Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Legal training young upcoming design talents

The Brussels Fashionista Team recently held an IP/fashion law seminar entitled "Protection of creativity in Fashion"  in collaboration with the FFI (Flanders Fashion Institute).

Young upcoming talents attended the seminar with enthusiasm and the Brussels Fashionista Team received a lot of positive feedback.

As a follow up, the Brussels Fashionista Team will organize a second seminar on "The opportunities and threats of online stores and social media" in January 2011. Stay tuned, as Fashionista will post more details soon.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Katrantzou that got the cream

Fashionista wants to say a huge congratulations to Mary Katrantzou who, according to VOGUE.COM, was last night named the winner of this year's Swiss Textiles Award.

Fashionista was lucky enough to see Mary's collection at London Fashion Week and, in her humble opinion, it is thoroughly well deserved as the collection was absolutely stunning!

Well done Mary and team.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Growth is global...

The domestic outlook is bleak: the government's widespread spending cuts are all over the papers, we are all feeling the cold (literally) and retail sales are down for the second consecutive month in a row. But is the current frosty spell an indicator that it is set to be a long, cold winter?

Leaders within the retail industry gathered yesterday in Berlin for the World Retail Congress. Reuters reports that while most were downbeat about the outlook within the US and continental Europe, many were looking east for growth opportunities and in particular in the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Sir Stuart Rose suggested that businesses could use the Internet to test these new markets at relatively low cost.  Drapers confirmed that online is Marks & Spencer’s largest store and that Rose indicated that M&S will use its existing online platform as the launchpad into new international markets. “For international markets the advance guard will go first but we will still open stores,” he told the World Retail Congress.

M&S isn't the only British retailer following this strategy. Drapers reported yesterday on River Island's recent deal with ASOS which will make its trend-led collections available across 170 countries. So, while the UK outlook may be bleak, there are opportunities for growth overseas. Fashionista is looking forward to seeing British fashion businesses make the most of their headstart online to gain entry to new international markets.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

"Les Belges" at Paris Fashion Week

The Brussels Fashionista team was excited to have the opportunity to visit the Showroom "Les Belges" at the Paris Fashion Week.

For the first time, the Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI) and Wallonie-Bruxelles Design/Mode (WBDM) joined their forces to offer a common platform to young upcoming Belgian designers including NOOR D*IZAR, Marko Galovic and Schipper/Arques.

In total 14 designers, each with their own identity, presented their collections to international media and potential buyers. The Brussels Fashionista team was able to talk to most of the designers. All were aware that the key to success is not only talent, but a strong business sense - including understanding how best to protect their designs- are essential to make it in the competitive world of fashion. Their major concerns were reflected in their questions: "How can we protect our designs? How can we protect our brand? What are the legal implications of setting up an online store".

To help young emerging Belgian talent, the Brussels Fashionista team
will be working alongside the FFI to offer the much needed legal support to upcoming Belgian designers. Fashionista and the FFI will together, organize seminars for new design talent topics such as "Protection of creativity in Fashion" and "The opportunities and threats of online stores and social media". 

Fashionista is delighted to be working with the next generation of fashion designers on both sides of the Channel, both in the UK and Brussels.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

BIBA is back!

Times may be hard, but it's always nice to read a good news story for a change. Fashionista can't be the only person to notice that the legedary BIBA brand has been revived exclusively at House of Fraser. According to the Guardian, despite the current talk of spending custs and recession, the brand's relaunch has been a hit - with sales of more than £500,000 in the first fortnight.

The new range has been designed by Barbara Hulanicki, the founder of the original BIBA store in Kensington back in 1964. In fact the re-launch has gone so well, House of Fraser has suggested that they may launch stand alone stores. Let's hope the resurgence of the brand continues - it just goes to show that  certain brands can live on even without any trade, and be resuscitated with the right product. With the weather on the turn, Biba's faux-fur coats have caught Fashionista's eye!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

London Fashion Week - the story so far . . .

Fashionista was thrilled to receive an invitation to see some of the most awe-inspiring and original catwalk shows at London Fashion Week this week. Donning her Jimmy Choos she hotfooted it to see Louise Gray, Mary Katrantzou and Holly Fulton's Spring/Summer 2011 collections hit the runway and came out positively drooling.

The gorgeous patchwork dresses and bottle top decorated skirts from Louise Gray definitely left Fashionista wanting to "Get Some Stuff" (the name of Louise's show) and Mary Katrantzou blew everyone away in the fabulous venue at the Old Eurostar terminal with her amazing digital print dresses and "lampshade" skirts which were so beautiful Fashionista didn't know whether she should wear them or frame them - although Fashionista has of course opted to do the former!

It was then on to Holly Fulton's show where Fashionista was transported to St. Tropez with the glitterati. Holly's collection invoked thoughts of the sun, sand and of course cocktail hour. Gorgeous wide legged trousers and bold prints were the highlights along with the highly covetable necklaces which Fashionista is already saving up for.

Fashionista is happy to confirm that she is not discriminating and will be checking out what the boys are up to at the Tim Soar and James Long shows tomorrow. It's a hard life!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Emerging design talent at LFW

Fashionista is delighted to learn that top city law firm Olswang is providing much needed legal support to some of London’s best new fashion designers as part of its recent cooperation with the Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE), the pioneering business development platform that nurtures emerging fashion design talent. CFE boasts an impressive past roster of high profile names, including Erdem, Peter Pilotto, Richard Nicoll and Marios Schwab, and Olswang is now advising the latest designers on the CFE’s two-year Venture programme as they develop their labels on the international fashion stage.

Designer labels currently on the CFE’s two-year Venture programme include Meadham Kirchhoff, Christopher Raeburn, James Long, Louise Gray, Mary Katrantzou and Tim Soar; all of whom will be presenting their Spring 11 collections at London Fashion Week, having already received international acclaim from fashion buyers and editors alike. Mary Katrantzou and Meadham Kirchoff were recently announced as nominees for this year's British Fashion Awards in the category for "Emerging Talent Award - Ready to Wear".

The CFE's Venture programme was devised to support the growth of designer labels which have already secured an impressive list of stockists, and have created a buzz in the press. The programme encompasses the vital aspects involved in developing a fashion label as a business, and provides mentoring and high growth coaching from experienced industry specialists. In addition, the CFE’s one-season Pioneer programme offers an analytical business review to less mature fashion labels, enabling them to devise a longer term business strategy. Through Olswang's involvement in the scheme, designers benefit from free legal advice on commercial contracts, tax and copyright issues, and attend workshops on IP. As well as working with designers on the Venture and Pioneer schemes, Olswang maintains relationships with the designers post-CFE, including Hannah Marshall whose two year term ended in July. It is good to know that London's emerging design talent is in such capable hands!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

It's Shoemania!

For those who missed Channel 4 News last night, Fashionista was very interested to hear that she was not alone in having a shoe addiction. The C4 report referred to data from Bain and Company which showed that in 2009 the overall luxury market shrank by 8 per cent, but that sales of luxury shoes only fell by 0.5 %. In addition, for this year, Bain predicts that luxury shoe sales will bounce back by around 5 %, above other categories of goods in the luxury market.  There could be a number of reasons for this: many women prefer to invest in shoes since, although your weight may fluctuate over the seasons, your shoe size is fairly reliable to remain the same. Also, since most women can't afford to dress themselves head to toe in a their favourite label, by teaming a pair of designer heels with a high street dress, they can achieve the glamorous look for less.

