Luxury & Fashion Biz News: Christian Louboutin could lose its trademark, Marc Jacobs might design for Dior, and Nail Polish still rules
1.) Judge Rules Against Louboutin in Red-Sole Trademark Case:
“Judge Victor Marrero denied (Louboutin’s) request to halt sales of similar shoes made by Yves Saint Laurent, saying Louboutin would not likely prove its use of the color deserved legal trademark protection . . . ‘Because in the fashion industry color serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection,’ the judge wrote in his opinion.”
Which is a blow to the Louboutin brand, because without the ability to claim exclusive use of the red sole, there’s little to separate the company’s products from its competition, especially now that every Tom, Dick and Jane brand, from high to low, has essentially caught up to the Louboutin aesthetic, so much so that Saks Fifth Avenue personal shopper Fay Ricotta won’t even go near the Louboutin brand anymore when putting together selections for her clients.
Christina Binkley at the Wall Street Journal writes: “Ms. Ricotta has rules: She doesn’t dress clients in Oscar de la Renta. ‘Everybody’s wearing Oscar,’ she says. Once a proponent of Christian Louboutin, she has moved on to the next new thing: Brian Atwood‘s sexy heels. On the forefront of labels that aren’t yet household names, she currently favors Haider Ackerman, Erdem and Sophie Theallet.”
So not only is Louboutin in danger of losing the trademark on his red soles, he’s also losing his cache as the “it” shoe brand (much like Louboutin swiped that crown from Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik). Though lost cache is usually what happens when a brand starts off small and chic, only to expand rapidly to nearly every major department store on the block.
It’s difficult to be “exclusive” when your products are, quite literally, everywhere.
The judge for the case has indicated that he might outright cancel the trademark entirely for the Louboutin brand, as he believes it’s too broad and should never have been granted in the first place. Lawyers for both YSL and Louboutin are scheduled to appear in front of the court on August 17th to provide arguments both for and against the trademark cancellation.
I can predict a few things with some certainty — #1) if the Louboutin trademark is cancelled, there will be an appeal of that decision to a higher court (it’s unlikely that Louboutin would simply let its valuable trademark go without a protracted fight); and #2) if the appeal process fails, you’ll then see a flood of red-soled shoes hit the shelves everywhere, from Target to Payless to Barney’s to Bergdorf.
2.) Latest Stock Market Jitters Make Luxury Retailers Nervous:
“The recent stock market upheaval reminds high-end retailers of 2008, when the market crash led to deep cuts in spending among the wealthy . . . ‘Any time the market fluctuates like this, my business is impacted immediately,’ said Jodie Robinson, owner of casual couture women’s boutique Anne Michelle, which has locations in Beverly Hills and Agoura Hills. ‘We were having a really good month and then it just fell off last week. People are not in a good mood to shop; it’s depressing and uncertain.’”
The article notes that the wealthiest 20% of households account for over 40% of spending, and that luxury spending is closely tied to stock market performance. In other words, when the market is doing well and stock portfolios are looking richer by the minute, then the wealthy feel free to spend — but when we see wild fluctuations in market performance like we’ve seen this past week, then people get nervous, pull back on spending and adopt a wait-and-see approach.
Especially as the word “recession” gets bandied about with more and more frequency.
*NOTE 1: Recession or no recession, the fact that 20% of households account for nearly half of all spending doesn’t sound like a particularly healthy overall economy in the first place, does it?
Some analysts are observing that a second recession would hit even harder than the first: “Going back into recession now would be scary, because we don’t have the resources or the will to respond, and our initial starting point is such a point of weakness,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “It won’t feel like a new recession. It would likely feel like a depression.”
The Financial Times reports that things could very well get worse: “Analysts and investors said it was difficult to call the bottom of the market . . . ‘There could be 15-20% further downside,’ said Robert Brown, head of the global investment committee at Towers Watson, a consultant.”
