Luxury & Fashion Biz News: October 28th, 2011 (British Style Get Its Groove Back, Tiffany Loves Louboutin, No Logo is Better Than the Bling and Fashion/Luxury Brands are Embracing Your Outer Beauty)

1.) British Fashion Design Sees a Resurgence in Popularity: WWD published an article titled, ‘Saks Embraces Scottish Trend for Fall‘ (subscription required) that states that Saks Fifth Avenue is turning its style compass away from Italian influences and sailing instead toward good old Britannica.

“The retailer, whose men’s mix is skewed heavily toward Italian resources, is making a shift for fall, shining a spotlight on Scotland within its Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Collection. It has brought Scottish bespoke tailor Peter Johnston on board to head its custom program, beefed up the offerings of U.K. fabrics and fashions, and even created its own Saks Fifth Avenue tartan.”

The article notes that recent runway shows have begun featuring a lot of structured British tailoring influences, plus a preponderance of tweeds and woolens.

“The British look is right for now,” said Johnston. “The hourglass coat is more slim and fitted and the fabrics — tweed, cashmere, worsted wool — are more in vogue. It’s a great time for us.”

*Other indications that British style is having a moment: With the onslaught of The Kate Middleton Effect in fashion, book publishers are jumping on the royal bandwagon and releasing expensive volumes dedicated to the praise of Savile Row tailoring. August of 2011 saw the release of The Savile Row Cutter: Michael Skinner – Master Tailor (Michael Skinner was the leading force behind the tailoring establishment Dege & Skinner), while teasers for Anderson & Sheppard: A Style is Born have been hitting the net in anticipation of a December release.

Not to mention that British powerhouse brand Burberry is racking up the profits globally with a brand range that includes mens and womenswear, children’s wear, outerwear, shoes, scarves, umbrellas, bags, jewelry, perfumes and a recently launched beauty range that’s successfully picking up prime placement in department store chains like Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.

And then there’s that whole Alexander McQueen is officially cooler than Chanel business.

*Speaking of Burberry: There were rumors last year that French luxury conglomerate PPR (which owns Gucci, Bottega Veneta and YSL, among others) had its sites set on acquiring Burberry for its own, but Burberry was already doing so well at that point (with sales starting to skyrocket in China) that it didn’t need the financing from an outside group.

*As long as we’re mentioning global ambitions: Brit designer Alice Temperley let slip in an interview with the Financial Times that she’d like to expand her brand to include “a children’s range, homeware, perfume. I want to transform Temperley into a World of Temperley lifestyle.” Temperley also has a book out, released in September of 2011 (and Temperley makes three — it’s officially a trend!) that celebrates her tenth year as a brand in the fashion biz — True British: Alice Temperley

“Ten years of building a brand”

*Related: London designers aim for the American red carpet, with edgy, up and comers like Peter Pilotto, Erdem, Marios Schwab, Jonathan Saunders, Nicholas Kirkwood and Mary Katrantzou showcasing their wares in the Ace art gallery on Wilshire Boulevard in a bid to woo Hollywood stars away from the usual same-old same-old of Valentino, Armani and Dior. Frankly, any event that features more of Mary Katrantzou would be an event I would happily watch all day.

What the Oscars need now is Katrantzou, sweet Katrantzou

Not to mention that Katrantzou is probably the only luxury designer I can forgive for down-marketing her designs. Her work with print is brilliant, and is able to translate.

Style Bubble writes that the Katrantzou + Topshop collaboration is “really the peak of high-low collaborations when both parties can push it as far as they possibly can”. So you see? After all those French and Italian fast-fashion collaborations, it takes a Brit to show how it’s really done.

2.) Tiffany Lends a Supportive Hand to Christian Louboutin:
“Seems like the judge’s decision to rule against Louboutin stating that “in the fashion industry, people shouldn’t own a trademark that consists of a single color regardless of its use and regardless of the fact the trademark has achieved trademark status with the public,” has made famed jewelry brand Tiffany & Co. very nervous. Why? Well because just like Christian Louboutin is known for its distinctive red sole, Tiffany is known for its distinctive robin’s egg blue box, and if Louboutin’s signature is unprotected then theirs could be next.”

