Today the FT is reporting that Blackstone is the clear leader in the race for the Versace minority stake – which is surprising on the surface, given that the private equity firm has never made any forays into high fashion, and private equity as a sector has had mixed results in the sector, sic Permira and Valentino, and TPG and Bally. So why the mutual attraction? I was speculating with a colleague recently, and she mentioned what is probably the magic word: hotels. Aka the Next Big Brand extension of luxury. Read more

Google has published its annual list of most-searched names in multiple categories in countries all over the world, and, as we know, there’s one category in particular that sets this blog’s heart to beating: fashion. Unfortunately, the search megalith doesn’t seem to track this particular segment globally (though they do track consumer electronics), or even in every country (surprisingly, for example, they don’t have a retail or high-end designer list for luxury hotspot Italy, nor, to my great frustration, for the UK), but in at least two, the US and France, the results are – well, not what one would expect, to put it mildly. Read more

Stay out of the office (more or less) for a month to attend to personal matters, and what happens? Strange things! I mean, first Burberry makes its designer CEO; then Jil Sander departs her eponymous brand for the third time; and now it turns out Permira, the European private equity firm, is in the running to take a minority stake in Versace. Yup – that same Permira that in 2007 achieved the dubious distinction of paying more for a luxury brand – EURO 2.6 billion for Valentino Group – than any PE firm ever, only to write it down by more than half two years later. That same Permira that became a poster child for why luxury and private equity don’t mix. That same Permira that now, apparently, begs to differ. The question is why? Hope springs eternal? Or something a little more strategic? Read more

The news today that Ottavio Missoni, known as Tai and co-founder of the fashion/knitwear brand that bears his surname, has died aged 92 has sent the fashion world into mourning, for a number of reasons — some personal, and some to do with the end of an idea about fashion itself.

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Last night at a very glamourous Versace dinner (where I nevertheless managed to cover myself in shame by chatting briefly to – and not recognising – Lady Gaga, then asking the man next to me who the cute woman in the big fur (Chanel) hat was), which followed the Versace Soho store opening, I got to talking with chief exec Gian Giacomo Ferraris, who let loose some interesting stuff. Read more

The branded jewellery game, long viewed as an area with the least players and the biggest potential pay-off, has a new entrant: Versace, which just announced it will introduce its first high jewellery line (one-off creations with emeralds, diamonds, etc) this Sunday during its couture show at the Paris Ritz. I’ll see your collection and raise you! Read more

Does anyone else feel like suddenly everywhere they turn, another erstwhile satisfied luxury brand is re-christening themselves a “luxury lifestyle” brand, talking about their “global universe” and otherwise attempting to own every aspect of a consumer purse? It’s like The Birds: you see one example circling and think, “oh, that’s interesting,” and the next thing you know the whole flock has obliterated the sky.

But here’s what I want to know: why? And what, exactly, do these brands mean when they attach the word “lifestyle” to themselves? Read more

After Nicole Kidman, after Audrey Tatou, after Carol Bouquet, comes…Brad Pitt? Chanel has just announced the latter will be the new, and first male, face of their cash cow product, aka the perfume Chanel No 5, aka the one of the best-selling perfumes in the world — since it debuted 1921. Now, that’s a surprise. Mr Pitt’s appointment, not the success of the scent.

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Anyone else notice anything surprising about the Duchess of Cambridge’s appearance yesterday at a homeless shelter in a 350 GBP Ralph Lauren polo-neck dress? Let me repeat that: a GBP350 RALPH LAUREN polo neck dress. Ralph Lauren? An American designer on the Princess-to-be? Shocking!

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Looking back over 2011, which I am currently doing for a Christmas Eve column, I’ve been struck by the fact that one trend dominates all others by a significant margin, having held true from last March through year end: the IPO. Read more

The Chambre Syndicale, French fashion’s governing body, has just announced Versace is returning to the couture schedule eight years after leaving it due to cutbacks. Is this good news? Or rather, is it enough good news?
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So it all came true, and PPR did, indeed, buy Italian men’s wear luxury brand Brioni. So far, so rumoured. But what does it mean? Seems to me there are two main implications to the deal. 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

Designers – especially, it seems, Italian designers – are busily embracing all sorts of aesthetic product opportunities beyond the runway. Both Missoni and Versace have teamed up with Century Properties in Manila to create the interiors of new high-rise developments, and Fendi just completed a boat with Princess Yachts. We have trend, people.
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One of the more controversial, if obscure, practices in the fashion world is “sand-blasting”, the process by which sand is fired at denim at high speeds: pow, pow! While this can make the fabric look cool, it also releases silica dust which experts say can cause pulmonary disease. Good for the catwalk, not so good for the factory workers, as the Clean Clothes Campaign discovered, so last year it started asking brands, luxury and otherwise, to look at their production processes and do the right thing. Read more

According to the NY Post, Aerin Lauder, the current family standard bearer of the Lauder cosmetic empire (so much so that she actually was the face of the relaunch of her grandmother Estee’s favourite fragrance, Youth Dew), as well as an SVP, is Leaving the Company to Start her Own Brand. This is a big deal. Read more

The answer to the above question — what’s wrong with British fashion — is summed up for me in today’s announcement that Christopher Kane has won the 2011 BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund award. Read more