Ready-to-wear

“I wanted to be nasty. I’m fed up with everything.”
So said Miuccia Prada after her emphatic spring/summer show, which looked at the debate over women’s roles without flinching.
I know it’s a political discourse,” said Mrs Prada, “but I wanted to say what I could through clothes.”
It’s rare, if not unheard of, these days for a big global brand to take a stance on any issue; worried about inadvertently offending potential consumers and losing a lucrative revenue source, they waffle, avoiding commitment. Hemlines are high – or they are low. Trousers are tight – but they can also be wide. Coats are light as air – except when they are fur. Shoes are sky high – and completely flat. And so on.

For all scholars of the Conde Nast kingdom and its inner workings: Anna Wintour has made another move in her new role as Artistic Director of Conde Nast. Last night Milan Fashion Week opening with what will indubitably be the party of the week: a shindig, hosted at La Scala by Conde Nast (the American version) to celebrate the donation of five scholarships to five Italian students in fashion, art, film and journalism. The great and the good were all there, and tenor Vittorio Grigolo sang. When I asked various CN execs about it, most of them said, “It was Anna’s thing” – though CEO Charles Townsend was also key. Either way it suggests a certain kind of strategic thinking that isn’t necessarily just about altruism or opera. Read more

Anyone else think this is a halcyon time for young designers? I mean, first the big luxury groups make their first investments in new names since way back at the turn of the millennium (back in the day when Tom Ford built Gucci Group by adding Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen), with Kering buying a majority of Christopher Kane and a big minority of Joseph Altuzarra, and LVMH helping out Maxime Simoens, and reportedly scouting JW Anderson. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read more

The news yesterday that Marigay McKee (left, with Michael Kors), former Chief Merchant of Harrod’s, was moving to New York to become President of Saks was interesting — but not as interesting as the news today that Richard Baker, the new owner of the store chain (and a sudden department store mogul along the lines of Galen Weston: he also owns Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay) was planning a $200 million refit of the flagship. $200 million on one store? If I was a speculating gal – and you know I am – I would guess this means the Fifth Ave branch is going WAY upmarket. WAY upmarket. And you know what that means? We have new strategy in the department store wars. Read more

Print matters

From chequerboards to Greek pottery, kinetic swirls to giant gingham, next summer will be one of clearly defined contrasts. Read more

Given the diversity debate that raged during New York Fashion Week – and which is making its way over the ocean to London, where the shows began today — thanks to a letter Bethann Hardison sent to the fashion councils of the four fashion week cities pointing out, in no uncertain terms, the extreme uniformity of the runway, I thought it might be interesting to keep a scorecard of sorts during NYFW to see if all the talk had any effect. Here’s what I found. Read more

Ok, I know it’s the womenswear season and all eyes are on hemlines in New York (and soon London), but something is happening in menswear to which no one seems to be paying much attention, but that strikes me as worth a stop and think: various Chinese groups are snapping up classic western tailoring brands like they are M&Ms. And the ownership change is reaching critical mass. Read more

How nice, as fashion week begins, to see a new brand getting some money. Today Kering, the French luxury group formerly known as PPR, announced they were taking a minority stake in young American brand Joseph Altuzarra (that’s Joseph, left, with model Stella Tennant in Altuzarra). This makes their second recent investment in a new name – they bought a 51% stake in British brand Christopher Kane last January – and their first in a US designer. Read more

Here’s a question: what does NYFW’s Jewish problem and the Chinese version of “Project Runway” have in common? You know the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well, this is Six Degrees of Parsons. Read more

Forget “who to watch,” or “what shows to watch” – when it comes to New York Fashion Week, “what to watch” is far more exciting. And by what to watch”, I do not mean what digital video channel, though they are unquestionably proliferating, but rather what issues will be revealed during the next round of shows, which start – ahem – tomorrow. I guess a more colloquial way of putting it would be “what to watch for”. And when it comes to “what to watch for”, I have four main areas of focus. Read more

I’m amazed that fashion, which loves to complain about fashion weeks (which start this week!), has thus far said almost nothing about changes to the New York and Paris schedules. Maybe everyone is simply in end-of-summer re-entry shock and hasn’t had time to focus? Whatever the case, and despite the constant rumblings about the need to condense the season, truth is this time around New York and Paris have pulled a fast one that should extend their “weeks” by another day. Which may not seem like a big deal, until you start adding up the costs. Read more

It’s August, which means September issues of magazines, which means we are all about to be inundated with new ad campaigns. So far, so predictable. But amid all the hoopla about instagram this and old models that, one designer is really trying something new.

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As fashion weeks proliferate around the world (I blame IMG, which alone owns 14 different fashion weeks from Milan to Mumbai), and it gets harder and harder to get excited about them or even remember why we should care, I have been struck by the way, of all the fashion weeks not on the original NY-London-Milan-Paris calendar, Copenhagen Fashion Week alone has both understood and attempted to solve the problem. They’ve made a big bet on an identity differentiator that – and this is key – actually doesn’t have anything to do with design. Think that’s ridiculous? it’s actually very clever.

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Today, downtown at the Pace Gallery, Tamara Mellon finally unveiled her new brand – not mention plans for the business, which is based on a model that that rejects a lot of the basic conventions of the fashion industry. It tosses, for example, the whole idea of seasons out of window, as well as shows.
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It’s too bad EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht wasn’t at the couture shows last week. It would have given him lots of ammunition during this week’s EU-US free trade talks (presuming they go ahead) when the question of the French exception culturelle is raised. After all, the fashion industry is not covered – not even the made-to-order highest end of it, as invented and perfected in Paris. What became increasingly clear during the collections is that, other than location, couture no longer seems to have much to do with France.

Part of this is literal: of the big brand names still on the couture schedule, only one, Jean Paul Gaultier, is actually designed by a Frenchman. The rest are created by Belgians (Dior, Martin Margiela Artisanale), Dutch (Viktor & Rolf), German (Chanel), Italians (Versace, Armani, Valli, Valentino), Russians (Ulyana Sergeenko) and Lebanese (Elie Saab). But most of it is aesthetic.

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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Once upon a time, to most people, “the woman in red” meant a mediocre 1980s comedy starring Gene Wilder and Kelly LeBrock. Not any more. These days, the phrase is shorthand for the protests in Turkey over the past two weeks. That the latter has so overtaken the former is testament to the power of the image in the age of social media. And clothing has a lot to do with that power.

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.

After the growing, and counter-intuitive success of the London Collections: Men, aka the only fashion week on the calendar these days with any buzz; after the purchase of Christopher Kane by the-former-PPR-now-known-as-Kering; after Jefferson Hack’s work with Tod’s; today comes yet another announcement that adds fuel to the growing sense that London is the fashion city of the moment: Katie Hillier, British accessories designer, and Luella Bartley, the YBD, are joining Marc by Marc Jacobs as creative director and design director of womenswear, respectively. Bring on the Brits! If you want to be a buzzy brand, these days, apparently, you need some of your own.

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Oooh, the trash talk out of Milan. Having finally woken up to the fact that London Fashion Week is getting buzzier, and that such a development could be a threat to Milan, its collections, and the related economic windfall that comes to a city during showtime, Milanese designers are joining forces to defend their territory – but the infighting has already begun. The gossip and name-calling is fun to watch, but behind it is a real issue currently afflicting every fashion week: the tension between national industry interest and a brand’s self-interest. Read more