Ready-to-wear

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. Read more

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! 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

It was probably inevitable after the rise of the multi-thousand-square-foot shoe department (Macy’s: 63,000 square feet; Selfridge’s, 35,000 sq ft). After all, you need something to fill that space. You need stars. And the way star are made, in fashion at least, is during fashion shows. Enter the shoe show. Once a specialty of Milan alone, this season it has gone global. New York fashion week is full of them. Read more

It’s time to call a spade a spade. Or a tulip skirt a skirt. Or something. As New York fashion week kicks off fashion month today (joy! rapture!) I think it’s about time we face up to certain realities of the form that, for whatever reason, we have seemed unwilling to acknowledge in the past. Starting with Fact #1: designers never want to show in a shared venue. Read more

What’s the point of fashion week – or maybe more pertinently, are we missing it? I was wondering this last week at couture, as I complained about the lack of daywear and subtlety, and got told off by a young stylist, who said, simply, “Isn’t it all about the red carpet?” Maybe so, given that a Valentino dress just showed up on the Grammy red carpet on Katy Perry (left). Which got me to thinking: maybe the reason we complain so much about fashion weeks is because what we (critics, consumers, viewers) think they are for, and what brands and designers think they are for, are no longer the same thing. Reality doesn’t meet our expectations, because reality is trying to meet different expectations. Adjust the expectations, and you may change your reaction too. As the ready-to-wear shows loom (they start in NYC a week from Wednesday) I think maybe it’s time to try to pin this down. Read more

So the rumours were true, and Stacey Cartwright, the ex-Burberry CFO who left that brand last February, has landed at Harvey Nichols as CEO. She’ll start next month. Goody. After all, Ms Cartwright’s appointment underscores two important trends in the fashion industry: first, the action in the department store world, where the fight for consumer attention and wallets is escalating to new heights; and second, the rise of the female executive in a world that, ironically, has long been run by men. Read more

As this is my last post of the year I thought I’d leave you with a few ideas about the five main thing I’m going to be watching in 2014, and where the action might be (aside from the already well-documented worlds of M&A and IPOs), from store wars to legal battles, consumer behaviour and designers that will make the difference. Read on! Read more

So marketing megalith IMG has just been sold to private equity firm Silver Lake Partners and talent agency William Morris Endeavor for more than $2.3 billion – which means, as those of us who follow these sorts of thing know, that assorted fashion weeks from New York to London, Berlin, Tokyo, Moscow, Miami, Toronto and Sydney have just also been sold, IMG owning the rights to those events (among others). Which has interesting implications for the debate currently raging in fashion about the purpose of fashion weeks itself: namely, are they for the trade (for buying and selling clothes) or, as fashion becomes more and more a part of pop culture and a driver of social media, are they entertainment for the public and marketing for the brands? Read more

Much celebrating (and some amazement) about the stellar stock market debut of Moncler yesterday, with some analysts attributing the excitement over buying into the brand to the idea it could be “ the next Burberry”. But is that true, or wildly optimistic? I can see where they are coming from, but am not necessarily convinced. Read more

Delphine Arnault, aka the woman who is doing all that designer wooing/moving at LVMH (think Nicolas Ghesquiere to Vuitton, and J.W. Anderson to Loewe), is not the only tall, blonde, smart daughter of a luxury brand founder to be making an impact on the creative side of luxury; now Virginie Courtin-Clarins, aka the granddaughter of the founder of beauty group Clarins, aka the new Director of Development, Marketing and Communications of Mugler Fashion, has just announced the appointment of David Koma as Artistic Director. Like Mr Anderson, Mr Koma is part of the new wave of Hot Young British designers. And like Ms Arnault, Ms Courtin-Clarins, who is in her late 20s, is part of a new generation of luxury scions entering the business and reshaping their brands. Read more

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

There’s a terrific essay by Rei Kawakubo, the high priestess/founder of Comme des Garcons, in the current issue of System magazine that casts doubt on a piece of fashion conventional wisdom that has under-pinned the industry, and the designer myth, as far as I can remember. I am speaking here of the “inspiration” trip/book/cultural event. Is it a bunch of hooey? Maybe. Read more

In yet another sign that the balance of power between designers and the brands and Groups that employ them may be shifting in the designer’s favour, today Kering announced it had entered into a Joint Venture with Tomas Maier (left), aka the creative director of Bottega Veneta, aka the man who made that brand into the second largest luxury brand in the Kering stable, and the fastest growing, to develop his own brand, entitled – guess – Tomas Maier! Still, Mr Maier founded his brand in 1997 and joined Bottega in 2001. So why is this happening now? Read more

It never rains but it pours: just a week after the Burberry shake-up comes news that Jil Sander (left) is leaving her namesake label for the third – count’ em – time, for “personal reasons.” (The first two times she left because of strategic differences with the then-owner, Prada Group.) No replacement has been named, and the upcoming fall/winter collection will be designed by an in-house team. So what are we to make of this? Read more

The news yesterday that Marco Zanini, former creative director of Rochas, would become the new creative director of the relaunched House of Schiaparelli, which would also join the couture calendar, is the sort of news that normally would send the fashion world into such a frenzied show of breast-beating (what will happen to Rochas!!) and excitement (what will this mean for Schiaparelli?!) it would put the actual shows on the runway to shame. Except this time no one batted an eyelash. They yawned, and moved on. How’d that happen? Expectations management via social media. There are lessons here for us all. Read more

Bare essentials

Blame it on Michelle Obama’s elegant arms and the related tricep/bicep workout craze, but women want to show off their upper limbs like never before and there are few ways to do so as stylishly as in a one-shoulder top. Once upon a time, a bare shoulder was almost a synonym for disco nights, but these versions are altogether more grown-up, polished and accessible. Read more

Yesterday LVMH announced it had signed up YBD JW Anderson to be the new designer of Loewe, and taken a minority stake in his brand. Anyone notice anything funky about this? No? It was expected? Well, kind of. But what shouldn’t have been expected, but seems to be increasingly the case, is that while they hired him to be the creative head of one of their not-quite-there-yet brands, they allowed him to keep his own line. And therein lies a change in strategy. Read more

OK, that headline is a bit of an exaggeration; luxury still loves its LA brand ambassadors. But when it comes to fashion week, it’s a legitimate question. Looking at the reports from last night’s Emmy awards, it suddenly hit me that there have been almost no Hollywood moments during Milan Fashion Week. Even given the date clash, and the fact that some may have had to be in the awards auditorium, there are plenty of movie stars who would have been available. No to mention rock stars. So I wonder: Have we finally come to the end? Has the luxury/celebrity balance of power finally shifted? Read more