Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Sies Marjan Shutters Amidst The Covid-19 Pandemic

After five years in business, Sies Marjan is closing. The brand, founded by Sander Lak in 2015, burst onto the American fashion scene with Lak’s rainbow-hued creations, gaining positive press coverage and a small but devoted base of quirky fans which included the likes of Jordan Roth and Dr Lisa Airan. “What we have worked on has been a dream come true,” Lak wrote of the brand he named after his parents. “Thank you to everyone who has given their time and talent to Sies Marjan over the years. We have built a singular brand whose legacy is not just in the clothes and collections but within each person who contributed along the way.”

Formerly the design director of Dries Van Noten, Lak secured funding for his own fashion label from Howard and Nancy Marks, American investors with an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion (£1.74 billion) who had previously backed Chado Ralph Rucci. With a design pedigree, impressive backing, and a fully-fleshed out debut collection that spanned cocktail dresses, shearling outerwear, and footwear, Lak had all the makings of the American fashion dream.

But sustaining the fantasy of fashion is hard – especially now. While Lak’s creatively staged runway shows made waves in New York and he won the CFDA Award for Emerging Talent in 2018, the brand didn’t manage to produce an It-item or a runaway success at retail. Many loved Lak’s sense of colour, but few were daring enough to make it a staple of their wardrobes.

Still, Lak’s presence on the American fashion scene was a bright spot. Where homegrown designers headed abroad for Paris Fashion Week or struggled, Lak’s lively NYFW presentations were well-attended. In producing two collections a year, he followed in the footsteps of Van Noten, forging a path for menswear and womenswear collections to coexist on the runway in New York. When he decamped to Paris’s menswear week for one season, he presented a see-now-buy-now womenswear capsule. Recently, the brand partnered with Rem Koolhaas’s AMO research arm and the Guggenheim Museum on a collection centred around Koolhaas’s postponed exhibit Countryside: The Future, in which Lak collaborated with artists and scientists on fabric developments and new sustainable practices.

To the fashion community, the loss of a brand with so much going for it is a warning in an already tumultuous time. While European megaliths can survive the pandemic thanks to their enormous size and scrappy upstarts can scale back and sit a season out, the middle of the American market, composed of designer-priced brands with a decade or less in business, is struggling. The retail cycle of high markdowns and the fast pace of collections had already put a strain on medium-sized companies. Compound that with the economic downturn sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the road ahead for these brands looks challenging, indeed.

Vintage Retailers Rally To Raise Funds For Black Lives Matter With Designer Sale

In the wake of the international protests sparked by the senseless and unjust death of George Floyd, many major fashion brands have been slow to act and offer meaningful support. Small, independent brands have begun paving the way for an anti-racist industry with a focus on raising up others – and, now, vintage sellers have joined this vital move forward with actions, rather than words.

On 10 June, 20 archive retailers from around the world launched a designer sale to raise vital funds for Black Lives Matter organisations. Paris’s Nina Gabbana Vintage – which spearheaded the call-out – Byronesque, Serotonin, Pechuga Vintage and 16 other platforms listed between one and eight pieces using the hashtag, #VTG4BLM. One hundred per cent of profits will go to civil rights charities in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The #VTG4BLM feed has quickly become a treasure trove of rare ’90s pieces, including mesh tops, printed trousers and workaday shirts from Jean Paul Gaultier’s autumn/winter 1997 Fight Racism collection. Tom Ford-era Gucci siren-red sandals and strapless dresses are also up for grabs, alongside classic Vivienne Westwood and Issey Miyake items, and revolutionary Alexander McQueen looks. 

“The millennials are taking on this never-ending fight and so far they’re doing a hell of a job,” said Vintage Star-Paris of the retailers’ ability to mobilise and generate funds for organisations, including the Minnesota Freedom Fund, the Marsha P Johnson Institute, Harlem United, ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Nina Gabbana Vintage reminded Instagram users, “This isn’t about us. It’s about a cause we all believe in, and want to help and support. The black community has been [a] victim of racism and inequality for centuries now and people need to realise that and take action against it. Raising money through a sale for donations is one way of many to help, but not the only way. Raising awareness and speaking up about what the black community is going through around us is very important too. I hope that through this sale we have the opportunity to do both.” 

Christian Dior Gives Vespa’s Signature Scooter A Fashion Makeover

The thought of a summer spent navigating the coastal paths of the Côte d’Azur, or exploring the winding streets of a charming Italian village, will prove all the more alluring next year, when Christian Dior unveils a collaboration with Vespa that will take your travel plans up a gear.

The two brands – both founded in 1946 – have come together to create a limited-edition scooter that marries their individual histories in one covetable item, set to land in Dior boutiques, as well as a selection of the Piaggio group’s Motoplex locations, next spring. The collaboration is designed to capture “the freedom of movement and expression that [Dior and Vespa] hold so dear”.

The Vespa 946 Christian Dior model sees the scooter’s retro appeal reimagined with a fashion slant, thanks to the Dior Oblique motif that adorns the seat in a Riviera-ready palette of white and navy. Coordinating accessories — a helmet, luggage box and Dior’s Book Tote — will also be available to discerning motorists ready to elevate their on-the-go wardrobe.

Christian Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri is behind the design, which brings together the Parisian couture house’s aesthetic with that of a storied brand from her native Italy. “I was very excited about this project with Vespa,” she said. “For me, Vespa is linked to my city, Rome. It’s linked to the freedom to move around the city with ease, like in the film Roman Holiday, which has left that extraordinary image of Audrey Hepburn clinging to Gregory Peck on a Vespa forever etched in our collective memory.”

She continued: “I have so many happy memories starring a Vespa. It’s how my husband and I used to get around Rome, and go to the seaside in Fregene. It’s a symbol of Italian-ness that is intricately linked to my personal history, and it’s now part of my professional life at Dior.”

Stephen Jones Crafted His New Couture Collection In Collaboration With The Digital Influencer Noonoouri

Maestro of milliners Stephen Jones collaborates with many designers—right now he’s hard at work on Dior menswear and cruise for Kim Jones and Maria Grazia Chiuri, respectively. But the heart of his work is the couture collection he produces out of his studio in Covent Garden, London. Working on his latest collection in lockdown presented Jones with a unique problem: beyond conceiving his designs, sketching them into existence, and creating toiles, how could he nurture the work into actuality?

Via Zoom, Jones says: “I also knew everything was moving online and I wanted to do something special. And the best digital representation of fashion I have ever seen is Noonoouri.” The literally digital influencer Noonoouri is the creation of Munich-based graphic designer Joerg Zuber, who readily agreed to Jones’s suggestion of a collaboration. From his window on the Zoom, Zuber explains: “This was a new and challenging process. Because usually when we work with Noonoouri, we have an already produced piece. So that means I get a lookbook shot of a dress or a hat and I adapt them to her body. In this case we had the sketches and the little sculptures and the imagination of Stephen… So the challenge in this project is basically that we created something that doesn’t exist and right now you can see it as it would be.” Jones adds: “And she actually quite influenced the design of what I was creating. And that’s what I’ve done throughout my career, I started making hats for specific people.”

Working together, then, Jones and Zuber have digitally manufactured a couture collection for which Noonoouri is the prime client—you can see her modeling the results here (with annotations on each design kindly provided by Jones) and in the film dropping on the London Fashion Week platform today.

Watching that film, what is evident is the level of digital creative craft Zuber has applied to render Jones’s analogue creative craft on Noonoouri. It also suggests that in the evolution of reasons humans wear hats, the rise of digital conferencing might be a tech-driven opportunity for new-millennium millinery. Does Jones agree? When asked he reaches off-screen for a boater, applies it at a jaunty angle, and says: “Absolutely! You don’t talk through your feet, do you?”

Michael Kors Announces New Approo Fashion Calendar

In the wake of social distancing measures, store closures and fashion week cancellations as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, brands have begun to reassess the way in which they design and present collections to consumers, with many advocating for change. Today, Michael Kors announced that he will bid farewell to the traditional fashion calendar in favour of a new, more streamlined approach. His announcement follows similar declarations from Gucci and Saint Laurent.

In a detailed press release, the American designer revealed that he will not show during NYFW in September (it is still yet to be seen whether this event will go ahead in light of current circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and social distancing) and will instead present his S/S21 collection “sometime between October and mid-November” of this year in an as-yet unknown format.

Beyond that, Kors will only present two collections a year for Michael Kors Collection – one for spring/summer and the other for fall/winter – and deliveries of these collections will happen “incrementally” over the season so as to “more closely [reflect] how customers in today’s world actually live and shop.” Furthermore, the brand will sell its collection to retailers ahead of revealing them to the press and public to help introduce a more reasonable pace for retail supply chains and factories. It will also reassess when its Fall collection is released, noting that it will likely be “sometime between mid-March and mid-April.” Kors said these changes are “long overdue” and that they “will be a huge win-win, most importantly for the customer.”

