Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Looking for an excuse to shop?

No-one can fail to have be moved by the tragic scenes reaching us daily from earthquake-torn Haiti, or by the stories of human misery which accompany them. It is therefore with a sense of pride that Fashionista notes that this year's Fashion For Relief initiative will be dedicated to aiding the victims of this disaster.

Right: This year's Fashion For Relief will be opened by Naomi Campbell and Sarah Brown

This year's Fashion for Relief catwalk show is scheduled for 18 February, the night before London Fashion Week begins. After the catwalk show all the dresses will be auctioned off to support this deserving cause. Since the UK economy is officially moving out of recession today, Fashionista urges her friends to sweep the cobwebs from their credit cards and do the noble thing! Adds Modeliste, let it never be said that the fashion community is so selfishly preoccupied with appearance as to lose track of reality in the real world.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Avoiding invasions of privacy

Fashionista knows that personal information is one of most valuable currencies of the twenty first century, including for websites in the fashion industry. Its value can, however, be diminished, and relationships with customers damaged, if privacy is not taken seriously.

Here are some top tips which our friends at law firm Olswang have put together for online retailers and others wanting to capture customers' data:

1. Work out what personal information you need and what you are going to do with it. You should only collect the information you need to provide your services, so a bit of thought about what this actually means pays dividends. You should communicate to customers the ways in which you will handle that information and, in an online context, this is often done via a privacy policy.

2. Obtain consent, where possible, at the actual point of data collection, particularly where it is important for the customer to understand non-obvious uses that you intend to make of the data (for example, giving their information to a third party). The concept of "consent" is more "light touch" in the UK compared to the rest of Europe, so if you are a pan-European fashionista you need to take consent particularly seriously, because continental Europeans do.

3. A special word about email. Fashion followers like to be kept up to date, but they will only appreciate an unsolicited marketing email if they have consented to receive it. The way in which you obtain that consent is also important – the Information Commissioner's Office ("ICO") recommendations in its Privacy Notices Code of Practice are good practice (and many continental Europeans would say they are the law anyway).

4. Notify the ICO that you want to collect or process personal information. The process is simple and, unless you are exempt, failure to do so is a criminal offence.

The ICO has a range of enforcement powers for those who don’t follow the relevant legislation, including the ability to fine companies or in some cases even to prevent them using certain personal information they have collected.

The only tip on matters of style that Fashionista dares to venture is that giving a good customer experience in matters of privacy is likely to be more fashionable in 2010 than doing the absolute minimum to comply with the law.

For more information contact Marc Dautlich on marc.dautlich@olswang.com.

Monday, 18 January 2010


Fashionista's friends at law firm Olswang hosted Retail +TECHNOLOGY recently and brought together more than 75 leading lights from the retail and technology sectors, including keynote speaker Maurice Bennett CBE. If you're interested to hear what people thought, see the Talking Heads Guide.

Their next event promises to be just as interesting and focuses on Digital money + TECHNOLOGY - click here for details.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Winter Sales 2010 in Brussels

Ready, set, go: the Belgian sales have started!

Fashionista is fascinated to learn that in Belgium sales are regulated closely. This means that traders (including those really cool Belgian boutiques) can only sell products in a 'sale' ('solden' in Dutch/'soldes' in French) twice a year: winter sales in January and summer sales in July. Both periods are defined by law for all of Belgium. The first official sales period for 2010 began on 2 January and will end on the last day of the month.

The regulations provide that the products must be sales items that have already been on sale in the same store and before the start of the sales there is a black-out period ('sperperiode' in Dutch/'période d'attente' in French), during which it is prohibited to have sales in the clothing, footwear and leather sector.

Belgium is an outsider in Europe as it comes to its regulation of sales. In some Member States (e.g. France, Italy, Spain), it is up to regional or local authorities to determine the periods during which such end-of-season sales may take place. Other Member States do not have specific legislation concerning the timing of end-of-season sales (e.g. Finland, The Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom). In these Member States the rules prohibiting misleading advertising are the main rules regarding end-of-season sales and other special sales events.

Each year several large Belgian fashion stores infringe the sale regulation, in particular with respect to the black-out period. And what is more compared to large fashion stores, the smaller boutiques run by independent and self-employed retailers are liable to proportionally larger penalties for infringing the sale regulations. So various organisations representing self employed traders are lobbying for an amendment of the current sales regulation. It is expected that Belgium will agree to this, as the European Commission recently issued a formal notice of default to the Belgian State for not having abolished (amongst other things) the sales regulation while implementing the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.

