Thursday, January 14, 2021

Naomi Osaka Is Louis Vuitton’s Newest Brand Ambassador

Naomi Osaka’s rapid ascent to success as a tennis champion has been, it’s safe to say, stratospheric. Only qualifying to enter her first Grand Slam tournament in 2016, within two years, the Japanese-American player had won both the US Open and the Australian Open. In 2020, she became the highest-earning female athlete in the world.

Her trajectory as an up-and-coming style star has been thrilling to watch as well. Not only is there her willingness to push the boundaries with fashion off the court – just take her collaboration with the Japanese label ADEAM at New York Fashion Week last spring – but also her use of style to embrace and celebrate her heritage, paying tribute to her Haitian roots by wearing everything from kente head wraps to Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss. Finally, there is her keen instinct for fashion as a means of activism. As just one example, for her appearance at last year’s US Open, where she won her third Grand Slam title, Osaka wore a series of protective face masks powerfully honouring Black victims of police brutality. 


Now, Naomi Osaka is debuting her first campaign with a luxury fashion house: Louis Vuitton. For the brand’s spring 2021 campaign, shot by creative director Nicolas Ghesquière, Osaka wears a playful, kaleidoscopic minidress that feels perfectly in keeping with the tennis pro’s love of bold colour and print. It also marks the beginning of Osaka’s new and ongoing role as an ambassador for the house, with further collaborative projects in the pipeline.

“Aside from tennis, my most treasured passion is fashion, and there is no brand more iconic than Louis Vuitton,” says Osaka. “It is such an honour to work with Nicolas – he’s a designer I admire so much and we share a mutual love of Japanese culture and style. To become a global brand ambassador is truly a dream come true for me.” Clearly, the feeling is mutual. In Ghesquière’s words: “Naomi is an exceptional woman who represents her generation and is also a role model for everyone. Her career and convictions are inspiring. I am in awe of Naomi, she stays true to herself and doesn’t compromise on her values.”

While Osaka’s taste for wearing agenda-setting labels has spanned the likes of Comme des Garçons and Sacai in the past, she first wore Louis Vuitton for her appearance on the cover of US Vogue’s January issue, which debuted last month. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz against a backdrop of blue sky and swirling clouds, the tennis champion’s asymmetric Louis Vuitton slip dress served as a stunning reminder that her approach to style is just as fierce as her conduct on the court. With a new chapter as an ambassador for the storied French fashion house, it seems Osaka’s style journey is just getting started.

How Will Paris Fashion Week Fare Behind Closed Doors?

As cities continue to pivot operations in a bid to curb the shifting threat of coronavirus, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode has made clear the framework for the men's and Haute Couture shows this season allowing the events to take place only behind closed doors and audience-free.

Without guests, French houses face the same headwinds they did with the onset of the virus nearly a year ago– engagement. Paris Fashion Week’s greatest asset is perhaps what happens on the peripheral, off the fringes of the runway itself, the in between moments that allow all ends of the industry to collide at once and then resurface on social media for the world to see. Slated from January 19 to 24, designers are again looking to reinterpret tradition and honor house codes all while conveying a narrative in the digital multiverse.


Brands like Dior and Louis Vuitton had visions of resurrecting the physical show after a year of snubbing them for “phygital” interpretations. Now, according to the federation’s Executive Vice President Pascal Morand, any physical interpretation of their collections has been relegated to live stream/pre-recorded renditions, airing on the federation’s online hub, created in partnership with data research and insights company, Launchmetrics.

But within the internal scape of fashion, Paris Fashion Week can seem an occult observance, one that nearly shoulders all the traditional heft of the industry, and defines the modus and edge of creative directors all within their fleeting reign. In fashion’s capital city, is a digital shift sufficient a second time around?

“We’re now at the height of the digital revolution, which has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Morand. “The digitization of Fashion Week will never replace in-person events but it will largely enrich and amplify creative expression and communication.”

A push towards the virtual realm allows designers the unique opportunity to translate more than their sartorial acumen to the public. Launchmetric’s platform will allow access to editorial content: interviews, behind-the-scenes reels, and curated commentary from media pundits, maisons, organizations and cultural foundations, alongside brand videos and seasonal images; industry insiders will be able to tap into new resources, putting press rooms and the showroom modus online.


As the pandemic continues to restructure any outlying silos of the fashion industry, it’s essential the luxury standard translates digitally. For high-priced investments, three-dimensional visuals are near necessary to ensure quality and justify purchases.