Speaking of the decisions, Kors said, “I have for a long time thought that the fashion calendar needs to change. It’s exciting for me to see the open dialogue within the fashion community about the calendar – from Giorgio Armani to Gucci to YSL to major retailers around the globe – about ways in which we can slow down the process and improve the way we work. We’ve all had time to reflect and analyze things, and I think many agree that it’s time for a new approach for a new era.”

First Look At The M Missoni X Yoox Capsule

Italian label M Missoni and online retailer Yoox are teaming up for a summer capsule collection, releasing tomorrow. It will be M Missoni’s premier collaboration since Margherita Maccapani Missoni became creative director of the brand in October 2018. To accompany the upcoming M Missoni x Yoox 11-piece collection, Yoox is exclusively unveiling a colorful campaign video here.

Accompanied by bold makeup and an organic backdrop, the sun-soaked video perfectly captures the natural elements important to both M Missoni and Yoox. Now 22 years old, M Missoni, the sister to the legacy fashion house, is adapting to the values of today’s consumers. Providing a fresh vision, Margherita is doing away with restrictions of gender, age, shape, and size, presenting a collection that is genuinely inclusive and mindful.

M Missoni x Yoox nurtures the “Reuse, Remix, Respect” mission and fashion philosophy of M Missoni. Many articles in the capsule are derived from sustainable recycled, repurposed, or upcycled materials.

Accented with Missoni’s signature chevron print, the collection offers dresses, jumpsuits, skirts, trousers, T-shirts, and sweatshirts. The M Missoni x Yoox offerings are showered in resplendent, shimmering hues of fuchsia, blue, and white, all denoting an effortlessly chic and luxe bohemian flair that culminates in a collection that is quintessentially Missoni. These consciously curated, high-energy pieces definitely warrant a top-tier spot within warm-weather wardrobes. The M Missoni x Yoox collection will be available online from May 29th.

Olivier Rousteing’s Avatar Greets Buyers At Balmain’s Virtual Showroom

Already uber-active on social media, Olivier Rousteing has also spawned an avatar to help Balmain unveil its next cruise collections for women and men. On June 15, the French fashion house will open its first virtual showroom with Rousteing’s 3-D likeness playing host and guide. He is to recount the backstory of the collections, realized under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and unleash a “Balmain army” of virtual models to present key looks.

In an exclusive interview on Monday, Rousteing said he leveraged high-tech means to reveal the humanity behind the collection, interspersing CGI razzmatazz, Zoom meetings and WhatsApp groups with footage of seamstresses, tailors and embroiderers toiling at home, pausing occasionally to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. “People are more interested in the process that goes into the perfect picture that you see at the end,” he said. “One word that is becoming very important is savoir-faire. It’s what brings out the uniqueness of your clothes.”

With many international borders still shut, Balmain realized few retail buyers would be making the trip to Paris to buy cruise and pre-collections, even though Balmain’s clothes will be hung in a physical showroom for several weeks. To wit: Visitors to the digital showroom can “discover the collection 360 degrees, and learn the storytelling behind the collection,” said Rousteing, whose avatar greets visitors at the tall doors to 44 Rue François-1er, the hôtel particulier where Pierre Balmain founded his couture house in 1945. Today, the building houses a Balmain boutique, and some of its offices.

“It’s going to be like getting into the Balmain world from far away, but at the same time feeling really close,” Rousteing remarked. Visitors to the interactive “digital house” can visit various rooms to discover a variety of content. The designer said he was “really particular” that his avatar was able to convey true expressions and emotions — the latter being one of the tougher things to transmit in digital formats. He heightened this by recording his voice for the narration and choosing his words carefully.

Behind-the-scenes videos also help animate the proceedings and capture the lively, collaborative spirit of the house. “There’s real passion behind everything we do,” Rousteing stressed. Some elements are purely for amusement, including videos of some of Rousteing’s favorite musical performers from his confinement playlist. Balmain worked with a variety of tech companies in recent months to build its virtual showroom. “We wanted to make sure it was closest to the Balmain DNA,” he said. “It’s a long process. Digital is much more complex than any real experience because everything has to be planned in advance. You cannot change much at the last minute so you need to be really focused.”

The designer hinted he would present the cruise collections to press in “a completely different way, really soon. There is the press and there’s the buyers and it can’t always be the same experience,” he argued. The virtual showroom will be housed at a password-protected site. Roughly 70 percent of Balmain’s revenues are from wholesale distribution.

Looking ahead, Rousteing said he hopes to be able to mount a physical fashion show during Paris Fashion Week this fall. “I might be one the most digital persons in the fashion industry, but there’s one thing you cannot bring into digital today and that’s the emotion of a real experience,” he said. While allowing that technologies are advancing quickly, “real emotion is something you can only get when you’re close to the clothes as well.”

Givenchy Appoints Matthew Williams As Creative Director

Attention all hype beasts: Matthew M. Williams is Givenchy’s new creative director.The American designer behind the 1017 Alyx 9SM label and a key ringleader of the luxury streetwear scene, Williams becomes the French house’s seventh couturier. He starts on June 16 and is expected to present his first designs for Givenchy in October. In a statement shared first with WWD, Williams described Givenchy’s new era as one “based on modernity and inclusivity.” “In these unprecedented times for the world, I want to send a message of hope, together with my community and colleagues, and intend to contribute towards positive change,” he said.

He expressed gratitude to Givenchy parent LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton “for trusting me with the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream.“The maison’s unique position and timeless aura make it an undeniable icon and I am looking forward to working together with its ateliers and teams,” he added. Williams assumes all creative responsibilities, including women’s and men’s collections, Givenchy noted. Williams led the list of candidates floated by WWD on April 13 when it was the first to report that Clare Waight Keller and Givenchy were ending their three-year collaboration.

His arrival thrusts Givenchy back into the realm of buzz, cool and cultural urgency that it last enjoyed under Riccardo Tisci, who deftly gave the aristocratic brand a subversive edge with his Rottweiler T-shirts, muscular tailoring and Goth-tinged gowns. While perhaps best known for his rollercoaster buckle and collaborations with Nike, Moncler and Dior, Williams, 34, is seen as a driven, versatile fashion talent with a sharp vision, strong cultural and artistic connections, and formidable technical chops. The Chicago-born talent, who worked with Kanye West and Lady Gaga earlier in his career, has in recent years been based out of Ferrara, Italy, a key hub for craftsmanship and headquarters for his Alyx brand, founded in 2015. Williams is to relocate to Paris, while maintaining his independently-owned Alyx brand. He arrives at Givenchy in a difficult context, the coronavirus pandemic having deflated a lengthy luxury boom and jeopardized fashion’s most sacred rituals, particularly the fashion show. While organizers of Paris Fashion Week are hoping to schedule physical shows this fall, several brands are proceeding with alternative formats in anticipation of travel restrictions and continued social-distancing requirements.

Beyond that, his challenge will be to quickly galvanize the house around yet another new esthetic – and fast. Tenures at heritage brands have been getting shorter, and the current environment seems to favor luxury’s giant players including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior and Gucci, whose scale affords multiple advantages. While market sources peg Givenchy’s revenues at over 1 billion euros, if you include its vibrant fragrance and beauty business, the brand has lagged in leather goods, the linchpin category for Europe’s legacy brands.

Sidney Toledano, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Fashion Group, said he has had his eye on Williams since the designer was shortlisted for the 2016 LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers. “We have had the pleasure of watching him develop into the great talent he is today,” Toledano said. “I believe his singular vision of modernity will be a great opportunity for Givenchy to write its new chapter with strength and success.”

Renaud de Lesquen, who joined as president and ceo of Givenchy on April 1, also expressed confidence. “I am convinced that, with his unapologetic approach to design and creativity and in great collaboration with the maison’s exceptional ateliers and teams, Matthew will help Givenchy reach its full potential,” he said. During her time at Givenchy, Waight Keller largely plied a tasteful, aristocratic brand of fashion occasionally spiked with toughness or subversion — a touch of latex here, a giant wing-like backpack there. Her biggest claim to fame was dressing Meghan Markle for her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018, and she won more acclaim for her couture than her ready-to-wear displays.

Tisci was arguably the most successful of a string of designers who have led Givenchy following the 1995 retirement of the founder, bringing heat and stability over a 12-year tenure. John Galliano was de Givenchy’s immediate successor and moved on quickly to Christian Dior. Lee Alexander McQueen tried his hand next with eclectic collections — space aliens one season, rockabilly the next. Julien Macdonald went back to a style rooted in French elegance and sophistication, but did not win much acclaim.

Williams arrives at Givenchy with a resume steeped in proximity to cutting-edge culture. Raised amid the vibrant skate culture in Pismo Beach, Calif., Williams is a self-taught designer. He started his career in fashion production, cut his teeth at Alexander McQueen, made a name for himself working as creative director for Lady Gaga and counts Kanye West and Kim Jones as his professional godfathers — the latter actually designed his and his wife Jenny’s wedding outfits. Williams designed a stylized CD buckle for Jones’ debut collection for Dior Men in 2018 that has become a brand signature.