The resilient nature of shoes sale perhaps explains the rationale for Selfridges' decision to expand their shoe department, due to open on 16 September. The new retail space covers 35,000 square foot and will display 4,000 shoes from over 150 brands. A dangerous prospect for the Imelda Marcos inside all of us!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Not such a fairy tale ending for Miss Sixty

Fashionista followers will know that regardless of how beautiful she finds a pair of Jimmy Choos, Fashionista is all too aware that it's unwise to skip paying the rent to pay for that classic kitten heel as the landlord always has the final word.

This point will no doubt be ringing in the ears of the Miss Sixty and Energie fashion chain owners. Indeed the landlord Mourant, which owns the 135,300 sq ft Metquarter shopping centre in Liverpool where Miss Sixty occupied a 3,300 sq ft unit and Energie had a 3,089 sq ft store, of which both were on 10-year leases and guaranteed by Sixty UK's Italian parent company, Sixty SPA, has successfully challenged the Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) entered into by the retail owners. Mourant has claimed that the retail group and its Italian parent adopted a "cynical approach" to the CVA. During his submissions, counsel for Mourant said that Sixty SPA and Sixty UK were "perfectly aware" that the CVA would not work but proceeded with it because they knew that it would take the landlord around 18 months to challenge the CVA, and would take even longer in Italy.

However, lawyers for Vantis plc accountants attempted to put forward some revisions to the CVA which were refused by the High Court. Vantis argued that the claim by Mourant that the CVA "unfairly prejudices" its interests as a creditor of the UK retail group and that there were "material irregularities" in relation to the creditors' meeting would no longer be an issue if the CVA was amended. The judge refused the adjournment application and ruled that he had seen no evidence of the proposed amendments and was being asked to "to proceed on a wholly speculative and uncertain footing". Further, the judge ruled, the application was made at the "59th minute of the eleventh hour" which was far too late for there to be any prospect of the court agreeing to it.

This demonstrates once again that for retailers, getting landlords (usually the most significant unsecured creditor) on side can either make or break a CVA proposal. By way of a brief re-cap, a CVA is an agreement between a debtor and its creditors which, once it has been agreed by the requisite majorities of unsecured creditors (75% in value of those present and voting) and shareholders (a simple majority in value), becomes binding on all unsecured creditors who were entitled to vote at the creditors' meeting to approve it – even if those creditors voted against the proposal, or did not attend the meeting.

Under the CVA proposed by Sixty UK, the landlord did not have the benefit of a guarantor. Had the company gone into liquidation, the guarantor's obligations under the lease would have continued but under the CVA Sixty SPA can simply walk away.

So when Mourant's counsel roared "Fee Fi Fo Fum! I smell the blood of an unfairly prejudicial company voluntary agreement," during his submissions to the judge this week, the owners of Miss Sixty and Energie may have found themselves quaking in their kitten heels…

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Football's fashionable side

Fashionista doesn't often have cause to write about football but, with World Cup fever at its height as we reach the closing stages of the competition, Fashionista has considered with interest the opportunity for mass exposure which the world's biggest, most viewed sporting event lends to fashion brands.

Sportswear brand exposure is a given through official association: Adidas is the official event sponsor, producing the team kits for many including Germany, France and the hosts South Africa; Puma has Italy; Umbro has England; to name but a few. Understandable. Nothing extraodinary there.

Of much greater note is the publicity and widespread advertising reach which association with the FIFA World Cup bestows to less obviously "sporty" brands. Enter high street and luxury retail giants M&S and Louis Vuitton.

Fashionista thought the England squad looked oh-so-smart in their 3 piece suit by M&S. 4 years ago, our boys wore Armani. In a bid to be slightly more recessionista and to fly the flag of how great it is to be British, the England squad has partnered with one of our favourite national brands. What no doubt first appeared as a a great way to drive footfall and attract online sales is likely to have been derailed, first when key team members featured in the ad - Theo Walcott - failed to be selected to travel to South Africa, and then, as a result of England's dismal performance against Germany on Sunday.

Louis Vuitton may have escaped M&S's fate, since their World Cup product was only ever going to be associated with the winning team. LVMH were asked by FIFA to design a custom built trunk to encase the 18 carat gold FIFA World Cup trophy so that it could travel in style. The LV monogram is instantly recognisable, and viewers will not be able to avoid clocking the logo as the trophy - in its LV trunk - is carried onto the pitch for the final. The perfect example of a winning brand collaboration.

Whilst Fashionista is a fan of the beautiful game, she suspects that her eye may be on the customised trunk rather than what is inside it come the 11th of July...

Friday, 18 June 2010

New Collections? The Emergency Budget 22 June

It is amazing how fashions can change through the seasons. Fashionista recalls that only a few months ago red was the "in" colour.

One new collection/general election later and it seems that "blue" and "yellow" are now the "in" colours - but which of the two colours will dominate?

Darling is no longer the designer du jour; George & Vince are the new designers on the block.

Everyone expects the cuts in the George & Vince collection/emergency budget to be quite extreme, but just how extreme?

Will they help out their fellow designers and entrepreneurs by granting the "generous reliefs" from the increase in CGT rates that were previewed in the Coalition Agreement? Will retailers be hit by an increase in VAT rates?

As with any collection/budget, there is always a lot of speculation about what will be revealed on the catwalk/in the budget speech, but the level of speculation this year has been unprecedented.

Fashionista, however, knows the best place to enjoy the collection/budget on the day - the Olswang Budget Blog .

Fashionista hopes to see you in the front row!

Friday, 11 June 2010

From "Screen to Door" to "Screen to Store"

The FT report yesterday that ASOS are seeking partnerships with high street retailers as pick-up points has got our friends at eNova smiling. Fellow fashionista, Sophie Albizua, a multichannel advocate, has contributed this post to share her excitement with us. Sophie writes:

"The fact that home delivery can be a barrier to some consumers is no news and solutions such as physical drop boxes or collection store networks have been talked about for years. But no one has taken the click to brick plunge yet in any meaningful way. This might be the catalyst.

Pure online retail, in spite of all the hype surrounding it, possesses one fundamental barrier to growth; the fact that, as those of you who've been waiting around for hours for a parcel or had to rush to the post office before 5pm to get it know, home delivery is not convenient for many people working or leading busy lives. What still amazes us is the number of high street retailers who have an e-commerce arm that acts as a pure play, thus falling in to the same trap. Not that we believe you can’t have a successful on-line pure play, as ASOS has demonstrated.

Let's remember online retail only represents 7% of total UK retail sales and its growth is slowing down to mid teens and soon single digit numbers. We believe that the growth is in multichannel, where the purchase goes through the website but doesn't end there, which we and other market observers estimate will grow at over 20% p.a. over the next 5 years to represent 40% of total retail sales in the UK by 2013.

Fashion retail has ignored this for too long. Will the one that led the fashion innovation on-line, stir the debate once again? We hope that this will act as a call to action to other fashion retailers who have been shying away from click and collect models for too long. If ASOS feels the need for stores, those who already have them and are not linking them to their websites should reflect upon the missed opportunity that this might represent. Here's a crack at the answer for you: in our experience, properly executed click & collect should double your website takings within a year as a starting point.

