Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The California Fur Ban

So California has become the first state to ban fur. This sounds draconian. What does that actually mean? It is true that on Friday the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, signed AB44 into law, which bans sales of new clothing and accessories (handbags, shoes, pompoms, key chains, you know) made of fur. But that does not mean that California is saying sayonara to all fur.

For the purpose of the law, fur is defined as “animal skin or part thereof with hair, fleece or fur fibers attached thereto.” For the purposes of shoppers, that means mink, sable, chinchilla, lynx, fox, rabbit, beaver, coyote and other luxury furs. Exceptions have been made for cowhide, deerskin, sheepskin and goatskin. Which means that shearling is totally fine. Exceptions have also been made for religious observances (shtreimels, the fur hats often worn by Hasidic Jews, can continue to be sold) and other traditional or cultural purposes.

Fur that is already in circulation can remain in circulation. So your grandmother’s astrakhan stole is safe. So is any aviator jacket. But how will anyone know if the fur you are wearing is old or new? The law is really about the selling of fur, not the wearing of fur. After all, it is perfectly legal for any California resident to travel to, say, Las Vegas, buy a big fur coat and show it off back home. Some fur partisans are nonetheless concerned that because it is hard to tell what is new fur and what is old fur, they will be ostracized or otherwise seen as having done something illegal if they appear in public in a fur garment. That is a legitimate worry.

What happens if a retailer cheats?

If retailers break the law, they risk incurring civil penalties, including a fine of up to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for multiple offenses.

I’ve been hearing about various fur bans for a while. This isn’t the first one, is it?

California is the first state to ban fur, but it is following the lead of a number of its own municipalities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Berkeley. A variety of countries have banned fur farming, including Serbia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Norway, Germany and the Czech Republic. And similar bills banning fur sales have been introduced in New York City and Hawaii, though they have yet to become law.

Could New York City be next?

Not really. Over the last year numerous brands have jumped on the no-fur bandwagon, including Stella McCartney, Gucci, Versace, Coach, Chanel, Prada, Burberry, Michael Kors, Giorgio Armani and Tom Ford. H&M, which is not exactly a haven of mink coats, has said it will no longer use mohair. One of the few holdouts is Fendi, which began life as a fur house, still has five outlets in California that sell fur and even has “haute fourrure” fashion shows once a year during couture. (Fendi did not respond to requests for comment on the ban.)

Still, all of this just-say-no-to-fur is not quite the sacrifice it sounds, since for many brands fur makes up a very small percentage of sales (at Coach, for example, fur accounted for less than 1 percent of its business). In California, it was an especially tiny percentage. This is true for department stores, too. Saks does not even have a dedicated fur salon in its California stores. On the other hand, fur is still popular in Miami. Cameron Silver of the vintage store Decades said in an email that while there was “a waning interest” in fur in California, “preloved fur pieces” tend to be the first to sell at trunk shows across the country.

Why is all this happening now?

The anti-fur movement has been growing for a while, but between the general conversation about the climate crisis, a raft of books like “Eating Animals,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, and the sense that fur feels very last century, and contrary to millennial value systems, consumer sentiment has begun to swing against it. And whither consumers, so, too, those that sell to them.

It makes sense, so what are the arguments against it?

They range from fur being a meaningful part of national industry, generating $1.5 billion at retail in the United States, according to the Fur Information Council of America, and accounting for more than 32,000 full-time jobs - to the fact that many of the fake alternatives are made from petroleum and other plastic-based synthetics and are generally regarded as entirely disposable, which means they end up in landfill, which means fake fur is probably worse for the environment than real fur, which is almost never thrown away.

In addition a number of communities, including African-Americans and Hasidic Jews, see fur as an important part of their cultural heritage, one on which lawmakers should not be permitted to impose their own voter-pandering morality.

What happens next?

Retailers are gaming out all sorts of possible scenarios. PETA is currently lobbying, with some success (see: ASOS) to ban the use of cashmere, silk, down and feathers. As a result, there have been a lot of doomsday scenarios floated about the slippery slope we are poised to tumble down.

