Monday, 21 December 2009

Time to go Christmas shopping.

Fashionista has been putting off doing her Christmas shopping in the hope that, like last year, the sales will start this week. But now the time has come and it is time for Fashionista to head to the stores.

So as she heads off in search of bargains and those absolute "must have" items for this week's parties, Fashionista wishes her readers a happy and relaxing holiday and a healthy and fashionable 2010. Fashionista will be back soon . . . . and so will Modeliste . . . .

Friday, 18 December 2009

A new dictionary for green fashion?

Last week, Fashionista reported on fashion events in Copenhagen, including a Fashion Summit organised by NICE (the Nordic Initiative, Clean and Ethical). This summit has now been branded by Ecotextile News as "one of the largest ever sustainability summits for the apparel industry".

Fashionista has been on the lookout for NICE's 10-year plan and Code of Conduct, both of which are now published on the internet: The 10-year action plan with the short and snappy title 'THIS IS NICE' lists both short-term and long-term goals in 5 areas of key importance, water, CO2 emissions, waste, chemicals and labour & ethics. The Code of Conduct , which sets out guidelines, is fittingly entitled "HOW TO BE NICE".

One of the many distinguished speakers at the Summit was FT's Fashion editor Vanessa Friedman. She raised a question which Fashionista has been pondering for a while: what exactly is sustainable fashion? Is Fashionista acting sustainably if she buys organic or fair trade clothes and what exactly are "ethical" clothes? Everybody seems to have a different understanding of these terms, and Vanessa Friedman rightly said it is time for a lexicon of sustainable fashion with simple, short, clear and immediately understandable definitions.

Fashionista would love to see those terms on labels so that she no longer has to spend her time researching a brand that claims to be ethical, green, organic, . . . at home online before facing the tricky question as to whether it is more 'green' to order the item of desire online or to check for its availability in a shop close by. Fashionista likes Vanessa Friedman's idea of having terms which are immediately understandable across the world, equivalent to the word 'hybrid' for cars.

Vanessa Friedman's advice is: “Reduce your verbiage, reuse the words again and again in the same way, and recycle terms from other industries, so that ’sustainable,’ when it comes to fashion, refers to production; ‘ethical,” to employment; ‘green’ to buildings; ‘organic’ to soil; [...] but be clear in what you’re saying and what it means.”

Fashionista agrees but wonders - will 'organic' still refer to soil if it describes a characteristic e.g. of sheep's wool? Fashionista is looking forward to a clarification of terms used to describe 'sustainable', 'green', 'ethical', 'organic', etc. fashion. In the meantime, she has added Kate Fletscher's Sustainable Fashion and Textiles to her reading list. Fashionista is intrigued as to what the publishers mean when they say that the book also "draws on ideas of [...] slow fashion".

Thursday, 17 December 2009

"Does my Butt look funny in this ...?"

It's not just fashion that enables people to express themselves in an individual manner -- humour can achieve the same result. Both are subjective, Fashionista notes, which is why some people really appreciate her latest make-over while others are just plain wrong. So far as humour is concerned, though, delicate sensitivities can be offended -- as the sad little saga of The North Face shows.

The North Face, Fashionista reads, has filed suit in a US court, accusing a teenager of piracy for selling a line of clothing under the brand name The South Butt. This isn't piracy, says the lad, it's satire. According to BrandChannel,
"Many of the world's most prominent brands are satirized in similar fashion on a regular basis, often by substituting irreverent language within the brand's trademark colors and logos. ...
Legal or not, the question remains, does being mocked really hurt a brand? Clearly not all cases are the same. ...

In most cases, these parodies are harmless. The Coca-Cola and McDonald's brands are certainly not losing business over their respective (many) satires. The North Face case, however, may be different as the brand is not a global heavyweight. But the brand does have every right to protect itself.
Now The North Face needs to determine exactly what is, and isn't, a threat to its brand. Otherwise it may end up being the butt of South Butt's joke".
Fashionista wonders whether it isn't the fact that The North Face takes its image so seriously that makes it so ripe for parody; perhaps if it appeared to appreciate the joke its appeal as a target for parody would diminish. Maybe, says Modeliste, but isn't it the fact that The North Face takes itself, its products and its image so seriously the thing that makes it most appealing to its most enthusiastic customers?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Keeping in credit

Fashionista's credit card has been used more frequently than usual over this season of goodwill. Whether on the internet or in shops, Fashionista likes to assume that her card details are safe and will not be misused by any techno grinches lurking in the payment processing shadows.
However, having been chatting to her friends at Datonomy, she was shocked to hear of some of the dangers that can greet the unwary internet shopper. For instance, last year the United States had a payment processor breach that the Washington Post described as "[possibly] the largest ever", with reportedly over 130 million credit and debit card details stolen.

It seems that retailers can be a particular target for computer hackers due to the sensitive customer information they carry. Retailers generally retain card information if they later need to refund a transaction, but they may hold a variety of additional items of personal customer information if, for example, the customer has signed up to a mailing list to see all the shiny new products or has a store card for bonus points, airmiles or whatever. Not only is losing lots of customer information incredibly embarrassing for retailers, but it may lead to legal claims, particularly if proper compliance procedures were not followed, and may even harm their share price.

Fashionista strongly supports Datonomy's suggestion that regular IT testing is the key to surviving the winter season and remaining computer bug- and virus-free.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Fashionista heads to Copenhagen on a mission . . .

Much is happening in Copenhagen - but the excitement is not limited to politicians discussing climate change at the UN Climate Change Conference . Fashionista is also intrigued by the fashion scene there. Last week, green fashionistas attended 'Innovating Sustainable Fashion' organised by the Center for Responsible Design and Copenhagen Fashion Fairs. 19 collections made their way down the catwalk, competing for prizes in 'Design For Inclusion', 'Design Considering Use', and 'Design For Environment'. The winner was Sci-fi menswear designer Tobias Noe Harboe from the Danish Design School. His (design) story is a journey from the future backwards through time to the beginning of the industrial revolution to change the path of history towards a more sustainable direction.

And today the 'Fashion Summit' takes place at the Copenhagen Opera House. Organised by NICE, the summit is an educational project created for, and in collaboration with the Nordic fashion industry, its aim is to motivate and assist companies to integrate sustainability and social responsibility in their business practices. Fashionista is impressed to learn that the plan is for attendees to walk away with a 10-year action plan and a Nordic Code of Conduct for the Nordic fashion industry and hopes that plan and Code of Conduct will be published on the internet for all to see.

What is more the event has attracted a number of names from the big players in the fashion industry such as Laurent Claquin (PPR Group), Julie Gilhart (Barneys, New York), Ingrid Schullstroem (H&M), Christian Kemp-Griffin (Edun) and Vanessa Fridman (FT). And just to add to the fun the event includes a competition for 20 young Nordic designers to design two sustainable outfits, culminating in a runway show. Fashionista is hoping for a front row seat . . . .

Escada UK Rescued by Steely Determination

The fashion world (including Fashionista herself) now sleeps more easily knowing that the UK arm of luxury brand Escada has been rescued from the brink of extinction in a pre-pack administration.