While the suspense of PFW’s return is tabled for the time being, Paris is still on the heels of a creative shift for three major houses. The catwalks at Chloe, Givenchy, and Fendi will pivot under the painterly eyes of new creative directors assuming their roles, suspending us in anticipation for their debut. Kim Jones succeeding the late Karl Lagerfeld, plans to show at the Palais Brongniart for his artistic unveiling of Fendi; he remains artistic director of Dior Men. Elsewhere, Gabriela Hearst assumes the past role of Natacha Ramsay-Levi as Chloe’s creative director, while maintaining her eponymous, NY-based line, and Matthew Williams emerges in Clare Waight Keller’s footsteps at the creative helm of Givenchy’s storied heritage.

Without pause, this season’s shows will surely attempt to blur the line between digital and physical, just with parred back decadence, insularity, and sacrosanctity. All told, in absence of a runway, everything may become a bit more formulaic, less of a luxury play, less spectacle, perhaps even more business-as-usual.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Paris Police Say Fashion Week Will Be Audience Free

Putting an end to the uncertainty hovering over the Paris men’s and haute couture fashion shows, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode has advised brands that they won’t be allowed to invite guests this season.

Relaying instructions from the city’s police authorities, French fashion’s organizing body said physical gatherings were prohibited as the country struggles to curb the coronavirus pandemic. France emerged from lockdown on Dec. 15, but restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and museums remain closed.

“The instructions from the Paris police headquarters stipulate that there should be no public attendance, whether it is for fashion shows or any other event,” Pascal Morand, executive president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, told WWD.

However, filming is authorized, meaning the handful of brands who planned to stage physical shows can either record or livestream their displays, he added. One-on-one meetings have also been green-lighted for those brands offering in-person showroom appointments, providing strict security guidelines are respected.

While a nightly curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. remains in place in Paris, the French government recently tightened the rules for some other regions, with curfews beginning at 6 p.m., and has not ruled out additional measures.

That has created an unpredictable environment for men’s fashion week, which features a full slate of international designers over six days, according to the federation’s preliminary schedule. The calendar runs from Jan. 19 to 24, but so far details only dates and times, not formats. The definitive schedule is due to be published on Tuesday.


It was understood that some brands — including Louis Vuitton and Dior — initially hoped to stage physical fashion shows with small audiences, health conditions permitting. Those brands have yet to confirm their revised plans, while many others have still not finalized their arrangements, less than two weeks before the start of the event.

The federation usually lists men’s shows and presentations on separate calendars, but united them given the unusual circumstances created by the pandemic, which has driven brands big and small, new and established, to mostly digital formats.

Last June and July saw the first all-digital Paris Fashion Weeks for men and haute couture, with most designers and brands opting for creative videos. The federation partnered with Launchmetrics to build its online hub, which broadcast the films alongside editorial content, online events and a digital showroom.

The women’s ready-to-wear shows in late September and early October featured a mix of digital presentations and physical shows by brands including Dior, Chanel, Hermès and Balmain. Those that staged hybrid events, including a physical fashion show, fared better globally than those opting for a strictly online presence, data showed.

Paris has become the preeminent European fashion week for men’s wear, although some brands have gone coed and moved to the February/March women’s calendar, including the likes of Balmain, Valentino and Givenchy.

Dior’s Spring Ads Are As Lush As Caravaggio Paintings

For its spring 2021 campaign, Dior turned to photographer Elina Kechicheva to stage a series of tableaux inspired by the Old Masters.

Known for her painterly use of light, Kechicheva posed models in striking compositions reminiscent of the paintings of Caravaggio, whose pioneering form of realism and intense use of chiaroscuro strongly influenced the development of Baroque painting.

“Celebrating excellence in savoir-faire and creation in all its forms — from Virginia Woolf’s feminist essays to militant collages by Lucia Marcucci that enhanced the staging of the show — the collection is captured in a campaign brimming with the unique power of painting,” the brand said in a statement.


The images, starring Levi Achthoven, Maryel Uchida, Sculy Mejia, Judith Frament and Holly Fischer, were styled by Elin Svahn, with art direction by Fabien Baron. Peter Philips did the makeup, and Guido Palau the hair. The campaign is set to break on Jan. 10.

