Monthly Archives: November 2011

The news that the dress Amy Winehouse wore on the cover of “Back to Black” just sold for an unexpected £43,200 (four times its estimate) is interesting. Not just because it’s a lot of money for a generally unremarkable, non-provenance, frock, but because of who bought it and what that signifies: Fundacion Museo De La Moda in Chile. Either Ms Winehouse enjoyed a surprisingly amount of popularity in that country, or there’s a new way of valuing fashion in the offing.

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The powers that be are spinning the British Fashion Awards as the triumph of the women — Victoria Beckham took home designer brand of the year; Stella McCartney, the red carpet award; Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton, designer of the year; Mary Katranzou, emerging talent — but as far as I am concerned the real stories are elsewhere. Of the above, only one, Katrantzou, shows in the UK. Meanwhile, two (Tabitha Simmons and Dellal) are actually shoe designers. And a third (Christopher Kane) won a new award invented for this year’s ceremony. Hmmmmm.

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British Fashion Awards 2011 - London. Sarah Burton with the Designer of the Year award. Credit: Ian West/PA Wire

Sarah Burton, Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards 2011. Ian West/PA Wire

Take a wild guess who won the designer of the year award at the British Fashion Awards last night. Yup, it was Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. A well deserved win, given her acclaimed royal wedding dress and the sensitive way in which she has interpreted Alexander McQueen’s legacy, but not really a surprise. It was the first of many not-really-a-surprises at the awards, held in London’s Savoy hotel, which is probably a good thing, indicating that there is a consensus behind which British names are ones to be confident about.

Mary Katrantzou, who won the Emerging Talent – Womenswear award, is fast becoming a highlight – if not the highlight – of London Fashion Week. Not only are her bold and unusual prints arresting, they are also tailored to be highly wearable and fairly commercial. The question of when a designer is no longer deemed to be emerging can be a problematic one though; there’s often no clear moment when they become – like a butterfly from a chrysalis – fully formed. Read more

The flagship superstore is getting yet another special feature: after cafes and restaurants (Armani, Gucci), concert halls (Chanel), bookstores (Marc Jacobs, Armani), and art galleries (LV), comes actual film theatres. Louis Vuitton has announced their new maison in Rome will “house a small cinema show casing art films from contemporary artists.” This is an arresting new development. Read more

Recently, I got an email from a reader asking: “Do you think things would have been different in Italy if Silvio Berlusconi had let his hair go naturally grey?”

By now it’s a truism of the Facebook age that social media allows relatively small brands or individuals to attain audiences far larger than they would traditionally have reached; the barriers to entry are so low, and the potential users so high. So it’s a bit of a shocker to see the latest study from L2, the digital think tank, which looked at small-to-mid-size European luxury fashion brands and their “digital IQ” (ie, how well they use the digital space for etail/communication/marketing) and discover they pretty much…suck.

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After the runaway viral success of his YouTube video for the Lanvin autumn/winter collection, designer Alber Elbaz has lent his hand to Claridge’s christmas cheer by creating their holiday tree. I feel a clever brand extension coming on.
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Yesterday, for the first time, Antonio Tajani, the European Commission’s VP for industry, met with a bunch of luxury companies like Chanel, Dior, Pucci, MaxMara and Harrods to talk about what the brands and the EU might be able to do for each other. Wait — the first time? Yes, weird as that may sound, after two years of lobbying, the ECCIA (European Cultural and Creative Industries Alliance) finally succeeded in getting Brussels’ attention. Read more

The London 2012 Olympics may not start until July, but Stella McCartney’s personal marathon begins in February. The designer, who is creating the uniforms for Team GB, has agreed to return to London Fashion Week for a one-off extravaganza on February 18. This follows a pre-collection presentation in NY in January and a perfume launch, and precedes her usual autumn/winter collection show in Paris. Expect drumrolls of pre-publicity, fights for tickets, clogged thoroughfares — expect, in other words, an effective dry run for the Olympics proper. Especially when it comes to competition.