Escada UK has been sold to the Mittal family (best known for their successes in the steel industry), who in November also rescued the German parent company, Escada AG, by snapping it up at auction.

Fashionista is delighted to hear that according to reports Megha Mittal, the daughter-in-law of steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, is optimistic as to Escada's future:
“Despite recent difficulties, Escada has the potential to re-define its place in the world of luxury brands and become synonymous with fine quality and elegance…"
The recent difficulties to which Megha alludes include the German arm of the brand filing for bankruptcy protection in August this year, and the UK arm making a loss for the past 3 years.

A-list fans of the brand (including, Fashionista is told, Katie Holmes and Hilary Swank), will of course, be thrilled, as will all 44 members of the Escada UK staff - they have had their jobs safeguarded in the deal. Those who may not be so pleased are the creditors – pre-packs have a notorious reputation for leaving them out in the cold. KPMG (Escada's administrators in the UK) were quick to deny this though, stating (according to Drapers) that, “Given the inseparable nature of Escada UK and Escada AG, the offer from Mittal Trust represented the best deal for creditors of Escada UK.”

Fashionista is now eagerly awaiting news on how Escada's CEO, Bruno Salzer (previously of Hugo Boss) and the Mittals intend to exploit what Megha Mittal believes is Escada's potential. Watch this space…

What will the Chancellor have in store...?

Fashionista has recently been reading a lot of discussion in the run up to the Chancellor's pre-Budget Report, and some of this discussion has been slightly disconcerting...

How will the PBR affect the fashion industry she wonders? Will retailers have to cope with a decrease in consumer spending due to an increase in the rate of VAT over and above that currently proposed for the end of the year? Will the owners and investors in fashion businesses be hit with a higher rate of capital gains tax? And, as many people suspect, will those high-earners in certain unnamed industries (dare Fashionista say the word?) be hit with a tax on bonuses, and will this in turn lead to a decrease in spending on luxury items?

Fashionista may not know the answers to these questions now, but she knows where she will be able to find the most up to date information on the PBR and its effects - the Olswang Budget Blog, where Olswang's tax group will be reporting on the PBR and providing their comments on what the Chancellor has up his fiscal sleeves.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The place to be seen

So it seems the latest fashion trend is not an "it" item but an "it" continent. Fashionista has been hearing of more and more retailers continuing their expansions into Asia.

On 3 November 2009, Drapers reported that Lulu Guiness had formed a 50:50 joint venture with First Eastern to expand the brand into Asia and on 27 November 2009, Retail Week announced that Cath Kidston had begun the search for an investment partner with local expertise as it too ramps up its international presence. Louis Vuitton has also been getting in on the act with reports in Drapers on 4 December 2009 of the opening in Macau's One Central retail and residential development as part of its planned expansion and Drapers reported that Debenhams is to open its first store in Vietnam as part of its expansion plans.

Fashionista hopes that these retailers are getting good advice as it can be difficult getting to grips with the local requirements of a new country. In most parts of Asia, like many other countries, the only way to set up a business is to find a local partner and set up business as a joint venture. Clearly, finding the right partner is key as there will be a number of areas in which you will have to depend upon your partner and, as in all relationships, trust therefore plays a vital role.

Its hardly surprising that when the economy at home becomes challenging that international expansion (particularly into emerging markets) becomes a key focus. Fashionista's bedtime has reading is the Global Retail Development Index 2009 which is published annually by ATKearney. and was interested to see that a number of the top 30 countries which should be "on the radar" of any retailer looking to expand internationally are Asian. This is supported by the International Monetary Fund which has forecast that Asian markets will see a modest recovery by 2010, boosted by stronger export demand and stimulus spending.

Of course, expansion into Asia is nothing new and over the last few years more and more retailers have been testing the waters - but given the recent spate of news items it looks like Asia is back in "vogue" again - much like those shoulder pads! And Modeliste is just itching to go an explore - complete with a designer backpack for all her trophy purchases . . . . . .

Monday, 7 December 2009

A site for sore Uggs?

It's so difficult to buy real fakes these days, if the Guardian's article, "Police shut 1,200 scam shopping websites", can be believed. The sites in question -- all 1,219 of them -- purported to sell items which included Ugg boots, Tiffany & Co jewellery and GHD hair straighteners.

Real or fake? Can you tell?

Actually, not all these sites sold fakes; some weren't selling anything at all. But what is worse, Fashionista wonders: paying your money and getting nothing in return or being caught by a truly discerning fashion maven while wearing a non-genuine garment.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Falic fantasy ends up in a French court room

Fashionista has just been reading, with a tinge of sadness, about the hard times that have led to this week's court appearance for Christian Lacroix, one of her favourite fantasy-designers, seeking approval from a French court for a restructuring plan that's predicted to put an end to that fashion house's haute couture and pret-a-porter clothing operations.

Once part of the French luxury group LVMH Mo√ęt Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Christian Lacroix was bought by the Falic family, owners of Duty Free Americas, a retailer with stores at US airports and border crossings. Whether it was because of the commercial downturn, the difficulties some consumers faced in appreciating its finer points or the shift from LVMH to Falic symbolism, recent times have seen a decline in its fortunes and the business was placed under creditor protection in early June.

Fashionista is not a person who believes that design and profitability have to march hand-in-hand, noting with admiration that Lacroix has never ever been troubled by the inconvenience of a profit in the 22 years since its foundation. The design house's creditors are however made of less stern stuff and expect payment for their goods and services.

The plan approved by the court involves closing down Lacroix’s haute couture and pret-a-porter activities, though the licensing contracts for accessories and perfume will be kept up and running, and retaining just 11 of the current complement of 120 employees. Fashionista says, this looks like a bit of a skeleton plan but, if it keeps the brand ethos of Lacroix alive, it'll be worth it. Little sister Modeliste is more downbeat as she reaches for her calculator: 120 minus 11 = 109 ... which might just be the number of freshly disgruntled consumers who will not be wearing Lacroix next year.

Oh to look old. What a difference a product-base makes.

Skincare brands fight for who can sell the most youth-inducing product. Their most expensive, often best selling, products are designed to make you look young. To convey this, the brands themselves want to look young; fresh; light. Anti-ageing serums. Light diffusing makeup. The aim is to reverse the effects of time.

Not so for some clothing brands it seems. They, on the other hand, want to look "old". Especially the newer brands. Fashionista has often wondered what random dates on t-shirts mean. For example, "Hollister 1922"? Well, in Hollister's case (Abercrombie & Fitch's sister-brand), it apparently means nothing. According to the BBC website, the Hollister brand was establish in 2000, and the brand's "history" of John Hollister senior - an adventurous traveller who set up the Hollister brand on his return to the US after a brief stint in the Dutch East Indies - is also fictional.

So why go to such extreme lengths? and what are the effects and implications of portraying a fake brand history as the truth? How much do consumers really care?

Fashionista suspects that this depends on who the consumers are. Does this come back to the issue of age? or does it come down to a price tag? do you have to pay for the truth?

A BBC article suggests that Hollister fans are unlikely to care, or they're not likely to feel misled or disgruntled by the falsification of facts. Fashionista wonders whether this is because Hollister products (at fairly standard high street prices) are aimed at a younger audience who may give more attention to the look of a brand rather than to what is behind it.

