Monthly Archives: March 2013

It’s Easter, which perhaps explains my recent fixation with the new Pope. After all, for the past week he has been conducting the rites of Holy Week, which will culminate in Sunday’s mass, where thousands will once again throng St Peter’s Square, listening to his words, being led by his example … and checking out his outfits for a sign.

By David Hayes

With all the ballyhoo of a major Hollywood production, the Gucci-founded charity, Chime for Change, today launched its headline event for 2013, The Sound of Change Live, to be held at Twickenham on June 1.

Hosted at the screening room of a swish central London hotel, the media event didn’t hold back on pizzazz: Salma Hayek Pinault (wife of PPR’s François-Henri Pinault, resplendent in a figure-hugging deep red dress), Oscar winning documentary maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (in a waft of oyster chiffon and satin), Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter John Legend (in sensible leather jacket) and, drum roll, a larger-than-life on-screen Beyoncé delivering a special heart-felt message.

What was all the fuss about? The recently created charity, Chime for Change (say it with a comedic Italian accent and, geddit, it almost sounds like “time for change”), with Gucci’s Frida Giannini, Beyoncé and Salma on the founding committee, is a new global campaign to raise funds and awareness for the empowerment of girls and women in the developing world. Read more

What does it mean to be the face of a movement? Well, it means, literally, that your face (not to mention the body below it) is a symbol. It means, like it or not, having to take responsibility for how the cause looks – ie, how you look.

And yet as far as I can tell, Sheryl Sandberg, author of the much-ballyhooed third-wave feminist book/exhortation Lean In, does not seem to have realised this – despite putting herself on the cover of the book; despite the fact that she is also on the cover of this month’s new Cosmo Careers magazine supplement because of it; and despite the fact that everyone else is more than happy to discuss it for her.

Yet another small Italian family-run fashion firm has been snapped up by an outsider: Today NEO Capital, the London-based private equity firm, announced it had acquired a majority stake in Italian luxury accessories brand Valextra.

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Tomorrow French luxury and sports lifestyle Group PPR will announce it has a new name. Earlier this week, journalists received a mysterious evite to a meeting in Paris Friday to unveil the “new” PPR, one which has finally shed its old retail/catalogue arms, FNAC, Conforma and Redcats, to become a pure two-sector player. According to an insider, this unveiling is, in fact, the unveiling of the fact it is no longer called PPR. So far the Group has refused to divulge its new title, though it has registered at least two alternatives. Let’s see if they are any good.

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Following Vanessa’s blog post on the topic last week, a great conversation unfolded both here and on Twitter contemplating the validity of fashion as art – and vice versa.

Whilst definitions centred largely upon the design and craftsmanship components of garments, plus shared characteristics of the two forms like innovation, self-expression and artisanship, another major part of the debate – the increasingly prevalent use of fashion logos within art works and how big luxury brands react to it – didn’t really get a look in.

Perhaps it should. Whilst the use of commercial branding in art as a mode of social commentary is hardly new – take a bow Andy Warhol and other assorted members of the Pop Art massive – it’s currently a seriously hot topic, particularly for the legions of draconian lawyers employed by the industry A-team to take many of the artists in question down, often with heavy-handed accusations of defamation and trademark infringement. Read more

So you thought the fashion weeks were over for now, and that you did not have to hear about catwalk shows for at least another three months or so (until June, anyway, when menswear begins again). Sucker!

There ain’t room for all of them in this here town. That, methinks, is what etailers are increasingly thinking. Hence, as small ventures stumble upon good ideas, the big players snatch em up, the better to dominate the space. Case in point: the announcement today that net-a-porter will start doing beauty.
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The finalists and honorees of the CFDA awards are out, and it’s a surprising list. Actually, that’s not true: it’s a totally predictable list, but it’s also an instructive one. It both shows how meaningless it is to define an “American” designer in a world where Americans design for foreign houses, and foreigners show in America, and how, despite the fact that the fashion schedule gets ever-more crowded, there still seems an extraordinarily thin layer of internationally recognised talent. Which points up yet another truth: there is a major flaw in the time logic of the awards system itself.
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Actually, that’s not true: Anna Wintour, aka editor of US Vogue, is, in fact, being promoted to “artistic director” of Condé Nast . It’s not Oz, and it’s not ambassador to the UK, but it’s definitely a step up.

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Leaving aside the weirdness of that title, which makes it sound like she is running a ballet company (and exists because CN already has an “editorial director” – Tom Wallace – though that role has become more operational than content-focused, apparently; fun for Mr W), this means, along with her current job at Vogue, she will essentially weigh in on the creative side of the stable of magazines, as well as their personnel.

