Thursday, June 28, 2007

Men's Spring 2008 - Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen has apparently fallen in love with 1950s surf culture and Americana. That's a far cry from his past collections, which have been inspired by everything from World War II to Lord of the Flies. It's safe to say that this collection is a whole measure brighter and enlivened than many have come to expect from McQueen. On the whole, his concept came off beautifully. Without any ideological theme riding too heavily on the clothes, every look was lighter and more approachable than ever before, without losing that signature McQueen edginess. He continued the season's trend of shorter shorts and cropped pants, paired with lengthier coats and parkas in more assertive colors. Fabrics spanned the range from cotton suiting in shades of white polka-dot, to slicked and soaked black wool Men in Black looks, with hippie cotton "love" shirts, extra-long sock-hop cardigans, and Technicolor neoprene diving pants all in between. While that sounds like a maddening mix, McQueen deft hand and sharp editing kept it all under control. With pieces like shark-print and flower-embroidered t-shirts, down-to-earth plaid shorts, and a few easy trousers and trenches, this collection was also built to sell. It was a bright, wet delight that was filled with easy statement pieces that I'm quite sure men will want to start wearing now. But, alas, we have until 2008 to wait!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Barneys New York bought out by Dubai private equity

Jones Apparel Group (NYSE: JNY) announced Friday of its $825 million dollar sell off of its subsidiary Barneys New York to Dubai-based private equity group Istithmar. Focused more on the wholesaling, Jones Apparel said that although Barneys New York provided significant growth, the growth margins with regard to investment was not on par with the rest of its wholesaling business.

We see in Barneys a very nice growth asset. From our perspective...the asset required more capital investment to grow, [with the] operating margin not likely to approach [that of] our wholesale business as we go forward - Peter Boneparth, CEO Jones Apparel
Returning to its beginnings in wholesaling and mid-level luxury, Boneparth noted that Jones Apparel's short stint in Luxury-end fashion was too far outside of the company's spectrum, however he noted the opportunity for producing a great shareholder return to investors.
We didn't buy [Barneys] with the intent to sell it, but this is a great opportunity for shareholder return. - Boneparth
Due to tax benefits, Jones Apparel will make approximately $290 million from the sale, with net proceeds after taxes and transaction fees being close to $770 million.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Finally: First Fashion Free-For-All Fund Found!

Ever wanted to own a portfolio of luxury brands but didn't have to time to research them all? The Chic Fund might just be for you. The brains over at Dominion Funds created Chic to capture the growth in the luxury segment, which has exploded over the last half-decade. The fund owns iconic brands such as Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Tod's, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bottega Veneta, Bulgari; even a little stake in Rolls-Royce to keep those fashion houses company.

The minimum investment is $10,000, and there's an annual management fee of 2.27 percent. Wonder if they'll give me a Louis Vuitton briefcase just for signing up?


Chic Fund

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Luxottica Group purchases Oakley for 2.1 Billion

Luxottica Group S.p.A. (NYSE: LUX) announced their 2.1 billion dollar buyout of sunglasses maker Oakley (NYSE: OO) for $29.30 per share today sending both shares skyrocketing up. Owner of fashion eye-wear brand Ray-Ban and distributor of luxury brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and Chanel, Luxottica plans to dive into the upscale sports eyewear market with its latest acquisition.

Based on the latest releases of Oakley shades, both for men and women, there was a clear directional shift in the look from sporty to fashionable. The summer 2007 line of Oakley women's sunglasses not only featured big-lensed glasses, but also touted an arsenal of fashionable frames and styles very far from the traditional sporty look.

Due to the extreme market saturation in high end fashionable eye-wear, a strategic diversification into athletics-based background may yield higher growth in the future.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Luxury On The Rise In Seattle?

