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.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

London Fashion Network: 1st birthday bash

So last week Fashionista headed to the very glamorous Soho House to celebrate the first birthday of the London Fashion Network ("LFN"). The evening began with a Q&A session with Tim Danaher, editor of Retail Week, and Jess Price-Brown, Editor of Drapers; together the two most influential retail publications in the country. The retail landscape has changed dramatically since the LFN was launched a year ago and the discussion centred around the fact that although the past year has been one of the most challenging in the history of the industry the effects of which are still being felt, there are 'green shoots' which we should all feel optimistic about.

Both Tim and Jess felt that the biggest challenge to retailers has been the collapse in consumer confidence. Retail is after all a function of the broader economy and the sector most prone to suffer when consumer confidence does the same. Although it was felt that many of the brands which have gone into administration were weak businesses in the first place (Fashionista overheard mutterings about whether anyone has actually missed Woolworths), even the stronger brands have had to become more reactive in order to survive and will have to continue to do so.

The big question is whether consumers are going to shop differently as a result of this recession and as a result whether retailers are going to have to behave differently in the future. Consumers are no longer spending for the sake of it and retailers must become more responsive and specialised rather than focusing on seasons and long-term ordering patterns and planning. Fashionista was pleased to hear that many independent niche retailers are actually prospering during this period of uncertainty.

In terms of what retailers can be doing to protect themselves Jess and Tim had a number of suggestions. High on the list is dialogue with landlords and suppliers to attempt to reduce costs. Secondly it is important to focus on customer satisfaction in terms of pricing, incentive schemes and service. Differentiation from the competition is key and it was argued that now is the time, although it may seem counter-intuitive, to be adventurous and progressive. Lastly there is the issue of online representation. Fashionista was surprised that a relatively small proportion of retailers have transactional websites but the message was that the success of sites such as ASOS should inspire more retailers to get online and use their existing customer base to drive sales.

There was a very spirited discussion of the role of the government in all this and the lack of understanding of politicians of the woes facing the retail industry. Although some of the government initiatives to rev up the economy were praised most of those in attendance felt that far more needed to be done in terms of remedying the abuse of prepacks, delaying the return of the 17.5% rate of VAT and encouraging the banks to lend.

All in all a very interesting insight into the current state of the market and an excellent excuse for Fashionista to mingle with the LFN at the recession defying party afterwards. To find out more about future events, visit their website at

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

No Crocs, no party

Fashionista was surprised by the news that one of her favourite Hollywood actors, the one and only George Clooney, has decided to come to rescue of the not so fashionable and virtually indestructible footwear, Crocs.

John Duerden, President and CEO of Crocs Inc., stated in an interview with the Washington Post that the brand that although the company was in financial difficulties, it is not the end of the road for Crocs. His good friend, George Clooney, has, he claims, offered to help the company by starting to wear Crocs. In return Mr. Clooney wishes to see children in Africa provided with Crocs. So far, it appears to be a win-win situation for both parties.

As part of a marketing strategy, more and more companies turn to a celebrity to help them promote their brand .

The key question is: "If the brand were a person, what type of person would it be …?"

That's why choices such as Lily Allen for the new Chanel's budget-friendly bags and accessories line "Coco Cocoon" and Scarlett Johansson as the new face of Mango seem good choices from a brand personality perspective.

Fashionista questions whether the same applies for George Clooney and Crocs. For sure, George is not a rookie when it comes to the promotion of new or forgotten brands. After all, thanks to his irresistible charms, class and good looks, Mr. Clooney definitely contributed to the recent success of the "Nespresso" and "Martini" brands. So, what will be the impact of his endorsement for Crocs? Fashionista waits with interest for the verdict . . . . and for the first sighting of George Clooney wearing a pair of Crocs.
Fashionista's Belgian colleague Christine

Monday, 14 September 2009

Handbags at Dawn: one week to go

She's absolutely certain that you've not forgotten, but Fashionista is just reminding you anyway -- Handbags at Dawn: protecting your clients and their designs , the 2009 version of CLT's annual one-day conference on intellectual property in the fashion industry, takes place next Tuesday, 22 September, in the lovely old Pru building on High Holborn. Two members of the Fashionista-at-Law blogging team will be there: Anoushka Der Kureghian speaks on brand clearance, while Jeremy Phillips is in the chair. We do hope we'll see you there, since it will give us a great chance to meet some of our readers and to listen to what they have to say.

Full programme and booking details can be found here.

Friday, 11 September 2009

It's a Twittering frenzy!

We know Demi and Ashton do it. We know Susan Boyle of Britain's Got Talent became an overnight sensation because of it. We all know David Cameron's dismissive views of it. Like it or not, Twitter seems to be taking the online world by storm. The need to be constantly up to speed with everything drives the website where people write about everything they are doing. All the time.

Something that started out for friends to keep in touch has morphed into an inexpensive, hugely accessible, mass marketing/advertising tool and fan club for brands. YSL is paving the way for luxury brands having signed up to both Twitter and social networking giant Facebook, and promises to update followers on the YSL fashion shows, products and celebrity fans of the brand.
Although the constant need to update information can seem like a bit of a chore, Fashionista can see why brands are buying into this. Having a Facebook group is nothing short of having a fan club. It gives rise to a sense of solidarity for a fashion brand's fans. People like to feel popular or that they are part of a "club" of like minded people. The bigger the Facebook group, the better things are going to look for the brand: everyone wants to be on its team.

