Hello BoF Professionals, your exclusive 'This Week in Fashion' briefing is ready, with members-only analysis on the key topic of the week and a digest of the week's top news.
The women’s fashion weeks began one month ago, starting on Wednesday, February 6, in New York, and ending on Tuesday, March 5, in Paris. That’s a long haul, and somehow it feels longer than ever before. Perhaps that’s because, for most of the industry, Fashion Week no longer works the way it used to. Editors and stylists can peruse looks online and buyers can write purchase orders via virtual showrooms.
There is one place, however, where Instagram is not enough: Paris, the world’s first fashion capital, and possibly its last, where more and more of the business of fashion seems to be consolidating.
In the new world order, Paris still matters. The brand mix is ideal. The industry’s most-watched designers are fighting to run the most famous houses, emerging talents are fighting for a chance to be heard and fading stars are fighting for relevance. Old, young, new, established. Evolution. Revolution.
It’s all there, and the throngs flock, even if it’s no long necessary for them to do so. In Paris, the industry shows up: for the dinners, for the parties and for the industry chit chat.
But while there are more intangible reason for going to Paris, there’s also the really practical bits. To be a globally viable brand, it seems you have to sell your products in Paris.
Sure, it’s possible for buyers to place orders online, and many do. But Paris is the only city where the majority of retailers are committed to visiting every season. They still want to see the clothes up close. For young designers working to prove their collection’s worth, making in-person connections with buyers from major growth markets like Asia is crucial. It’s why both the British Fashion Council and the Council of Fashion Designers of America host events there showcasing the most promising young talent working in their respective countries.
Better-established designers are making extra efforts to be there, too, opening permanent showrooms in the city even if they live and present an ocean away.
"It was very clear that we need our own space that reflected our collections visually, but was also a necessary tool from a business perspective," said New York-based designer Gabriela Hearst, who opened a permanent showroom in the city one year ago. "We are seeing the majority of our clients in Paris."
Over the past years, many American designers have chosen to move their shows from New York to Paris, including Joseph Altuzarra and Thom Browne. Some — including Proenza Schouler and Rodarte — have retreated. But even those who remain on the New York schedule have chosen to host more casual presentations or dinners for VIPs in Paris. They know they won’t catch them anywhere else.
For instance, New York-based designer Bibhu Mohapatra, who, like Hearst, still shows in his home city, has expanded his market week overseas, bringing on Paris-based Christine Pancrate to manage global sales, including sales in the US market. "We have realised that more and more of our retail partners prefer to see the collection in Paris," he said. "Not only that, but a lot of our high net worth clients also prefer to see the collection there."
The concentration of energy, and also power, is real. Paris’ multi-brand showrooms are pleased to report a windfall both in sales and foot-traffic, thanks to the industry’s commitment to showing up for Paris Fashion Week.
International showroom and business accelerator Tomorrow saw a 30 percent uplift in both foot traffic and appointments in Paris from the same time last year, and is projecting that sales will increase at a similar rate, according to commercial director Elena Troulakis. This season, Tomorrow also launched a new concept, a second Paris location called Tomorrow Le Palais, which features emerging brands including Colville, Ambush, Coperni and Pyer Moss.
"With Paris playing an increasingly fundamental part of a brand’s success today, we wanted to create a platform where brands can be properly showcased, and where the market can engage in an experience that offers something more, and enables the brand to grow further," said Tomorrow chief executive Stefano Martinetto.
Maria Lemos, who runs the multi-city showroom Rainbowwave, representing brands including Koche and Extreme Cashmere, said that its biggest presence is in Paris, and that some US store even write orders there instead of during the New York shows. (Retailers have a better sense of allocation by the time they land in Paris. They don't want to blow their budgets in New York.)
"It is certain that Paris is the most important of all the fashion cities with regards to buyers' presence," Lemos said, adding that, in addition to the runway, trade shows like Tranoi and Premiere Classe also attract retailers.
Now, as the Autumn/Winter 2019 season closes, designers are plotting their next moves, figuring out how they can make their presence known in late June and early July when the city will sparkle again with men’s and couture shows.
It’s good for business. It’s also essential for the industry to acknowledge this and encourage it. To have one meeting place where real human connections can be made, minimising chaos and the dilution of the remaining value of fashion week, is a practical luxury. In a fantasy world, Paris Fashion Week could be the global fashion week, where the industry gathers twice a year — for the chit chat, but also for the dollars and euros.
For now, many designers will continue to stage runway shows in other cities. But each and every one should seriously evaluate their return on investment, and consider allocating some of that money to being present in the city where everyone wants to be.
Right now in fashion, all roads lead to Paris.
THE NEWS IN BRIEF
FASHION, BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY
Calvin Klein is closing its ready-to-wear business. The PVH-owned brand is exiting its luxury collection business, closing its office in Milan and laying off staff in New York. Michelle Kessler-Sanders, president of the 205W39NYC ready-to-wear business, will leave the company in June, and about 100 people — or 1 percent of PVH's global workforce — will be affected overall. After chief creative officer Raf Simons's departure at the end of 2018, these changes are not unexpected.
