Saturday, 30 May 2009

Generation Jones

Fashionista was excited to hear that one of her good friends, publicist Vicki Day, has launched a new website this month called "Generation Jones". The website is aimed at the 39-54 year old market, the so-called "late" baby boomers, and will highlight those stores, brands and other products that are successfully targeting this particular market, all based on the reviews and recommendations of its members. There is an interesting quiz to take part in if you want to find out what type of "Jones" you are and, although she falls just below the age range, Fashionista couldn't resist taking the quiz to discover that she is a "radical Jones" - who knew!

To take the test yourself or to find out more about the site, please visit the website.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Sister Act

Fashionista was thrilled to receive an invitation from the Fashion Business Club to attend their recent event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Daniela and Annette Felder, the talented twin sisters behind the Felder Felder brand were interviewed by illustrator, Daisy De Villeneuve and provided insight into the inspirations behind their unique designs.

During the interview, the audience was shown a video of their A/W 08 and 09 collections which were inspired by such icons as Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain and Iggy Pop. The interview charted their origins in a small village in Germany, the influence of their fashionable mother and their love of music, through to their studies (they were accepted separately) at Central St Martins and finally to starting their own brand for "women who like to show the different sides of their personality".

The sisters hope that the Felder Felder brand will expand internationally - it is now stocked by Browns Focus - and have recently been asked to design the uniforms for Nobu, Berkeley Square, which will "have the essence of Felder Felder" but won't be exact copies as few people would want to be served by a waitress wearing the same dress as them!

Fashionista then took the opportunity to mingle with other members of the Fashion Business Club over a drink. Fashion Business Club is a members-only club, created on the basis of bringing bright-minded, fashion business professionals together six times a year at an informal venue to listen, learn and do business together. For more details of the Fashion Business Club and their future events, click here

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Why cash is king (over gift vouchers)...

Fashionista has learned from Retail Week that some very unhappy customers (or should she say creditors) of Principles have been plaguing the administrators at Deloitte with up to 200 calls a day about how they may go about redeeming their gift vouchers.

In most instances, on the insolvency of a retailer, holders of gift vouchers are just unsecured creditors of the insolvent company and have to stand in line with everyone else for little or no recovery. Occasionally though, where the business and assets of the retailer are sold, the buyer offers as a gesture of good will to honour all, or a reduced proportion, of the value of the gift voucher. They are, however, generally under no legal obligation to do so.

Fashionista has been frantically searching through her purse for all unused vouchers with a view to going on a major spree this weekend. Who knows, if such panic spending were to take off across the country, the recession could well be over before we know it.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

From Zero to Hero: but who really wins?

Just over a month ago, Fashionista brought you the news that Woody Allen was suing American Apparel for $10million for the unauthorised use of Woody Allen's image in an advertising campaign. Mr Allen claimed enormous damages. American Apparel refused to pay up.

A month later, and on the morning of the trial, news broke that settlement had been reached just as the parties were due to appear in court. It's the sort of high octane tension that Fashionista would expect from a good Hollywood drama! At the last minute, American Apparel decided to cut their losses and agreed to pay out $5million.

Were American Apparel afraid of a jury siding with Mr Allen and awarding the damages he sought? Fashionista's questions have been answered by the statement on American Apparel's website which comes from the company's CEO and President, Dov Charney. So, the settlement was at the insistence (and expense) of the insurance company - and not (apparently) an overt admission of liability, which Dov Charney is keen to clarify: "for the record, I personally think we had a really good case..."

Fashionista was even more surprised that a confidentiality agreement was not agreed as part of the settlement. After all, a u-turn resulting in a settlement payout of $5million certainly sounds like an admission of liability, so why take litigation so far?

And why not keep the settlement details private? Well, if you can't win litigation, at least try to win new business from it. Consumers will have already made up their own minds whose side they were on. There are those who will have sided with Mr Allen. But there are also those who will have sided with American Apparel, and those who will feel inclined to do so after hearing about the settlement. Those in the "Americal Apparel Camp" who feel the company was "robbed" (relatively speaking) may show their solidarity by making online orders or store visits which would not otherwise have been made.

