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.
Another day, another high-profile auction house hits the headlines with a juicy legal scandal. Weeks after a 6-month siege of the Sotheby’s boardroom by Dan Loeb ended in a trip to the courthouse and the activist hedgie getting a seat at the top table, Christie’s is facing a $60m lawsuit filed by a rival for allegedly poaching its luxury handbags experts.
Does this mean that accessories could be the new flashpoint in the fight for market share in the auction world?
Papers were filed in Manhattan last Friday by Heritage, a Dallas, Texas-based company that specialises in auctioning ultra-luxe accessories. It was behind the sale of the world’s most expensive handbag in 2011 (this $203,150 scarlet red crocodile skin Hermès Birkin bag below in case you are interested, and the price included a juicy buyer’s premium of almost 20 per cent.)
L’Wren Scott, the celebrated American fashion designer, has been found dead in New York after committing suicide, police sources confirmed on Monday.
The 49-year old launched her haute namesake brand – renowned for its understated, womanly elegance – in 2006, after earlier forays into the industry first as a teenage model then later as a highly sought after Hollywood stylist. Her glamorous, alpha woman designs had most recently found a home on the London Fashion Week calendar, orbited by her make-up, fragrance and accessories partnerships with some of the biggest names in fashion.
Lately it is beginning to feel like for every shopper there is a new technology start-up — maybe because so many new technology start-ups are driven by shoppers trying to solve their own problems. Like, for example, how, when you see a really cute blue blouse by you are not sure who, sold you are not sure where, pinned to someone’s inspiration board, you can find it and buy it. Good luck with googling that one. Which, presumably, is why ASAP54, just raised $3 million from, among others, Carmen Busquets of Net-a-Porter investment fame.
Calling Bill de Blasio: Just in time for fashion week, New York has been crowned “Top Global Fashion Capital” in Digital Language Monitor’s 10th annual survey of most-discussed fashion cities. For a fashion world nervous that post-Bloomberg the City Hall regime might not be quite as friendly to the industry (smacking, as it does, of elitism), this is good news. After all, New York edged out Paris by a mere .005%, while the 2012 and 2011 winner London fell to third place. And there are more surprises!
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.
Ok, I know the numbers are nearly as big as Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, but still, it’s worth noting: yesterday Groupon, the deal site, bought Ideeli, the fashion-centric flash sale site, for $43 million. Interpreted in the most positive way, this is a vote of confidence in flash sales, which have been under a bit of a question mark recently, and another indication of a more accessible site wanting to get into fashion, a la Amazon. Of course, it could also have been just a really opportunistic punt, since at $43 million Ideeli is relatively cheap (compare it to the $270 million Nordstrom spent on flash sale site HauteLook in 2011 for example). Still, $43 million is $43 million. And while it makes sense to me in the short-term – both Groupon and Ideeli are about making consumption of all kinds accessible – I’m not sure about it as a long-term play. After all, by buying Ideeli, Groupon may have bought entree into fashion, but they have not bought that most elusive and powerful driver of consumer loyalty: a point of view.
Following Vogue (“The September Issue”), Gucci (“The Director”), Bergdorf Goodman (“Scatter my Ashes at Bergdorf’s”), and Kate Moss (Paris Premiere’s upcoming “Looking for Kate”, which airs this Sunday), the latest fashion/luxury brand to get the documentary treatment will be Tiffany’s. Matthew Miele, who wrote and directed “Bergdorf’s” is at work on a full-length, fully authorised, documentary about the company, starting back in the day. Anyone else feel their trend-spotting bells a-ringing?
Despite its amazing Black Friday results, Amazon has not quite become the player rumour says it would like to be in high-end fashion; luxury brands still see it as overly mass. So news of a new upmarket approach at Zappos, the accessible (and highly successful) shoe site, made all my luxury strategy sensors start vibrating in anticipation. And no, I am not confusing my apples with my oranges. See, Amazon owns Zappos, but “Zappos” doesn’t come with all the strings and global supermarket associations that the name “Amazon” does. Which makes it a great testing ground for any new strategy directed at luring luxury brands and HNWIs into the consumer fold. So what is this brave new strategy?
This being Black Friday in the US, and the topic of spending money being very much in the news, here’s an interesting study on the latter: BusinessInsider.com has put together a list of the 35 biggest advertisers on Facebook this year. And guess what? Despite all that lip service paid to interaction and transparency and so on and so forth, there’s only ONE luxury brand on it. Also only one fashion brand. And they are probably not the ones you would expect.