Meanwhile, Fashionista and Modeliste are off to find some bargains in Brussels . . . .

Posted for Christine - for Fashionista-at-Law's Brussels desk.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Polarization of Lady Gaga

Back in her earlier days, Fashionista always craved a Polaroid camera. No matter that the images were pretty murky, smelt a bit and had a tendency to fade -- you could wait a minute and pull out an "instant" piccie, to the instant admiration and envy of your friends. Having been overtaken by the vicissitudes of technological evolution and two spells of bankruptcy, the brand is back, it seems. In "Polaroid's Comeback: Style Over Substance?", BrandChannel reports on good news from the brand's holding company -- a policy of vigorous (promiscuous?) licensing to the highest bidder in the electronics sector has hiked royalty by 50% over the past 12 months.
And now there's more to come. Fashion icon Lady GaGa has been engaged as the brand's creative director. While her role is said to be "not yet entirely clear", the company says that a branded line of Lady GaGa Polaroid devices "will hit retail shelves starting in late 2010". Says the article, Lady Gaga will give Polaroid great exposure, but it asks:
"isn't the brand more defined by the quality of the wide range of products it continues to license? Can a Lady GaGa costume cloak a brand with no real foundation, or is this just a good start?"
Says Fashionista, what's remarkable is the fact that the company is persisting in developing technology product areas such as instant photography, rather than pushing Polaroid as a fashion brand in the overcrowded garment and accessories markets -- where Lady GaGa's appeal might more obviously be deployed. It's even more surprising if you recall that Polaroid has enjoyed a successful life as an accessory brand, as evidenced by its Polarized shades. Perhaps there's more to this story than meets the eye, and uses of the Polaroid brand in different markets have been determined by men in grey suits in the corporate aftermath of the company's earlier financial problems. Modeliste is quite baffled by all this stuff about instant photography: almost every item in her handbag seems to take photos.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Does my Long Tail look big in this outfit?

Last month Fashionista was distracted from her meticulous preparations for her New Year Sales battle plan by a headline, "Barbie Dons Floral Design By Comme Des Garçons". This headline belonged to a BrandChannel article by Sara Zucker (here). According to Ms Zucker,
"After being declared an “It Girl” on the fashion circuit by the New York Times, Barbie has been busy with collaborations ...
Barbie is being dressed by the best: Rei Kawakubo, part of the label Comme des Garçons, has designed a dress to perfectly fit the plastic princess. It is part of Kawakubo's Jingle Flowers collection ...
This limited edition Barbie constitutes part of the Barbie Collector Platinum Label Collection. The doll, complete with new packaging, features the Jingle Flowers photo-style floral graphic on a sleeveless silk-lined dress that flares out into a full asymmetric-cut skirt.

Barbie by Comme des Garçons .. is being stocked in all other Comme des Garçons stores including London's Dover Street Market, with a price tag of around $368.
The floral pattern will continue to be branded on to limited-edition products, including wallets, tees, perfume, Artek chairs, and even snow globes".
It occurred to Fashionista that, while the market for fashion items is ever-evolving and that what's in today is out tomorrow, the secondary market for collectables such as Barbie Platinum Label products is dependent on factors such as availability and rarity value rather than on in-vogue aesthetics. In respect of each fashion line Comme des Garçons probably has only a short window of opportunity for harvesting the licensing opportunities of co-branding or co-design ventures with others, while collectables can reap the benefits of the long tail. Modeliste giggles: for her, 'long tail' suggests Lacoste which, she suspects, is the longest tail in fashion.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A fragment of fashion . . .

Fashionista has recently learnt that the designer of the famous Colour-In Dress, Dutch young fashion designer Berber Soepboer has collaborated with Fioen van Balgooi (the face behind Dutch Eco-Fashion consultancy Refinity to design Fragment Textiles.

Fragment Textiles are just what they sound like - fragments of textiles in the form of squares and stars, which can be assembled to make a variety of garments, e.g. a dress one day and a skirt the next. Fashionista very much hopes that Fragment Textiles will become available commercially soon, so that she will no longer have to search frantically for beloved skirt X or comfy trousers Y in the morning. She will simply take Fragment Textiles from her closet and compose her dream garment of the day then and there. And because it is a simple click and fold system she will even be able to change straight from a formal day skirt to a fun or more elegant little dress in the evening - all without having to carry a bag of evening gear around all day. So Fashionista would love to see Fragment Textile available soon and in a selection of classy natural colours and black is, of course an absolute must . . . . . .

