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.

 Read more

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: 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.  Read more

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. Read more

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).

 Read more

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.) Read more

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? Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

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.

 Read more

After buying Hermes’ 45 per cent stake in Jean-Paul Gaultier last year and talking up its development potential, Spanish luxury group Puig has put yet more money where its mouth is and just announced the appointment of senior luxury executive Ralph Toledano to the newly created position of President of the fashion division. If you want to send a signal to the fashion community that you are intent on being a serious player, this is a pretty efficient way to do it.

 Read more

The question of how to balance virtual stores with bricks and mortar stores is a thorny one, with various theories fighting for dominance. Some say it’s all going virtual and point to the search for value (see the FT today, and the report on shoppers deserting the High Street for home pages), while others say things need to be felt to be appreciated, and point to the recent Zappos debacle as something that will also drive people back into stores (see many luxury executives). The only thing that’s clear is the lack of consensus on best strategy going forward, something that was brought home to me pretty tangibly thanks to two recent bits of information I stumbled onto.

 Read more

Today my colleague Andrew Hill has written a column about the controversy surrounding internet suffixes — and the companies that exploit them — and reading it I felt a startling sense of deja vue. Yesterday I was at a Financo Retail Seminar listening to Chris Burch bemoan the exact same issue, though from a somewhat different perspective, and in somewhat more colourful language.

 Read more

For an industry with its own calendar, that runs on a time six months to a year or more ahead of the norm, fashion in general has proven idiotically obtuse about technology. After being famously late to the etail and social media party, and then engaging in a headlong rush to the virtual when it was clear where consumer tides were going, now they are once again dragging their feet when it comes to mobile applications, as a new study from digital think tank L2 shows.
 Read more

If I have anything resembling a resolution when it comes to clothes, it is this: every purchase should have a purpose. It is not enough for me that I like something – in order to buy it, I need to know when I will wear it and what role it will play in my wardrobe.

The electorate in general may be voicing ambivalence about the current administration (though it’s unclear who the alternative will be, or what they will think of him), and Wall Street may be swinging toward Mitt Romney, but one sector, at least, is standing by the current President: Fashion. In this election, as in the last, a number of America’s highest profile designers have stood up to lend their names and creative skills to fund-raising for their candidate. Today Runway to Win, a web site created by the DNC and the Obama re-election committee, is “previewing” products from 23 designers, all working under their own names, not their brand names, whose proceeds will go toward the melee to come.
 Read more

In one of the more weirdly fabulous outside-the-box collaborations I have yet heard about, designer Jean-Paul Gaultier has teamed up with Dallas-based Dillon Gage Metals to create…a Gaultier one-ounce gold bar. Forget jewellery; he’s gone straight to the source.
Indeed, this is the first time a fashionista has plunged directly into the world of commodities itself, as opposed to what can be made from commodities. Read more

Last night’s various post-nomination speeches in New Hampshire were mesmerising, for a variety of reasons, from the ridiculous quotes (Ron Paul: “We ARE dangerous;” Jon Huntsman: “Third Place we’re on the hunt” — you have to wonder what genius strategist thought that one up) to the way battle for hearts and eyes is shaping up. The Republican stump style is solidifying.  Read more

Stella McCarthy Greene Street opening

The opening of Stella McCarthy's Greene Street store was a small, glamourous event

Last night Stella McCartney launched her pre-fall collection as well as a new New York store in SoHo at 112 Greene street — a bigger, more glamourous version of her former 14th street store — with a small, glamourous event: 50 or so people for dinner in the store at a long table with giant ice sculptures of the Empire State building on an island in the centre, surrounded by a river around which little vegetarian dishes floated. They had been “curated” by chef Mario Batali, which I guess means chosen, although it wasn’t entirely clear.

Gallery-owner Tony Shafrazi gave a toast extolling the store’s address as the home of various artists and musicians, and Ms McCartney laughingly apologised for turning the storied space into a “mere store” filled with shoes and bags and dresses. It was all very chic. Read more

This morning, looking at pictures of Kate Middleton in the black and white lace Alice Temperley gown she wore for her first royal film premier yesterday (Steven Speilberg’s “War Horse”), I was struck by the fact that it seems the Duchess of Cambridge only wears British designers for dress-up. There’s an interesting choice here.  Read more