Almost a month after the death of Nelson Mandela, every talking head has weighed in with their own memoir or eulogy so what is there to add? Fair question.
Let me simply say that this is a new year’s column – a look forward, not a look back – and it is about a lesson I think worth taking from Mandela and applying in 2014, a lesson not included in the many “Lessons from Mandela” written in recent weeks. Most of these were concerned with choosing reconciliation over revolution, while this is to do with clothes. It may seem like a frivolous topic where someone such as Mandela is concerned, except he clearly took clothes – and their power – seriously, and perhaps we should, too.
I’ve been thinking about presents recently – no surprise, really, as this week marks the official start of the last-minute Christmas panic-buying rush. The irony being that I have spent so much time in the past few weeks immersed in our gift guide that I have not actually bought any gifts.
As this is my last post of the year I thought I’d leave you with a few ideas about the five main thing I’m going to be watching in 2014, and where the action might be (aside from the already well-documented worlds of M&A and IPOs), from store wars to legal battles, consumer behaviour and designers that will make the difference. Read on! Read more
So marketing megalith IMG has just been sold to private equity firm Silver Lake Partners and talent agency William Morris Endeavor for more than $2.3 billion – which means, as those of us who follow these sorts of thing know, that assorted fashion weeks from New York to London, Berlin, Tokyo, Moscow, Miami, Toronto and Sydney have just also been sold, IMG owning the rights to those events (among others). Which has interesting implications for the debate currently raging in fashion about the purpose of fashion weeks itself: namely, are they for the trade (for buying and selling clothes) or, as fashion becomes more and more a part of pop culture and a driver of social media, are they entertainment for the public and marketing for the brands? Read more
Google has published its annual list of most-searched names in multiple categories in countries all over the world, and, as we know, there’s one category in particular that sets this blog’s heart to beating: fashion. Unfortunately, the search megalith doesn’t seem to track this particular segment globally (though they do track consumer electronics), or even in every country (surprisingly, for example, they don’t have a retail or high-end designer list for luxury hotspot Italy, nor, to my great frustration, for the UK), but in at least two, the US and France, the results are – well, not what one would expect, to put it mildly. Read more
Much celebrating (and some amazement) about the stellar stock market debut of Moncler yesterday, with some analysts attributing the excitement over buying into the brand to the idea it could be “ the next Burberry”. But is that true, or wildly optimistic? I can see where they are coming from, but am not necessarily convinced. Read more
Whoopee: the very fun holiday game of “Who’s Going to Buy Who Next Year?” has officially begun with a launch entry from Bernstein Research, an arm of AllianceBernstein. And what are they thinking? Watches. Watches and jewellery galore. Read more
Pity the poor fashion editor. Life is so confusing these days. Half the time I am wading through Christmas presents and party dress copy, and the other half I am sitting in designer showrooms, looking at pre-autumn collections full of schoolboy stripes and nipped-in knits (Joseph Altuzarra); easy separates in mixed materials – hand-painted snakeskin and cashmere and leather and silk – (Reed Krakoff); and cosy, nightie-like cashmere dresses and coats (Calvin Klein). It requires an ability to time travel, at least mentally, that would put Dr Who to shame; one moment you’re thinking December; the next, May. Which perhaps explains why, amid all this, I have wearables on the mind. Not clothes, but technology that functions as clothes.
