If, like me, you live in the US, then you may be feeling a touch of Michael Lewis overload. If you live elsewhere, you may be spared this condition, which brings with it a sudden fatigue with dimples, floppy hair and pink gingham. If you are involved in the financial world anywhere, however, I suspect you, too, may have it, given that the author and journalist’s latest book, Flash Boys , a “surprise” tome (ie one that was not described in its publisher’s catalogue prepublication) hit the media and banking worlds with a boom a fortnight ago and set off a perfect Lewis media storm, from 60 Minutes to CNBC. (Yes, I am theoretically contributing to it here but the idea is to act more as a punctuation mark than a continuation.)

Whichever platform you used, there was no getting away from Lewis; his image, rooted in the iconography of the courtly southern gent, complete with pastels and open-necked collars, was everywhere. It got to the point where if, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blond fringe on a screen, I knew exactly who was on.

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

Yahoo has just signaled its belief that part of its future lies in fashion and beauty, signing cosmetic guru Bobbi Brown (whose eponymous makeup line is owned by Estee Lauder), left, as their first-ever “beauty editor-in-chief.” She’ll run a vertical on the site, as well as doing her own blog. In this they are, of course, joining a race where Apple and Google already have palpable leads, with Intel jockeying for its own position not to mention Amazon. What’s interesting is that, as Yahoo demonstrates, it’s not just about wearables: it’s also partly about being the go-to platform for the sector, or those interested in the sector. We shouldn’t get so blinded by the product possibilities we ignore more traditional routes in. Read more

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. 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

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