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.
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.
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.
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
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
I had a very interesting conversation with a Calvin Kleiner this morning as we were waiting for the company’s pre-collection show to start. He had just come back from their latest store opening — at a mall in Toronto.
“Toronto?” quoth I, dubiously. “Is that a big market for Calvin Klein?” Read more
J. Crew show. Image by Vanessa Friedman.
At the J. Crew fashion week presentation, which had bright-messy-luxe, sequins-and-slouchy, pretty-is-cool-ness (all of which, in its hands, manages to somehow not seem an oxymoron), I started chatting to Mickey Drexler, the company’s chief executive. Mr Drexler was standing with three of his board members, and all of them were wearing blazers and button-down shirts, no tie.
Anyway, we were talking about the show and the board, when Ikram Goldman, the owner of Chicago mega-boutique Ikram, and the woman who originally put the Obamas in J. Crew, came up to say hi to me. Then she turned to Mr Drexler. Read more
Today James Scully, J Crew’s CFO, to trumpets the beginning of the brand’s international roll out. It began two weeks ago in Toronto with the opening a stand-alone store in Canada, and the launch of Canadian e-tail. Mr Scully said the company was “really pleased with the results in customer feedback so far.” Interesting, that. As far as I knew – and I was in Canada, outside of Toronto, for the last two weeks — the story all over the Globe & Mail was of how irate J Crew’s loyal Canadian customers were because when the store opened prices were up to 50% higher than they were in NYC. Guess that’s feedback, of a kind.
Yesterday marked a sudden surge in spending — not just on stuff, but on companies. According to the investment bankers with their eye on the retail and fashion sector, Christmas itself has come early: J. Crew has been sold for billions to private equity! Gymboree has gone to Bain! Coty has bought Philosophy from the Carlyle Group! (Remember: three=trend.) Action! The engine has restarted! And so on.