Keith Kaplan, of the Fur Information Council of America (F.I.C.), issued the following statement after the California news broke: “This issue is about much more than animal welfare in the fur industry. It is about the end of animal use of any kind. Fur today, leather tomorrow, your wool blankets and silk sheets and meat after that.”

Victoria Beckham Is Giving Us Autumnal Knitwear Feels

Victoria Beckham is Stateside on business and, as well as promoting her new lip kits, she’s acting as her best brand ambassador for her autumn/winter 2019 fashion collection. En route out of JFK, the designer shrugged a check blazer over a mint Shetland wool jumper and pressed beige trousers. Of course, the entire get-up was Victoria Beckham, but it was the ultra-soft, fuzzy knit that captured our attention as a snug layering tool.

Fast forward to the following morning, and Beckham appeared on the Today Show wearing another iteration of the cropped jumper style. She styled the bright heather sweater (side note: what a delectable name!) over a check 1970s collar shirt, red flared skirt and matching over-the-knee, open-toe boots.

Head to Victoriabeckham.com and voila! The crew-neck jumpers sit pretty on Beckham’s e-tail homepage and are available to pre-order. The £450 autumnal investment buys are reflective of a collection that Vogue described as “sensual, sumptuous, and warmer” than previous edits. It was also the first time Beckham had worked with a narrative – one which she chose to retain an air of ambiguity around, but which nonetheless reflected her playful personality.

As the entrepreneur continues to grow her empire, Beckham’s ability to tap into what her customers want – an insight into her life – is invaluable, and she remains her own best advert for her brand.

Tracee Ellis Ross’s Mood-Shifting Dress

Tracee Ellis Ross’s wardrobe is a technicolour dream. From hot-pink Pyer Moss, Valentino and Christopher John Rogers to sunshine-yellow Sergio Hudson and Aje, bold colour blocking forms the foundation of her public-facing and personal looks. For her latest head-turning moment in front of the paparazzi, Ross tapped stylist Karla Welch for a look from a designer that demonstrates her love of a punchy colour palette and an offbeat narrative. She headed into the Good Morning America studios wearing a fluro check shirtdress by S.R. Studio. LA. CA..

Discerning fashion fans will recognise the brand name as that of Sterling Ruby – the American artist and long-time collaborator of Raf Simons. At Pitti Immagine Uomo in June, Ruby debuted his clothing line, or, as Vogue fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen said, his first solo foray into transforming “his textile art into functional art”.

“Not that I mind that someone has an object and hangs it on their wall,” Ruby said after the catwalk presentation, “but it’s kind of fun to think of something being worn out in the world where other people can see it.” Ross’s neon-green dress errs on the pared-back side of the spring/summer 2020 edit – which featured paint splashes, graphics and multiple textures – but the actor added Stabilo-highlighter yellow Schutz pumps for good measure.

Virgil Abloh flew into Florence to see a front row view of the artist’s latest creative output – which Ruby said was no different to creating a painting or a sculpture – and Timothée Chalamet has already sported a pair of acid-wash denim overalls by S.R. Studio. LA. CA.. Who’s next?

Meet The Kuwaiti Designer Who Creates “Own The Night” Dresses

Yousef Al-jasmi channels the glitzy fashion scene of his native Kuwait into hyper-embellished gowns that look like they have been poured onto the bodies of the Kardashians, Paris Hilton and the world’s pop-music titans.

Yousef Al-jasmi fell into fashion after an enchanting encounter with a scrap of gold fabric. His designer sister left the material on the kitchen table at home in Kuwait and her younger brother couldn’t resist its tactility. He began playing dress-up, draping the luminescent sample over a mannequin, until eventually the blueprint of a one-shoulder minidress was formed. Two days later, his sister informed him that six of her clients had enquired about purchasing the design. “I decided to run with it,” Al-jasmi tells Vogue. Years later, his client list is an A-Z of Hollywood’s biggest names, from Beyoncé and Cardi B to the Jenner-Kardashian clan.

