Fashion

Next week begins the pre-spring season, starting with Dior in NYC, followed by Chanel in Dubai, Louis Vuitton in Monaco and everyone else in their home towns. Everyone, that is, except Celine’s Phoebe Philo, who just released images of her pre-FALL collection (here’s a peek, sprinkled throughout this blog). Got that? Everyone is doing pre-spring, and she is doing pre-fall. In other words, Ms Philo did that very shocking thing that keeps getting discussed within the fashion world as a way to stop counterfeiting and satisfy consumers, who want what they want when they see it (not six months later), but never actually acted upon, which is: she did not let anyone see her collection until it was in stores. Read more

 

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This morning a very tiny, excessively bland announcement came out from Horseferry House announcing that the long-awaited Burberry power transition had just happened. Here’s what it said:

“Further to the announcement on 15 October 2013, Christopher Bailey [left] has been appointed as chief creative and chief executive officer and as a director of the company from 1 May 2014. Angela Ahrendts stepped down as chief executive officer and resigned her directorship on 30 April 2014. The company confirms there is no further information to be disclosed pursuant to LR 9.6.13 with regard to Christopher Bailey’s appointment.”

Well, that’s exciting. As far as downplaying a potential industry-changing event you don’t get much better than that. I mean, Mr Bailey is now the first creative director (or chief creative officer) of a public luxury company to be also crowned CEO, which either will, or will not, create a whole new job path for his peers and those who come after, depending on how he performs, and today will either mark the moment the creative and corporate sides, long silo-ed, finally merged, or the moment that great experiment failed. Just another day at the office! Read more

Reading all the (somewhat gleeful and ongoing) reports of the Nike Fuelband’s demise over the last few days, I’ve been struck by the fact that while they all seem to agree on the fact that it was maybe a defensive move in anticipation of the looming possible iWatch threat, they also seem divided as to what, exactly, Nike’s problem was: hardware (it didn’t have big enough margins)or software (it didn’t actually do enough). But let’s call a spade a spade: it didn’t look good enough. Read more

So after a season of “team”, beleaguered Jil Sander has a new creative director: Rodolfo Paglialunga. Who? Cast your mind back, and you may remember him as the guy who briefly made the revived Vionnet kinda-sorta interesting in its first seasons back in the public eye, between 2009-2011. Celebs from Madonna (left, in his Vionnet) to Hillary Swank and Diane Kruger wore the dresses, and it was on the verge of hot-ness. Then something happened (who knows what?) and Mr Paglialunga was out. Vionnet, which was later sold to Goga Ashkanazi, has yet to really get back on the rails. But given his success with the brand, does this (short) track record bode well for Sander? Read more

It is rare to have lunch with someone who is so quotable it’s impossible to include all their zingers in a 2500 word piece. And yet, so it was with American Vogue creative director Grace Coddington (left, with Donna Karan), whose willingness to speak her mind is both singular and extremely appealing. Thus, as I promised via Twitter, following are the thoughts that DIDN’T make it into the story – but that, nevertheless, I am very happy to pass on. Read more

This is my last column for the FT – after 11 years and approximately a million words, I am embracing that thing so beloved of the fashion world: change. It’s not nearly as easy to do as it is to watch on the catwalk every season but if covering this industry for the past decade-plus has taught me anything, it’s the value – literally – of new perspectives.

The fashion industry is rooted in constant, cyclical evolution. Nowhere is this truer than at major player Kering, where the times certainly keep a-changing.

This time a year ago the French luxury holding giant was concluding its controversial rebranding exercise; today the group just announced a major restructuring of its luxury division, not to mention some hirings and (potentially) firings at the top of its management chain.

Alexis Babeau, who had overseen Kering’s luxury operations since 2011, is leaving “to take his career in a new direction.”

Then, alongside a better-than-expected set of earnings, the group announced that the luxury division would be split into two core parts: ’Luxury – Couture & Leather Goods’ which will regroup all brands bar Gucci and ‘Watches & Jewellery’. Gucci will remain separate as a standalone business.

Heading up the first grouping will be Marco Bizzarri, CEO of Bottega Veneta – aka the star-performer in Kering’s brand portfolio.

Patrizio di Marco will continue to steer at Gucci, while taking the reins at the ‘hard luxe’ sub-sector is Albert Bensoussan, who lead LVMH’s watch & jewellery division between 2003 and 2010.