Ditto for Twitter. The constant "stream of consciousness" posts will create an affinity between brand and fan. Before the advent of online social networking sites, luxury brands were somewhat more etheral - like the Monarchy - a presence that you know is there but you only have access to what they want you to know or see, in the case of luxury brands through advertising in glossy magazines or from the products displayed in their exclusive boutiques. It was a one-way relationship.

YSL's move to Twitter means that we can know what YSL are up to on a daily basis. For the first time, brands are actively interracting with consumers. And this draws us in. It makes us feel part of an exclusive circle. It makes us understand them better. The result: it may make us prepared to part with our cash more readily than we would otherwise have done - and for a relatively low cost for the brand.

Although she hasn't yet succumbed to Twitter herself, Fashionista can certainly see why YSL has done, and why other brands are likely to follow...

Monday, 7 September 2009

Only CHANEL. Never Chanel-esque.

Fashionista has read negative commentary surrounding Chanel's publication in Womens Wear Daily of a notice of how its brand is to be used - and, in particular, not misused. But what about the benefits to brands of getting the message across as to how your brand should or should not be used?

Playing Devil's Advocate (no pun intended) to the negative commentary, Fashionista endorses Chanel's move.

Intellectual property rights are often a company's most valuable asset. For a fashion brand, its trade mark - its name - is everything. Fashion houses spend an immense amount of money, time and effort building up their brand, goodwill and reputation. Surely the last thing they want is for someone to rip it off or - worse - for their brand to become generic through misuse over time and so lose all value.

It happened to Sellotape, to Hoover; to Xerox. It is threatening to happen to Google. So it is surely a sensible move for any brand to stress that its name should not be considered generic. Coca-Cola did this a few years ago, running an advertising campaign which featured all the brands owns by the Coca-Cola Company. The purpose of a trade mark in the UK is to be able to distinguish the goods of one business from those of another. The brand name should not be used to refer to a particular "look" - even if the brand image is so strong that a particular look conveys the originating brand. This does not (or should not) make a brand generic. This makes it recognisable, powerful, iconic.

Rather than deriding Chanel for explaining its brand and seeking to protect it, Fashionista believes that this was a cautious, necessary step to take - if only to show the world that a brand is there and worth protecting. After all, if you don't police the use of your brand, you risk losing the rights you have to it. No doubt Chanel took the view that negative commentary now is less traumatic than lost or weakened rights. And the timing is great - with all the positive commentary surrounding the Coco Before Chanel film, how many are going to pay attention to gripes regarding brand use notices? Not this Fashionista.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Nudity in fashion advertising - how much is too much?

Campaign yesterday reported that an American Apparel advert originally placed on the back cover of Vice Magazine has been banned by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

The advert consisted of a six images of a female model wearing an American Apparel hoody. The sequence of photographs reveal progressively more nudity, with the second row of photographs showing the hoody unzipped to the waist and the model naked underneath apart from a pair of shorts. In the final photograph the model's left nipple is partially exposed. The model was styled with natural make-up and the photographs are taken in an amateur, informal style.

Following a single complaint, the ASA investigated whether: 1) the nudity in the advert was offensive and unsuitable to appear on the back of a free magazine; and 2) that the ad was offensive and inappropriate because the model seemed young and vulnerable and could be seen to sexualise a child.

American Apparel, responding to the ASA explained that the images were intended to show that the hoody was soft to the touch and could be worn directly against the skin. Further, they considered that the choice and styling of the model did not suggest she was under 16, nor did they believe the average person would draw that conclusion.

However, the ASA disagreed, stating that "[b]ecause the ad could be seen to sexualise a model who appeared to be a child, under the age of 16 years, [they] concluded that it was inappropriate and could cause serious offence to some readers." (They did however agree reject the first ground of complaint finding that the depiction of nudity was not so overly gratuitous as to make it unsuitable for the target audience.)

Whatever your view on the ad, one thing is for certain. American Apparel has achieved far greater publicity through the ASA's banning of the advert and the subsequent press comment than they would have gained from the display of the advert on the back cover of a magazine with a UK circulation of 90,000.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

What do Vivienne Westwood, Nicole Farhi and Fashionista have in common?

Well, apart from a passion for fashion and great sense of style (naturally), they have all signed up to climate change initiative 10:10 which you may have been seeing a lot of press attention about this week.

Yesterday thousands of individuals and organisations from across the country united behind one simple idea: a 10% cut in carbon emissions during 2010 - hence 10:10. Fashionista attended the big public launch and photocall at the Tate Modern yesterday. There was no sign of Viv unfortunately but Fashionista thought Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall looked surprisingly dapper in a co-ordinated navy blue ensemble!

Fashionista readers can get involved themselves whether signing up on behalf of their organisation or as an individual or family. Tips and tricks for reducing your carbon emissions will be provided along the way so even if 10% sounds like a big ask initially you may be pleasantly surprised at how much you can achieve.

For more details go to the 10:10 site or see the dedicated microsite the Guardian has produced.