Monthly Archives: March 2014

After two weeks in the mountains of Wyoming, come home and what do I find? Not only is Mulberry without a CEO (and still without a designer), but all that conventional wisdom about the super-duper high-speed growth of the Chinese luxury market (shock! Trauma!) slowing down may have been wrong. Or not wrong, exactly, but slightly misguided. Read more

More signs of the luxury industry shrugging of a slowdown in sales in China.

Versace reported its net profit jumped by nearly a third in 2013 as strong sales to US and still buoyant trade in China offset slower growth in Europe. Read more

The prospect of a US-based IPO by Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba has triggered a recent wave of short-term conjecture over the eye-watering figures involved.

A listing could garner as much as $25bn for example – making it the largest float in history. Wall Street banks could reap up to $400m in fees. Alibaba’s $170bn annual revenue now accounts for 2 per cent of China’s gross domestic product, and is bigger than those of eBay and Amazon combined.

Basically, there’s been rather a lot of this:

But what there has been surprisingly little Wall Street speculation or media salivation over are the longer-term ramifications of a possible IPO. And, more pertinently for the readers of Material World, what inroads Alibaba may be planning into Western fashion and luxury territory following a float, in order to open up access to these brands to the hundreds of millions of hungry shoppers back home in China.

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Given the obsessive attention routinely paid to what Michelle Obama or Samantha Cameron wears, it struck me that when Michelle Bachelet was sworn in as president of Chile this month, no one mentioned what she wore: a long navy jacket and matching skirt with a red, white and blue presidential sash.

Even more notably, in a photo taken that day, Bachelet was sandwiched between Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff, who was wearing a black straight skirt and a black and white plaid collarless jacket with black lace appliqué, and Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in a white lace dress under a white car coat with white open-toe platform pumps. And no one said anything about them either.

Amid wave after wave of unsavory speculation regarding the state of both her private life and business, the employees of L’Wren Scott have maintained a dignified silence in the wake of her tragic suicide on Monday at the age of 49.

However a spokesperson for the team at Scott’s eponymous fashion brand just released the following statement, with the additional request that it was published in full: Read more


YUPPIE – ‘Young urban professional’

HENRYs – ‘High-earning not rich yet’ individuals

DINKs – ‘Dual-income, no kids’ couples

YUMMY – ‘Young urban male’

IWWIWWIWI – ‘I want what I want when I want it’

For dedicated followers of fashion, there’s a new acronym in town.

After the YUPPIE, HENRYs, IWWIWWIWIs and DINKs comes the YUMMY. Young, Urban and Male. Three reasons for the industry to rejoice, according to HSBC analysts Erwan Rambourg, Antoine Belge and Cathy Chao.

The YUMMY is riding to the rescue of the luxury industry which is reeling from a slowdown in its traditional markets, economic gloom in Europe and negative foreign exchange swings for mostly European businesses, according to HSBC. Read more

It’s almost a cliché now that you wait years for a fashion film and then two come along at once. It happened with two Chanel films in 2009, and now this year two YSL biopics are going head to head.

First up is Yves Saint Laurent which opens in the UK on Friday. Starring Pierre Niney as Saint Laurent, it’s the one that has the co-operation of the designer’s long-term boyfriend and civil partner Pierre Bergé, and director Jalil Lespert was therefore able to work with the Pierre Bergé-Saint Laurent Foundation. And the other? Saint Laurent, set for release in October and directed by Bertrand Bonello, has been backed by François Henri-Pinault, head of Kering, which has OK’d use of the fashion house’s logo and designs. Bergé has slammed the project on Twitter and said he wants to ban it. Read more

Interesting news from Google HQ today: the announcement of an operating system called Android Wear that will extend the Android platform to – yup, you guessed it – wearables.

The eyes of the fashion and luxury worlds will be particularly drawn to the news, given the focus of Google’s attentions has landed squarely on what they term “the most familiar of all wearables” – the wrist watch.

The ‘smart watches’ that use Android Wear will be able to offer a range of snazzy apps and functions, including:

  • Information from social media, messaging, shopping and news providers
  • Straight answers to spoken questions (let’s face it, not light years away from Apple’s Siri)
  • The ability to monitor health and fitness with summaries and alerts
  • Multiscreen portal potential

All very savvy – and to some extent predictable – given the recent stress placed by industry observers on devices having genuine function and utility over form if there is ever to be true mass adoption by consumers.

But when it comes to mega-trends, aesthetics – and perhaps recognizable hallmarks when traversing into the great unknown that is digital jewellery – remain vital too. Read more

L’Wren Scott, the celebrated American fashion designer, has been found dead in New York after committing suicide, police sources confirmed on Monday.

