Monthly Archives: July 2012

In all the hoo-ha and excited fashion flagellation that has been generated since Joan Juliet Buck’s incredibly ill-conceived profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad ran in Vogue last year, culminating this week in a mea culpa/excuse of a behind-the-scenes explanation in Newsweek that gave the on-line community yet another reason to castigate fashion (sucker! appears to be the general opinion, not incorrectly), one thing has struck me: why was anyone surprised by this?  Read more

You know all that talk in the luxury world about what Asian brand will be the first break-out brand to take Europe, thus providing a riposte to all the European brands currently focused on milking the Asian consumer dry? Well, hot on the heels of Bosideng, the Chinesd down-specialist launching in London, comes some more provocative news out of the East. And though it’s courtesy of a brand, it’s not quite the designer brand everyone was expecting. It’s a department store brand. Specifically, it’s Lane Crawford, aka the iconic Hong Kong luxury department store.
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We may be at full Olympic throttle (or overload, depending on your perspective), but do not let the thrills and spills of medal-dom obscure the reality of what is looming at the bend of the week: the Silly Season. And you know what that means: politicians on holiday. With all the potential sartorial horrors that involves.

You understand: when I say “sartorial horrors”, I’m not talking about viewer experience – though on occasion (Silvio Berlusconi in his Speedos leaps to mind) that can be pretty scary. No, I’m talking about the situation the men and women in question are facing. Let’s have a little sympathy here. Even leaving aside the moral complications of taking a vacation in a crisis, appearing extravagant in a recession, and so on, what the leaders of the free (and not-so-free) world should wear on their holidays is pretty much a poser. Or so seems clear from past experience.

Attention luxury shoppers: finally some news that would indicate the industry is not in quite as dire straits as trend-watchers keep predicting thanks to its foot-dragging, Luddite-like approach to on-line shopping. Read on! Read more

Even before its results announcement today, PPR had made some news: it was proceeding apace with its plan to dispose of no-longer-core assets (ie, non-luxury/sports lifestyle rbands), and had agreed to sell 29.8% of its stake in CFAO, an African automotive and pharmaceutical distribution company, to Toyota Tsusho Corporation. This should net the PPR guys about €980 million.The stated plan is to use the money to pay down debt, but in that impossible-to-control way of things, already there is speculation among some watchers about what they might buy, if they were going to use the money to buy something. I love a nice round of speculation. Read more

Much hoo-ha in the UK today over the fact that the Queen and First Lady Samantha Cameron seemed to be a little too matchy-matchy, thanks to their startling similar choice of dress shade, at the Number 10 lunch held yesterday for current and past PM’s as part of the Jubilee. Personally, however, I think the one-two message actually works in Britian’s favour. Indeed, it has been a good couple of days for women in the public eye, fashionably-speaking.

The general take appears to be this was a mistake for SamCam, since one is NEVER supposed to in any way steal thunder from the Queen – even though details of HM’s dress is never revealed beforehand, so how, exactly, the minefield is to be avoided is unclear. I guess you could do what Sarah Brown did and wear black. As far as I know, it’s a pretty safe bet the Queen, who believes in the power of the bright, will avoid that shade.

Personally, though, I think the one-two message actually works to Britain’s favour, especially in this pre-Olympic period, even if it happened by accident. The two most public women in the country look like…teammates! They look coordinated. Unified. And all those good sporting adjectives. They are on the same sartorial page.

Besides, if you want to get nit-picky, one is wearing a dress (by Jonathan Saunders, btw) and the other a skirt and jacket (presumably by her in-house dressmakers)

In fact, this has been a pretty good few days for women in the public eye in general: Hilary Clinton also eschewed her recent I-don’t-care-hair scrunchies-and-lank-locks looks for a bouncy blow-dry in Israel, followed by a really elegant twist. It’s a whole new hair stage for the Secretary.

So is there something in the water?

Indeed. It’s called Olympic/pre-election fever, in which those on the public stage are hyper-aware of the fact that they represent a country or a candidate, and must look, at all times, the part. Get ready, get set, let the image race begin.

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Recently I was talking to James Carsellis, the entrepreneur behind web start-up Luxup, and he mentioned the theory that Europe was becoming a luxury goods Disneyland for emerging market consumers. You know: a place where the entertainment value/point lies in shopping for expensive stuff. I don’t think the comparison is that far-fetched.
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Yesterday the relaxation of the UK’s Sunday trading laws during Olympic season (aka until sept 9) went into effect. Now stores can stay open AS LONG AS THEY WANT (OMG! OMG!). I just can’t quite see how the Olympics, or Olympic fever, or whatever you want to call the emotion that is gripping London, will lead to a great surge in consumption of handbags and denim. Read more

One of the weirder aspects of the upcoming Olympic Games, fashionably speaking, has not been the deconstructed Union flag designs Stella McCartney (see Lunch with the FT) and Adidas unveiled for Team GB, nor the recent hoo-ha created by politicians over the fact Ralph Lauren’s Team USA outfits are not made in the USA, but the almost total absence of Next from the conversation.

The British high-street brand is the official outfitter of Team GB for the opening and closing ceremonies, only no one seems to know it. Unlike McCartney and Adidas, as well as many of their competitors who have unveiled their outfits, the Next folks have chosen not to reveal their looks until the athletes march into the stadium on Friday.

