Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Designer News

1) Pierre Hardy is set to design a line of shoes for Gap. Hardy was a shoe designer for Dior in the 1980s and he currently designs jewelry for Hermès and unbelievably amazing shoes for Balenciaga, as well as his own slickly modern eponymous shoe and handbag line. The line debuts in Europe and a few other markets by the end of this year, with the American debut early next year.

2) Roberto Cavalli's designs for the Spice Girls reunion tour have been released. Cavalli did the costumes for J. Lo's pregnant tour and Christina Aguilera's semi-pregnant tour. I wonder if any of the Spice Girls are pregnant...

3) Kirsten Dunst will be the next face of Miu Miu. Miu Miu has had quite the fascination with actresses in the past several years. The current campaign features the lovely Laetitia Casta, while previous campaigns have featured the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Evan Rachel Wood, Selma Blair, Lou Doillon, Kim Basinger, Ludivine Sagnier, Zhou Xun, and Camilla Belle.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Anne Klein - Isabel Toledo = Boring Sportswear

An Anne Klein look by Isabel Toledo, Spring/Summer 2008, which won't hit stores next year

In an effort to update the brand and give the company a stronger, more contemporary image across the board, Anne Klein, a division of Jones Apparel Group Inc., decided a year ago to enter the (already relatively crowded) designer sportswear arena. To fill the role of creative director, the company hired Isabel Toledo, who already had her own eponymous line in the same category and stocked at stores like Nordstrom. The line was meant to compete with other modern American sportswear names, somewhat edgier than Michael Kors, but maybe slightly tamer than Marc Jacobs.

On the runway, there were clear influences of the New York art world in Toledo's use of prints and colors, which is fitting considering that Isabel's husband is none other than Nordstrom fashion illustrator extraordinaire Ruben Toledo. Editors and store buyers loved it, with Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus stocking up on fresh classics, like delectably detailed, printed shirtdresses and crisp white shirts with a gorgeous, feminine tux pleats. The fashion-foward ad campaigns featured Stella Tennant and longtime Anne Klein model Carolyn Murphy in a much more conceptual narrative than any prior campaign.

But, sadly, the designer line is being shuttered in order for the company to focus more on their bridge- and better-priced collections (which have generally been pretty staid and ho-hum for ages). It's too bad because Isabel Toledo was the breath of fresh air Anne Klein, and indeed America's wilting fashion reputation, sorely needed.

The New Versace Man - Dr. McDreamy?

A Versace ad from Spring 2007

Donatella Versace has quite the legacy of employing celebrities for their ad campaigns. On the women's side, everybody from Courtney Love and Christina Aguilera to Halle Berry and Demi Moore has taken a shot at portraying the modern Versace woman. Even Madonna gave it a whirl a few years ago. On the men's side, Tuki Brando (Marlon's grandson) was the face last season, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers filling the slot for the two seasons before that. Now, the word is that Patrick Dempsey, Dr. McDreamy himself, is going to star in the Spring/Summer 2008 campaign. It's certainly a much different image than the one given by 16 year-old, Tahitian-born Tuki. Will all the model-flipping confuse the customer? Probably not. The Versace man is generally really confident in their clothing choices (along the lines of a DSquared2 or Dolce & Gabbana man even) and these ads will probably attract a wider, more traditional client.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In The Spotlight: Aritzia

Hailing from Vancouver, Aritzia boasts an impressively trendy boutique concept with stores all over Canada and 2 in the US. From staple brands like Citizens of Humanity and Juicy Couture to in-house designers like Talula Babaton, Aritzia seems to have the perfect combinations to put together some hot, stylish outfits. Not only are the clothes fashion-forward, but the boutiques also resemble trendy European styles such as artistic lighting and decor.

Currently the two stores in the U.S. are in Bellevue, Washington and San Jose, CA- with plans to expand further into the American market. I think their distinguished style and great taste makes them a perfect candidate for the growing interest in upscale brands state-side.

Stay tuned for more to come on this up-and-coming brand's entry into the US market.