Compare this to how puchasers of high end luxury goods would feel if they were sold their (real not counterfeit) "It-bag" together with a fake story of brand conception and history? Fashionista suspects that this consumer would feel misled or disgruntled, and may abandon the brand. When a fashionista buys a luxury product, she is buying "into" that brand and what it represents. So, for her to then find out that what she has been sold is a lie, well doesn't that somehow tarnish what she has just bought into?

In terms of effects on the brand: new brands which suggest long-ago establishement are trying to create better images of themselves for consumers. Longevity, especially in the current economic climate, suggests an ability to withstand all sorts of problems, trials and tribulations. It suggest success. Beating the competition. Quality. Value. All attributes which older brands have spent many years (and resources) cultivating. Fashionistas often have their favourite brand and will continue to add to their collection out of loyalty for the brand. And so, the question for brands to consider is this: if the story customers are being sold is fake - even if the product is not - are those customers likely to come back for more?

Friday, 27 November 2009

Scottish (as opposed to French) and Saunders

So Fashionista hotfooted it to the Swarovski Crystallised Lounge to listen to the rather luscious Jonathan Saunders being interviewed by editor Dolly Jones at the recent Fashion Business Club event.

The interview started with a discussion about the relationship between fashion designers and fashion journalists. Scottish-born Saunders, who seems to have a very positive relationship with the media (given that British Vogue featured one of his designs on the cover only a few months after his graduate show from Central Saint Martins) talked about the importance of being aware of the perception being created around his designs and understanding his customer. Although its a creative business, Saunders thought that designers still needed to be aware that they are selling a product to a customer (and clearly the media can influence this perception).

Fashionista's ears pricked up when Saunders revealed that he is launching his first transactional website in just two weeks' time and was interested to hear his thoughts on the internet in general i.e. "it gets rid of elitism and makes everything available to everyone". For young designers, Saunders thought that the internet provided an invaluable way to develop a business "without getting into masses of debt, like having a shop without the overheads" which enables designers to stay independent for longer without having to give away valuable shares in their business.

In terms of high street tie-ups, Saunders confirmed that he had never gotten the impression that it was a "dumbing down" thing and thought it was about making the product accessible.

Fashionista thought it was heartwarming to hear that there is no feeling of competition amongst Saunders and his fellow London designers and Saunders attributed this comaraderie to the fact that most are colleagues from Central Saint Martin days and the fact that all share the same passion for what they are doing and are sufficiently different to not feel like that are competing directly.

This left Fashionista feeling all warm and fuzzy - or perhaps that was down to the glasses of champagne afterwards?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Christmas blues . . . .

As Fashionista waited for the Christmas lights to be turned on in Bruton Street last night, she pondered on the gloomy news in The Times about the forecasts for Christmas retail sales. Flat or up or down 1% or 2% and this is supposed to be good news.

What is clear is that retailers - even in Bond Street where discreet notices inform would be customers that there is "20% off everything in store today only" - are trying to educate customers to buy now and not wait for last minute pre-Christmas sales or to expect deep discounting after Christmas. And retailers will be delighted to learn that research indicates that they will be competing for a share of reduced Christmas purses.

It's official - a recessionista Christmas will be "in" for Fashionista, Modeliste and all their friends.

Monday, 23 November 2009

No sweat?

"Do Sweatshop Scandals Really Damage Brands?" was the question asked by Laura Fitch on BrandChannel at the end of last week. She cites a five-part Global Post investigation which accuses a number of top brands of sourcing from exploitative factories in Asia, transgressing the norms of human rights which consuming countries hold dear and also breaching health and safety at work rules. But, as Laura wonders, do consumers even care? Her conclusion is a resounding "probably not".

Both consumers and brand owners tend to distance themselves from exploitation at production level. The former -- whose role as consumers is to consume -- may be motivated to join the occasion boycott or sign a petition or two, but their default position is somewhere among the clothes-racks, looking for that perfect fit. Brand owners point to the fact that their own corporate policies do not condone exploitation (it would be surprising if any did) and that far-off suppliers who systematically mistreat or abuse their employees are in breach of their policies. However, they observe that it is difficult for them to monitor and enforce industrial policies. Laura leaves readers to ponder on this: if sweatshop allegations are not enough to damage brands or decrease sales, what incentives do brands have to change conditions on factory floors?

Says Fashionista, history shows that the biggest impact on consumer purchasing patterns has been made by pressure groups who use a potent cocktail of high publicity, intimidation and the shame factor. This is why furs, once a staple for every caveman and later a to-die-for accessory, are now confined largely to the mothballed wardrobes of some vintage grannies and the props cupboards of theatrical companies. Paradoxically, one of the things that has fuelled the sweatshop culture has been our departure from hand-made, labour-intensive clothes made from natural substances (remember woolly knitted jumpers, anyone?) to the massive over-supply of cheap synthetics in an increasingly cut-throat market with wafer-thin profit margins.

Modeliste adds, I read all about sweatshop labour for leisurewear brands in Naomi Klein's book No Logo. It upset me so much that it was some months before I could bring myself to read another book ...

Friday, 20 November 2009

Modeliste . . . . .

. . . . is Fashionista's IT savvy little sister who will be following be updating (or should Fashionista say "tweeting"?) you on Fashionista's views via twitter. How cool is that? So check out modelisteatlaw at . . .

Fashion Summit

Fashionista has been a little quiet this week - but that is because she has been busy mingling with the Fashion elite this week at the Drapers/WGSN Fashion Summit 2009. Rather like a child in a sweetie shop, Fashionista found herself sitting amongst a dazzling array of Prada handbags and Miu Miu shoes listening to Fashion royalty such as Anne Tyrell, Betty Jackson and Lulu Guiness impart their words of wisdom to an awe-struck audience.

One of the most enthralling interviews was Paula Reed's interview with Diane Von Furstenberg and Harold Tillman during which DVF likened trading in the current climate to "surfing a tsunami" although given that DVF has had "a very good year" it seems that DVF might be just as good at surfing as she is at designing. As DVF put it she "had no idea that the stupid little [wrap] dress was going to pay for everything in her life".

From one fashion legend to another, Paula Reed interviewed the iconic Barbara Hulanicki, BIBA founder. Fashionista found it interesting that Barbara's view was that designers don't get enough instruction on the business side and this was an issue that was echoed over and over by many of the speakers.

Amongst the other highlights for Fashionista were:
* the "controversial" statement by Lyle and Scot managing director, Derrick Campbell, who claimed to have taken the decision to burn £1 million worth of overstock rather than see it discounted. A statement that clearly went down well with the subsequent panel of discounters, M and M direct, Cocosa and Vente-Privee!

* Paula Reed's interview with Joseph Velosa, CEO of Matthew Williamson, which touched on the positive aspects of a high street tie-up (a view not shared by all the guests). Joseph maintained that as long as you clearly identify the customer for each line then there is no detriment to the brand as a whole. A very topical discussion given the recent Jimmy Choo/H&M collaboration.

