Luxury & Fashion Biz News: August 26th, 2011 (Moving closer to making a decision at Dior, The Ups and Downs of Social Media Engagement, and Fainting for H&M)

1.) Is It Official? Marc Jacobs for Dior, Phoebe Philo for Louis Vuitton:
“‘High-ranking industry sources’ have confirmed to The Daily that Marc Jacobs will replace John Galliano as creative director at Christian Dior . . . The news comes on the heels of WWD‘s report that LVMH chair Bernard Arnault was in talks with Jacobs about taking over at Dior, and that, following Jacobs departure from Louis Vuitton, Celine designer Phoebe Philo would fill his shoes at Vuitton.”

Speculation has been rampant for the past few weeks over the rumors, as such a move, if it does happen, represents a decided change in focus for two of LVMH’s biggest brands.

Reports have been circulating that Jacobs and his business partner Robert Duffy have been in Paris negotiating their contracts with LVMH — and in the meantime, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault has been busy lauding Phoebe Philo’s designs for Celine as the next great hope for LVMH: “It will take time, but [Céline] is on the way,’ Arnault says. ‘Phoebe has the potential. She is doing a style which is completely in line with our time.’”

Add to that the fact that the fashion press has a permanent happy face tattooed to its a** regarding the work of Marc Jacobs (whether he deserves it or not) and Phoebe Philo (who might very well deserve it) and this situation could result in a win-win-win situation for Bernard Arnault all around.

*NOTE: Even though Arnault may be single-handedly responsible for cheapening the definition of luxury across the entire high-end spectrum (with “masterful marketing buzz” substituting for quality of materials and enduring design), the man knows a good business opportunity when he sees one.

He isn’t the richest man in France for nothing, you know.

A look below at a video clip of Philo’s Celine Fall 2011 runway collection:


“It’s something you can really . . . get into”

After viewing that video, it’s easy to see why Arnault is chomping at the bit to get Philo installed as head of Louis Vuitton. She exudes the kind of style I’ve always thought Vuitton should be doing in the first place: classic, deceptively simple, tightly constructed and superbly tailored.

Philo is arguably the one who launched Chloe into the stratosphere with the creation of the Paddington handbag while she was the brand’s head designer (the Paddington is also arguably responsible for the whole “it” handbag craze to begin with), and I’m sure Arnault would love to see that same kind of Midas touch at Louis Vuitton.

The last time Louis Vuitton had a serious contender in the recent phenomenon known as the “it” handbag was its Big City After Dark collaboration in pre-recession 2008 with artist Richard Prince. But that was three years ago, and three years is a long time to wait when bags are such a big profit category.

*RELATED: But can all the king’s horses and all the king’s men hold together a consumption-based economy that’s breaking again?

While Mr. Bernard might be dreaming of future “it” bags for Louis Vuitton and enthusiastic consumer response to Dior Ready-to-Wear collections, the world’s top financial leaders met in Wyoming this past weekend, and the forecast wasn’t rosy:

Prominent Economists Warn That Further Stimulus Policies Won’t Work: “Economists said that the recent weakness in the economy stems from structural issues like foreclosed properties and an unskilled pool of unemployed labor that are immune from monetary policy stimulus . . . Fed policy is very effective at preventing a downturn but once weak demand is in place, monetary policy cannot lift it, said Mickey Levy, chief economist at Bank of America.”

The stock market rise of 2010 and through much of 2011 was in direct response to the stimulus policies of central banks the world over. Cash was poured into the system and it mostly went straight into financial industry coffers, enriching the big spenders so that they went out did what big spenders do: spend big.

But if it’s true that the stimulus cannon has run out of effective ammunition, then how will this affect the future of luxury retail? Can the game of head-designer shuffle at LVMH, no matter how inspired, be enough to prompt big-ticket spending if the wealthy investor class gets nervous?

For example — Luxury Retail On the Skids Again: “The big losses on Wall Street could make the rich start penny-pinching once more, and that concern is reaching investors . . . Every time the stock market takes a dive, wealthy consumers from Madison Avenue in New York to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills start to get very nervous about their diminishing returns, and they basically avoid discretionary spending.”

See also: The West is facing three years of hard recession; China has its own set of problems to face, too; and Jr. Bankers aren’t making the money they were hoping.

You can’t spend what you don’t got — I mean, unless, of course, you have your own central bank on speed dial. Because god only knows when that next insatiable craving for a breakfast at Tiffany’s might hit: Tiffany sparkles as global demand lifts profit 33%

*Meanwhile: Guess brand income slips by $60 million, Italian brand Brioni terminates its womenswear line and fires designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua, and Saks Fifth Avenue gets another multimillion dollar shot in the arm from billionaire investor Carlos Slim.