Having created several of the leading order on-line, collect in store services, including Argos, Halfords and Boots, we suspect there are still a number of bumps that will need to be ironed out when trying to mould a home delivery set up with a store pick up as to not reduce margin. To this end, store based fashion retailers may still have an advantage if they get to grips with the opportunity sooner rather than later. Most importantly, let’s remember customers are the ones driving these developments, which will be the fastest growing part of retail for the next 5 years."

Is "click and collect" going to be the next growth area? Fashionista would love to know your views, so join the debate!

Monday, 7 June 2010

To be or not to be organic cotton

Calls for a definition of what organic cotton products are may have success! At least in Japan.

According to numerous sources on the internet, the Japanese government has issued a series of guidelines covering the labelling of organic cotton products distributed and sold across the country.

Fashionista has not yet seen the guidelines but it seems that they allow for the labelling of full organic content as well as partial organic content. Sources are divided as to whether the use of chemicals at the processing stage is also being considered with some sources claiming that the guidelines provide a fibre only standard while other sources claim that the guidelines do address processing input. Fashionista will be looking out for the guidelines and will report again.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Who owns your brand - you or your customers?

Any retailer that has survived the last 18 months has done very well and will be now looking at ways to attract more customers through their doors (both physical and virtual). With online sales continuing to rise, including social media elements into your online store is now seen as a "must-have". This may be a forum to allow shoppers to discuss their latest purchases or including an ability for consumers to leave reviews for particular products or stores.

Mary Portas has recently thrown her hat into the ring with the launch of a new website which enables the public to promote their favourite shops by leaving a review for them. While the terms & conditions make it clear that Mary's team will not pre-screen any reviews, they expressly reserve the right to remove material, no doubt to deal with unlawful content (e.g. libellous, defamatory or revealing confidential information) which may be reported to them using their "Report this Review" button.

While there can be no doubt that social media is is a powerful tool enabling brand owners to enlist the help of their fan base to do their marketing for them, giving your customers free rein with your brand is a risky business. Any brandowner contemplating the introduction of a social media element into their website should ensure they are aware of the potential risks, and have put in place strategies to deal with any issues as soon as they arise. In the virtual world, things move a lot faster and brand owners must be ready and prepared to tackle issues before they spiral into a legal and PR catastrophe...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Advertising: taking the good with the bad

Louis Vuitton: Iconic. Established. The Monogram.

There won't be a single fashionista out there who won't be familiar with the name, the brand or its products. 2010 marks Louis Vuitton's 125th anniversary - and the celebrations included last night's widely advertised and hotly anticipated launch party of the iconic brand's flagship "London Maison" in New Bond Street.

Fashionista has heard that the fabulous, the famous and the beautiful all rubbed shoulders at the event. Gone are the days when we have to rely on next day press write-ups, as LV fans around the world were able to share in the glamour of the red carpet event as it was happening by watching it play out on the brand's Facebook page. A savvy move, exploiting social media to maximise the accessibility of a brand - reaching millions with a simple upload. An instantaneous, interactive and very effective form of advertisement.

Certainly more effective, Fashionista muses, than two Louis Vuitton adverts which the Advertising Standards Agency has today declared misleadingly implied that Louis Vuitton's products are hand made. The full report on the ASA website highlights the importance of giving careful consideration to the implicit message in ads, as the two Louis Vuitton ads were pulled after the ASA received only 3 complaints.

Fashionista invites her readers to judge for themselves whether or not the ASA has got it right or is the ban the result of overzealous censorship when faced with the smallest hint of complaint. Does, for example, an image of a woman using a needle and thread to stitch the handle of a bag together with the text "... infinite patience protects each overstitch ... One could say that a Louis Vuitton bag is a collection of fine details. But with so much attention lavished on every one, should we only call them details?" mislead consumers into believing that LV bags are stitched by hand?

The decision also highlights the importance of retaining evidence relating to a brand - its products, designs, know-how and manufacturing processes (to name but a few) - to help defend claims made against it. Fashionista has seen the issue of evidence retention come up again and again when brandowners have sought to rely on copyright in fabric patterns or design right in shoes and handbags, and the difficulty faced when they have not kept hold of sufficient background materials to prove their rights or substantiate their case. The ASA claimed, in this case, that because they had not seen evidence from Louis Vuitton to show the extent to which products may, in fact, be hand made, the ASA had to conclude that the ads were misleading.

The ban suggests that someone, somewhere, got this one a little wrong. Whether it is the complainants and the ASA or Louis Vuitton is open to debate. Whatever your opinion, the old adage "all publicity is good publicity" springs to mind. Perhaps the ban will make Louis Vuitton seem contemporary; exciting; pushing boundaries; not forgotten. After all, a brand which can survive 125 years in the fast changing, often fickle world of fashion and brand loyalty - and retain a luxury reputation throughout - must be doing something right.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Government to give back so green can be the new black

Readers know how keen Fashionista is to promote and support green initiatives, and so you can only imagine Fashionista's delight at hearing that Jaeger - one of Britian's most established, and one of Fashionista's favourite, brands - is championing the cause for sustainable fashion to make this a lasting trend rather than a passing fad.

In the heat of General Election fever, Jaeger's owner Harold Tillman, called for tax breaks for eco-fashion businesses to incentivise UK fashion businesses and consumers alike to "go green" and think carefully about what they are producing and how they are producing it. The propsed tax breaks should make greener, more sustainable production a more cost effective and attractive option for businesses. In turn, they should help enable businesses to reduce the cost of eco-friendly fashion, broadening its appeal for cost-conscious consumers.

Fashionista sees it as a great thing that leaders in our fashion industry are taking such vocal and proactive steps to promote such an important issue. She is encouraged that the big brands, who are more likely to have resources, are speaking out on behalf of independent or smaller businesses.
Will it work? Possibly; hopefully.

What will it take for it to do so? Increased appeal of eco-fashion in terms of widespread availability, attractive and competitive pricing, quality fabrics and on-trend, covetable designs, and a shift in industry and consumer perception. Fashionista agrees with Harold Tillman that incentivising businesses by helping out with tax breaks will certainly pave the way for much needed change. Let's watch this space.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Butt of the Joke?

Fashionista's fans will remember this post recounting how The North Face sued The South Butt (and its now-19-year-old founder) for piracy. Fashionista was looking forward to finding out how the courts in the US would decide on this case - but it looks as though another "piracy or acceptable parody" case will remain unheard now that The North Face and The South Butt have confidentially settled their dispute.

News of the settlement came last month, but The South Butt website still appears to be up and running. Whilst Fashionista can speculate as to the terms of the settlement, as with all conflicts which settle out of court, the terms of settlement in this case will have been influenced by particular concerns of the two parties, including, for example, the planned longevity of a brand and reasons for setting up a company (in The South Butt's case, to help the founders' parents pay for his US college tuition fees).

Fashionista would be surprised if the settlement allows for continued co-existence of the brands. As the Denver Post reports, Jimmy Winkelmann was seen dishing out The South Butt clothing whilst on his college Spring Break. Given the continued operation of the website, it is more probable that the settlement agreement allows some sort of "wind down phase" in which The South Butt is entitled to get rid of its remaining stock within an agreed period of time - but is not allowed to produce any further stock or continue to use the brand name which caused such offence to The North Face in the first place. Settlements of this sort are not uncommon and are often a speedy, cost effective way of resolving conflicts - without the risk, cost and uncertainty associated with going to court.