* Lauretta Roberts' interview with Joseph Wan (CEO of Harvey Nichols) and Touker Suleyman (owner of Ghost, Hawes & Curtis and Low Profile). Unfortunately, it seems that most people shared their view that next year will be even more challenging for retailers unless retailers can "adapt" and perhaps if they listen to Nick Robertson (CEO of ASOS) that on-line is the place to get growth at the moment.
So with worn-out heel tips and a severe case of fashion envy, Fashionista left the two day event feeling wiser and extremely interested to see if some of the predictions of those in the know come true over the next year. If they do, it sounds like everyone should hold on tightly to their Balenciaga as we might be in for a bumpy ride!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Porsche Cayman -v- Crocs Cayman

Today - given the deluge - Fashionista is minded to consider wearing a pair of Crocs shoes whilst carrying her coveted Jimmy Choo for H&M high heels in her bag. And such an event might well be headline news. Less welcome news for Crocs is the trader mark action brought by Porsche. Crocs' best selling model is known as "Cayman" and this is a trade mark widely registered by Porsche for, yes, cars but also shoes. Did Crocs not do a trade mark search? Now Fashionista has not herself seen any Porsche Cayman shoes but imagines that, if they exist , they will be stylish creations and quite unlike the Crocs offering. May be that's the heart of the problem . . . . . . . but with CAYMAN registered for footwear, Porsche won't have to worry about confusion and even if they have no footwear themselves, the registrations may not yet be open to non-use attacks. So yesterday may have been an unlucky Friday 13th for Crocs.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Unringing the belle: Skechers return to nursing

One great way to kick-start your recovery from recession if you've got a popular brand is to go for brand extension. Just like the Californian entrepreneur back in the 1970s who saw the potential of movie classic Jaws as a marketing icon for his Jaws Sandwich Bar ("If you liked the movie, you'll love the sandwich"), today's brand owners do much the same thing -- but usually rather more subtly, and with their own brand rather than someone else's. That's what footwear firm Skechers is doing, moving from the leisure-y market to the supply of funky-but-functional apparel for the nursing profession (for more, see Businesswire here):
"The SKECHERS collection will feature a younger, more flattering fit than traditional medical apparel. Through innovative silhouettes, prints and fabrications, the line will utilize ready-to-wear trends in basics like scrubs, pants, jackets and tees. Branded designer accents will include SKECHERS logo buttons, flag labels, jacquard ribbons, and zipper pulls. The SKECHERS medical apparel line will be available in a wide range of sizes".
This is not Skechers' first flirtation with the nursing industry, Fashionista recalls. If you go back five years, the brand was involved in a bit of a damage limitation exercise after its saucy "naughty nurse" advertising campaign attracted the wrath of Nursing Advocacy. The advertisement on the right, featuring Christina Aguilera, had to be pulled after Skechers conceded that it denigrated nurses. In a subsequent letter to the company following the decision to pull the advertisement, Nursing Advocacy wrote:
"Unfortunately, just ceasing publication of this ad cannot undo the damage already done, or "unring the bell." In our view, the ad has imprinted a negative image of nursing on those who saw it, potentially including health care decision-makers and career seekers, at a time of critical shortage. Persons who associate nursing with sex are unlikely to see it as worthy of being their career or of receiving significant public or private resources. They are unlikely to realize, for instance, that many thousands of nurses with doctoral-level education in nursing work on the cutting edge of health care research. Nor are they likely to realize that nurses save or improve countless lives every day through their difficult, highly-skilled work. It is imperative for global health that we not only halt this kind of damage to the nursing image, but also start reversing the damage by helping to create a more positive image".
But five years is a very, very long time in the marketplace ...

Monday, 9 November 2009

A garage sale, but not as we know it

What do you get when you cross charity conscious celebs and a car boot sale? The "Selfridges Really Really Great Garage Sale", of course. On Sunday 15 November, Yasmine Le Bon, Louise Redknapp, Trinny Woodall and Lisa B are hosting an upmarket garage sale in Selfridges car park, with 100% of the profits going to the charity Mothers4Children.

Mothers4Children supports charitable organisations that have developed successful programs and services that benefit children in need, providing practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children and young people. The charity's mission is to better the lives of all children, "because ALL children deserve love and a great start in life".

The hostesses (who are also the charity's patrons) hope to raise funds for Mothers4Children by selling coveted items owned by their celebrity friends, whose help they have enlisted to man the stalls. Fashionista Elizabeth Hurley will be one of the 45 stallholders, together with David Walliams and Natalie Imbruglia, who will be selling donated possessions for the greater good.

Fashionista is, of course, familiar with the notion of celebrity endorsement. But this is en masse and, effectively, a garage sale. It is less polished, more authentic.

A clever marketing and fundraising strategy: the celebrity mingling with the ordinary person; luxury labels at (luxury) garage sale prices. Celebrity sales and auctions usually take place behind closed doors at exclusive events. It is rare for celebrity charity events to be open to the public at large. But the Selfridges Really Really Great Garage Sale breaks away from the mould. It promises high-price glamour on a recessionista's budget, and with the added warm glow of being charitable to boot. Recycling and fundraising all rolled into one. A great move for Selfridges too. The sale might attract new customers in store, as well as sending out the message that Selfridges supports charitable organisations and events - a theme which is attracting increasing media attention in a bid to give back and go green.

Fashionista suspects that people will flock to the first floor of the car park, eager to part with the £5 entrance fee, if only to catch a glimpse into the lives of the celebrities and their wares. With items such as a Prada dress from Jemima Khan and Balenciaga boots from Gwyneth Paltrow, Fashionista suspects* that she won't need to step foot within Selfridges' doors on Sunday to experience the glamour of the brands normally only available inside.

(* - of course, this is only a suspicion; Selfridges' lure is likely to be too great for Fashionista to avoid...).

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Nintendo: playing the fashion game

Fashionista has always been content to spectate computer games. This is not through her disdain for the pastime; it is more of a prudent precaution against the risk of collateral damage to her immaculately manicured fingernails. She has however taken due note of Nintendo's latest idea: that company, which she associates with the innocent pleasures of her youth, has reportedly launched Style Savvy, a computer game that allows players to assume the mantle of a clothing boutique owner, managing everything from customer questions to budget and inventory. According to the US executive V-P for Sales & Marketing.
"The game includes more than 10,000 clothing items, shoes and accessories, which invite endless creative possibilities."
Not really, Fashionista thinks. with only 16 in-game designer labels to choose from, she imagines that most of the time between recharging the battery will be taken up in agonising which of the select 16 comes closest to her mood of the moment. Presumably, though, there's a business angle here: the owners of the 16 labels will surely be paying handsomely for the privilege of their inclusion -- and even more handsomely for the privilege of excluding some of their most bitter rivals.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Bankable band: is the check in the post?

It isn't to everyone's taste, but rock group King of Leon's clothing -- like its music -- attracts a loyal and enthusiastic following. According to XFM the band is collborating with French fashion designers Surface To Air to produce a collection of jackets, jeans, shirts and accessories which resonate with the group's sartorial preferences and cultural ethos. The collection is soon to be launched in Denmark and you can get more information from the Paris Texas blog if you so desire.