Below is a video clip of the Brioni Fall 2011 womenswear collection — probably the last Brioni women’s collection you’ll see for a while:


Conservative luxe with sparkle motion

2.) Brands Move From Social Media Pages to Targeting Social Media Influencers:
“‘If you have 5 million Twitter followers, that sounds great, but how many are just seeing you and don’t do anything with what you post?’ says Oli Newton, head of emerging platforms at Starcom Mediavest. ‘If you have Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga or Stephen Fry saying to do something, then you see a huge movement and that’s powerful’ . . . Among other discoveries, the study found that consumers regarded advertisements as more relevant and trustworthy when they found them on the sites of people they follow online.”

An example the article uses for how social media influencers can have more impact with an audience than a broad, non-specific ad campaign across Facebook is the new online-only magazine xoJane, launched in May of 2011 (xoJane was originally meant to launch with involvement from style-blogger and uber-influencer Tavi Gevinson, but Gevinson pulled out of the partnership due to creative differences).

Editor Jane Pratt explained that xoJane writers won’t just cover the latest trends, fads and style blips, but also provide “one-click shopping opportunities” for engaged readers across a range of social media platforms — which diverts a lot of influencing power directly into the hands of our new media overlords (Madison Avenue can’t be pleased).

Yet the relationship between brands and new-media cheerleaders is a delicate one. If “influencers” are seen as too hot with branding opportunities or too on-board with the latest branding script, their real-world credibility can crash, along with all that hard-won influence.

Even the once trusted real-customer reviews on sites like Amazon, Yelp and Trip Advisor are falling victim to the Pay for Play problem: The problem with paid 5-Star reviews“‘The whole system falls apart if made-up reviews are given the same weight as honest ones,’ said one of the researchers, Myle Ott.”

The same can be said for sites like xoJane, should their writers become perceived as over-eager one-click shopping pushers, because consumers are looking for authenticity of experience, and when authenticity flies out the window, so does the influence.

*RELATED: For a different take on the double-edged sword of engaging authentic new-media for PR purposes, look no further than the the controversy that’s recently erupted in the seeming microcosm of natural perfumery:

Eyeliner on a cat is an NPG-free zone“Many of us who have been affected by the unfortunate recent events stemming from the Natural Perfumers Guild and its treatment of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz have been looking forward to moving past all the drama. I’d like to make one last statement that will clarify my position as a perfume blogger once and for all. From here forward, I will not be reviewing any perfumes or products from any member of the Natural Perfumers Guild, nor will I be promoting any NPG events or projects (group or individual).”

Many small and independent brands have extremely limited (if at all) advertising/PR budgets and so rely almost exclusively on good word of mouth from niche blogging communities. For the leadership of any cash-poor, PR-hungry guild to start alienating the very online voices its membership needs is lesson #1 in how *not* to engage with new-media.

Lesson #2: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.


An inflexible, combative approach can do more harm than good

Brands, PR agents and organization leaders often forget that what makes social-media such a pleasure to engage successfully (real experience + real opinions = real consumers) can sometimes be its most difficult aspect, because any critical opinions expressed are real, too, and there’s no brand or individual in existence that’s above criticism (like it or not).

The ways in which these criticisms are handled, however, has lasting implications for the survival and long-term viability of any brand or organizational leadership. A hostile and/or blaming response to criticism can alienate once valuable digital allies and result in long-term damage.

Lesson #3: The internet never forgets.

*RELATED: Google+ is dead, long live Google+!

Personal feelings aside, I’m going with the “Google+ is dead” crowd, because who in the world has time for yet another social media platform? I can barely keep up with my Twitter feed, Facebook page and my regularly read blog list (with Foursquare getting a meager scrap of attention now and then).

As the Forbes author notes: “Google should have known better. No one is going to scrap a social network they’ve spent 8 years building up to start over from scratch for one that offers only a few minor improvements.”

*FILE UNDER: More brand image problems you don’t want — Hells Angels sue Amazon.com, Hollywood boutique for selling ‘My boyfriend’s a Hells Angel’ shirts

I remember the glory days when the Hell’s Angels were suing a much better class of infringer: Hells Angels Sue Alexander McQueen

3.) Are toxic chemicals and poor working conditions causing mass faintings at third world fast-fashion production facilities? — “Nearly 300 Cambodian workers had to be hospitalized after falling ill in a garment factory that supplies knitwear for retailer H&M, officials said Thursday . . . Mass faintings occasionally happen in Cambodian factories and are mostly blamed on workers’ poor health, bad ventilation in the workplace or exposure to dangerous chemicals.”

*RELATED: Karl Lagerfeld and Giambattista Valli sign deals to produce low-end fashion collections for Macy’s, while Donatella Versace signs with H&M.