The Christian Louboutin brand recently suffered a legal setback when a judge ruled against banning the YSL brand from releasing red-soled shoes as part of their collection, while going on to note that he didn’t think Louboutin even deserved the trademark on red-soled shoes that it held.

But I’m not sure that Tiffany has as much to fear as Louboutin does — Tiffany’s trademark is for its packaging, not for its actual products (unless there’s something I’m missing), and a trademark for a packaging color is more likely to hold up under scrutiny than if, say, Tiffany tried to corner the use of robin’s egg blue throughout the entire jewelry industry the way that Louboutin has attempted to claim red soles on shoes as his and only his.

In my opinion, I think the judge has a point when he stated that the trademark for the red Louboutin soles was overly broad and interfered with the ability of other fashion companies to properly design for their customers. Louboutin was not the first designer to create a shoe with a red sole — craftsmen have been manufacturing shoes with varying colored soles for centuries, and that makes all the difference in the world.

*Since we mentioned Tiffany: Jewelry Industry Still Struggling Online“Tiffany and Swarovski were again named the most innovative online jewelers in the recently published L2 Digital IQ Index: Watches and Jewelry . . . However, the rest of the jewelry companies profiled in the study—even those in the top 10—were rated only as ‘average’, ‘challenged’ or ‘feeble’. The industry is struggling to embrace online because brands are afraid of losing control and have ‘yet to identify a way to effectively translate their rich heritage into a distinct online voice.'”

*Speaking of sparklies: Prada is launching a capsule collection of its own in-house designed jewelry for fall“The line will include a full range of bracelets, necklaces, brooches and rings created from the brand’s trademark materials like fur, gems and animal skins . . . (like) glossy crocodile bracelets to opulent, sparkly pendants embellished with colored gems or resin roses.'”

Hot on the heels of their breakaway financial success in China, I think this is probably one of the smartest expansion moves for the Prada brand yet. Just like with Louis Vuitton finally putting its resources into the launch of an in-house perfume biz, the attitude with product expansions like this is, why send your customers to your competitors when you can serve them yourself?

Louis Vuitton was technically “losing” sales by not featuring a product in its line-up that its customers wanted to buy — a Louis Vuitton perfume. Same thing with Prada and jewelry. Now Prada fans can snag their quirky costume jewelry from Prada . . . and other jewelry fans the world over have a new reason to linger at the counters in Prada boutiques.

*We’re not done talking about jewelry: Even though I praised Mary Katrantzou for her TopShop high-low collaboration, not all designers or luxury brands benefit their reputations by jumping on the collaboration train, and Cartier has wisely refrained from the temptation.

For Cartier, No Designer Collaboration Is the New Designer Collaboration: “Cartier told Fashionista that partnering up with a name designer for a collaboration isn’t in their plan . . . ‘We always work with our own designers,’ (they said). ‘And for us, design is really our statement, so we see no point in working with external designers . . . we combine all the necessary skills to produce jewelry. Meaning not only the designers, but also the atelier — you know the place where we have the workers, the craftsmanship.”

Speaking of having things all in-house and trusting your own craftsmen to do the work that’s needed to keep the brand in high regard:

3.) Brands Are Ditching the Logo in Favor of Simple Style Statements:
“The new trend for luxury designer hand bands is to not flaunt their logos, according to the Financial Times.
High-end brands such as Victoria Beckham and Céline seem to have decided that being anonymous is the real key to consumers’ hearts . . . And a vice president from Barneys explained that the high-end retailer’s customers have always preferred subtle products to flashy labels. She said, ‘[It’s about] expression through details, exquisite materials and things that are not so identifiable.'”

Even Karl Lagerfeld, the master of slapping logos on merchandise (he even plasters his face on t-shirts and briefs and is rumored to be printing the letter “K” on various items of his upcoming diffusion line that will sell at Net-a-Porter) has stated that the time for logos all over everything may be over: “I wanted also to change the typical Chanel things, the braids, the logos … I don’t do that. We don’t have to do that anymore. Everybody copies them, so . . . “

Absolutely. Because when you’ve run the logo into the ground and every Tom, Dick and Jane discounter is hawking counterfeit copies across the internet (and every flea-market in every town), then all you have left to fall back on is strength of design, quality of materials and excellent craftsmanship.

