Ready-to-wear

The news that PVH has bought an undisclosed minority stake in Karl Lagerfeld’s namesake brand (otherwise owned by Apax), thus allowing them first dibs on the brand’s entry in North America, has got all my something-is-happening sensors twitching. Seems to me they are sneaking up on dominance of a market segment. 

All the kvelling and anticipation, all the oh-my-god-wait-for-it-game-changer rumours that have had both the tech and fashion worlds on the edges of their respective metaphoric seats since last summer, when Apple started poaching luxury executives supposedly with an eye toward developing an iWatch – well, it turns out that has all been something of a sleight of hand: while we were staring in one direction, and competitors were rushing THEIR smartwatch to market, the folks in the super-secretive headquarters on the West Coast had other things up their sleeves. In fact, forget the iWatch entirely. Think iWear. 

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? 

Because today is Dries Van Noten’s show, the first biggie of Paris Fashion Week, and given the interest in his Lunch with the FT last Saturday, following are some out-takes from our interview: moments that did not make it into the final draft because of space or continuity, but that illuminate something about the man, or the industry. They’re not quite as funny as Adam Sandler out-takes, but they’re very revealing. 

Today is travel day, as the fashion flock leaves Milan and heads to Paris, the last leg of the four-week marathon that is the womenswear collections, and often the week one that produces the most highs and lows and sheer spectacle. So what are we looking forward to? Four major debuts are taking place this week – more new names at old houses than in any other city. Here are the big ones to watch: 

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. 

In the game of fashion telephone, by which a rumour gets whispered to someone on the benches, which gets passed on, and so on, we have reached a new level of nuttiness: over the weekend, the New York Post speculated that Donna Karan’s tears as she took her bow at the end of her 30th anniversary show for her main line (left) — which they identified as her DKNY second line — somehow indicated she might be leaving, a rumour that was picked up by British Vogue’s website, and applied only to the second line – which then got picked up and spread by businessoffashion.com, a taken-seriously-by-the-industry website, which gives the whole thing a certain sheen of corporate credibility (it brought it to my attention, anyway). But let us pause for a minute to consider the likelihood of all this. 

Big Pants
Not the Bridget Jones variety – rather, the wide-legged, generously slouchy, swish-as-you walk kind. Blame it on the overarching trend of the season: a return to comfort dressing – or a simple fashion reaction to the past few seasons of skin-tight rocker trousers. Either way, for autumn/winter the trousers on the catwalk are, finally, almost entirely on the upped-side. This is good news physically (they can hide a multitude of issues) and emotionally too; they have the comfort factor of a good pair of sweatpants. Whether in double-faced cashmere or malleable leather, they can go from office to sofa with just a change of top. Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy would approve.

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. 

Today may be the day the big names – Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein – come out to play in New York, but in Paris it’s all about the new ones. The shortlist for the LVMH Young Designer’s Prize, which was launched last November by Delphine Arnault, has just been unveiled, creating much buzzing amid the fashion crowd. It includes most of the hot names in New York and London, many of which have also been finalists for the Vogue Fashion fund competitions in both countries, or the Dorchester prize, or sponsored by Giorgio Armani. And I wonder: is the competition greater among the baby brands vying for the awards, or among the mega brands bestowing them? I tend to think the answer may actually be the latter. I saw her first! No, I did!