Internet

There’s something rotten in the state of e-tail – or so it seems. In the last week, both Kate Bostock, the old retail hand filched with great fanfare from M&S by ASOS.com, and Sarah Curran, the founder of My-Wardrobe.com, have left their respective e-ventures – both departures coming just after Aslaug Magnusdottir left her job as CEO of ModaOperandi.com, which she helped launch, last May. Three high-profile executives leaving three of the more successful (and established) fashion etailers in two months? This strike anyone else as weird?
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According to a new report published today by the Digital Luxury Group, Chanel has ousted Louis Vuitton for the first time as the most-searched-for luxury brand in China (that’s their Beijing store, below). Rock our little velvet-lined world. Especially because why is one of the best arguments I’ve yet heard for why a brand needs to hit every luxury market segment.

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BusinessInsider.com has just jumped on the fashion list bandwagon along with Vanity Fair, Time, Bazaar, Vogue, and so on, adding their own special twist to the form with a “list of who determines what’s cool in America.” That being “designers, celebrities, journalists, stylists, and executives vying for influence.” Sounds good; demonstrates they don’t understand the fashion world at all.

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These days we all hold certain truths to be self-evident: 1) that the Chinese market, while slowing, is still expected to be the biggest fashion market in the world; 2) that the Chinese are attracted to the idea of European heritage and skills; 3) that there is an increasing drive in China to support home-grown design (or to create it); 4) that the Europeans are trying to figure out how to exploit all those two realities to their own profit. Hence, for example, Kering’s purchase last year of Qeelin, the Chinese jewellery brand, and hence Iceberg’s decision to partner with Chinese video artist Yi Zhou for a capsule collection of menswear, womenswear, and accessories, to be launched next Christmas. What’s interesting about both these choices is they are focused much more on East than West. Fair enough: you go where the money is. And with the Iceberg case we reach example number 2 of this approach, thus bringing us ever-closer to critical mass for a trend.
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We’re used to hearing about how this luxury brand is suing that web site for false advertising, and that one is suing that third party enabler for allowing other to sell counterfeit products, and yet another is suing for a product that looks a little too much like their existing product (OK, can anyone say LVMHand Google or eBay? Gucci and Guess?), but this is largely because the big guys, who have the most money, make the most noise. In fact, talk to the legal set and one of the greatest problems facing young designers in a globalised world is “trade-mark squatting.” Thus far, it’s mostly caused a lot of breast-beating and wallet-opening, but now one young designer has come up with a solution of sorts.

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It’s been an interesting week in fashion reality TV: Grace Coddington solidified her position as one of the industry’s hottest stars by cooking with Elettra Wiedemann, aka Isabella Rossellini’s daughter, on Ms Wiedemann’s YouTube show, and making potatoes Dauphinoise and steak, food that “any Vogue person shouldn’t be making” and John Galliano finally gave his much-anticipated Charlie Rose interview. Together the two revealed a truth about fashion reality TV media execs might want to start noting.

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We all know that part of Steve Jobs’ genius was taking the rules of fashion and applying them to technology, be it the importance of must-have seasonal design, or gadgets that are actually accessories, and hence identity totems. As Michel Kors pointed out to me recently, however, fashion has never exactly turned the tables; it hasn’t figured out what it should absorb from Apple. Well, today BCG is publishing a paper that suggests things might be changing. They have pinpointed a lesson. And they want the luxury world to learn it.

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When we (and I do not mean the royal We, but We the fashion collective) talk about fashion and technology, we almost always talk about Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and ecommerce, and so on – ways for brands to communicate with consumers – and then we talk about how fashion was so bad at it, and how important it is, an industry-changer, etc. But this week was Internet Week in New York, and I had a conversation with Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler that made me think we’ve all been missing the real revolution. It’s not in comms (or not only); it’s behind-the-scenes, in creativity. Read more

We all know menswear is seen as a Great Luxury Hope, what with the Chinese market being driven by male consumers with money. Hence the Kering acquisition of Brioni; LVMH focusing on Berluti and buying French made-to-measure tailor Arnys to make apparel; Hermes and Coach opening mensonly shops, and so on. Now, however, it seems the on-line folks are also thinking along these lines. Yesterday MenInvest, the slightly cringe-worthy-named Paris-based e-commerce group bought the even odder named upmarket UK site Oki-ni.com, which specialises in “cutting-edge” menswear, for an undisclosed sum.

