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 ****!