As for those who had not previously heard of American Apparel before this case became news, Fashionista suspects that most will at least have visited American Apparel's website in the last month, if not a store. And so, Fashionista expects the business may actually do rather well in the long term as a result. With the right spin, a loss at court does not have to mean a loss of business.

Guess who Gucci's suing ...

Taking a break from her glamour mags, Fashionista thought she'd take a look at Business Week for a change -- and that's where she read that French-owned Italian fashion house Gucci is suing rival fashion and leather goods label Guess Inc. for copying one of its dress designs as well as several trade marked logos. The latter included a green and red stripe, a repeated interlocking GG mark and stylized G mark. Damages are being sought.

It occurred to Fashionista that, while it may be expensive to litigate a trade mark dispute in a Manhattan federal courts, the publicity that the media give the spat may well help justify the outlay on lawyers, apart from emphasising that Gucci is prepared to fight, fight and fight again to keep some space between its designs and logos and those of its competitors.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

This is not just any sale. This is the M&S 125th anniversary sale...

Hundreds of shoppers queued patiently outside select Marks & Spencer stores today as M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose - together with Twiggy, one of the faces of M&S - announced that the Penny Bazaar was now open. Fashionista was at the flagship London store at Marble Arch at 9am this morning when Sir Rose made his announcement, informing shoppers (and the media) that M&S is celebrating its 125th birthday this year by returning to its Penny Bazaar roots and hosting a 3 day sale of a range of 20 products (ranging from jewellery to teatowels) for 1p each. Every "Penny Bazaar" penny raised will increase the pot for the M&S 125 Charity Challenge, which aims to raise £1.25 million for local and regional charities.

Having seen the TV advert and read the press release, Fashionista had hoped to buy one of her "up-to-a-maximum-of-5-per-customer" pieces of M&S anniversary memorabilia this morning. Alas, hundreds of others had the same idea and the queues outside both the Marble Arch and Oxford Circus stores were so long that Fashionista couldn't see where they ended. Not wanting to admit defeat, Fashionista will - of course - try again tomorrow.

This is a great marketing move because it taps into nostalgia towards one of our oldest brands which in turn reminds consumers of brand value and loyalty - something which is increasingly valued by brand owners in the current economic climate. Although no profit will be made from the Penny Bazaar sales, the Penny Bazaar will pull immense crowds into M&S stores over the next 3 days and sales of full price stock must surely benefit as a result.

Well done M&S for reviving the shopping bug (even if only for three days...) and all for a good cause! Some deserved good publicity after yesterday's news of slashed dividends. Fashionista says "watch this space" for a further post celebrating M&S's 125th birthday later in the year as part of Fashionista's new, monthly Anniversary Feature. She started with Selfridges this month and has another iconic British brand celebrating its 125th anniversary lined up for June...any guesses?


M&S has found itself in the headlines over the last week for the wrong reasons. First there was the "bigger bras pay more" story which saw the business back-track on its pricing policy in the face of a Facebook campaign.

This week, Fashionista has read in Retail Week that M&S is back in the headlines facing a claim for unfair dismissal. In August last year, an employee leaked an internal memo to the press about the company's proposals to cut its redundancy pay scheme by up to 25% and this sparked fears of imminent redundancies at the company. M&S promptly did some email detective work, traced the leads back to the offending employee and summarily dismissed him for gross misconduct. Now the retailer is in the spotlight again as it goes head to head with the former employee, whose claim for unfair dismissal and breach of human rights is being heard in the Employment Tribunal this week.

Leaks to the press can be very damaging for reputations as well as being expensive. Fashionista can see a few lessons to learn here. Consultations with employees must be genuine and this will help to avoid disgruntled employees trying to gain a wider audience (the ex M&S employee says he leaked the memo because he felt the consultation about the cuts was a sham). Also, employers and employees need to pay close attention to what their contracts and the business' rules say about things like confidentiality, grievances, disciplinary action, email monitoring and whistle blowing when dealing with confidential information leaks to the press. Finally, Fashionista reminds all fashion businesses that employers will always need to pay statutory redundancy pay as a minimum where a redundant employee has been employed for two years or more.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Donna Karan and Luxottica: renewed eye deal is ideal

Cementing its reputation as the world's leader for the design, manufacture and distribution of glasses (both specs and sun), Italian luxury optical company Luxottica Group SpA has just renewed its global eyewear licence agreement with Donna Karan to produce prescription glasses and sunglasses under the DKNY and Donna Karan brands for a further 5 years. Luxottica - designing for own brands and licensed brands - has a portfolio which reads like a who's-who of the leading luxury brands and includes Bulgari, Burberry, Chanel, D&G, Oakley, Prada, Ray Ban and Versace amongst others.