So what are we to make of this in-house round of musical chairs? With two empty spots still to be taken – a successor for Bizzarri at Bottega Veneta and a leader for Gucci in China – there’s a great deal in flux – and at stake. My five key takeaways are here: Read more

Much noise has been made about various British brands attempting to take on the American market, and the difficulties many (Tesco, Marks and Spencer) find therein. Not that it stops anyone. The latest brand to make a big push for a bigger slice of the pie: Boden.

Yup – the catalogue known for its brightly coloured kidswear and mummy-wear. Funny, right? After all, the UK brands that have been most successful in the US, from Burberry to Topshop, have had a definite fashion edge, which is not a concept normally associated with Boden. Read more

Louis Vuitton is unveiling a new group of celebrity “ambassadors’ today via their web site, and it’s not who you might expect: instead of actress Michelle Williams, who currently fronts their women’s bag campaign, or Angelina Jolie, who has plugged the heritage line, we have a star-studded line-up of… Atiq Rahimi, a French-Afghan author and movie director whose book, “the Patience Stone” won the Prix Goncourt; Tom Reiss, whose biography, “The Black Count:” about the “real” Count of Monte Cristo just won the Pulitzer; political consultant Felix Marquardt (who has advised the Presidents of Colombia, Georgia and Panama) and Dr. Gino Yu of Hong Kong Polytechnic university and Lourenço Bustani, CEO of Mandalah, who is spearheading the cultural planning of Brazil’s 2016 Olympics — all photographed at the most recent World Economic Forum in Switzerland. So here’s the question: is this a super-clever new way of thinking about marketing, or a velvet rope that will prove too much of a barrier to entry even for the insiders? Read more

The on-again/off-again love affair between private equity and fashion seems to be heating up again, what with Blackstone taking a minority stake in Versace, Permira courting Cavalli, and, as of today, a new swain in town making its move on Opening Ceremony. According to WWD, Front Row partners, which was launched earlier this year by Glen Senk, ex-CEO of David Yurman and Anthropologie in conjunction with Berkshire Partners (who threw in $350million) to target “innovative, high-growth retail and consumer businesses”, has taken a minority stake in the hip downtown retailer. The amount was not disclosed, but still: Can you hear the heavy breathing? Anyway, it seems to me this marks the resurgence of the relationship, which has been abandoned in recent years as luxury brands from Prada to Ferragamo, Michael Kors, and Brunello Cucinelli turned to IPOs instead of PE. So what changed? Read more

I have a dream. Not the Martin Luther King kind, I admit; more the nightmare-at-2am kind. In my dream, I am out and about reporting, reviewing or otherwise working, when I discover something big – something I have to tweet or write straight away, like that the Marc Jacobs IPO is set for next week (not really) or that Apple is appointing Hedi Slimane its creative director (also not true; these are just examples of what would make urgent fashion news) – and my BlackBerry (yes, I have a BlackBerry, and I like it) goes kaput. Runs out of juice. You know the scenario. And whichever smartphone you depend upon, I would bet you’ve had the same dream.

uch concern in New York last year post-election about whether new Mayor Bill de Blasio would be as much of a FoF (friend of fashion) as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg – especially given de Blasio’s stated goal to even the economic playing field in the city. Turns out, however, this refers not just to the income gap but the manufacturing gap, and in that fashion and the mayor’s office have found common ground.  Read more

So Mulberry interim executive chairman Godfrey Davis, still lacking a CEO and Creative Director, has announced a change in strategy: they are going more accessible. You’d think maybe they would wait until those two leadership positions were filled to discuss this sort of thing, but hey – a brand’s gotta do what a brand’s gotta do, at least when speaking to financial analysts about profit warnings. And generally, I think this is move in the right direction. After all, with Benard Arnault charging full-bore at the top end of the market with his stable of brands, wherein also resides Hermes, Chanel, and Bottega Veneta, and Ralph Lauren announcing his plans to go luxury, it’s looking pretty crowded up there. On the other hand, ask those analysts the Mulberry folks were talking to about the success of, say, Michael Kors, and they will site the fact that Mr Kors was smart enough of take advantage of that great open high middle that Mr Arnault and co had left vacant. The space is still unpopulated enough that Mulberry may be able to find a home. Read more

