Luxury & Fashion Biz News: January 20th, 2012 (Menswear in Milan & Paris, plus Public Relations Disasters and The Trouble with Counterfeiting)

1.) Menswear Designers Mine the Past to Save Their Future:
“Looking around Milan this week, it became apparent that Italy’s fashion emperors – and the other powerful designers that come here to tout their wares – are looking to the past. City gents, Seventies playboys, Sixties rockstars, old-school sporting heroes, 19th-century army officers and fin-de-siècle fops were among the most richly referenced masculine paradigms of the week. There were even capes . . . if you’re looking for something new from the men’s shows, it appears that its top-of-the-tree exponents … are suffering from an unfortunate attack of creative constipation.”

Though that’s the harshest of the criticisms that I read of the latest round of menswear shows that are previewing what will be available in stores for Fall of 2012, because not everyone is upset that tailored suits, double breasted overcoats, dark velvet blazers and substantial (though highly polished) brogues are back in style.

Some of the more talked about shows of the season took their cues from functional military garments (upon which the majority of menswear is based) and then upped the luxury ante with brocades, cashmeres, rare silks, jewelry embellishments, exotic furs & skins, and even all-out head to toe leather.

Below is the Prada Fall 2012 show from Milan, which was as noted for the celebrity models as the distinctly classic tailoring and heavy reliance on the long double-breasted overcoat:

“A way to present quite traditional clothing on a proper man”

SAWF News: “The collection smacked of the military, not in look as much in attitude; somber and constrained with a high degree of simplicity. There were stripes and double breasted coats, complete with pocket ornaments and familiar silhouettes. Velvet collars and fur trimmed lapels set the mood, while large round glasses reinforced endurance.”

But Prada was just one piece of today’s menswear puzzle. Raf Simons (rumored to be in talks with Dior for its head designer role) sent a moody, black leather filled collection down the runway for Jil Sander that was simultaneously 21st century sleek and film-noir sinister — sharply tailored suits and overcoats for the millionaire contract killer.

Black leather dreams and muffled screams

Cathy Horyn: “What’s interesting to me is that a young fashion customer might actually prefer the leaner visual drama of a gentleman who is at heart a murderer . . . Obviously no old-school gentleman would wear head-to-toe leather, but that’s my point: What if there’s a new class of gentlemen out there? It’s up to designers to imagine how such a person might interpret things like impeccable tailoring and good taste.”

In Paris (where the menswear shows are just kicking off), the vibe skewed a bit less killer-elite but still focused on traditional wardrobe elements like the suit, long coat, bomber jacket and tapered trouser.

Global fashion giant Louis Vuitton rolled out a Tokyo Meets Paris collection in cashmere, fur, velvet, silk and leather that was certainly luxe and appealing (favorite bit: replacing the Western waistcoat with a silk kimono shirt), but it was Belgian designer Dries Van Noten who aspired for more than golf claps from the fashion press with his psychedelic tinged Oscar Wilde + Frank Zappa show:

Business casual takes a ride on the Hunter S. Thompson train

Blackbook Magazine: “To match the out-of-the-box muses, models walked to a narration of Wilde’s The Happy Prince while artists painted a mural in the background that was a fusion of the Irish poet’s phrases in retro font and the inside of Zappa’s mind on an acid trip . . . Silhouettes were rather conservative and, save for the printed pants, men will easily be able to incorporate these style into their looks.”

So the jury’s still out on whether Van Noten’s attempt to shake-up his usually rather staid menswear presentation was a success, though it was nice to see him try.

But it’s not all suits and ties and belted overcoats. Gucci, Versace and Roberto Cavalli offered up their usual buffet of jet-setting rock-n-roller chic, Umit Benan explored the idea of the 1970’s celebrity womanizer for Trussardi to exacting detail, and DSquared2 toned down the camp just enough to offer up what one critic described as “a tightly focused, expertly realized collection of contemporary sportswear”:

Graduating from bad-boy camp to the urban tough-guy vamp

Vain Style: “The urban sophisticate schoolboy themed show in Milan featured a retro classroom set, which complimented (the DSquared2) traditional aesthetics of tailored biker jackets, distressed low rise denim and collegiate sweatshirts, along with an eclectic mix of eccentric sweaters, fitted suits and debonair men’s coats.”