Of course, it doesn’t help the retail scene when rioters make “smash and grab” a trendy new protest slogan: London Riots costs retailers nearly 650 million dollars in one week — “Much of the cost will be picked up by insurers but we cannot overlook the fact that on top of the damages caused, retailers, restaurants, pubs and other service providers have been forced to shut their doors to business in order to protect their staff, customers and premises . . . some businesses which have been attacked will never open their doors again.”
Why pay for the cow when you can set the barn on fire for free?
Maybe the vulnerability of physical shops to attacks and looting is why online now seems to be the way to go. For example, Gilt Groupe, famous for its highly discounted flash sales, has just announced that they’re launching a full-price luxury menswear site to go toe-to-toe against luxury e-tailer Net-a-Porter’s popular Mr. Porter site:
Gilt Groupe launches its full-priced fashion site for men — “When Gilt announced plans to launch Park & Bond, the flash-sale retailer said it was encouraged to offer more men’s products because of the success of Gilt Man, the company’s flash-sale site for men. ‘Park & Bond is tailored to the specific needs and wants of the American male luxury customer,’ says president John Auerbach. ‘The site provides a unique one-stop shopping experience, giving men immediate access to their favorite brands alongside a wealth of trusted information and guidance to help them look and feel their best.’”
So the two e-tailing giants will be slugging it out for menswear dollars. That should prove interesting. It used to be the conventional wisdom that menswear wasn’t worth the time and effort, that it was best tacked on as a low-cost addition to already existing womenswear sites (kind of like what Gilt first did with Gilt Man). Now, it appears that the times they are achangin’, and any existing market segment is a market segment worth exploiting.
Besides, you know, guys make money, too, and they hate trying stuff on in stores. Says Gilt Groupe CEO Kevin Ryan: “Some of the reason why we’re going into the full-price men’s business before women’s is that men love to shop online. They tell us ‘I just don’t like shopping in stores that much. I don’t want to spend hours in a store.’ I think more and more over time, men are just going to buy more and more online.”
True dat! If given the choice between going to a store and trying on shoes and jeans or ordering from a website that offers easy return shipping, I’ll go with the website option every time.
Added bonus: I don’t have to worry about looters run amok when I’m ordering online.
*RELATED NEWS: Saks Fifth Avenue debuts its very own dedicated Flash Sale site called Fashion Fix, because why send your unsold merchandise to Gilt to unload it for you (and take a cut of the profits) when you can do it yourself? Seeing as how Nordstrom snapped up Flash Sale site Haute Look back in February, Saks obviously needed to step it up if it was going to stay competitive in the online game.
Speaking of staying competitive in the online game, Armani has partnered with YOOX to launch a full-on e-commerce presence across its entire brand range, from lower-end Emporio Armani to upscale Giorgio Armani. Plus this: “A month of fashion e-commerce news has seen new launches by Salvatore Ferragamo, Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and Jean Paul Gaultier.”
Meanwhile, to keep customers interested in their physical boutiques, luxury brands are turning to the art world for help in differentiating themselves from pack: “Luxury brands have a habit of mixing with the art world. Artists gain added income and broader exposure for their work, while fashion companies acquire extra creativity and credibility . . . ‘It doesn’t hurt that they are about quality and craftsmanship,’ (says sculptor Kylie Stillman when discussing her work displayed in an Hermes window in Melbourne). ‘As an artist you don’t take that lightly.’”
3.) Rumor du Jour — Will Marc Jacobs take over at Dior?:
“According to Vogue UK, who is going off of a report by Brazilian website Glamurama, sources close to Bernard Arnault claim that Jacobs is a leader in the running for the top spot at Dior . . . Marc would possibly run both Vuitton and Dior, meaning that someone is looking to have the poor guy have a nervous breakdown. Keep in mind, Jacobs also has two other namesake brands to take care of.”
Yeah, but, Jacobs would finally get a chance to try his hand at Haute Couture if he takes over the reins at Dior, and for a designer like Jacobs, who’s pretty much pushed as far as he can in the world of fashion design (while already bagging himself a Lifetime Achievement award before his career is even close to being over), Haute Couture is the mountain he hasn’t yet climbed.