But who is the real winner? Even if the terms of settlement are such that Jimmy Winkelmann must (eventually) stop using The South Butt trade mark, reports that he made $100,000 in one month because of publicity regarding the lawsuit suggest that The North Face may, in fact, be the butt of the joke here (for the second time).

Fashionista wonders, was it worth The North Face pursuing this claim? it can't have been cheap for them. Is it worth going after everyone who could potentially be seen to be infringing your marks, or is it better to be selective and pick your targets more carefully? As a result of The North Face bringing its claim, it sounds as though Jimmy Winkelmann got exactly what he was hoping for (legal headaches aside): enough money to fund his way through college - and no doubt, his 15 minutes of fame as an added bonus.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Advantage of Vintage?

We all have clothes languishing in our wardrobes which we haven't shown much love to of late. Not because there's anything wrong with them, but because we're simply tired of wearing the same old thing over and over again. That's why fashion keeps changing: because our taste does. But what may look old and past its sell-by-date to one, may be given a new lease of life in the hands of someone new.

Enter ASOS - leading online clothing retailer which reported a 38% annual rise in sales for the year ended in March 2010 and which has a 5 year plan to become a £1 billion business - and its plan to launch an online marketplace allowing customers to recycle their wardrobes, and businesses the opportunity to shift unsold stock.

Hot on the heels of eBay which recently launched its dedicated "fashion only" site, ASOS' new marketplace is being hailed as an environmentally friendly way for customers to get rid of old clothing - and to make some money in the process. Details are limited, but an article in The FT yesterday suggested that prices will be fixed rather than determined by auction and that no luxury brand goods can be sold.

ASOS' level of involvement at this stage is unclear. Will it simply provide the platform and then sit back as customers buy and sell between themselves? or will ASOS take a far more "hands on" approach, helping customers to determine (or even dictating) the price at which goods will be sold? News reports suggest that ASOS' involvement will be more than minimal as ASOS has already indicated that it will also carry out security checks and will screen potential businesses wanting to sell their goods through ASOS' new platform.

The prohibition on sales of second hand luxury branded goods is a sensible one to reduce the risk of sales of counterfeit goods and parallel imports. It should also reduce the level of monitoring which ASOS will need to carry out of what is being sold on its site to make sure that ASOS is not at risk of being sued for faciliating the sale of counterfeits and parallels. Whether or not the policy will work in practice - and how ASOS plan to police it - remains to be seen.

The idea of an online marketplace for consumers (and not just businesses) to sell clothing is a good one and may be one of the reasons for which ASOS' Chief Executive Nick Robertson is one of seven people shortlisted for the New Media Age award for the "Greatest Individual Contribution to New Media" in the 2010 NMA Effectiveness Awards.

Whilst Fashionista is a fan of green initiatives, she can't help but wonder whether charity shops are going to miss out on much needed donations as a result.

Monday, 3 May 2010

10:10 enters the world of fashion

Fashionista has been a fan of 10:10, the campaign to reduce UK emissions by 10% in 2010, ever since its launch in autumn 2009. From the beginning, 10:10 tags have been given out, and Fashionista is excited to read that one of her favourite designers, Vivienne Westwood is also proudly wearing her 10:10 tag - as are Jo Wood and Sara Cox.

The tags have an interesting story - they are made out of a retired Boeing 747 jumbo jet that was forced to make an emergency landing in Jakarta following a flight through volcanic ash over Indonesia as all its four engines failed almost simultaneously. So it is not just a recycled item with an interesting history but it almost embodies the effects of climate change and it's dangerous consequences.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Google extends Street View to shop interiors

Many of you will be aware of Google's Street View product which enables consumers to see views of their high street from the comfort of their own home. Drapers has reported Google's plan to extend this product to include images of the interiors of retail stores. The initial test involves 30 towns and cities in the US, Australia and Japan. Any business that is signed up to Google's Places service, can now ask Google to visit their premises and carry out a free photo shoot of the interior of their business.

In order to avoid any issues surrounding privacy, Google explain on their "Business Pages" website, that they will adopt "state-of-the-art blurring technology to blur out faces of people who appear in the photos", but Google also recommend that businesses inform staff and customers when the photo shoot will take place so that people can move out of shot if they do not want to be photographed.

While this could be a new way for consumers to "browse" their favourite store remotely, retailers must be alive to the potential privacy issues and ensure that photos are approved before they are uploaded to the site. Ultimately retailers may prefer to drive traffic to their own e-commerce sites where they can control all aspects of their brand and imagery.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Clever Little Bag

Fashionista is excited about Puma's new Clever Little Bag which was designed by star industrial designer Yves Behar . The idea is as simple as it is brilliant: a single sheet of folded cardboard inside a bright red re-usable bag consisting of recycled PET.

Puma's figures are impressive : the bag/"box" uses 65% less cardboard than the standard shoe box and this paper reduction will reduce water, energy and fuel consumption on the manufacturing level by more than 60% per year. During transport 500,000 litres of diesel is saved and, due to the replacement of traditional shopping bags with the lighter built-in bag the difference in weight can save up to 275 tons of plastic!

The bag is part of Puma's more extensive sustainability programme. Until 2015, Puma is planning
• a 25% reduction of CO2, energy, water and waste in PUMA offices, stores, warehouses and direct supplier factories.
• a paperless office policy through a 75% reduction and offsetting initiatives for the remaining paper usage such as tree planting initiatives.
• a 25% CO2 reduction through more efficient product transport solutions by its logistic partners.
• to begin collaborating with its strategic suppliers and logistic service providers to offset their own footprints in the long-term.
• to introduce the PUMA Sustainability-Index (S-Index) standard that serves as a benchmark for sustainable products and communicates the products’ sustainable features to consumers.
• that 50% of PUMA’s international collections will be manufactured according to the PUMA S-Index standard by 2015, using sustainable materials such as organic cotton, Cotton Made in Africa or recycled polyester as well as applying best practice production processes.
So Puma is planning to use Clever Little Bags for its apparel collections, too, and thereby to avoid an equivalent of 29 million plastic bags! And T-shirts are said to be folded one more time to reduce the packaging size and thus save CO2 emissions and costs during transport.

Fashionista would love for The Clever Little Bag to be introduced immediately, but it seems that she will have to wait until mid-2011. The supply chain, distribution centres and retail stores all have to take this new Clever Little Bag on board, first. Hopefully, this will be sorted out, soon, and new Puma shoes, T-Shirts, and any other Puma products can be taken home in Clever Little Bags - and the bags used for more shopping even if that shopping is for groceries and books rather than fashion!

Congratulations to Erdem!

As a fan from the early days, this Fashionista was delighted to read in the Daily Telegraph that one of the UK's most talented young designers, Erdem has won the inaugral British Fashion Council & Vogue Designer Fashion Fund giving him access to director level mentors from within the industry and a healthy £200,000 prize to invest in his growing business. Since winning the Fashion Fringe award in 2005 Erdem has gained recognition within the industry and most importantly from his growing female fan-base which now includes both Sarah Brown and Samantha Cameron. Who knows maybe the winning first lady of politics will be wearing an Erdem dress on election night!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Let Girls be Girls

Fashionista read with interest today's news that bargain fashion chain Primark has been criticised for promoting products which are considered too adult to be promoted to children. The store, which removed its padded bikini tops for girls as young as seven from sale today, follows the likes of Asda (which has been singled out for selling lace lingerie, including a push-up bra aimed at young girls) and Tesco (which recently withdrew a pole-dancing kit from its toys section).