And turning the East Meets West theme of Louis Vuitton on its head, Japanese designer Junya Watanabe dove even deeper into his love affair with Americana workwear, debuting a collection that was perfect for the likes of Jethro Bodine — if Bodine shopped and played in the Aoyama neighborhood of Tokyo, that is.

The Tokyo Hillbillies of Junya Watanabe – click photo to enlarge

High Snobiety: “Marking yet another strong season from the Japanese designer, we see a dose of heavy workwear inspiration, yet done in Junya Watanabe’s exciting and progressive manner. Moving forward while thinking of the past, yet not clinging to either too strongly. We’re fans.”

So while DSquared2 and Watanabe may not be clinging desperately to the Men In Suits and Leather model, they’re still heavily cribbing from the past for iconography they can sell today. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it has left some journalists wondering if #1) designers have run out of new ideas, or #2) they’re all scared stiff of the recession and have decided to keep things familiar for nervous consumers.

From Brand Packaging: Solving The Mystery Of Shelf Impact“Associations derived from symbols become imprinted in consumers’ minds through repeated exposure, and shoppers intuitively gravitate to familiar symbols to help them navigate the shelf.”

And what is fashion but the ultimate packaging, and designer brand stores but the ultimate glamor shelf?

If you’ve ever wondered why fashions look more and more the same, or why already heavily-travelled themes are again taking front and center, it’s because CEO’s the world over are well aware that yes, familiarity sells.

*NOTE 1: The Milan and Paris menswear shows will be quickly followed by the Paris women’s haute couture collections for Spring of 2012, which are then tailgated by the women’s Autumn season Ready to Wear schedule starting in February. London menswear is tacked on to the last day of the London Fashion Week calendar, while a number of New York menswear designers typically shown in Milan, with other New York designers trotting out both their mens and womens collections together during New York Fashion Week.

*Speaking of New York and London and fashion week: London and New York finally backed away from a showdown with Milan and Paris over what was turning into a contentious fashion week scheduling war“The news comes following more than three months of back and forth between the four fashion capitals after Milan set their September show dates to conflict directly with New York and London and then couldn’t be reasoned with, digging its heels further into the ground as the months wore on . . . ‘We need to begin to look at the fashion season not as individual fashion weeks, but very much as a global business,’ (said CFDA president Steven Kolb).”

Conde Nast publications (such as the Vogue family of magazines) were originally set to support London and New York in the scheduling conflict, but Milan and Paris have traditionally garnered the better coverage because of their more globally recognized brand names. While any lack of coverage of the Milan and Paris shows might have been detrimental to the respective brands, it likely would have harmed the circulation numbers and advertising revenue of the fashion magazines even more.

Because, really, the internet affords instant access to fashion shows anyway, so it would have been an unforced error on the part of magazine editors to sacrifice what little voice of authority they have left by siding with the upstarts. Something tells me that’s why New York and London eventually caved in.


A.) Dolce & Gabbana apologizes for ban on Hong Kong residents photographing outside its stores: “Two weeks ago, Hongkongers were reportedly told by the store’s security guards — at the company’s request — that only mainland (China) tourists and foreigners could freely take pictures of the shop, citing copyright protection as the reason. That angered the public, and the Tsim Sha Tsui shop became the target of a series of protests organised via Facebook. On January 8th, over 1,000 protesters gathered in Canton Road to demonstrate their rage by taking photos of the shop. Similar protests were held at the weekend. The shop had to be closed for business during the protests.”

The D&G headquarters initially refused to apologize, but with the Chinese New Year fast approaching, which is one of the busiest shopping seasons for Hong Kong stores, the company posted a letter of apology to its shop doors in the hope of defusing what was by then turning into a public relations fiasco.

Speculation for the photo ban outside the Hong Kong shop was that mainland Chinese customers (with government connections, natch) were nervous about having their pictures unwittingly snapped and then published on the internet, which could then spark outrage that they were shopping at designer boutiques on supposedly limited government salaries.

Hong Kong residents, for their part, are claiming that they’re now treated like second-class citizens in comparison to the mainland Chinese shopper, as mainland Chinese represent the greater part of luxury spending in Hong Kong.

D&Go Home — protest over alleged discrimination at D&G Hong Kong store

The delayed response of D&G headquarters to the anger of Hong Kong residents is being cited as the perfect example of how NOT to do business in Asia.