For brand owners, there are clear competitive advantages to entering into a licence with a company which has a cost effective worldwide network of factory direct distrbution, an extensive retail business and established "tried and tested" reputation and expertise. For Luxottica, the renewal of the Donna Karan licence endorses the company's reputation and position as world leader in its field.

Reading the press release in her Bulgari frames, Fashionista muses on the power of branding and the trend for fashion brands extending to eyewear. Luxottica seems to have the market covered: a single company designing for a multitude of brands. How does Luxottica keep its competing licensees happy? By creating designs which perfectly reflect each brand's individual look.

How does the consumer choose? This is the power of branding. Ultimately, frames are large or small; round, square, or rectangular; rimmed or not. The colour will differ. There may be embellishments. The differences aren't that many. So the consumer is drawn to the brand: its ethos; what it represents; the message it conveys.

And why are brands extending to eyewear? To tap into a broader market, attract new customers and forge new loyalties. For the "spectacled" fashionista who likes to add a touch of glamour to her everyday look, branded eyewear achieves this. For the "recessionista" fashionista, it is a way of buying into a brand without imparting too much cash. For the "young" fashionista, it can be an introduction to a brand. The bonus? Eyewear branding is at eye-level, so it is the "eye deal" (sorry) advertising tactic by the brand owner: minimal expenditure; maximum exposure.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Fashionista is thinking green . . . . .

Ever open to new initiatives, Fashionista has been inspired to consider going "green". And, of course, she is far from alone and certainly not the first to recognise that "green is the new black". Today's news that luxury giant LVMH is taking a minority stake in Edun, the ecological and ethical fashion label, has caught Fashionista's attention. Edun has a fascinating pedigree - launched in 2005 by Bono, the Irish lead singer of the rock band U2, and his wife and now partially owned by the world's biggest owner of luxury brands. Will the other luxury brand giants follow, Fashionista muses? Certainly there is an ever increasing list of ethical fashion labels to choose from and it seems that there is also an increasing consumer interest in the ethical stance of clothing manufacturers. So, Fashionista plans to investigate and report on green issues in the fashion world on a regular basis . . . . and will be interested to see if other fashion groups follow LVMH's lead.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Debenhams: right time for a rights issue?

It is rumoured that Debenhams plc is working on plans to raise between GBP£300m and GBP£500m in a rights issue to cut its level of debt, which is believed to be around GBP£927m.

Fashionista recalls that it was thought, as reported in the Independent on Sunday, that a rights issue may be announced when the group delivered its full year results, but these plans were put on hold after its biggest shareholders failed to secure a deal with lenders.

According to the report in the Independent on Sunday, investors (including TPG, its biggest shareholder) were ready to support a rights issue despite what is perceived by some to be a weak shareholder base (with Baugur, Texas and CVC amongst its shareholders), who would perhaps be unwilling to participate in a rights issue given their own current challenges.

Rights issues are, increasingly in the current climate, becoming a method of rebuilding balance sheets strained by high levels of debt. Graham Secker of Morgan Stanley has been quoted in the Financial Times as saying that "companies that have underpeformed by 50% before a rights issue, and use the money raised to repair their balance sheets, nearly always outperform on a two-year view". Clearly, as the FT article goes on to say, "the backdrop is very different today. There are no green shoots of recovery – and, as news about the economy worsens, investors could be forgiven for remaining on the sidelines and hoarding cash". As the article further points out though "the big fund management houses and pension fund groups are prepared to back cash calls from companies that have solid underlying businesses".

