While we were all distracted this week by the twin red carpets tsunamis of the Met Ball and the Dior Cruise extravaganza, some pretty big news hit the fashion world that, potentially, has more far-reaching import than, say, Sarah Jessica Parker’s mega-skirt. What were these Three Most Important Events Everyone has Kinda Overlooked? They are, in date order: 1) Harvey Weinstein’s decision to attempt to revive the House of Charles James on the back of the Met exhibit; 2) Julien Dossena’s decision to close his new-ish line, ATTO, to focus on his other job as creative director of Paco Rabanne; and 3) Chopard’s purchase of the Union Hoteliere Parisienne. Here’s why they matter — and it’s not necessarily why you might think. Read more
And so that extended and amorphous season known as “Cruise” or “Pre-fall” – you know, the clothes that go on sale in late October/November, and hang around until February, and thus constitute the bulk of a brand’s winter revenues — has semi-officially kicked off. Last night the Dior juggernaut came to Brooklyn for a show in the Navy Yards before a few thousand retailers, press and clients. Mostly clients. Which makes sense, right? They’re the buyers. Shouldn’t they see it first? Direct communication (direct sales?) ahoy! Read more
All the hoo-has recently over North America retaking China as the source of luxury growth may be greatly exaggerated—at least when it comes to the consumers doing the spending. Or so a new report called “China Reality Check” from Exane BNP Paribas and ContactLab suggests.
Check out this chart! Read more
“Why does the Met Ball matter?” — this question was asked of me by a British colleague recently, who had gotten tired, I suppose, of revisiting the subject every year with me. And it’s a fair question: why does this gala, of all galas, get so much international attention? I mean, it squishes all benefit competitors in the social media game. It’s not just because of the celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, left, at last year’s Ball – there are celebs at the NYCB gala, coming up Thursday, and Elton John’s White Tie & Tiara Ball. It’s not because there’s so much news-worthy behaviour behind the closed doors (it’s on a Monday night; half the crowd go home to bed after the main course). Rather, I think it’s because it’s current maestro, Anna Wintour, understood something about it that no other benefit chairperson, as far as I can tell, has understood about their yearly event. Read more
Next week begins the pre-spring season, starting with Dior in NYC, followed by Chanel in Dubai, Louis Vuitton in Monaco and everyone else in their home towns. Everyone, that is, except Celine’s Phoebe Philo, who just released images of her pre-FALL collection (here’s a peek, sprinkled throughout this blog). Got that? Everyone is doing pre-spring, and she is doing pre-fall. In other words, Ms Philo did that very shocking thing that keeps getting discussed within the fashion world as a way to stop counterfeiting and satisfy consumers, who want what they want when they see it (not six months later), but never actually acted upon, which is: she did not let anyone see her collection until it was in stores. Read more
This morning a very tiny, excessively bland announcement came out from Horseferry House announcing that the long-awaited Burberry power transition had just happened. Here’s what it said:
“Further to the announcement on 15 October 2013, Christopher Bailey [left] has been appointed as chief creative and chief executive officer and as a director of the company from 1 May 2014. Angela Ahrendts stepped down as chief executive officer and resigned her directorship on 30 April 2014. The company confirms there is no further information to be disclosed pursuant to LR 9.6.13 with regard to Christopher Bailey’s appointment.”
Well, that’s exciting. As far as downplaying a potential industry-changing event you don’t get much better than that. I mean, Mr Bailey is now the first creative director (or chief creative officer) of a public luxury company to be also crowned CEO, which either will, or will not, create a whole new job path for his peers and those who come after, depending on how he performs, and today will either mark the moment the creative and corporate sides, long silo-ed, finally merged, or the moment that great experiment failed. Just another day at the office! Read more
Reading all the (somewhat gleeful and ongoing) reports of the Nike Fuelband’s demise over the last few days, I’ve been struck by the fact that while they all seem to agree on the fact that it was maybe a defensive move in anticipation of the looming possible iWatch threat, they also seem divided as to what, exactly, Nike’s problem was: hardware (it didn’t have big enough margins)or software (it didn’t actually do enough). But let’s call a spade a spade: it didn’t look good enough. Read more
So after a season of “team”, beleaguered Jil Sander has a new creative director: Rodolfo Paglialunga. Who? Cast your mind back, and you may remember him as the guy who briefly made the revived Vionnet kinda-sorta interesting in its first seasons back in the public eye, between 2009-2011. Celebs from Madonna (left, in his Vionnet) to Hillary Swank and Diane Kruger wore the dresses, and it was on the verge of hot-ness. Then something happened (who knows what?) and Mr Paglialunga was out. Vionnet, which was later sold to Goga Ashkanazi, has yet to really get back on the rails. But given his success with the brand, does this (short) track record bode well for Sander? Read more
It is rare to have lunch with someone who is so quotable it’s impossible to include all their zingers in a 2500 word piece. And yet, so it was with American Vogue creative director Grace Coddington (left, with Donna Karan), whose willingness to speak her mind is both singular and extremely appealing. Thus, as I promised via Twitter, following are the thoughts that DIDN’T make it into the story – but that, nevertheless, I am very happy to pass on. Read more
This is my last column for the FT – after 11 years and approximately a million words, I am embracing that thing so beloved of the fashion world: change. It’s not nearly as easy to do as it is to watch on the catwalk every season but if covering this industry for the past decade-plus has taught me anything, it’s the value – literally – of new perspectives.
Much noise has been made about various British brands attempting to take on the American market, and the difficulties many (Tesco, Marks and Spencer) find therein. Not that it stops anyone. The latest brand to make a big push for a bigger slice of the pie: Boden.
