Thursday, 24 February 2011

Fashionista-at-Law is having a makeover!

All fashion brands know that having good product is vital. With this in mind, Fashionista has been overhauling her blog and is working on a new improved site. If you have any feedback or suggestions for improvements, please let Fashionista know by emailing her at Her new look will be revealed soon - so watch this space!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

High Street Blues: online growth is bad news for landlords

It was recently reported in the FT that the recent trend of browsing the high street and then making purchases online (using the benefit of the numerous voucher code discounts on offer) is a cause of concern to institutional landlords, who operate our many shopping centres.

One of Fashionista's friends (who knows about all things property) has explained that many landlords have granted 'turnover rent' leases to retailers in recent years when trading conditions have been challenging. A 'turnover rent' lease operates differently from a market rent lease in that the basic rent is at a reduced rate (commonly 80% of the market rent) with the retailer paying an additional sum each year based on an agreed percentage of its gross turnover from the store in question.

This means that landlords who have let premises to multi-channel retailers are potentially losing out on rent where this is calculated only on basis of revenue taken in-store (and reduced by online returns). Savvy landlords are taking steps to ensure that their turnover leases are drafted to expressly include income from in-store internet terminals where orders are made online and to exclude any returned product which has been purchased online. However, even with improved drafting, landlords cannot capture all internet sales made several days or weeks after a visit instore. Plus it makes it harder for landlords to monitor the tenant's gross turnover used to calculate the rent.

Fashionista hopes that this trend will not lead to the high street withering to become a showroom for internet consumers, but given the continuing growth of e-commerce, who is to say?

Monday, 21 February 2011

LFW showcases British talent

Fashionista is very excited that LFW is now underway!

Fashionista was privileged to have received a much sought-after invite to Holly Fulton's show this morning, and it delivered beyond expectations. Vogue's report said "Her fabulous art deco jewelled dresses appeared at first in generous yellow and black tweed, tasselled and beaded, and then in geometric panels of yellow satin with black leather detailing with shaggy sheepskin cream skirts beneath". Fashionista loved the "Snakeskin mini dresses of pale cream and turquoise with hardy metal rivets at the neck and around the hem".

Hopefully Holly's order book is now bulging particularly since the BFC confirmed that they have a record number of US buyers attending LFW this year "Barneys and Saks fifth Avenue, regular visitors to London Fashion Week, are being joined by  Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus and boutiques such as Opening Ceremony and H. Lorenzo, who are attending for the very first time".

For those who haven't got tickets, you can watch the shows streamed live via the BFC's London Fashion Week TV. Take a look, and let Fashionista know who your favourite designer was!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Drama over costume collaboration

Like most young girls, Fashionista dreamt of becoming a ballerina, but for anyone who's seen Black Swan, the reality of a dancer's life is somewhat distant from those childhood ambitions. While Natalie Portman scooped the BAFTA for best actress at the weekend, it may be a relief that the film didn't win the "best costume" BAFTA given the spat that has broken out between the official costume designer Amy Westcott and the design duo RodarteThe Guardian reported that the film's nomination for best costume had left the Mulleavy sisters (the duo behind the Rodarte label) feeling snubbed - they were upset not to have been credited for their creation of a number of key looks used in the film.
Fashionista doubts that the row will overshadow the film's box office success, but it does serve as a good reminder that when designers engage in collaborations, they should agree in advance who will own the IP rights resulting from the work produced and agree the level of credit and acknowledgement they can expect, and get the position recorded in a written contract. Collaborations are only successful when both parties' reputations are enhanced by the partnership - the question is: will Rodarte's work on the film reap rewards in terms of new orders from their A/W 2011 collection?  

Thursday, 3 February 2011

"There's no such thing as a free lunch"

You may have heard about the arrival of the new Bribery Act which has been ruffling feathers since its publication last year. Well, not to worry if you're not totally up to speed with its implications just yet - the Ministry of Justice announced this week (as reported in the Telegraph) that the Act's planned April launch has been postponed to give companies more time to prepare.  So what's it all about?  And why have people been getting so hot under the collar about this particular piece of legislation? The concern stems from the fact that the scope of the new Act is really very wide indeed.

