Hello BoF Professionals, welcome to our latest members-only briefing: The Week Ahead. Think of it as your "cheat sheet" to what everyone will be talking about on Monday.
THE CHEAT SHEET
Bottega Veneta’s High Stakes Show
- Bottega Veneta is staging its first show under creative director Daniel Lee at Milan Fashion Week on February 22
- The brand’s sales fell 6 percent to $1.1 billion in 2018, Kering reported last week
- Kering sees an opportunity to revive the label by drawing fans of the "old Celine"
Fashion shows are often an opportunity to reset a brand’s image or resuscitate flagging public interest. Rarely are the stakes as high as with Daniel Lee’s first Bottega Veneta show. Not only does the brand need to reverse sliding sales, but in hiring a Phoebe Philo protege to steer it aesthetically, Kering is clearly hoping to grab a significant portion of Celine fans unhappy with the direction Hedi Slimane has taken that label. A pre-fall collection was well-received in December, and a marketing campaign unleashed in January offered further glimpses of Lee’s vision, which emphasises the unshowy luxury that Philo-philes treasure. It all sets up for an unusually suspenseful debut; Lee is hardly an unknown quantity, but he lacks the built-in fan base and tidal wave of hype that virtually guaranteed successful transitions for other designers, including Slimane and Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton.
The Bottom Line: Kering could use a win here. The conglomerate posted stellar results last week, but growth was largely driven by Gucci.
The Rana Plaza Accord Is Under Threat
- A Bangladeshi court may decide on February 18 whether to hand oversight of worker safety to a government watchdog
- Activists say such a move would weaken a system that has dramatically improved worker safety since the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster
- Bangladesh's share of clothing exports rose from 4.2 percent in 2010 to 6.5 percent in 2017, according to the World Trade Organisation
The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, backed by hundreds of Western brands in the wake of 2013’s Rana Plaza disaster, is a rare success story for workers in the international garment trade. And it might be on its way out. A Bangladeshi court may decide Monday to hand oversight over conditions in thousands of garment factories from an international coalition to a local government watchdog. Activists and brands say local officials aren’t yet up to the task; given the recent retaliation against thousands of workers protesting declining real wages, they may have a point. Brands are in a bind. If the Accord falls, they will face pressure to move production out of Bangladesh or continue monitoring thousands of factories via third parties, two expensive and potentially logistically unfeasible options.
The Bottom Line: Brands face competing pressures from consumers to ensure clothes are produced humanely but also sold at low prices. If worker conditions deteriorate and Western labels don’t adjust their supply chains accordingly, we’ll know which is the higher priority.
Bruce Weber Tests the Waters for a Comeback
- At least 15 male models say they were sexually exploited by Bruce Weber, allegations the fashion photographer denies
- Weber has not landed major photography gigs since, but has appeared at high-profile fashion events
- His book about actor Robert Mitchum goes on sale in France this week; a related film opens in about two-dozen French theatres later this month
It would be an utterly unremarkable publicity tour for a minor documentary were it not for the man at the centre of it. The release of Mitchum X Weber is barrelling ahead in France, even as its author, Bruce Weber, battles a lawsuit in the US brought by five male models, and is dogged by similar allegations by other men. It’s all reminiscent of Louis C.K.’s comedy tour, another demonstration by a disgraced celebrity of support from fans and continued industry clout. Will it work? Louis C.K. has faced protests and online rancor at every step. But fashion is notoriously forgiving, and the industry is centred in France and Italy, where #MeToo’s impact hasn’t been felt as strongly. So while Mitchum X Weber has no US release date, and Weber remains persona non grata with Conde Nast, his career is far from over.
The Bottom Line: In the age of social media, Weber may not need the approval of Condé Nast and other gatekeepers. Weber posts regularly to over 500,000 followers on his Instagram account, where he routinely banters about puppies with elite models, editors and stylists.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
"Just hire diverse people throughout your company ... you don’t need a council you need diversity from the bottom to the top!" — London Frederick Thomas, commenting on "Prada Mounts Diversity Council as Brands Face Blackface Backlash."
Professional Exclusives You May Have Missed:
- How to address fashion's racism problem.
- Fashion prepares for Brexit disaster.
- What's ailing Mulberry?
- Can "China Day" live up to the hype?
- Will France's luxury strategy help sell more Louis Vuitton bags?
- Kering's big tax bill, explained.
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