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The continued preponderance of celebs at the couture show in Paris this week – Sigourney Weaver, Chloë Moretz, Jessica Alba, Rosamund Pike and Noomi Rapace, among others (left) at Dior; Hilary Swank and Uma Turman at Armani; Charlene, Princess of Monaco and Olivia Munn at Versace; Rita Ora at Chanel – has got me thinking about the expectation this has raised, and how that can backfire for a brand. And no, I’m not talking about the usual problem of celebs behaving badly.

I’m talking about the fact that these relationships have become so common and so public, that now when we see a star in pretty much anything branded, there is an assumption there’s a contractual relationship there. And a contractual relationship implies approbation and shared values. At our recent Business of Luxury conference in New York, Lisa Jacobson, head of branding for United Talent Agency, said there were “maybe” five celebs in Hollywood that didn’t want a relationship with a brand, and the endorsement contract had become a significant part of most stars’ income. Read more


Ok, Prada is not participating in the couture shows this week, but it did send out this little sneak peek of the dresses the brand made for Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming and much-anticipated film The Great Gatsby. It seems for no immediately apparent reason – the film is not due to open until May, there’s no specific promotional activity happening now around it – until you start thinking about the fact that these sketches (left and below) are one-offs made for Carey Mulligan, who plays Daisy Buchanan, and certainly look as intricate and imaginative as most dresses come. Kind of like couture.

That green number is a “radzmire dress with bustier embroidered with pearls, stones and sequin fringes”; the first one below is a “multi-striped sequins dress with a plastic and trimmings embroidery at the bottom”. The one at the bottom is “orange organza dress enriched with plastic fish scale-like sequin embroidery”. Read more

Recently I was talking to James Carsellis, the entrepreneur behind web start-up Luxup, and he mentioned the theory that Europe was becoming a luxury goods Disneyland for emerging market consumers. You know: a place where the entertainment value/point lies in shopping for expensive stuff. I don’t think the comparison is that far-fetched.
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Today Dolce & Gabbana confirmed rumours that it will create a small couture collection for the first time, to be showed July 9th to a group of clients in Taormina Sicily. The unveiling will take place far from the classic couture environs of Paris; the eye of the Chambre Syndicale, the governing body of the French couture tradition; and the fashion media. The choice is strategic for a number for reasons.
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The branded jewellery game, long viewed as an area with the least players and the biggest potential pay-off, has a new entrant: Versace, which just announced it will introduce its first high jewellery line (one-off creations with emeralds, diamonds, etc) this Sunday during its couture show at the Paris Ritz. I’ll see your collection and raise you! Read more

Recently, a woman in the midst of a career change came to see me. This former banker, who took time off to get married and have children, was on the verge of beginning a new life in the high-end fragrance business. Her launch product is a limited edition perfume called “Tiara” that will sell for $1,200 and features particularly glitzy packaging: nestling inside a white resin box is a glass vial shaped like a cupcake, “crowned” by a special silvery top studded with sapphire blue Swarovski ovals. The look was, she said, inspired by the late Princess Diana’s engagement ring, as now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.

Q: When is a hand bag not just a handbag ?

A: When it is also a piece of high jewellery and a sculptural object.

The crocodile skin and diamond Hermès bag (photo by Dan Tobin Smith)

Such is the case, anyway, with Hermès’s second foray into haute bijouterie (as opposed to haute joaillerie — the former starts with outrageous designs, the latter with mega stones). Their jeweller and shoe maestro Pierre Hardy created four different mini-handbags, in part inspired by the brand’s iconic handbags, using gold and a LOT of precious stones. They are each functionally a “bracelet” and they actually work as (very small) handbags.In theory, anyway.

It seems to me the idea of anyone actually carrying a handbag worth €1.5m and made of intertwining chains covered in 11,000 diamonds, or a rose gold version of the Kelly bag with crocodile scales and 1,160 diamonds is a little nuts, and I mentioned this to Patrick Thomas, the CEO of the brand. He laughed. Read more

We Are All Guilty for this Mess,” according to Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune. In a heartfelt piece in her newspaper, my fellow Fashion Week traveller and friend took the fashion industry (herself included) to task for the very public soap opera that is the current round of designer switcheroos, in which bystanders gossip and place bets and tweet about real jobs and real people like they are characters in a reality television game.

It’s tough and honest and has people buzzing at the shows, and I recommend you read it, but I’m also not sure I entirely agree with it. I think she’s right about the situation, but doesn’t fully get to the cause. Read more

Raf Simons may have left the Jil Sander building, but he went out with the
sort of audience reception normally granted rock stars or George Clooney:
the audience stampeded the catwalk, and stood cheering and clapping,
refusing to leave until a security guard made the tearful designer
return to take a bow. The last time I saw this sort of thing was when
Tom Ford left Gucci and YSL. Read more

It’s a funny time to be in Italy looking at high-end clothes. On the one hand, the last thing anyone wants to communicate in a country that turned to a non-elected technocratic government last November to fix its economic woes is business as usual; on the other hand, on the catwalks it’s – well, business as usual. Kind of.

During fashion show season, which is any time between January’s men’s wear shows and this weekend, when their women’s wear collection is shown in Milan, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana don’t go out to lunch.