Seattle Times Business Reporters Melissa Allison and Monica Soto Ouchi recently discussed the implications of the Barneys relocation on the luxury retail sector in Seattle. Opening June 29, the new Barneys isn't exactly a gigantic upgrade in terms of selling space. In fact, at 16,448 square feet, roughly 1/3 bigger than the old location on 5th in the City Centre mall, it’s significantly smaller than the new locations that Barneys has opened in Boston and Dallas. This new store isn't as much about expansion as it is about increased visibility. The old store, having stood in the same location next to Butch Blum and across from the Red Lion since 1990, was only frequented by the fashionably in-the-know of Seattle and the curious tourists and business travelers staying in hotels. Its location was closer to the luxury intersection of 5th and University than it was to the central shopping core near Westlake. Many Seattleites actually had no idea there was even a Barneys in the city to begin with. It was simply out of the way for those not looking for it. This new store is all about heralding a new Seattle image for the store. Located in Pacific Place, the location will likely receive significantly increased amounts of foot traffic among both locals and visitors alike. Pacific Place’s parking garage is well-known to be one of the most affordable, often mentioned in tour books and visitor's guides. The shopping center, along with the flagship Nordstrom directly across the sky bridge, form what many consider to be the heart of downtown Seattle shopping.

In particular, the location is interesting in how it will reshape shopping in Seattle. As far as shopping for luxury brands goes, Barneys doesn’t have a particular edge over other Seattle shopping meccas. According to the Pacific Place website, the store will offer "Balenciaga, Lanvin and Prada for women and Jil Sander, Paul Smith and Dries Van Noten for men. The CO-OP will offer Vince, DVF, Trovata and Rogan." Balenciaga and Lanvin have been on offer for women at Nordstrom for a couple of years now, with Prada, Paul Smith, and Rogan available at Mario's just down the street. Butch Blum has a decent selection of Jil Sander for men, while Trovata can be found at Ian, Blackbird, and even at Nordstrom now. Contemporary brands Vince and DVF are carried in several boutiques and department stores in the area.

While surely the buyers have chosen completely unique selections, there aren't many brands names in Seattle that aren't on offer at at least one other store, one that is also likely to be considered more of a Seattle institution than Barneys has been in the past 17 years. Mario's, Butch Blum, and of course Nordstrom have all been here longer and gained very loyal customer bases. Barneys customers include a wide array of decidedly fashion-conscious and experimental shoppers, from the visiting tourist who may not be back very regularly, to the fluttery fashionista who only comes in to buy the things she wants and doesn't feel as much loyalty to any particular store. Barneys may have a stellar shoe selection, but Nordstrom still has more Louboutins and Manolos. Barneys is great, but at this point they’re just another player in the increasingly crowding luxury market. With Neiman Marcus and the Bravern opening in Bellevue, Barneys will really need to differentiate their product selection to bring buyers in. To Barneys’ disadvantage, their service isn’t exactly legendary and they have no ties to the Northwest. To the average shopper, the biggest thing Barneys has going for them at this point is their famous name, made iconic in “Sex and the City” and “Will and Grace.” While Barneys indeed had a sizable amount of return customers, the biggest opportunity in this relocation will be to increase sales with increased visibility and foot traffic. This location in Pacific Place should definitely help in that respect, but how far will that take them? How many loyal Nordstrom and Mario’s customers will they be able to convert?

Just how much will the new Barneys influence downtown shopping? It will certainly help polarize the luxury shopping core to the north and south ends of the shopping district, with luxury department store and jewelry shopping to the north and boutique shopping to the south. It will build some prestige and fight the Seattle stereotype of flannel and Birkenstocks. But ultimately, only time will tell what, if anything, will really change downtown.

Calvin Klein White Label Expansion

At the Phillips-Van Heusen (NYSE:PVH) investors conference last week, CEO Emanuel Chirico reviewed the phenomenal growth of the Calvin Klein brand since its acquisition in 2003. Since then, the brand's global retail sales have grown 60% from 2.8 billion to 4.6 billion dollars in 2007.