Here’s how CN explained it in the announcement: “The establishment of an artistic director is a reflection of our commitment to preserve and champion all that exists ‘Only at Condé Nast’. In today’s business environment, it is critical to promote and foster our established creative authority. This is the ideal time to leverage Anna’s extraordinary vision and leadership to amplify and elevate the profile of Condé Nast US both domestically and abroad. Anna is an icon in the worlds of fashion, business and the arts, she has the foresight and wisdom to influence the major trends of our society and is respected globally as an accomplished businesswoman.”

However, in a New York Times report on Ms Wintour’s promotion, what interested me most was her statement that the job “isn’t about a machine or an iPhone or an iPad. It’s about people.” This is telling. After all, for the last few years Ms Wintour has been most famous, intra-fashion world, not for her reportedly chilly personality or even her anti-animal-rights-activists body guards that like to push everyone out of the way when she exits a fashion show, but for the games of chess she plays with brands and designers. She has probably done as much, if not more, to shape the fashion world as to shape her magazine, and as much as any of the big groups. We hear she is a wiz of a wiz, if ever a wiz there was. Because because because because, because of the wonderful things she does. Read more

Yesterday I was on a panel at Harvard Business School with some fellow industry folks, and the first question we were asked was for a definition of “fashion.” One of my fellow speakers, who works on the factoring side of the business, said he thought it was “art.” I disagreed; I have never considered fashion art – in fact, a large part of what I think is interesting about it is precisely its non-art-ness; the fact that when you make clothes, they are by definition to be worn.  Read more

After last week’s announcement that Conde Nast International had made a significant investment (for them) in Farfetch.com comes news that Advance Publications, ie the parent company of Conde Nast, just led the latest $20 million fundraising round for Renttherunway.com, the web site that allows consumers to rent a catwalk look for an event. The first move got a lot of play, and this one has been slightly quieter (another investor, Highland Capital, issued the release), but put them together and you get what looks like an interesting picture developing, no?
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Are semi-obscure male celebrities the most effective way to sell men’s scents? I have to assume the answer to this question is yes, because otherwise why would brands spend what must be a significant amount of money signing up so-so male celebrities to front their cologne campaigns? (Celebrities do not come cheap these days, as sic Lisa Jacobson at United Talent Agency. They all see “ambassador” roles as a prime source of secondary income).

After all, news comes today that Australian actors Eric Bana, left, and Simon Baker, below are fronting, respectively, the new Bulgari and Givenchy men’s scent campaigns. Recognise them? Read more

Last night I made my end of fashion week pilgrimage to the atelier of Azzedine Alaïa to see what he has been working on. As usual, Mr Alaïa did not have a show during the Paris collections; he was too busy.

Indeed, he’s got quite a lot to say about the time pressures on designers, and other industry professionals who engage in the catwalk game, to the extent that he’s planning a symposium on the subject. Stay tuned.

Anyway, there’s a lot going on over there.

Starting with the fact he’s not just busy making clothes: he is making the costumes for a French ballet, to debut in April, as well as for a Los Angeles Opera production of the Marriage of Figaro, which will open mid-May. Oh, and he’s getting ready for a major exhibit of his work at the Musée Galliera in the autumn. Read more

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People in Paris are still arguing about Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent show, and whether it showed shocking disrespect for history or was a kind of fun wake-up call.

You can find out where I fall in my review, but in the meantime, I thought I’d pass on this picture, left, that a friend sent from a book on Mr Saint Laurent.

It’s from 1965, when the designer opened YSL Rive Gauche to sell ready-to-wear and said “boo!” to the couture system. The picture above right is Hedi Slimane’s collection. Can you really argue these things are unconnected? Read more

Yesterday Farfetch.com, the ecommerce site that acts like a portal between global consumers and global independent boutiques, both editing their offerings and connecting either side, announced $20m in new funding, largely from Condé Nast International. A few days before, Luxup, a UK-based ecommerce travel site that aimed to create a “club” of tourists eager for insider shopping experiences, ceased trading. When such things happen in parallel, it’s tempting to try to find lots of lessons in the news.

What are they? Read more

We used to do a column on the Style pages devoted to what we called “incredibly obvious innovations”: fashion developments that seemed so “Duh!” when you saw them it was almost unbelievable no one had thought of them before.

For example, straps on the outside of a tote to hold an umbrella so it doesn’t soak everything inside the bag. Or a light on the interior of a purse, so you can actually see what’s inside without having to take everything out first. Well, I have a new candidate, straight from Paris Fashion Week: Neil Barrett’s internal coat strap. Read more

Three years ago in the midst of the financial crash, Sarah Mower, the British Fashion Council’s ambassador for emerging talent and a writer (she was awarded an MBE for it), in conjunction with the British Fashion Council, set up what she called “the London Showrooms”. A temporary salon during Paris Fashion Week for young UK designers not yet ready to pay for their own showrooms around the world, or organise them, but eager to reach those among the international fashion body who might not have made it to the London shows because of budget or time.

It was a big success, and since then she has introduced such showrooms in Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong, as well as another in Paris for menswear, and potentially one in Tokyo this year. Read more