Beauty

“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.

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

One of the more notable moments of the recent Paris couture week occurred at a very fancy party hosted by Bulgari in a former palace now used as the Chamber of Commerce on Avenue Friedland. As attendees milled around the gardens, swilling champagne, snacking on stuffed tomatoes and chatting to the various executives – outgoing chief executive Michael Burke (who has moved to Vuitton), incoming chief executive Jean-Christophe Babin and Francesco Trapani, head of watches and jewellery at LVMH – models sporting elaborate jewels mingled with guests such as Milla Jovovich, Alexa Chung and Bradley Cooper.

Of all the executives, models and celebrities in attendance, however, none drew as many sideways glances and surreptitious whispers as the new face of Bulgari’s Diva collection and the star of its forthcoming ad campaign, resplendent in black trouser suit and 43-carat sapphire necklace – France’s former first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. 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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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.

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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.