Forget the uproar around competing menswear shows LC:M, which starts today and ends Wednesday, and Pitti Uomo, which also starts Wednesday and runs until Friday. Seems to me the real distraction from the menswear scene this week is actually taking place in Las Vegas from tomorrow-Friday, and is the Consumer Electronic Show, aka CES. After all, the buzz word of the event this year is “wearables,” and the market for “wearables” is being projected to grow to $19 billion in the next four years. Shouldn’t fashion companies be chasing a share of that there about-to-be-very-large pie, and fashion-watchers paying all sorts of close attention? Read more

There was much hoo-ha a few weeks ago about the London opening of American success story J Crew, and whether it would work in the UK, and the great consumer response, and yadda yadda yadda, but in getting excited about the clothes, we seemed to have missed one of the less obvious effects of the opening: its influence on local brands and their thinking – which is to say, the way it has awakened managers to the potential of the accessible luxury/contemporary market (whatever you want to call it: that slice of retail that falls between High Street and very high end). Consider Karen Millen, and its CEO Mike Sherwood, who today told the FT he has decided to take the brand, which was previously at a sort of upper high street level, into new territory. Hello, accessible luxury! But is he right about the opportunity? Read more

Forget obvious battlegrounds like stores (who has got the biggest/luxist/most special) or designers; the most heated fights in luxury are clearly taking place behind the scenes, in the back-end and backrooms. The latest entrants: Chanel and Paco Rabanne, which stepped into the supplier/accessories arenas respectively. Read more

Are accessory designers finally getting the recognition they deserve? Following Louis Vuitton’s announcement last summer that Darren Spaziani was joining the house as accessories designer, now Emilio Pucci is revealing a “get”: Elena Ghisellini, aka the woman behind Givenchy’s recent stream of It bags. She’ll work with creative director Peter Dundas. So far, so normal: both are LVMH brands, this is keeping it in the family. So why do we care? Lots of reasons! Read more

It’s about now that a film studio’s fancy turns to thoughts of awards. They need to get their Oscar/Bafta/Golden Globe contenders in by the end of the year, and general wisdom dictates that it is always better to save the most powerful for the end, so that they remain fresh in voters’ minds.

So the holiday season coincides with the release of high-minded movies such as Philomena , Dallas Buyers Club and The Book Thief – films that deal with big subjects such as adoption and motherhood, terminal illness and the Holocaust, as opposed to, say, superheroes and aliens, or bachelors on the loose. And as in film, so in fashion.

The analysts are not happy. Chairman Yves-André Istel’s statement at the Richemont earnings report today that “No disposals are under consideration at this time or for the foreseeable future.” has been met with grim reaction in the city, which was hoping that Johan Rupert’s sabbatical, and the new leadership of co-CEOS Bernard Fornas and Richard Lepeuwould opt for a rationalisation of the Group, where the fashion brands – Chloe, Alfred Dunhill, Lancel, Shanghai Tang, Alaia – have always seemed an anomaly. Clearly, there’s something of a perception gap here between internal and external players. Why? Read more

There’s a new competitor in the etail space, with a relatively original hook. This is, of course, the brass ring of on-line selling, where it is increasingly apparent that the first to a new idea (or a newish permutation of an old idea) wins big, and everyone else – well, seems to implode. So what is this Next Big Thing? Blake Mycoskie, the founder and CEO of Tom’s – the footwear and now eyewear company with a 1:1 selling/giving model – has launched an on-line department store called Marketplace that showcases 200 products from 30 brands founded with a charity component as part of their modus operandi. Think of it as Nordstrom’s – or Selfridge’s – meets Chime for Change. Read more

One of the weirder moments in the already surreal event that was the public confessional/press conference Toronto mayor Rob Ford held yesterday to admit smoking crack cocaine was, it has to be said, his tie. Unlike most such accessories sported during such penitent moments, which tend to dark, drab, night-of-the-soul shades and prints (see pretty much any white collar defendant in court) — or at the very least, a peaceable blue (see pretty much any banker testifying before a government sub-committee) – Mr Ford wore a souvenir number, spotted by brightly coloured logos from NFL teams. It provoked an immediate reaction. And therein lies a lesson. Really. Read more

Bare essentials

Blame it on Michelle Obama’s elegant arms and the related tricep/bicep workout craze, but women want to show off their upper limbs like never before and there are few ways to do so as stylishly as in a one-shoulder top. Once upon a time, a bare shoulder was almost a synonym for disco nights, but these versions are altogether more grown-up, polished and accessible. Read more

