There has been a recent slew of big-name brand entrants to the $90bn beauty sector, all keen to capitalize on designer star power in order to score soaring sales via the most accessibly priced luxury products on the market.

It makes commercial sense – a pyramid-style business model where a luxury collection at the “pinnacle” rests on a base of less expensive diffusion lines and offerings that provide the bulk of a company’s profits. Lipsticks, mascaras and fragrances are the lucrative entry point upon which to target the aspirational consumer, building up an appreciation of a brand and its heritage that increases over time – and possibly alongside a budding bank balance. Read more

In recent weeks, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds the world over have been awash with videos of triumphant participants taking part in the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, a stunt in which an individual has – you guessed it – a bucket of icy water dumped over their heads, all in the name of charity.

The hook that’s taken this viral is the subsequent nomination of others to take on the challenge within 24 hours, or to donate $100 to the ALS Association, raising both awareness and cash for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known Lou Gehrig’s disease. Read more

Earlier this week Hermès’ womenswear designer Christophe Lemaire announced his impending exit from the ultra-luxe label to focus on his namesake collection.

This news, coming just days after the company undershot expectations in its latest quarterly performance, got me thinking about the rapidly evolving status quo forming for one of the star brands in the luxury galaxy. Read more

After months of hype and incessant drum-rolling, the recipient of the inaugural LVMH Young Designer Prize was announced in Paris today – and rather refreshingly, its not who I would have expected.

The winner? Canadian-born, London-based Thomas Tait.

Who, I hear you ask?

Well you’ll certainly be hearing more from him from now on, after some of the fashion world’s biggest names decided he was the worthiest young designer out of an incredibly strong shortlist of a dozen international names and some very stiff wider competition. Read more


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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

If, like me, you live in the US, then you may be feeling a touch of Michael Lewis overload. If you live elsewhere, you may be spared this condition, which brings with it a sudden fatigue with dimples, floppy hair and pink gingham. If you are involved in the financial world anywhere, however, I suspect you, too, may have it, given that the author and journalist’s latest book, Flash Boys , a “surprise” tome (ie one that was not described in its publisher’s catalogue prepublication) hit the media and banking worlds with a boom a fortnight ago and set off a perfect Lewis media storm, from 60 Minutes to CNBC. (Yes, I am theoretically contributing to it here but the idea is to act more as a punctuation mark than a continuation.)

Whichever platform you used, there was no getting away from Lewis; his image, rooted in the iconography of the courtly southern gent, complete with pastels and open-necked collars, was everywhere. It got to the point where if, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blond fringe on a screen, I knew exactly who was on.

The general reaction from most laypersons upon seeing a Comme des Garcons show (left) can be boiled down to a single word: “huh?” Or maybe three: “What was that?” Or four: “I don’t get it.” You can kind of understand it, when designer Rei Kawakubo says things like “I was trying not to make clothes,” and it was about “monsters.” And yet Comme des Garcons is a very healthy, $200m business. So how do they get from the extremity of what’s on the catwalk to this commercial reality? Read more

LVMH has confirmed it has taken a minority stake in Young Italian Designer (we will not acronym that for obvious reasons) Marco de Vincenzo, making him the second such up-and-comer to receive such investment from the luxury behemoth, and underscoring the increasing competition among the established groups to identify, and potentially own, new talent. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but there’s no question, it’s putting its money where its mouth is. At least some money. Read more

In Paris for the couture shows, I was tooling around yesterday to some appointments, and stopped by JW Anderson’s showroom to see his pre-fall, pre-Versace (for the latter, if you want to know: Swarovski, skin and very Sunset Boulevard). Anyway, we got to chatting about the change in his life since he signed on as Loewe’s creative director, and LVMH took a minority stake in his eponymous brand, and the YBD (young British designer) reeled off some pretty interesting numbers. Read more

There’s an interesting note on Francois-Henri Pinault’s official bio page on the Kering website – after a the usual title/school/professional background stuff, the last line is “He takes a personal and professional interest in sustainability and the development of e-business.” It’s the last bit that struck me, given that yesterday M Pinault, through his holding company Artemis, became a meaningful investor in Square, the mobile payments company started by Twitter guy Jack Dorsey. M Pinault was staying mum about the private share purchase, but it makes sense to me on many levels, besides the obvious one above. And I think may hint at some tantalising possibilities for the future. Read more

