Fashion Industry News Roundup: 10/23/09

1. Tom Ford Will Storm the World of Womenswear — Again:
“(Tom) Ford has finally confirmed on the record that he will indeed once again be a womenswear designer . . . Though WWD cites earlier sources that put Ford looking to launch as early as Fall 2010, the designer now says he’ll need another 18 months to put his ducks in a row. If our math serves, that means if he gets ($50 million in) financing by this coming January, his first collection would hit the runway in September or October 2011, with a Spring 2012 debut.”

Ford is widely recognized as the designer who put Gucci back on the map in the mid-90’s after over-extensive product licensing and poorly conceived collections nearly drove the company into the ground (Vanity Fair even went so far as to call 1980’s era Gucci a tacky airport brand).

Ford’s boundary-pushing ads for Gucci and YSL upped the ante on fashion and fragrance marketing, and his erotic stylings are now commonly utilized in contemporary fragrance marketing, though he still manages to be provocative enough to generate attention all on his own.

Ford has been quietly designing menswear for the past several years, while also launching several commercially successful fragrances (Black Orchid, White Patchouli, Tom Ford for Men), including his somewhat exclusive (if any product sold in major department stores can be considered “exclusive”) Private Blend series, but menswear isn’t where the money’s at, and Ford apparently feels it’s time to capitalize on his name and reputation in order to reenter the lucrative womenswear and accessories fields.

If he’s able to raise $50 million dollars to finance an expansion into womenswear at a time when other brands are going belly-up, then hats off to the master.

A video clip below of the Gucci Spring/Summer 2002 collection, when Tom Ford was still head designer for the brand:

Speaking of other brands going belly-up, Yohji Yamamoto, Christian Lacroix and Escada have all escaped the axe for the moment. Gulf investor Hassan bin Ali al-Nuaimi will be finalizing a bid for Lacroix at the end of this month; Italian investment group Borletti, after abandoning its bid for Lacroix, is providing support in a bid for floundering German fashion house Escada; and Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto will continue to design the Adidas collaborative Y3 brand while investment company Integral Corp. will provide financing to rehabilitate his financially bankrupt Yohji Yamamoto line.

And as long as we’ve brought up the subject of Gucci:

2.) Ridley Scott Set to Direct Gucci Family Murder Drama:
“Angelina Jolie is in talks to take up the role of … Patrizia Reggiano, the ex-wife of Maurizio Gucci who was sentenced to 29 years in jail for plotting Maurizio’s murder. The film, named ‘Gucci’ and to be directed by Ridley Scott, will center on Gucci and the turnaround he brought to the Gucci empire before he was murdered in front of his Milan apartment in 1995.”

There’s already a fascinating book about the Gucci family titled, The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed. If you think you’d enjoy reading about the development, growth and subsequent power struggles in the boardroom behind one of the 21st century’s largest luxury fashion houses, I highly recommend it.

In related news, luxury conglomerate PPR (owner of Gucci Group) is reporting an 8% fall in sales for the third quarter, glamour and greed be damned: “Sales fell 8 percent in the third quarter as tourists from Eastern Europe and the Middle East traveled less and spent less amid the global economic slowdown . . . Gucci Group sales fell 10 percent in the quarter on a comparable basis, while sales of the Gucci brand itself fell 7 percent in the period, PPR said.”

The Gucci Group includes the powerhouse Gucci brand, as well as other luxury brands like Bottega Veneta and Yves St. Laurent.

3.) Guilt Gets a Recessionary Boost:
“In the past year, the guilty pleasure of shopping has turned to plain old guilt . . . but retail executives say it has become such an overriding emotion among shoppers since the economic crisis set in last year that it is delaying the recovery of the luxury-goods industry . . . Guilt is running so high these days that many people are simply not going into stores in order to avoid the temptation to buy, retail executives say.”

The article goes on to note that online shopping has increased by 20% since the recession began, indicating that consumers may be purchasing online to avoid the appearance of conspicuous consumption — of course, it may also be that it’s way easier to find great discounts and items on sale when you’re surfing the computer rather than driving around town in your car.

Re: the guilt of shopping — I think there might actually be some truth to what they’re saying. When we were in NYC over the weekend, I picked up a handbag for my sister from the Anya Hindmarch store. I felt weirdly guilty about it after I left the store, as if I should have waited until it was on sale, or bought something else that was 60% off instead of a bag that was full price, or maybe I shouldn’t have purchased the bag at all.

I couldn’t figure out where that thinking was coming from, but it makes sense when you consider the social context: news of rising unemployment, increasing foreclosures, corporate bankruptcies, the declining value of the dollar and mountains of government debt, and then I walk out of a SoHo boutique with a frivolous, unnecessary item in a bag.

No wonder retailers are spooked, but they’re also searching for end-runs around the problem — donating percentages of the purchase price to charity, or introducing lower priced items into their brand lineup: “Luxury brands hit hard by the recession are crediting the introduction of “lower-priced” goods for keeping quarterly profits from slumping further . . . Coach (the leather goods company), based in New York, said fiscal first-quarter profit fell slightly to $140.8 million US, but revenue rose
as new, lower-priced handbag lines helped boost sales.”

