Monthly Archives: November 2012

If anyone should understand the dangers of stereotyping based on appearance, it is someone in the fashion world, which is predicated on the way image can deceive. Yet, after many seasons spent next to the Pucci runway watching Peter Dundas, the brand’s 6ft 2in Norwegian creative director, redefine the house that print built into a sex-and-strut style for the modern jet set, I admit I made certain assumptions about the man.

I assumed, for example, that when I called him to propose writing about what he does in his spare time, he would choose something high-octane like kitesurfing, salsa dancing or poker. It never crossed my mind that Dundas – fans of his slinky dresses cut down to here and up to there include Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow and Halle Berry – would choose something as … well, old-fashioned as baking.

Just as e-tailers have come to realise that a virtual store in not enough, and are increasingly adding bricks and mortar storefronts (or, as folks like Warby Parker and Bonobos tend to call them, “showrooms”) to their offering, so, too, are e-sites. Last year launched the magazine, a twice-yearly collection-focused oversize print book, and now Mark Sebba, CEO of net-a-porter, has announced they are planning a print magazine.So what is this? Nostalgia for ye olden days? I thought the brilliance of digital was that we were free of so many of the nagging costs and limits associated with the physical world and its products. I thought magazines were seen as dying media. What do they have that e-zines don’t? Read more

Oooooh those PPR folks are making the gossip waters churn. Today reports say NY hipster designer Alexander Wang is the top candidate for the artistic director job (artistic director, creative director, designer – does no one else wish these companies would regularise their titles?), while rumours are that Christopher Kane, the erstwhile favourite for that spot, is actually being looked at in the context of buying his eponymous brand! Good gosh and golly. Two young designers at once! Both would be surprising moves, however, seems to me.
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I was struck last night at the British Fashion Awards by Samantha Cameron’s appearance to present the New Establishment award to Erdem Moralioglu (that’s them, below). This marks Mrs C’s third time at the awards — she’s actually officially an “ambassador” for UK fashion — a record that is unequalled by any First Lady in any other country; certainly, any other country where fashion represents a meaningful part of industrial exports. So here’s what I wonder: why hasn’t Mrs Cameron had more impact on fashion? Or rather, on the global perception of UK fashion?

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What’s up with YSL these days? Post-designer Hedi Slimane’s weird tweet rant at NYT critic Cathy Horyn, which came after her review of the on-line pictures of the show she wasn’t invited to (if you can follow the absurdity of that chain) the brand’s CEO has gotten in on the action. Yesterday YSL chief exec Paul Deneve wrote an “Open Letter” to WWD complaining about a story they wrote recently comparing Raf Simons’ Dior debut to Hedi Slimane’s at YSL. Mr Deneve didn’t think the WWD folks had been fair, he said, and they should stop trying to invent a rivalry that isn’t. At first glance, this seems like an executive kicking sand. But Machiavelli might have a different point of view. Read more

What is on-line fashion week? It is the UK-equivalent of Cyber Monday (which is today!): five days of super-special offers and special brand titbits organised by British Vogue to prompt holiday shopping, albeit with a charitable component (a percentage of sakes goes to the Oxfam Girls Education Project, the “official” charity partner) and a branded gloss. In other words, it doesn’t actually have much to do with fashion weeks as we know them at all, though the name is catchy. Even more notably, however, this year, which is its second year, for the first time on-line fashion week will be sponsored by…Amazon! That’s what made little old me sit up and take notice.
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Note to any woman considering her dressing plans as we approach the party season: the single most suggestive body part to flash these days is not cleavage (despite what those Victoria’s Secret angels say), not legs and not even the slices of side that certain fashion designers are pushing with their weird cut-out dresses. No, it’s a well-muscled arm. Stockings have nothing on biceps when it comes to shocking.

In holiday time, an acquisition-minded company turns to thoughts of…fine jewellery. Why just buy it for the one you love? Buy it for the ROI! I mean, what else are we to make of the fact that juts over a week after Investcorp’s recent purchase of Georg Jensen, another fine jewellery name is changing hands: Gemfields, the coloured stone miner, has just announced the acquisition of Faberge, the recently revived jeweller-to-the-czars. Read more

For absolutely riveting reading, let me recommend the first ever World Handbag Report. It’s a collation of 120 million internet searches in 10 markets via four search engines (Google, Bing, Bai du, etc) by the Digital Luxury Group, and is it full of surprising facts – most notably, how incredibly imbalanced the handbag market is. The brands with big market share of search have BIG market share. The rest, well…have piddly squat. Read more

Any doubts that the Middle East is the new angel investor in luxury should be put to rest by today’s announcement from FSI, the Fondo Strategico Italiano or Italy’s strategic investment fund, and Qatar Holdings that they are setting up a JV called “IQ Made in Italy” (oooh, the word play!) to invest up to €2 billion, shared equally, in “in Italian companies operating in some of the sectors of so-called ‘Made in Italy’” – aka “sectors of excellence of Italian economy and key contributors to Italy’s exports.” Ka-ching! Read more

There is a certain “denialism” inherent in fashion. This is, after all, an industry that routinely resurrects the drop-crotch trouser, the baby doll dress and the Yeti coat, and expects grown women to jump up and down with glee.