Monday, 11 January 2010

Crimes against fashion . . .

Forget those shell suits and muffin tops – there are a few more serious crimes against fashion to think about. The number of thefts from retail shops has risen by a massive third in one year (according to the results of a survey published by the British Retail Consortium last week). The survey also highlighted that violence and abuse against shop staff has doubled in the last year, with physical violence rising by 58% and verbal abuse rising by 37%.

However, the number of incidences of violence or abuse against staff may actually be higher as many victims do not report them to their employers.

Fashionista notes that employers owe certain duties towards their employees in such circumstances, even where the offences are carried out by customers/thieves rather than the employers or their staff. For example, employers have legal obligations to provide employees with a safe workplace, a safe system of work and a suitable working environment and they also have a duty of trust and confidence to uphold, otherwise they could find themselves in breach of the implied terms of contracts with employees and subject to oh so unfashionable tribunal claims.

Further, if harassment of staff is on the basis of, for example, sex or race, employers are also under an obligation to take reasonable steps to protect their employees from such harassment - or face a potential discrimination claim.

Employers should therefore not ignore incidences of violence or abuse by customers (or thieves) in shops. Crimes against fashion (the abusive and violent kind, rather than the socks with sandals type) should not be tolerated and should not go unreported to the police. Employees should be encouraged to report incidences to their employers and should be supported (for example, they could be provided with alarms or special training as necessary). Fashionista, of course, is always a model customer.

Friday, 8 January 2010

A copy or a trend?

Fashionista has decided against a New Year's resolution this year, as the usual promise to "buy fewer shoes" is already broken. Lindsay Lohan, on the other hand, has so far kept her resolution to "cause more mayhem"....

Shortly after Lohan, the creative designer of Ungaro, announced the expansion of her 6126 leggings collection into ready-to-wear, James Lillis of Black Milk Clothing accused Lohan of copying his designs. Lissis pointed out the similarities between Lohan’s “Diamond” leggings (featuring a triangle cut-out at midthigh) and his own “Sheer Spartans” and posted photographs of the two designs on his blog, saying “Caught a sneak peek at the new stuff from Lindsay Lohan’s brand 6126...No way…Sucks to be me!!!”

Then, New York designer Jen Kao added further fuel to the fire, insinuating that Lohan had copied the Kao dress she was pictured wearing last year to create her patterned “Deserve” dress.

6126 says "The alleged 'copying' claims made by these companies are false and have absolutely no merit or validity whatsoever. Any alleged similarities are purely coincidental."

Fashionista notes that this dispute brings home the importance for designers of understanding copyright and design right and how they apply to their work. Particularly important is to understand the difference between being inspired by a design and copying it. Taking inspiration from successful designers is commonplace in the fashion industry - it is sometimes difficult to say when taking inspiration moves into actual copying.

Of course, designers pay close attention to the work of their peers. And when they see something that they like, they will be influenced by it - may be by taking an element of the design and turning it turn it into something that is in the same style but not identical to the original. The result is that nebulous but all important concept in the fashion industry: the trend. Imitation makes trends, and trends sell fashion.

Fashionista waits with anticipation to see whether Lillis and Kao ultimately take Lohan's inspiration from their /designs as a complement or a threat. Watch this space!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Of garments and guilt

A curious little news item picked up last year by Fashionista was "Eco-factories undeterred by label setback", a little piece by Leonie Barrie for Just-Style. Leonie reports that the Sri Lankan apparel industry has been thwarted in its plans to label garments stocked in major US and EU retailers with its 'Garments without Guilt' slogan. The Garments without Guilt scheme, initially promoted in 2006, reassures buyers that clothing sourced from Sri Lanka has been produced in factories that are free from child and forced labour, discrimination and sweatshop conditions.

Retailers, however, are not all happy about highlighting the ethical provenance of their stock. According to the chairman of the island's Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), if you put a label on what's coming out of Sri Lanka to say that it's okay, the implication picked up by shoppers is that everything else on the shelf may not be so clean.

More than 130 factories are now independently audited under the Garments without Guilt label, totalling between 80% and 85% of the island's apparel exports.