*As long as we’re on the subject of Hong Kong: The once white-hot fine wine market in Asia is cooling down: “According to the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 Index, which tracks the prices of the world’s most collected wines and is almost entirely composed of top bottles from Bordeaux, prices have fallen 22% since their peak in June of last year . . . Sales from (three January 2012) auctions generated US$18.7 million, a 45% decline from the same three sales in 2011.”

B.) Tween shoppers are the new hope for fashion labels: “Fashion for little people is big business. The Young Versace campaign follows reports that supermodel Kate Moss and her nine-year-old daughter Lila Grace are designing a tweenage range of clothing for the British retailer Debenhams, and luxury brands Gucci, Dior and Burberry already have separate children’s ranges.”

*In other WTF news: Dallas bouillon trading company hires Jean Paul Gaultier to design a once-once gold bar: “‘Never before has a fashion icon designed a gold ingot. The Gaultier bar is a one-of-a-kind, limited-quantity collector’s piece that not only is a great investment but it will also become a piece of history,’ gushes Dillon Gage Metals’ president Terry Hanlon.”

But you can’t wear it, or spend it, or slip it onto your keychain, so I’m wondering how in the world they expect JPG fans to flaunt it? Because, seriously, if you’re a JPG fan, then flaunting is second nature. By not designing a hole into the bar somewhere, I think they missed a (golden!) opportunity.

And yes, you’ll be charged 10% above the spot-price of gold per ounce because the thing is designed by Gaultier.

C.) The scariest news for internet retailers to come out of the 2011 holiday shopping season? Consumers now expect free shipping: “Fifty-five percent of consumers expect free shipping on all orders . . . Deep discounts, deals and free shipping are now a cost of doing business.”

But retailers are also finding out that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr are not as influential as they’d been led to believe. It’s more important for e-tailers to streamline their websites for efficient web shopping while also optimizing the experience for the solidly growing number of mobile shoppers.

*NOTE 2: Mobile shopping doubled in December of 2011 over December of 2010, with Tablet/iPad users spending 54% more, and three times more likely to make a purchase, than their smartphone using counterparts.

D.) Louise Vuitton is not amused when celebrities appear in public sporting LV knock-offs: “This week, Justin Bieber wore a jacket to the Consumer Electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas that caught the eye of fashionistas who thought the jacket was custom made by the iconic brand. But a rep in the LV corporate office told us exclusively: ‘The jacket Bieber is wearing is a cheap knockoff of the Louis Vuitton brand.’ The rep pointed out the red LEVI’s tag on the jacket pocket as proof that the jacket is a counterfeit … the LV rep said, ‘Anything unauthentic, whether worn by a famous individual or not, is seriously frowned upon.’”

You can see The Beebs below in his fake Louis Vuitton jacket:

All the money in the world won’t stop the knock-offs

*Related, and just to let you know that LV is *really* not amused by knock-offs: Louis Vuitton is suing Warner Brothers over fake LV bags used in the movie, The Hangover 2“According to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, an airport scene in the film makes use of a counterfeit bag made by a company named Diophy, which is currently being sued by Louis Vuitton for trademark infringement . . . the French company is asking that the court permanently enjoin Warners from using its marks in any way, and order the company to surrender all copies of the film containing the marks. It is also asking for triple damages on all profits that Warner Bros. may have amassed from using Vuitton’s marks, plus attorneys’ fees and court costs.”

You can see the clip below featuring the fake Louis Vuitton bag:

“Careful, that’s a Louis Vuitton!”

The LV brand initially complained to Warner Brothers after the film was first released, but Warner Brothers went ahead and subsequently released the DVD and digital versions without any alteration to the scene, which is why LV is taking such a hard stance on the issue right now.

And honestly? Why didn’t the movie studio just use the real thing? There isn’t much of an argument in their defense.

Yes, it’s absolutely true to the movie character that he would buy a fake and think it’s the real thing, but after all the yelling and hollering from entertainment companies over their dire problems with movie and music piracy (SOPA/PIPA legislation, anyone?) — and especially considering the recent strong-arm of the law tactics employed against founders of the file-sharing site MegaUpload — you’d think a big movie studio would be just a smidge more respectful of the copyrights and trademarks of other companies, right?

I mean, you’d think.

*NOTE 3: It just adds insult to injury that they actually sought out and paid a known counterfeiting company to produce the bag.