Louis Vuitton

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?

 

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. 

In the battle about counterfeits and control of the web that has pitted Google, Facebook and their techneprenuer kin against content producers from Hollywood and the music industry, with congress apparently caught in the middle, little mention has been made of fashion — which is odd, because fashion, especially the luxury end, has been actively policing on-line piracy, and insisting on third party responsibility (eBay, Google) for years.

 

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.” 

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?” 

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.
 

Art and fashion have had a notoriously long affair, with the former attracted to the glamour and glitz of the latter, and the latter attracted to the former for the creative legitimacy it can bestow on an essentially commercial endeavor, but rarely has one actually crossed over into the territory of the other. As of this Christmas season, however, Marc Quinn — he of Saatchi Young British Artists, “blood head”, and Traflager Square plinth/disabled marble bust fame – is breaking the rules.

 

Dior handbag

Dior handbag. Image by Vanessa Friedman.

Forget the sense of nostalgia and farewell that pervaded Marc Jacobs’ sugar-sweet Louis Vuitton show, the clothes full of couture constructions as if an audition for a couture house; something happened yesterday at Christian Dior that had a very MJ-feel.

To be specific: the brand unveiled a new collaboration with the German artist Anselm Reyle that will be in-store for a limited time from  January until March, and involved pop art-like neon camouflage and metallics on the famous Miss Dior bag, as well as little flats and wedges, some bangles, and even a makeup line. 

What is with these French fashion houses? Do they not get enough attention?

New York fashion? What’s that? 

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?