Watching Francois Hollande be sworn in as French president today, I was struck by how incredibly color-coordinated the hand-over of power was. I know it wasn’t planned — the Hollande and Sarkozy camps are not that friendly – but Tim Gunn couldn’t have styled it better if he’d tried. Read more

There’s a new entry in the ever-evolving luxury lexicon courtesy of the folks over at Interbrand: “meta-luxury.” The term, coined to replace that old catch-all “luxury,” refers to “luxury after luxury.” For those in search of a fuller (or more logical) explanation, two Interbrand directors, Manfredi Ricca and Rebecca Robins, have written an entire book elucidating the concept, called, not surprisingly, “Meta-luxury.” It’s not perfect, but I think it may come closer to rationalising the current situation than anything else I’ve seen thus far.

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Looking at the yesterday’s impressive Hermès results, it’s hard not to wonder if the much-bemoaned 22% stake that luxury conglomerate LVMH built up in the group has actually been good for it – as opposed to the end-of-the-world/ barbarians-at-the-gate scenario the Hermès folks were painting. Why has to do with pretty basic psychology.
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When the iPad 3 went on-sale at midnight last friday night it provoked the usual frenzy — miles of lines, ecstatic buyers — as well as one very interesting blog that somehow seems to have fallen through the cracks over the weekend. It takes a good, analytic look at the general perception that Apple is a luxury brand and points out that it does tick all the luxury boxes save one: exclusivity. But here’s what I wonder: is exclusivity really a luxury value these days?

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The flight to the highest-end continues. I know it doesn’t come that close to Hermes’s million euro bejeweled handbags, but yesterday news landed of eye glass frames for $2,950, courtesy of Tom Ford. If ever there was illustration that luxury brands are convinced their customers not only still exist, but are demanding ever-more extreme iterations of their products, I think this is it.

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Q: When is a hand bag not just a handbag ?

A: When it is also a piece of high jewellery and a sculptural object.

The crocodile skin and diamond Hermès bag (photo by Dan Tobin Smith)

Such is the case, anyway, with Hermès’s second foray into haute bijouterie (as opposed to haute joaillerie — the former starts with outrageous designs, the latter with mega stones). Their jeweller and shoe maestro Pierre Hardy created four different mini-handbags, in part inspired by the brand’s iconic handbags, using gold and a LOT of precious stones. They are each functionally a “bracelet” and they actually work as (very small) handbags.In theory, anyway.

It seems to me the idea of anyone actually carrying a handbag worth €1.5m and made of intertwining chains covered in 11,000 diamonds, or a rose gold version of the Kelly bag with crocodile scales and 1,160 diamonds is a little nuts, and I mentioned this to Patrick Thomas, the CEO of the brand. He laughed. Read more

After buying Hermes’ 45 per cent stake in Jean-Paul Gaultier last year and talking up its development potential, Spanish luxury group Puig has put yet more money where its mouth is and just announced the appointment of senior luxury executive Ralph Toledano to the newly created position of President of the fashion division. If you want to send a signal to the fashion community that you are intent on being a serious player, this is a pretty efficient way to do it.

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Today ex-P&G marketing guru Jim Stengel lists his top 50 brands of the last decade (out of 50,000) as judged by performance, consumer loyalty, and growth. These included the expected names like Apple, Starbucks and Amazon, as well as some less expected: the only fashion/luxury brands that make the list are — wait for it — Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, and Louis Vuitton. Surprised? How about now: Mr Stengel attributes their success largely to four factors, one of which is CEOs who are “artist-businessmen.” Read more

Though in many ways the brands mentioned in the headline – Hermès and Donald Trump – are what one would think of (OK, I would think of) as polar opposites, the former being famous for its discrete elegance, the latter being famous for its in-your-face 24-carat bluster, they are nevertheless setting up house together in … the Philippines. Below is a rendering of their love nest.

Century Properties

The relationship was brokered by Robbie Antonio, managing director of Century Properties, and the man behind what is increasingly looking like a mini fashion-city in Manila: high-rise condos with public areas (lobbies, libraries, pools) and apartments decorated by Versace, Missoni (both Italian labels) and now Hermès. He already had a licence deal with Trump on the table to build Trump Tower Manila (the building is owned and operated by Century), which will become the most luxurious, expensive, property in the city, and thought, he said, it would be great to have “two very formidable brands involved in the most important single tower.” He approached Hermès, which had recently launched a furniture line, and the French brand agreed to create the building’s shared spaces. Read more

It’s never a dull moment with those LVMH folks. After being in the news for almost the entire last week thanks to various fashion shows, they’ve gone and extended their time in the limelight by announcing a joint venture with the Koh family of Singapore to take ownership of Heng Long, one of the most important suppliers of crocodile skins to the luxury industry — including Hermes.
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What is with these French fashion houses? Do they not get enough attention?

New York fashion? What’s that? Read more

It’s that time of year when fall ad campaign break, and magazines occasionally double as doorstops. Judging by the size of US Vogue, along with yesterday’s Hermes announcement that operating profit was up tk per cent, you’d think that the economy, at least as far as luxury has gone, has recovered. But back to the ad campaigns. Hands-down the most charming one I’ve seen thus far is the new Lanvin video: check it out, and I dare you not to smile. Which suggested to me perhaps its appeal was worth exploring.

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Recently I was at the unveiling of the new line of UGG Australia boots – you know, those squishy sheepskin booties that looks like slippers and became hugely trendy after movie stars like Kate Hudson started wearing them with shorts to get their Starbucks. Anyway, these UGGs were not those UGGs. These UGGs were all Made in Italy, mostly sporting very high heels or wedges, and priced not an average of $150, but an average of $1095. Yes, UGG, one of the defining styles of modern mass market cool, wants in on luxury. But does luxury want in on UGG?
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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.

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As promised, I’ve been thinking more about the LVMH/Hermes war of the words, and what Pierre Godé said yesterday at the Hermes AGM, and whether or not it should be taken at face value, and my answer is…not entirely. Read more

The Time magazine list of the 100 most influential people in the world is out and guess what: there’s only ONE fashion person on it: Tom Ford.  Read more

Sometimes in fashion it’s hard to see the trees for the forest. The dramas at Dior and Balmain have taken up so many column inches they have pretty much overshadowed everything else, including designer Vanessa Seward leaving Azzaro and now creative director Mauro Orietti (along with his father, production director Mario Orietti) leaving Zagliani, the Italian handbag company that achieved outsize notoriety for Mr Orietti’s patented use of Botox to make reptile skins particularly malleable. Except the latter is not going gently into that good night, and in his story lies a particularly contemporary moral.

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Hermes has released an annoucement noting they have received “an expression of interest from potential buyers in its 45 % stake in the Jean-Paul Gaultier company. Discussions have been initiated.” I find this logical (at least on their part) for a few reasons.

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There’s a report in today’s FT about falling luxury stocks on the back of the situation in Japan, but in reality, luxury groups have spent the last 10 years strategising about how to replace Japan on the balance sheet (China, anyone?), so in a way they were among the most prepared companies for the effects of the current disaster.

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Seems rumours of the It bag’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It hasn’t expired; It has just moved: countries and genders. From being a western woman thing, it is now a chinese male thing.  Read more