Luxury & Fashion Biz News: “I forgot my neon beanie” and other fashion stories

It’s the official start to the fashion week calendar for Ready to Wear Fall 2013, so there’s not much else going on in the way of luxury and fashion news. Just a lot of runway chatter, who’s doing what kind of show and how Winter Storm Nemo is threatening to derail New York Fashion Week due to flight cancellations, delivery delays and sleet + snow.

All accompanied by photos of editors and fashion bloggers in their choicest winter gear, naturally.

But there are a few select bits of industry info beyond “ZOMG! What will I wear to Fashion Week in the snow!?!”

Like, for instance, 1.) that Christian Louboutin’s only recently established (2011) mens footwear line is already accounting for 25% of overall sales. “‘Some guys buy 20 pairs in one sitting and they feel absolutely no embarrassment in doing so,’ (Louboutin) says. ‘Five years ago, there is no way that this would have happened.’ However, in Louboutin’s opinion, the taste of straight men has seriously changed. ‘They have become consumer orientated and are more likely to buy shoes on a whim then throw them away, if necessary; whereas before there was this preoccupation with whether the shoes were hardy and would last.’”

Is it just me, or does it sound as if Louboutin considers his shoes disposable and not built to last? Or maybe that’s on purpose — a trend-hopping style coupled with planned obsolescence will certainly keep your customers coming back for more.

And 2.) that Hair and makeup blogs have become such a great source of PR for both mainstream and niche cosmetics brands that popular beauty bloggers are now invited backstage during fashion week shows to get up-close and personal with the products and stylists.

From At Fashion Shows, The Mascara Crowd Muscles In: “Beauty bloggers tend to display a certain disdain for muted, natural runway looks. Over-the-top colours and intricate hairstyles thrill them; they speak breathlessly of an orange-lined eye at Derek Lam or jewelled brows at Chanel . . . The cosmetics industry has been happy to welcome this new wave of makeup enthusiasts. Heather Park, the director for digital media at NARS cosmetics, said: ‘When you’ve been in the industry for a while it can be easy to get jaded about the experience of Fashion Week. Bloggers are truly there as a labor of love.’”

As a contact on Twitter pointed out to me:

Liz at Project Vanity spells it out like this: “So why do all this? What’s in it for me? The original and most important reason is that I like finding good things that work and then telling the world about it. In relation to that, I grew up thinking I was ugly. It’s a terrible state of mind so if I can help young women avoid that I would! Frankly, I also enjoy the freebies, perks, and occasional money I get out of blogging. Seriously who doesn’t want to get paid for doing something you would do for free anyway?”

And it’s this personal kind of passion that brands are hoping to tap when they invite beauty bloggers backstage. Consumers are jaded (and mostly overwhelmed) by the glut of products and advertisements, so an established, trusted blog voice that hasn’t sold out to advertisers can cut through the miles of internet chatter and keep its regular cast of readers current on skincare routines, new trends in the market, and what lives up to (or doesn’t live up to) its claims without anyone having to run the often high-pressure gauntlets of in-store beauty counters.

*NOTE: This may help explain why online shopping for beauty products has been steadily growing. As non-brand-affiliated sources of information become more established and trusted, it’s easier to shop online (see: Forget the beauty counter: Internet and TV cosmetics sales up by $1billion in past five years).

See also, Beauty bloggers turn their hobby into real business opportunities for a look at the rising influence of China’s beauty bloggers.

And 3.) I found it interesting that shortly after discount luxury brand site TheOutnet established a website presence in China (see: Net-A-Porter Brings The Outnet to China With Local Luxury E-Commerce Acquisition), that Oscar de la Renta was announced to design an exclusive capsule collection for the e-commerce player: “The Oscar de la Renta for The Outnet (collection) uses the same fabrics and patterns that have previously been used in the designer’s main collection and is made in the same factory. Stephanie Phair, the e-tailer’s managing director, said: ‘We know that our customer loves Oscar, but we also feel that this is an amazing opportunity to tap into The Outnet’s audience and a new audience that Oscar as a brand might not have reached yet. This is tapping into a potential customer that will become an Oscar de la Renta customer.'”

That “new audience that Oscar as a brand might not have reached yet” and which they hope will become a reliable, steady future Oscar customer . . . ? China, of course.

In fact, I visited the Oscar de la Renta homepage today to find it presently (and prominently) featuring Asian models (click for picture), so yeah, 2013 isn’t just the Year of the Snake, it’s the year that Oscar aggressively woos China’s wealthy shoppers.