After several seasons of minimalist ads lensed by Brigitte Niedermair, Dior signaled its new visual direction with its cruise campaign, which featured models in a pre-Raphaelite setting, bathed in dappled light or seen through clouds of dust.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Alexander Wang Denies Accusations Of Sexual Assault As His Accusers Hire A Lawyer

Alexander Wang, once one of American fashion’s brightest stars, is responding to allegations of sexual assault and harassment. On 29 December, the modelling watchdog account @ShitModelMgmt posted a message to its feed alleging that Wang was “a sexual predator.” The unverified allegations of sexual misconduct posted on the site were supported by several anonymous messages sent to the account via direct message, as well as by TikTok videos posted on 11 December and 13 December by the model and designer Owen Mooney, who said that he was groped by Wang at a club in 2017.

When Wang launched his business in 2007, his fame was almost instant. In 2009, the CFDA gave Wang the Swarovski Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, recognizing his downtown, model-off-duty aesthetic as a defining look of that moment. His infamous gas station party in 2009 was the first of many WangFests, which helped draw international attention to New York Fashion Week. By 2012, he was named the creative director of Balenciaga, taking over from Nicolas Ghesquière and becoming the rare American at the helm of a Parisian luxury brand. While that three-year tenure offered a sportier take on Balenciaga’s couture shapes, his eponymous label became synonymous with a party-girl lifestyle. He was the go-to designer for celebrities with irreverent taste, accompanying many starlets and models to the annual Met Gala.

Wang’s alleged misconduct has been discussed previously on social media as early as 2017 and within the trans community; several of Wang’s accusers are trans. But, in the light of the December allegations garnering a groundswell of coverage from @DietPrada, the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Business of Fashion, the unverified accusations against Wang are being taken more seriously by the industry at large.

The designer provided a statement to Vogue about the allegations, which he also posted on his personal Instagram account: “Firstly, I’d like to take the opportunity to connect directly with the people who have helped me grow this brand into what it is today and address the recent false, fabricated, and mostly anonymous accusations against me. While I have always been active in my social life, frequently attending various industry gatherings, parties, and concerts where drugs and alcohol were present – contrary to what has been said, I have never taken advantage of others in a sexual manner or forced anything on anyone without consent. I also have never abused my status or fame for my own benefit. These baseless allegations were started on social media by sites which repeatedly disregarded the value and importance of evidence or fact checking. It’s my priority to prove these accusations are untrue and are fuelled by solely opportunistic motives. It is important for people to speak up and be heard but there is a need to ensure accusations are credible, so that we don’t harm these important causes. Our team is doing everything in its power to investigate these claims and we promise to remain honest and transparent throughout that process. We are fortunate to have received an overwhelming amount of support over the last few days and are thankful to our staff, clients, and industry peers for standing by our side at this time.”


The people accusing Wang of sexual harassment and assault are planning potential legal action. Lisa Bloom, the well-known lawyer who has represented many victims of sexual assault, is representing several of them. In an email to Vogue, Bloom wrote: “The fashion industry is long overdue for a reckoning of its frequent, disturbing mistreatment of models. I’ve represented many alleging sexual misconduct in recent years. [...] Models are not props, and they have the same rights to workplace respect as everyone else.” She added: “I thank everyone who has reached out in support, and I’m happy to speak for free and confidentially to any others, including witnesses.”

Mooney, who came forward on TikTok, told Business of Fashion in a statement, “Over the several years since it happened, I have never kept what happened to me a secret. I have always been very open and vocal to friends and family about it. Most of my close ones know this is something that happened to me ... I was sickened and shocked I was not the only victim of his behaviour. So, I felt it was necessary to stand with these people and say his name out loud.”

The public relations firm representing Wang sent several testimonials from people within the fashion industry in support of the designer. Alice Barlow, the CEO of the production company Barlow and Sons that counts the brand as a client said: “I produced multiple Alexander Wang runway shows and parties (both [for his] brand and personal) over the past few years and have personally witnessed and heard only positive praise for Alex and his professionalism.”

Heather Hughes, an agent at Elite Model Management, wrote: “Alex and I have known each other for almost 15 years. We have collaborated closely on many projects over the years. He always treats models as human beings, and celebrates who they are as people. His hard work has led to much success, yet he remains one of the kindest people in our business.”