Outlining a new strategy to promote Calvin Klein's White Label branding through the establishment of upscale retail boutiques in the US, Chirico spoke of growing the sales another 3.5 to 4 billion dollars over the next 5 years. Opening 5 stores in Q4, 2007 and 5 more in 2008, Chirico hopes to strengthen the branding in the United States to join the popularity in the rest of the global market.

In addition to publicizing the growth in the US, other expansions are planned in emerging markets like India, in order to capitalize on the wealth distribution in the middle class. As reported in the 2006 Annual Report, the focus on market capitalization in China, Russia, Vietnam, and the Middle East will be one of the largest growth drivers for the brand in the next 5 years in addition to the US. Although Phillips-Van Heusen licenses many brands from BCBG to Timberland for distribution, Calvin Klein is one of the few brands of complete ownership entailing serious need for continued growth and market momentum.

Although margins have squeezed domestically over the last 3-5 years due to fierce competition in the boutique retail sector, Phillips Van-Heusen will most likely capture a significant portion of its momentum overseas.

Image [Source]

June 19th, 2007 Investor's Conference Webcast
Annual 2006 Quarterly Report

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Twelve By Twelve: Forever 21's Upscale Venture

Announced this week, Forever 21 (Google Finance) takes a new direction with their new brand Twelve by Twelve. Introducing a more upscale approach to affordable, fashion-forward clothing, Twelve by Twelve aims to cater to a slightly older constituency with ready-to-wear pieces. Attempting to mimic the successes of MNG Mango and Zara (Google Finance), the clothing seems to be intended for older adults looking for clothing to go out in. Adding to the success of Forever 21's individual pieces, Twelve by Twelve also will contribute matching pieces for a more put together look.

Previously, Forever 21's growth and success has been attributed to the high in-store turnover ratios, as well as the momentous flow of new products being introduced. Inspired by the most up and coming trends on the market, it is estimated that the production turnaround time is as little as two weeks, providing their customers with affordable access to the newest styles.

Based on the released photos, the current perception seems somewhat negative of the future prospects of the brand. However, based on the current market for fashion-forward ready to wear clothing combined with the production genius behind Forever 21, I remain bullish.

Source [Images, Data]

Friday, June 15, 2007

Designer Alert: Riccardo Tisci

When Riccardo Tisci debuted his eponymous ready-to-wear line in Milan for the Fall 2005 season, it was a gothic masterpiece unlike anything else happening in Milan at the time. The collection recalled the works of other young upstarts like Olivier Theyskens, encompassing beautifully envisioned romanticism infused with a rich, dark edginess. Just as quickly as he was listed as one-to-watch, he was snatched up by Givenchy to take over the design helm for both ready-to-wear and couture. The word is that he got the job because he never once mentioned the legacy of Audrey Hepburn, who was Hubert de Givenchy’s muse, an influence that would continue to dominate the Givenchy legacy long past its relevance. In just 2 short years, he’s taken the house to places Ms. Hepburn never could have imagined. Instead of working within the same frameworks of the Givenchy name, Tisci threw it all out and the window and started fresh. His latest collection for the house had a naval/nautical theme, unique in Tisci’s flair for dramatic silhouettes and even more dramatic detailing. Bolts of pleated chiffon floated over thigh-high leather boots and under thick navy wool coats with oversized lapels embellished with gigantic gold studs. And in terms of what makes it to the selling floor, Tisci has consistently proved his ability to cut a mean pair of trousers and a sharp LBD. Now that the revival of the handbag division is also underway (as seen on the arms of the Olsen twins, among others), Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy will be a force to be reckoned with.

Cross-posted via FabGrind and Crash!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Young British...Designers?