Without those, the logo is empty — but with those, the logo is superfluous.

*But you know what consumers really want?: Transparency, that’s what. Take a look at these responses that Aftelier Perfume consumers left on Facebook when perfumer Mandy Aftel asked what they’d like to see more of when it came to her brand. The answer: they want more information, like the history of materials, pictures, behind the scenes details.

In other words, What Consumers Want is Transparency and Reality: “Real is what we’re being asked for today . . . It’s not about being aspirational, it’s about being who you really are at every point of communication.”

It takes more than designing some costumes for a high-profile London play to win consumers over in the 21st century.

4.) Sudden Focus on Cosmetics and Perfume May Hint at Faltering Economy:
“Luxury brands and retailers including Chanel, Burberry, Harrods, Estee Lauder Co. and Oscar de la Renta have been aggressively pushing their cosmetics and fragrance lines as of late, which may be due to the state of the current economy . . . ‘Focusing on beauty and fragrance in an economy where people are more cautious of their spend encourages people to shop, giving stores a better opportunity to increase sales throughout the store,’ said James Dean, vice president and head of luxury practice at WealthEngine, Bethesda, MD. ‘In this economy, the luxury consumer needs more and more encouragement to shop. Seducing women in particular with cosmetic advertisements and incentives to shop is their best opportunity to reach them.'”

The article notes that Chanel is sending out repeated email blasts (up to ten a month) hyping its mascara, lipstick, nail color and perfumes, and that Burberry was all over Facebook promoting its new Burberry Body perfume.

Brands like Oscar de la Renta and Roberto Cavalli have also revitalized their once derelict perfume lines, with Oscar de la Renta releasing a video of backstage models expressing “excitement” over the new Esprit d’Oscar fragrance and Roberto Cavalli teaming up with huge fragrance corporation Coty to hype a global perfume release that both parties are hoping will be “a big success”.

“I’m excited to smell it!” says the paid model

Diane von Furstenburg has been flogging the h*ll out of her very first perfume release, attending promotional events and staging “flash mobs” in New York, Paris and Milan:

“For every woman who wants to be the woman she wants to be”

*NOTE: Someone might need to rethink that pitch line a bit.

Karl Lagerfeld has launched a new perfume, Louis Vuitton is getting into the business of perfume, Tom Ford has dramatically expanded his beauty line while adding new perfumes and releasing a documentary about (of course) himself, Tory Burch will launch her first perfume in 2013, Jimmy Choo is pushing its perfume globally, Hermes has thrust its in-house perfumer front and center with a book launch and a flurry of interviews as it tries to gain more attention for its fragrance line, and YSL packaged its best-selling women’s under-eye concealer for men and dubbed it YSL L’Homme Touche Eclat for Men while also making a grand re-entry into the skincare market with its brand new Forever Youth Liberator.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

There’s less money being spent on shoes, bags and jewelry and more being splashed out on less expensive beauty items as mainstream consumers trade down for that quick retail fix.

Though you know what? Coach is doing great! Higher sales help lift handbag and luxury accessories retailer Coach’s fiscal 1Q profit“Coach Inc. said Tuesday its fiscal first quarter profit rose 14 percent as shoppers spent more on handbags in North America and its men’s offerings and sales overseas continued to grow . . . Coach started selling more bags under $300 during the recession, but it the average retail price of its handbags is inching back up. About 22 percent of handbags sold were over $400 during the quarter, compared with 16 percent last year.”

And it doesn’t hurt that they’re savvy enough to offer something for everyone: Coach men’s wallet made from repurposed baseball mitts“For the past year, the whole team at Coach has been snapping up vintage gloves they find on eBay — used ones, for you heritage hounds — then re-finishing them, stripping them, treating them, and cutting them to pieces in order to create 200 hand-numbered wallets.”

That’s actually pretty cool. I want one! Darn it, Coach — how did you rope me in so easily?