Politics

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

 

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uch concern in New York last year post-election about whether new Mayor Bill de Blasio would be as much of a FoF (friend of fashion) as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg – especially given de Blasio’s stated goal to even the economic playing field in the city. Turns out, however, this refers not just to the income gap but the manufacturing gap, and in that fashion and the mayor’s office have found common ground.  Read more

What happens when you are a Russian designer who shows in Paris and imports all your materials (except hand-made lace) from abroad, and suddenly your currency falls 30% thanks to an international crisis, and your country’s image gets a little..shall we say…darkened in the eyes of the luxury consumer world? This is the situation currently facing Ulyana Sergeenko (left), the Moscow-based socialite-turned-designer who shows on the Paris couture schedule and who has made something of a mission of preserving and promoting traditional Russian dress and craft and selling it as high-fashion. She was in NYC the other day and stopped by the FT with her brand manager Frol Burimskiy to discuss it. For her, the potential damage is not just about expenses, but identity. Read more

Tory Burch has just been named one of the President’s Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, aka a PAGE (as someone who once worked in Congress as a – well, page, it’s hard not to appreciate the irony of that acronym), a new Obama program intended to promote start-up businesses in the US and around the world. Ms Burch is the only fashion figure in the group, which also includes Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Quincy Jones (Quincy Jones Productions), and Hamdi Ulukaya (Chobani yogurt) among others, so it’s a pretty big deal. For me, it also has echoes of David Cameron’s “trade ambassador” program, an honorary grouping established way back in 2010 of many of Britain’s biggest business figures, from Anthony Bamford of JCB to Sir John Bond of Vodaphone – not to mention Anya Hindmarch and Tamara Mellon. Hey wait — let’s think about those names: Hindmarch, Mellon, Burch. Anyone else sense some striking parallels? Read more

During the penultimate day of the Paris ready-to-wear collections, just before the Alexander McQueen show, was an event that, given the circumstances, might strike many as odd.

There’s an interesting report in the FT today about declining sales of China’s local-brand cars, and it’s got me thinking about the benefits and problems of “national” brands – which is to say, not state-owned brands, but rather the perceptions surrounding the name of a country, ie its own brand, when attached to product, and the way this can work for and against manufacturers. Blame it on the Made in Italy and Made in France strategy the luxury industry so cannily implemented back in the day (a recent BCG/Altagamma/Sanford Bernstein Global Consumer Insight study found a whopping 80% of consumers think “Made in is key”) but seems to me, when it comes to consumers, products don’t just have to be good, they have to somehow come to grips with national stereotype, and either neuter it or exploit it. But what they can’t do is ignore it. Read more

Rebekah Brooks has finally taken the stand to speak for herself in the British phone hacking trial, now entering its fourth month. And what did she choose to wear for the occasion? A plain sapphire blue dress, cream cardigan, thin gold chain, tights, and low-heeled shoes. No makeup. Famous hair restrained. She looked, in other words, not dissimilar to the stereotype of a home counties matron. She did not look like a master of the media universe. For a courtroom observer, it’s a notable choice – as much because of the selections she has made in the past that were seemingly rejected for the stand. Read more

Much joy and rapture and relief greeted new Mayor Bill de Blasio’s statement to the fashion world at the end of last week that “The fashion industry…is part of how we will build a more unified city and a city where everyone has opportunities,” and the statement by an aide that de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray would “definitely be out and about” at New York Fashion Week. He got it! He knew how important fashion was, as an industry, to the health of the city! He was sending his wife to shows! Except, as far as I can tell, she never – well, showed. Read more

I know this is heresy of a sort, but sitting in the opening shows of New York Fashion Week, a thought keeps niggling away at the back of my mind: maybe being marketed by Mrs O (because, let’s face it, when she wears your dress it’s free global marketing on an unprecedented scale), is NOT helpful. Maybe, in fact, it creates expectations some designers are simply not ready to bear. Before you rant and rave, hear me out. Read more

Michelle Obama did something last night at the State of the Union address she had never done before – in fact, I think odds-are she did something no First Lady had ever done before. It was pretty radical. Read more

Almost a month after the death of Nelson Mandela, every talking head has weighed in with their own memoir or eulogy so what is there to add? Fair question.

