Monthly Archives: January 2012

The law passed last December by Mario Monti’s new technocratic government that limits cash transactions in Italy to EUROS 1000 and under has had some unexpected January repercussions on the fashion industry — or so I gathered at a recent, highy entertaining, lunch with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, aka Dolce & Gabbana.

 

By far the most exciting thing I saw last week during the couture in Paris wasn’t couture at all, but a web site that is launching today: www.honestby.com. The brainchild of Belgian designer Bruno Pieters, late of Hugo Boss, it is the most subversive etail initiative I have ever seen. I think it has the power to transform the fashion industry.  

A snowman wearing a CNN hat at Davos

A snowman at Davos yesterday. AFP/Getty Images

Reading the FT’s live blog from Davos as I sit warm in my hotel room in Paris (it is one of life’s cosmic jokes that Davos always coincides with that ultimate in 1 per cent consumer indulgence, couture), I was struck that among the debates on income inequality, critiques of Angela Merkel’s speech, and the growing concerns of the private equity folks about the end of their special tax status, one of the few topics everyone agreed on was the importance of hats.

Indeed, before the repercussions of George Soros’s lunchtime talk were analysed, his special hat was noted, and compared with the bigger furry hat of FT columnist Martin Wolf. Personally, however, I think both pale in comparison to the enormous furry gloves worn by Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP. 

Nathalie Rykiel (left) with designer April Crichton at Sonia Rykiel show. AFP/Getty Images

Nathalie Rykiel (left) with designer April Crichton at Sonia Rykiel show. AFP/Getty Images

Fung Brands Ltd just announced they were in exclusive negotiations to buy 80 per cent of French fashion house Sonia Rykiel, for an undisclosed price. Interesting.

This will be Fung Brands‘ first ready-to-wear acquisition since it was formed last year with Jean-Marc Loubier, latterly of LVMH and Celine, as chief executive. They’ve been moving pretty quickly, having already also bought French shoe brand Robert Clergerie, and Belgian luxury handbag house Delvaux. (Fung Brands is the subsidiary of Fung Capital, the private investment arm of the Fung family, which also owns the Asian manufacturing powerhouse Li & Fung).

 

In another example of the way statesmen have wised-up to fashion’s usefulness as an educational and promotional tool, today the United Nation’s Global Compact – the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, launched by the UN in 2000 – is announcing it’s first sector-specific initiative. And it is … wait for it … a joint venture with NICE, aka the Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical (yes, the acronym works better than what it stands for).

To be specific, it is a new set of business guidelines, “based on the UN Global Compact principles but formatted to a fashion and textile context (adding two to four fashion-specific principles on pressing issues such as chemicals, water, waste, jewellery/diamonds, animal rights/welfare),” according to Jonas Eder-Hansen of the Danish Fashion Institute. He says many small- and medium-sized companies simply don’t know how to make themselves sustainable, and this is conceived to clarify the situation. (Many of the big fashion and luxury groups in the big four fashion capitals of Paris, Milan, New York and London already have any similar rules in place internally; LVMH for one is a signatory to the Global Compact.) 

Yup: this is the view from my seat at Chanel, across the aisle. This couture season they created a whole Airbus interior inside the Grand Palais in Paris, complete with faux logo carpet, wheelie carts with orange juice and champagne, and a sky and cloud video that segued into earth from above moving across the ceiling.

Why? 

Phoebe Philo. Getty Images/AFP

Phoebe Philo. Getty Images/AFP

OK, I know that’s a bit of a misleading headline: LVMH LOVES a show. But between the extreme foot-dragging about signing a new creative force at Dior (which, technically, actually owns Paris-based LVMH, as opposed to the other way around, but for efficiency’s sake let’s acknowledge that those initials have come to stand for both), and today’s news that Celine, one of the group’s hottest brands, is not having a runway show during the upcoming ready-to-wear season because their designer, Phoebe Philo, will be eight months pregnant with her third child, it’s hard not to think that perhaps the luxury world’s biggest group may be itself rethinking the whole runway circus, and the cost/benefits involved. 

In the race to have the most connected catwalk — a race that has seen
Burberry sell direct-from-runway and Tweet each look as it appears, Dolce
and Gabbana live-stream the audience and the backstage preparations, and
every brand with a Facebook page host its show in real time — KCD, the
global publicity powerhouse, may have just trumped everyone. Today they are
announcing the “Digital Fashion Shows”, aka an “innovative information
delivery system”. Say that ten times fast. 

Let us pause to consider the sweater vest, that milquetoast item of men’s wear that is neither a sweater nor a vest but something soft and cuddly and in-between. Let us pause to consider the fact that it has become, bizarrely, a sartorial player in the current Republican primary contest. Has ever a piece of clothing seemed less likely to be a political tool?

In the battle about counterfeits and control of the web that has pitted Google, Facebook and their techneprenuer kin against content producers from Hollywood and the music industry, with congress apparently caught in the middle, little mention has been made of fashion — which is odd, because fashion, especially the luxury end, has been actively policing on-line piracy, and insisting on third party responsibility (eBay, Google) for years.