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.