Monthly Archives: March 2012

Anyone looking to drop a few million dollars on some jewellery, and get a warm, fuzzy virtuous feeling at the same time, should look no further than the upcoming sale of philanthropist Lily Safra’s gems at Christie’s.

A diamond, pink and green tourmaline Poppy flower brooch

A diamond, pink and green tourmaline Poppy flower brooch

All the proceeds from the collection belonging to Safra, who was married to the late banker Edmond J Safra, will be donated to 20 different charitable causes, including the Claude Pompidou Institute for Alzheimer’s disease and the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda.

Jewels for Hope: The Collection of Lily Safra was unveiled at Christie’s on Thursday ahead of the auction in Geneva on May 14 when it’s expected to make in excess of US $20m. A highlight of the sale is the largest single owner selection of pieces by JAR, the jeweller to the jet-set, also favoured by Liz Taylor. Read more

Years in fashion have taught me never to use the phrase “You can’t be serious”. I’ve learned, for example, that saying, “Patrick Thomas, chief executive of Hermès, you can’t seriously expect someone to buy that €1.5m diamond-covered gold handbag?” will prompt both a pleased grin and the perplexed response, “Yes, of course, why not?” And I’ve learnt that noting how all the models in a catwalk show have been reimagined as birds and transformed with moulded headpieces, and how the designer can’t be serious about expecting any woman to wear that, only means that said look is more than likely to appear on Rihanna a few weeks later.

Fashion and satire have never been easy partners. The problem is that although fashion seems like a world ripe for mockery, its very absurdity – the extremity of appearance and, values and language that makes outsiders think it should be a perfect subject of satire – actually makes it impossible.

Looking at the yesterday’s impressive Hermès results, it’s hard not to wonder if the much-bemoaned 22% stake that luxury conglomerate LVMH built up in the group has actually been good for it – as opposed to the end-of-the-world/ barbarians-at-the-gate scenario the Hermès folks were painting. Why has to do with pretty basic psychology.
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By Carola Long

Stella McCartney with athletes in the Adidas British Olympic kit. Image by Getty

Stella McCartney with athletes in the Adidas British Olympic kit. Image by Getty

The unveiling of Stella McCartney’s kit for the British Olympic team today was billed as the “official reveal.” With flashing lights,  heartbeat, baseline music and a podium-like set — all designed to build up suspense — there was a whiff of the TV game show about the event. Specifically, the 1990s British TV show Gladiators.

Staged in a marquee in the Tower of London, the tone veered from an incredibly slick marketing campaign to a moving celebration of British talent, to moments of slight absurdity ( a gymnast rising from inside a podium on a horse- the gymnastic,  not equestrian variety.) Read more

The news this morning that Kraft had decided to re-christen its snack food group “Mondelēz International” has got me thinking about names, and the point or power therein. My first reaction, after all, upon reading the word was to make a face and roll my eyes and think: “ridiculous.” Yet who am I to talk: my particular industry is full of often unpronounceable, hard to spell, and apparently odd names — Proenza Schouler, Thakoon, Meadham Kirchhoff, Mary Katranzou, Prabal Gurung — that don’t seem to have hurt the brands themselves one bit.
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And so, enter George Osborne with the 2012 UK budget in its little red box (at least symbolically). It strikes me that this photo op has to be one of the weirder moments in UK political imagineering.

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Having done a few posts about diamond-covered handbags, suddenly I am being inundated with information about more of the same. It’s hard not to think sometimes it’s a bit of a joke. Yesterday, for example, I received news of a limited edition of a new Roja Dove perfume being sold with a diamond covered Faberge egg (£17,029), a Johnny Walker malt whiskey from 1952 in honor of the Queen’s jubilee being sold in a diamond-shaped baccarat decanter with a silver collar set with a ½ carat diamond, and a diamond-covered laptop sleeve.

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When the iPad 3 went on-sale at midnight last friday night it provoked the usual frenzy — miles of lines, ecstatic buyers — as well as one very interesting blog that somehow seems to have fallen through the cracks over the weekend. It takes a good, analytic look at the general perception that Apple is a luxury brand and points out that it does tick all the luxury boxes save one: exclusivity. But here’s what I wonder: is exclusivity really a luxury value these days?

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It never rains but it pours, and so on. In those terms, this month the fashion world is experiencing a deluge. After the departures of Stefano Pilati and Raf Simons from YSL and Jil Sander respectively, and the expected departure of Derek Lam from Tods at September and the end of his contract, come two more announcements: Lucy Yeomans is leaving as editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK and Amanda Brooks has left as fashion director of Barneys New York. This is, as they say, a moment of change.
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Should first ladies dress for themselves or their country or their
husband’s agenda? This is what I thought last night when Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron made their much-anticipated appearence at the White House’s “official” dinner for the British Prime Minister.