Not that she would ever be judgmental about anything as personal and as subjective as fashion, Fashionista can't help wondering whether this is really a cleverly-crafted bit of band promotion masquerading as a fashion launch. To put it another way, she asks two questions: (i) would King of Leon's fans buy the clothing if it were completely unconnected with the band and (ii) would those fans buy any other items of apparel and accessories that were associated with the name of the group even if they looked quite unlike those of Surface to Air? If the answers are 'yes' and 'yes' respectively, Fashionista will volunteer to help the band carry its money to the bank ...

Thursday, 5 November 2009

New Model Army of Avon Ladies prepares to invade Latin America

A little feature in Brand Channel has caught Fashionista's eye all about Avon, that curiously invasive yet thoroughly personal brand, now over 120 years old, which became so deeply etched in Western culture that millions of consumers who have never experienced Avon's products know all about "Avon calling" and the Avon Ladies.

After seeing its sales take a bit of a battering in North America and China, Avon has been refocusing on sales to the cash-strapped by (i) promoting lower-priced products, and (ii) heavily targeting Latin America, where, the company says, people spend a high proportion of their income on beauty products.

Bucking recent market trends towards spending vast sums on online advertising, Avon says it is to hire more sales reps, even while cutting 1,200 other jobs over the next four years. Says the article in BrandChannel, "It sounds like a plan that puts the focus on one-on-one customer interaction, which was what built the brand, rather than a broader blanketing of media messages".

Indeed, says Fashionista, one-on-one is more than just a labour-intensive way of buying of customers. If you have Avon ladies who demonstrate that they love their product and love their customer contact, what you have is a first-class relationship. You might buy your Coca-Cola because you love the product, but that's an impersonal, unrequited love. With the Avon ladies, if you let them into your shopping life, you've got a two-way relationship -- and it's much harder to break. No-one sheds a tear if you stop buying that Coke, but if you stop buying Avon you can visualise exactly whose heart you're breaking.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Recessionista goes shopping.

As Fashionista reads yet more gloomy news about the UK economy, she is heartened to learn that life as a recessionista does not compel her to shopping only in the High Street chains. Samantha Cameron's high profile outing in a "bespoke" M&S dress suggests that M&S is certainly keen to provide a personal service - at least for some - but it is Elizabeth Sieff, a grand daughter of the founder of Marks & Spencer, who has come up with an idea designed to appeal to all recessionista fashionistas. Little Emperors & Co launches on Monday and is a new take on the increasingly popular "private club" concept - only this time it is a membership service designed to provide access to coveted brands at a discount - all the time, not just during special promotions or sales. So, how does it work and who is behind it?

With a passion for luxury, Elizabeth Sieff noticed a niche in the market for a membership service for consumers who, just like Fashionista, feel increasingly uneasy and price conscious in the economic downturn but still want to live a luxury lifestyle. At the same time the luxury brands are struggling to find ways to maintain relationships with their customers.

Elizabeth says: ‘Luxury brands want to see their customer relationships through this difficult time and strengthen their bond rather than only seeing them sporadically - the obvious path to go down is incentives. Discounts in the simplest form don’t fit luxury profiles so we created Little Emperors & Co as an exclusive service allowing brands to offer their most valued customers a special reduced rate without compromising brand integrity’.

With over 1000 retail partners in Little Emperors, Fashionista will qualify for discounts when she shops, eats, travels and much more provided she buys from the list of partners and pays the hefty annual membership fee of £575. The thinking behind it is that the discounts should outweigh the cost of the card so that dedicated users will make their money back quickly and go on to make even more savings. So it is intended to be a "win win" for both luxury brands and consumers.

It's a simple idea - to benefit fully Fashionista knows that she must hone her purchasing to ensure that it is concentrated on the list of partners. It won't work if her membership card suffers the same fate as her infamous new year gym membership.

Fashionista wonders whether there are other creative minds looking for ways to encourage retail spending amongst recessionistas - she hopes so. And will watch the progress of Little Emperors with interest.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Katie's knickers "not set in stone"

English shoppers of a certain kind will be musing as to what is worse: being seen in Katie Price's underwear or being seen buying them in Wal-Mart's British avatar, Asda. In either event, inevitably accompanied by headlines concerning the dropping of knickers, news stories of the termination of Ms Price's lingerie deal with the somewhere-above-economy-priced supermarket chain are spreading through the ether like a mild epidemic of measles.

Above: Happier times -- the launch of Katie Price's Asda range

Ms Price, Fashionista recalls, signed a three-year deal with Asda in 2006 to produce a lingerie range, receiving a reported £1.5 million for her efforts. The word in the high Street is that this range has not been selling well -- despite heavy discounting -- but the trigger for termination, according to the Daily Mirror, was the poor publicity surrounding the lovely lady since her break-up with husband Peter Andre and her subsequent romance with a "cross-dressing cage fighter", Alex Reid. Apparently this outcome suits both sides. According to OneIndia:

"Asda said: "No one's contract is set in stone as we constantly evolve ranges depending what our customers want to see in store." Meanwhile, Katie's camp said: "The contract had come to its natural end. We're currently in negotiations for a new deal for her lingerie range"."
Fashionista is happy that both sides are so relaxed about the outcome, but she also feels a little cheated. Since Katie Price didn't appear in her divorce proceedings and litigation with Asda does not look likely, she still doesn't know what Katie would choose to wear in court.

Further details may be perused from BrandRepublic, OneIndia and STV TV.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The M Word

Fashionista goes no where without her mobile and she is not alone. Take away that precious device that contains diary, music and contact with the world and Fashionista is lost . . . . And canny retailers are increasingly looking to use our addiction with mobiles as a way of targeting their customers - not just cold calling. Do you have a view on this? Fashionista's colleagues would welcome hearing your answers to the questions here . So do get in touch - but not by mobile on this occasion!

Monday, 26 October 2009

What if it doesn't fit?

Once a little cautious about buying fashion goods online, Fashionista has come to accept this practice as quite normal, especially since online is the only place she can reliably do her secret 4.30am after-party shopping. She has however restricted her shopping habit to the purchase of clothes, shoes and accessories: she's never actually dared to buy a whole brand. That's what's for sale though on the S&K Menswear website.

Sadly S&K, for more than four decades a popular US menswear brand, has closed its retail outlets and is no longer e-trading either. However, visit the website and scroll down and you'll find this rubric:

"For more information regarding the acquisition of the S&K Menswear brand, trademarks and data, please contact:

Streambank LLC
Margaret Birlem

Please, only call this number if you are
interested in purchasing S&K Menswear's
intellectual property. DO NOT call this number for
general business inquiries or employee information.

Please click here for more information.

S&K Menswear's intangible assets are available for sale."

This is tremendously tempting, says Fashionista, but there's one thing she keeps wondering about. If she buys the S&K intellectual assets, can she take them back again if they don't fit ...

Thursday, 22 October 2009

How much is the Baumler brand worth?

Always concerned that those who accompany her to balls and formal occasions should be properly groomed and well presented, Fashionista has always had a soft spot for Baumler. This suavely not-quite-overunderstated menswear brand is ideal: her companions, while immaculately attired, will never detract from her own elegance but instead complement it. Given her affections, it's no surprise that she is keenly following the bidding for the German menswear brand, which ceased trading after it filed for insolvency earlier this month.