Conceived as a brand tuned into cultural undercurrents such as Berlin’s techno scene, Alyx started in women’s wear and in June 2018 made its runway debut at Paris Fashion Week with a coed show. It has an industrial-tinged, utilitarian allure and is carried by such marquee retailers as Ssense, 10 Corso Como, Dover Street Market, Joyce, Galeries Lafayette, Browns, Nordstrom and Selfridges. Before launching Alyx, Williams cofounded men’s streetwear brand Been Trill in collaboration with Heron Preston, Virgil Abloh, Justin Saunders and YWP. As for the moniker 1017 Alyx 9SM, it bears the name of Williams’ eldest daughter, while the numbers reference the designer’s birth date and an abbreviation of the brand’s first studio on Saint Mark’s Place in New York City.

Williams has also been a trailblazer for sustainability, employing recycled nylon and other eco-friendly materials and exploring ways to dye with less water and recycle scraps. He’s also fanatical about modernizing craftsmanship, of which couture represents the pinnacle. In an interview with WWD last year, he said, “How can we use the technology that is available to us with the artisan approach and find a new way to create modern craftsmanship? And so that’s kind of what I am most interested in exploring…because you know that a lot of the traditional luxury has craftsmanship. If you think about Hermès or Chanel, you know, there’s a real language to the craftsmanship and…it’s like what can we do to modernize that? And also when you look to some of those luxury products, even if somebody doesn’t know fashion, they can tell that it’s been touched by hand, or it is very obvious the value in the product, so that’s something that I want to keep exploring.”

According to Givenchy, “Williams advocates authentic values of research, technical innovation and creative repurposing that align perfectly” with its philosophy of “elegant ease. “An intuitive understanding of tailoring, technology and integrity in fashion make the designer an ideal steward for carrying the Givenchy legacy forward with modernity and power,” it added. Williams will partner with de Lesquen, who previously spent four years at Dior Americas. A suave but discreet executive, de Lesquen also served the same amount of time as president of Dior China. Prior to that, he spent 10 years at L’Oréal in Paris, as president and ceo of YSL Beauté, and before that as global president of Giorgio Armani Beauty.

Why Chanel Doesn’t Want To Change The Fashion System

Chanel has little interest in changing the fashion system. In recent weeks, a growing cadre of designers and retailers have called for rethinking the calendar that governs the development, delivery, presentation and discounting of collections. But when Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion activities, laid out his plans for the future of the multi-billion-dollar bastion of French heritage ahead of its latest Cruise launch, he made clear he still believes in the old way of doing things.

Many of the labels calling for change are small-and medium-sized players, but even luxury megabrands such as Gucci and Saint Laurent are exploring initiatives to downscale the excesses of a crammed calendar of fashion shows and the colossal carbon footprint that accompanies it. Chanel, on the other hand, intends to hold fast to its six-shows-a-year schedule: two prêt-à-porter, two haute couture, Croisière (Cruise) and Métiers D’Art, the December presentation highlights the work of the brand’s artisanal ateliers.

“I don’t know if the right number is two or six; it’s up to each brand,” said Pavlovsky. “But we are quite advanced in the calculation of our carbon impact, all the time we’re making a lot of progress in our approach. And we feel it’s important to do these shows. We still need to have the creative freedom to express each moment.”

Granted, there are precious few brands in fashion with pockets deep enough to match Chanel’s spectaculars, which have long been the maxi-budgeted benchmark of extravagance so imperial it has become emblematic of a fashion giantism that felt increasingly unsustainable, however munificent its owners Alain and Gérard Wertheimer. Under Karl Lagerfeld’s tutelage, the brand recreated airports and supermarkets, replanted forests, relocated icebergs, beaches, ski resorts, even launched a rocket, all in the name of providing an appropriate backdrop to its clothes and accessories. And, starting in the year 2000, Chanel pioneered the Cruise show extravaganza, with an audience eagerly following Lagerfeld all over the globe for presentations that celebrated — it was often claimed — some transformative moment in Coco Chanel’s life.

For Bruno Pavlovsky, all things Chanel evolve from its shows, not only because the ensuing global media coverage burnishes the brand, but also because they offer such an all-encompassing opportunity to maintain a regular communication with customers. “The défilé is the beginning of the story,” he explained. “The pace is to be able to deliver novelty at the boutique level every two months, and we feel very comfortable with that pace. Each collection is quite agile and very focused on one topic, and we have this storytelling six times a year.”

Then Pavlovsky painted a bigger picture. First, his commitment to continued participation in Paris Fashion Week. “Other brands can do whatever they want whenever they want,” he said, “but we’re working quite hard to make this twice-yearly creative celebration of women’s ready-to-wear as influential as possible.” And next, the two shows that he described as “only our moment” — Cruise and Métiers D’Art, the special presentations which take place outside the competitive noise of traditional fashion weeks. Pavlovsky defined them as the expression of “a very privileged relationship between the brand and the people around the brand."

“In the future, we will continue to have this privileged moment,” he continued. In the present? Not so easy. The next cruise collection was scheduled to launch on the island of Capri on May 7. Chanel’s offshore spectaculars are famously planned with ferocious attention to detail, so you can imagine the blueprint was well in place before the coronavirus appeared in Europe. At the time, the immediate concern was the Autumn/Winter show on March 3rd. That went ahead. But the ravages of Covid-19 were escalating fast. “We were already questioning Capri,” said Pavlovsky, “and we very quickly took the decision not to go.” As France went into lockdown, Chanel’s famous petites mains worked from home sewing masks for hospitals.

The Cruise collection was renamed Balade, to evoke the inspiring light and colour of a Mediterranean journey. Chanel was clearly faced by the challenge of finding another way to communicate the intensity of a live show in a glorious physical setting, and Artistic Director Virginie Viard had to adapt the collection. “Yes, we had to adjust not only the content of the collection, but also the way to present,” acknowledged Pavlovsky. “It’s not the same as being in Capri or being live in a show but it will bring something different. At the end of the day, we moved to keep the energy, and to communicate this energy to our friends.”

He called the constraints “a very good exercise” but said he wouldn’t know until next year how successful the approach would prove. “We’ve done so many things we’ve never done,” Pavlovsky added. While she was re-thinking Cruise, Viard also worked to “re-energise” the unsold Spring/Summer product that has been slumbering for weeks in stores forced closed by the coronavirus. The brand’s Autumn/Winter and Métiers D’Art collections will hit retail in July, at which point Spring/Summer product will be taken off the shop floor only to be re-introduced to accompany the launch of the Cruise collection in November.

Though these shifts were induced by circumstances beyond Chanel’s control, Pavlovsky claimed the coronavirus crisis had also accelerated a transformation that was already well underway. The Capri show, for instance, would have been a much more intimate affair than usual, a mere 200 invitees, though there’d apparently been 3000 requests from around the world. “After you do a show with 200 people, you have more enemies than friends,” Pavlovsky noted drily.

How would Lagerfeld, with his acute appreciation of the vagaries of history, be coping right now? You have to wonder, don’t you? Pavlovsky laughed. “I am sure his spirit is here behind us. At the same time, Virginie is able to dare to go to a new level — that’s most important — and not try to compare with Karl… to do what she feels is strong for Chanel.” Right now, that is simplicity, apparently. “It is sometimes the most difficult,” Pavlovsky said. “You get it or not. It’s not about the red carpet. It’s just about being who you are. Talking with the models, they’ve said, ‘It’s exactly what I want to wear tomorrow.’”

It’s the day after tomorrow that remains uncertain. As the lockdown eased in China, Chanel stores were mobbed, even though the brand had raised prices on its core products. The brand is set to report its 2019 results in mid-June, but it will be some time before we get a glimpse at 2020 numbers and the brunt of the pandemic’s effect on Chanel. Bain estimates the luxury sector will contract by up to 35 percent this year.

But the precariousness of a market that depends on discretionary spending is not only subject to the possibility of a second or third wave of infection. There’s also the question of fashion’s relevance in a time when intractable social and economic injustices are galvanising millions of people around the world. Pavlovsky felt it was too soon to project.

“At the moment, we’re working on different scenarios for the coming years,” he said. “It’s a very important time for a brand like Chanel to listen to its customers. So, let’s see if they are feeling the same in the coming months.” And did he imagine the eventual return of continent-hopping in pursuit of a Cruise collection, just like in the olden days? “I don’t know,” said Pavlovsky, turning pensive. “I hope so.”

For Marques Almeida, Repurposing Fabric Is “Like Making An Amazing Meal Using Leftovers”

When editors, press and buyers flocked to the various fashion capitals for the autumn/winter 2020 shows, little did they realise that the presentations would be the last of their kind – at least for a while. Proceedings for the next instalment of London Fashion Week are set to take place as a series of digital events from Friday 12 June to Sunday 14 June and a roster of key industry players will contribute films, discussions and live conversations to this season’s “digital fashion week”.

Cult London-based brand Marques Almeida is a veritable veteran of the scene, having been on the circuit for nearly a decade. Its founders, husband and wife duo Paulo Almeida and Marta Marques, are an unstoppable force – their latest work, entitled “reM’Ade”, and comprising a separate brand under the MA umbrella, will debut with a documentary film on the first day of the digital schedule.