Yup – the catalogue known for its brightly coloured kidswear and mummy-wear. Funny, right? After all, the UK brands that have been most successful in the US, from Burberry to Topshop, have had a definite fashion edge, which is not a concept normally associated with Boden. Read more
Louis Vuitton is unveiling a new group of celebrity “ambassadors’ today via their web site, and it’s not who you might expect: instead of actress Michelle Williams, who currently fronts their women’s bag campaign, or Angelina Jolie, who has plugged the heritage line, we have a star-studded line-up of… Atiq Rahimi, a French-Afghan author and movie director whose book, “the Patience Stone” won the Prix Goncourt; Tom Reiss, whose biography, “The Black Count:” about the “real” Count of Monte Cristo just won the Pulitzer; political consultant Felix Marquardt (who has advised the Presidents of Colombia, Georgia and Panama) and Dr. Gino Yu of Hong Kong Polytechnic university and Lourenço Bustani, CEO of Mandalah, who is spearheading the cultural planning of Brazil’s 2016 Olympics — all photographed at the most recent World Economic Forum in Switzerland. So here’s the question: is this a super-clever new way of thinking about marketing, or a velvet rope that will prove too much of a barrier to entry even for the insiders? Read more
The on-again/off-again love affair between private equity and fashion seems to be heating up again, what with Blackstone taking a minority stake in Versace, Permira courting Cavalli, and, as of today, a new swain in town making its move on Opening Ceremony. According to WWD, Front Row partners, which was launched earlier this year by Glen Senk, ex-CEO of David Yurman and Anthropologie in conjunction with Berkshire Partners (who threw in $350million) to target “innovative, high-growth retail and consumer businesses”, has taken a minority stake in the hip downtown retailer. The amount was not disclosed, but still: Can you hear the heavy breathing? Anyway, it seems to me this marks the resurgence of the relationship, which has been abandoned in recent years as luxury brands from Prada to Ferragamo, Michael Kors, and Brunello Cucinelli turned to IPOs instead of PE. So what changed? Read more
I have a dream. Not the Martin Luther King kind, I admit; more the nightmare-at-2am kind. In my dream, I am out and about reporting, reviewing or otherwise working, when I discover something big – something I have to tweet or write straight away, like that the Marc Jacobs IPO is set for next week (not really) or that Apple is appointing Hedi Slimane its creative director (also not true; these are just examples of what would make urgent fashion news) – and my BlackBerry (yes, I have a BlackBerry, and I like it) goes kaput. Runs out of juice. You know the scenario. And whichever smartphone you depend upon, I would bet you’ve had the same dream.
uch concern in New York last year post-election about whether new Mayor Bill de Blasio would be as much of a FoF (friend of fashion) as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg – especially given de Blasio’s stated goal to even the economic playing field in the city. Turns out, however, this refers not just to the income gap but the manufacturing gap, and in that fashion and the mayor’s office have found common ground. Read more
So Mulberry interim executive chairman Godfrey Davis, still lacking a CEO and Creative Director, has announced a change in strategy: they are going more accessible. You’d think maybe they would wait until those two leadership positions were filled to discuss this sort of thing, but hey – a brand’s gotta do what a brand’s gotta do, at least when speaking to financial analysts about profit warnings. And generally, I think this is move in the right direction. After all, with Benard Arnault charging full-bore at the top end of the market with his stable of brands, wherein also resides Hermes, Chanel, and Bottega Veneta, and Ralph Lauren announcing his plans to go luxury, it’s looking pretty crowded up there. On the other hand, ask those analysts the Mulberry folks were talking to about the success of, say, Michael Kors, and they will site the fact that Mr Kors was smart enough of take advantage of that great open high middle that Mr Arnault and co had left vacant. The space is still unpopulated enough that Mulberry may be able to find a home. Read more
And this is how a fashion rumour gets started: A few days ago Page Six, the New York Post’s gossip column, ran an item saying John Galliano was no longer being considered as a possible creative director at Oscar de la Renta (pictures above, with former NY Mayor Bloomberg; and if you ask me, given their joint experiment in the design studio a few seasons ago is a good thing; their aesthetics did not mesh), and as a result de la Renta was looking for a replacement. Now the Telegraph in London has picked the rumour up, and the Business of Fashion website has picked up their story, and soon it will be gospel. But it is actually true? According to a source in the inner circle of the brand: No – at least not officially. Read more
Maud Lescroart, the CMO of Sophie Hallett, the family-run French lace maker that seems to supply – well, pretty much everyone in fashion – is in New York this week for Wedding Week, and stopped by the office the other day to discuss her company’s life since the royal wedding (Hallett supplied the lace that covered the bodice of Kate Middleton’s Sarah Burton Alexander McQueen gown). Between four key factors: 1) the spotlight cast by the palace fairy tale; 2) the focus on the hand-made and heritage as key to luxury’s appeal; 3) the growing attention to CSR and the desire to control all parts of the supply chain; and 4) and the imperative in the luxury industry to ensure a reliable source of key materials, which has seen big groups buying up skins houses (LVMH and Heng Long; Hermes and Tanneries d’Annonay) and cashmere specialists (LVMH’s purchase of Loro Piana in 2013; Chanel’s purchase of Barrie knitwear in 2012), they have gone from behind-the-scenes player to suddenly very hot property. Read more
So Alexander Wang, left, is the latest runway designer to team up with H&M in their high/low limited-edition strategy for creating buzz and best-sellers. He’ll be the first American to get the gig. The news was announced yesterday by Mr Wang via Instagram, which was seen as very cool, while at Coachella, which is even more cool. The message being, of course, that he is just cool, and this project is going to be super-cool. Except it always seems to me the appeal of the H&M collaborations was they took names that weren’t cool – they were haute, and generally unreachable – and it was the combination of unlikely bedfellows (the high street and the high fashion) that was actually the cool part. This one seems to indicate a slight switch in strategy. Read more