You have to begin with a 'B' to play this game it seems, since the two favourites to capture the brand are rival menswear specialists Berwin & Berwin and Baird Group (though Baumler's UK agent Jason Gerrard is also believed to have expressed an interest).

Though continental Europe is Baumler's stronghold, it has 100 stockists in the UK and a turnover of about EUR90m (£80m). An important factor in determining how much the business will fetch is whether the brand's new owner acquires it as a means of securing its UK goodwill or as a springboard for developing its mainland market.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Listed buildings: the new place to be seen for retailers?

For regular shoppers such as Fashionista, a change of scenery is always welcome. On a recent shopping trip out of the capital, Fashionista noted the number of high-street retailers based in listed buildings – a noticeable contrast to the multi-let "mall" developments that have been springing up across the country in recent years. But just how easy is it to be different when you have a planning officer to contend with?

Fashionista's friend, a specialist in planning law, says that the Government has recently announced plans to modernise listed building controls, which should be helpful for retailers since they may offer more scope in the future to talk constructively with entrenched authorities and avoid high costs.

The new approach to heritage controls has been trailed by the Government for a number of years but put off on several occasions. The Government's intention is to streamline the large amount of guidance and policy currently circulating for heritage sites - which includes listed buildings, buildings in conservation areas, archaeological areas and artefacts and similar things such as scheduled monuments. The new short form policy will replace some pretty bulky policies which are now over 15 years old.

The Government claims that the new policy will reflect "a more modern, integrated approach, moving beyond the outdated distinction between buildings and archaeology to embrace all of the historic environment". It claims that the policy will define the historic environment in accordance with a set of common principles proportionate to the significance of the heritage assets involved. Significance will be defined in terms of historic, archaeological, architectural or artistic interest.

If so, this will represent a departure from current practice with its separate treatment of listed buildings, conservation areas, other types of historic asset and archaeology.

The Government states in its policy that there should be a new emphasis on establishing which aspects of a heritage building or asset are the most important to conserve.

Focusing on what is important in a listed building may provide retailers with some relief about making changes in a cost-effective manner - although much will depend on how the new policies are implemented which in turn will depend on how English Heritage's "living" practice guidance evolves to put flesh on its bones.

Fashionista welcomes any move to keep a little variety on the high street and hopes that the new policy will encourage retailers to explore new options for their stores without being put off by the planning hurdles traditionally associated with listed buildings.

Friday, 16 October 2009

From shoes to suits: Diesel footwear gets an airing in court

If you have a figure that fits the brand image, says Fashionista, it's great to be kitted out in Diesel. This is so even if some cynics, pointing to some ads, say that Diesel -- like Abercrombie & Fitch -- is a brand that is more associated with taking clothes off than keeping them on.

Right: happier times -- Diesel's 2009 offering

Be that as it may, Fashionista was troubled to see Diesel, through its no doubt fully-attired lawyers, putting in an appearance at the European Court of Justice this week in their ten-year quest to stop economy retail outlet Makro selling 'Diesel' footwear to which, the company says, it did not give its blessing.

The real action, which is taking place in the Dutch courts, has been running since October 1999. After rumbling through the original trial and a couple of appeals, the Dutch judges gave themselves a break for 15 months by sending it across the border to Luxembourg together with a couple of questions for Europe's Finest to ponder on. Yesterday the European Court of Justice gave its answer, which means that the case goes back to the Netherlands again in search of a final decision.

What actually happened here was that, as long ago as 1994, Diesel licensed its distributor, Difsa, to market its footwear in Spain, Portugal and Andorra. Difsa in turn licensed another company, Flexi, under an agreement that let Flexi conduct 'market tests' on Diesel shoes and to make shoes to its own design in order to do so in order that the shoes, if successfully tested, could be offered to Diesel for distribution or for the ‘assignment of the manufacturing licence’. Flexi in turn licensed yet another company, Cosmos, to make and sell shoes, bags and belts bearing the Diesel trade mark. The effect of this seems to have been that Cosmos could make and sell Diesel brand shoes without the express approval of any kind from Difsa or Diesel.

When Diesel found Makro selling shoes which bore Diesel trade marks and which Makro obtained from two other companies which bought them from Cosmos, it said "hey, these aren't Diesels" and sued both for trade mark and copyright history. Makro said, "hold on there -- you must surely have implicitly agreed to the use of your trade marks on these shoes, so you can't very well invoke your trade mark rights against us now: they've been 'exhausted'".

The Luxembourg judges, first checking their own earlier cases, have confirmed that even an implied consent on Diesel's part will exhaust their entitlement to sue Makro in respect of those items of footwear, but there's a catch. The implied consent can only be implied if there is evidence that Diesel unequivocally renounced its right to enforce its trade mark. Now it's up to the Dutch to sift through the evidence and decide whether the shoes are genuine Diesels or not.

Fashionista wonders how many shoppers who brought the fought-over footwear still have them in their cupboards, wondering whether it's safe to wear them yet. She also wonders how much of her favourite fashion purchase each month consists of items that have been designed by a company that was licensed by a company that was licensed by a company that was licensed by a company that owned the brand ...

For legal buffs, the sad story can be read here in Case C-324/08 Makro Zelfbedieningsgroothandel and Others.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

U.S bloggers may have to stop blagging

Fashionista has unfortunately never been sent the latest "it" bag or asked to endorse any of the must-have items of the season (although if Anya Hindmarch is reading this......!). Thankfully, if she had, Fashionista would have known that (thanks to her friends in the right places) the UK has long required that, where the content of any editiorial has been paid for (either in cash or in kind), that this is made clear in the content and that failure to do so is punishable by up to two years in prison.

It seems that the U.S is now following suit and the topic has been brought to the fore by the recent crackdown on deceptive marketing practices by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) who have amended their guidance on endorsements and testimonials. From 1 December 2009, the FTC has stated that "...material connections" (sometimes payment or products) between advertisers and endorsers - connections that consumers would not expect - must be disclosed."

The revised guidelines (which are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act and are not binding law themselves) specify that whilst decisions will be reached on a case by case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. As reported therefore American bloggers will as a result be required to declare any interest in the products they review or discuss on their blogs.

In addition, under the revised guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.

Fashionista has long been a sucker for a celebrity endorsed product - if Jennifer Anniston tells her that a certain shampoo makes her locks all smooth and shiny then of course Fashionista is going to buy it - who doesn't want hair like Jens?! Celebrities may however have to take more care in future as the guidelines extend to claims made by celebrities which imply they have personal experience of a product and could now mean that the celebrity is personally liable for any misrepresentation. Celebrities will also have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

Fashionista hopes that John Mayer is paying attention and will therefore take care when endorsing products on Twitter!

Plato's Atlantis

Fashionista returns from Paris marvelling, as always, at the amazing talent of the designers showing there - especially our home grown icons such as Stella McCartney. And also at the ingenuity on display - the Alexander McQueen show on Tuesday night was available live online and accessible to all, not just the privileged few to have coveted tickets for the runway show. Given the drama of a McQueen show, viewing online cannot replicate the experience of actually being there but for the many who cannot be there but want to be at the cutting edge and know exactly what is being shown as it is shown, then this fits the bill. This category of trend watchers will include, undoubtedly, fashionistas but also, more worryingly, the copyists.