As the name suggests, sustainable practice is at the heart of their new mindset. “For us, it was looking around and seeing the waste we were producing. It’s very tangible, it’s very visible,” Marta tells British Vogue. “You walk through the studio and there are rolls of fabric everywhere, there are toiles and garments lying around that you don’t really have a plan for because things are so quick that normally you have to keep going, so you don't really get a chance to sit with it.”

Signature M’A shapes have been reimagined in a riot of patchwork fabrics; the brand’s recurring voluminous textures and recognisable colourful quirks are back for another season. Decade-old materials have been combined with those from more recent collections – a brocade from autumn/winter 2018 has been repurposed alongside netting from spring/summer 2014, for instance. Marta likens their new creative process to cooking-up leftovers, and remarks: “I was saying to Paulo that it’s this feeling of accomplishment when you have leftover food and you make a meal,” she laughs, “You didn’t let everything go to waste or generate more waste.” 

The brand has a longstanding relationship with manufacturers in their home country, Portugal, and were keen to embrace the slow-down that fashion has experienced as a result of the pandemic: “We had time to go and sit with them, see what they were doing, what machines they had.” While past collections have boasted clear references, this season’s designs for the new label were led by the diverse range of fabrics. Continuous problem-solving and the development of techniques meant that the couple embraced new processes that they hadn’t previously explored: “This time, our creative processes came hand in hand with a practical process.”

They came with a large dose of community spirit, too. Dubbed “MA girls and boys,” the brand’s diverse ambassadors feature both in campaign shoots and catwalk shows, and number a community of creatives and forward-thinking young people of different colours and creeds. Marta and Paulo have called-upon their network to aid the growth of the label, and hope to release “re/M’Ade by…” collaborations in the future which would see the couple pass the helm to someone else for a season.

There’s more: in the summer, the brand plans to reveal a manifesto that will implement a sustainable ethos across the board, ensuring all future endeavours are approached with an ecological focus.

As for the latest collection, cool-girl, multi-tone jeans, a patchwork ribbed top and an asymmetric shirt are standouts pieces in the reM’Ade repertoire, all of which will be available to pre-order immediately after the collection debuts at 6pm BST on Friday 12 June. And looking ahead? As Marta explains, the possibilities are myriad. “When we’ve finished with our own waste, we can go round suppliers and manufacturers and check out what waste they've got and what we can do with it – it’s endless.” 

Physical? Digital? Virtual? The Masterminds Of Fashion Show Production Weigh In On Runway’s Future

The fashion industry is reckoning with itself at every level, from its exclusive practices to the systemic racism built into its model. Seismic changes need to happen behind the scenes to modernize the industry. The business’s most visible touchpoint, the fashion show, is also about to undergo a radical reformation of its own. “There will undeniably be a before and an after,” says Etienne Russo, the founder of Villa Eugenie, which produces shows for the likes of Chanel and Burberry. “The lockdown of the fashion world allowed many to take a step back and deeply reflect on how to address the situation.”

Faced with the necessity of translating fashion to a digital format, the British Fashion Council, Italy’s Camera Nazionale Della Moda, and France’s Fédération de la Haute Couture and de la Mode spent the early weeks of COVID-19 lockdowns mapping out how to marry the pomp and circumstance of a fashion show with the high-speed chill of the internet. The answer? Well, there isn’t one, really. As London Fashion Week Digital, a men’s and women’s combined week of online content, rolls out from today through June 14, followers will be offered everything from lookbooks of new spring 2021 collections to playlists curated by designers.

Paris’s digital couture and menswear presentations will take place the first two weeks of July, promising videos from member brands. Milan’s menswear week will follow from July 13-17, and video content will be a key facet of what a digital fashion week will look like there, too. But brand-produced fashion videos have existed for some time: The platform Nowness launched as a hub for this type of mood content in 2010 and ShowStudio, founded in 2000, hosted the first livestream of a fashion show in 2009. Is there anything more, anything newer?

On May 22, designer Anifa Mvuemba debuted the first virtual fashion show for her brand Hanifa, featuring 3D renderings of pleated minis and sinuous bias-cut dresses. The show was unlike anything fashion had seen before: No audience, no visible models, just fashion fully rendered in a rich virtual space.

Gayle Dizon, whose company Dizon produces shows for Proenza Schouler and Mansur Gavriel, is certain that new technologies like CGI, 3D design, image capture, and body mapping have potential to revolutionize what a fashion show looks like. “We’ve been exploring a lot of these new technologies that are all kind of rooted in gaming,” she says. “I’m excited about it because we can alleviate a lot of the issues that we face with live physical space,” she continues, citing venues and build-outs alongside the bustle of fashion week that makes scheduling, timing, and seating a major concern. “We’ve been trying to break the standard pattern of straight runway up and down for a while … Now, what I’ve been tasking my team with is: Let’s start ideating on our dream scenario. Where would you do a show if you had no constraints of time, space, or location?” Russo, for his part, says, “what is exciting for us isn’t specifically one alternative or another, but the exercise of mixing options in order to produce the right format for each project, for each client, according to their DNA and their needs … there will be no ready-made but only tailor-made options.”

Alexandre de Betak, the founder of Bureau Betak which creates fashion shows for Christian Dior and Saint Laurent, agrees that there is wild potential in the world of digital development. “As a creative exercise and experience, it’s really fun to experiment as far as you can with digital,” he begins. But he does issue a warning: “If you create a virtual experience that uses video game techniques, that’s great, but the digital should not be a copy of the live.”

The distinction de Betak makes is that while digital and physical must live in tandem, one cannot be a shorthand for the other—which is to say that “phygital” is probably not going to be the buzzword of the summer. Instead, de Betak suggests that physical fashion shows, which he anticipates could be produced with small in-person teams this year, can be amplified online through better live-streaming and social media capabilities. “I think the technology has increased in quality and in capacity so that you can have a better stream of a live experience,” he says, alluding to a more multimedia experience in lieu of a traditional multi-camera streaming set-up. “We have worked a lot on this, and we can do different access and [create different] content of a live experience. But it’s still a live creation that is being transmitted digitally.”

“Normally you make a show for the real experience of people, plus virtual,” echoes Thierry Dreyfus, whose company Eyesight with Comme des Garçons and Off-White on shows. “This tool of virtual is something that has been used by every brand and in every show the more and more we can.” Dreyfus cites the Off-White fall 2019 menswear show where models walked on green-screen flooring in some spaces, allowing for digital imagery to be mapped out on livestreams and later content, and a forest set in others. “The people in the room see one thing and the people on the web, at the same moment, see something else,” Dreyfus expounds. “So in this way virtual is a tool.” He continues: “Today, people are saying only virtual” shows, “but fashion is about experience. … We’ve seen life through screens: flat. No taste, no smell, no emotions. Screens, I insist [have] no emotion.”

Some would beg to disagree. Much of the technology we have experienced so far has not been targeted to a fashion audience, but rather to gamers or the social media active. Think of the hard look of first-person and racing games or the overly cute AR filters on Snapchat or avatars on Animal Crossing. “The aesthetic has not been geared towards something with a refined hand. Gaming visuals and imagery have, very much, their own look that is missing a lot of the warmth that we try to capture with our events,” says Dizon. But instead of a deterrent, she sees an opportunity. “How do we give this the warm emotion and poetry that all of the fashion designers we work with are seeking?”

“I think we’re all up to the challenge,” she continues. “It’s been a bit of a learning curve in trying to explain it to clients because I don’t have examples to show them of this that are done well, but we’ve identified some really strong vendors and talents that we can work with that come out of a very different industry. We are working together and seeing how we can get a little closer to real life and to the warmth and the emotion that we’re always trying to capture in one of our events.”

It might not happen for June or July shows, which seem to promise many small scale live events refracted into a digital space, or even September, but the idea of a poetic, virtual fashion space online does provide a thrilling challenge for the fashion industry. Science fiction and video games have long been a vehicle to build a utopia, hinging on the idea that beyond our physical realities we can build something better. Can virtual fashion do the same?

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Munroe Bergdorf Will Sit On L’Oréal Paris’s New Diversity Board

Munroe Bergdorf has agreed to sit on a new diversity board being established by L’Oréal, she confirmed on Twitter on Tuesday. Bergdorf famously became the first transgender model to front a L’Oréal campaign, but was dropped by the beauty giant in 2017 after she made comments about systemic racism on social media in the wake of a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in the US. Her statement on Twitter, which outlined donations L’Oréal intends to make to LGBTQIA+ charities and announced her own seat on the company’s newly-created diversity board, signalled that three years on, a relationship that appeared damaged beyond repair is being healed.

“This week, I spoke with L’Oréal Paris new president, Delphine Viguier, who reached out to me directly. We had an open and constructive conversation, she listened to what I had to say and expressed her regret for how the situation was handled three years ago,” Bergdorf said in the statement, going on to explain that the brand is to make donations of €25,000 (£22,300) to both @mermaidsgender, a charity supporting gender-variant and transgender youth in the UK, and @ukblackpride, an annual celebration of diverse sexualities, gender identities, cultures, gender expressions and backgrounds.