While Primark reacted swiftly to the complaints by removing the product from sale, apologising to its customers for "causing offence" and confirming that it would donate profits to a children's charity, Primark maintains it promise on its website that: "We make no exception for our younger ladies. All the high fashion trends can be found in our Girlswear section, no matter what age you are." The balance between allowing youngsters to enjoy fashion and follow trends and ensuring they are protected as children, is clearly difficult to maintain.

Fashionista wonders whether the recent launch of the Mumsnet “Let Girls Be Girls” campaign, to lobby retailers against sales of adult items to children, will help retailers maintain this balance. Asda, Boden and Start-rite have already endorsed the campaign. Fashionista wonders if Primark will be next....

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Customers as investors: online crowdsourcing à la mode

"New website brings crowd sourcing to fashion" is the curious title of a short article by Reuters which really caught Fashionista's fancy. She has often wished that some of her faraway friends could come and visit her as email-attachments -- so much quicker than intercontinental travel and so much kinder to one's skin, hair and temper -- and this title suggested that whole crowds might somehow make it through the ether for her next soirée. The truth, as usual, was more prosaic, but none the less interesting for all that. According to the article, soon-to-be-launched internet start-up Fashion Stake plans to let customers directly fund fashion designers by browsing online collections, buying a stake in a collection in return for credits to buy clothes. Patrons can also share ideas with designers and vote on collections. The piece continues:
"The model ...taps into a growing business model called crowd sourcing where entrepreneurs go directly to customers for content, funding, and distribution. ...

Advocates of crowd sourcing say it offers consumers a cheaper, more flexible alternative and frees artists from having to get past big corporations.

... Recent years have seen a rapid growth in interactive business models and Internet-based social media, or so-called Web 2.0. Global communities centered around services like Facebook and Twitter are millions strong.

Peer-to-peer lending, linking individual lenders with borrowers, has taken off in the U.S. ... while so-called open innovation companies ... allow corporations to outsource problems to networks of innovators. ...”
The notion of making your customers your investors is intriguing, says Fashionista, and it gives investors a vested interest in retaining loyalty to labels they invest in. And there's one more curiosity to note: if you key 'crowdsourcing' into the leading search engine, you get nearly four times as many hits if you type it as one word than if you type it as two.

Friday, 2 April 2010

If a leopard can't change its spots, can a Croc ...?

In "Crocs Gives Its Footwear A Loving Makeover", Sara Zucker writes on brandchannel of a neat side-step by a the love-them-or-hate-them Crocs brand. Instead of the colourful clogs that made the company famous, Crocs' latest promotion highlights a variety of modern slip-ons. The article links to a 30-second video which introduces consumers to Croslite, "a technology in all branded shoes designed to increase comfort and hug a wearer's foot". The new Crocs styles, says Global VP of Marketing Ken Chaplin, "reflect our expertise in the design, development and marketing of custom contouring footwear.” Adds Zucker:
"Crocs still deserves credit for reaching out to customers who just want to relax at home; this could help the brand to lose its widespread reputation for unfashionable footwear. The Crocs brand isn't the Snuggie, after all".
Fashionista knows how difficult it can be for any brand, in any market, to change its image -- not least since that can involve a change of loyal clientele too. It's also true that, except in the case of some elegant folk who could go out for the night dressed in disposable plastic bags and still look glamorous, many people found it difficult to wear the original Crocs with any real style and panache. Will this change of focus work, she wonders? On a deeper level, she ponders whether there is a middle ground between the fashionable and the unfashionable -- a sort of fashion-neutral position that Crocs can seek to occupy -- and whether that middle ground is a beachhead from which to leverage a brand or whether, perceived as neither fashionable nor the opposite, the brand will end up stranded like a beached whale. Can Crocs change their spots? Only time will tell.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Rights in fashion: what the Pirate Party says

Noting that the prospect of a General Election in the UK is looming larger than a mirror full of unwanted muffin top, Fashionista has decided that it would be a great idea to discover what the many and varied political parties have to say about the fashion industry. To this end she has recently been engaged in correspondence with Pirate Party leader Andrew Robinson, on the subject of that party's position with regard to the fashion industry. After all, the Pirate Party is not known for its sympathetic position regarding intellectual property rights, particularly regarding copyright in recorded works and the protection of computer software. This is what Andrew said:
"I'll admit that the fashion industry isn't the strong point of a party whose membership consists predominantly of young men who spend a lot of time on the internet, and that's why we won't have much to say about this area in our forthcoming election manifesto. Broadly, our stance is that trade mark law, and the laws that cover 'passing off' do a very good job of protecting rights in this area, so we do not see the need for any changes there. We are strongly opposed to commercial counterfeiting, and believe that a great deal of good would come from concentrating law enforcement efforts on that problem rather than on persecuting relatively harmless file sharers.

Our proposals for legalisation of non-commercial copying would probably not have any impact on the retail trade, and in a fast moving industry like fashion our proposals to reduce the length of copyright would barely make an impact apart from giving the t-shirt industry more freedom to plunder the past for images. Having said that, I'm aware of a groundswell of opinion in the party that counterfeiting laws shouldn't be (ab)used to stop 'gray imports' of products such as jeans and perfume that are not counterfeit (as the man in the street would understand the word).

We also feel that a broad review of copyright and patent law is needed necessary now that the internet takes the possibility of infringement out of the purely business-to-business domain and into the consumer v business arena, and that to make the law more understandable for consumers it would make sense to explicitly write into law a lot of rules that are currently just case law; however, realistically we are a very young party that is very busy with our first election, and we are aware that we don't have the spare skilled manpower needed to do a good job of such a monumental undertaking, so I'll have to borrow to a rather horrible political weasel word from the big parties and admit that is currently an 'aspiration', not a policy".
Fashionista looks forward to reporting on the position of the other parties too, before the polls open, and to presenting them to her dedicated readers.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Last Tax Tango?

Fashionista has noticed that the UK seems to be suffering from election fever at the moment, not a condition that Fashionista has had previously. However, Fashionista does know that part of the Labour party's election bid will be centred on the Chancellor's final Budget of this Parliament to be given today.

Will this Budget will be an end of season clearance sale or will it contain previews of next season's collection and next season's prices? Fashionista, ever anxious to know what may impact on her spending, will be following the news online here to find out what Mr Darling has in store and recommends that all other fashionistas do likewise

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

"Keywords" and locking down on third party use of them

We all know of Louis Vuitton: the company and the brand. We all know the goods they cover. This is the function of a trade mark: to act as an indication of origin for the product bearing the brand. So when Google made the words "LOUIS VUITTON" available for third parties to purchase as Google AdWords, and when third parties starting purchasing these AdWords to guarantee that their own websites (often selling counterfeit Louis Vuitton products) popped up as "Sponsored Links" when a consumer searched for "Louis Vuitton" on Google, was this a problem? Were LVMH's trade mark rights infringed? Could LVMH do anything to stop this practice? and if so: who is liable - the third party or the search engine?