Let me simply say that this is a new year’s column – a look forward, not a look back – and it is about a lesson I think worth taking from Mandela and applying in 2014, a lesson not included in the many “Lessons from Mandela” written in recent weeks. Most of these were concerned with choosing reconciliation over revolution, while this is to do with clothes. It may seem like a frivolous topic where someone such as Mandela is concerned, except he clearly took clothes – and their power – seriously, and perhaps we should, too.

John Galliano, left, is once again making clothes, but this time in a slightly different incarnation. Mr Galliano is going to design the costumes for Stephen Fry’s production of “The Importance of Being Ernest” – including the looks that Mr Fry himself will wear as Lady Bracknell in the production, which will involve some gender-bending, and open at the Theatre Royal in the autumn of 2014. So what do we think? Is this comeback, unlike the last three comeback attempts, going to work? My guess: possibly. I think it certainly has the best chance thus far. Read more

Pity the poor luxury CEO in Francois Hollande’s France: no sooner is your wife speaking to a foreign real estate agent than the rumour mill is rife with speculation that you are about to flee the country (and maybe all those proposed wealth taxes), and set up home somewhere else. What else to conclude from the recent furore over the sight of actress Salma Hayek, aka Mrs Francois-Henri Pinault, aka wife of the CEO of Kering, the second largest French luxury group, lunching with a UK broker earlier this week? Read more

Just as the Chinese government cracks down further on luxury spending at home, and more company results demonstrate a flattening of the local market causing fear and trauma in heritage luxury brands with major capex in Asia, enter Antonio Tajani, EU Vice-president and commissioner for industry, to attempt to stem the pain. Their hero! Mr Tajani, aka luxury’s friend in Brussels, has “an action plan on the competitiveness of the European fashion and high-end industries”. Or a kind-of action plan. A beginning action plan? A small movement plan? You know what I mean. The point is: there’s a plan. Read more

One of the weirder moments in the already surreal event that was the public confessional/press conference Toronto mayor Rob Ford held yesterday to admit smoking crack cocaine was, it has to be said, his tie. Unlike most such accessories sported during such penitent moments, which tend to dark, drab, night-of-the-soul shades and prints (see pretty much any white collar defendant in court) — or at the very least, a peaceable blue (see pretty much any banker testifying before a government sub-committee) – Mr Ford wore a souvenir number, spotted by brightly coloured logos from NFL teams. It provoked an immediate reaction. And therein lies a lesson. Really. Read more

And you thought the recent municipal jockeying to nab a glamourous, potentially global-identity-changing event ended when the IOC announced Tokyo had won the bid to host the 2020 Olympics. Hah! Apparently, London is still in campaign mode, even post-its successful Olympic Games, and now Mayor Boris Johnson has turned his eyes toward fashion. Read more

The great and witty Simon Doonan has a new book out next week – “The Asylum”, about the fashion world, natch – and in the process of promoting it has gotten up on the hustings to mount a campaign against writing about politician’s clothes, most recently in an interview with The New Republic. You can read it yourself, but here’s the thing: in taking this stand, Mr Doonan is missing a crucial point. Read more

Fashion month is fast approaching – the NY shows start (gulp) on Sept 5, which means it’s also time for the now-standard action piece about why there are no black models on the runway. This season’s call to action comes from the New York Times, though there have been similar pieces over the years, from various different outlets including Vogue. Here’s my question, though: if we are really going to look at this issue in a serious way, and we should, no question, why stick to the runway? For truth is, rack my brain though I do, I can’t think of any luxury CEOs, at least of the mega-brands, who aren’t white. Or designers at the head of mega-brands, for that matter. We’re focusing on the wrong place. Read more

Today Michael Kors announced that Hillary Clinton would be the first recipient of the God’s Love We Deliver Michael Kors Community Service Award at the big GLWD awards shindig in October. The gong will be presented to her by…guess who?…Michael Kors! In case anyone needed any more re-inforcement of the fact that if HRC does decide to declare her candidacy for President, the industry will be right there in her corner.
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