In a week when much has been made in the news of the first online broadcast of a football game, Fashionista finds the drama of a live online Paris runway show much more newsworthy. Will the time come when all designers show their collections in asceptic studios simply for online broadcast with the all powerful buyers making their choices from pick lists at remote locations? This might be cheaper and more time efficient but Fashionista hopes this does not happen as online viewing simply lacks the drama and atmosphere of being present at a runway show.
More seriously, however, Fashionista has been thinking about the copyright and design right issues arising from live broadcasts - first publication of designs will happen simultaneously in a number of jurisdictions. Where a show takes place in Paris or Milan or even our own London Fashion Week coupled with simultaneous broadcasting elsewhere there will still be first publication in the EU for design right purposes. But for US designers who show in New York this device may, if cleverly used, provide a way of securing European design right for otherwise unprotected designs. So, maybe technology is not all bad but Fashionista hopes that she will continue to get tickets to the live shows.

Monday, 5 October 2009

New Look goes to market

Fashionista has been getting braver and is loving taking the occasional fashion risk of late, be it a quirky bit of shoulder action or a touch of 80's revival. Never one to shy away from a new look, Fashionista knows that often the best way to flesh out and re-style those all important investment pieces is to use the high street.

And apparently its not just Fashionista's appetite that has been revived recently, investors and stockbrokers are recovering their risk appetite (although lets hope the pin stripe and braces look remains in recession). As a result the stock market is apparently enjoying an 11 month high and equity investors are sure to be perusing the fashion world for a suitable investment piece of their own. They should not be disappointed. If rumours are to be believed New Look (Fashionista's occasional high street saviour for a last minute Friday night outfit fix) are currently considering a flotation of their shares on the stock market (otherwise known as an Initial Public Offering or IPO).

Not the top strategy choice for a large proportion of companies given the increased compliance requirements and increased time and costs pressures. There's also the increased answerability to public shareholders and who knows what those shareholders might say? So while we are enslaved by the new Spring/Summer 2010 collection, New Look could find themselves a slave to their shareholders. Might Lily Allen be finding a different collaborator all of a sudden?

The upside for New Look is likely to be a cash injection allowing them to pay off their existing reported £1.1billion of debt (which makes Fashionista feel a whole lot better about her credit card balance).

Its not the first time New Look have considered this option as a flotation was considered in 2007. New Look may find they are setting a different kind of trend as other companies who fared well in the economic downturn follow suit and may also look to an IPO to fill a much needed gap in investment requirements. Who knows, much like shoulder pads, maybe this will fare better for them second time around…..

m-tailing - the latest and hottest retail trend?

On Tuesday 13th October, Fashionista has a date in her diary to attend an event hosted by Olswang and is looking forward to mingling with established retailers and strategic investors operating in the retail sector. The spotlight will be on the biggest challenges in retail - how to drive efficiencies, maximise profit, open new sales channels and leverage innovation. The agenda is a sizzling list of hot topics such as: • What is m-tailing? • Is cash already obsolete? • Can iPhone applications generate revenue streams? • How can technology set retailers apart from their competitors?
If you too would like to attend then please visit

Fashion Summit 2009: The "Peak" Event of the Year

So Fashionista's fabulous friends at the Fashion Business Club have been giving the lowdown on the must-attend event of the year - the Fashion Summit 2009 - which is taking place on 17-18 November at Jumeirah Carlton Tower in London.

For two days some of the top names in the industry will be under one roof providing their insights into some of the key business-critical topics, such as "how to drive traffic to your high street and on-line store", "growing your share of reduced consumer spend" and "social neworking: how much resource to spend on it".

The event provides an amazing opportunity to learn from some of the most successful retailers and designers around and the speaker list reads like a dazzling "who's who" of the most influential people in the retail sector, including Sir Stuart Rose (Marks & Spencer), Phil Wrigley (New Look), Nick Robertson (ASOS), Andy Rogers (Reiss), Sarah Curran (My Wardrobe), Diane Von Furstenberg and Maria Grachvogel to name just a very few.

Fashionista can barely contain herself at the thought of on-stage interviews, panel discussions and Q&As with some of the world's best known (and Fashionista's favourites) designers, e-commerce giants, indies and multiple retailers.

So a beyond excited Fashionista will be trying to beg, steal or borrow a ticket and suggests that any fashionista worth their Jimmy Choos does the same! For more information, register at - Fashionista hopes to see you there.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Shopping gets even more virtual

So Fashionista is overjoyed that Zara and H&M have seen the light and realised that having an on-line presence is to quote Pablo Isla, Inditex's chief executive and deputy chairman, "an important strategic step for the group" (as reported in Retail Week 18 September 2009). However, it seems that for those retailers who are not yet on-line (yes, amazingly they do still exist) all is not lost – well, at least not if you are located on Oxford Street, Regent Street, Leicester Square and Bond Street anyway!

For those fortunately placed retailers, even if they do not have their own on-line presence, they can still dip their toe in the water (virtually, of course) and become part of a "virtual high street" that the New West End Company plans to launch in November. These particular streets of London will be replicated so that shoppers can stroll through computer simulations of them, click into their favourite stores and see what is being sold and for how much – all from the comfort of their armchairs. Unfortunately it doesn’t enable Fashionista to make actual purchases from the site, but it will hopefully minimise the amount of time Fashionista has to spend shuffling her way through the overcrowded streets of the West End searching for that last perfect gift for Auntie Flo.

The virtual West End will apparently be so life-like that the virtual streets will have virtual buses running down them – (does that mean Fashionista can still be virtually run over whilst being distracted by the gorgeous xmas window displays?) and it will even show the real weather (which Fashionista could have lived without to be honest!).

M&S, Liberty, American Apparel and John Lewis have already signed up to participate and it is thought by some that it could transform online shopping given that shoppers will be able to browse an entire high street, rather than having to go to the individual stores website (as reported in the Times 28 September 2009).

Fashionista is still not totally convinced that shoppers would not just prefer to skip the pain of xmas shopping altogether by sticking to those stores who have transactional websites so they do not have to venture out of their homes at all (step forward Scrooge!). However, for those shoppers who still love to pound the pavement, are planning a trip to London from overseas or who want to shop in a particular store which doesn't yet have an on-line presence, Fashionista thinks it sounds like a virtually perfect idea.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


Fashionista is relieved to learn that she can continue to make use of ! without fear of complaint(!!!) - really? Well, the Court of First Instance has rejected an appeal by Joop!, the German fashion and fragrance brand, against a refusal to register the final element of it's name, the !, as a trade mark for clothing and fragrance.

To be registered a mark must be distinctive and that was the downfall for !. The CFI concluded that ! is not distinctive and the shopping public would see ! "as mere laudatory advertising, or as an eye-catching gimmick, and not as an indication of the commercial origin of those goods."

In addition, and the final blow for this application, was the finding that Joop! had failed to persuade the court that its use of ! had been such as to make ! distinctive for its products and no one else's. All Joop! had submitted was three photographs of jeans carrying some sort of label with a !. Not good enough and could try harder was the report . . . . . (!).

So, no monopoly in ! for Joop!, or at least not for now.