Delphine Arnault, aka the woman who is doing all that designer wooing/moving at LVMH (think Nicolas Ghesquiere to Vuitton, and J.W. Anderson to Loewe), is not the only tall, blonde, smart daughter of a luxury brand founder to be making an impact on the creative side of luxury; now Virginie Courtin-Clarins, aka the granddaughter of the founder of beauty group Clarins, aka the new Director of Development, Marketing and Communications of Mugler Fashion, has just announced the appointment of David Koma as Artistic Director. Like Mr Anderson, Mr Koma is part of the new wave of Hot Young British designers. And like Ms Arnault, Ms Courtin-Clarins, who is in her late 20s, is part of a new generation of luxury scions entering the business and reshaping their brands. Read more
John Galliano, left, is once again making clothes, but this time in a slightly different incarnation. Mr Galliano is going to design the costumes for Stephen Fry’s production of “The Importance of Being Ernest” – including the looks that Mr Fry himself will wear as Lady Bracknell in the production, which will involve some gender-bending, and open at the Theatre Royal in the autumn of 2014. So what do we think? Is this comeback, unlike the last three comeback attempts, going to work? My guess: possibly. I think it certainly has the best chance thus far. Read more
No, that is not a type in the title. A new paper recently landed on my desk from a New York consultancy called Open Mind Strategy that introduces what may be the best acronym I’ve ever heard for one of the biggest trends driving fashion/luxury right now: IWWIWWIWI – aka “”I want what I want when I want it.” It’s certainly the longest. Still, get comfortable saying it ten times fast, because I’m telling you: this is the wave of the future. Read more
Pity the poor luxury CEO in Francois Hollande’s France: no sooner is your wife speaking to a foreign real estate agent than the rumour mill is rife with speculation that you are about to flee the country (and maybe all those proposed wealth taxes), and set up home somewhere else. What else to conclude from the recent furore over the sight of actress Salma Hayek, aka Mrs Francois-Henri Pinault, aka wife of the CEO of Kering, the second largest French luxury group, lunching with a UK broker earlier this week? Read more
There was much hoo-ha a few weeks ago about the London opening of American success story J Crew, and whether it would work in the UK, and the great consumer response, and yadda yadda yadda, but in getting excited about the clothes, we seemed to have missed one of the less obvious effects of the opening: its influence on local brands and their thinking – which is to say, the way it has awakened managers to the potential of the accessible luxury/contemporary market (whatever you want to call it: that slice of retail that falls between High Street and very high end). Consider Karen Millen, and its CEO Mike Sherwood, who today told the FT he has decided to take the brand, which was previously at a sort of upper high street level, into new territory. Hello, accessible luxury! But is he right about the opportunity? Read more
Forget obvious battlegrounds like stores (who has got the biggest/luxist/most special) or designers; the most heated fights in luxury are clearly taking place behind the scenes, in the back-end and backrooms. The latest entrants: Chanel and Paco Rabanne, which stepped into the supplier/accessories arenas respectively. Read more
There’s a terrific essay by Rei Kawakubo, the high priestess/founder of Comme des Garcons, in the current issue of System magazine that casts doubt on a piece of fashion conventional wisdom that has under-pinned the industry, and the designer myth, as far as I can remember. I am speaking here of the “inspiration” trip/book/cultural event. Is it a bunch of hooey? Maybe. Read more
Just as the Chinese government cracks down further on luxury spending at home, and more company results demonstrate a flattening of the local market causing fear and trauma in heritage luxury brands with major capex in Asia, enter Antonio Tajani, EU Vice-president and commissioner for industry, to attempt to stem the pain. Their hero! Mr Tajani, aka luxury’s friend in Brussels, has “an action plan on the competitiveness of the European fashion and high-end industries”. Or a kind-of action plan. A beginning action plan? A small movement plan? You know what I mean. The point is: there’s a plan. Read more
It just keeps growing! As Forbes pointed out, the Versace stake currently for sale would value the company at $5.8 billion – most likely vaulting Allegra and Santo Versace into the B-league. They would join fellow Italians Giorgio Armani, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Renzo Rosso, and Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli at the top of the luxury earners list – at least as of last year (this year’s rankings are still being tabulated). That makes Italy, as far as I can tell, the land with the largest amount of luxury industry billionaires. Interesting, no? Read more
Despite its amazing Black Friday results, Amazon has not quite become the player rumour says it would like to be in high-end fashion; luxury brands still see it as overly mass. So news of a new upmarket approach at Zappos, the accessible (and highly successful) shoe site, made all my luxury strategy sensors start vibrating in anticipation. And no, I am not confusing my apples with my oranges. See, Amazon owns Zappos, but “Zappos” doesn’t come with all the strings and global supermarket associations that the name “Amazon” does. Which makes it a great testing ground for any new strategy directed at luring luxury brands and HNWIs into the consumer fold. So what is this brave new strategy? Read more
This being Black Friday in the US, and the topic of spending money being very much in the news, here’s an interesting study on the latter: BusinessInsider.com has put together a list of the 35 biggest advertisers on Facebook this year. And guess what? Despite all that lip service paid to interaction and transparency and so on and so forth, there’s only ONE luxury brand on it. Also only one fashion brand. And they are probably not the ones you would expect. Read more
It’s all about football for men’s luxury brands. What else to make of the fact that Lanvin just became the first French brand to joined the ranks of Paul Smith (Manchester United), Armani (Chelsea, plus the English national football team, twice), Brooks Brothers (InterMilan), and Dolce & Gabbana (the Italian National team and Lionel Messi, the Argentinian football player they dressed for so long, they made a whole book about him), by becoming the “official tailor” to Arsenal, the UK football club immortalised by Nick Hornby in “Fever Pitch”? Read more