Creative-Business Partnerships | Team Tank

The potential of creative-business partnerships has long been a topic of interest here at The Business of Fashion. However, the focus to date has been on pairings in the fashion apparel businesses -- high profile partnerships like those of Tom and Dom and Marc and Robert, or emerging success stories like those of Phillip and Wen of 3.1 Phillip Lim and Victoria and Kikka of VPL. I recently came across a partnership from a different part of the fashion business altogether -- but one with equally remarkable results. Over dim sum and jasmine tea, Masoud and Caroline, the creative-business partners behind Tank, told me how they have developed their fledgling magazine business into a full-service creative agency, described their complementary…

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Aseef Vaza | Combatting copying

An article in Friday's Women's Wear Daily highlighted the ongoing battle that young designers are having in preventing their designs from being copied by much larger mass-market rivals. Hence, the CFDA in the United States is spearheading The Design Piracy Prohibition Act, to protect the designs of American fashion designers for a period of three years and impose a fine of at least $250,000 for a successful conviction of fashion copyright infringement. While the law is still far from being enacted, the high-profile discussion has shed new light on the scale of the problem. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that $12 billion was lost due to counterfeiting and piracy in the fashion and apparel industry in 2006. With formal…

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Paris Fashion Week: The resurrection of Vionnet

In the 1920's, a young French designer named Madeleine Vionnet created a virtual tornado in the in the fashion industry when she developed the bias cut. By cutting fabric against the grain, she enabled it to cling, drape and give in a way that was flattering to the body. Vionnet went on to build an enviable and innovative business, dressing clients such as Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo. The house was shut down during the Second World War, but since then, Vionnet's technique has been widely used by numerous acclaimed designers, including Azzedine Alaia and John Galliano, who has made the bias-cut dress one of his own signatures. Now, almost 70 years after it faded into oblivion, the…

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Valentino: Fashioning change from private equity

This week's Economist ominously warns of "The Trouble with Private Equity" at a time when many in the fashion world are wondering how the infusion of private capital will impact their industry. In the last month alone, La Perla, Samsonite and Valentino have all been snapped up by private equity funds. Just today, The Sunday Times broke the news that Prada has also been in talks with private investors. (Not surprisingly, Prada has denied these reports, but it is not hard to see why this would be a natural option for Patrizio Bertelli, especially given several failed attempts at taking Prada public.) The recent investment exuberance around fashion brands is a dramatic departure from the stance that many professional investors…

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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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Prada: A lookbook to inspire

People talk about Miuccia Prada as an intellectual designer. Up there with Martin Margiela, Dries van Noten and Rei Kawakubo, Ms. Prada is a heavyweight in the world of conceptual fashion. Season after season she manages to surprise and inspire the notoriously critical and fickle fashion crowd. What's less cool to talk about is Miuccia Prada's knack for marrying the creative with the commercial. No other designer seems to be as able to take the most high-falutin' catwalk looks and translate them into a commercial product in the showroom. For Prada and her infamous husband Patrizio Bertelli, "commercial" is not a dirty word. Buyers rave about Prada's ability to provide the right balance between the consistent core items that form…

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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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Fashion 2.0 | What the Future Holds

About a month ago, I attended the Harvard Business School’s annual Retail and Luxury Goods Conference in Boston. It was an interesting day of speeches and panel discussions, bringing together industry veterans and experts from leading luxury goods and retail companies including Neiman Marcus, Loro Piana, and Holt Renfrew. You can read more about the conference in this news article from HBS’s Harbus Newspaper. I was honoured to

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Tom Ford: Niche Luxury with all the trimmings

Last week, Tom Ford launched his much-awaited menswear collection at a brand new New York flagship, where he provided personal tours to the fashion elite, including Bernard Arnault of LVMH and Cathy Horyn of the New York Times. It seems that while Cathy was impressed, she didn't necessarily understand the business rationale for Tom's decision to focus solely on the most elite niche of the menswear market, i.e. men who are willing to spend upwards of $3000 on a suit. Tot top it all off, Ford has supplemented the purchase of the suit with a truly luxurious environment (read expensive capital expenditure and rent) to provide a truly unique tailoring experience. Will Mr Ford be able to work his Gucci…

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Barking Irons: Authentic Americana, New York

  While in New York this past week, I ended up in New York's Bowery District several times, completely unknowingly and without any forward planning. People just invited me there for dinner or lunch at the very cool restaurant called Freemans and the sweet brunch spot called the Five Points Restaurant. Once upon a time, The Bowery was home to high European culture and then was the centre of a grassroots movement of artists and musicians in America's new melting pot in the late 1800's. However, since the early 1900's the area has languished as a skid row zone of brothels, run-down buildings and grime. Today, the Bowery remains one of the few areas in Manhattan yet to be gentrified…

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Marc Jacobs: The Cult of Corporate Cool, New York

Who said that big brands can't retain the DNA of what made them interesting in the first place? This past week in New York, I visited the Marc by Marc Jacobs store on Bleecker Street, the little brother store to Marc Jacobs mainline collection. Both businesses are owned by LVMH, the world's largest luxury goods conglomerate. Marc Jacobs is also the Creative Director for Louis Vuitton, the company's largest fashion brand. So, you might expect that the company feels corporate and over marketed. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to walk into the Marc store and see a huge yellow chicken mascot sitting in the store window. A (suitably cool) photographer named Thom was taking photos of customers posing with…

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Anya Hindmarch: This is not a Plastic Bag

Yesterday, as I was picking up my regular morning cappucino from Ottolenghi (the best espresso in Notting Hill), I was surprised to see literally hundreds of people queuing all the way down Ledbury Road, waiting in anticipation for the latest batch of Anya Hindmarch "I am not a Plastic Bag" bags to go on sale. While Ledbury Road is often buzzing on weekends, it is usually quiet during the week, giving Notting Hill the village-like charm that it is famous for. I had read on the Vogue site that morning that these bags were being released, but I never expected people to be so desperate for the bags that they would wait outside on a cold weekday morning for hours…

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