And this is how a fashion rumour gets started: A few days ago Page Six, the New York Post’s gossip column, ran an item saying John Galliano was no longer being considered as a possible creative director at Oscar de la Renta (pictures above, with former NY Mayor Bloomberg; and if you ask me, given their joint experiment in the design studio a few seasons ago is a good thing; their aesthetics did not mesh), and as a result de la Renta was looking for a replacement. Now the Telegraph in London has picked the rumour up, and the Business of Fashion website has picked up their story, and soon it will be gospel. But it is actually true? According to a source in the inner circle of the brand: No – at least not officially.  Read more

Maud Lescroart, the CMO of Sophie Hallett, the family-run French lace maker that seems to supply – well, pretty much everyone in fashion – is in New York this week for Wedding Week, and stopped by the office the other day to discuss her company’s life since the royal wedding (Hallett supplied the lace that covered the bodice of Kate Middleton’s Sarah Burton Alexander McQueen gown). Between four key factors: 1) the spotlight cast by the palace fairy tale; 2) the focus on the hand-made and heritage as key to luxury’s appeal; 3) the growing attention to CSR and the desire to control all parts of the supply chain; and 4) and the imperative in the luxury industry to ensure a reliable source of key materials, which has seen big groups buying up skins houses (LVMH and Heng Long; Hermes and Tanneries d’Annonay) and cashmere specialists (LVMH’s purchase of Loro Piana in 2013; Chanel’s purchase of Barrie knitwear in 2012), they have gone from behind-the-scenes player to suddenly very hot property. Read more

So Alexander Wang, left, is the latest runway designer to team up with H&M in their high/low limited-edition strategy for creating buzz and best-sellers. He’ll be the first American to get the gig. The news was announced yesterday by Mr Wang via Instagram, which was seen as very cool, while at Coachella, which is even more cool. The message being, of course, that he is just cool, and this project is going to be super-cool. Except it always seems to me the appeal of the H&M collaborations was they took names that weren’t cool – they were haute, and generally unreachable – and it was the combination of unlikely bedfellows (the high street and the high fashion) that was actually the cool part. This one seems to indicate a slight switch in strategy. Read more

What happens when you are a Russian designer who shows in Paris and imports all your materials (except hand-made lace) from abroad, and suddenly your currency falls 30% thanks to an international crisis, and your country’s image gets a little..shall we say…darkened in the eyes of the luxury consumer world? This is the situation currently facing Ulyana Sergeenko (left), the Moscow-based socialite-turned-designer who shows on the Paris couture schedule and who has made something of a mission of preserving and promoting traditional Russian dress and craft and selling it as high-fashion. She was in NYC the other day and stopped by the FT with her brand manager Frol Burimskiy to discuss it. For her, the potential damage is not just about expenses, but identity. Read more

Yahoo has just signaled its belief that part of its future lies in fashion and beauty, signing cosmetic guru Bobbi Brown (whose eponymous makeup line is owned by Estee Lauder), left, as their first-ever “beauty editor-in-chief.” She’ll run a vertical on the site, as well as doing her own blog. In this they are, of course, joining a race where Apple and Google already have palpable leads, with Intel jockeying for its own position not to mention Amazon. What’s interesting is that, as Yahoo demonstrates, it’s not just about wearables: it’s also partly about being the go-to platform for the sector, or those interested in the sector. We shouldn’t get so blinded by the product possibilities we ignore more traditional routes in. Read more

The news that PVH has bought an undisclosed minority stake in Karl Lagerfeld’s namesake brand (otherwise owned by Apax), thus allowing them first dibs on the brand’s entry in North America, has got all my something-is-happening sensors twitching. Seems to me they are sneaking up on dominance of a market segment. Read more

Tory Burch has just been named one of the President’s Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, aka a PAGE (as someone who once worked in Congress as a – well, page, it’s hard not to appreciate the irony of that acronym), a new Obama program intended to promote start-up businesses in the US and around the world. Ms Burch is the only fashion figure in the group, which also includes Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Quincy Jones (Quincy Jones Productions), and Hamdi Ulukaya (Chobani yogurt) among others, so it’s a pretty big deal. For me, it also has echoes of David Cameron’s “trade ambassador” program, an honorary grouping established way back in 2010 of many of Britain’s biggest business figures, from Anthony Bamford of JCB to Sir John Bond of Vodaphone – not to mention Anya Hindmarch and Tamara Mellon. Hey wait — let’s think about those names: Hindmarch, Mellon, Burch. Anyone else sense some striking parallels? Read more