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I spend a lot of time harping on the importance of clothes and fashion as symbols we use to communicate various points about ourselves and what we think/believe, but I’m not the only one: recently Liberty, the UK-based civil rights group, nominated a 13-year-old schoolboy from Cambridgeshire for their award for Human Rights Young Person of the Year. The reason? He wore a skirt to school for two days as an act of protest.

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And so the wait is over, the bated breath unbated, the quick-beating hearts slowed to normal speed. Breaking Dawn, the first half of the final instalment of the lust ’n’ longing, vamps-as-metaphor series Twilight has hit movie screens, and the third-most anticipated wedding dress of the year has been revealed. Yes, after the Kates, Middleton and Moss, we have … Kristen! Well, OK, Bella.

An interesting policy shift is creeping through the luxury industry: from being terrified of talking about their environmental/CSR initiatives except in the most covert whispers, slowly a number of voices are being raised.
Following PPR’s announcement that they were creating an “environmental profit & loss account” for Puma, today Tiffany & Co unveiled a new web site dedicated to their CSR policies. Read more

Moda Operandi, the new e-commerce site that allows consumers to order whatever they want from a designer’s collection straight from the runway, full price, for delivery months in the future, is upscaling yet again: they have just lured away Net-a-Porter’s US head of marketing and sales, Ashley Bryan, to become their chief marketing officer. That’s a doubling of senior staff in a week. And, as the Once-ler says in “The Lorax,” MO plans to go on “biggering and biggering and biggering.”

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The Chambre Syndicale, French fashion’s governing body, has just announced Versace is returning to the couture schedule eight years after leaving it due to cutbacks. Is this good news? Or rather, is it enough good news?
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Yesterday Emilia Wickstead, the woman who has been one of the more consistent, and under-the-radar crafters of Samantha Cameron’s image as British First Lady, turned up in my office. She was in town to meet Bergdorf Goodman, with an eye toward breaking the market overseas. So far, so typical for any UK designer with ambitions to extend her association with global power players. But interestingly she had some atypical ideas for how to do it.
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Not so long ago I spoke to Tamara Mellon about Labelux, the German luxury group that is privately owned by the reclusive Reimann family, and the fact they had bought her company, Jimmy Choo, from TowerBrook private equity. She was thrilled. And yet, here we are, a mere half year later, and Ms Mellon and her CEO, Josh Schulman, have both resigned. What happened?

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One of the prime complaints about the ever-burgeoning Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement that has gripped cities worldwide from London to Ljubljana and Reykjavik to Rio since it started in the summer in New York, has been the diversity of its protest. Yes, it’s about that whole 1 per cent versus 99 per cent thing, and bankers and bonuses, but also education, healthcare, taxes, public transport – you name the cause, it seems to be in there. Non-sympathisers, unclear about the overall aim of the movement, whine that they are confused.

Art and fashion have had a notoriously long affair, with the former attracted to the glamour and glitz of the latter, and the latter attracted to the former for the creative legitimacy it can bestow on an essentially commercial endeavor, but rarely has one actually crossed over into the territory of the other. As of this Christmas season, however, Marc Quinn — he of Saatchi Young British Artists, “blood head”, and Traflager Square plinth/disabled marble bust fame – is breaking the rules.

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OK, I know he’s in the line of fire on the whole News Corp hacking scandal, but isn’t this a bit obvious? Today, as he testified for the second time before Parliament, James Murdoch, deputy COO of News Corp, accessorized his traditional navy suit, white shirt, and poppy with…an army green tie. The first army green tie I think I have ever seen in the halls of Westminster.

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Things are heating up in a funny old corner of the world: West Hollywood, where the anti-fur movement and retailers are going to war. Yesterday the City Council, or three out of its five members, voted in favor of making it the first city in The Whole United States to ban the sale of fur. They are PETA superheroes!

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