“I create dresses that are meant to own the night,” Al-jasmi says of his USP. “My designs are for those who want to be seen, and to make a scene (a grand entrance of sorts).” He is not wrong: a Yousef Aljasmi (his brand loses the he hyphen after the definite article) gown lights up a red carpet, stage or party owing to the high-shine combination of coloured sequins and Swarovski crystals encrusted onto the mesh tulle base. The secret to their popularity among the A-list is the fact that the perfect beadwork looks like it has literally been dripped over its wearer’s body. From sketch to fruition, the form-fitting confections – which Al-jasmi promises are easy to manoeuvre in – take hundreds of hours to finesse by his 150-strong team in Kuwait.

Al-jasmi’s first pinch-me moment – and, accordingly, his favourite design to date – came shortly after launching in 2015, when Paris Hilton commissioned him to create a statuesque silver gown replete with sheer panels for the Grammys. A call from the Kardashians came shortly after, and pictures of Khloé, Kendall and Kylie partying in Yousef Aljasmi at Kris Jenner’s 60th birthday surfaced on the family’s social media channels.

Beyoncé, too, was an early adopter. “She was actually the muse for one of my first collections,” grins Al-jasmi. The pop titan ended up wearing one of the twinkling bodysuits from this inaugural line in the video for “Sorry” in 2016. “She’s the queen!” chimes Al-jasmi. Scroll down the brand’s Instagram feed and there are five images of Bey wearing a golden fantasy gown to the opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta last week.

This year, the creative realised his dream of dressing Céline Dion, when the singer asked him to design dazzling looks for her Courage album cover and the corresponding tour. “My gowns have been on the bodies of some of the most influential women,” he affirms. “I have been able to accomplish more than I ever dreamed possible.” By “influential”, Al-jasmi is also referring to the well-heeled audience in his homeland, who often stop by his atelier for bespoke pieces to wear to the lavish weddings and galas he says are du jour in Kuwait.

On how Al-jasmi plans to evolve his aesthetic beyond his bauble-esque ballgowns, he says simply: “I always go with my gut feeling and trust my instincts on what the worldly woman would like to wear. My designs capture a character trait rather than an age.” You get the feeling that demand for his unabashed, feel-good glamour is not about to wane.

Angelina Jolie Shines In Ralph & Russo’s Opulent Couture At London’s Maleficent Premiere

It was a family affair at the London premiere of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, as Angelina Jolie wore her most ornate custom tour look to date alongside her children, Zahara, Shiloh, Vivienne and Knox. The glittering silver gown with gold bodice detailing and diaphanous back draping is the work of Ralph & Russo – the first British couture label in a century to gain admittance to the Paris’s Fédération de la Haute Couture in 2014.

The connection between actor and couturier has long existed off the red carpet. Jolie collected her honorary damehood the same year wearing an immaculately cut dove grey skirt suit by the house. It was emblematic of the wealth of separates interspersed among Ralph & Russo’s fairytale gowns that cater to the brand’s young clientele – a fan base that has allowed the brand to quietly rule the couture game since it set up shop in Knightsbridge in 2007.

Speaking of those red-carpet ready gowns dripping in embellishment, the Australian-born couple (Tamara Ralph acts as creative director while Michael Russo is CEO) created a bespoke look for Jolie to wear in her titular role in the Disney film. If the elaborate beadwork on the actor’s London gown – and, indeed, the gold fringed autumn/winter 2019 couture look she wore at the Japan premiere – is a barometer of what to expect, hours and hours of painstakingly detailed work will have gone into the costume.

The shimmering silver confection, which Jolie accented with Cartier High Jewellery, is also a departure from the Maleficent promo looks that have been leading to London. The bewitching black Atelier Versace gowns with their perfect corsetry seem to have referenced the impactful uniform of Jolie’s villainous character in the film series. Whether her shining Ralph & Russo gown is a reflection of Maleficent’s evolution in the film remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Jolie always uses the red carpet as a platform to show off the spoils of her relationships with the world’s most respected couture houses.

Chanel’s Latest Power Move Is Good News For The Future Of Its Craft

Chanel has bought minority stakes in two Italian leather goods makers and a French clothing manufacturer in a bid to bolster the speciality ateliers that make up its supply chain. Building out its network of artisans cost the business $169 million (£138 million) when the deal was made in January.