Many others have come out in support of the alleged victims, including The Model Alliance, an organisation that advocates for the fair treatment of models in the fashion industry and has brought many other instances of abuse within the modelling world to light.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

In an Increasingly Digital World, Bottega Veneta Signs Off From Social Media

Phygital was unquestionably the fashion word of 2020, used to signify runway events that included both IRL and URL components. The practice of marrying the real and the digital worlds is only gaining traction for 2021 as brands prepare fall collections that will need to fuse tactile, increasingly tender experiences for retailers, press, stylists, and VIP customers with engaging virtual activations that keep social media users talking. So imagine the surprise when this morning, without explanation, Bottega Veneta deleted all of its social media accounts. No more Twitter updates, no more Instagram photos, and no more Facebook posts from the Italian luxury brand that has, under creative director Daniel Lee, become a rising star in Kering’s portfolio. 

On social media—where else?—the fashion industry was quick to comment at the news, balking at the idea of a brand as powerful and on the rise as Bottega Veneta going dark. But maybe the ultimate luxury in this new phygital world is actually logging off, erasing all traces of one’s digital footprint, and trying to inhabit a purely three-dimensional space.

The longer you think about it—and I’ve been thinking about it since 8 a.m. this morning, which is a lifetime online—the more the strategy makes sense for Bottega Veneta. Last month Lee told my colleague Nicole Phelps that he doesn’t believe in digital fashion shows (he opted for a salon performance with a two-month image embargo instead). And of course he worked under the famously offline Phoebe Philo during her tenure at Celine. Back then, Celine barely had a website and did not offer e-commerce, a decision that turned its stores into sacred spaces of style.


Hermès has employed a similar strategy to turn its products into whispered-about and fawned-over pieces, coveted by the ultrarich and ultra-tasteful. The Row, the closest American equivalent, uses social media and e-commerce sparingly and with a cool touch, preferring to woo shoppers into its tasteful boutiques. Think back to a time before social media—the fax age!—and there are plenty of examples of press-shy designers being good for a brand’s bottom line. In 2015, Alber Elbaz may have put it best: “When you see too much of a designer, it means that it’s not too much of a good piece and they need to do too much publicity to push it forward.”

In Mark Holgate’s retail report analyzing what sold in 2020, seven of the 10 retailers surveyed listed Bottega Veneta among their best-selling brands. Bottega Veneta has become so hot that Lee and co. don’t need to do much to inspire sales—other than, of course, continue to produce irreverently elegant clothing and accessories. Chances are those stores—including Ssense, the RealReal, Net-a-Porter, Threads Styling, Rebag, Saks, and Editorialist YX—will invest their own budgets into promoting their best-selling Bottega Veneta items.

Celebrities and influencers will do their part as well. The proliferation of Bottega Veneta’s lime green puddle boots, a late 2020 release that quickly became the year’s It item on social media, is proof. There’s also Kylie Jenner’s Christmas outfit, a backless red sequin B.V. gown, and the many celebrity style moments from the year just passed—including Rihanna and Hailey Bieber in Bottega’s fringed coat—that keep the brand in the public conversation. B.V. can’t tag @bottegaveneta on Instagram anymore, but celebrity wardrobe accounts like @kardashiankloset always include brand credits in their coverage. Still, I’m left wondering how long Bottega Veneta’s social media absence will last. If its job postings are any indication, not very long. The company is currently hiring for a global social media manager.

Copenhagen Fashion Week Goes Digital For Fall 2021

Responding to the global spike in COVID-19 cases, and renewed government restrictions — the Danish government has banned trade fairs until the end of February — the organizing body has canceled all physical shows and physical iterations of its popular trade fairs Ciff, Revolver, Dansk Fashion & Textile and Wear. Copenhagen Fashion Week, slated to run between Feb. 2 to 4, will instead take place online on a new digital platform, which debuted last August.

“Even though it is definitely unwished-for, it is undeniably the right thing to do, and instead we look forward to being able to meet physically again for the August 2021 fashion week,” said Copenhagen Fashion Week chief executive officer Cecilie Thorsmark.


The brands participating in next month’s digital showcase include Ganni, Rotate Birger Christensen, Soulland, Rains, Stine Goya and Baum und Pferdgarten. A schedule of talks, complementing the online presentations, will also be released later this month.

Copenhagen Fashion Week, best known for its sustainable businesses and colorful, laid-back approach to style, was among the first to return to physical events last summer, with Thorsmark standing behind the hybrid fashion week format that melded physical shows with online films and industry conversations.