Fashionista has been talking to those in the know to try and understand the ins and outs of rights issues. It essentially involves raising cash by offering new shares to existing shareholders in proportion to their existing holdings. The proceeds of a rights issue can be applied in numerous ways, most commonly to repay debt, provide working capital or to finance an acquisition. Companies Act and financial services legislation set out detailed procedures with which the offer has to comply, including the form of the offer and the length of time during which it may be accepted. Rights issues can therefore be fairly expensive and time consuming and there may therefore be a number of alternative methods of raising capital which Debenhams may consider if their current proposal does not get off the ground again.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

No bags of bags for Bags Bunnies

Fashionista would never willingly confess to being a 'Bags Bunny', but she was tantalised to read this piece from the Wall Street Journal on how Hermès are building up a serious passion among devoted customers by producing their to-die-for Birkin handbags so slowly that you have to join a waiting list in order to buy one.

This marketing ploy has its pluses and its minuses. On the plus side, Hermès can maximise profits per unit by minimising output, also keeping such close control on their desirable products that the provenance of each bag is known. Also, where there are waiting lists for the genuine goods, sellers outside recognised distribution channels are almost proclaiming that their products are fakes. On the downside, the fewer genuine bags are made and, the harder they are to obtain, the greater is the profit that can be secured if a trader can pass a fake product off as a genuine one. Says Fashionista, this is a tough decision to call: let's watch how Hermès play the market and judge whether this policy works or not.
Hat-tip to Lorraine Fleck for the link.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Selfridges: delighting fashionistas for 100 years

Fashionista loves a big birthday bash, and is thrilled to see that one of the world's best known department stores is celebrating its centenary this year with great style. Of course, Fashionista would expect nothing less from Selfridges - the quintessence of all things fashionable.

H. Gordon Selfridge opened the doors to his famous store 100 years ago on 15 March 1909. To celebrate, shoppers are welcomed by a giant illuminated sign announcing "Open to the World Since 1909" which adorns the London store canopy and which sits above window displays which span the last 100 years.

Every weekend in May will see The Big Yellow Festival taking place throughout the Oxford Street store, hosted by the "Selfridgettes" who will entertain shoppers as they move through the store on the arm of Mr Selfridge. Clad in yellow (of course) dresses designed by Giles Deacon, they will be hard to miss. The Festival includes live music on Fridays and fashion shows on Saturdays, where models will travel up and down the 2nd floor escalators dressed in the latest on-trend pieces, to soundtracks mixed by two of London's most prominent (and multi-talented) fashion designers: Giles Deacon and Henry Holland.

Fashionista doesn't need an excuse to shop, but if she did, what better excuse than to strive to collect each of the limited edition carrier bags designed by Giles Deacon, Stella McCartney, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood, which are only available during May? A worthy challenge! As for the purchase? Perhaps one of the limited edition pieces created by various brands (ranging from a Dualit yellow toaster to a yellow Alexander McQueen clutch) to celebrate Selfridges' 100th birthday?

All in all, an exciting line-up and a fanfare of a birthday tribute. As Alannah Weston - Creative Director of Selfridges - explains in the Centenary Magazine: "Our job is always to surprise, amaze and amuse, but amid all of that, to deliver that sartorial (or culinary) holy grail". Fashionista says: congratulations Selfridges - job done!

Good advertising has us believing that the future is orange. Well, for Selfridges and fashionistas everywhere, the future is most definitely yellow. Pantone 109 to be precise.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Online shoppers still spending

Fashionista has always found browsing the Internet a good way of getting in some fashion research and yes maybe occasionally that does involve checking out the relative merits of different sites' sales processes. It seems she is in good company however since recent sales figures indicate that the e-commerce sector is still holding out pretty well.

At the end of last month the IMRG announced its latest e-Retail Index findings which it regularly produces with CapGemini and revealed that shoppers may not be as prevalent on the high street but they are turning up in healthy numbers to their virtual equivalents. Figures show a 9% month on month growth this year with annual growth at around 19% (although this is still down on the same time last year).

There have also been some notable individual successes reported recently. In particular, last week Asos announced that a boom in international sales resulting from the weakness of the pound and its price-conscious market positioning had led to a massive increase in sales by 104% for the year ending at 31 March 2009. They continue to be optimistic for the rest of the year.

Good signs indeed. Right, time for some more research....

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

And the price of your own name is . . . .?

