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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Can it be a coincidence that the start of the summer cultural season – ie, that time of year when blockbusters hit big screens and beach reads land on bookshelves – has been heralded by two launches that, while they don’t necessarily celebrate consumerism, certainly have it at their core?

Between The Bling Ring , Sofia Coppola’s dramatisation of Nancy Jo Sales’ magazine piece about brand-and-celeb-obsessed teenagers and the criminal lengths they reach, andCrazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan’s novel about lux- and status-obsessed Singaporeans, it’s hard to escape the idea that this will be the summer of stuff. Read more

Just as pre-fall appears in stores, pre-spring (aka resort) appears on runways. But how to make sense of a season that spans from November through to May? The answer for a number of designers: skin. Sometimes yours, sometimes an animal’s, sometimes something that looks like an animal’s.

Last weekend I experienced an unfamiliar clothing trauma (I know, I shouldn’t admit it). Coming from New York, where it was muggy and 32C, to Europe, where it was 13C and rainy, via a stop in London to see the Chime for Change concert, with two black-tie events and a conference on the menu, I was paralysed by the question of what to wear. Having decided June qualified as summer, and having packed away my winter wardrobe, I simply couldn’t get my head around what I knew I needed to bring, which involved the words “cashmere” and “knit”. It felt philosophically wrong.

Generally, as I have written before, I have a wardrobe stocked with clothing bought to solve specific problems (black-tie work events, where you need to be fancy but appropriately covered; pre-work meetings with your children’s teachers, where it’s better not to be too glossy) but the transformation of climate into a fungible concept has proved difficult. Having been trained to think in a spring/summer vs autumn/winter dialectic, I find it difficult to accept a new philosophy. Even though, to paraphrase Francis Fukuyama, it increasingly seems the End of Seasons is nigh.

Dries Van Noten is one of the world’s most successful independent designers. An original member of the Antwerp Six, the group of Belgians who transformed the city into a locus of avant-garde fashion in the mid-1980s, he is sold at more than 500 outlets worldwide, and has won the international award of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).

Elizabeth Peyton is an American artist known for her stylised figurative portraits of well-known people; her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pompidou in Paris, and the Kunstmuseum in Basel. The two have been friends since 2009.

The announcement that came along with Richemont’s 2012 annual results this morning that chairman Johan Rupert (left), is taking a year off from running the world’s second biggest luxury company starting this September is by far, to me at least, the most interesting part of the statement. For a man who has built the largest watch and jewellery Group to take a year off at age 62 – which, let’s face is not so old — at a time when the exponential growth trajectory of the luxury sector has started to slow is a little, well, surprising. And leads to all sorts of interesting speculation.

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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

I know most people aren’t thinking about this – they are thinking about hedge fund managers and how much they may, or may not, lose on their bets – but yesterdays’ dramatic drop in gold prices is going to have an interesting knock-on effect on jewellers and watch makers. Not because it will make their products, which have been creeping upwards over the last decade along with the price of their raw materials less expensive – but because it WON’T. It can’t. Here’s why.

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Forget clothes; the red carpet is all about the jewellery now. Would be that of an after-awards morning my in-box would be full of who-wore-what emails. Not any more! Now it’s jewels, all the way down (or pretty much). Yet I can’t help feeling that there’s a difference between fine jewellery and clothes, even really expensive clothes, and the “if-it-worked-for-fashion-it-will-work-for-gems” theory is wrong.  Read more

British designer John Galliano

It’s been a big week for scandals; Europe’s horsemeat-in-the-beef-lasagna crisis, John Galliano’s appearance in New York in what some construed as faux-Hasidic garb, and CNN’s decision to run a piece comparing war photography and fashion photography. It’s hard to know where to start. Here are some thoughts – in no particular order.

