Forget clothes; the red carpet is all about the jewellery now. Would be that of an after-awards morning my in-box would be full of who-wore-what emails. Not any more! Now it’s jewels, all the way down (or pretty much). Yet I can’t help feeling that there’s a difference between fine jewellery and clothes, even really expensive clothes, and the “if-it-worked-for-fashion-it-will-work-for-gems” theory is wrong.
Maxime Simoens' couture collection. Getty Images
It seems LVMH has taken a new approach to its investment in young fashion brands having made a minority investment in 29-year-old French couturier Maxime Simoens. The company has snapped up between a 20-30 per cent stake in the business, according to an LVMH spokesperson. This means Mr Simoens will not officially become part of LVMH (not yet, anyway), but that the group will act as advisers on the growth of the brand – in particular, Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano, who was the driving force behind the investment. Dior, as the group likes to point out, is the main holding company of LVMH.
Mr Simoens had been rumoured as a candidate for the Dior artistic director job, and though that went to Raf Simons, Mr Toledano and Dior deputy managing director Delphine Arnault were impressed. Their first move now: helping Mr Simoens hold his debut ready-to-wear show on March 3 (he already does couture, which may seem odd, but it does not require the same up-front funding for wholesale orders as RTW).
Raf Simons for Christian Dior. Getty Images
Sometimes – often when a new designer takes the reins at a brand, thereby drawing attention to it – a style inexplicably takes off in a viral way, running rampant throughout the fashion world.
This happened after former YSL designer Stefano Pilati’s first collection for the house, when he introduced the high-waisted tulip skirt to widespread scepticism. By the next season, high-waisted tulip skirts were ubiquitous (remember that?), and judging by last week’s New York ready-to-wear shows, it seems like it is happening now with Christian Dior designer Raf Simons’s gown-over-cigarette-trousers style, introduced in his first couture show last July.
The continued preponderance of celebs at the couture show in Paris this week – Sigourney Weaver, Chloë Moretz, Jessica Alba, Rosamund Pike and Noomi Rapace, among others (left) at Dior; Hilary Swank and Uma Turman at Armani; Charlene, Princess of Monaco and Olivia Munn at Versace; Rita Ora at Chanel – has got me thinking about the expectation this has raised, and how that can backfire for a brand. And no, I’m not talking about the usual problem of celebs behaving badly.
I’m talking about the fact that these relationships have become so common and so public, that now when we see a star in pretty much anything branded, there is an assumption there’s a contractual relationship there. And a contractual relationship implies approbation and shared values. At our recent Business of Luxury conference in New York, Lisa Jacobson, head of branding for United Talent Agency, said there were “maybe” five celebs in Hollywood that didn’t want a relationship with a brand, and the endorsement contract had become a significant part of most stars’ income.
What’s up with YSL these days? Post-designer Hedi Slimane’s weird tweet rant at NYT critic Cathy Horyn, which came after her review of the on-line pictures of the show she wasn’t invited to (if you can follow the absurdity of that chain) the brand’s CEO has gotten in on the action. Yesterday YSL chief exec Paul Deneve wrote an “Open Letter” to WWD complaining about a story they wrote recently comparing Raf Simons’ Dior debut to Hedi Slimane’s at YSL. Mr Deneve didn’t think the WWD folks had been fair, he said, and they should stop trying to invent a rivalry that isn’t. At first glance, this seems like an executive kicking sand. But Machiavelli might have a different point of view.
I greeted my colleague Richard Waters’s column today on the new mini Ipad – Apple’s equivalent of a mini-clutch – with a roll of the eyes. Not because it demonstrates yet another way in which the tech giant is mimicking the fashion world (by filling out their accessory offering), but because a recent experience has me thinking that maybe Apple has not learned its fashion/luxury lesson as well as this might suggest.
Reading my newspaper over coffee this morning, I almost fell out of my chair while perusing a tech story on Google, Amazon et al, which ended with the following observation: “Google, Microsoft and Amazon all have the potential to adopt Apple’s vertical model of combining software, services and hardware to gain complete control over the design and function of future mobile devices.” Because the thing is, dear reader, it’s not “Apple’s approach” exactly – or it is, but Apple got it from somewhere else first. And where would that be? Fashion, of course.
Enter the new era at Dior: new designer (Raf Simons), new show address (a hotel particulier on Avenue d’Iena instead of the Musée Rodin), new hair and makeup (simple, stripped-down) and new clothes. Kind of.
For his first show as a couturier, Raf Simons stuck to two primary silhouettes, both involving the classic New Look code: a slim cigarette pant under a moulded jacket or bustier that blossomed from the waist down into a full hip; and a strapless 1950s-style cocktail gown (yes, there were other bits: a day sheath and swing back coats, but these were the overwhelming shapes).
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!
The assertion that exclusivity is no longer a criteria for luxury came from PPR chief Francois-Henri Pinault when he opened our luxury conference last Thursday, and I have to say, it made me sit up in my seat. Not that that was the only striking insight to come out at the end of last week. Here, in no particular order of importance, are the top five items that stayed with me the most