What’s up with Oscar de la Renta? The man is creating news – and potential controversy – right and left. After paving the way for John Galliano’s return to fashion, a move that was both welcomed and castigated by the fashion set (depending on who you asked), today Mr de la Renta, America’s pre-eminent couturier of uptown society thanks to his way with a gown (see actress Jennifer Garner, pictured), announced he was creating a collection for The Outnet, Net-a-porter’s cut-price platform, that will be more “accessible” than his normal line. Effectively, he is remaking old patterns in old fabric and pricing down. The way the company puts it is, to paraphrase, along the lines of “taking out the originality mark-up”.
Actually, this is interesting for a more macro reason than linguistic gymnastics. Mr de la Renta’s move, combined with the recent launch by Barneys NY of its own stand-along cut-price web site, barneyswarehouse.com, to sell end-of-season merch, effectively creates a luxury strategy face-off over the issue of outlets: good or bad? Seems to me we are heading towards stilettos at dawn. Read more
Two interesting announcements this morning, both of which are worth examining: First Labelux announces instead of embracing (and chasing) hard luxury, it is exiting the segment to focus entirely on leathergoods; then Mulberry rejects the outlet model to take its bags and other products further up-market. The moves are complementary, in the context of general industry strategy. They both indicate that in the highly competitive world of leathergoods, current theory says it’s the most special, elaborate, highly worked pieces that sell.
There’s an anti-fur protest brewing for London, starting today and extending through the weekend. Burberry is the target. In fact, it’s called the “anti-fur weekend of action against Burberry.” But here’s the thing: if you look at the autumn/winter runway collections, Burberry didn’t actually have much fur at all on its catwalk. Read more
And so Mulberry joins that club no brand wants to be in: “luxury” brands that are experiencing surprising drops in demands and sales. Today they sent out a profit warning noting that due to a drop in wholesale revenues they “expect full year profits to be below last year.” Coming on the heels of Burberry’s profit warning last September, this is sure to send more luxury Chicken Littles scurrying through the streets crying that the sky is falling. This is wrong. It does not signal the end of luxury. It signals, rather, the end of the idea that consumers are suckers who will accept that anything is “luxury” that says it is so, and the rationalisation of the market. Read more
The sky is falling! The sky is falling! This tends to be the reaction lately every time a luxury brand reports worse-than-expected earnings. It happened last June with Mulberry, and now it is happening with Burberry. Yet I am not convinced it’s time to call the end of luxury. Read more
Buried amid all the Mulberry hoo-ha over the last day since shares tumbled one comment stood out to me. It was from Godfrey Davis, Mulberry’s chairman, who blamed the fall in profits, which led to the fall in shares, on a bad performance in his outlets. Outlets? In luxury goods-land? Well, yes – of course. We all know about them. But who knew they could have that much of an effect on a brand’s bottom line?
Aquascutum show at London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2012. Image by Getty
“Due to unforeseen circumstances the Aquascutum autumn/winter 2012 press day has been cancelled until further notice.”
That was the email that went to the fashion press yesterday, ahead of news that the British label has gone into administration. To be blunt, the autumn issues of glossy magazines aren’t going to collapse if stylists can’t get their hands on an Aquascutum trench to feature in their shoots. The wheels of fashion aren’t going to stop turning.
However, while Aquascutum isn’t one of the labels that shape the style landscape, like a Prada, or a major advertiser, like Armani, because there are few major British designer labels, when one is under threat it’s a big deal. Read more
It’s shaping up to be a big weekend for British fashion. On one hand we have Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, doing her best to represent every level of British brand available on the Canadian leg of her North American tour; on the other we have Kate Moss’s wedding. After all, just think about what it means for a designer every time they appear in a brand.
The 2010 British Fashion Awards just took place, and guess who won? Well, Burberry, for Digital Innovation; Mulberry, for Designer Brand; and — drumroll please — for Designer of the Year: Phoebe Philo for Celine. Oh, and Alexander McQueen, with that Lifetime Achievement thing. In other words, a large chunk of the major international brands that can be linked to the UK (and that advertise globally). Read more
A few years ago during a Mulberry presentation I was talking to chief executive Godfrey Davis, when he asked me what I thought of the brand. I said I thought they should be Coach, the American handbag company having huge success by combining fashion with middle-market pricing – that I thought there was big opportunity in that space. Apparently, so does Coach. Read more