1. Horsemeat: reading my colleague John Gapper’s column today about the supply chain issue being at the heart of the matter, it occurred to me that this bears a notable resemblance to the blood diamond scandals, which resulted in the Kimberley Process. Like the supermarkets that sold the adulterated meat, the jewellers that sold the sparkly end product had never really pushed themselves to know where it came from. When the truth was revealed, they were horrified and embarrassed. It had never occurred to them they needed to take ownership of the supply chain if they were responsible for the end product, and the experience changed luxury’s strategy completely. Read more

And just like that – OK, just like that with $750 million plus the assumption of up to US$250 million of pro forma net debt – Swatch becomes a major luxury jewellery player. Today they announced the acquisition of the luxury arm of Harry Winston Diamond corporation. It is an image-changing buy.
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Tiffany & Co. Getty Images

The post-Christmas gloom in parts of the US retail sector deepened on Thursday as Tiffany & Co, the jeweller, and Aéropostale, a fashion retailer, reported weak sales that sent their shares falling.

But, in a reminder that the sector still contains some winners, two other stores that sell fashion to young people – American Eagle and Urban Outfitters – reported strong sales growth.

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Qatar Holding increases its share in jeweller Tiffany & Co. Getty Images

You step off the plane in your down jacket, experiencing that weird reality hit that comes with the end of the holiday: in the morning you have been cross-country skiing through woods – just you, your family and some wild turkeys – and eight hours later you are back in city traffic, and what happens? Investments. That’s what.

The rest of the US economy may be teetering on the fiscal cliff, Europe may be looking frim and luxury growth may be slowing, but in contemporary fashion, in America at least, things are getting off to a solid start. This morning, Rag & Bone, the hipster New York label, announced an investment by Irving Place Capital, the middle-market private equity fund, of about 25 per cent. Irving in the past has invested in Stuart Weitzman and denim brand Seven for all Mankind. And that follows two other such announcements by other labels. Read more

PPR’s announcement last night that they had bought a majority stake in baby Chinese jewellery brand Qeelin – it was launched in 2004 by Dennis Chan and Guillaume Brochard– marks the third move on the part of French group with an Asian dimension. You know what that means: I smell a trend. Read more

Two interesting announcements this morning, both of which are worth examining: First Labelux announces instead of embracing (and chasing) hard luxury, it is exiting the segment to focus entirely on leathergoods; then Mulberry rejects the outlet model to take its bags and other products further up-market. The moves are complementary, in the context of general industry strategy. They both indicate that in the highly competitive world of leathergoods, current theory says it’s the most special, elaborate, highly worked pieces that sell.
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In holiday time, an acquisition-minded company turns to thoughts of…fine jewellery. Why just buy it for the one you love? Buy it for the ROI! I mean, what else are we to make of the fact that juts over a week after Investcorp’s recent purchase of Georg Jensen, another fine jewellery name is changing hands: Gemfields, the coloured stone miner, has just announced the acquisition of Faberge, the recently revived jeweller-to-the-czars. Read more

Much heart-fluttering in recent days over the rumours that the luxury arm of diamond specialist Harry Winston may be snapped up by either PPR or LVMH. Oooooh! M&A action in the luxury sphere. It’s so hard to resist. Perhaps that why Winston actually issued an official “Nothing doing” statement – albeit with a bit of a sideways wink at possible suitors. It’s lips are saying no, but its eyes….
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It seems to me Chanel is fast becoming the Swatch of luxury – and no one is really paying attention.

Today WWD is reporting that the couture house’s affiliate, Paraffection, has acquired French super-glove-maker Causse, which joins the other EIGHT specialist ateliers they have bought up in the past decade including embroiderer Lesage and button maker Desrues. The spin goes: Chanel is preserving French know-how for posterity (and indeed, according to our piece on manufacturing in France, if you don’t, say, use Lesage for embroidery, you would probably need to go to India to find the same skills). But at the same time they are acquiring a monopoly on said skills. Which is where the Swatch comparison comes in. Read more

In the course of reporting the piece about the rise of fashion branded
fine jewellery
(along with menswear, it’s seen as the next big opportunity
for many luxury brands) I had a very interesting conversation with
Stanislas de Quercize, the ceo of Van Cleef and Arpels, who made three
interesting points I wanted to pass on:

1. First, he said it was good for the industry to have so many fashion
brands launching or expanding their fine jewellery ranges. Read more

The branded jewellery game, long viewed as an area with the least players and the biggest potential pay-off, has a new entrant: Versace, which just announced it will introduce its first high jewellery line (one-off creations with emeralds, diamonds, etc) this Sunday during its couture show at the Paris Ritz. I’ll see your collection and raise you! Read more