The 49-year old launched her haute namesake brand – renowned for its understated, womanly elegance – in 2006, after earlier forays into the industry first as a teenage model then later as a highly sought after Hollywood stylist. Her glamorous, alpha woman designs had most recently found a home on the London Fashion Week calendar, orbited by her make-up, fragrance and accessories partnerships with some of the biggest names in fashion. Read more

During the penultimate day of the Paris ready-to-wear collections, just before the Alexander McQueen show, was an event that, given the circumstances, might strike many as odd.

So Ferrari-Land is coming to Europe: the car company run by the impeccable Luca Cordero di Montezemolo (left), a one-time maybe-possible candidate for Italian Prime Minister in the pre-Renzi days, has decided to open its signature theme park in Barcelona. It already has one in Abu Dhabi that, Mr Montezemolo told me once, is astonishingly successful. I am sure this one will be a major draw too, up there with Legoland and Euro-Disney. But what I don’t understand is how they square it with Mr Montezemolo’s recent statement in the FT, explaining his decision to reduce production to up quality, that: ““Exclusivity for me is the most important thing.”  Read more

And now the LVMH young designer prize finalists are out! It’s been a big week for prize announcements, what with the CFDA and now this. In fact, it’s kind of instructive to look at the two together, because it underscores how global fashion has become – and the problems that arise when you try to think of it in the national context. Think how much more fun it would be if everyone could be considered for “womenswear designer of the year” or “accessory designer of the year.” Now that would be really interesting!

Nominations please. Read more

OK, yes, as readers may know it has been a bit of a busy morning for me (more on that later), but in the meantime, I have been thinking about fashion news of the day NOT made by me, especially last night’s CFDA nominations revelations. They’re interesting. Really – I kid you not. Yes, it’s a bit of the same old same old, but here’s the thing about the current same olds: they are younger – significantly so – than the past same olds. Read more

There’s an interesting report in the FT today about declining sales of China’s local-brand cars, and it’s got me thinking about the benefits and problems of “national” brands – which is to say, not state-owned brands, but rather the perceptions surrounding the name of a country, ie its own brand, when attached to product, and the way this can work for and against manufacturers. Blame it on the Made in Italy and Made in France strategy the luxury industry so cannily implemented back in the day (a recent BCG/Altagamma/Sanford Bernstein Global Consumer Insight study found a whopping 80% of consumers think “Made in is key”) but seems to me, when it comes to consumers, products don’t just have to be good, they have to somehow come to grips with national stereotype, and either neuter it or exploit it. But what they can’t do is ignore it. Read more

Much to-do over the weekend at SXSW following Google SVP of Android, Chrome & Apps Sundar Pichai’s announcement that they were about to release a software development kit for wearables, so that your clothes could talk to Android devices. Immediate speculation on motives followed. They were looking to corner the market by owning the common platform! They were going to make more wearables of their own (Well, duh)! It was sneaky and smart strategy! But here’s what I was thinking, reading about all this: there is enormous fashion potential here, if they want to seize it. Read more

The general reaction from most laypersons upon seeing a Comme des Garcons show (left) can be boiled down to a single word: “huh?” Or maybe three: “What was that?” Or four: “I don’t get it.” You can kind of understand it, when designer Rei Kawakubo says things like “I was trying not to make clothes,” and it was about “monsters.” And yet Comme des Garcons is a very healthy, $200m business. So how do they get from the extremity of what’s on the catwalk to this commercial reality? Read more

Regular readers of this blog will know that I like to top off my fashion month with a visit to the Alaia atelier to see what the designer is doing and experience the fashion equivalent of a cleanse: Mr Alaia, after all, works exactly as he wants, shrugging off the demands of seasons and showing and trends. Ayn Rand would have loved him. Read more

Humility has not always been a word associated with either the name Louis Vuitton (the powerhouse of the LVMH luxury engine) or Nicolas Ghesquiere (the ex-Balenciaga creative director who got in trouble for bad-mouthing his former employer in an interview). Yet humility was exactly the way Mr Ghesquiere approached his first collection for Louis Vuitton. Read more

It’s interesting, in all the breathless reports about Fast Retailing’s maybe-possibly-hope-so acquisition of J Crew, Andrew Rosen has not really figured. It’s all about Fast’s chairman, Tadashi Yanai, and his desire to acquire, along with the accessible luxury brand, its CEO, Millard “Mickey” Drexler (though presumably creative director Jenna Lyons is also a plus). Yet Mr Rosen, who is a group senior vice-president of Fast Retailing, and instrumental in their US operation, being the CEO of Theory and Helmut Lang (which Fast bought fully in 2009), happens to be very, VERY (I could say that again, but won’t, because I think you get the point) good friends with Mr Drexler. See where I’m going with this? Read more