More information can be found here:

Aritzia Boutique Launches in Bellevue Square Nov 17th - East Side Business Journal
Aritzia hopes designer jeans will fly in U.S. -Financial Post

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday: Consumer Spending Update

Consumer spending was healthy in many of Seattle's retail stores
today. Most notably, and surprising was the line out the door at
Bellevue Square's Express. Other busy retailers included MNG Mango,
Canadian retailers Aritzia and Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ:LULU), as well as department stores Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) and Macy's (NYSE:M). Gap(NYSE:GPS) was (not surprisingly) practically empty, with only a few scattered customers waffling around
in the men's section with the cash register completely empty. Retailer
Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) had a respectable crowd, however we were largely disappointed with the 'deals' offered. Overall, we thought that higher end clothing retailers fared better with the upscale consumer crowd than electronics or lower end products.


Another notable retailer this weekend was GameStop (NYSE:GME), with its store packed full of shoppers. Recently, they have been on a pretty heavy run with so many popular video games being released and pre-sold by the store. I wouldn't be surprised if this momentum continues through the holidays.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Hipper, Younger, Less Intimidating Chanel

Chanel plans to open a store catered to younger, more easily intimidated demographic of shoppers in their teens. Fashion Week Daily reported that the store would be located at 125 North Robertson Boulevard.

"Merchandising for the approximately 4,500-square-foot store has yet to be conceptualized, but when it opens late next spring alongside neighboring stores like Intermix, Tory Burch, Kitson, and Lisa Kline, it's expected to carry a selection of trendier, more fashion-forward ready-to-wear and accessories as opposed to its 14,700-square-foot Rodeo Dr. counterpart. That mantra evidently will carry through as far as the store's design, as word has it the front door entrance will come in the form of a retractable garage door, likely emblazoned with the Chanel logo."
-Fashion Week Daily, Chanel Readies for Robertson
As younger consumers become increasingly exposed to high-end advertising and luxury products, accessibility to these products must become second nature to retailers. Although, one might worry that a younger consumer crowd potentially threatens a brand's image and might drive away older staple customers willing to spend more per capita.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oprah's Favorite Things + Nordstrom

Notice anything particular about the three items featured on the home page? Those Ugg boots, the Clarisonic system, and the Rachel Pally set were all featured on Oprah's Favorite Things episode, which airs today. It's funny how subtle it is, there's no mention of Oprah anywhere. Buy! Buy! Buy!

Oil Barrels: Ultimate In Chic?

Luxist just posted a hilarious piece of jewelry designed to appeal to the Dallas-Fort Worth oilman set:

Apparently, "each barrel is engraved on the bottom with the date it was made and the cost of a barrel of crude oil on that day." That way, some day you will have a memento of how cheap oil used to be.

Click through to Luxist for the article and photos of the other pieces.

Ugg Boots Featured on Oprah's Gift List

Uggs, made by Decker Outdoors (NASDAQ: DECK) has had their classic crochet tall boot put on Oprah's list of 20 must-have gifts for the holiday season.

"I bet every truly dedicated Oprah watcher knows what my feet cannot live without," says Oprah, referring to the iconic and comfy Australian boots.

Now, for all of us who have seen Uggs' meteoric rise and are waiting for Icarus' wax to melt and the fad to end, this stands as one more holiday season that will see us wrong. I'm sure it will happen some day...Uggs are destined to end up in the bargain bin at Kohl's (NYSE: KSS). However, if they keep innovating ways to sell their wares to middle America like this subtle design change, their comfy-ness will stay in style (in the less-style-inclined suburbs, at least).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Lululemon: Investor relations rollercoaster

The Business of Fashion had 2 articles about Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) worth noting with regard to the whole "Seaweed Fiasco":
Lululemon update: Seaweed claims to be removed

Authorities in Canada's Competition Bureau have instructed Lululemon to remove from its labels the claims that the seaweed content in its VitaSea line would reduce stress and provide anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating and detoxifying benefits to people wearing the garments....

Full Text: The Business of Fashion

Lululemon: Investor relations rollercoaster

Over the past year, Canadian yogawear brand and erstwhile stock market darling Lululemon Athletica has often been cited as proof of the market opportunity in new-age fashion concepts which pick up on psychographic and attitudinal shifts -- i.e. that people are looking for more from their clothing than just functional and aesthetic utility.