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There is a tendency, among political leaders, especially of the UK-US variety, to engage in sartorial covert diplomacy during state visits; for the visitor to effectively mirror the dress of the visitee in order to suggest a discrete sort of understanding of the agenda — at least as far as photo ops go. Yesterday, however, when David Cameron showed up for his current US trip, the changed nature of the relationship seemed to be reflected in his wardrobe. One day in, there’s been zero matchy-matchy.

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Tod’s has finally spoken! They just released a rather brief statement that seems to confirm Derek Lam will leave his position of creative director – but not until his contract expires at end September. In fact, the statement is so brief, and frankly weird, I’m going to reproduce it in full here:

“Following the rumors of an alleged termination of the collaboration between Tod’s and Derek Lam, the company confirms that the agreement between the parties is set to terminate on 30/9/12. In the meantime, Tod’s is in the process of evaluating its options, considering that, based on the company’s future development plans, the role of the Creative Director of Tod’s will be central and even more important. The choice will therefore be directed toward an individual with great creative talent and able to commit the necessary amount of time to the success of the brand.”

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I’m telling you: ides of March. Rumours have spread like wildfire that Derek Lam, the American designer who has been creative director of Tod’s for the last six years, has parted ways with the brand. The Tod’s folks are have been hiding from all emails and phone calls since last night, but they aren’t denying it. If it’s true, it has interesting implications for the future of luxury.  Read more

Don’t know about you, but it seems to me the economics of fashion are becoming increasingly abstract — and I’m not talking about the highly subjective concept of “brand value” (yes, I know there are equations to convert this into numbers, but boiled down to its essence it’s in the eye of the beholder, no?). I’m talking about celebrity endorsement investment, and a new concept I discovered last week: retail endorsement investment.

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The flight to the highest-end continues. I know it doesn’t come that close to Hermes’s million euro bejeweled handbags, but yesterday news landed of eye glass frames for $2,950, courtesy of Tom Ford. If ever there was illustration that luxury brands are convinced their customers not only still exist, but are demanding ever-more extreme iterations of their products, I think this is it.

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Azzedine Alaïa

Azzedine Alaïa autumn/winter collection. Image by Vanessa Friedman.

What’s next? This question does not refer to the continuing rumours about which designer is going to which house (though as I left Paris the Marc-Jacobs-to-Dior gossip received a new lease of life thanks to the fantastic Louis Vuitton not-quite-a-retrospective at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, and a story in UK Vogue). It refers to clothes.

And though today, in my final review of the season, I wonder about the answer, last night, I saw a conclusion of sorts, so I thought I’d write this addendum.

Watching the Paris shows I was struck by two things:

  • though I liked the clothes, mostly, that I’ve seen for the past few weeks, they are almost entirely focused on dressing for the now, as opposed to the future
  • the relatively naked influence Azzedine Alaïa’s couture show in July had on the rest of the industry.

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Hedi Slimane, pictured in 2007. Getty Images.

So the expected has come to pass and today Yves Saint Laurent announced the appointment of Hedi Slimane as overall creative director of the house. This one has been a long time coming.

Mr Slimane was the much-feted men’s wear designer at YSL from 1996-2000 (even Mr Saint Laurent thought he was terrific).  He left after Tom Ford bought the brand for Gucci Group, and became the widely-praised designer of Dior Homme, departing over contract issues in 2007. During his tenure not only Bernard Arnault, LVMH chieftain, but pretty much every other LVMH executive wore his suits. Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld liked them so much, they inspired his dramatic 100lb weight loss in 2001 (in his diet book he wrote “I suddenly wanted to dress differently, to wear clothes designed by Hedi Slimane”).

Since leaving fashion, Mr Slimane has had a very successful career in photography, has been living in Los Angeles, and has been the subject of perennial suggestions that YSL get him back.

Satisfaction! Read more

Tomorrow the folks behind and, two leading etail ventures, are launching store number three. Unlike the first two sites, which are ready-to-wear boutiques that offer, respectively, less expensive last-season merchandise and cutting edge fashion, this one has a particular focus: shoes. Specifically 1000 styles of shoe, retailing for between €180-1,000. That’s a lot of footwear.

When I asked Federico Marchetti, chief executive of the Yoox Group, the obvious question — is there really such a big market for shoes and only shoes, or is this a niche sideline? — he responded with some pretty striking numbers. Read more

Yves Saint-Laurent’s designer, Stefano Pilati, holds his last show for the line today in Paris, just a week after Raf Simons put on his farewell collection in Milan for Jil Sander with a triumphant display that was about as much of a diss to those who let him go as I’ve ever seen, demonstrating as it did what they were giving up.

These two departures have caused a lot of navel-gazing in the fashion world (and yes: mea culpa, by writing this I know I am guilty too) about the tensions between the creative and business sides of the industry, the demands of the cycle and designers being dumped.
Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, wrote about this last week. Then, yesterday, Cathy Horyn, the New York Times’ fashion critic – and another fellow fashion week traveller and friend – also weighed in on the topic: Read more