Fashionista can see the value of obtaining a registration of something as simple as ! but also recognises that for something as ubiquitous as ! it will not be an easy task. Surely,the lesson for those who wish to monopolise symbols such as ! is that it can be done but be very ready and prepared to show that the symbol really does mean you and your products. Otherwise, you may be left thinking or saying ****!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Life is good: Jenden's not jaded

Fashionista has been busy this week! On Thursday afternoon she attended the most recent Fashion Business Club meeting, at which Aquascutum's head of womenswear Michael Herz interviewed Diane von Furstenburg's Creative Director Nathan Jenden. The interview came hot on the heels of Jenden's successful show at London Fashion Week which, for Jenden is the best showcase for a brand. When commenting on the use of films to promote brands as an alternative to a fashion show, Jenden quipped "It's all about the show".

Having worked in Paris for John Galliano and Kenzo, and in the US for Tommy Hilfiger and Daryl K, Jenden joined forces with Diane von Furstenburg: his self styled icon and brand - preferring to see her in Dior menswear on a Harley Davison, than in couture. Now designing for both DvF and his eponymous brand, Jenden was asked how he manages to keep the two brands separate.

Fashionista mused: this must surely be a difficulty faced by any designer having to wear two design hats, whether in the case of Jenden, seeking to design for two separate high end brands; or whether in the case of designers such as Matthew Williamson, Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney, who have designed for both high end brands and high street stores. How do designers recreate the signature styles associated with their names without blurring the distinction between brands?

For Jenden, the two brands are easy to separate. His designs for his Nathan Jenden brand tell his story and, whilst he loves working for DvF, his DvF designs tell Diane's story. "A collection should feel like a part of life" Jenden explained, and so, a DvF "Lawrence of Arabia" themed collection was based on a holiday Diane took in Oman. Fashionista suspects that the job may be harder for luxury brand designers who agree to create a range for a high street store. They have the difficult job of showcasing their brand to a different audience at a reduced price level, whilst not diminishing the value of their brand - which justifies the price tags that the main collections can demand.

Ultimately: times are good for Nathan Jenden. Maybe its the thought behind the designs that is a winning formula. The prints, the colours, the styles: they are tailored for his market to ensure that garments are going to suit whoever tries them on. But the most important thing? Remembering that fashion is about attitude; about being fun, upbeat and not too serious - it is not really about clothes.

An enlightening "behind the scenes" look into the life and work of such a busy man, and Fashionista is already looking forward to the next FBC meeting...

Friday, 25 September 2009

Fashion with compassion

Fashionista loves a birthday and now that London Fashion Week is over, what better way to celebrate the weekend than to toast another fashion milestone? Fashionista has celebrated the birthdays of some well known and long established English brands but on this occasion wants to celebrate the first birthday of a small but fabulous independent fashion retailer based in the Oxfordshire market town of Thame. So Fashionista congratulates joint owners Nicola Noakes and Angela Good who bravely launched their business Freerange when others were closing their doors for good.

So what is Freerange? To use Nicola and Angela's own words, "it is a fresh faced fashion retailer offering a range of ethically sourced, stylish clothing and lifestyle products for men and women who care about the world around them, strive for a better one and to still want to look fabulous".
When asked by Fashionista to describe Freerange, Angela said that the aim was to prove that the words 'fashion' and 'eco friendly' truly do go together by establishing a personal shopping experience against a backdrop of eco friendly, ethical and stylish clothing.

A year on, the business is already well established locally and its online store is improving by the season - this means that you don't have to live nearby to visit. Freerange prides itself on dealing with companies who produce good looking, wearable, covetable collections whilst ensuring any impact on the environment is as minimal as possible - including amongst others Ciel, Bailey, Amana, Kuyichi, People Tree, Stewart and Brown, Lowie and Ivana Basilotta.

Angela and Nicola are not alone in the fashion world to find that relationships with suppliers can be trying - and in a recession perhaps more so. But on a positive note it is heartening to learn that some suppliers have been really supportive to this fledgling business.

So as we hear more news about green shoots - and even green fields - from the financial commentators, Fashionista is glad to hear that on the high street there is some positive news and something to celebrate. Hopefully, the story of Freerange's first happy year will encourage others to be brave and not only enter the wonderful world of fashion retailing but also encourage all fashionistas to embrace ethically sourced fashion.

Manny's the man!

Handbags at Dawn, this year's version of the annual IP and fashion conference run by CLT, was by general acclaim a good deal of fun. That this was so, Fashionista opines, was at least in part the consequence of Manny Silverman's infectious humour and dazzling enthusiasm. Speaking on "Fashion Industry Business Strategy -- Just Where Does IP Fit In?", Manny -- former CEO of Moss Bros and later of Norman Hartnell -- gave an object lesson in how personal presence can make a bigger impression than any number of PowerPoints. He also (aptly for someone who has spent his entire career in the clothing sector) had his audience in stitches with some immaculately-timed asides.

Not all Manny's quips appear in the written version of his paper, but he has kindly sent it to Fashionista so she can share it with her friends who couldn't be there on the big day. You can read it here. If you want to be kept informed of next year's Handbags at Dawn, email Fashionista here.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Dusk has set on "Handbags at dawn"

In association with Fashionista, the long awaited annual "IP in the Fashion Industry - Handbags at Dawn" CLT Conference was held in London on Tuesday - and Fashionista was there to support the event. The illustrious panel of speakers were welcomed by a warm, engaged audience and the conference seemed to be enjoyed by all.

This particular Fashionista waxed lyrical on the essential topic of brand clearance: what it is; why it is important; and how best to clear a brand. Hopefully the message rang out loud and "clear" (sorry) that brand clearance is vital for fashion houses to protect their brands, and to minimise and manage the risk of opposition to use and objections to the registrability of a brand as a trade mark. Wouldn't it be awful to spend huge amounts of time, effort and money developing, launching and marketing a brand (without clearing it) only to find out somewhere down the line that another party owns rights to the same or a similar mark and may, at worst, force you to rebrand?

Highlights of the day included:

- a fantastic opening by Manny Silverman, who was able to provide industry insider knowledge on where IP fits in within the fashion industry, and delivered the important message of appreciating a brand and its value as an asset in order to fully benefit from the globalisation of the fashion industry;

- Daniel Ryan, approaching IP valuation from a refreshingly original perspective - breaking down valuation for each type of intellectual property right as it relates to the fashion industry, and highlighting the financial returns that IP rights can allow a company to generate;

- Christopher Stothers and Stephanie McAviney, discussing the use of selective distribution networks by brands to maintain an aura of luxury, together with a synopsis of a case which Fashionista has already blogged about: the Copad / "Christian Dior corset" case, and examining the limitations of such agreements and whether or not English courts are likely to extend protection already afforded to brand owners; and

- Fashionista's friend Melissa Morgia, who provided an insight into the role and rights of a celebrity as a designer, brand endorser and model, in an age where such role extensions are becoming increasingly prevalent.

All this and much more, seamlessly overseen by the most talented of chairmen, Jeremy Phillips - always armed with taxing questions, ready to keep the presenters on their toes!

All in all, the day was a great success and fashion IP lawyers and industry insiders no doubt walked away considerably wiser.