Monthly Archives: February 2012

CEOs say the darnedest things. Recently I was chatting with Frederic Torloting, the new co-owner of Courreges, as we examined their first collection of re-issued dresses from the archives in new materials and slightly new proportions, when he mentioned that he believed all these people buying up old houses and relaunching them thought about the product in the wrong way.

“This isn’t a dress,” he said, pointing at a – well, it looked like a dress to me. Albeit one with very cool clear vinyl circles inserted at various points along the side. I raised my eyebrows. “It’s a design object,” he said. “And it needs to be marketed as such.” 

As I was leaving Italy after Milan Fashion Week, I was chatting to Guglielmo Miani, the young-ish CEO of Larusmiani, a family-owned manufacturer of luxurious materials, when he let drop an interesting fact. Last week the Italian government quietly changed the law it passed in November that banned retail establishments from accepting more than €1,000 in cash. Surprise!

What changed?

Now, retail establishments have no limit on the cash they can accept from foreigners, as long as they take a photocopy of said foreigner’s passport. I’ll say that again: no limit. Italians are still restricted to €1,000. 

We Are All Guilty for this Mess,” according to Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune. In a heartfelt piece in her newspaper, my fellow Fashion Week traveller and friend took the fashion industry (herself included) to task for the very public soap opera that is the current round of designer switcheroos, in which bystanders gossip and place bets and tweet about real jobs and real people like they are characters in a reality television game.

It’s tough and honest and has people buzzing at the shows, and I recommend you read it, but I’m also not sure I entirely agree with it. I think she’s right about the situation, but doesn’t fully get to the cause. 

Stefano Pilati

Stefano Pilati. Image by Getty.

And so yet another designer departure is official: Stefano Pilati is leaving Yves Saint Laurent. Finally, the years of rumours about his impending demise (at the house, natch, not really) can stop! They are no longer exaggerated!

The timing of this announcement was as weird as that of Raf Simons’ recent departure from Jil Sander – this one comes a full week before Pilati’s last YSL show. My guess is the reasons were similar: news had leaked, gossip was rampant. Word on the street (and in my ears) was Hedi Slimane, who long ago ran YSL men’s wear to much acclaim, was on the way back. WWD published it. When I emailed Paul Deneuve, YSL’s chief executive, he made non-committal noises about “rumours,” and didn’t corroborate – or actually deny – any of it. 

Raf Simons may have left the Jil Sander building, but he went out with the
sort of audience reception normally granted rock stars or George Clooney:
the audience stampeded the catwalk, and stood cheering and clapping,
refusing to leave until a security guard made the tearful designer
return to take a bow. The last time I saw this sort of thing was when
Tom Ford left Gucci and YSL. 

It’s a funny time to be in Italy looking at high-end clothes. On the one hand, the last thing anyone wants to communicate in a country that turned to a non-elected technocratic government last November to fix its economic woes is business as usual; on the other hand, on the catwalks it’s – well, business as usual. Kind of.

During fashion show season, which is any time between January’s men’s wear shows and this weekend, when their women’s wear collection is shown in Milan, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana don’t go out to lunch.

Jil Sander in Japan, 2010 (Getty)

So, the rumours were true: Jil Sander the woman is returning, for a third time, to Jil Sander the brand. I find this so mind-boggling — does no one learn from history? — I am going to let them explain the situation, kind of, themselves. Here’s the official announcement, with some comments from the sidelines:

“JIL SANDER SpA herewith announces the appointment of Ms. Jil Sander as Creative Director of the JIL SANDER Group, effective on the 28th of February 2012.”

That is, three days after the next collection, designed by current creative director Raf Simons; that’s going to be a hard sell to retailers, but guess they decided it was worth swallowing the loss. 

Maybe we should have expected this from someone who has built their business on cashmere and other super-soft, swaddling fabrics, but I was still somewhat taken aback when Brunello Cucinelli, the Italian luxury lifestyle entrepreneur who began his €250m business hand-dyeing sweaters, told me yesterday that he was excited about his planned IPO in May because he wanted “investors who would help take care of the company into the future.”

He had children, he continued as we were looking at his A/W collection, and he was in his late 50s, and soon they would need partners that would walk alongside them and help them nurture their brand.This is, in my experience, not the view most brand executives take on the benefits of going to market. They usually get excited about opening multiple stores in Asia or something. 

Yesterday, two days before his much-anticipated women’s wear show taking place this Saturday in Milan, it was announced that designer Raf Simons was leaving Jil Sander, the brand he joined five years ago and effectively resuscitated, for…parts unknown. And that he would be replaced by…creative director to come. This strike anyone else as weird?