Chanel

Yesterday Chanel (the Group, not the brand) announced it would acquire Barrie knitwear, a Scottish cashmere producer whose parent company, Dawson International, went into administration last August due to “a large hole in their pension fund”. This is turning into something of a strategic signature for Chanel. Though Barrie is not part of their “Metiers d’Art” group of nine specialist ateliers bought by their Paraffection affiliate, is it fully in line with what seems to be a Group policy regarding buying up and protecting heritage skills, be it glove-making, embroidery, or knitting.  

It seems to me Chanel is fast becoming the Swatch of luxury – and no one is really paying attention.

Today WWD is reporting that the couture house’s affiliate, Paraffection, has acquired French super-glove-maker Causse, which joins the other EIGHT specialist ateliers they have bought up in the past decade including embroiderer Lesage and button maker Desrues. The spin goes: Chanel is preserving French know-how for posterity (and indeed, according to our piece on manufacturing in France, if you don’t, say, use Lesage for embroidery, you would probably need to go to India to find the same skills). But at the same time they are acquiring a monopoly on said skills. Which is where the Swatch comparison comes in. 

The branded jewellery game, long viewed as an area with the least players and the biggest potential pay-off, has a new entrant: Versace, which just announced it will introduce its first high jewellery line (one-off creations with emeralds, diamonds, etc) this Sunday during its couture show at the Paris Ritz. I’ll see your collection and raise you! 

Time magazine has made its first foray into the world of best-dressed lists by releasing its own “All-Time 100 Fashion Icons” list, presumably in an effort to support its recently re-launched “Style and Design” issue.

The criteria, as stated, is “most influential”. This is fair enough, though vague: influential over who? The masses? The industry? International? The US? It’s unclear. The timeline begins in 1923, the year of the magazine’s birth. Again, fine. Fashion as we know it largely began then too (though it means Charles Frederick Worth is not on the list). It includes designers, brands, muses, photographers, models, editors and stylists — a good mix. The problem is in the seemingly random nature of the final choice. 

Yup: this is the view from my seat at Chanel, across the aisle. This couture season they created a whole Airbus interior inside the Grand Palais in Paris, complete with faux logo carpet, wheelie carts with orange juice and champagne, and a sky and cloud video that segued into earth from above moving across the ceiling.

Why? 

Who is fashion week for? The fact that this is a pressing question has suddenly become as clear as the plaid on a kilt thanks to British Vogue’s web site, which today launched a new initiative: “On-line Fashion Week,” which points up a growing schism in the fashion world.
 

Francois Lesage, widely acknowledge as the greatest couture embroiderer and an iconic figure inside the fashion world, died last night at age 82. M Lesage’s death will reignite the debate about the purpose of the sartorial art form, and its role as an expression of French culture.
 

Yesterday, for the first time, Antonio Tajani, the European Commission’s VP for industry, met with a bunch of luxury companies like Chanel, Dior, Pucci, MaxMara and Harrods to talk about what the brands and the EU might be able to do for each other. Wait — the first time? Yes, weird as that may sound, after two years of lobbying, the ECCIA (European Cultural and Creative Industries Alliance) finally succeeded in getting Brussels’ attention. 

Chanel show

Chanel show – picture by Vanessa Friedman

At the Chanel show I was sitting next to architect Peter Marino, and after we had admired the all-white aquarium set (pictured left), we got to chatting about his recent renovation of the brand’s London Sloane Street store, to be unveiled this week. It’s not what you would expect.

First, it wasn’t nearly as expensive as one (okay, me) might assume, even though the centrepiece is a graphic black and white work of art by Allan McCollum, the American artist, displayed around the central stairwell and featuring the most popular 1000 women’s names according the US census. Think Maria, Chanel (really) and Shakira and you’ll get the idea. 

Is the fact that IMF chief Christine Lagarde has made Vanity Fair’s International best-dressed list good or bad for the image of bankers? Though at first I was excited about the news — yay! A female banker has finally been acknowledged for sartorial prowess; the “boring” stereotype is broken — after sleeping on it, I actually think this one could backfire.