YBA has long stood for Young British Artist, a term art historians have used to categorize all the avant-garde and post-modernist London "youngsters" blowing up in the art world for the past couple of decades. This has included everybody from Damien Hirst to Marcus Harvey. However, the past couple of years in the fashion world has given rise to a new breed of creative Londoner: the Young British Designer. Long regarded as an experimental, if not always spectacular, breeding ground for new talent, London Fashion Week has recently become a much more exciting place to be. Even those YBDs who aren't exactly in their 20s are still worth watching, if only because they're injecting something so much more exhilarating into fashion than the usual art school fashion major. Here are some names to watch:

Christopher Kane - Currently the most promising of the crowd, Kane's body-hugging elastic band construction has garnered comparisons to Hervé Léger (whose own vintage creations are popping up on starlets all over Hollywood). For Spring 2007, his look was loud, brash, and party-ready. Think hyperneon pinks and oranges with day-glo yellows and greens, topped off with gigantic Swarovski zipper pulls. His Fall 2007 collection brought about a sense of maturity, evident in the more muted color palette - mostly black, with shots of deep scarlet, amber, and emerald - and mid-thigh hem lengths instead of last season's hyper-micro-mini. Kane's sense of color and detailing has set him apart from the other Gianni Versace-revivalists, so much so that Donatella herself has hired Kane as a part-time consultant. Ikram in Chicago, which bought his entire first collection on exclusive for America, promptly sold out in just a few days. When wider distribution comes about, expect the same massive hysteria from coast to coast.

Marios Schwab - For this 28 year-old designer, flashbacks to the late 1980s and early 1990s aren't about crazy coke-fueled partying - he was still just a young chap back then. Fair enough, but can someone so young bring back an era that many are desperate to forget? Well, Schwab is trying, with mostly promising results. His Fall 2007 collection wasn't his strongest, with Schwab evidently trying to capture the 1980s by mixing Azzedine Alaïa body-hugging silhouettes with an unfortunate Laura Ashley-esque floral print. What worked best were his breezy frocks in a black paisley scarf-print silk chiffon, as well as his wide selection of very sellable sportswear and cocktail dresses in solid black and ecru. While his identity may be based on an Alaïa-revival philosophy, he certainly needs to develop this more commercial range before he can make it in the big leagues of Paris.

Giles Deacon - The oldest of the crowd, Deacon has garnered a lot of attention for his recent S&M/punk-inspired collaboration with Mulberry, purveyor of fine, conservative leather goods. Often featured in Harper's Bazaar, his work takes on exotic, directional visions of something very beautiful in nature. Within every collection, he falls somewhere between timelessly elegant and youthfully irreverent. For Fall 2007, he focused on the most dramatic aspects of creatures that humans tend to overlook. He incorporated the textures and patterns of both bird plumage and sea-creature skins, bold and rich and oh-so-beautiful. With his recent collaboration with British chain New Look and his new position as head designer for the more-upscale British company Daks, Deacon has secured quite a bit of financial success for his future.

Gareth Pugh - Initially criticized for making clothing that was more about theatrics than, well, clothing, Gareth Pugh is still fairly resistant to producing a runway show filled with anything that will hit the sales floor. While his theatrics have earned him comparisons to last decade's big YBD, Alexander McQueen, it still remains to be seen whether Pugh follow in McQueen's footsteps and tone things down to a wearable dimension. There's no doubt that he can make a killer coat - see here - but more often than not his work is drowned in a sea of almost Surrealist insanity. With his various editorial features in W over the past several months, it's hard to deny that he must be doing something right.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Five Men’s Brands To Watch

3.1 Phillip Lim

New York designer Phillip Lim already has a fledgling women’s line, stocked in virtually every upscale boutique and department store from Mercer to Mario’s. Now, men can get in on his modern design sensibility and upscale construction for prices that are a relatively good value for what you get. It’s the Marni man look for around half the price. From $145 for shirts to $875 for trenches, all prices approximate.

