VPL: The promise of a creative-business partnership

Most of the greatest fashion companies in the world are the result of a creative-business partnership. Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole. Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giametti. Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy. Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli. The list could go on and on. A business partner can share the immense workload of starting and managing a business, shield the designer from the day-to-day management so he or she can focus on the creative side, and provide a different set of skills which are important to the running of any business. This is the role that Kikka Hanazawa, a former classmate of mine, has been playing at VPL, one of New York's most promising fashion start-ups. The company was founded…

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New York Fashion Week: Marc Jacobs is backwards, upside down and inside out

Last night I witnessed the intricate ballet of savvy PR and event-planning that has helped build Marc Jacobs into one of the only truly successful, global luxury brands that has been launched in the past 20 years. It was evidence of the basic human psychological desire to be part of the cool crowd. You know those nightclubs that intentionally keep people waiting outside to give off the impression of being the hot spot of the moment? This was not all that different, except Marc Jacobs has been doing this for almost 20 years, and he has it down to a fine art. Plus, this is not just hype. He has a reputation for delivering collections that will inspire designers and…

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New York Fashion Week: Oscar’s church of posh

Joyous. That's how Natalie Massenet of Net-a-Porter described Oscar de la Renta's Spring/Summer 2008 collection to Alex Bolen, the company's CEO, after today's show. The setting in an Upper East Side church, the lovely dresses in bright gorgeous hues, and music from a band-cum-gospel choir culminated in a show-stopper from this legendary designer. Roger Federer, Victoria Beckham, Anna Wintour and others were there to soak it all in. With utterly beautiful dresses targeted squarely at the ladies who lunch crowd and their daughters (many of whom were in the audience), Oscar showed that he operates in a market where you don't have to change things too much from season to season in order to make your mark. He leaves the…

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New York Fashion Week: A banner day for Peter and Phillip

In the heart of New York's garment district in the same building on 39th Street, two of the city's most exciting young talents have been busy putting together the collections that they unveiled on Sunday. And, what a great showing for both Peter Som and Phillip Lim, who both delivered what their many fans were expecting...and more. Peter, of course, has just sold a significant stake of his business to retail private equity house NRDC and has been confirmed as creative director of his alma mater house Bill Blass. This was his finest collection yet and one of the strongest of the entire New York collections, having perfected that fine balance for his clients who move fluidly from uptown socialite…

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New York Fashion Week: Innovative brand building

Emerging brands usually don't have the marketing budget and editorial muscle to build big brands and it can therefore be extremely difficult to get above all the noise and stand out from the crowd. Yesterday, I was thrilled to see two young brands partner with major retailers in innovative ways to build brand awareness. My favourite guerilla marketers from Rodnik launched their "We are not a rock brand" tour at Barney's New York. They played to an appreciative crowd of lucky customers and industry insiders, with their sidekick Peaches Geldof supporting Phil on vocals. The guys were understandably excited about the tour which rocks up at one retailer after another, from Colette in Paris to Comme des Garcons in Tokyo…

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New York Fashion Week: Sabyasachi’s talking bout a revolution

Sabyasachi showed his S/S 2008 collection in New York last night to a crowd mixed with New York City-based Indian socialites, important fashion journalists like Laird Borrelli-Persson of Style.com and Meredith Melling-Burke of Vogue, and other curious onlookers eager to see what the "Hermes of India" would come up with this season. As Laird told me before the show after she had taken a quick pre-show sneak peek backstage, it was "classic Sabya". He sent out rich Indian fabrics in a deep "revolutionary" colour palette of burnt orange, forest green and indian khaki, cut in classic (sometimes very voluminous) Western silhouettes. Revolutionary symbols from Russia, Cuba and elsewhere accented the clothes, which strummed along to Tracy Chapman and perhaps a…

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Peter Som: Rolling with NRDC?

