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...

Friday, 12 February 2010

Alexander McQueen

Fashionista mourns the sudden loss of a great talent and adds her condolences to the many tributes already published.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Bamboozled . . . .

First it was allegedly mislabelled organic cotton and now Fashionista reads about the risk of mislabelling textiles that contain bamboo fibres.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that it has warned 78 retailers including such heavy-weights as Wal-Mart, Macy's and Bloomingdales "that they may be breaking the law by selling clothing or other textile products that are labelled and advertised as "bamboo", but actually are made of a manufactured rayon fiber".

As the FTC explains on its website "How to Avoid Bamboozling Your Customers", "most “bamboo” textile products, if not all, really are rayon, which typically is made using environmentally toxic chemicals in a process that emits hazardous pollutants into the air. While different plants, including bamboo, can be used as a source material to create rayon, there’s no trace of the original plant in the finished rayon product."

A "bamboo" product should be made with, guess what, bamboo fibre - but apparently, bamboo products are often referred to as "mechanically processed bamboo" which does not sound very 'green' to Fashionista. If a product is described as "bamboo" then it must be possible to establish by scientific evidence that the product is made of actual bamboo fibre and has all the qualities of bamboo products such as natural antimicrobial properties, being biodegradable. This sounds complicated, but there is help at hand in form of FTC's business guide fittingly entitled "Threading Your Way Through the Labelling Requirements Under the Textile and Wool Acts" and "Have You Been Bamboozled by Bamboo Fabrics?" for the bedazzled consumer.

Fashionista is amazed to read that as a result of the Canadian Competition Bureau's efforts to ensure that textile articles are accurately labelled and advertised, more than 450.000 textile articles have already been re-labelled and over 250 websites corrected!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Emma Watson: sharing her magic with People Tree

Emma Watson seems just too perfect.

Not only has she grown up on our screens preserving a squeaky clean image, but she is now: one of Britain's highest earning actresses; one of the faces of Burberry (and has helped her little brother to kick start his modelling career by drawing him in to her latest photoshoot for the brand); and fashion's latest pioneer of enivronmentally friendly and planet aware clothing. This last venture: her "Love From Emma" range is a capsule collection which Ms Watson has developed working as a creative advisor with People Tree: because she believes in the cause and not because she has any "designs" (sorry) on being a fashion designer.

The "Love From Emma" range (catalogue pictured) features organic and Fairtrade certified cotton, and is targetted at the younger consumer base, bringing environmentally sourced and created fashion to conscientious teens everywhere.

People Tree has had a lot of publicity for its worthy mission statement and the promises it delivers, but Fashionista thinks that signing up Britain's darling is a very savvy move indeed. The "Love From Emma" target market is the exact age group which is likely to identify or relate to her. She is one of their peers, and if she feels passionately about the humanitarian issues surrounding readily available fashion and the use of fashion as a tool to alleviate poverty, then there is every chance that her passion can inspire others in her age group to feel the same way.

Fashionista asks: are we about to witness a shift in consumer choices and behaviour? Will cheap, readily available fashion choices be replaced by more considered choices which take into account the environmental and humanitarian impact associated with such items. It certainly looks as though this is one bandwagon which is being readily jumped on, but how far this bandwagon will travel remains to be seen. Fashionista is hopeful that the journey will be a long and successful one...

Organic or not organic . . . . . ?

Fashionista was shocked when she first read in the distinguished German Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) that allegedly large volumes of organic cotton produced in India and used by high street chains such as H&M, C&A and Tchibo may have been contaminated with genetically modified cotton. Not surprisingly, the article led to a flurry of comments, both from the companies and institutes concerned as well as other industry bodies and even the German government. After all, organic is all about non-GMO and GM cotton seeds are prohibited under organic standards.

According to FTD, Indian authorities uncovered this scandal in April 2009, following which French certifier Ecocert and Dutch certifier Control Union were ordered to pay fines amounting to tens of thousands of Euros (it may be that this was for non-conformities in their certification processes rather than fraud, and that changes have since been made). Both certifiers are also working for H&M (who allegedly knew of the scandal and was in contact with the certifiers to ensure that this incident would not happen again). C&A and Tchibo apparently did not have any knowledge of this matter until informed of it by FTD. The companies have reacted in different ways: while Tchibo has now stated that its organic cotton products are not affected because its current cotton products originate not from the affected areas in India but from Turkey, C&A has announced that it will continue to sell organic cotton from India but will investigate this matter and talk to the certifier.

Lothar Kruse, who is leading the independent laboratory Impetus based in Northern Germany which checks fibres and yarns for smaller eco fashion houses claims that - generally speaking - about 30 percent of the organic cotton test material he receives is genetically modified. The figure may be unexpectedly high, but could be explained on the basis that a great number of samples sent for testing may already be suspected of being contaminated. In any event, certifiers of organic textiles and other textile industry bodies have been eager to try and limit the damage by explaining the difficulties of growing and using GM crops next to organic crops, and by clarifying the figures stated in the FTD article. Certainly, it has to be kept in mind that by stating something is 'organic' this does not necessarily amount to a purity claim. Stating that something is 'organic' in most cases will mean that ingredients or materials with certain qualities have been used and certain procedures have been complied with. Contamination may occur due to factors which are outside of the control of the relevant farmer/manufacturer/distributor/etc..

Without wanting to dig deep into the discussions, explanations and justifications, the debate shows clearly the fragility of reputation of this relatively young and overwhelmingly well-meaning industry, how easily it can be thrown into turmoil and how difficult it can be to confirm that a product does indeed fulfil the criteria claimed on its "green" label. This matter confirms that a functioning and widely recognised certification system with uniform standards for organic products is becoming more and more important. Not just to serve as a marketing instrument in 'normal' times but equally importantly to strengthen consumers' confidence in times of doubt that the product they are buying fulfils all the 'green' criteria claimed on the label.