To kick off the Paris shows, the final leg in the marathon that are the modern ready-to-wear collections, Louis Vuitton did something I can’t ever remember them doing before: they announced the name of their new accessories designer with all the hoo-ha and accolades that usually come with the unveiling of a new creative director. Step forth Darren Sapziani. In the luxury power structure, things they are a-changin’. Read more

“I wanted to be nasty. I’m fed up with everything.”
So said Miuccia Prada after her emphatic spring/summer show, which looked at the debate over women’s roles without flinching.
I know it’s a political discourse,” said Mrs Prada, “but I wanted to say what I could through clothes.”
It’s rare, if not unheard of, these days for a big global brand to take a stance on any issue; worried about inadvertently offending potential consumers and losing a lucrative revenue source, they waffle, avoiding commitment. Hemlines are high – or they are low. Trousers are tight – but they can also be wide. Coats are light as air – except when they are fur. Shoes are sky high – and completely flat. And so on.

Take that Kering. You have a hot young British designer? Now WE have a hot young British designer. Today LVMH announced it has purchased a majority stake in UK shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood for an undisclosed amount (that’s actress Rooney Mara wearing his shoes, left), making him the second YBD this year to get snapped up by a big brand, following Kering’s acquisition of Christopher Kane. As one British style watcher said, “they’re buying like it’s 1999.” So what’s going on? Read more

Five years ago, as New York Fashion Week began, Lehman Brothers began its fast slide into bankruptcy and as the shows progressed so did the sense that the consumer world as we knew it was about to change. The ensuing financial crisis altered not only the economics of fashion, especially fashion in Lehman’s home city, but also its aesthetic course, though perhaps not in ways anyone might have predicted. Or so was apparent from last week’s spring/summer womenswear season.

Print matters

From chequerboards to Greek pottery, kinetic swirls to giant gingham, next summer will be one of clearly defined contrasts. Read more

Sometimes, reading about brand expansion plans makes you long for the good old days when designers big market grabs had to do with sunglasses and fragrance. Today Marc Jacobs’ opened his new all-beauty store on Bleecker street in Manhattan, bringing his stores on the block to five. But why stop there? CEO Robert Duffy “hinted” that the future could hold “fine jewelry and furniture.” I bet he’s not the only one at LVMH who thinks so.
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Today, downtown at the Pace Gallery, Tamara Mellon finally unveiled her new brand – not mention plans for the business, which is based on a model that that rejects a lot of the basic conventions of the fashion industry. It tosses, for example, the whole idea of seasons out of window, as well as shows.
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Christiane Amanpour is the chief international correspondent for CNN, host of an eponymous interview programme, and is also global affairs anchor of ABC News. She grew up in Iran and in Great Britain and joined CNN after university. As a reporter, she has covered many conflicts as well as interviewing heads of state such as Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad and the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

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Just as her former Presidential First rival is inaugurated as the face of Bulgari, Valerie Trierweiler, current First Partner of France, also upped her lux ante, appearing during Bastille day ceremonies not just in a bright pink ensemble, but with a Christian Dior bag – one with little dangling C and D charms no less. Check it out by her feet, left. These things in these situations don’t happen just by-the-by. So what do we make of this? Read more

It’s too bad EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht wasn’t at the couture shows last week. It would have given him lots of ammunition during this week’s EU-US free trade talks (presuming they go ahead) when the question of the French exception culturelle is raised. After all, the fashion industry is not covered – not even the made-to-order highest end of it, as invented and perfected in Paris. What became increasingly clear during the collections is that, other than location, couture no longer seems to have much to do with France.

Part of this is literal: of the big brand names still on the couture schedule, only one, Jean Paul Gaultier, is actually designed by a Frenchman. The rest are created by Belgians (Dior, Martin Margiela Artisanale), Dutch (Viktor & Rolf), German (Chanel), Italians (Versace, Armani, Valli, Valentino), Russians (Ulyana Sergeenko) and Lebanese (Elie Saab). But most of it is aesthetic.

Does anyone think just taking a picture of a celebrity in your stuff – or taking a picture of a celebrity in your stuff and making a video of the picture-taking – or even taking a picture of an artisan making your stuff, is enough to convince today’s super-suspicious-of-all-marketing consumer of the integrity of a brand? Burberry clears doesn’t think so, and their just unveiled Autumn/Winter campaign is their response. It’s multi-layered! It’s referential! It has history! It has retail! It goes way beyond the usual. Is it a harbinger of what’s coming? Probably.
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