philippines. Below is a rendering of their love nest.

Century Properties

The relationship was brokered by Robbie Antonio, managing director of Century Properties, and the man behind what is increasingly looking like a mini fashion-city in Manila: high-rise condos with public areas (lobbies, libraries, pools) and apartments decorated by Versace, Missoni (both Italian labels) and now Hermès. He already had a licence deal with Trump on the table to build Trump Tower Manila (the building is owned and operated by Century), which will become the most luxurious, expensive, property in the city, and thought, he said, it would be great to have “two very formidable brands involved in the most important single tower.” He approached Hermès, which had recently launched a furniture line, and the French brand agreed to create the building’s shared spaces. Read more

Could the above statement be true? It seems difficult to believe, but the numbers – at least numbers published today to the industry by Bain & Co, the consulting firm, in its 10th annual Worldwide Luxury Goods Market study (on general release later this week) – seem to say yes.

Consider: according to the Bain report, 2011 is going to be a record-setting year for the luxury market. Yes, you read that right. Bain predicts the industry will increase by 10 per cent beyond its current value of sales, which it estimates at €173bn. That would be growth of 13 per cent over 2009.

What’s more, the strongest markets are not just China (as expected), but also the Americas and western Europe, with sales in Europe up 10 per cent and those in the Americas 16 per cent higher. Put another way: the two most beleaguered global areas where the jobless numbers have risen are the places where someone (tourists?) are spending. A lot. Especially on high-margin watches and jewellery.

Weird, right? Read more

I arrived home from the Paris fashion shows last week to hear the news that Steve Jobs had died. Strangely, in all the thousands of pages devoted to Jobs since then – including a 25-slide pictorial ode to Jobs’ turtlenecks on the Huffington Post – there has been surprisingly little attention paid to his influence on fashion. Design, yes; industrial design, you betcha. But fashion, no.

In response to DVF’s “open letter to the fashion community” on Monday about the 2012 September fashion week dates comes a response letter today from Mario Boselli, in which he explains his side of the story. This is getting personal!

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You’ve heard of eco-tourism, and experience tourism? Well, in a new report entitled “Around the world,” HSBC has identified yet another sub-niche in the industry: accessories tourism, or the tendency of the emerging consumer to plan their trips according to where the handbags are cheapest.
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The next big spring Costume exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – the one that has the difficult job of following in the footsteps of “Savage Beauty,” this year’s Alexander McQueen show that broke every record for a costume show – will focus on Elsa Schiaparelli, the surreal designer from the 1930s, and Miuccia Prada, the intellectual of the late 20th/21st century, and be underwritten by none other than Amazon. This makes it the first costume show not to be sponsored by a fashion brand. Unless…Amazon wants people to think of it as a fashion brand?

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It may have been sunny outside for the last week, but behind the fashion scenes it’s been seriously stormy, as Steven Kolb, president of the CFDA, and his counterpart in Milan, Maro Boselli, president of the Camera Nazionale, battle via email over when next year’s fashion weeks would take place. Now Diane von Furstenberg has stepped in to calm everyone down via an “open letter to the fashion community.” The essence: fashion is global (big), so let’s stop acting local (small). But is this true? The events of the last week seems to put this into question.

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Sir Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell

Image by Getty.

Nancy Shevell

Image by Getty.

Ah, the difference a dress makes — at least when it comes to a designer’s family politics.

Though Stella McCartney had nothing to do with stepmother #1 Heather Mills’ wedding dress (that lace number was designed by Ms Mills herself), hence telegraphing the lack of common ground between the two, she very happily lent her skills to creating the dress of stepmother #2, Nancy Shevell, as worn on Sunday to Ms Shevell’s registry office wedding to Sir Paul in London.

Indeed, Ms McCartney has a history of making dresses for her friends: she created the gown for Madonna’s wedding for Guy Ritchie, as well as six of the outfits Kate Moss wore during her wedding weekend in July. Read more

Today, I have learnt an important lesson: when it comes to fashion, last week’s inside joke is this week’s exciting new initiative. After all, there I was a few days ago, giggling with a friend about the Kanye West show, saying “Why did he want to start a fashion line? He’s just a great singer; it would be like Karl Lagerfeld wanting to be a rapper”, when, lo and behold, the information arrives: Burberry is releasing a single: “Rose Unplugged at Abbey Road for Burberry.”

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