It was clean, it was exact, it didn’t rock the boat (or the brand). It was, as the French say, pas mal.
Almost entirely in black and white, Alexander Wang’s first Balenciaga show nodded to the house’s architectural past. Building from a base of a flat suede boot/legging, he layered on skinny black trousers, high-waisted skirts cut in a curve on the hem and waist to dip in back and rise in front. There were white shirts that mixed cotton piqué with a nubbly cloqué added under or over in origami-folds; neat dresses in a marbelised print realised in appliqués on organza; intarsia furs; a cracked painted leather polo neck and matching skirt; and suede trousers flashing bits of flesh between the cracks.
As an interpretation of the now-abstract idea of Balenciaga, it looked exactly like what to expect if one imagined the archives and what a young designer would make of them, which will probably be gratifying from a consumer perspective: not too challenging, but elegant enough, the clothes suggested the past without confronting it. It’s nice to be proved correct when you enter a store (or pick a designer). And they will probably attract Mr Wang’s band of cool, growing-up, society girls – even, possibly, their mothers. Read more
Helen Hunt wearing an H&M gown on the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday
On Wednesday H&M is having its first-ever Paris fashion show – in the Musée Rodin, the haute art ex-venue of Tom Ford’s Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano’s Christian Dior. Coming on the back of Sunday’s Oscar moment, when best supporting actress nominee Helen Hunt wore H&M on the red carpet, it seems to indicate more upmarket ambitions for the brand. So, is this a sign of the times or a sign of the decline of western fashion civilisation? Maybe a bit of both.
(Note: it doesn’t seem to be the unveiling of the group’s new, higher-priced brand collection & Other Stories – it’s H&M itself. So it’s not a move to elevate a line to, say, the Martin Sitbon level.)
On one level, it sounds silly. The whole point of great high street brands such as H&M is that it so quickly, effectively and economically translates high-fashion trends for the rest of the world without the frills, hoo-ha and elitism associated with the whole show system, its seating ranks, invitations and exclusionary velvet ropes. It led the revolution to democratise style, and its consumers love it for it. Read more
Marni's sunglasses with “excavated details”. Getty Images
Today is travel day as the fashion flock heads to Paris. Looking back over the past week in Italy, I was struck by the fact that of all the trends to come out of Milan – fur, leather, dominatrix gear, (I’m not kidding about this last one) – the biggest one is the sudden trumpeting, by pretty much every brand, of “Made in Italy”.
From Dolce & Gabbana and their mosaic dresses to Fendi’s extraordinary fur melange, it was artisanship all the way. You just need to read the show notes, supposedly to help journalists understand what a collection is about, but in reality mostly serve as pre-show entertainment.
Take Marni, for example, “the colour palette is severe, with turbulent peaks”; sunglasses have “excavated details”. Or from Armani: “calculated eccentricity shines through in berets featuring special workmanship in woven velvet, their spherical forma adorning the head.” I’ll be tweeting the best ones, so follow us on @FTLuxury360 for some real prose treats. Read more
Forget clothes; the red carpet is all about the jewellery now. Would be that of an after-awards morning my in-box would be full of who-wore-what emails. Not any more! Now it’s jewels, all the way down (or pretty much). Yet I can’t help feeling that there’s a difference between fine jewellery and clothes, even really expensive clothes, and the “if-it-worked-for-fashion-it-will-work-for-gems” theory is wrong. Read more
If anyone wants to know the difference between Milan and New York fashion, the two cities that are most often seem as similar in their focus on the commercial as opposed to the insanely creative/conceptual, simply consider two recent pieces of news from over the pond: first, in her official term 2 Flotus portrait, Mrs O is wearing Reed Krakoff; second, the CFDA has hired Boston Consulting Group to help them determine their goals for the next five years. Fashion-as-business! It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
Maxime Simoens' couture collection. Getty Images
It seems LVMH has taken a new approach to its investment in young fashion brands having made a minority investment in 29-year-old French couturier Maxime Simoens. The company has snapped up between a 20-30 per cent stake in the business, according to an LVMH spokesperson. This means Mr Simoens will not officially become part of LVMH (not yet, anyway), but that the group will act as advisers on the growth of the brand – in particular, Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano, who was the driving force behind the investment. Dior, as the group likes to point out, is the main holding company of LVMH.
Mr Simoens had been rumoured as a candidate for the Dior artistic director job, and though that went to Raf Simons, Mr Toledano and Dior deputy managing director Delphine Arnault were impressed. Their first move now: helping Mr Simoens hold his debut ready-to-wear show on March 3 (he already does couture, which may seem odd, but it does not require the same up-front funding for wholesale orders as RTW). Read more
Alessandra Facchinetti to creatively lead Diego Della Valle's brand. Getty Images
And so Milan fashion week starts off with a bang: Diego Della Valle, chairman of Tod’s, has announced he has a new creative director for his brand – Alessandra Facchinetti. She will be responsible for all the womenswear products, from shoes and bags to apparel, as well as the ad campaigns, and, perhaps most importantly, being the female “face” of the brand. She may also launch the brand into homewares.
Homewares? A female face? Wow! It’s a new stage. “Why not?” asked Mr Della Valle. “It’s part of lifestyle.” Read more
It was interesting to note that in their latest issue of High Net Worth, the folks at Ledbury Research included snapshots of what they call “over-looked markets”: ie, markets that could provide luxury brands with potential windfalls if only they were smart enough to exploit them.
And what are these possible profit centres? Canada and Australia.
In the latter, the population of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) – people with more than $30m – grew by 6.7 per cent in 2012 to 3,350 and “their combined wealth rose 5.1 per cent to $410bn”. While in the former there are 4,660 UHNWIs, 44 per cent of which live in Ontario. So why this sudden boom in millionaires? Well, it’s commodities: oil, gas and mining. These countries are rich in them, and even tertiary industries (banking) are benefiting. Read more
In a few hours (4pm UK time) Burberry will take to the runway at London Fashion Week (that’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey with Samantha Cameron at the opening reception for LFW, left), and viewers will take to their smart phones not just to watch the show, which is being streamed on pretty much every part of social media you can imagine, but to order coats and bags… with their names on them! They will arrive on their doorstep in nine weeks, which is much earlier than in stores. Not only that: they will also be able to access video of their product being made, just for them. The knees go weak.
Ok, so that sarcasm was maybe a bit uncalled for. On one level I think offering videos of the customised product is a very smart thing. It pulls customers into the process, which provides an increased sense of ownership and also underscores the hand-made side of things, partly justifying the price and categorisation of Burberry as a luxury brand. But on another, this feels a little smoke and mirrors to me. Read more
Over and over came the oversized overcoats: the giant menswear-inspired outerwear items. From grey flannel to navy wool, plaid to pea coat, the runways were covered – literally and metaphorically – by the sorts of toppers that can take a village (inside). It’s less a nod to the romance of filching a too-big item from the closet of a boyfriend or husband than a reflection of the current trend towards toughening up that has also spawned the return of the suit.
These coats cover a multitude of sins, creating their own psychological and physical comfort zone: just huddle, or cuddle, up inside. And while they also nod to ye olde vintage craze, and are smart enough not to advertise their haute origins, make no mistake: in fabric and expanse, they are the ultimate in insider luxe. Read more