The new acquisitions consist of Renato Corti, one of Italy’s largest leather manufacturers based in Florence and Milan, and Mabi, which produces luxury handbags in factories in Florence and San Daniele. Chanel now holds a 40 per cent stake in both. The French company Grandis, which the house bought a 34 per cent stake in, is comprised of 12 workshops creating tailoring, flou, lingerie, swimwear and leather.

“If we want to remain the leader in luxury over the next 20 years, we have to make investments and take risks in areas we consider key for the future,” Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion, told WWD. “We are not necessarily looking to buy more companies, but rather to ensure these suppliers remain important contributors to the development of our products.”

Chanel is doubling down on skilled leather manufacturers and tanneries after it halted the use of exotic skins in December 2018. “There’s a lot we can do with leather right now,” Pavlovsky continued. “I think the secret in the future will be a mix of approaches blending traditional leather, as we know it today, with new materials and finishes.” The house has invested in research around alternatives to skins, but predicts the resulting leather substitutes will not be ready to share for at least a decade.

Pavlovsky also added that the house will do whatever it takes to safeguard the yarn suppliers of its signature tweeds, whether that means the company making more acquisitions, or signing purchasing agreements. Upping its investments supports the reiterations of Philippe Blondiaux, Chanel’s global chief financial officer, that “Chanel is not for sale”.

Progress on the structural work around a new craftsmanship headquarters in Aubervilliers, France, is also being made. Slated to open in the third quarter of 2020, the site has officially been named 19M – after the number of Parisian districts adjoining the sprawling centre, and the French words in the fashion vocabulary beginning with M, such as “mode”, “main” and “métier”. Six hundred employees of the ateliers that Chanel is famed for working with – including embroiderers Lesage and Montex; feather and flower specialist Lemarié; and milliner Maison Michel – will all be housed in the five-floor building with two additional basements.

The investments secure Chanel’s place at the top of the luxury leaderboard, but beyond that the house is striving to preserve the know-how of the unique manufacturers that are central to fashion’s craft. Chanel’s Paraffection subsidiary division – which supplies 35 brands worldwide, including 19 members of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode – plans to employ 80 to 100 people across its bases in France, Italy, Spain and Scotland every year. It will also partner with 10 schools to organise training and exchanges. “We have to stimulate interest in these careers,” Pavlovsky continued. [Chanel and its affiliate ateliers have] to be a place where young people want to come.”

Gucci’s Global Head Of Diversity Is The Outsider Fashion Needs

On a hot Wednesday morning in the last week of August at Gucci’s US headquarters in lower Manhattan, it was time to clock in. Employees scurried through the loft-like office space just before 9 a.m. carrying laptops, stacks of papers, and garment bags. In a medium-size conference room sat two members of Gucci’s public relations team, along with a make-up artist and hairstylist, all waiting patiently for the subject of the morning’s scheduled photo shoot to arrive. It wasn’t Alessandro Michele’s muse Jared Leto, or the face of the new Mémoire d’une Odeur fragrance Harry Styles. After a few moments of waiting, in walked a tall woman dressed in a simple white blouse and grey trousers. Everyone around the room sat up in attention when she entered. “Hi, guys,” she said. Her name is Renée Tirado, and she was there to talk business.

In late July, Tirado was hired by Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzarri to be the global head of diversity, equity, and inclusion, a first-time appointment in the brand’s 98-year history. The position was created as part of a company-wide initiative that Bizzarri first put into action in January 2019 and then in February, after Gucci came under fire for producing a balaclava sweater that shoppers claimed to resemble blackface. Someone tweeted the image, called out the brand, and the controversy went viral. The company subsequently issued an apology and pulled the sweater off the market. Then in March Bizzarri announced a new programme called Gucci Changemakers, which includes an internal volunteering initiative to help get Gucci employees into their local communities, a scholarship programme, and a grant programme for community non-profits. All of this is overseen by a Changemakers council, which Tirado is leading.

“I am one of very few people in the diversity, equity, and inclusion discipline that is directly reporting to the CEO of the company,” Tirado says. “Some companies have had diversity and inclusion departments for 10, 15 years, but more often than not, this department is sitting in another space, in another building.” She adds, “The fact that Marco said, ‘No, no, you are going to report to me,’ I mean, that’s a game-changing conversation for diversity, equity, and inclusion. He wants me engaged, he wants me at the table.”