So faced with the Pinterest and Polyvore-driven democratisation of the image – which allows any old person to create their own “mood boards” and become expert “trend-spotters” – not to mention the rise of the “street style” photographer, both of which caused tech and media pundits to declare “the end of the editor!”, the industry, predicated on elitism, just ground its teeth and smiled.

Recently Caroline Issa, the fashion director of indie fashion mag Tank, current J Crew model, and much-snapped-outside-of-shows good dresser, was in town to talk about her next project: a capsule line of shoes and two bags with LK Bennett that will hit stores in February. She was excited. The collection — it’s a classic pointy pump with some brightly coloured Indonesian embroidery and pom-poms on the heel inspired by a bag she bought at a market while on a film festival junket – is cute, if not revolutionary. But it also begs the question: what qualifies her to design? Twitter followers? Taste?  Read more

Check out the picture below of the incoming members of the Politburo Standing Committee. Those ties! Those suits! That hair parting. If, as my colleagues point out today, the reduction in membership of China’s ruling committee from nine to seven is “an effort to make collective decision-making less contentious and more efficient,” this gives new meaning to the idea of sartorial unity. Read more

It was inevitable, I suppose, that in l’Affaire Patraeus currently gripping the United States, clothes would come to play a part. Fashion is always a key part of any seduction narrative, because it is such a classic weapon of allure (and no, these words are not accidental). Paula Broadwell’s de facto signature has become her “toned arms” as widely and regularly displayed in various sleeveless outfits.  Read more

Tiffany has announced it will open a flagship store on the Champs Elysées in Paris. Image by Getty

There’s a piece in the Financial Times today that should send luxury brands leaping for their lizard (and python, and shagreen, and croc and so on).

Discussing a new study on retail, my colleagues Barney Jopson and Tim Bradshaw note that it “suggests the most effective use of retail space is selling expensive products that are occasional purchases to well-off consumers.” This is like giving candy to a baby.

After all, this is what luxury has been saying all along – it’s what Burberry just announced it was going to do in china, and François-Henri Pinault described as PPR strategy as far back as 2006. My guess is the industry take-away from this will be simple: sell less for more. But I think that may be the wrong lesson to draw. Read more

This is shaping up to be a trend. Yesterday the Duchess of Cambridge wore a DVF coat – double rows of buttons, epaulets – to the Remembrance Day ceremonies, which was the VERY SAME DVF coat she wore last year. Seems to me this is a statement not unlike that of Mrs O’s wearing an old Michael Kors dress at her husband’s electoral victory moment last week. Read more

Four years ago last week, Michelle Obama stepped into the public eye on election night wearing a red-and-black Narciso Rodriguez dress that launched an obsession. It was an obsession about what she wore and how she wore it – and that in turn launched the careers of numerous designers, popularised the concept of high/low dressing and upturned the unspoken law that said First Ladies must wear only American designers. Along the way, it redefined what “American” designer actually meant: Cuban-American (Isabel Toledo), Chilean-American (Maria Cornejo), Chinese-American (Jason Wu) and Nepalese-American (Prabal Gurung).

Last Tuesday, in the same situation, thumbs-up and hugging her husband as he officially won his second term as US president, Mrs Obama ended that conversation.

Benjamin Franklin was clearly not the present purchaser in his family. Presumably, in the late 18th century, that was women’s work. Otherwise, the founding father might well have amended his famous aphorism to read not, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – and that every November grown men and women will spend hours wandering adrift in megastores and surfing the internet in search of the perfect gift for loved ones” – or something like that (Mr Franklin might have put it more felicitously).

Of course, finding a perfect gift takes consideration, understanding, empathy, energy. And in the interests of trying to alleviate some of the burden, beginning this week and for five weeks following, we offer our succinct suggestions for 10 really good presents – five for men, five for women – in six different categories, beginning with “plan ahead”.

There’s an anti-fur protest brewing for London, starting today and extending through the weekend. Burberry is the target. In fact, it’s called the “anti-fur weekend of action against Burberry.” But here’s the thing: if you look at the autumn/winter runway collections, Burberry didn’t actually have much fur at all on its catwalk.  Read more

Labelux, the German conglomerate founded in 2007 by Joh A. Benckiser SA, the holding company of the reclusive Reimann family, to “be a significant new global player in the luxury goods market; one which could benefit from the underlying trends which support the long-term growth of the luxury industry” (this according to their web site), has never really gotten out of the outfield — to borrow some metaphors from the Romney campaign. Though they snapped up some big names, including Jimmy Choo, Bally, Derek Lam, Belstaff, Zagliani and Solange Azagury-Partridge, their point of difference was never clear, nor their vision for the Group as a whole, never mind the individual parts. Yesterday, however, things started to change. Read more