Finance

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