Elizabeth Paton

Elizabeth Paton is the FT's US luxury correspondent

So Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder and self-anointed hero of media freedom, is adding yet another headline-grabbing feather to his cap this September: modelling at London Fashion Week.

The Australian, who has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the best part of two years, will appear in a show modelling a collection inspired by Clint Eastwood by Ben Westwood, son of the industry’s most famous designer anarchist, Dame Vivienne.

“My view about Julian is that he is a popular hero and he’s done a great deal to change public opinion. I think it’s a citizen’s duty to stand up for justice and freedom of speech,”

said Mr Westwood about his decision to make Mr Assange a fashion model.

“I want to highlight his plight. What happened to him is totally unfair. Julian’s been in the embassy for two years and it’s important that he doesn’t slip into obscurity.”

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Another day, another high-profile auction house hits the headlines with a juicy legal scandal. Weeks after a 6-month siege of the Sotheby’s boardroom by Dan Loeb ended in a trip to the courthouse and the activist hedgie getting a seat at the top table, Christie’s is facing a $60m lawsuit filed by a rival for allegedly poaching its luxury handbags experts.

Does this mean that accessories could be the new flashpoint in the fight for market share in the auction world?

Papers were filed in Manhattan last Friday by Heritage, a Dallas, Texas-based company that specialises in auctioning ultra-luxe accessories. It was behind the sale of the world’s most expensive handbag in 2011 (this $203,150 scarlet red crocodile skin Hermès Birkin bag below in case you are interested, and the price included a juicy buyer’s premium of almost 20 per cent.) Read more

I read an interesting note to investors from the luxury analysts at Exane BNP Paribas last week, exploring the idea of measuring brand temperature.

Rather than focusing on the elements over which a brand has complete control, the team looked at the ‘hot’ or ‘not’ variables which it can only influence remotely via its marketing efforts.

Comparisons included equal marketing spends by one ‘hot’ and one ‘cold’ brand, then monitoring the spontaneous global marketing and editorial coverage triggered, as well as the potentially increased brand recognition in the minds of consumers. Read more

Fashion, just like the tech world, is borne from, reflective of and defined by the cyclical and cultural trends that continually evolve and adapt around it.

Both are businesses that are high-risk and tricky to be in, balancing books around supply and demand. But, more specifically, the real art that defines leaders from the pack is preemptively being able to guess what people want and need before they manage to recognize it for themselves. The best at this are making billions, both in fashion and tech.

But there’s one overlapping sector which both the titans of Silicon Valley and tastemakers of London, New York, Paris and Milan are still struggling to get en vogue.

Wearables. Read more

In a world where online control of both brand name and territory is considered increasingly essential, it is of little surprise that digital land-grabbing by luxury’s biggest players stepped up a notch last week with the launch of a new top level domain name – .luxury

Think it sounds a little gimmicky? That perhaps it won’t take off?

Then maybe think again – because some of the industry’s biggest players in the industry appear to be more than happy to pay the relatively modest $699 annual fee in order to take a stake in this new luxury e-space. Read more

After months of hype and incessant drum-rolling, the recipient of the inaugural LVMH Young Designer Prize was announced in Paris today – and rather refreshingly, its not who I would have expected.

The winner? Canadian-born, London-based Thomas Tait.

Who, I hear you ask?

Well you’ll certainly be hearing more from him from now on, after some of the fashion world’s biggest names decided he was the worthiest young designer out of an incredibly strong shortlist of a dozen international names and some very stiff wider competition. Read more

The gold price might have dropped by 28 per cent in the last year, and central bank acquisitions of the yellow metal might have fallen. But according to data just released by the World Gold Council, demand for jewellery – particularly in emerging markets – is still rock steady.

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Dismissed for decades by the industry, it has only been in the past 18 months that sub-Saharan Africa has really started garnering the attentions of international luxury heavyweights. Home to many of the world’s fastest-growing economies, the region is second only to Asia-Pacific in terms of consumer market growth, according to a Euromonitor report.

Its luxury goods market remains tiny, at around €2bn in 2013, according to Bain & Company. But countries like Nigeria are showing explosive potential growth.

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Despite the economic slowdown recently felt across much of the region, all eyes continue to be fixed firmly upon Asia Pacific, still considered to be the hothouse of luxury industry growth over the next decade: Euromonitor expects sales of goods within the region to hit $125bn by 2018, a spike of 45 per cent.

Recent public plutzing by the industry over the state of China’s softening sales last year now appears to be abating, as the dip proves a short-term bump in the long-term road.

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