But I’m guessing that a spendy designer bottle of liquor isn’t part of that end-run solution: Cointreau’s $200 Malandrino Bottle Seeks to Court Wealthy Women“Remy Cointreau started selling 3,000 bottles of Cointreau liqueur dressed by designer Catherine Malandrino this week, courting wealthy New York women keen to splash their riches on the most exclusive brands.”

Apparently, the people at Cointreau didn’t get the memo.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the Malandrino name, below is a video clip of New York designer Catherine Malandrino’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection:

Hey, how come designers like Malandrino and Tory Burch don’t have fragrances associated with their brand names yet? Oh wait, at least Tory Burch appears to be working on one. From a June, 2008 report on BellaSugar: “The LA Times reports that along with adding to her accessories line, Burch is developing a fragrance. “I like coriander and tuberose and Vetiver by Guerlain,” she says. There’s not much news beyond that at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the scent were to launch in a year or two.”

If the people at Jimmy Choo are convinced that they could make a go at producing a brand fragrance, I would think that Tory Burch could be equally successful.

4.) Christian Louboutin Has Principles — Who Knew?:
“Christian Louboutin appeared at Bergdorf Goodman today (October 22nd) to autograph his famous red soles. We pushed to the front to ask His Loubness if he’d ever do a line for a more affordable store, like H&M, which is about to launch a one-off Jimmy Choo collection. ‘They proposed me to do the diffusion line and I declined,’ he told us. ‘Not that I don’t think it’s an interesting idea, but it’s a lot of work really, so it’s just difficult for me to do it.’ Would he ever do one in the future? ‘No.'”

Smart man. What presently sets Louboutin apart from nearly every other brand of shoe is not just his talent for design, but also the inability for the average consumer to purchase his goods. Should he go for a diffusion partnership with H&M or Target to produce $35.00 PVC replicas of his original designs, the way a lot of other brands are doing/have done, he may as well kiss his loyal clientele goodbye.

And now he’s designing shoes for men! But . . . uhm . . . a leopard-spot design?

Desperately seeking street cred

I’ve spent the better part of the last twelve months convincing Louise that wearing an animal skin print is the equivalent of standing on a bar table and advertising for a one-night stand (I kid, I kid!), but now here I am, seriously undermined by the French shoe master. Curse you, Louboutin!

5.) Analysts Predict a Holiday Season With a Lot Less Retail Cheer:
“About two-thirds of consumers surveyed this month by The Zandl Group for WWD anticipate cutting outlays for holiday gifts, while the National Retail Federation’s 2009 ‘Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey’ showed 43 percent of shoppers will be bargain hunting . . . The desire to “stay thrifty” and concerns the economy is “still bad” are leading twice as many people ages 18 to 35 to anticipate spending less on gifts than they did in 2008, according to The Zandl Group.”

I can hear the weeping and gnashing of teeth in boardrooms across the world as I type this. But you know what? China is on FIRE! : “Chinese customers, both at home and on vacation, have become the biggest buyers of Louis Vuitton clothes and handbags and Hennessy cognac, ahead of both the Japanese and the Americans . . . robust Asian demand almost entirely offset falling sales of brandy, champagne, jewelry and watches.”

It’s amazing what a steady stream of stimulus checks can do. Expect to see your own government sponsored stimulus checks soon. Those Christmas numbers absolutely, positively have to look good or it’s political curtains for everyone involved.

6.) Industry Quick Hits:

A.) A Bailout for the French Couture Industry?: “France’s Prime Minister Francois Fillon is scheduled to host a meeting of government advisers, luxury-goods executives and artisans to discuss aid for the country’s craftsmen. Among the dilemmas to be discussed are the fragility of the sector and its importance to France’s image, and the difficulty in recruiting and training young artisans.”

I can think of worse industries to save. Video clip below that shows the making of a Chanel Haute Couture outfit:

B.) Thing Are Looking Up for J.Crew: “Whether customers consciously have been aping Mrs. Obama’s fashion sensibilities or not, they’ve clearly been better consumers of the brand than even the company itself anticipated. J. Crew boosted its third- and fourth-quarter earnings forecasts Thursday, and significantly, after broadly revising its sales outlook.”

J.Crew — the wardrobe of the recession?

C.) Inter Parfums Beats Expectations, But Sales Are Down: “Inter Parfums posted quarterly sales above market expectations, helped by growth in all lines of its Burberry fragrances, and said its current full year 2009 outlook was conservative . . . Inter Parfums, whose brands include Van Cleef & Arpels, Burberry and Christian Lacroix, said third-quarter sales fell 5% to $117.5 million.”

LVMH also posted its results, and while revenue was down, the company is saying that sales of Christian Dior fragrance is strong and “Guerlain enjoyed the strong debut of its new feminine fragrance Idylle.”

It’s impossible to keep LVMH d
own — not that anyone would want to (well, besides PPR and Richemont, I mean).


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