The love affair between politics and fashion continues apace. This week the Nelson Mandela Foundation unveiled its clothing line in NY and announced it was coming to New York Fashion Week in September. However, Mr Mandela – or his Foundation – is not the first political entity to realise that fashion can be a useful weapon. Indeed, dare I say it, I think this is a major trend.  Read more

Not only did Hermès report notably good Q2 revenues today – sales growth was 21.9%, certainly more positive than the gloom from Puma and Burberry – but yesterday I discovered something even more shocking: they’re outfitting an Olympic team too! Specifically, the French Equestrian team. Who knew? Read more

I’ve been trying to stay out of the Ralph Lauren/Made in America Olympic controversy since it started last week, under the reasoning that It Is Ridiculous, but having yet more politicians weigh in yet again – three members of the House, both Democrats and Republicans (OMG! United by this issue) sent a letter earlier this week to the Olympic Committee asking if the paraolympic uniforms could be quickly Made in the USA – has finally convinced me that perhaps something needs to be said. Like: Stop Picking On the Fashion Guys. The only thing really clear in this situatopn is that Ralph Lauren the brand has become a fall guy of a sort. Read more

I, for one, was quite chuffed at the news that Marissa Mayer, latterly of Google, has just been appointed Yahoo’s new CEO – both because I’m looking forward to seeing what, if anything, she can do with the lagging search engine, and because Ms Mayer is a notably good dresser, and I’m looking forward to seeing what, if anything, she can do with the lacklustre image of an internet superstar. Put another way: she’s not a hoodie-and-Teva sort of exec. Read more

I come back from holiday, only to find the news that Romeo Gigli has also returned: today Joyce, the fashion-forward Asian boutique, announced a new autumn/winter collaboration: JOYCE by Romeo Gigli. So will it work this time around? Can he be an example to designers everywhere (Herve Leger, for example) who lost their name and their business, and dream of a return. Read more

Our esteemed fashion editor is taking a well deserved holiday. But to get you fix, here is her weekend column below.

Autumn/winter 2012 couture designs by (from left) Armani Privé, Valentino, Christian Dior, Chanel, Atelier Versace©Chris Moore

Craftsmanship: Autumn/winter 2012 couture designs by (from left) Armani Privé, Valentino, Christian Dior, Chanel, Atelier Versace

It is an irony not lost on the fashion world that couture week, the ultimate display of clothes made for the 1 per cent, happened to coincide with the French government’s announcement of new taxes targeted largely at that 1 per cent. The juxtaposition worked to put an issue that has preoccupied the boardrooms and backrooms of some of France’s biggest luxury companies in pretty stark terms: in François Hollande’s France, is there a place for such seeming sartorial indulgence?

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Azzedine Alaia. Getty Images

Azzedine Alaia. Getty Images

Azzedine Alaia will open a flagship store in the heart of the French luxury retail world — ie Avenue Montaigne — next spring, the designer revealed recently with a certain amount of glee. Actually, it’s not exactly a flagship — it’s a five-floor hotel particulier with an interior courtyard/garden that will function as store/showroom/some offices — and it’s not exactly on Avenue Montaigne (it’s on the Rue de Marignan, off Avenue Montaigne past the corner where L’Avenue, the LVMH quasi-house canteen, sits). But it’s a big move for the designer who has preserved his independence from the fashion system partly by preserving his distance: resolutely remaining in his atelier/headquarters/apartment in the 4th arrondissement, and having the world come to him, on his terms. Read more

As you may (or may not) be aware, Hedi Slimane’s first YSL collections –
women’s resort and menswear — have hit the showroom, but they are for
buyers’ eyes only: they aren’t being shown on the catwalk, and this week
in Paris, critics (that would be your truly), were not invited for a
look-see. Mr Slimane wants to make his first knock-our-socks-off,
he-can-do-womenswear statement in the autumn, at the ready-to-wear shows.

(Also maybe he didn’t want the media making up a  face-off between
himself and new Dior designer Raf Simons, whose first couture show for the
House was the news of the week.) Read more

I had a truly refreshing conversation yesterday with Roger Vivier designer Bruno Frisoni on the unveiling of his new limited-edition “Rendezvous” line for the brand: the one that’s not quite couture, but more expensive and elaborate than the usual ready-to-wear shoe. He was showing me the shoes, which are based on a stripped-down stiletto shape with the shoe rendered as delicate and close to the foot as possible — a mere slip of ornate leather, satin, and lace – when I noted the fact the ball of the foot was quite close to the ground, since the sole was so thin.

“Don’t these hurt to walk in?” said I. Read more

Enter the new era at Dior: new designer (Raf Simons), new show address (a hotel particulier on Avenue d’Iena instead of the Musée Rodin), new hair and makeup (simple, stripped-down) and new clothes. Kind of.

For his first show as a couturier, Raf Simons stuck to two primary silhouettes, both involving the classic New Look code: a slim cigarette pant under a moulded jacket or bustier that blossomed from the waist down into a full hip; and a strapless 1950s-style cocktail gown (yes, there were other bits: a day sheath and swing back coats, but these were the overwhelming shapes). Read more