Luxury & Fashion Biz News: The new geek chic; and Why designer brands hope you’ll sweat the small stuff
Geek Girls get their pop-culture fashion freak on: “(Actress Ashley) Eckstein discovered that almost half of all sci-fi fans were women and about 80% of consumer purchases were made by women, yet there was a huge lack of any genre-specific merchandise specifically tailored to female fans . . . women seem to be more interested in sci-fi and comic books than ever before, leading Hot Topic to partner with companies like Her Universe to fill the blossoming demand for related products . . . ‘We used to girl things up,’ (said Hot Topic merchandise manager Cindy Levitt), ‘but they don’t want Catwoman on a shirt. They want Batman. Girls may want it on a cute dolman sleeve T-shirt, but they want the images to be kind of what the guys have been wearing.’”
And with retailers motivated by the recession to aggressively compete for back to school consumer dollars, the geek crowd achieved its mainstream fashion breakthrough, putting proof to the notion that today’s teenagers are radically different from the Abercrombie & Fitch generation.
Even the quirky and formerly oh-so-niche British sci-fi TV series Dr. Who is gaining fans worldwide and making its mark in retail fashion sales, especially among female fans who readily identify with the program’s strong female leads (see: UK TV show ‘Doctor Who’ is setting a US fashion trend).
Dr. Who for Fall 2012 – snakes on a plane are so last season
With computer gadgets like cell phones, laptops, readers and tablets now a ubiquitous part of the mainstream landscape, geeky is the new cool.
What, you don’t believe me? Check out the unlikely fashion trend that’s now sweeping through professional sports: The NBA’s geek-chic craze: What’s with the nerdy glasses? — “By far the most conspicuous accessories — worn by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Heat, as well as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant of the Thunder — are thick-rimmed, oversized glasses that would make the cast of The Revenge of the Nerds blush . . . the glasses are part of a geek-chic trend that has seen NBA players wearing schoolboy backpacks, cardigans, and plaid socks.”
*NOTE: Bowties and retro-academic nerd chic featured heavily in the latest Dr. Who wardrobe shortly before the trends went mainstream in 2010, leading some to believe that menswear designers were watching and learning: Doctor Who prompts surge in popularity of bow ties
The fact that more women are now open about their science-fiction and tech-head fandom isn’t lost on the guys who dress to impress, and as with any self-respecting fashion trend for men, there’s a how-to manual for the uninitiated: The Chic Geek’s Fashion, Grooming and Style Guide for Men
*Brief sidetrack: Prada For Gatsby — TV shows aren’t the only media venues that push the fashion trends . . . or so designers hope.
But it’s not just the nerds and geeks that mainstream retailers are chasing, the once underserved plus-sized fashion market is now witnessing an increased and improved selection of options, with many independent designers sensing opportunity in the less than crowded playing field.
Clothing lines embrace plus-size fashions — “Fighting mediocre sales and a sluggish economy, retailers are finding there’s a booming market for plus-size clothing . . . Experts say that at least half of women now wear dresses and pants size 14 or larger — which falls into the plus-size category — and this group controls nearly 30% of the purchasing power for clothes . . . Lisa Cole, a Palm Springs apparel-fit consultant, said luxury and mainstream retailers alike are clued in that many full-figured women want to flaunt their curves, not hide them.”
A clip from 2010′s first plus-size show during New York Fashion Week
*Fuel for the fire: Fashion magazines now airbrushing models to make them look … fatter?, and Lanvin Designer Alber Elbaz on Why Being Overweight Is a Good Thing
*Back to Point B: But just how aggressive were those back-to-school retail promotions mentioned earlier? “J.C. Penney offered free haircuts at its salons; Wal-Mart offered more than 100 back-to-school items, from pencil pouches to notebooks and dry-erase boards, for 88 cents; and Kohl’s offered $10 cash for every $50 spent. Target pushed certain denim items for as little as $10, among other perks. The good starting price point makes people say, ‘Oh, my, this is the place I want to shop.’”
So while consumer spending in the US was up for back to school spending, retailers had to work a lot harder to get shoppers through the door, and the positive sales numbers for the US (and Sweden, too) didn’t apply across the globe. While individual luxury brands like Hermes and Ferragamo posted excellent sales results, the retail pictures in Germany, France, Japan, the UK, Argentina and China are less rosy.
*SPEAKING OF LESS THAN ROSY: Former Dior designer John Galliano has been stripped of his Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian award, “a further ramification of his fall from grace after a drunken anti-Semitic rant at a Parisian cafe in February 2011, which saw the designer ousted from his own label and his role as creative director at Christian Dior.”
News has also emerged that Galliano has filed an $18 million “employee/employer dispute claim“ against the House of Dior. A hearing in a Paris court has been set for February 4th, 2013.
2.) Perfume News:
A.) French niche perfume brand Serge Lutens is now offering its once Paris-exclusive bell jar bottles at Barneys New York: “Displaying a Serge Lutens cloche on one’s vanity signified a trip to the Palais Royal boutique, the only place the curvy glass jars could be found. Until now. Those cloches have made their way to US shores with the newly expanded Serge Lutens boutique in the hallowed beauty department of Barneys New York, where some three dozen scents are on gleaming display.”
Victoria at Bois de Jasmin writes that “the price of the bell jars at Barneys is $290-300 (in Paris they cost 125 euros in Paris/~$155-160). Barneys will ship to any US destination.”
B.) In case you needed further validation that the art world now sits squarely on the lap of commerce and coos in its ear, Lady Gaga’s three minute promo-film for her Fame perfume launch will debut at the Guggenheim Museum: “Lady Gaga will unveil the full campaign film for her forthcoming perfume fragrance Fame at the Guggenheim Museum (in September), it’s been announced. The New York museum will mark the first time that fans will be able to watch the full worldwide fragrance campaign film. It is not clear whether Lady Gaga will be in attendance at the showing on September 13th.”
*Speaking of art cooing in the delighted ear of commerce: Art imitates life imitates art as Campbell’s issues a collection of four limited-edition soup cans featuring Andy Warhol inspired designs: “Touted by some news outlets as ‘Hipster Soups,’ the new flavours such as Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas and Creamy Red Pepper with Smoked Gouda are meant to appeal to those 20-30-somethings of ‘restless spirits with adventurous tastes.’”
C.) Designer brands reach out en masse for your fragrance dollars — new perfumes are launched from Stella McCartney, Oscar de la Renta, Maison Martin Margiela, Trussardi, Ermenegildo Zegna, Marchesa, Balenciaga, Donna Karan, Tom Ford, Gucci, YSL, Dior, Marc Jacobs and Chanel.
Whew. That was a mouthful. And it seriously underscores the importance of accessories and beauty products to a brand’s bottom line.
In an interview with WWD, Joel Palix, president of Clarins, stated that “in times of difficulty, a lipstick or a fragrance is a great product to buy, so we’re more resistant (to volatility)” while noting that sales of clothing are far more dependent on the vagaries of weather and social trends.
Maison Martin Margiela Replica trio — it’s hip to be retro
As Oscar de la Renta observed, “We don’t change the way we look on a daily basis, but we may want to change the way we smell.”
So while recession-pressed consumers may shop their own closets for the big stuff, designers are obviously hoping they can still lure them into the stores for smaller purchases.