As a member of L’Oréal’s newly-created UK Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, Bergdorf will consult with, influence and inform the beauty brand on how it can progress as an institution, alongside other voices from inside and outside of the business. “I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to practise what I preach and take up that seat at the table to be the representation that we deserve as a community,” she said. “I believe in accountability and progress, not cancellation and grudges. While what happened 3 years ago was extremely traumatic for me personally and professionally, sitting on a board to provide a voice and a champion for black, trans and queer voices in the beauty industry is important to me,” she wrote.

The news follows a social media post shared by the beauty brand on 2 June that said: “Speaking out is worth it”. Bergdorf called out the wording on Twitter, pointing out how she had been “thrown to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy” three years ago. This week’s resolution has provided Bergdorf – who has said she is looking forward to “new beginnings and a positive relationship with the L’Oréal team” – with some closure following her ordeal. “Three years ago, Munroe felt silenced by a brand, L’Oréal Paris, that had the power to amplify her voice,” wrote Viguier, “While we both agree today that negative labels should not be used to define all individuals in any group, I understand much better the pain and trauma that were behind Munroe’s words back then and the urgency she felt to speak in defence of the black community against systemic racism… We should have also done more to create a conversation for change as we are now doing.”

After 20 Years, Dolce & Gabbana Will Return To The Official Fashion Week Calendar

It's official: Dolce & Gabbana is back on the official Milan Fashion Week calendar and will participate in the first ever Digital Fashion Week organized by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion from July 14 to 17, 2020. Since 1998, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have been unveiling their collections outside the official Fashion Week calendar. For the Spring/Summer 2021 season, however, Dolce & Gabbana has decided to present its catwalk at the very first Milan Digital Fashion Week organized by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion from July 14 to 17.

On July 15, 2020, in the heart of the garden of the Humatinas University in Milan - whose research institute is supported by the fashion house - Dolce & Gabbana will unveil its Spring/Summer 2021 collection, which will be broadcast live. Given the current public health situation, the number of guests and models will be limited: the fashion show will be presented before the eyes of around two hundred guests, photographers and videographers. Asked by Vogue, Stefano Gabbana said that “because the world is very different now, it will be a very different show”. Watch this space.

Making The Case For Runway Shows

As much as fashion people love to grumble about runway shows and interminable fashion weeks, there is a strong case to be made for the format — and the high-profile stages Paris and Milan offer in particular. Listen to Rei Kawakubo, the maverick Japanese designer behind Comme des Garçons, whose runway shows — invariably daring, thought-provoking and often poignant — are typically a highlight of Paris Fashion Week.

“I believe there is no better way to express my creation than by having real people wearing the clothes with other people watching close by,” she told WWD. “And sometimes it may be necessary to use other ingredients — like the space, the lighting, the music, the hair, etc. — to further explain what I want to say.” Executives at many top European fashion brands agree wholeheartedly, characterizing runway shows as a crucial moment for designers, an essential deadline and competitive arena, and a key moment of creative expression that trickles down through entire companies, energizing them.

While acknowledging the need for some adaptation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — physical fashion weeks have been scuttled this summer, and the September shows look iffy — they articulated the benefits of runway shows and organized fashion weeks with vigor and urgency. “The physical show is like an opera, or a concert. Sure, you can watch an opera on TV, but it’s not the same,” said Sidney Toledano, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Fashion Group, which includes the Celine, Givenchy, Loewe, Kenzo and Marc Jacobs brands. “Fashion is about celebrating, and shows are a big moment.”

The veteran executive, who partnered with John Galliano to propel Christian Dior into luxury’s big leagues, said Galliano’s spectacular shows in the late Nineties and early Aughts heightened the brand’s stature, galvanized the house and cemented it as a global player. He recalled a 2010 cruise show on Shanghai’s Bund in a massive tent that “established Dior in China” and a couture show broadcast on a giant screen in one of Hong Kong’s busiest crosswalks that stopped people in their tracks. Likewise, “Karl [Lagerfeld] contributed to the success of Chanel with his shows,” Toledano said. “Everybody hates to have the pressure of a show, a concert or an interview, but it gives you energy.”

He held out hope that physical runway shows, even if with smaller audiences for health reasons, would resume soon, with Paris and Milan the key hubs, given their strong traditions of creative fashion and savoir faire. “Most of our designers are working on their September shows,” he noted. Toledano also endorsed the European calendar and season-ahead format, saying see-now-buy-now showcases do not work for creative, luxury fashions.

“Time is part of luxury. We need time to prepare the collection, and as soon as it’s done, we have to present it,” he said. “You can’t put it in the fridge and take it out in a few months. The designer will say, ‘Maybe I change this,’ or ‘I don’t like anymore.’ “You also have to tell the world, ‘This is my creation,’ or someone will copy you.”

He noted it takes time to produce the exceptional materials once orders are placed, and for specialty manufacturers to work their magic. Toledano confessed he once tried to rush seamstresses in Dior’s atelier, to no avail given the painstaking work and skill required. “They said, ‘We decide when we are ready to deliver, apologies sir,'” he recalled. “You can put pressure on marketing people, on the digital department. Artisans? They work their own way.” Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera della Moda, Italian fashion’s organizing body, agreed that new and original fashion statements are not always immediately understood. Echoing Toledano, he said see-now-buy-now formats do not work for highly creative designers and, if used across the board, would turn the industry into a “marketing machine.”

“When a designer is very creative, a consumer needs maybe three, four months to understand the creativity, and to hear about it from intermediaries,” he said, referring to media platforms, influencers and the like. “The market is not ready for creativity all the time. People have to digest it.” Capasa said he welcomed creative use of digital formats for collections — the basis of fashion weeks in Milan and Paris in mid-July, for men’s wear and some pre-season lines — but suggested such formats might eventually become a communication vehicle for “closer to the delivery of the goods” and talk “directly to consumers.”

The executive also believes in separate fashion weeks for men’s and women’s wear, while allowing some brands are perfectly suited to coed expressions. Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS, also believes fashion shows are not going away.

“The fashion show remains the best way to express the brand’s creativity and know-how.…It’s the beginning of the story,” he said. “For the moment, we have not found anything better, but to be honest, we were not even looking. I think we really like to make fashion shows. “Will we want to wear 3-D glasses tomorrow to watch a fashion show? Is it really exciting? I don’t think so,” he added.

“I really want to start doing runways shows again,” echoed Virginie Viard, Chanel’s creative director. “They elicit a special atmosphere, an excitement, an emotion.” Pavlovsky, who has served as president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode Féminine, the governing body of women’s fashion in France, also trumpeted the importance of a designated fashion week in Paris. He said it unleashes a tidal wave of creativity, and engenders “friendly competition” between designers and brands, each eager to flex their creative muscles, influence the market, make people dream and reinforce their brand positioning.

A pioneer in mounting spectacular destination shows, Chanel plans to continue to hit the road for its cruise and Métiers d’Art collections as soon as health conditions allow, Pavlovsky said, characterizing these as a “strong moment for the brand” and a chosen international market. Chanel has traveled as far afield as Havana, Shanghai, Edinburgh, Singapore and Los Angeles for its itinerant spectacles. “You have to be able to do both. You have to have the set moment [of a fashion week], where you are in direct competition with everyone, and the privileged moment, where you work this particular relationship with a target,” he said.

Pavlovksy lamented that Chanel could not present its 2020 cruise collection in Capri last month, instead unveiling it online today. It will also show couture digitally, but hopes to be back in the Grand Palais this fall for its spring 2021 ready-to-wear show. Asked about big European brands that have revealed intentions to show less frequently or outside long-standing European fashion weeks — Saint Laurent said it would remove itself from the Paris schedule for the rest of 2020 — Pavlovsky questioned why a brand emblematic of Parisian chic would do such a thing.

“It’s up to us, too, to support [Paris Fashion Week] and make sure that it continues to have as much influence,” he said. “These brands should ask themselves the question of what is the impact of not participating. I think it’s a very individualistic act. “ To be sure, headlines screaming that runway shows are over seem to be exaggerated.

“The show is the lifeblood of our creative process and represents the ultimate manifestation of the creative vision of the creative direction and the studio team,” said Riccardo Bellini, chief executive officer of Chloé. “It provides a creative space for designers to experiment and innovate, generating the creative lifeblood and inspiration that feed all other creations across the house.” Echoing others, Bellini said designers thrive under the creative pressure cooker and the need to stand out amidst their peers, whose shows unfurl almost hourly for a month at a stretch during rtw season.

“The show allows designers to amplify and communicate their vision beyond the single products — to create a world and an emotional context for their creations,” he enthused. “I think shows remain a fundamental asset for the industry in order to nurture creativity and innovation. It will be up to each brand to define their best formats and approach according to their vision and their strategy.” Guram Gvasalia, cofounder of Vetements, said the cancellation of physical fashion weeks in London, Milan and Paris this month has generated some remorse among veteran attendees.