Available online at and

Band of Outsiders

Named after Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 classic French Nouvelle Vague film, Band of Outsiders has been seen everywhere lately, from James Franco on the red carpet to Justin Long in the “Get a Mac” ads. Smart shirts and slick skinny ties give off a less severe version of the Dior Homme look, all at a more affordable price. From $170 to $300 for shirts, about $125 to $145 for ties, all prices approximate.

Available in Seattle at Blackbird and online at, and others.


A.P.C. (which stands for Ateliers de production et de Creation) has quietly gained a cult following among guys who love clean looks, free of labels and infused with just the right amount of French preppy cool. Their well-made, straight-leg dark denim has been extremely popular, often seen in GQ and Details, and their entire summer line is selling out online. Jeans from $140, t-shirts from $50, collection from about $125 to $450, all prices approximate.

Available in Seattle at Blackbird and online at

Helmut Lang

While Mr. Lang himself parted ways with the label that bears his name in 2005, the brand has recently relaunched under the helm of Michael and Nicole Colovos, the duo behind denim label Habitual. They’ve recreated Lang’s downtown cool, sleek and monochromatic aesthetic, now within the bridge price range (a step above contemporary, a step below designer). Expect modern, texturally intriguing fabrics and cuts, including filmy, bias-cut tees, gauzy, twisted seam sweaters, and well-made city parkas. Collection from $105 to $680, all prices approximate.

Available in Seattle at Barneys New York and online at


Recently acquired by Japanese investors, Theory has long been synonymous with subtle, understated cool. They made their name on their precision-cut trousers in modern fabrics, such as cotton-polyamide-lycra weaves. They’ve expanded their collection to include a variety of shirts, sweaters, and jackets appropriate for any occasion both uptown and downtown, on a business trip or in Easthampton. Trousers about $225, collection from $65 for t-shirts to $875 for leather jackets, all prices approximate.

Available in Seattle at Barneys New York and Nordstrom Downtown and online.


Barneys New York
Downtown Seattle on 5th Avenue in City Centre
New location in Pacific Place opening June 29



Downtown Seattle

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Summer Essentials: Sunglasses

Like it or not, sunglasses are useful stereotyping tools. Sorority girl? Oversized Diors. Hipster? Vintage Ray Bands. Through it all, several key trends have emerged this season amid the diversity that is humanity and sunglasses.
Oversized is still key. Though designers have moved away from the mask-like facial concoctions of past seasons, oversized is the style to be coveted. Smaller styles are token in collections, glamorous seems to be the order of the day as consumers continue to love imitating their favorite celebrities with paparazzi ready shades.
Black is out. Earth tones dominate designers palates this season. Shelve that classic black pair for now and explore all the options available, there’s a different pair for each look. One of my favorite trends is the brights that have shown up this summer, like the cherry red Micheal Kors (Google Finance), pictured right, a great example of the amusement designers are getting from updating pop colors for today.
If you really can't pass up the black, you'll still find some great frames, but not without this season's gorgeous detailing or funky styling that punches up the basic.
From chain link to swarovski crystals, horsebit and heavy metal to rimless, camo print to snakeskin (pictured right,) designers have incorporated lux details to truly make their glasses worth the $300 and up price tag. Though brands like Dolce & Gabanna (Dist. NYSE:LUX), Dior (EPI:CDI) and Gucci could be accused of flooding the market with blasé oversized shades, this might not be a fair assessment. The real collections sport a selection of fun, although undeniably sellable, and diverse designs.
So whether its a day on the yacht (think rimless for something fresh), the baseball game (Chloe’s aviators are to die for), or beach fun (you can’t beat the people who know sun, the Californians at Von Zipper,) glasses this season are all about variety- and fitting, or denying, stereotypes.

Some collections that got it right...
Oliver Peoples- This line recently aquired by Oakley (NYSE:OO) does glasses with flaire and trend, but without the obnoxious branding of some other lines
Bvlgari (BIT:BUL)- If you want flash and glamour, try this as an alternative to the usual suspects. If anyone can turn a head with accessories, it is this house.