Full Text: The Business of Fashion

Trendspotting: Cat Eye Eye Liner

According to Fashion Addict Diary, cat eyes are the new cool look to create with your eyeliner:

We've been trying to do the perfect "rebellious eyeliner with a little 50's twist" look a la Sasha P in the Prada ad and it just comes out amatuer on us. Pat McGrath makes it look so easy but it's really not. It's almost easier to just buy the stupid Prada bag she's advertising than paint the cat eye. It's really frustrating but we'll keep trying.
Here's the Pat McGrath liquid eyeliner tutorial:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

H&M Shakes Up Seattle

Hennes and Mauritz, better known as H&M, is expanding across the US like wildfire after quickly conquering Europe over the last 5 years. They've now got 118 stores in 20 states, with 23 being opened just last year. Why do they already have 118 stores here when they're leaving out the Seattle, the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country?

H&M's first store in Seattle is on its way to University Village, a shopping center surrounded by rich neighborhoods and the University of Washington, whose students will surely make up H&M's target market.

The interesting thing about their entrance into the University Village shops is the tenants who will have to leave to make room for them: Abercrombie and Fitch and Williams Sonoma. Abercrombie and Fitch, after failing to adjust to consumer tastes, should see their replacement by H&M as a microcosm of their failure to change.

The new store will be 2 stories, and construction will begin the new year, with occupancy in the fall of 2008.

If you're looking for more info about H&M's incursion into Seattle, click on over to the Seattle Times.

Lacoste Now Making Strollers

Lacoste, one of our favorite iconic turnaround brands of the last half-decade, has licensed its name to MacLaren - the stroller people.

Maclaren has already collaborated with Kate Spade and Lulu Guinness, rolling out fashionable baby carriages for some time. The scic stroller features lightweight design, one-hand fold, reclining seat positions, and front/rear suspension. And because you can't have baby riding in around in just any old clothes, the stroller comes complete with a Lacoste ensemble consisting of a cotton polo shirt and pique sun hat just for baby. The stroller sells for $400 online at Maclaren or Lacoste, as well as at the Fifth Avenue Lacoste boutique in Manhattan.

Via Luxist.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Homeless man inspirres new brand

The NYT had an interesting article today about an L.A. homeless man who apparently has made a significant impact on the fashion scene there...

LOS ANGELES -- The newest sensation at the center of Hollywood's fashion scene isn't a famous designer or starlet. It's a 56-year-old homeless man who spends his days dancing on roller skates.

John Wesley Jermyn has been a fixture in West Los Angeles for more than 20 years. Nicknamed "The Crazy Robertson" and "The Robertson Dancer," he is a constant presence on a stretch of Robertson Boulevard that has become the city's trendiest shopping corridor and a prime strolling spot for tourists and movie stars. Among locals and online, there's much speculation about Mr. Jermyn's personal history, including one oft-repeated rumor that he's a secretive millionaire.


In a plot twist worthy of Tinseltown, Mr. Jermyn now has a clothing label named after him. Since it was introduced last month, "The Crazy Robertson" brand of T-shirts and sweatshirts, created by a trio of 23-year-olds, has flown off the shelves at Kitson, a haunt of tabloid stars like Paris Hilton. The clothes feature stylized images of Mr. Jermyn, including one design -- available on a $98 hoodie -- that has a graphic of him dancing and the phrase "No Money, No Problems" on the back. At the largest of Kitson's three boutiques on Robertson, shirts bearing Mr. Jermyn's likeness are sold alongside $290 "Victoria Beckham" jeans and $50 baby shoes designed by pop star Gwen Stefani.

The label's owners, who grew up in Beverly Hills, have created a MySpace page for Mr. Jermyn. It doubles as an ad for the clothing brand and their nightclub-promotion venture, which is also named "The Crazy Robertson." The young entrepreneurs spent months trying to forge a relationship with Mr. Jermyn -- who now goes by the name John Jermien -- before gaining his approval. They have consulted him on design decisions and had a photographer shoot him for publicity images.

In May, Mr. Jermyn agreed to a deal that entitles him to 5% of "net profit" from clothing sales, according to a copy of the contract seen by The Wall Street Journal. He signed the contract, without speaking to an attorney or family members. But so far he has refused to accept much cash, preferring to be paid in food, liquor and paper for his art projects, according to Teddy Hirsh, one of the label's founders. "He tries not to involve money in his daily life," says Mr. Hirsh, who says he is Mr. Jermyn's agent and manager for future endeavors.

