Luxury Outlook | Richemont reels

ZURICH, Switzerland — “Demand for luxury goods…has fallen dramatically and Richemont is currently facing the toughest market conditions since its formation 20 years ago…we see no cause for optimism. We must assume that there will be no significant recovery in the foreseeable future and plan accordingly to cope with this situation.” With those ominous words in its trading update on Monday, Richemont provided the first

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Friday Column | Barbie to the Rescue!

LONDON, United Kingdom — I was surprised to see that a number of big-name sponsors have signed on recently to support the upcoming round of fashion shows. In London, Henry Holland’s show will be sponsored by Sebastian, makers of hair care products. And Barbie is making an appearance in both New York and London — thanks to the fact that it is her 50th birthday. Mattel, makers of Barbie, have signed a three-year partnership

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Fashion and Fur | How to foster an intelligent debate

LONDON, United Kingdom - For many of fashion's iconic characters, from Vogue's Anna Wintour to the prolific designer Karl Lagerfeld, who designs for Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous label, fashion and fur go hand in hand. Just last week, Lagerfeld vigorously defended the use of fur to the BBC saying that "in a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish." Of course, there are plenty of people who would disagree with this point of view - the folks at PETA, for one.  A PETA spokesperson told London's Daily Telegraph that Lagerfeld is "a fashion dinosaur who is as out of step as his furs are out of style. The vast…

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Friday Column | How to Survive the Recession

Hollywood stars take on the red carpet

LONDON, United Kingdom – According to analysts, we’ve just come through the worst holiday selling season in 40 years. If that’s not bad enough, Chanel announced that it is laying off 200 people in Paris. Chanel! That surprised everyone I spoke to in the industry. For one thing, Chanel is not masstige — it wasn’t catering to the masses, the part of the market said to be most impacted by the recession. For another thing,

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Creative Entrepreneurship | A Wish for 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya - The way things are looking, 2009 is going to be a very tough year indeed. And, with all the froth and gloss in the fashion business over of the past few years, it will not be surprising to see many fashion companies fail, especially those that have been able to coast on the excesses of easy credit, copy designs from others with impunity, and take advantage of benign conditions that have enabled even the most mediocre to succeed. But, the silver lining of this economic pain is that we will have to make do with less. We will have to be more resourceful than ever. And, as a result, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship will flourish, as the…

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Friday Column | Whither or Wither Luxury?

Prada men's spring 2009 campaign photographed by Hedi Slimane, courtesy of Prada

LONDON, United Kingdom — At the Luxury Briefing Conference held in London last month, Claire Kent, former Morgan Stanley analyst and current luxury goods consultant, spelled out her thoughts for the future of luxury. “Regardless of the credit crunch there was growing fatigue about luxury brands,” she said. “People want a redefinition of luxury. People don’t want to be buying the same brands as the people

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Luxury Outlook | Innovation engine

  As the big three U.S. automakers await to hear their fate on a requested bailout from the U.S. government and Citigroup teeters on the verge of bankruptcy, it now seems that the fall of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and other corporate casualities was just the beginning of what is likely to be a global economic meltdown of epic proportions. With this as the backdrop, a reader recently wrote in to ask about the prospects for aspiring job seekers in the fashion industry more generally. Others have been wondering how some of the emerging businesses that have come to the fore in recent years are faring. The short answer to both questions is that things are extremely tough out there,…

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Luxury Outlook | Finding meaning in design

Back in September, The Business of Fashion caught up with noted futurist Faith Popcorn to talk to her about "recession culture," and how this changes the way consumers scrutinise spending decisions. It seems like a quaint discussion now (because of my questions, not Ms. Popcorn's answers) because our interview took place back when consumers in the U.S. were still spending. Boy have things changed since then. By the middle of October, Eric Wilson of the New York Times reported of worried U.S. consumers walking into department stores and retailers, shopping bags in hand, returning entire bags of merchandise which had been previously purchased. What's more, he went on to report of dramatic drops in sales at major luxury departments stores…

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Luxury Outlook | Grim and grimmer

LONDON, United Kingdom - In recent conversations with global luxury business leaders and American fashion entrepreneurs, young designer brands and fashion executives in the UK's high-street behemoths, the mood has been decidedly downbeat, with rapidly decreasing sales leading to increasingly desperate sale signs. Hiring freezes and spending cutbacks are in place almost across the board.  Emerging fashion businesses I have spoken to are reporting significant decreases in orders for Spring/Summer 2009. Orders are being cut back or canceled altogether and there are reports of fabric mills in Italy and manufacturers in China facing dire straits as the brakes are put on consumer spending around the world.  The sudden freeze in spending is a reaction to dramatic drops in the value…

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Valentino | The saga continues

ROME, Italy - By now, most everyone in the fashion universe has heard that Alessandra Facchinetti has been ceremoniously removed from her post as Creative Director of Valentino. Some fashion critics, Suzy Menkes included, have spoken against the designer's dismissal, pointing to early successes in her first outings over the past couple of seasons, where she availed herself of Valentino's formidable atelier. But the story doesn't end there. A report in WWD said that Facchinetti's ousting was not due to poor collections, but rather to a difficult and long creative process, and an inability to build a cohesive team around her. And, perhaps therein lies the point. Designers are no longer able to operate in a vacuum, in studios which…

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Luxury Outlook | Survival of the fittest

PARIS, France - Even as America teeters on the brink of economic armageddon, fashion week has continued on in full force here in Paris. But, between all the comings and goings, the drama and parties, many designers, buyers and editors have had their eyes and ears tuned into what is going on Stateside, trying to make sense of the ever-changing news. So what should luxury retailers and brands do in troubled times like this? The days of unfettered consumption are over. Multi-thousand dollar canvas bags and poorly made clothes with staggering prices which are designed to last only one season will be a tough sell. More than ever, for consumers, every purchase now will involve the price/quality calculation that constitutes value. Consumers…

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The Swiss Textiles Award | Fashion’s crystal ball

ZURICH, Switzerland - The Swiss Textiles Award is not the richest fashion design prize available -- the 300,000 euro prize from Mango takes that category. But, over the past 5 years it has emerged as perhaps the most influential award of its kind, and the only one to operate with a global remit. In 2003, a little-known Belgian designer named Raf Simons won the prize and went on to wow fashion critics, who were now playing close attention to his work. Cathy Horyn had this to say of his Simons' men's 2005 Spring/Summer collection, shown in Paris in July 2004: What Mr. Simons did in an instant was to render the day, and most of the previous one of the…

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