Below is the Marc Jacobs Fall 2011 Ready to Wear collection. Not really too much a stretch to consider him designing for Dior, too, is it?:
“The slightly Edwardian strictness of it all”
It’s also worth noting that the presence of Marc Jacobs at the helm of Dior would guarantee slobberingly positive coverage from 99% of the fashion critics, because what big magazine or major newspaper would dare trash the golden child of big bucks advertising account LVMH?
Or, you know, Dior could just hire Robbie Williams and be done with it. *shudder*
4.) FRAGRANCE/BEAUTY INDUSTRY NEWS:
A.) Fragrance market falters: “Symrise, the German maker of ingredients for Dior’s Fahrenheit fragrance, cut its full-year sales forecast and said growth in demand at its scents unit may falter as customers have become more cautious on orders . . . ‘We are no longer expecting any significant growth for the year’ at the scent and care unit, Symrise said today.”
Women’s Wear Daily is reporting that profits dropped 25% for Symrise.
Meanwhile, Swiss flavor & fragrance giant Givaudan announced that a combination of rising costs and unfavorable currency translations are sending profits for the first half of 2011 plunging by about 40% in comparison to the same time period last year: Givaudan profits hit by currency translation and raw material costs
B.) Reality TV’s most infamous star rumored to get her own perfume: “It is rumored that Snooki has just signed a perfume deal to launch her first fragrance, states E! News. Snooki will allegedly be launching the fragrance this fall with the bottle possibly designed after her famous pouf hairstyle. Snooki already has a line of slippers and blinged flip flops, along with a memoir and another book reportedly in the works.”
But really, once Chanel announced that it was releasing a perfume named Jersey, it was only a matter of time . . .
Speaking of Chanel:
C.) Nail color is officially the new Lipstick Index: “During a bad economy, women used to settle for a Chanel lipstick instead of a Chanel suit, says Michelle Mismas, founder and editor of the beauty blog All Lacquered Up. Now, women opt for an even cheaper alternative to lipstick to satisfy their style needs — nail polish.”
Revlon even noted in a recent article that sales of Sinful Colors, a nail polish company that it acquired back in March, was one of the few bright spots in its latest quarterly report.
And since Chanel is arguably the industry leader and trend-setter when it comes to nail colors and polish, there’s always a flurry of blog-related activity when the company announces upcoming releases. The latest is a trio of denim-influenced blues that will debut during the Fashion’s Night Out celebrations in Moscow: Les Jeans De Chanel
*NOTE 2: Thanks to Sabrina at The Beauty Lookbook for the tip on the Chanel Denim range.
And yes, that’s right, Fashion’s Night Out has spread globally. Because global fashion brands apparently need all the globally organized help they can get — besides the officially sanctioned outsourced subsistence-wage labor, of course.
Because it’s not all parties and celebu-glamor at the factory
D.) A brand’s Twitter page is not a toy to hand off to the interns — case in point, this blatantly false info-Tweet posted at the Sephora Twitter account:
First off, the majority of contemporary perfumes don’t contain any natural floral extracts at all (or natural anything extracts, really); rather, they incorporate synthetic aroma chemicals meant to mimic and/or isolate fragrance profiles found in the natural world.
Secondly, rose and jasmine may be popular, but to claim that they’re in “almost every fragrance” (there are hundreds of new perfumes released every year), even as synthetic notes, is exaggeration taken to an extreme.
The tiniest bit of research on the part of any Sephora employee could have prevented such an erroneous statement from being blurted out into the public as a #Didyouknow fact, because when false statements are presented as facts, a brand loses credibility with the buying public.
Mainly because it begs the question: What else is Sephora saying on its Twitter page (Facebook page, Website page, etc.) that’s completely misinformed?
In all likelihood, quite a lot.
*RELATED: Maybe the above explains why some brands are still reluctant to engage with the Twitter platform: “Despite watching the skyrocketing of Facebook as an exceedingly important customer relationship and engagement platform, many luxury brands are still lagging behind in the Twitter world . . . Bottega Veneta has 59,290 Facebook fans and an established YouTube channel, but the brand has still does not have an active Twitter handle.”