Fashionista has learnt that Amanda Wakeley sold her remaining share in the Amanda Wakeley brand in December 2008 - only to buy it again 4 months later for an estimated £1 million. The brand was sold last year to Arvoco, which has sinced worked to restructure the company. Amanda Wakeley now has full control of the business - and of the intellectual property in her eponymous brand - for the first time in 10 years.

Fashionista sees this as a lucky return and is all too aware of the pitfalls to designers developing their names into well known brands and then losing control of their names - especially when, as a fashion designer, your name is such a large part of who you are and what you do. Elizabeth Emanuel - famed for designing Princess Diana's wedding dress - knows of such pitfalls only too well. After assigning the goodwill and rights to her name in 1996, Elizabeth Emanuel subsequently sought to oppose a trade mark application for "Elizabeth Emanuel" by the eventual assignee. The issue was referred to the ECJ, which rightly concluded that Elizabeth Emanuel's opposition could not stand because, if it could, assignments of goodwill and intellectual property would effectively become meaningless.

The moral of the story? Treat assingments cautiously and be careful as to what rights you are giving away to your name, particularly when your name is such a fundamental part of what you do and how you are known in your industry. Fashionista would certainly be cross if her name were attributed to a style, trend or item of clothing which she didn't particularly like or want to endorse and congratulates Ms Wakeley on once again being able to control how her name is used.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Fashion Design Piracy Bill set to return

Above: funky fashions for pirates

According to this piece in WorldTrade/Interactive, informed sources in the United States are expecting to see the reintroduction of the Fashion Design Piracy Bill. This provision, if enacted, would extend the currently skimpy copyright protection available for fashion designs.

The bill is predicted to be based on its predecessor, which sought to give three years' copyright protection to fashion designs registered within three months of their launch, with a fine of $250,000 or $5 per copy -- whichever the greater -- to deter knowing infringers.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association has opposed this Bill on the basis that it would stifle creativity by giving individuals the ability to seek legal action against designs that are merely “substantially similar” to registered designs. Instead, says the Association, designers should rely on the "vast array" of available options. Fashionista wonders why, if there is a vast array of legal options at the disposal of designers, anyone would trouble themselves to try to push a Bill through Congress at all: wouldn't it be a dreadful waste of shopping time?

Hat-tip to Miri Frankel for supplying this link.

Friday, 1 May 2009

GET LUCKY gets lucky against LUCKY

Fashionista is, of course, familiar with the fashionable US brand LUCKY from Liz Claiborne Inc. and its Los Angeles subsidiary Lucky Brand Dungarees, Inc. Fashionista must admit to not having heard of the GET LUCKY brand owned by Marcel Fashion Group, Inc. least, not until now.

Fashionista suspects that the GET LUCKY brand will now enjoy a wave of free publicity and promotion after a recent summary judgment hearing at which a New York court ruled in its favour on the grounds of trade mark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin and false description and representation. The offending articles were men's and women's t-shirts from the LUCKY brand bearing the words GET LUCKY. The legal wrangle began in 2005 when Liz Claiborne sought - unsuccessfully - to prevent Marcel Fashion's use of its GET LUCKY trade mark (which it registered in 1998). To add to this list of complaints, the Judge also found that Liz Claiborne had breached a settlement agreement which the parties had entered into in 2003.

The result: the Judge granted a permanent injunction against Liz Claiborne "preventing the use, in commerce, of any reproduction, counterfeit, copy or colorable imitation of Marcel Fashion's GET LUCKY trade mark on or in connection with men's and women's apparel, fragrances and accessories". The trial is due to take place later this year.

Fashionista muses on the benefits of registered trade mark protection and of bringing a case to court. As Marcel appears to have the earlier right and assuming it has legitimately used its mark (or, at the least, that it did not register it in bad faith) this must be the right decision. Just because Liz Claiborne's brand is the more well know of the two, this should not be a carte blanche to use a similar mark already owned by someone else. Although Fashionista thinks that ironing out your differences business-to-business (or, lawyer-to-lawyer) must be the preferred approach - litigation clearly still has its place in terms of potential rewards: whether they relate to a sense of justice, financial compensation, or more simply, publicity you can spin to your advantage...provided, of course, that you are on the winning team.