A few final thoughts on the last weird development of the week, which is to say: LVMH’s first planned IPO of one of their brands. It’s been rather overshadowed by the news of Twitter’s IPO, which granted, is a more immediate offering, but does anyone else find the Marc Jacobs listing drumroll as odd a development as I do? After all, LVMH has NEVER – let’s repeat that – NEVER, listed a brand they own before.  Read more

My favourite rumour of the day comes courtesy of WWD, which suggests that ex-Burberry CFO Stacey Cartwright, beloved of the City and regarded as a key player in that brand’s financial success, may find a new C-suite seat as CEO of UK department store Harvey Nichols. Current CEO Joseph Wan, who has been running the store for over a decade, “denied an appointment had been made.” Which doesn’t mean one isn’t coming. So let’s play my favourite game for a moment: “What if…?”  Read more

Take that Kering. You have a hot young British designer? Now WE have a hot young British designer. Today LVMH announced it has purchased a majority stake in UK shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood for an undisclosed amount (that’s actress Rooney Mara wearing his shoes, left), making him the second YBD this year to get snapped up by a big brand, following Kering’s acquisition of Christopher Kane. As one British style watcher said, “they’re buying like it’s 1999.” So what’s going on? Read more

Anyone else think this is a halcyon time for young designers? I mean, first the big luxury groups make their first investments in new names since way back at the turn of the millennium (back in the day when Tom Ford built Gucci Group by adding Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen), with Kering buying a majority of Christopher Kane and a big minority of Joseph Altuzarra, and LVMH helping out Maxime Simoens, and reportedly scouting JW Anderson. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read more

The news yesterday that Marigay McKee (left, with Michael Kors), former Chief Merchant of Harrod’s, was moving to New York to become President of Saks was interesting — but not as interesting as the news today that Richard Baker, the new owner of the store chain (and a sudden department store mogul along the lines of Galen Weston: he also owns Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay) was planning a $200 million refit of the flagship. $200 million on one store? If I was a speculating gal – and you know I am – I would guess this means the Fifth Ave branch is going WAY upmarket. WAY upmarket. And you know what that means? We have new strategy in the department store wars. Read more

Moda Operandi’s announcement this morning that it would be selling designer gowns seen on celebrities and society mavens direct from next week’s New York Met Ball has really lifted the veil on the extent of the commercialisation of the 21st century red carpet.

The three-year-old company, which made its name offering high fashion looks straight from the catwalk and has widely been touted as one of the few e-commerce start-ups with a real shot at competing with queen bee of the pack Net-a-Porter, first made waves earlier this year by announcing its sponsorship of the “Punk: Chaos to Couture” themed event. Read more

Lloyd Blankfein. Getty Images

The new stubbly look of Goldman Sachs’ chief executive Lloyd Blankfein was the subject of much buzz at Davos last week. Sometimes you have to talk about something besides the Eurozone and exciting new tech breakthroughs, and in so doing, it caused endless irritation for the Goldman communications team – it didn’t see why everyone cared so much.

Do they really have to ask? Methinks that is a bit disengenuous. After all, Mr Blankfein’s new look was unveiled at: 1) the most public gathering of his peers all year, and one he was returning to for the first time in five years; and 2) bore a striking resemblance to the facial hair sported by that most considered and controlled of all aesthetic men, Tom Ford – the man who transformed the role of the designer into an executive position, and became a public figure in the process. Take a look at the pictures and tell me what you think. Read more

IBM monitors electronic conversations to pick up on and predict trends. Getty Images

IBM has gotten into the trend-spotting business. You know that thing designers refer to as “zeitgeist”. Well, it can identify it, track it, determine when it turns from vague mumblings into larger movements, and then sell the information to clients. It’s not an art anymore; it’s a science.

Actually, it’s the Social Sentiment Index, a tool for monitoring the global electronic conversations on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as well as blogs. When people start talking a lot about a certain topic: bingo. Read more

Today PVH, the large US conglomerate that owns Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Izod (among others) announced it was acquiring Waranco, the large US lingerie manufacturer that makes Calvin Klein undies and jeans, among others, in a deal valued at $2.9 billion.
The acquisition was approved by both boards, and will officially make PVH one of the mega-corps, with revenues of about $8 billion. As important, however, is the fact that by buying Warnaco, PVH is also buying Calvin Klein’s two biggest product categories, which had been licensed to the manufacturer since the late 1990s.
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