Raf Simons for Christian Dior. Getty Images
Sometimes – often when a new designer takes the reins at a brand, thereby drawing attention to it – a style inexplicably takes off in a viral way, running rampant throughout the fashion world.
This happened after former YSL designer Stefano Pilati’s first collection for the house, when he introduced the high-waisted tulip skirt to widespread scepticism. By the next season, high-waisted tulip skirts were ubiquitous (remember that?), and judging by last week’s New York ready-to-wear shows, it seems like it is happening now with Christian Dior designer Raf Simons’s gown-over-cigarette-trousers style, introduced in his first couture show last July.
British designer John Galliano
It’s been a big week for scandals; Europe’s horsemeat-in-the-beef-lasagna crisis, John Galliano’s appearance in New York in what some construed as faux-Hasidic garb, and CNN’s decision to run a piece comparing war photography and fashion photography. It’s hard to know where to start. Here are some thoughts – in no particular order.
1. Horsemeat: reading my colleague John Gapper’s column today about the supply chain issue being at the heart of the matter, it occurred to me that this bears a notable resemblance to the blood diamond scandals, which resulted in the Kimberley Process. Like the supermarkets that sold the adulterated meat, the jewellers that sold the sparkly end product had never really pushed themselves to know where it came from. When the truth was revealed, they were horrified and embarrassed. It had never occurred to them they needed to take ownership of the supply chain if they were responsible for the end product, and the experience changed luxury’s strategy completely.
MIchelle Obama wears Jason Wu at the State of the Union Address. Getty Images
Shocking! Michelle Obama has worn the same designer at two major events in a row. At the inaugural ball she wore a Jason Wu gown as she did the first time round, which is shocking enough – the last first lady to wear the same designer to two inaugural balls was Nancy Reagan. Mrs O then wore Jason Wu again at the State of the Union last night.
The dress, with a black sleeveless top and sparkly bordeaux sequinned skirt, looks like a customised variation of a frock from Mr Wu’s pre-fall collection, which had a leather spaghetti strap top and the same body. That dress, of course, was shown last December, and will not be in stores until May/June, so Mrs O is getting it celebrity-early, an indication of just how unlike normal shopping her shopping is. I think sometimes we get carried away with the J Crew side of things, and forget that there’s a very not-like-everyone-else flip side to her wardrobe – good or bad, depending on your point of view.
Two interesting developments today: Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy has announced that Bulgari, less a chief executive since Michael Burke was moved to Louis Vuitton last December, finally has a new leader: Jean-Christophe Babin, who for the past 13 years has been CEO of LVMH’s watch brand Tag Heuer.
And Hermès, which has publicly battled LVMH over the latter’s purchase of Hermès shares, has released news that 2012 sales (annual results are officially due out next month) were so good – up 22.6 per cent – that they predict “for the full year, given the excellent performance in the fourth quarter, the operating margin is expected to be slightly above the all-time high achieved in 2011″.
As show season kicked off I did an interview with Jason Wu – aka the man who made Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown… twice! – before his A/W show, and two things he said have stuck in my mind:
First, for him, the Flotus effect is felt more in publicity than an actual sales spike. In other words, since Mrs O wore his gowns, everyone now knows his name in a way they might not otherwise, but it hasn’t had much effect on the bottom line.
And second, he makes 90 per cent of his clothes not just in America, but in New York, right down the street from his atelier, not because of any political position (though it’s nice to get credit for that) but because his pieces require so much hand-work – he needs to be close by to supervise.
Fashion month kicked off on Friday with the first full day of the New York womenswear shows, and there were some surprise attendees in the front row. Who were these lucky folks? Why you, dear reader. Or, to be accurate, people such as you: non-fashion professionals in the comfort of their own homes who got to see a variety of shows (and will get to see more) thanks to a move among some backroom players in the fashion world to provide digital access to the shows.
I am referring specifically to KCD and IMG. The former is one of the biggest press/event/show agencies in the fashion world, working with – at New York Fashion Week – Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Alexander Wang and Victoria Beckham, as well as, overseas, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy and so on.
Yes, it’s more Marc Jacobs news! The Jacobs show, aka the most-anticipated show of NY Fashion week due to the designer’s ability to turn on a dime season after season, has just emailed all of us fashion types to announce they are moving the show from Monday, the usual slot, to Thursday at 8pm due to “weather and production problems”.
Here are some excerpts:
New York Fashion Week begins today, bringing with it the news that Occupy Wall Street is back and planning a protest. The instigator: Intern Labor Rights, an OWS spin off. The subject: unpaid interns. Seems magazines and fashion houses are exploiting them and not adhering to labour law. Seems the desire among youngsters to 1) raise their employment chances by getting useful experience in their chosen field; and 2) enter the seemingly glamorous world of fashion means there are more than enough kids willing to work for free.
Numerous tweeters have weighed in on the matter, most negatively, as has The Fashion Law Institute , which pointed out that OWS tried this before – a few lonely souls held a widely derided protest outside the Calvin Klein show last February – without much effect. Will this time around be any different?
Professor Susan Scafidi of Fashion Law said: “hard to tell,” but my guess is: “not much.”
Why? Primarily because I’m not sure Fashion Week is the most effective time for OWS to target the fashion industry. It might appear so at first – it’s when the world’s eyes are on the industry – but let’s think about it some more.
Marc Jacobs. Getty images
The post I wrote about the fashionisation of life? Well, today comes the news that stubbly zeitgeist-channeller/designer Marc Jacobs is the 2013 creative director of Diet Coke. See what I mean?
Diet Coke’s gig is a year-long stint involving the redesign of some bottles and cans, and a commercial that seems to feature Jacobs mostly shirtless. Previously they worked with Karl Lagerfeld, who, post-2001-diet became famous for his love of Diet Coke (he drinks 10 cans a day), and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Marc says he drinks two to three cans a day, so the choice makes sense – though the Coke folks have missed the boat with buzzy new Dior designer Raf Simons, who told me he used to drink two big litre bottles of Coke Zero daily, but quit this January in fear of aspartame.
Anyway, the point is less that fashion has a thing for Diet Coke – what else would anyone expect, given the industry’s body image issues? – but rather that Coca Cola, the behemoth that is #3 on Forbes’ most powerful brands list, has sussed that having a fashion name design their bottles gives them a new reason to get consumers to buy.
The news today that Blackberry was teaming up with Mercedes for some F1 branding because, RIM’s chief marketing officer told the FT, both are “at the beginning of a journey to reclaim the top position”, is interesting. But it seems to me, if this brand really wants to catch up with its competitors, especially Apple, what it needs is a creative director: a design mind, and, potentially, a famous one at that. Marc Newson, anyone? That would be a game-changer.
Jony Ive is not exactly a secret weapon: we all know how important his aesthetic skills were to Steve Jobs’ crafting of Apple’s identity and success in convincing consumers that electronics are actually fashion/luxury items. I never fail to understand how another company has not seen this and one-upped them by officially appointing a designer of their own.