Fashionista, ever sensitive to the profound philosophical implications of fashion retailing, observes that the very first reference to clothing in the Bible alludes to 'Garments with Guilt', when Adam and Eve decided on an impromptu cover-up job having eaten the forbidden fruit.
Modeliste loves the 'Garments without Guilt' campaign and adores slogan, but she has a little confession to make: it resonates in her mind with the act of committing her credit card to yet another objectively unjustifiable purchase, not with the sourcing of the garment concerned.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Paris' broken heart

Fashionista has to admit that her feet are a little relieved that the party season is now officially over - all that socialising in fierce heels has certainly taken its toll. Of course it always helps if you're wearing your favourite Jimmy Choos or Louboutins but consider Paris Hilton's shoe design (intended to cushion the foot with a 'cute' heart) which for Paris could turn out to be less than comfortable.

Brooke Hollow Inc (trading as Gwyneth Shoes) filed a complaint against defendant Antebi Footwear Group, LLC, (the company that has partnered with Paris Hilton to design the Paris Hilton Footwear Line Collection) with claims of IP and design patent infringement. The complaint filed on 23 December 2009 claims (amongst other things) that Paris' cushioning heart in the footwear line collections copies the design patent held by Brooke Hollow Inc.

Fashionista has formed her own view from the above images, but according to Gene the test for patent infringement in the U.S. is to ask the jury ""to look at the design patent and then look at the allegedly infringing device. Upon comparing the two if an ordinary observer would believe the accused device copied the design patent then there is infringement". The case (if it ever reaches court) will also challenge whether the patent should have been issued in the first place.

At the launch of Hilton's footware range Paris is quoted as saying "I personally chose the styling, design, materials and colors for the line and also wanted to make sure it was super-comfortable! Each shoe has a heart-shaped comfort pad sewn in . . . so you can dance all night long!"

In the meantime Booke Hollow Inc have reportedly requested that the court orders the defendant to cease using the heart shaped shoe cushion and deliver all the shoes that use the cushion to them. Ouch! These could turn out to be Paris' most painful (and expensive) shoes yet….

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

New Year Honours for Fashion Industry Icons

The most recent hot list was not a waiting list for the latest "it" bag for a change but for something rather more sought after and for a change something that money can't buy. Fashionista was delighted to see that some of her fellow fashionistas have been recognised in the New Years Honours List 2010 for all of their outstanding work for the British fashion industry.

Among those honoured was Luella Bartley, who, despite having had a financially troublesome 2009, has started 2010 in a somewhat more uplifting manner, having been awarded the MBE for her services to the fashion industry. And speaking of uplifting, Michelle Mone, founder of Ultimo MJM International, has also been honoured with an OBE for her services to the lingerie industry.

Fashionista is also thrilled that Amanda Wakeley was honoured with an OBE for not just her services to the fashion industry, but also her exceptional charity work as one of the founders of Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. Catherine Kidston was also given the MBE for her services to business, as the founder and creative director of Cath Kidston.

Others honoured for their services to fashion were legendary milliner Stephen Jones (OBE), tailor Timothy Everest (MBE) and designer and master tailor Imtaz Khaliq (MBE).

Fashionista was over the moon to see the number of fashionistas being recognised in what has been a challenging year for the retail industry. Who knows maybe next year Fashionista will find herself on the most coveted list in town … one can dream!

Climate change and a fashion statement . . . .

Over the holiday period, Fashionista discovered a dress which is not only beautiful to look at but can even monitor the concentration of greenhouse cases in the atmosphere.

The so-called 'Climate Dress' senses the CO2 concentration in the air which is then visualised through an embroidery made up of over one hundred tiny LED lights. It was developed by Danish design company Diffus and launched at Bright Green Expo, an exhibition of more than 170 companies showcasing cutting-edge climate solutions that also coincided with the UN Conference.

Fashionista thinks it would be brilliant if this technology could be used more widely and on everyday garments too - a little more light might well serve to brighten up dark months such as January both in terms of people's mood and as an environmentally friendly way to make travel in the dark safer.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The M Word - The results are in.....

Fashionista's friends at Olswang would like to thank everyone who participated in their recent m-Commerce survey.

The results are in and, whilst there are concerns about the perceived lack of technological development, the costs associated with creating an m-Commerce trading platform and the uncertainty of consumer response, it seems that many believe that m-Commerce is not a fad and is the future for the fashion and retail sectors.

If you would like to find out more, a summary of the results can be found here.


Fashionista returns today from the festivities and wishes all her readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010.

So far the 2010 has proved an interesting time for some of fashions's top names who found themselves included in the New Year honours list (more to follow) and with retail figures for the Christmas period promised this week, Fashionista expects to have lots to mull over . . .