“There is nostalgia in the voices of journalists, buyers and other fashion victims,” he said. “Live fashion shows create emotions and are important not only for the final consumer, they are important for the industry as a whole. Experiencing things live is essential for human nature. “The industry is very small and we all need each other to exist,” he added. “And even if the industry feels sometimes as a dysfunctional family, we are all still one big, crazy family.”

A renegade brand in more ways than one, Vetements has experimented with various formats: staging runway shows during all Paris fashion weeks, or sometimes not at all. But three years ago, it merged its men’s and women’s fashion shows; decided to have only two collections a year with multiple deliveries, and opted for the men’s wear and couture schedules in January and July, respectively, rather than the women’s rtw schedule in March and September.

“All those steps will become essential for the brands to survive in the post-virus years,” he argued. “The virus might end up having a good influence on the industry. It seems the industry will finally have to awake from the long-lasting hibernation. Already now we see as a result established brands implementing our proven strategy.” Data from Launchmetrics, the data research and insights company for fashion, luxury and beauty, support his assertion that coed formats are effective. “It may be the easiest way to move forward,” said Michael Jaïs, ceo of Launchmetrics. “The impact is very clear on the return on investment.”

The company’s “The State of Menswear” report for 2019 showed that “the media impact value of men’s wear is between two times more and 20 times more, so on average 10 times more valuable in terms of impact, to group it together than to show it separately. It really benefits from the impact of women’s.” And what does history teach us? That the runway show has been the dominant form of designer expression since the 1860s, when Charles Frederick Worth decided to show his fashions, signed like artworks, to clients on live models, according to Pamela Golbin, a Paris-based fashion historian, curator and author. Prior to that, well-to-do women visited tailors and dressmakers and collaborated on the clothes they needed. “From the beginning, runway shows were a spectacle done for special reasons,” she recounted in an interview. “It was to show customers the final product at a time when that was extremely new.”

The advent of fashion journalism around the turn of the century only served to reinforce the format, helping them to understand trends to transmit to their readers. Indeed, there have been few experiments beyond live modeling. After World War II, the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, eager to revive an industry ravaged by wartime shortages and German occupation, came up with the idea of a touring theater of miniature fashions, Golbin recounted. Dubbed the Théâtre de la Mode, its 237 doll-size figurines toured European cities in 1945 and the event was reprised the next year for U.S. destinations. The spectacle made for front-page news in WWD twice. After World War II, the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne came up with the idea of a touring theater of miniature fashions. 

But it was soon back to runway shows, which gradually became ever more spectacular and theatrical, especially with the advent of the Internet and social media, which made fashion weeks a giant marketing opportunity for consumers. In Golbin’s estimation, modern fashion shows recently became muddled with celebrity guests, an assembly of each brand or designer’s community, influencers and street-style stars, clouding the original purpose and perhaps serving too many masters. “All of a sudden, the fashion show became monolithic, and maybe you need to carve down that monolith and give proper space to each of the special needs that the fashion show was trying to address,” she said. “Is it going to stay a professional date or will it become a mainstream event?”

Runway Restart: Milan Calendar Takes Shape With First COVID-Age Fashion Shows

Digital, “phygital,” physical—or something else entirely? As London, Milan, and Paris all prepare to reveal the calendars of their upcoming ad hoc fashion weeks, the purpose, timing, and place of the runway show format post-coronavirus has been—and continues to be—a subject under much scrutiny.

This Thursday the Camera Nazionale Della Moda—Italy’s CFDA—will unveil the full July 14–17 calendar for this summer’s mostly digital fashion showcase. Carlo Capasa, the Camera’s president, said: “The plan is that we have developed a new platform working with Microsoft, and over the four days we will have a schedule that unfolds in real time on that platform. Every one of the 35 or 40 brands showing is free to use their time as the designer wants; you can have a fashion movie, a virtual show, a physical show with a limited audience, something else—whatever the designer feels it’s right to do. Every designer is approaching the challenge in a different way, and it’s going to be very interesting to see what they do. Plus we will be showing the womenswear pre-collections for those companies that want to show them too.”

Capasa added: “Designers have been working hard to get collections, most much smaller than usual, ready for July. And maybe sales won’t be so strong because this is a difficult time across the world. But we didn’t want to miss out entirely [on] a season because a total stop would put a lot of small businesses at risk.”

Of the discussions about changing the timings of the fashion calendar in 2021 and beyond, Capasa said: “In the end the shows are a mirror of what happens in the market. So that’s where we should start, by asking when is the right time to sell the collections, for how long, and at what price?... The problem we have today is that the market has been going very fast, anticipating and accelerating everything—becoming a little bit fast fashion. And I think we should go back and rethink, with a starting point of timing and pricing in the market.”

Over the weekend in Milan came news of the first confirmed show in this still evolving restart: On July 15 at 5:30 p.m. local time, Dolce & Gabbana will present its spring 2021 menswear collection. Much of it is planned to conform to shows as they were in the Before: There will be a cast of about 100 models, photographers and videographers, and an invited physical audience of about 200 people. It will also, said the designers, be safe.

“We are planning this very carefully, working closely with health professionals, and will observe all the safety protocols,” said Stefano Gabbana. “There will be social distancing, face masks for all—also the models, if that is the correct action—temperature checks, and sanitation stations. And perhaps the most important thing is the venue.”

That venue will be open-air, in the garden campus of Humanitas University on the south side of Milan. The space came about as a result of Dolce & Gabbana’s funding in 2019 of scholarships for medical students at Humanitas and this year of further funding for research into COVID-19 led by a team of Humanitas scientists.

Also during Milan’s menswear week, Ermenegildo Zegna is expected to host a show with physical components. The runway is restarting—and it’s going to be a changed space.

Chanel Spring / Summer´21 Resort Collection

Over the years, Chanel show reviews have been framed by the exotic surroundings in which they were written. From the candy-coloured streets of Havana to the neo-modernist concert hall of Hamburg – or any of the larger-than-life sets erected within the Grand Palais in Paris – Chanel and its show producer Etienne Russo have transported our minds to the moon and back. This season’s captivating location? My bedroom.

The first major collection to launch since the coronavirus sent fashion into lockdown, today Chanel released its cruise proposal for a changed world. In place of the show – originally scheduled to take place in Capri on 7 May – photographers Karim Sadli and Julien Martinez Leclerc captured the collection in a series of atmospheric images and a film released on IGTV featuring the models Mica Argañaraz, Karly Loyce, Camille Hurel and Cris Herrmann, soundtracked to the track “Time”, amongst others by the Venezuelan artist and producer Arca. Titled Balade en Méditerranée – "a trip around the Mediterranean" – it featured a sunset-bathed seascape painted on a backdrop that wasn’t trying to pose as the real thing.

You could reflect on the current relatability of that illustration: we are all in the same digital boat, playing around with kitschy Zoom call backgrounds while dreaming ourselves away to sunny destinations. But before pandemics and lockdowns, Chanel already excelled in virtual reality, transforming the vast emptiness of the Grand Palais into a life-sized beach, a spaceship launch pad, a supermarket, and so on.

If those realist sets have often felt like a surreal trip around The Truman Show, overthinking this season’s digital experience could easily make your head spin. Rather than visiting a fabricated world – the way we would at the Grand Palais – we were witnessing a multi-layered experience: a fabricated world inside a digital world, seen from a real world, which doesn’t feel very real right now. Golly, let’s move on to the clothes.

While the limitations caused by the coronavirus have spawned a complicated industry debate about the future format of shows, it has largely simplified our fashion appetite. Concepts like wardrobe basics, investment pieces, expert craftsmanship and buying less but better became early reactions to the call for sustainability generated by the pandemic. (Fuelled, no doubt, by the fact we’ve all lived in sports and loungewear for two months now.) In every way, Virginie Viard’s collection was a manifestation of those values.

“We had to adapt,” she said in a statement, explaining how she decided to use stock materials for the collection, conceived from the idea of travelling light. It transpired in clarified takes on the Chanel suit in unlined leather or tweed, stripped of fuss and adornment bar big investment jewellery pieces handmade by Chanel’s artisans at Maison Desrues.

There was an emphasis on denim – the durable evergreen – patchworked with logos and florals. A two-piece set made up of a gridded halter-neck top and a flared matching trouser – worn with two-tone flats – distilled the codes of Chanel into ease and practicality. Often, it was expressed in a breezy 1970s silhouette: bandeau tops styled with flares, the midriff accentuated with chain and strap accessories or re-appropriated bandanas. All very feel-good.

Transformable pieces felt like an answer to anti-consumerism: skirts that double as strapless dresses, chiffon jackets that moonlight as dresses, embroidered long cardigans that could pass for mini dresses, and garments with a wealth of versatile styling options proposed by Viard in her collection notes.

