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.
According to a new report published today by the Digital Luxury Group, Chanel has ousted Louis Vuitton for the first time as the most-searched-for luxury brand in China (that’s their Beijing store, below). Rock our little velvet-lined world. Especially because why is one of the best arguments I’ve yet heard for why a brand needs to hit every luxury market segment.
Can it be a coincidence that the start of the summer cultural season – ie, that time of year when blockbusters hit big screens and beach reads land on bookshelves – has been heralded by two launches that, while they don’t necessarily celebrate consumerism, certainly have it at their core?
Between The Bling Ring , Sofia Coppola’s dramatisation of Nancy Jo Sales’ magazine piece about brand-and-celeb-obsessed teenagers and the criminal lengths they reach, andCrazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan’s novel about lux- and status-obsessed Singaporeans, it’s hard to escape the idea that this will be the summer of stuff. Read more
Once upon a time, to most people, “the woman in red” meant a mediocre 1980s comedy starring Gene Wilder and Kelly LeBrock. Not any more. These days, the phrase is shorthand for the protests in Turkey over the past two weeks. That the latter has so overtaken the former is testament to the power of the image in the age of social media. And clothing has a lot to do with that power.
Just as pre-fall appears in stores, pre-spring (aka resort) appears on runways. But how to make sense of a season that spans from November through to May? The answer for a number of designers: skin. Sometimes yours, sometimes an animal’s, sometimes something that looks like an animal’s.
Last weekend I experienced an unfamiliar clothing trauma (I know, I shouldn’t admit it). Coming from New York, where it was muggy and 32C, to Europe, where it was 13C and rainy, via a stop in London to see the Chime for Change concert, with two black-tie events and a conference on the menu, I was paralysed by the question of what to wear. Having decided June qualified as summer, and having packed away my winter wardrobe, I simply couldn’t get my head around what I knew I needed to bring, which involved the words “cashmere” and “knit”. It felt philosophically wrong.
Generally, as I have written before, I have a wardrobe stocked with clothing bought to solve specific problems (black-tie work events, where you need to be fancy but appropriately covered; pre-work meetings with your children’s teachers, where it’s better not to be too glossy) but the transformation of climate into a fungible concept has proved difficult. Having been trained to think in a spring/summer vs autumn/winter dialectic, I find it difficult to accept a new philosophy. Even though, to paraphrase Francis Fukuyama, it increasingly seems the End of Seasons is nigh.
Dries Van Noten is one of the world’s most successful independent designers. An original member of the Antwerp Six, the group of Belgians who transformed the city into a locus of avant-garde fashion in the mid-1980s, he is sold at more than 500 outlets worldwide, and has won the international award of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
Elizabeth Peyton is an American artist known for her stylised figurative portraits of well-known people; her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pompidou in Paris, and the Kunstmuseum in Basel. The two have been friends since 2009.
And so the morality comedy (tragedy?) currently being acted out in public over the importance of appearance continues. Last week at a fundraiser in California, President Obama called California Attorney General Kamala Harris “brilliant,” “dedicated,” and “tough”—and then added she was also “the best looking attorney general”. Guess what everyone wrote about the next day? Guess who had to apologise? Guess what I can’t help wondering? 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.