Tirado says Bizzarri wanted her precisely because she had absolutely nothing to do with the fashion industry. She grew up in Brooklyn’s Gowanus projects to Puerto Rican parents, graduated from Rutgers University School of Law, and practiced intellectual property law in Harlem before going to work at AIG and the male-dominated Major League Baseball corporation. While at MLB, Tirado was charged with launching the Take The Field initiative, which helped women seek out operational positions as coaches, umpires, and scouts. “Marco said to me, ‘I need you because you’re not in fashion, you’re an outside thinker and I need a different perspective in the room.’”

Tirado says, “I didn’t always feel like Gucci spoke to me personally when I was just a casual consumer. Before Alessandro Michele, the house’s creative director, and Marco were hired, Gucci was something you wanted to have aspirationally, but sometimes it was hard because you didn’t always see yourself reflected in the stores or the advertisements.” Now she sees Gucci as a leader around the issues of diversity and inclusion. “They hired Dapper Dan [after Michele was accused of copying the Harlem designer], they gave him a bigger platform to create. They responded immediately and pulled the blackface sweater. They’ve been inclusive on their runways and they’ve redefined the parameters of beauty.”

That said, Tirado insists, “there’s still work to do; there’s always work to do.” She’s eager to put strategies in place to better ensure that the Changemaker money is being allocated with real, lasting purpose and that more investment, both financially and in terms of corporate culture, is provided to create forward-thinking shifts at Gucci and in the communities that are influenced by the brand.

Today, in fact, Gucci has announced that it is now accepting applications for the scholarship and grant programmes, which are open to all eligible students within (or applying to) a four-year university or college in the United States. Gucci has pledged to distribute $1.5 million (£1.2 million) over four years across two programmes specifically: the Gucci Changemakers Scholars and Gucci Changemakers x CFDA Scholars by Design. In addition to the scholarships, Gucci Changemakers is also calling on non-profits to apply for the Impact Fund, which will award grant funding to community-based organisations focused on social justice and equity, arts and culture, and education.

Internally, Tirado says, “I would love to see some more developmental opportunities for the talent we already have here.” She added, “You’d be surprised at how diverse Gucci already is, but like a lot of companies, as you go up the food chain, the diversity kind of drops off. That’s not unique to Gucci, that’s across the board. So what I would like to see – no, not what I’d like to see, what I’d like to develop and invest in, is really figuring out how do we assess the talent we already have, invest in them appropriately, and provide a real developmental track and treat them like the future leaders of the company?”

Tirado wants to encourage Gucci employees from the retail level on up to work towards a high-powered, high-paying job within the company. “I say fish where the fish are,” she says. “And we have a pretty full pond right here, we just have to look at how we’re defining and assessing talent, and sometimes we have to get out of our own way. We tend to lean into what we know and what’s familiar to us, and we’re always moving so quickly. I think it’s a matter of slowing down to speed up.” One of her first tasks is to hone in on strategies across the markets that Gucci has a presence in, namely Asia, which is an entirely new challenge for her as a diversity, equity, and inclusion professional. Her work at AIG and MLB was mostly domestic and sometimes based in Europe. “We need to see how we can help the brand stay relevant as our consumers are changing. We have to make sure that we’re speaking to those communities both actualised and those that are potential future buyers, so that we make sure Gucci stays here for another 100 years.”

The photographer at the August photo shoot is Richie Shazam Khan. She is a queer model, designer, photographer, and self-made Renaissance woman who is Guyanese and grew up in Queens. As Khan worked behind the lens, she and Tirado talked about how much New York has changed and the constraints that a surge of incoming wealth has put on the indie arts and design communities that foster young creatives. Khan went from studying art history and international relations (Tirado studied the latter too as an undergrad) to building up a name for herself as a fashion star and activist on social media, walking the runway for Vivienne Westwood, shooting for Vogue and other major publications and, most recently, appearing in Rihanna’s epic Savage X Fenty lingerie show. American Dream realised? It’s the kind of success story that Tirado wants to replicate within the logoed halls of Gucci.