Industry debates have called for elaborate cruise shows – i.e. pre- collections – to revert to their commercial raison d’être as toned-down frontrunners to the main collections. That wasn’t, of course, what Coco Chanel had in mind when she invented the cruise show in 1919, intended for clients who wintered in exotic locations and required fabulous capsule wardrobes.

Within the limits of trying times, Viard managed to unite the values of tradition and progression in a collection that felt appropriate for now. And, of course, send those of us trapped in our bedrooms a postcard from the fashion land of make-believe we so miss. Even if it was a down-to-earth one.

Why Fashion Brands Are Launching Podcasts

The new beauty floor at Saks has everything you might expect from a high-end emporium working to prove itself in the digital age: a custom foundation bar, a facial workout gym and, as of last week, a podcast in residence. Earlier this month, Jodi Katz recorded an episode of “Where Brains Meet Beauty” — an interview with mind-body workout guru Taryn Toomey — from a small stage at the centre of the department store’s maze of warmly lit makeup counters. Katz, the founder of Base Beauty Creative Agency, will each month host a live episode of her show, which ranks number 18 in Apple Podcast’s Fashion & Beauty rankings.

Saks joins a wave of fashion and beauty companies turning to podcasts. Longform audio serves as another platform, like video before it, for these brands to speak directly to their most loyal fans, offering what’s positioned as an authentic glimpse behind the scenes. And the audience, though still small for many branded podcasts, has potential to grow along with the medium; in 2018, 48 million people in the United States alone tuned in to podcasts each week, a number that’s up six million from 2017, according to Edison Research.

“This format allows us to reach a much broader audience, both in-store and on a national level,” said Kate Oldham, the senior vice president and general manager of beauty, jewellery and home at Saks. “Podcasts tell a longer and more intimate story and Jodi has the ability to connect with her guests on a very personal level.”

Last May, Barneys New York debuted season one of "The Barneys Podcast," a series of conversations between top Barneys employees, including chief executive Daniella Vitale, and beloved fashion faces like the designer Heron Preston. Season two, which kicked off in September, follows a similar format but is hosted by former Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive. Sephora held live recordings of the comedy-driven beauty podcast “Glowing Up” at stores in Chicago, New York and San Francisco, and sponsored a six-part podcast series from Girlboss Media called #LIPSTORIES, named after a recent Sephora Collection lipstick launch.

Luxury brands — rarely early adopters of digital marketing practices — are experimenting with the format as well. No one is willing to tell in-depth brand stories anymore, so podcasts give brands a platform on which to do that. In 2017, Chanel debuted its "3.55" podcast in-store at the famed Paris retailer Colette as a celebration of the store’s final days before it closed that December. Hosted by the journalist Daphné Hézard, the show’s first iteration featured conversations with friends of the house like Pharrell Williams. Since then, “3.55” has cycled through themed series like “Handbag Stories” (anecdotes from assorted Chanel bag lovers like model Soo Joo Park) and, most recently, “Chanel at the Opera” (conversations on creativity with choreographers, dancers and actors).

Gucci followed this past May with "The Gucci Podcast," interviews with house creative director Alessandro Michele’s collaborators, including singer Florence Welch and the Harlem designer Dapper Dan. Each episode is recorded in a different location and meant to paint a more vivid picture of the brand’s larger story according to one person familiar with the show’s production. In June, Maison Margiela launched "The Memory Of… with John Galliano," a program that, like Gucci’s, gives listeners a deeper look into the inspirations behind Margiela’s latest collections and product launches.

“No one is willing to tell in-depth brand stories anymore, so podcasts give brands a platform on which to do that,” said Dana Schwartz, the founder of PR firm The Hours Agency. “To not only control but really expand on the brand narrative.” Jason Goldberg, the chief commerce strategy officer at Publicis, sees it as a modern expansion of luxury brands’ legacy. “They’ve always been rich storytellers and content creators,” he said, pointing to their history of publishing house magazines and editorial-rich catalogues. “The podcast is a rising format within that same tradition.”

Since the overall investment involved in podcasting is very low, especially for luxury brands that aren’t strapped for cash, it’s an easy experiment for brands to test out. Costs usually involve a few hundred dollars for equipment and online hosting fees ranging between $30 and $50 per month, according to those with experience in their production. Since most brands recruit a host from inside their ranks, paying more for a host is often avoided. While podcast listeners tend to skew male, female listeners are driving much of the industry’s growth — their total monthly listenership jumped 14 percent in 2018. Just under one-quarter of American women now listen to podcasts each month, compared to 27 percent of American men. Taken together, Americans are now listening to an average of 7 different podcasts per week and the medium is most popular with people aged 24–54.

The market demographics certainly make sense for fashion and beauty brands, which target female customers with disposable income. However, the audience for a deep dive into a designer’s inspiration or Chanel’s take on opera is often narrow. Podcasts are a great tactic — they just won’t be your broadest reach tactic. None of the podcasts mentioned in this story are listed in Apple Podcasts' Top 200 rankings, whose placements are determined by a show’s number of subscribers, downloads, ratings, and reviews. The same is true on Stitcher, another popular platform for streaming podcasts, where list placement is determined by unique listeners.

Although each show has near-perfect ratings on Apple, those numbers carry less weight when considered alongside the number of overall reviews. The Barneys Podcast leads the group, with 190 reviews, followed by Margiela, which has 53 reviews, Gucci 38 and Chanel 14. The top podcast in Apple’s Fashion & Beauty category, “Pretty Basic with Alisha Marie and Remi Cruz,” boasts 19,372 reviews. “Where Brains Meet Beauty,” the podcast now being held live at Saks Fifth Avenue each month, has 150,000 downloads, according to founder Katz. Barneys New York would only offer that their following was growing steadily, while the other brands declined to comment. None of these shows are inspiring much social traction with fans, either, said Leah Adams, head of marketing and communication at Tribe Dynamics, which measures the earned media value of fashion and beauty brands each month. The few that do mention these shows tend to be those involved in the creation of the podcast or a featured guest.

Though the audiences may be small, they could prove an effective way to find and engage with super-fans, much like how brands work with micro-influencers who forge deep connections with their followers. “Podcasts are a great tactic — they just won’t be your broadest reach tactic,” said Goldberg. “You tend to get only your most zealous audience but you get a really quality engagement with them.”

It’s certainly more lucrative than advertising on another brand’s podcast, a system for which metrics and analytics “are really flawed,” he said, noting that they’re notoriously hard to parse and quantify. But to get the most out of the medium, live podcasting in the vein of Saks Fifth Avenue and Sephora is probably the best route, even if the costs are slightly higher, according to Colleen Leddy, the chief media officer at Droga5. “It drives more engagement and creates a longer lifespan for the podcast,” she said.

Rihanna’s Latest Fenty Drop Has Revolution At Its Core

Following weeks of confinement owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, and against the backdrop of rising anti-racism movements, Rihanna’s latest Fenty drop champions the energising, optimistic attitude of young people fighting for change. Release 6-20, a three-part series hitting Fenty.com throughout June, celebrates “the irrepressible defiance, creativity, hope and spirit of youth,” according to the brand.

With rebelliousness at its core, the new Fenty edit is chock-full of counter-cultural references from the ’90s – the decade Rihanna, who celebrated her 32nd birthday at the beginning of the health crisis, grew up in – including baggy rave silhouettes, psychedelic tie-dye prints, and grunge hoodies. Thigh-grazing hemlines will be a must this month, if the Fenty founder has anything to do with it.

Drop one, which launches on 11th June, eases Fenty fans in with monochrome daywear. Slogans are introduced in the second line, before it’s full throttle into loud-and-proud prints for the height of summer.

The accompanying mini campaign mirrors the mood of the Release. Captured by London-based photographer Lea Colombo, models, artists and musicians from within the Fenty family wear the clothes and embody the “freedom, diversity, unity and solidarity” that Rihanna’s brand – and her entire Fenty empire – has championed since its genesis.

The businesswoman – who who has said she was overwhelmed by the “magnitude of devastation, anger, [and] sadness [she] felt” after the murder of George Floyd – has, over the past week, been using her personal platform to encourage her fans to vote for urgent reform, while donating to several anti-racism charities through Fenty. “Fenty as a brand was created to elevate beauty, power and freedom,” she wrote on Black Out Tuesday, when Fenty chose not to do any business in support of the movement. “At this very moment racists are attempting to rip those values away from black people and we will not stand by and let that happen. We are too powerful, creative and resilient. In support of the black community, we will be donating funds to Colour Of Change and Movement For Black Lives. We ask you to speak up, stand up, and pull up against racism and discrimination in all forms.”

“New world energy,” Rihanna captioned the Release 6-20 imagery a week later, while another post read, “Dreaming of tomorrow”. Shop the edit, with revolution sewn into its seams, from 11th June at Fenty.com.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Powerful Reason Asai Is Selling The Viral Rihanna Dress For The First Time

A Sai Ta is putting his hot-pink Hot Wok dress into production to raise money for Black Lives Matter, Solace Women’s Aid and The Voice of Domestic Workers. You know the one. Rihanna wore the asymmetric tie-dye design on holiday in October, to Instagram-breaking effect. To date, the video of her eye-wateringly sassy stride to the pool – Bottega Veneta Pouch in hand, Fenty shades on – has had over 24 million views. Ta, the Fashion East graduate behind club-kid favourite ASAI, could not have asked for better publicity. But, rather than capitalise on the stratospheric rise in interest in his 2017-born brand, Ta opted not to sell it. Now, he has chosen to utilise the viral design – which only he himself and Rihanna own – to “contribute something tangible” to the fight against systemic racism and injustice.