Diesel USA files for bankruptcy. The premium denim and accessory brand, whose five-pocket pants dominated pop culture in the 1990s and early 2000s, has filed for bankruptcy, blaming plummeting sales, a botched turnaround, pricey leases and unwavering landlords. But the division of Italian Diesel doesn’t plan to shutter, describing a plan to restore the brand in the US with new stores and retrofitting old stores to make them cheaper to operate.
Abercrombie soars on upbeat forecast as sales top estimates. Comparable sales increased for a sixth consecutive quarter and net sales are predicted to rise 2 to 4 percent. The company’s teen-focused Hollister continued to resonate with consumers with sales growth of 6 percent, more than twice analyst estimates. The company continues to struggle to reinvigorate its namesake Abercrombie brand, which posted a 2 percent drop in comparable sales.
L Brands investor pushes for Victoria's Secret spinoff. Activist investor Barington Capital has urged L Brands to separate its Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works businesses, in an effort to turn around the struggling consumer brands owner. He urged the company to retain advisers and explore either a spin off of the underperforming VS brand or take the much financially stronger Bath & Body Works public. L Brands shares rose 3 percent after Barington's announcement.
Hugo Boss expects strong growth in Asia and online. The German luxury house is expecting its operating profit to rise faster than sales in 2019, predicting strong momentum in its online business and Asia. Known for its smart men's suits, Hugo Boss has introduced more casual and sportswear styles to appeal to a younger audience and invested heavily in its online offer after a bid to go upmarket backfired a few years ago. It reached sales of more than €100 million in 2018 for the first time.
Rent the Runway partners expands into home decor. The New York-based rental company, which has previously only worked with designer apparel and accessories, will partner with furniture brand West Elm to allow subscribers to rent home decor. Customers will be able to try out soft home goods — including quilts, blankets, shams and decorative pillows — made by West Elm beginning in the summer. The items will be available in 26 "bundles" ranging in retail value from $150 to $450.
THE BUSINESS OF BEAUTY
With Glossier Play, Instagram's favourite beauty brand plots its next chapter. Following intentionally cryptic messaging and a great deal of internet speculation about Glossier's new brand, Glossier Play arrived Monday, including glitter gel, lip lacquer and an eyeliner pencil. Glossier's independence from retail partners means that it does not need to coordinate inventory and marketing with demanding third-party retailers, or educate associates across thousands of stores on how to deliver the perfect sales pitch to customers. The launch was the culmination of founder and chief executive Emily Weiss's business model implemented nearly five years ago.
Zalando expands beauty range to five new markets. Europe's biggest online-only fashion retailer will offer beauty products in Sweden and Denmark immediately, and later France, Belgium and Italy — and add more brands from Estée Lauder. Zalando started selling women's beauty products a year ago in Germany in a bid to counter a fall in average order size and boost profitability by encouraging customers to add a lipstick when they buy a dress.
Ulta continues sexual wellness expansion with indie brand Fur. As the lines between beauty and wellness continue to blur, Ulta Beauty is making moves to offer deeper assortments of both to its customer. Its latest pubic oil brand Fur will hit the masses with its niche offering (it sells ingrown hair concentrates too) at Ulta Beauty in May, part of the retailer's sexual wellness push.
At 21, Kylie Jenner becomes the youngest self-made billionaire ever. After three years of selling her Kylie Cosmetics products only online and briefly in pop-up shops, Jenner marked a milestone in mid-November with a visit to a strip mall. After signing an exclusive distribution deal with Ulta, the beauty retailer, Kylie Cosmetics rolled its $29 lip kits into Ulta’s 1,000-plus stores. Six weeks later, Kylie Cosmetics then sold an estimated $54.5 million worth of products in Ulta. The company is worth at least $900 million and she owns all of it.
Ted Baker CEO resigns after misconduct allegations. Ray Kelvin has resigned amid an investigation of his conduct, including allegations of unwanted hugs in the workplace. Kelvin had taken a voluntary leave of absence from the chief executive role in December as the board hired law firm Herbert Smith Freehills to investigate. He has denied the allegations. The fashion chain’s shares plunged last week after it said profit for the year was hurt by adverse currency movements and other factors.
Beautycon announces president. The consumer-facing trade show for beauty obsessives has appointed Alicia Valencia to the newly created role of president, as of March 4. Valencia joins the company from Pat McGrath Cosmetics, where she was global general manager, and reports to Beautycon chief executive Moj Mahdara.
MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY
Alibaba announces first major B2B partnership in US. The Chinese e-commerce giant's business-to-business trading platform has forged its first major US partnership as it teams up with Office Depot. The partnership will use the business supplies distributor’s network to create a new online destination and build out its offering to small businesses. The deal gives Alibaba access to 10 million business customers and 1,800 sales agents.
JD.com launches store on Google shopping site. The Chinese e-commerce company has launched a store called Joybuy on Google Express, the online shopping site owned by the search engine of Alphabet. The quiet launch marks the latest development in an ongoing tie-up between Alphabet and JD.com, as each aims to take on respective rivals Amazon and Alibaba Group.
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