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

Big (literally) news today in the FT that yesterday, thanks to a government recalculation, Nigeria’s GDP has not become the biggest in Africa, and the 26th biggest in the world, valued at $509bn. Why do we (we luxury folks, that is) care? “The revision will have a psychological impact. It underlines to foreign investors that this country has a large consumer base. It validates the investment thesis,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the minister for economy and finance. So will luxury, which has thus far been dancing around the edges of the country (only Zegna and Hugo Boss have stand-alone stores in Lagos, opened last year, and Diesel recently joined them), but which these days really loves a new consumer base, rush in? Read more

The subject of feminism and fashion, with all its complicated associations, has been percolating along for a season now – ever since Rick Owens’ step dancer show for spring/summer — and for anyone who though it was just a trendy thing, a group of occurrences this week ought to put that idea to rest. If anything, the commitment is being upped. Read more

ack from Prada’s investor day, analysts are musing over the future of the multi-billion euro Italian brand. To recap, after three years of scintillating growth, Prada (which is run by Patrizio Bertelli, center left, and his wife, Miuccia Prada, near left — both pictured with Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani) last year succumbed to the malaise that’s hit the luxury goods industry at large. Net income was flat last year compared with a 45 per cent growth in 2012, and declined in the fourth quarter. So what’s the suddenly-beleaguered brand to do? According to the Prada people: let them eat cake! No, that’s not a joke. Prada plans to help shrug off its slowdown by tapping a new trend in luxury and expanding its recently acquired Milanese coffee house Marchesi. Read more

Recently a new ranking – you know I can’t resist a ranking! – was release by the Ethisphere Institute, a US-based think tank that encourages good corporate practice, entitled “The World’s Most Ethical Companies”. And guess what? In all the 144 companies and 41 industries included, the only luxury companies on it were Shiseido and L’Oreal. Yup: no luxury clothing brands. No jewellers. Nada. Given how much lip service and is increasingly paid, and investment made, by luxury in the realm of ethics, this struck me as — well, striking. What, I wondered, was going on? Had we all been green-washed? Or was Ethisphere missing something? Read more

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. Read more

After two weeks in the mountains of Wyoming, come home and what do I find? Not only is Mulberry without a CEO (and still without a designer), but all that conventional wisdom about the super-duper high-speed growth of the Chinese luxury market (shock! Trauma!) slowing down may have been wrong. Or not wrong, exactly, but slightly misguided. Read more

More signs of the luxury industry shrugging of a slowdown in sales in China.

Versace reported its net profit jumped by nearly a third in 2013 as strong sales to US and still buoyant trade in China offset slower growth in Europe. Read more

The prospect of a US-based IPO by Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba has triggered a recent wave of short-term conjecture over the eye-watering figures involved.

A listing could garner as much as $25bn for example – making it the largest float in history. Wall Street banks could reap up to $400m in fees. Alibaba’s $170bn annual revenue now accounts for 2 per cent of China’s gross domestic product, and is bigger than those of eBay and Amazon combined.

Basically, there’s been rather a lot of this:

But what there has been surprisingly little Wall Street speculation or media salivation over are the longer-term ramifications of a possible IPO. And, more pertinently for the readers of Material World, what inroads Alibaba may be planning into Western fashion and luxury territory following a float, in order to open up access to these brands to the hundreds of millions of hungry shoppers back home in China.

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