Luxury & Fashion Biz News: The new Dior, Gilt Groupe cuts back, and Ungaro tries again
Despite the seemingly thousands of names swamping the Fashion Week schedules, it’s often only the most-established brands that attract the media glare and so end up dictating the tone for all the conversations that follow: Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren in New York; Burberry and Mulberry in London; Armani and Prada in Italy; and Chanel, Dior and YSL in Paris.
Everyone else (in the fashion universe) exists in a type of waxing/waning relationship to these larger gravitational forces. Who will be the next Marc Jacobs for New York? Do London designers possess a strong enough design vision to hold their own against the other major fashion capitals? Is the Italian system so family dominated that smaller players can’t properly thrive? And what is Paris high-style anymore — the old-school excesses of Karl Lagerfeld or the nu-skool cool of Nicolas Ghesquière?
Part of that question was answered when Raf Simons showed his first Ready To Wear collection for Dior, a glitzy (and at times even disco-shiny) collection that yanked the House of Dior firmly into the 21st century version of La Nouvelle Vague — “a general break with the conservative paradigm”:
Dior Spring 2013 — dancing about architecture
As Jess Cartner-Morley writes for The Guardian: “Both Dior and YSL took a gamble in their appointments. Each chose a designer with form as an innovator and independent thinker over candidates with stronger proven track records. In doing so, they have created a mood in which new ideas are the most highly prized quarry of all.”
*RELATED POINT: Hedi Slimane shows his first womenswear collection for YSL this coming Monday. Journalists are already setting it up like some kind of branded cage-match, because when your career consists of obsessing over hemlines and colour trends, then manufactured drama comes with the territory, I guess.
You think I’m kidding? See Battle of the Champions by fashion critic Suzy Menkes: “The fight between Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent — or, more accurately, the clash of two new titanic designers — is the story of this fashion season . . . (though) It could be that the most dramatic standoff will not be between Dior and Saint Laurent, where both designers are graphic in spirit. The great protagonist might be Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, who has to prove what that label stands for in the face of fashion’s new wave of modernism.”
Why certainly, I’d love a hefty dose of hyperbole with my morning coffee, thanks.
*THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS: About that Raf Simons Dior collection — “Supermodel Natalia Vodianova, dating (LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault’s son) Antoine Arnault, said she expected the collection to please Chinese customers. ‘I thought it was very modern, very young and very Asian also,’ Vodianova told Reuters. ‘I see all these Chinese actresses are going to go crazy, they love these neon colours and super-short dresses’” (see: Christian Dior CEO says no sign of China slowdown).
And as long as we’re talking business and China, Jing Daily reports that “Made for China” might be a bigger global trend than “Made in China” anymore: “As the young New York-based designer Patrik Ervell told Bloomberg earlier this year, ‘I’m manufacturing clothing here in New York, and I’m exporting it to China and South Korea and Japan. Suddenly ‘Made in America’ has a value to the Chinese customer in almost the same way that ‘Made in France’ or ‘Made in Italy’ once had for Americans.’”
And despite Burberry and Tiffany warning that there’s the likelihood of a luxury-spending slowdown, Prada says it’s doing just fine, thanks: Prada reassures against “hysteria” over luxury slowdown
“The beauty of luxury goods is they’re scarce and therefore they’re reassuringly expensive,” said Rahul Sharma, founder and managing director of Neev Capital. “You don’t just want something that’s expensive that’s not scarce.”
Dries Van Noten Spring 2013 — expensive *and* scarce
Preach it, brother.
Gilt Groupe, the king of the flash sale sites, has announced that it will be shutting down its full-priced menswear division (Park & Bond), plus scaling back on its food division (Gilt Taste) in order to bring the brand to full profitability before its scheduled IPO in 2013.
See: Gilt Groupe to Shutter Park & Bond, Cut Back on Groceries — “Gilt Groupe, the luxury e-commerce and flash sales site, is announcing a restructuring today that will cut back on some of its unprofitable businesses as it prepares to file for a public offering sometime next year. As part of the restructuring, said Gilt’s President Andy Page, it is eliminating the company’s full-priced men’s apparel site, Park & Bond, and is cutting back on Gilt Taste, which sells high-end food and wine.”