Fashionista, together with fashion brand owners no doubt, has eagerly awaited the Court of Justice's judgment on these issues to see what rights brand owners have against third party use of their marks which could otherwise damage the brand and its reputation.

Third parties can be prevented from doing so if their appearance as a Sponsored Link will make it difficult for the average internet surfer to determine whether the goods are legitimate and provided by the brand owner. So, if an internet user searching for "Louis Vuitton" sees a Sponsored Link for "Louis Vuitton bags" and is unsure whether the provider of such bags is, in fact, the brand owner, LVMH would be entitled to take steps to prevent the third party's advert from appearing - including requesting the service provider to remove or disable access to a website if the advertiser's activities are unlawful.

Google was not considered liable for making trade marks available to purchase as keywords - although this will be a question for national courts on a case by case basis and will depend on whether a service provider has played an active role over the data it stores.

Fashionista breathed a big sigh of relief at this positive news for brand owners. Whilst the test today laid down by the court is a subjective one which rests on "will the internet shopper be confused?", this decision at least acknowledges the possible damage to a brand owner if third party advertisements can pop-up in a calculated measure to piggy-back off the reputation of the brand a consumer is looking for. This decision should help to put an end to the stream of Sponsored Links for replica and imitation brand products which have until now frequently appeared when a luxury brand name was typed into a search engine.

A positive step to preserve hard earned brand reputations and another just measure to clamp down on those seeking to ride off the coattails of others.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Amy, Fred and a couple of axioms

Fashionista has just come off the phone from a fellow fashion fiend who, in an attempt to broaden her vocabulary and enhance her insights, has taken up a new pastime -- reading. She told Fashionista that she was currently quite engrossed in a fascinating book which, while it didn't have much of a storyline, was rich in new ideas. When asked for its title she replied "It's called the Dictionary and, once I've finished it, I wouldn't mind reading something else by the same author, but it doesn't say who wrote it ..."

Fashionista's friend very much enjoyed the entries under "A", among which she discovered the word "axiom" -- and here are a couple of axioms over which Fashionista has been reflecting recently. One is "Fashion makes for strange bedfellows"; the other is "A leopard can't change its spots". Both these axioms were summoned into her mind when she read of the deal struck by Amy Winehouse with Fred Perry which will see the former design a range of womenswear to be marketed under the latter's brand, though "The polo shirts will have 26-year-old Amy's own logo on them, a twist on the classic Fred Perry symbol" -- something that trade mark lawyers, anxious about the way registered marks are used, will no doubt be having their own little ponderings.

Right: Perry and Winehouse -- from racquet to racket, or a brilliant ploy for the continuing evoluation of the Fred Perry brand?

Does fashion make for strange bedfellows? So it seems. For an older generation of consumers, the words "Fred Perry" summon up images of flapping flannels, sepia photos, black-and-white telly and the halycon days when British tennis players didn't get paid but did win the occasional big tournament. If they have heard of Amy Winehouse at all, their first thought is "what must that girl's poor parents have had to go through ..."

Left: not an immediate and obvious match for Fred Perry, but a good one?

How differently today's younger consumers view Fred Perry -- sporty, classic styles which ascribe an image which is smart, young without being juvenile and gently understated. The same consumer cadre Amy Winehouse conjures up a cocktail of talent, passion and at least a hint of personal tragedy, a sort of latter-day English version of Edif Piaf. One wonders how each of these two brands will function together: Odd Couple or Arthur Miller/Marilyn Monroe? And what, if any, break clauses might be drafted to enable the two to extract themselves if the synergy/reaction between the two threatens to damage either brand?

Can a leopard change its spots? That's a tough one to call. Fred Perry is undoubtedly a very different brand now, but how far can it continue to change -- and how far is it wise for it to seek to do so -- in a marketplace where competition is stiff, market entry is easy, celebrities spring up like Japanese knotweed and a strong brand message is easier to lose than to acquire?

Right: never mind the leopard, leotards have spots too!

Friday, 12 March 2010

American models as virtual imports?

"Rimmel Recruits American Models To Increase Brand Exposure", writes Sara Zucker on brandchannel today. This causes Fashionista to think a couple of thoughts.

First, the use of national labels conjures up many different responses in the human mind, particularly with regard to fashion and models. "French", "Italian", "Russian", "Swedish" spark off mental associations which evoke a variety of stereotypes: complexion, hair colour, body mass, style and even social activities. This doesn't work for "American", since the mix-and-match multi-ethnic culture has done so much to break down those stereotypes. The three models recruited by Rimmel London are a case in point. Zooey Deschanel (of Irish-French descent), Solange Knowles (African-American/Creole) and Alejandra Ramos Munoz (Puerto Rico) – are helping the brand to break that trend.

There's a second aspect to the breaking down of tribal barriers, this time along national and economic lines rather than in terms of ethnicity. Fashionista remembers being told about a dim-and-distant past in which one was supposed to hire locals, only turning to foreign staff when there were no suitable locals to do the job. This caused particular problems in some sectors (the acting profession being the most high-profile) and still does for professional footballers today, where even the richest and most successful clubs have go to through a series of hoops before being able to import some highly talented sportsmen.

In the fashion sector, this should never need to be a problem again: Zooey, Solange and Alejandra can become the best-known faces of fashion in the United Kingdom without ever planting stiletto tracks across the Heathrow runway, so long as the internet works, their names and likenesses are duly protected by trade mark and copyright. Sara Zucker reports Coty CEO Bernt Beetz as saying
"Zooey, Solange and Alejandra each bring a distinct look and personality to Rimmel London, expanding the brand's visibility and strengthening Coty's global colour platform".
She adds:
"Each model will plug an individual collection through television and print placement. The brand, however, may want to have the women also join its social media efforts; currently Rimmel's Twitter account, geared toward American consumers, could use more followers".
Nothing is said about bringing the Rimmel Three over to the UK in person, which is a shame because Fashionista has some simply lovely people she'd like them to meet ...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The High Street turns green

Fashionista recently read that according to DEFRA in the UK we buy around two million tonnes of clothing - £23 billion worth - every year. The footprint this leaves in the global supply chain and beyond includes high energy use from washing and tumble drying, water use, toxicity from pesticides plus one million tonnes of unwanted clothing – 50 percent of which goes to UK landfill !

To tackle this major problem of waste, in September 2007, the government launched the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP). Last week, in time for London Fashion Week, new signatories from the forefront of ethical/sustainable/organic fashion such as
MADE-BY and the Ethical Fashion Forum signed up. According to the Action Plan, MADE-BY is going to look into the important issue of developing a cotton benchmark evaluating the different sustainable cotton options. But other actions listed in SCAP are equally impressive - and this is not just lip-service. A number of actions listed in this one-year old plan are already noted as completed, such as Continental Clothing Company's launch and development of the EarthPositive® product line which is a Pilot Partner with Carbon Trust's labelling initiative. Perhaps not surprisingly, EarthPositive has won the Soil Association's Best Organic Textile Product Award 2009. And Marks & Spencer's 'Clothes Exchange' partnership with Oxfam Clothes Exchange has developed into the UK's biggest programme to encourage consumers to recycle their clothes. Fashionista is a great fan of Oxfam and always finds something exciting and original to take home. And under the partnership, when showing an M&S label, Oxfam will even give you a voucher worth £5 to use next time you spend £35 or more on clothing, home or beauty products in M&S!

