J Crew

It’s interesting, in all the breathless reports about Fast Retailing’s maybe-possibly-hope-so acquisition of J Crew, Andrew Rosen has not really figured. It’s all about Fast’s chairman, Tadashi Yanai, and his desire to acquire, along with the accessible luxury brand, its CEO, Millard “Mickey” Drexler (though presumably creative director Jenna Lyons is also a plus). Yet Mr Rosen, who is a group senior vice-president of Fast Retailing, and instrumental in their US operation, being the CEO of Theory and Helmut Lang (which Fast bought fully in 2009), happens to be very, VERY (I could say that again, but won’t, because I think you get the point) good friends with Mr Drexler. See where I’m going with this? Read more

There was much hoo-ha a few weeks ago about the London opening of American success story J Crew, and whether it would work in the UK, and the great consumer response, and yadda yadda yadda, but in getting excited about the clothes, we seemed to have missed one of the less obvious effects of the opening: its influence on local brands and their thinking – which is to say, the way it has awakened managers to the potential of the accessible luxury/contemporary market (whatever you want to call it: that slice of retail that falls between High Street and very high end). Consider Karen Millen, and its CEO Mike Sherwood, who today told the FT he has decided to take the brand, which was previously at a sort of upper high street level, into new territory. Hello, accessible luxury! But is he right about the opportunity? Read more

Despite all the lip service paid to potential of the contemporary market – despite J Crew’s expansion into Europe and Asia, and Tory Burch’s $2bn valuation; despite all the private equity interest in the sector, which has seen KKR buy Sandro and Maje, and General Atlantic put its money in Burch as well as TPG and LGP lead the charge by taking J Crew private – I find it striking that no one has yet attempted to put a bunch of these together and create a group, as are so ubiquitous in luxury, to leverage synergies and create a power structure.

 Read more

Luxury’s linguistic Dada has reached a new high (or low, depending on your view point).

When explaining TA Associates acquisiton of a majority stake in Dutch LLC, the parent company of contemporary brands such as Equipment and Joie, Jennifer Mulloy, TA’s managing director, said:

The new contemporary luxury segment has become an incredibly important revenue driver for both premium apparel companies and for retailers focused on this space.

I’ll say. Or rather, I’ll say “contemporary luxury” is new. In fact, I’ve never heard the term before. Probably for good reason. Read more

The news that LA-based private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners may take a 25% stake in Topshop and Topman has the high street all aflutter, largely because of the billion plus valuations it puts on the brands. However, it makes sense for a lot of reasons, and provides some fun fodder for sepculation. Let’s plunge in! Read more

Allow me to toot our own horn here for a moment, and note there’s a very interesting piece today in the FT by my colleague Stephanie Kirchgaessner on various industries and the presidential candidate they support. Romney seems to have come out on top in a bunch of them, at least as far as donations go but at least one other industry that wasn’t on the list skews very heavily BO (unfortunate initials, I know): fashion.
 Read more

Yesterday LNK Partners, a White Plains, NY-based P.E. firm, announced they had closed a second $400 million fund (oversubscribed, natch), specifically aimed at investing in “the consumer/retail sector.” Yes, yet more proof that all of us who thought when Permira sold Valentino to the Qatari royal family, it marked the end of PE’s brief flirtation with the unpredictable world of fashion were wrong. There’s life in that there investment relationship yet. Read more

So after all the chat about the current economic situation driving a polarisation of price-points – either super-high-end luxury or cheapo Uniqlo – Euromonitor has come out with some research that begs to differ.  Read more

There was an interesting point that didn’t make it into the story today on J Crew’s. expansion into Asia (it was a little too colloquial) that I wanted to pass on. This is the first wholesale arrangement the brand has ever had, a fact I found surprising because when Mr Drexler and I had lunch last year, he told me one of the most important lessons he ever learned – and he learned it in his youth, when he worked at Bloomingdale’s, and then applied it to the Gap, with now-famous success –was that you need to control your brand, from image to product to pricing, which means no wholesale.
 Read more

Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney celebrate their victory in the Illinois GOP primary. Getty Images

Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney celebrate their victory in the Illinois GOP primary. Getty Images

The elevation of Mitt Romney to Republican nominee presumptive appears to have acted as a sort of spur to his wife Ann when it comes to her entrance into the imagineering race.

Michelle Obama famously has a blog (mrs-o.org) devoted to her style, after all, which puts her front and centre in many cultural conversations and positions her as a champion of business without her or her camp having to say a word — other than “J Crew” or “Jason Wu” or ”Narciso Rodriguez.” It’s taken until now for Mrs Romney to begin to fight fashion fire with fashion fire.

Mitt and Ann Romney on 'CBS This Morning'. CBS image

Mitt and Ann Romney on 'CBS This Morning'. CBS image

Or so it seems. After a primary season marked mostly by a sea of unidentifiable red suits, earlier this week Mrs R appeared with her husband on “CBS This Morning” wearing a T-shirt printed with bird images by the New York designer Reed Krakoff. It was the first time as far as I know that Mrs Romney had dipped a public toe in the branded fashion world.

And it was an…interesting choice, for two reasons. Read more