Oscar de la Renta Spring 2013 – featuring plenty of lucky Chinese red

*NOTE: I can only imagine that bringing John Galliano on-board as a collaborative designer is part of de la Renta’s battle plan. Galliano may have suffered a fall from grace among Western consumers, but he’s still a talented designer with a decades-long history as creative head of Dior. That’s what will matter the most to China’s shoppers.

*Speaking of China: Why are your $350 boots made in China, John Varvatos?“Without looking at labels, the first pair of boots I picked up was a pair from John Varvatos … For those of you that haven’t heard of John Varvatos, he’s an American fashion designer. A fashion icon, really. Born and raised in Detroit. Worked for Polo Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein before starting his own label. You may also know him from his Chrysler ‘Imported from Detroit‘ commercial. The first thing I noticed was the price: $350. More than I wanted to spend. The second thing I noticed was the ‘Made in China’ label on the tongue.”

Now that “Made in the USA” has regained some ground in the fashion world, you’d think a designer like Varvatos would be trying a little harder to live up to his own marketing hype.

4.) Probably the most anticipated collection of New York Fashion Week for this season is Alexander Wang: “New York Fashion Week is off and running, and it’s all about Alexander Wang. Will his Balenciaga appointment have changed him? Will he be wriggling under the pressure? Will he accidentally add ruffle trims into his typically gritty own-name collection?”

Wang’s ruffle-trim-free Spring 2013 collection

And as long as we’re on the subject of Balenciaga, respected fashion journalist Robin Givhan had this to say about how designer Cristobal Balenciaga might fare in today’s more ruthless fashion game: “I think that he might be a frustrated designer in the sense that it is frustrating to know that you’re putting out your best work and to know that you are incredibly appreciated by your colleagues but that the public doesn’t seem to get it because it’s not filled with bells and whistles and glitter and smoke and mirrors and all the things that make fashion fashion today.”

5.) Niche perfumer Frederic Malle teams up with Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten for Malle’s first designer-brand perfume: “In 2010, (Frederic Malle) decided to start a new collection of fragrances whose purpose is to translate people or brands he admires into a scent … The first scent in this collection will be none other than Belgian designer Dries Van Noten, which is not a total surprise since Dries has been selling the (Frederic Malle) perfumes in his shops since the beginning … It took 18 months to create the perfume and it will be launched all over the world at the end of February under the name: Dries Van Noten by Frédéric Malle … It’s like Belgium in a bottle. Avant-garde but modest, sweet but not sugary and a little bit strange.”

I have a hunch that Malle + Dries Van Noten will be a much more interesting and brand-appropriate creation than what Beauté Prestige will produce for Azzedine Alaïa.


  • Marin

    Best headline ever.

    You know, I get what Louboutin is saying about straight men and shoes. Probably suits and ties too. It’s become more acceptable – even desirable – for men to peacock a little.

    My dad, for instance, is still firmly planted in the “one pair of black dress shoes, one pair of brown, three good suits, white dress shirts and a few neutral ties” mindset. I mean, if he wasn’t retired and wearing no suits and dress shoes ever.

    On the other hand, my guy friends and my brother have seen athletes and rappers discover the labels and trends and it makes it more acceptable to shop for trend and colour (neon beanie!) than just for utility.

    I wonder if this means the old “why do women need ten pairs of black shoes” joke will have to be retired…?

    RIP, hackneyed joke. RIP.

    • My partner gives me hell when I buy another pair of shoes: “You already have a pair of black shoes,” he’ll say. To which I reply, “But I didn’t have *this* pair of black shoes.”

      He just shakes his head and sighs, as if, somehow, all black shoes are the same.

      I didn’t really stop to think about the effect that designer-dressed rappers and NBA stars would have on the average guy. I understood the effect that Downton Abbey and personal stylists had on celebrities, but I figured the average Joe would just shrug it off and keep buying the same ol’ sports-logo sweatshirts and ill-fitting jeans.

      If you’re telling me that high-fashion colours and fit trends are actually starting to trickle down in places like outdoorsy-guy Denver (and not just metrosexual NYC), then no wonder Louboutin is selling men’s shoes at a brisk clip.

      • As if in direct reply to our discussion, I just read this:

        “You can imagine a sportscaster saying to Mr. Flacco: “Joe Flacco, you just won the Super Bowl! What are you going to do now?”

        “I’m going to a Tommy Hilfiger show! In the snow! In black tie!””

        From: Preppy Style and Joe Flacco at the Tommy Hilfiger Show

        Because how better to get mainstream US men interested in your runway show than to have the Superbowl winning quarterback sitting in your front row.