M&S have now, this week, not only confirmed their continued commitment to their so-called Plan A, but also said that the Plan is to be extended and will include a target to source all of M&S' food, clothing and home items from sustainable or ethical sources - such as the Fairtrade scheme - by 2020!

Other large international players who have taken on action tasks include Adidas, Asda/George, Nike, Sainsbury's, - Levis Strauss have just signed up and it will be interesting to see what action they take. The DEFRA press report says that

  • Asda, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury are focusing on green factories, reducing the impacts of clothing packaging, increasing their ranges of FairTrade and Organic, increasing take back and recovery of unwanted clothing, supply chain traceability and increasing consumer messaging on low impact clothing washing practices.
  • This Spring Tesco will launch a new online capsule Sustainable Fashion range in collaboration with From Somewhere, the recycling fashion pioneers. The collaboration comes after Tesco was inspired by their ranges at Estethica during London Fashion Week Feb 09 where the first SCAP was launched.
  • Association of Charity Shops, Clothes Aid, Recyclatex, Salvation Army Trading Company Limited and Textile Recycling Association activities are focused on increasing consumer awareness of the benefits of clothing reuse and recycling.
  • The Oxfam 'Clothes Exchange' partnership with M&S continues to flourish with around four million garments recovered for reuse/recycling at an approximate value to Oxfam of £2.2m by the end of 2009. The Association of Charity Shops’ “Donate, don’t waste” campaign launched nationwide on 22 February, involving 100 charities and 5,000 shops.
  • Continental Clothing have reduced the carbon footprint of their organic (EarthPositive®) T-shirt range by 90%, and launched the first carbon reduction label on textile products to tackle corporate clothing waste – CRR’s uniformreuse.co.uk is online and Aestiva Ltd is working with Leeds University, C-Tech, Madera, Royal Mail, Mathias & Sons, Gnosys, and Oxfam Waste on disassembly techniques to enable cost effective reuse of corporate clothing.
  • Adidas, Nike, MADE-BY and European Outdoor Group are developing innovations on sustainable design tools and techniques.
  • Fairtrade Foundation UK maintain their ongoing campaign to increase Fairtrade clothing in the UK.
  • 170 organisations have worked with Defra to complete key projects to show the way forward on reducing the Impacts of Clothes Cleaning, Maximising Reuse and Recycling of Clothing/Textiles, Sustainable Design and Eco-Efficiency in Dye houses serving Indian and UK supply chains.
  • One of Clothes Aid’s pilot schemes that forms part of the Roadmap Action Plan has now been formally launched as the ‘Great British Clothes Clearout’ together with partner charity NSPCC. The scheme is on target to raise £2 million by 2012 by diverting 1,000s of tonnes of textiles from landfill and converting them into cash for the NSPCC.

Fashionista is impressed!

The high street is often criticised as not being sufficiently on the forefront of sustainable fashion and of not doing enough. Fashionista thinks that at least for some of the high street favourites this appears somewhat unfair. Considering the complex issues surrounding FairTrade/ sustainable and organic fashion this Action Plan and the actions undertaken by high street undertakings in cooperation with the government, charity and business organisations promise to create a fundamental framework on which, hopefully, one day the development of a substantial market for FairTrade/sustainable and organic fashion will be made much easier.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Vogue Curvy: Hitting the Big Time

Writing for BrandChannel ("Italian Fashion Brands Now Fit Curvy Women"), Isobella Jade comments on a key fact that drives the fashion industry: while the desire to be beautiful, or to acquire objects of beauty, is presumably a constant, notions of beauty are in a regular state of change. Isobella says:
"When Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli painted his Birth of Venus between 1485 and 1486, he most likely would never have figured that Venus, with her tummy pouch and sensual, curvy, and milky soft skin, would be considered a plus size in today’s thin-obsessed world. However, if Venus was into today's latest trends, she might not even be able to find her size in fashion retail stores."
The good news for Venus (pictured above right, as we would imagine her today, and, below left, as she might be if you left her alone with some decent chocolates) is that
"Vogue Italia is rediscovering curvy women and dedicating a section of its online site to full-figured ladies, calling it Vogue Curvy.

There are very few fashion destinations on the web that celebrate and include the plus size fashionista; however on Marie Claire Magazine’s site, Ashley Falcon writes a blog called Big Girl in a Skinny World, which is really an online landmark within the virtual fashion spectrum".
She adds that the Vogue Curvy mission are writers from SaksInTheCity and YoungFatAndFabulous.com. Fashionista, who recalls marvelling at the massively outsized (by today's standards) chorus line of the outstanding 1955 movie production of Guys and Dolls, has no objection to others being, er, curvy. Her concern however lies with the confusingly wide range of clothes size-marking practices of some of her favourite shops. While attempts have been made to rationalise and standardise them (for example European Standard EN 13402), one supplier's size 8 might flap around like a tent while another's fits like ClingWrap. Since many of those who are large in limb and big in bulk do prefer clothes with lower-sounding sizes, confusion and customer annoyance may result. Fashionista is not yet aware of any legal action based on confusion or shopping rage caused by misleading size labels, but she bets that someone has been there. Does anyone know?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Every cloud has a silver lining . . . .

Fashionista is in a reflective mood prompted by yet further dismal news about the economy. No fashionista can have failed to note that we are constantly bombarded with gloomy prophecies heralding ever new ways in which the recession will impact negatively on our lives and how the recent (but past) era of prosperity is never going to come back again. But like it or not, times of strife have also always had a profoundly modernising influence on the society.

British Retail Consortium (“BRC”), an organisation representing the retail industry, certainly embraced this philosophy. Fashonista has noted that the BRC is using the recession to increase the momentum of its campaign to persuade landlords to allow retailers pay rent for their premises monthly rather than quarterly. The campaign predates the current economic crisis and was meant to bring the market practice in granting leases up to speed with the era of information economy rather than provide relief for retailers in a difficult consumer market. But the economic downturn certainly helped to bring the message home to landlords who face a quickly raising number of defaults by their old tenants and increasing difficulty in finding new ones to replace them.

Although many landlords would rather use other incentives to lure new tenants - like extended rent free periods or options to terminate the lease before the expiry of the term - monthly payments of rent are slowly but surely finding their way into new leases. According to BRC’s survey two-thirds of all new leases granted since January 2008 have included provisions for monthly payment of rent.

This looks to be a promising change though Fashionista is not convinced that this change is here for good. Many landlords, especially in the prime locations, are large institutional investors unwilling to incur increased agency costs of managing a large portfolio of properties with monthly rent payments. Also, a lot of office premises are still let on the basis of quarterly rent. Both of these factors may remain an argument for the return to quarterly rent payments on retail premises once the market bounces back and tenants start to compete again for the best space.
It remains to be seen if the monthly rent payments are only a transient fancy in the retail market or a new, redefining trend.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Carnaby Street and fashion - 50 today!

"Perhaps nothing illustrates the new swinging London better than narrow, three-block-long Carnaby Street, which is crammed with a cluster of the 'gear' boutiques where the girls and boys buy each other clothing..." (Time Magazine, April 15, 1966).

This Fashionista loves nothing more than a wander down Carnaby Street, indeed it is adored by fashionistas everywhere! And what better time to celebrate its wonder than today, its 50th anniversary?

