Burberry

My favourite rumour of the day comes courtesy of WWD, which suggests that ex-Burberry CFO Stacey Cartwright, beloved of the City and regarded as a key player in that brand’s financial success, may find a new C-suite seat as CEO of UK department store Harvey Nichols. Current CEO Joseph Wan, who has been running the store for over a decade, “denied an appointment had been made.” Which doesn’t mean one isn’t coming. So let’s play my favourite game for a moment: “What if…?”  Read more

Anya Hindmarch is going to be late. I know this because her office emailed me twice on the day of our dinner to alert me to the probability; she is coming from a meeting with Bergdorf Goodman on 57th Street and we are eating downtown and, well … traffic.

Does anyone think just taking a picture of a celebrity in your stuff – or taking a picture of a celebrity in your stuff and making a video of the picture-taking – or even taking a picture of an artisan making your stuff, is enough to convince today’s super-suspicious-of-all-marketing consumer of the integrity of a brand? Burberry clears doesn’t think so, and their just unveiled Autumn/Winter campaign is their response. It’s multi-layered! It’s referential! It has history! It has retail! It goes way beyond the usual. Is it a harbinger of what’s coming? Probably.
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Interesting news today that fursales are at “a record high”, especially in the Far East: Korea, China and so on. So does this mean the animal rights folks have lost? They certainly haven’t ceded the cause – they still pop up on occasion in front of a show (Prada, last season) or a store (Burberry), but I think it has proved more complicated than they ever anticipated. Because they aren’t just fighting a basic totem of luxury, and an industry that is increasingly getting out in front of the issue (see the Origin Assured initiative), but the whole problem of seasonality: the end of.

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In a few hours (4pm UK time) Burberry will take to the runway at London Fashion Week (that’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey with Samantha Cameron at the opening reception for LFW, left), and viewers will take to their smart phones not just to watch the show, which is being streamed on pretty much every part of social media you can imagine, but to order coats and bags… with their names on them! They will arrive on their doorstep in nine weeks, which is much earlier than in stores. Not only that: they will also be able to access video of their product being made, just for them. The knees go weak.

Ok, so that sarcasm was maybe a bit uncalled for. On one level I think offering videos of the customised product is a very smart thing. It pulls customers into the process, which provides an increased sense of ownership and also underscores the hand-made side of things, partly justifying the price and categorisation of Burberry as a luxury brand. But on another, this feels a little smoke and mirrors to me. Read more

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What’s up with Oscar de la Renta? The man is creating news – and potential controversy – right and left. After paving the way for John Galliano’s return to fashion, a move that was both welcomed and castigated by the fashion set (depending on who you asked), today Mr de la Renta, America’s pre-eminent couturier of uptown society thanks to his way with a gown (see actress Jennifer Garner, pictured), announced he was creating a collection for The Outnet, Net-a-porter’s cut-price platform, that will be more “accessible” than his normal line. Effectively, he is remaking old patterns in old fabric and pricing down. The way the company puts it is, to paraphrase, along the lines of “taking out the originality mark-up”.

Actually, this is interesting for a more macro reason than linguistic gymnastics. Mr de la Renta’s move, combined with the recent launch by Barneys NY of its own stand-along cut-price web site, barneyswarehouse.com, to sell end-of-season merch, effectively creates a luxury strategy face-off over the issue of outlets: good or bad? Seems to me we are heading towards stilettos at dawn. Read more

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I did a Lunch with the FT with Burberry’s chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, (looking snazzy, left), which is running tomorrow, and in our long – and fun – conversation, the thing that struck me most was the revelation that he limits his technology interaction largely to his professional life. Yup: no Facebook, no Twitter. It’s a work-only thing.

Why is this interesting? Well, because Mr Bailey has been a driving force behind Burberry, which is streaming its men’s show tomorrow on numerous social media platforms from Europe to China, becoming the number one high-end fashion company in the digital space.

And the Burberry flagship on Regent Street was revamped, under Mr Bailey’s direction, with an astonishing number of screens that can do such things as show you how your trench coat would look in the rain. Read more

It struck me, looking at the upcoming Givenchy ad campaign, which features FoR (friends of Riccardo – -Tisci, the brand’s creative director) Mariacarla Boscana, artist Marina Abromovic and matador Jose Maria Manzanares, that one of the biggest fashion trends of recent years has been the selling of a quasi-family-reality – but more fabulous and famous, natch, than any of our real families. This seems to be reaching critical mass, and I rather expect it will continue next year. Why?

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Two interesting announcements this morning, both of which are worth examining: First Labelux announces instead of embracing (and chasing) hard luxury, it is exiting the segment to focus entirely on leathergoods; then Mulberry rejects the outlet model to take its bags and other products further up-market. The moves are complementary, in the context of general industry strategy. They both indicate that in the highly competitive world of leathergoods, current theory says it’s the most special, elaborate, highly worked pieces that sell.
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What is on-line fashion week? It is the UK-equivalent of Cyber Monday (which is today!): five days of super-special offers and special brand titbits organised by British Vogue to prompt holiday shopping, albeit with a charitable component (a percentage of sakes goes to the Oxfam Girls Education Project, the “official” charity partner) and a branded gloss. In other words, it doesn’t actually have much to do with fashion weeks as we know them at all, though the name is catchy. Even more notably, however, this year, which is its second year, for the first time on-line fashion week will be sponsored by…Amazon! That’s what made little old me sit up and take notice.
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