Full Article

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

J. Crew moving into designer jeans?

In J. Crew's (NYSE:JCG) most recent catalog, a pair of designer jeans were featured in a significantly higher price range than usual. This brings up a serious question about how consumers treat "all-in-one" brands like J. Crew and Abercrombie (NYSE:ANF) (who has done this in the past with the Ezra Fitch label) in comparison with specialized jeans like True Religion (NASDAQ: TRLG) and Citizens of Humanity.

My opinion is that most consumers who shop in the J. Crew price range probably purchase their denim elsewhere -from an upscale retailer like Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), Saks (NYSE:SKS), or Barneys. The J. Crew retailer will always have a difficult time fitting into the high end denim space due to the fact that their lifestyle branding is so broad in comparison with the very specific branding associated with denim (ie. Specific stitching, Pockets, cut, wash).

When dealing with established luxury goods like high-end denim, consumers are not willing to risk entry into new brands without major marketing support like celebrity and blog endorsement. True Religion, Paige, Seven for All Mankind (NYSE:VFC), Citizens of Humanity, Rock and Republic, and others have all spent massively on brand-building rather than designing a full line of clothing as their foundation.

Friday, November 9, 2007

New Façonnable Owner Makes Sweet Commericals

MTN Group, who, as we reported, bought the Façonnable brand from Nordstrom, are making some sweet commercials to promote their wireless service in English-speaking markets:

Apparently, it took 1 million Post-it's, 96,314 digital photographs using 2.5 terabytes of storage, 3.1 miles of 35mm film, 3 weeks of editing, and 83 hours in Flame to produce this 60 second commercial.

American Apparel Going Public (Kinda)

Endeavor Acquisition Corp. (AMEX: EDA), a blank-check company, has revised its offer for American Apparel due to the fact that sales and earnings at AA have increased significantly since the original buyout offer was made. Dov Charney, American Apparel's quirky founder, has some newfound reasons to smile, as the agreement brings his annual salary from $1 to $750,000, includes a $100 million life insurance policy, more than triples the amount of shares to be given to AA employees, and allows Charney to hold on to his 55% share of the company. Also, the debt ceiling pre-transaction has been raised from $110 million to $150 million, as American Apparel needs the money to finance the company's huge expansion. Another new inclusion in this deal is that Endeavor will purchase all of the shares owned by the other American Apparel shareholder, Sang Ho Lim, for approximately $67.9 million in cash when the deal closes.

The special meeting of stockholders to consider the transaction is expected to be held Wednesday, December 12, 2007. With the approval of Mr. Charney, the founder and controlling shareholder, this deal is pretty likely to go through, barring any last-minute drug-fueled reconsiderations. Watch out for big moves in Endeavor stock in the next month or two.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Paris Reviews - Nina Ricci S/S 2008

For his latest collection for Nina Ricci, Olivier Theyskens took his signature dark moodiness to the streets of Paris. His jeunes filles looked marvelously disheveled after a long night out on the town. Last season's ethereal, featherlight (and feather-heavy) collection set the tone for the hopelessly romantic Theyskens, and this season he continued his youthful theme with a series of looks that would be perfectly appropriate for the likes of Julia Restoin-Roitfeld (daughter of Vogue Paris editrix Carine Roitfeld) and her European socialite friends. For the girl who loves Giambattista Valli's irreverent-chic party frocks, Theyskens' leggy looks will seem right on target, if slightly more edgy than purely pretty. The silhouette was both lean and languid, with concert-inspired tees flowing with diaphanous chiffon panels attached, paired with pants ranging from cropped, fluid satin to lanky, enviable denim. Incredibly thin leather jackets had an undeniable downtown appeal, while the endless parade of hyper-short dresses (or were they tops?) will fit right into the discotheques of Paris and beyond. One can only hope the heat of spring and summer will keep these girls warm. When the occasion calls for more than just a flirty club outfit, there was an appropriate suit or two for going to the office.