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Tonight Donatella Versace is unveiling her new Versus Versace JW Anderson line, a capsule collection with a too-wordy name made in collaboration with YBD J.W. Anderson. She is doing so at 9:30 pm, in the form of a concert/party, which feels old-fashioned: very 1980s big top, like when Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler had shows in stadiums, as opposed to recession-restrained. And yet this is, at least strategically, a very new-fangled brand. Essentially, it has been re-built for the on-line world. Read more

One of the more interesting developments this week has been the growing backlash against Monday’s Met Ball, below left, aka the Costume Institute Gala, aka the fashion party of the season. It’s one of the most talked-about, and blogged-about, events of the year, and yet Wednesday Gwyneth Paltrow was quoted by USA Today as saying she was “never going again,” that night I was at a dinner where a beauty mogul, who shall remain unnamed, announced he wasn’t going anymore, and yesterday the wife of a major brand CEO said the same. What’s going on?

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I’ve been fascinated recently by the game of semantics being played between “showrooms” and “flagships” – and wondering whether the evolution of the second into the first is actually the future of commerce. Or put another way, the place e-commerce and bricks and mortar commerce merge.

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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

Ever since its launch, Net-a-Porter has been the gold standard in e-tail: the high-end market leader, with a profit margin far ahead of the pack. And ever since then, entrepreneurs have been chasing its market share. Now Carmen Busquets, one of Net’s original investors (she is still a minority shareholder) thinks she’s found the answer: giftlab.com, a gifting site that provides a host of high-ish-end targeted alternatives to orchids and artisanal chocolate for events from weddings and baby showers to weekend visits. And she’s raised $5 million from US investors, including venture capital firm NEA, and a group of HNIs, to launch in America next September. Read more

Today the third in a series of World Luxury Index BRIC reports from the Digital Luxury Group (and the Luxury Society) is released – after Russia and China, we have Brazil, and the “Top 50 Most Searched-For Brands”. Guess what? One of these things is not like the other ones! Though conventional luxury wisdom says emerging markets always look to the obvious, in-your-face icons of luxury first, Brazil seems the exception to the rule.

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So stylist/creative director/friend of Gaga Nicola Formichetti is leaving Thierry Mugler after two years. This is one of those insider fashion stories that will barely register outside the glossy environs of the industry. So why do we care? Well, because his fame was partly the point: his famous friendships and access to celebrity; his hundreds of thousands of twitter followers; his ability to reach out via Facebook and livestream and so on and exploit new media to an old brand’s advantage. He is not a designer, after all, so putting him in charge of a design house was an experiment, much ballyhooed, in whether all that other stuff was actually more important in brand revival that ye traditional stuff.

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There ain’t room for all of them in this here town. That, methinks, is what etailers are increasingly thinking. Hence, as small ventures stumble upon good ideas, the big players snatch em up, the better to dominate the space. Case in point: the announcement today that net-a-porter will start doing beauty.
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After last week’s announcement that Conde Nast International had made a significant investment (for them) in Farfetch.com comes news that Advance Publications, ie the parent company of Conde Nast, just led the latest $20 million fundraising round for Renttherunway.com, the web site that allows consumers to rent a catwalk look for an event. The first move got a lot of play, and this one has been slightly quieter (another investor, Highland Capital, issued the release), but put them together and you get what looks like an interesting picture developing, no?
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Yesterday Farfetch.com, the ecommerce site that acts like a portal between global consumers and global independent boutiques, both editing their offerings and connecting either side, announced $20m in new funding, largely from Condé Nast International. A few days before, Luxup, a UK-based ecommerce travel site that aimed to create a “club” of tourists eager for insider shopping experiences, ceased trading. When such things happen in parallel, it’s tempting to try to find lots of lessons in the news.

What are they? Read more

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In a few hours (4pm UK time) Burberry will take to the runway at London Fashion Week (that’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey with Samantha Cameron at the opening reception for LFW, left), and viewers will take to their smart phones not just to watch the show, which is being streamed on pretty much every part of social media you can imagine, but to order coats and bags… with their names on them! They will arrive on their doorstep in nine weeks, which is much earlier than in stores. Not only that: they will also be able to access video of their product being made, just for them. The knees go weak.

Ok, so that sarcasm was maybe a bit uncalled for. On one level I think offering videos of the customised product is a very smart thing. It pulls customers into the process, which provides an increased sense of ownership and also underscores the hand-made side of things, partly justifying the price and categorisation of Burberry as a luxury brand. But on another, this feels a little smoke and mirrors to me. Read more