“In our current world, there’s no doubt that money talks,” Ta tells British Vogue. “My intention is to support three charities that are significant in recognising oppression and, specifically, not to profit from sales of the dress. It’s a clear act on my part to mobilise the change that I can through my brand.” After Rih’s slo-mo video circulated the internet, numerous retailers pleaded with Ta to put the Hot Wok dress into production. He would not budge, refusing to capitalise on the power of an influencer and collaborator (Ta has created a capsule collection for Fenty). Fashion, Ta believes, is political and has the power to instigate change. He will no longer be silent about this, particularly in light of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

“I am a Vietnamese-Chinese second-generation refugee into the UK,” says Ta. “People of colour, diversity and cast-out voices have always been central to the building of my brand, so I must speak on the issue and I am committed to always having a voice on it.” The £300 dress – which customers can purchase directly through Ta by emailing info@asaita.co.uk – is significant because, the designer says, “It allows you to be seen.” Model Elizabeth Osagie-Ero, who premiered the look during Nigeria’s Arise Fashion Week where Ta was a guest designer, contacted Ta after he announced the charitable initiative. “I see myself,” she told him. “This is so powerful for me,” he says. “I feel seen and heard, which is what I need, and what I demand for the voices who are not.”

Ta has since posted messages of his intent moving forward. A percentage of all future ASAI revenue will go to Black Lives Matter, and he is urging the industry to do what it can to support minorities and to redress the privileges and prejudice that make racism an enduring issue. “Your percentage reflects your compassion,” he said on 1 June. “To be honest, nobody should be using resources in fashion to further pollute this world until what they create supports black lives and people of colour on every level.”

He reiterated his position as a force for change to British Vogue: “My very existence in the fashion industry is to protest against injustice and inequality and to be a voice for what is not correct but is wrongfully condoned. I don’t want to just talk about what I want to do, my words are backed by action.” Let’s hope Ta’s rallying cry is heard.

Photographer Travels The World To Capture Every Skin Tone In Pantone Style

This Brazilian photographer, Angélica Dass with her latest project Humanae is seeking to break down the barriers of race, ethnicity, and skin color that have been dividing factors among humankind for centuries. She captured examples of every skin color in the world, to prove that diversity goes beyond the standard confines of white, black, red, and yellow.

Humanae quickly gained momentum shortly after its inception in early 2016, and thanks to an extensive social media campaign, she was able to capture over 200 portraits while traveling through 19 different international cities. Angélica followed a ritual of first photographing the subjects against a white background, then selecting an 11-pixel square from each of their noses and matching the color to its corresponding Pantone industrial palette shade which becomes each photo’s backdrop. Rather than arranging them in a spectrum-like gradient order, she shuffles the photos and presents them as a ‘mosaic,’ showing the contrasts and similarities between each varied tone.

Angélica Dass holds the project close to her heart, as she herself grew up in a mixed-race family in Rio de Janeiro, and has faced countless discrimination based on her skin color. “Every time I take a picture, I feel that I am sitting in front of a therapist,” she said in a 2016 TED Talk. “All the frustration, fear, and loneliness that I once felt… Becomes love.” Just like the constant evolution of human appearances and identities, Humanae is ongoing and will serve its purpose until the walls that separate us are brought down.

Louis Vuitton Appoints Johnny Coca As New Leather Goods Director

Louis Vuitton has announced Johnny Coca as its new Women’s Fashion Leather Goods Director, effective June 2. Coca’s appointment marks a return to the same brand where his training began back in 1996, working as a leather goods designer for Louis Vuitton until 2000.

Spanish-born and multilingual, Coca has had no shortage of formative experiences in design to prepare him for his new role. After moving to Paris, he studied at the Beaux-Arts and the Boulle school of applied arts. Coca also honed his craft as head design director for leather goods, accessories, shoes and jewelry at Celine under Phoebe Phillo, and most recently served as creative director at Mulberry for five years before departing in March.

Coca will work closely alongside Artistic Director Nicolas Ghesquière to create handbags for the brand, and he is welcomed back with open arms to the maison. According to Ghesquière, “I am happy to welcome Johnny at the Maison Louis Vuitton and very pleased that he is joining me on this journey that started a few years ago. The team and I look forward to working with him in the inspiring world of Louis Vuitton.”

For Coca, the return to Louis Vuitton holds a special meaning, one that reaffirms his dedication to design. “The journey now has come full circle, to the place where I was lucky enough to hone my passion first-hand and learn the fundamentals of leather craftsmanship,” said Coca. “It opens a new chapter in my own creative adventure, in an extraordinary laboratory that blends heritage and modernity.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Halima Aden & Anywear Team Up To Create Masks For Hijabi Frontline Workers

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, shortages of masks and PPE gear have posed a problem, particularly within the United States. Thanks to generous donations from private organisations and designers making efforts to produce additional supplies, the situation has improved. Still, even when frontline workers have access to the right gear, issues can arise. Created for short-term use rather than 24/7 wear, traditional masks can quickly become uncomfortable. In fact many hospital workers have reported scarring and irritation due to the restrictive ear straps. For hijabi doctors and nurses, the situation is further complicated by standard-issue masks that don’t account for headscarves and facial coverings.

With its debut collection, Anywear attempts to address those issues. Dubbed “Banding Together”, the capsule of specially designed face coverings offers an alternative to the omnipresent N95 mask. Fashion heavyweights such as hairstylist Chris McMillan and make-up artist Daniel Martin were among the first to collaborate with Anywear on masks. Now model Halima Aden has come on board with a range of hijab and turban sets. Many brands have pivoted to mask making, but few have addressed the needs of frontline workers from all faiths. Aden’s custom hijabs add something new to the equation and the market – precisely what Anywear’s cofounders Emily Shippee and Adi-Lee Cohen had in mind. “When I started speaking to Adi about inclusivity and the designs, we wanted to make sure we included women who need to cover their hair and do so comfortably,” explained Shippee via email. “Of course, nobody was better for that than Halima, because she used to clean hospital rooms when she first started working and had valuable, firsthand experiences.”

Aden’s days at the St. Cloud Hospital in Minnesota are more than just a footnote to her high-fashion Cinderella story. As a housekeeper, she learned the ins and outs of sanitising and sterilising patient rooms. “You need to rely on the doctors, LPNs, and nurses but also the housekeepers and cleaning staff,” shared Aden on the phone from her hometown of St. Cloud. “We do a huge part in keeping patients healthy.” Proper mask usage is part of that task. During her time in healthcare, Aden experienced what it was like to wear them beneath her hijab. “Early on, I understood the importance of wearing that extra protective gear, whether it was the gloves or the personal protection equipment, so when Covid-19 happened, and there were so many shortages, I felt such sympathy. I struggled with my scarf and having to pin it,” she says. “I can remember wishing that there was a way for the hijab to be a part of the uniform instead of me having to go and match the fabric and never be able to find scarf options to go with my scrubs.”

For her collection, Aden designed the kinds of pieces she’d always been looking for. Offered in a range of tranquil colours, her turbans and hijabs integrate seamlessly into a uniform. Best of all, each purchase comes with a matching donation to provide PPE for those in need. “I wanted something that would bring joy to the patients and the healthcare workers,” she says. “When it came time to design the sets, I chose shades that I associate with peace instead of the standard white; colours that just made me feel good looking at them.” Ease of wear was also essential. “This is giving people the tools to feel comfortable and do their job to the best of their ability,” she says. “There are so many hijabi women working in healthcare, and their comfort is as important as anyone else’s in the workforce.”

With Aden in Minnesota and the Anywear team spread out between New York and Tel Aviv, the project came together via video conferencing. “Everything happened so quickly. We hopped on a Zoom session and just talked it out. Then they did a beautiful job of shipping the samples immediately,” says Aden. “I took a screengrab and texted it to my brother so he could show my mom. Then I was calling my cousin who worked with me at St. Cloud, and was the person who originally got me the job! Creating these has been such an honour and a full-circle moment.”

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the fashion community has responded with creativity and solidarity – the Anywear capsule is an example of both principles. The Covid-19 era has taught the industry plenty of lessons, but Shippee and Aden hope that the changes brought about over the last few months have a long-term impact. “Right now, we’re collectively experiencing the fear of lost livelihoods, losing jobs, and being uncertain about our health. Those are all emotions refugees face daily,” says Aden. “My ultimate hope is that we all recognise that we’re human at the end of the day. This project is about spotlighting healthcare professionals, but so many groups are banding together to fight this. I’m so grateful the real heroes are finally getting the attention they deserve.”