But who says the Nina Ricci girl needs to work under the harsh glare of fluorescent lights? The bulk of the collection focused on evening looks, for the Nina Ricci girl is apparently more comfortable on the red carpet than in a conference call. Building on the success of Reese Witherspoon, whom Theyskens has been dressing in Nina Ricci for the biggest events all year, Theyskens sent out full-length looks not just to end the show, but throughout the whole collection, a less-than-subtle reminder that nighttime is where he (and ultimately his customer) shines. While none of the gowns was entirely challenging or fresh, especially after last season's L'Air du Temps-inspired showstoppers, there were certainly some stunning creations, including a number with the transparency seen on nearly every important runway this season. Theyskens is building a strong, romantic identity quickly at Nina Ricci, so it'll be intriguing to see how he backs these looks up in the stores, especially considering many are either at the upper end of ready-to-wear or are made-to-order, like the demi-couture he favored at Rochas (which has since been closed down). Will there be more of the practical day looks and cozy sweaters in the showroom? Is there a line of high-margin accessories right around the corner? Nina Ricci already has a strong perfume business, and the shoe business has been blooming. Are handbags far behind? Both the boon and the bane of luxury fashion houses in recent years, it would be interesting to see how Theyskens would do it without diluting the house's image.

Nina Ricci is available at Mario's Seattle and Nordstrom Bellevue.

Lululemon Gets Squeezed

One of our favorite stocks (not to mention a strong, growing brand), Lululemon Atletica, has been getting hammered in the stock market of late. Just over a hour into the trading day, it's down slightly over one percent at 40.85, a nearly 29% drop from its recent high on October 22nd at $58.00.

Why the drop when Lululemon is expanding and growing sales at a lightning-fast pace? A lot of things are weighing on the stock, one of them is profit taking. Those who were able to secure IPO shares at $18 have been selling to cash in on rising shares, some having profited more than 200% in under 3 months. In addition, Lululemon has so much going for it that investors have bid up its shares to a sky-high valuation, and Lulu would need to grow much faster to deserve this kind of price premium.

Long term, we still have bullish sentiment for Lulu, but investors beware, whenever you make a big gain, others will often run for the exits to take profit, and this is something you must factor in your decision making.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Burberry Blues

I've been seeing more and more glamorous people sporting the iconic Burberry (LON: BRBY) plaid pattern lately in and about town, and it's gotten me wondering if Burberry isn't in the early stages of a full-scale comeback.

Why was I so bearish on Burberry? I saw the fall of the fabled marque in the late nineties; what I witnessed is summed up well by the Wall Street Journal: "Plaid overexposure. In recent years, the company attached its plaid to too many products and its brand image slid, with even British soccer hooligans wearing it. Exacerbating the problem were counterfeit goods."

During some research on the famed British marque, I found that Burberry is currently taking London Fog parent Iconix Brand Group (NASDAQ: ICON) to court over use of its check pattern used in coats and scarves. Burberry developed the trench coat on a commission from the British War Office in 1914, and first used the famous patented check to line its trench coats in the 1920s. London Fog likewise has been using its own similar check pattern to line trench coats since the 20s, so this puts Burberry in a tight position to explain why they didn't fight it out in the courtroom, say, 80 years ago. We'll see how it plays out.

Via Counterfeit Chic

Friday, November 2, 2007

Paris Reviews - Balenciaga S/S 2008

Nicolas Ghesquière is easily considered one of the greatest designers of our time, and with this latest collection for Balenciaga, he proves he deserves the accolades. What makes him so special is how deft he is at capturing the couture craftsmanship and attention to silhouette that Cristobal Balenciaga was obsessed with, while somehow managing not to dilute his own strong vision of a new woman. This collection was no different. Florals are coming back in a big way for spring, quite literally. The majority of the opening looks consisted of highly sculptural outfits composed of a different hyper-colorful floral pattern. The shoulders were pronounced, and every look was paired with some intensely graphic gladiator boots, courtesy of Pierre Hardy. Midway through the show came some toned-down separates that could actually look right in place on city streets (albeit some extremely chic ones). The commercial quality went right back out the door, though, as the show ended with a series of strong, monochromatic looks in stiff, shimmery, masterfully seamed and darted fabric. This certainly wasn't a collection of pieces meant to sell. There weren't the bevy of kitschy handbags and accessories that have come to make Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton shows such a repetitive spectacle. These were couture-quality clothes made for the ready-to-wear runway, if only to inject a bit of fantasy and a lot of brand identity into a runway season seriously lacking in both. For that, I thank Mr. Ghesquière. And when it comes down to the bottom line, it's shows like this that get women clamoring for those Balenciaga bags in droves.