Like Miuccia Prada says, “With clothes that cost little, you need to ask why they cost so little. Because no one ever asks themselves that.”

This is exactly how supposed luxury brands and luxury designers harm their reputations when collaborating on fast-fashion, low-quality collections for chain retailers.

Overworked, subsistence-wage Cambodian workers fainting by the hundreds while manufacturing your designs isn’t chic.

*Also Related: Roger James writes in Undressing the injustice of how our clothes are made: “Some 1.5 billion garments, including jeans, are sewn by an estimated 40 million people working in 250,000 factories across countries designated by the UN as the world’s least developed.”

But it’s, like, Versace . . . at H&M! Omg!


Brought to you by fainting workers the world over

*Speaking of sweatshops: Retail chain Zara accused in Brazil sweatshop inquiry“The Brazilian government listed 52 charges against Inditex, Zara’s parent company, after it ‘rescued’ 15 workers from a factory sub-contracted by AHA, the company responsible for 90% of Zara’s Brazilian production. Fourteen of the workers were Bolivians and one was from Peru. One was 14 . . . “These are classic cases of immigrant sweatshops,” Bignami said, adding that he had no doubt that such labour conditions characterised modern-day slavery. Workers often face “threats, coercion, physical violence.”

Yeah, so, those clothes don’t come cheap.

4.) BEAUTY AND FRAGRANCE NEWS:

A.) Louise at Get Lippie attended a Tom Ford PR event and came back with pics of the entire upcoming Ford beauty range: “Initial thoughts are that it is all very wearable, the packaging is divine, and that there are a good few pieces going on my Christmas list . . . though I’m disappointed that fully half of the newly expanded lipstick range are nudes, and that they’ve discontinued some of the best (for me!) shades.”

I couldn’t help but notice that the packaging for Ford’s new Private Blend fragrances is different. The lipstick packaging has changed, as well. Could such a relatively new brand have already been in need of an image refresh?

B.) Some Entertainingly Smelly “Who the H*ll Knew?” news: Prince (yes, the musical one) apparently signed a deal for a Prince-related perfume (to be titled “3121″), refused to honor any of his contractual obligations to promote it, was sued in court, never showed up to defend himself, lost the case, appealed the decision and just recently lost the appeal in New York Supreme Court.

Which leads me to the question I know every single one of you has to be thinking right now — “WTF? Prince had a PERFUME?!!”

*Other Fumey strangeness: Teen actress Selena Gomez decides to let her fans help design her celebrity perfume“Miss Gomez recently told WWD that she’s developing a fragrance to share with her fans that will be “romantic, rich, and sweet.” Also? She wants her fans to vote on what they want it to smell like. So, technically, you’ll be wearing a Selena Gomez scent, but in actuality you’ll also be wearing YOUR SCENT. Um, how awesome is that?!”

Which is either the laziest method of creating a celebuscent I’ve ever heard of (“Oh, I don’t care — can’t we just get the target demographic to design it for themselves?”), or the most brilliant “Design it and they will come!” strategy ever.

Don’t know who Selena Gomez is? Here’s some help below:


She loves you like a love song (baby)

There, now you’re all caught up on disposable teen-pop culture.

You’re welcome.

C.) Perfume companies have yet to crack the Chinese market: “China is Asia’s second-largest cosmetics market, and the eighth largest cosmetics market in the world, but perfume makers get only a tiny slice of that because fragrances are not considered a basic necessity in Chinese beauty care . . . A report released by Horizon Research Consultancy Group in 2010 said that Chinese consumers bought only 1 percent of the fragrances in the world.”

The article notes that while Chinese consumers enjoy the fragrances, the packaging and the design, they’re not culturally in the habit of using fragrance on a regular basis, and that there’s a general lack of knowledge regarding the cultural history of perfume, in their own country as well as countries in the rest of the world.

Contrast that with the Brazilian market (the largest perfume market in the world) where consumers apply scented deodorants and fragrances several times a day, and it’s not difficult to see why Brazil-friendly fruity florals are presently the dominant force on fragrance store shelves.

Btw: Did anyone catch the BBC 3-part perfume documentary that aired last month? Part 3 was the most interesting (to me), with an examination of the aggressive and growing fragrance markets in both Brazil and the Middle East. You can find a little more information about it here: An interview with Ian Denyer, director of the BBC’s Perfume Documentary

*UPDATE: You can find the BBC documentary broken up into bite-sized chunks on YouTube. Episode 3 can be found at the following links (unless or until it gets removed from YouTube): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

D.) Fumiverse expert Katie Puckrik shares a video tutorial of her new fragrance web app:


Handpicked ultra favorites in all the high rotation categories

And she’s wearing the necklace I gave her for her birthday!

What? You didn’t think I’d find some way of making it all about me?

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