The early stage fashion investment deals keep on rolling in. A day after the announcement from Matthew Williamson, The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Peter Som is close to finalising a deal with NRDC Equity Partners, further confirming a report from WWD back in February. NRDC is the firm behind the investment and turnaround of Lord & Taylor, the American department store. It's an unconventional choice for Som whose savvy business partner, Elana Posner, has been driving the fund raising search for Som for over a year now. While other designers have been taking investments from upstream strategic investors (Sophia Kokosalaki and Staff International, Proenza Schouler and Valentino), this is the first deal in some years that comes…

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Everyone’s talking about: Limited edition luxury

Walk down Madison Avenue in New York, the Bund in Shanghai, and avenues Montaigne and Georges V in Paris, and you will see the same luxury stores teeming with the same luxury products. No matter where you go, there are Balenciaga bags, Jimmy Choo shoes and Dior Homme suits on offer.  It's no wonder then that everyone's talking about limited edition products from established companies like Neiman Marcus and Martin Margiela to start-ups like 20ltd and couturelab. Customers, it seems, are looking for something a little bit special. The phenomenon has the fashion business media chattering too. The Financial Times covered the phenomenon over the weekend with a particular focus on men's luxury products and this week, WWD gave us…

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Bill Blass: The Peter Som and Michael Bastian tag team

A couple of weeks ago in New York I caught up with Elana Posner, President of Peter Som, over lunch. Amongst a flurry of topics, we touched (briefly) upon the gossipy item in WWD on July 6th which leaked the news that Peter was soon to be appointed as the new womenswear designer for Bill Blass, owned by NexCen brands. What I didn't know at the time was that Michael Bastian would be designing the men's collection. So, I was excited to hear the news confirmed today, not only because it could finally be discussed on The Business of Fashion, but also because these are inspired choices made in part by NexCen. What a pleasant surprise! It's been a good…

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Links of the week: Sexless Gucci, Gianni-less Versace, Thom and Brooks Brothers

The Times of London: G-ForceFrida Giannini, the last remaining designer of the trio that was selected to replace Tom Ford at Gucci, is an advocate for Gucci without the sex. According to The Times, the results speak for themselves with a 16% increase in sales to over £1.5b - the highest in the company's history. The New York Times: The Murder on Ocean DriveGianni Versace, who was feted at a glamorous ballet last weekend in Milan, was murdered 10 years ago this month. Cathy Horyn gives us a behind-the-scenes take on that shocking week in Miami in 1997, showing a different side of Gianni's replacement, his sister Donnatella.The Wall Street Journal: Brooks Brothers tries hip line: Will it suit?As a…

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Style.com: Sartorialising

WWD reports today that Style.com has concluded an agreement to sell advertising on the Sartorialist blog maintained by Scott Schuman, a former fashion industry staffer who left a fashion sales showroom to create one of the best known blogs in the fashion blogosphere. Women's Wear Daily said: A fashion label may get the best endorsement when its wares show up on a well-dressed city dweller photographed for fashion industry veteran Scott Schuman's popular blog The Sartorialist. But for those who want more direct brand promotion, Style.com and Men.style.com will begin to sell ads forThesartorialist.blogspot.com beginning Sept. 1.... ...The partnership is the first time the CondéNet properties have sold ads for a brand outside the company stable. Schuman's blog, where he posts…

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Men’s luxury: Time for an (arm)revolution?

That oft-ignored market for men's luxury has been popping up on my radar screen a lot more often in the last few months. Up until now, men's luxury spending has been dominated by expensive watches. But, as a generation of high net-worth men with a taste for modern design is growing up, more players are reaching out to meet their sophisticated needs in innovative ways. It brings to mind a casual gathering of friends that took place in my kitchen on a recent Saturday evening. Over wine and cheese, I watched in awe as hedge fund managers, private equity investors and investment bankers from London's burgeoning financial community were comparing, discussing and examining each other's (expensive) watches in excruciating detail.…

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Tom Ford in person: Go Beta First, New York

On my last trip to New York, I finally managed to see the new Tom Ford flagship store in person. After all of the hubbub about its "Hermes and Oprah" similarities, I wanted to judge for myself. Was Cathy Horyn right in criticising the high price-points as being out of reach even for the most discerning male customers? Was Horacio Silva on the mark for panning the store for its overly-exclusive environment? I'm afraid the answer is yes. In spades. For all of the talk about the luxurious feel of the store, I have to say it all felt quite ordinary to me. That is to say, it didn't feel different from most of the other masses of luxury stores…

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