Park & Bond will be merged into the company’s already existing Gilt Man division, Gilt Taste will be reduced to seasonal and holiday selections, and more emphasis will be placed on the lucrative childrenswear market with the development of their own in-house private label brand, Little Gilt — “‘Babies is one of our biggest categories, and there was a void in luxury products that can be sold year round,’ said Melissa Keswin, senior buyer for Gilt Kids, who spearheaded the collection.”
So, there you are. People happily spend more on their babies than they do on haute cuisine and high-end fashion for men. I guess that’s not much of a surprise, really.
And Gilt learned the hard way that trying to harness the energy of Facebook to increase sales is like trying to herd cats: “People don’t go to Facebook to shop, said Gilt Chairman Susan Lyne. They go to hang out and chat with their friends. Selling things on Facebook, Lyne said, is like selling things in a bar.”
Not a particularly ringing endorsement for brands to use Facebook, is it? No wonder Facebook’s stock price keeps sinking.
*OTHER BRAND STRUGGLES: WWD reports that Lacoste is in the midst of insider upheaval as board member Patrick Thomas (CEO of Hermes) resigns and a minority shareholder seemingly stages a coup — “Lacoste shareholders reelected their company’s board members on Monday, and the board subsequently named Sophie Lacoste Dournel as its president, a controversial decision contested by the previous president Michel Lacoste, her father . . . Michel Lacoste, who has been at odds with his daughter for some time, has said he will take the case to court and accuses Swiss company Maus, which owns 35 percent of Lacoste, of trying to execute a covert takeover of the firm.”
Lacoste Spring 2013 – casual and carefree while the boardroom burns
*NOTE: Drapers writes that the recent increase in sales for menswear may be partially due to the rise of mobile phone and tablet shopping — in other words: guys love their gadgets.
3.) QUICK LITTLE THINGS:
A.) My favourite fashion video campaign in, like, ever:
Kenzo men – Fall/Winter 2012
The Brady Bunch coffee mugs, the stock music, the bright washes of light, the smiles, waves, handshakes and group hugs. It’s hilariously saccharine and incredibly effective at getting me to watch it over and over again, so that now I actually know what Kenzo menswear looks like, where I hadn’t given it a second thought before watching that video clip.
And I know I keep saying this, but my god, the 80s! The 80s!!!
B.) I learned that this man is the latest designer that the troubled, struggling house of Emanuel Ungaro has hired to save it from . . . well, from itself and its stunning lack of judgement, apparently: Emanuel Ungaro appoints new creative director Fausto Puglisi
Fausto Paglisi speaks very very fast at you (and he likes it)
C.) Italy’s economy is in such disarray that Italian textile manufacturers are reaching out to other countries to help them stay afloat.
Italy’s crisis-hit weavers look to foreign buyers — “From China to Russia, Brazil and South Africa, growing sophistication among fashion shoppers has led to a greater demand for Italy’s artisan quality. While China used to be seen as a huge threat to the industry — producing garments quickly and cheaply — it is now opting increasingly to import wool, loden, silks and linens produced by specialist Italian spinners and weavers.”
*RELATED: Italian set celebrates Australian wool — “Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Lanvin and Marc Jacobs are among the 10 global brands which were commissioned by Italian Vogue and Australian Wool Innovation to supply garments photographed by star Italian fashion snapper Pier Paolo Ferrari for the 120 page book called When Wool Is In Fashion.”
Though, from the sound of it, Australia’s reliance on cash-strapped Italy as a potential revenue source seems a bit misguided. “People in Italy are scared. They are not spending money. If somebody is telling you things are going well in Italy, they’re lying,” said Gianluca Brozzetti, head of the house of Cavalli. Just last week.
D.) Katie Middleton still packs a fashion-influencing wallop: “Middleton-mania has somewhat calmed down since her April 2011 Royal Wedding, but that doesn’t mean the Duchess has lost her Midas touch. The latest company to benefit from the Middleton Effect is RAOUL, which sold out of a patterned skirt a day after the Duchess wore it last week in Singapore.”
And the style of shoe that Kate Middleton favours, a nude coloured court pump, sells like crazy in the UK, with one UK chain store selling a pair of its L. K. Bennett replica pumps (hey, since when did “replica” become a polite word for “knock-off”?) every two minutes.
Middleton’s style influence is so potent and pervasive, it’s rumoured that even Kanye West is attempting to give US reality-tv star Kim Kardashian a Kate-Middleton image makeover — though there is such a thing as too little, too late, you know.