Luxury & Fashion Biz News: April 27th, 2012 (Roberto Cavalli becomes pop-culture; and while menswear is hot, the rest of retail is chilly all over)
Roberto Cavalli Tweets His Way Into the Fashion Conversation:
“Before, likely during, and after calling American fashion “almost fashion” in an interview with D — La Repubblica last week, Roberto Cavalli has been busy micro-blogging, asking his Twitter followers whether they prefer their sex “in the day time or in the night” and what kind of men they like (“intelligent and ugly or… beautiful and stupid”) — both accompanied by the same picture of the designer leaning back on a bridge smoking a cigar . . . Over the weekend, the designer went on a bit of a rant, in 140-character-long bursts, about the current state of the industry and the sole American designer he likes, and he even threw another jab at his favorite punching bag, Anna Wintour. It all started on Saturday morning.”
And if you click the link at the headline, you can find out exactly what Roberto Cavalli decided to tweet to his now over 202,000 Twitter followers: criticism of the lack of creativity in the contemporary fashion industry; how Anna Wintour’s Editor-at-Vogue influence has pushed an “ugly” minimalism front and center while marginalizing other (perhaps more animal-print obsessed?) voices; that the French aesthetic is all but absent in French fashion anymore due to fashion’s increased globalization and monetization; that the only way to get coverage in major fashion magazines is buy a lot of advertising in those same magazines; and more.
Which are all valid points, and it’s not like no one’s ever voiced such criticisms before — for instance, see: Azzedine Alaia Believes Anna Wintour Is a Bad Dresser And Scares People Away.
And Tamara Mellon, founder and former head of the Jimmy Choo label, spoke out recently regarding her painful experience with equity fund partners and how their focus on short-term profit was destructive to the creative process at the heart of her brand — so destructive, in fact, that she eventually packed up and walked out: Tamara Mellon puts the boot in to buyouts
So it’s not what Cavalli is saying that’s so remarkable, but rather, it’s the savvy way he’s gone directly to the public via Twitter to plead his case, bypassing the usual editorial controls of major fashion magazines and corporate fashion websites.
*Bonus Point Interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica: “‘Just look at American fashion,’ (Cavalli) said, ‘which is almost fashion. It’s terrible and you almost can’t look at it . . . It has been driven by a great journalist, Anna Wintour, who wants all women to be like her and to dress the way she does.’”
His comments have spread like wildfire across the fashion blogs as a result, and he’s picked up an extra 2500 Twitter followers in just a few days, which, for a designer who sees himself as mostly elbowed off-stage from the main fashion conversation occurring within the pages of the major magazines, that’s not something to sniff at.
Roberto Cavalli Fall 2012 — Tiger-striping his way into your heart
I name-checked Rob Walker and his book ‘Buying In‘ in last week’s post, but I think it’s worth bringing him up again this week because he talks about exactly this — that brands are no longer just competing against other brands for the consumer’s attention, but they’re competing against all of pop-culture as a whole.
So to win eyeballs and influence friends, a designer (or producer or creator) has to insert him/herself into the pop-culture landscape. To essentially *become* pop-culture. To be what (or who) is talked about. Especially if the target market is the youth culture, and what could be more youth-culture oriented than fashion, with its ever changing trends and its rapid response to shifts in the zeitgeist?
Mr. Walker wrote about the ad campaign that put Unilever’s Axe deodorants and body sprays on the map: “Well, I asked, if a deodorant isn’t competing against deodorants, what is it competing against? ‘Pop Culture,’ (Mr.) Gelner replied. ‘You’re competing against things like movies, television shows, sporting events, other advertisers, the Internet.’ So to sell something like Axe, he concluded, ‘you have to become part of pop culture.”
It’s not just a deodorant — it’s pop culture
In other words, you have to be interesting (or outlandish) enough to become office and internet-forum gossip the next day (if not five minutes later).
So while Roberto Cavalli may sound a little crazy in his Twitter rants, maybe he’s actually crazy-smart. Because now fashion blogs are writing about him, and thousands of people on Twitter are signing up to follow whatever perfect little nugget he might utter next — which means that his future Milan Fashion Week collections will get attention from the young, ironic fashion posse and he’ll start selling more perfume, scarves and sunglasses.
All without ever spending a dime on an advertising spread in Vogue.
*Speaking of the intersection of pop-culture and fashion: Give Three-Piece A Chance: a Savile Row Flash Mob protests against plans for an Abercrombie & Fitch kids store to open on the hallowed ground of British bespoke tailoring.
*More pop-culture and mens stuff: Mansome — a new documentary satirizing the vanity and obsessive grooming habits of the 21st century male:
“Real men don’t tweet”
The luxury menswear industry is booming, growing at about 14% a year, or nearly double the pace of luxury women’s wear, according to consulting firm Bain & Co., with global brands like Coach and Louis Vuitton expanding their menswear offerings, and classic men’s fragrances making a cultural comeback, so I’d say the industry is over-ripe for satirization.
Hermes went so far as to even build a separate Madison Avenue storefront specifically for its male New York customers, and Coach’s recent surge in sales and profits is partly due to the opening of a men’s only store in Manhattan along with a broader expansion of their men’s goods in general.
To add frosting to the man-cake, London’s scheduling its first ever standalone men’s fashion week for the upcoming Spring 2013 shows. London menswear designers have previously been squeezed into the last day of London Fashion Week as most of the editors jet off to Milan to cover the Italian womenswear shows.
Even JC Penney is climbing aboard the male-spending train by hiring Nick Wooster — known as “the best dressed man in the most fashionable city in the country” — as their new Creative Director for menswear; apparently hoping to tap into that new mania for old-school style.
Nick Wooster has a queer eye for the modern guy
*NOTE: Wooster is a former men’s fashion director for Barney’s and Neiman Marcus, as well as a consultant for Gilt Groupe’s men’s department.
But while menswear is a bright spot for retailers in the US and Asia, recent reports show the overall retail market is in free fall in the Eurozone, with retail sales plunging in Italy, France and Germany: “The word of the day is plunge. Retail sales fell like a rock in Germany and fell at a record pace in France. Jobs and retail sales plunged at a record pace in Italy, and in general, did a nose-dive across the entire Eurozone.”
The really, terribly, horribly, awfully bad Eurozone news, however, is kind of frightening: “Euro zone retail sales are falling at their strongest pace since the 2008 financial crisis to their second-lowest level ever, according to data released by financial researchers Markit . . . The euro zone’s two biggest economies, Germany and France, have been hit hard by weakening consumer spending.”
The recent French elections are also putting the fates of French luxury brands in jeopardy as steep hikes in income taxes are an expected result, no matter which party wins: French $17bn Luxury Goods Become Election Losers
But hey, Bottega Veneta now lets you monogram your new BV bags, so it’s all good.
Oh, wait: Betsey Johnson Files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy — almost all of the Betsey Johnson boutiques will be closed except for about five in major cities across the US, but the company will still offer online shopping and she’ll still do that reality TV show next year.
Betsey Johnson Fall 2012 — the bankruptcy of contemporary fashion
The Betsey Johnson company was already rescued by Steve Madden in 2010, which is kind of ick-inducing when you realize that Steve Madden served time in prison for stock manipulation, money laundering and securities fraud.
Not exactly a match made in heaven, but any port in a storm, right?