In the 1960s, Carnaby Street proved popular for followers of the hippy style and housed many fashion boutiques and designers such as Mary Quant and Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin, as well as various music bars in the surrounding streets. With bands such as the Beatles, the Who and the Rolling Stones in the area to work, shop, and socialize, it became one of London's coolest destinations associated with the swinging sixties!

Today, Carnaby Street remains home to numerous fashion retailers, including a large number of independent fashion boutiques: Fur Coat No Knickers, Twenty8Twelve and Eley Kishimoto to name a fabulous few.

Launching today, ‘Carnaby Street: 1960 - 2010’ will celebrate 50 years of fashion and music. The exhibition, at 38 Carnaby Street, is open from today until the beginning of April 2010 and is FREE admission. It will be followed by a series of events throughout 2010 to celebrate Carnaby’s 50th Anniversary including a live music weekend in June and a unique fashion show in September. This Fashionista for one, will be sure not to miss it!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lady Gaga: prudent protection or brand overkill?

Writing on BrandChannel this week, Abe Sauer takes issue with one Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (better known as megastar and fashion icon Lady Gaga) for over-egging her brand protection through the extension of her US trade mark protection into markets with which she is not usually associated. He writes:

"... last October, the artist's management moved to protect her brand by trade marking everything GaGa. However, a look at recent updates to the trademark show that GaGa, or her management, may be on the verge of ruining everything.

The documents show that the Lady GaGa trademark covers, among other things, "caps, visors, boxer shorts, headbands, sneakers, swim wear, bras, scarves, hosiery, pajamas, and robes." Oh, and Lady GaGa sweatpants. The update is more worrisome, however, as it includes vinyl covers for cell phones, MP3 players, laptops. It also claims rights to Lady GaGa "gift certificates which may then be redeemed for goods and services."

No one should be surprised that the talented singer/songwriter is lending her image to an imaginative array of endorsements, but even the most ardent fan has limitations, and saturating the market with one's personal brand brings with it the risk of backlash. ...

The branding industry is fraught with brand expansion cautionary tales (Harley-Davidson-branded cake decorating kit anyone?). The lure of profits is powerful, but it can be destructive if the brand becomes too diluted. So the GaGa brand, which communicates sever individuality and near-absolute uniqueness, is particularly at risk. ...

GaGa would be wise to look before leaping as she contemplates a "Lady GaGa GooGoo Sippy Cup.""

Fashionista wonders whether this criticism might be a little harsh. Given the frenetic rate at which she composes, performs and evolves her stage persona, it is quite possible that Lady Gaga and her management team did not actually set aside a few hours to curl up by the fireside with the latest edition of the Nice Classification. More likely they entrusted the list of goods named in her US application to a local practitioner who simply listed the usual categories ... plus perhaps a few more to be on the safe side. It may be on just this basis that Victoria Beckham's VICTORIA BECKHAM Community trade mark is registered for (among other things), windscreen and windshield cleaning liquids, instruction manuals, key-ring fobs, decorations for Christmas trees, umbrellas and parasols. If you've got the registration, you have more control over what other traders try to do with your name than if you haven't got it.

Lady Gaga's exploding bra can be seen on YouTube here. Whether she has plans for exploding sweatpants and gift tokens remains to be seen.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Fendi defends its rights

A success story from across the pond: news has reached Fashionista that Fendi has won a long standing legal wrangle in New York against a discount retailer selling counterfeit Fendi branded goods for over 20 years.

Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. has been ordered to pay $4.7 million in damages for knowingly infringing Fendi's trade marks. This is a massive damages award and one which reflects the severity of continued trade mark infringement spanning more than 2 decades. The claim cannot have come as a shock to Burlington, whose continued sale of counterfeit Fendi goods was in breach of an injunction granted against it in 1987 for the same infringing activity.

Fendi first sued Burlington in 1986 for the purchase of counterfeit Fendi marked goods. Despite the 1987 injunction preventing Burlington from sellling any Fendi goods without Fendi's permission (which, let's face it, Fendi are unlikely to give), Burlington continued to do so until Fendi eventually lost patience and sued for infringement in 2006. If the fear of breaching a court injunction wasn't enough to stop Burlington, maybe a multi-million dollar fine will be?

So has justice triumphed at last? The sale of counterfeit goods is an issue which plagues the luxury fashion houses, devauling and potentially runing brands and reputations. At worst, a brand may need to be abandoned if counterfeits have led to the brand being perceived as "chavvy" or anything less than luxurious. At best, a huge injection of capital and excellent PR and advertising will be needed to turn around public perception. Either way, the threat to brand owners posed by counterfeit goods - which so many consumers laugh off as being irrelevant or fabricated - is a real one.

The counterfeit item appeals to those consumers who want to buy into the look of a luxury brand without paying the price tag associated with it or waiting on the waiting list. But the price tag and the waiting lists are there for a reason: to acknowledge the time, effort and creativity taken to develop the coveted item; to reflect the quality of the workmanship and materials used; and, of course, to maintain exclusivity and to afford the brand - and its customers - a certain status. But where the coveted bag is seen adorning every other arm, the exclusivity is lost and with it, the brand's value and reputation (and, admittedly, a chunk of its profits).

So will an almost $5 million fine be a wake up call for counterfeiters? Call her cynical, but Fashionista says "no". As long as there is demand, there will always be supply. For every infringer caught and fined, there are many many more. On the plus side however, it is not just the manufacturers of fakes who are liable - sellers can't escape - and that has to be some (small) comfort to brand owners, as sellers are easier to identify and sue.

The war against counterfeiters may not have been won, but at least this one battle has been, and that's a good start.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Shopping on the move: a bus like no other

When Fashionista is not enjoying the luxury of travelling by car, she favours the humble bus to transport her around the Capital. Sure, its slower than London's underground, but she can while away time sitting in traffic gazing into shop windows and wishing she could jump off and buy the coveted item that she can see from a distance.

Well now, thanks to Alice Temperley's latest innovative marketing mission, being on a bus will no longer be an obstacle to on-the-spot shopping. By late February, Londoners will see an Alice Temperley bus driving through the Capital, targetting trendy London locations including - of course - Somerset House, the new home of London Fashion Week. The customised double decker bus will double as a mobile pop-up shop, showcasing the as-yet-unlaunched Alice by Temperley diffusion line.

Fashionista thinks this is a great idea. The obvious problem for any bricks and mortar store is that the brand is relying on passers by to, well, not pass by and to instead walk into the store. Success depends largely on location, and on ensuring that your store is based in the ideal place for your target consumer group. The upfront overheads can make the prospect of setting up shop a daunting one and a big risk: prime location rent; stock; staff fees; bills. The same can be true for a pop-up shop - together with the added complication that comes with lack of longevity: the difficulty in securing new customers as "word of mouth" advertising takes time to spread.

So now we get to the genius of the mobile pop-up shop. Instead of waiting for customers to come to the brand, the brand has decided to come to the customers. It is heding its bets and the new brand will literally be driven around London to targeted areas, showcased to a much broader range of consumers than would otherwise be the case with a stand alone store. And whilst the cost of customising a bus is likely to be considerable, the media attention and promotion that the Temperley house will undoubtedly receive will no doubt make such cost worthwhile.

Fashionista wonders whether it is time to top up her Oyster card in anticipation...