Couture

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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

Prada

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.