Most fashion houses are understandably cagey about who they are dressing for the Oscars, the most lucrative red carpet marketing event of the year, which takes place this Sunday in Los Angeles. However, as I’ve been making the rounds of the Milan shows, some bits and bobs of information have come leaking out. The fear, of course, in spilling the beans is that in the end you are proved wrong (see post on Adele at the Grammys). The dressing game isn’t over until the celebrity actually exits the limo, but a few designers were willing to go on the record. Read more

Adele in Giorgio Armani at the Grammy Awards (AP)

The perils of betting on celebrity dressing were potently illustrated at the Grammy awards. The night’s superstar, Adele, wore — wait for it — Giorgio Armani to accept her six gongs, before changing into Clements Ribeiro for her performance and Burberry for her finale.

I say “perils” because yesterday, as I made the rounds of New York Fashion Week, I heard two separate design camps claim she would be wearing them.

The first time was at the Zac Posen show, when an insider mentioned that, fingers crossed, Adele was going to be wearing one of their dresses. It wasn’t 100 per cent sure, she said, but it looked good.

Posen is a red-carpet favourite, and both Reese Witherspoon and Elle MacPherson wore him to the Golden Globes last month, so this seemed plausibe. Read more

A snowman wearing a CNN hat at Davos

A snowman at Davos yesterday. AFP/Getty Images

Reading the FT’s live blog from Davos as I sit warm in my hotel room in Paris (it is one of life’s cosmic jokes that Davos always coincides with that ultimate in 1 per cent consumer indulgence, couture), I was struck that among the debates on income inequality, critiques of Angela Merkel’s speech, and the growing concerns of the private equity folks about the end of their special tax status, one of the few topics everyone agreed on was the importance of hats.

Indeed, before the repercussions of George Soros’s lunchtime talk were analysed, his special hat was noted, and compared with the bigger furry hat of FT columnist Martin Wolf. Personally, however, I think both pale in comparison to the enormous furry gloves worn by Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP. Read more

Nathalie Rykiel (left) with designer April Crichton at Sonia Rykiel show. AFP/Getty Images

Nathalie Rykiel (left) with designer April Crichton at Sonia Rykiel show. AFP/Getty Images

Fung Brands Ltd just announced they were in exclusive negotiations to buy 80 per cent of French fashion house Sonia Rykiel, for an undisclosed price. Interesting.

This will be Fung Brands‘ first ready-to-wear acquisition since it was formed last year with Jean-Marc Loubier, latterly of LVMH and Celine, as chief executive. They’ve been moving pretty quickly, having already also bought French shoe brand Robert Clergerie, and Belgian luxury handbag house Delvaux. (Fung Brands is the subsidiary of Fung Capital, the private investment arm of the Fung family, which also owns the Asian manufacturing powerhouse Li & Fung).

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In another example of the way statesmen have wised-up to fashion’s usefulness as an educational and promotional tool, today the United Nation’s Global Compact – the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, launched by the UN in 2000 – is announcing it’s first sector-specific initiative. And it is … wait for it … a joint venture with NICE, aka the Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical (yes, the acronym works better than what it stands for).

To be specific, it is a new set of business guidelines, “based on the UN Global Compact principles but formatted to a fashion and textile context (adding two to four fashion-specific principles on pressing issues such as chemicals, water, waste, jewellery/diamonds, animal rights/welfare),” according to Jonas Eder-Hansen of the Danish Fashion Institute. He says many small- and medium-sized companies simply don’t know how to make themselves sustainable, and this is conceived to clarify the situation. (Many of the big fashion and luxury groups in the big four fashion capitals of Paris, Milan, New York and London already have any similar rules in place internally; LVMH for one is a signatory to the Global Compact.) Read more

Yup: this is the view from my seat at Chanel, across the aisle. This couture season they created a whole Airbus interior inside the Grand Palais in Paris, complete with faux logo carpet, wheelie carts with orange juice and champagne, and a sky and cloud video that segued into earth from above moving across the ceiling.

Why? Read more

Phoebe Philo. Getty Images/AFP

Phoebe Philo. Getty Images/AFP

OK, I know that’s a bit of a misleading headline: LVMH LOVES a show. But between the extreme foot-dragging about signing a new creative force at Dior (which, technically, actually owns Paris-based LVMH, as opposed to the other way around, but for efficiency’s sake let’s acknowledge that those initials have come to stand for both), and today’s news that Celine, one of the group’s hottest brands, is not having a runway show during the upcoming ready-to-wear season because their designer, Phoebe Philo, will be eight months pregnant with her third child, it’s hard not to think that perhaps the luxury world’s biggest group may be itself rethinking the whole runway circus, and the cost/benefits involved. Read more

Spring-summer collection 2012. Credit:

Before his pre-fall collection for Lanvin today designer Alber Elbaz told a funny story. He was in NYC a few months ago for a meeting about the new Lanvin Men’s store, he said, and took a cab ride down Fifth Avenue. He passed megastore after superstore (he didn’t name them but the new, airplane-hangar-sized Uniqlo and H&M come to mind) and by the time he got to his new store he was in a tizzy. “We have to be bigger!” He told his architect. “New York is all about big!” Read more

Here is a Christmas wish, courtesy of Diane von Furstenberg, who issued it during a conversation last friday: Bernard Arnault should take his place as the elder statesman of fashion (after all, he pretty much invented it as an industry) and solve the fashion week date problem once and for all. Read more