There are four basic offences under the new Act: (i) bribing someone else (ii) being bribed (iii) bribing a foreign public official and (iv) - the offence which is causing the most sleepless nights – a corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery. The Act goes beyond your straightforward brown envelope payment and catches any form of "advantage" (so not just money) which is offered, accepted, received or which a party agrees to receive - which constitutes or induces the ‘improper performance' of a business activity. The test for "improper performance" is an objective one based on what a reasonable person would expect in relation to the performance of that activity. Expectations are judged by UK, not local standards. The performance must breach an expectation of good faith or impartiality, or a position of trust.

The first three offences apply to acts of bribery committed in the UK by any person or corporate; or acts of bribery committed outside the UK by a person or corporate which has a "close connection" to the UK ("close connection" meaning broadly UK companies, partnerships, citizens or individuals ordinarily resident in the UK).

So what about the corporate offence - how does an organisation commit the offence of failure to prevent bribery? If a person associated with an organisation bribes another intending to retain business or achieve an advantage for that organisation – that’s an offence. Crucially, the corporate offence is what's known as a strict liability offence - the associated person may have paid the bribe without the knowledge, authorisation or involvement of anyone else in the organisation.

This means effectively that a foreign company with only a branch office in England can be guilty of an offence (and have its officers imprisoned and/or receive an unlimited fine) for an act of bribery they knew nothing about that was committed by a joint venture partner operating in Russia, China or any other foreign jurisdiction. So for those of you with offices abroad, you'll need to think carefully about who you work with, and where, and what corruption risks you might consequently be exposed to.

What about defences? The only defence available to an organisation charged with the corporate offence will be for it to demonstrate that it has adopted, applied and enforced “adequate procedures” to prevent bribery. The MOJ was due to issue guidance on the meaning of “adequate procedures” early in January; its non-appearance to-date is one of the main reasons for the delay in the Act's implementation. The MOJ has recently confirmed that the Act will not come into force until 3 months after the guidance is published.

A final point to mention is the vexed issue of corporate hospitality. In principle, all gifts or other types of corporate hospitality may be caught by the Act, if they are given to gain financial advantage with an improper intention. Now of course the natural reaction is to ask, well what is an improper intention? Is it improper to invite someone to a concert, for a spa day or even for a swanky lunch in the hope of securing a large contract? Well, unfortunately, we do not yet have any guidance what is or is not ok. So it's all a bit vague at the moment, and has been widely criticised - by the Law Society among others. While we wait for the official MOJ guidance, Fashionista suggests applying a common sense test of "Would your competitors think that this gift/day out is unusually lavish?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Celebrating green fashion

As the grand finale to Olswang's Green Week, and a first for the firm, we showcased some of the best green fashion brands around in Friday's 'Eco Fashion Show'. The day started with the firm being given a taster of what was to come with mannequins on the 7th Floor dressed in the designers' clothes. As the evening grew closer preparations heightened, the room was set and the models put the final touches to their look, with the help of ethical-stylist Lupe Castro.

With nerves increasing it was time for the show to begin. The breadth of designers, including Eloise Grey, Goodone, People Tree, Stella McCartney, Elena Garcia, Christopher Raeburn, and By Stamo, created a showcase of varying styles and affordability. From ball gowns, to rain macs, tweed coats to party dresses, the models strutted down the runway doing their best Kate Moss impressions.

The 'green' theme varied from designer to designer; People Tree provided fair-trade clothing, Goodone demonstrated up-cycling and Stella McCartney gave the audience a glimpse of high end organic cotton attire. The show most definitely proved that eco fashion is high fashion.  Fashionista would like to thank all the designers for taking part and to River Island for the loan of their mannequins.

A lot of organising, creativity and fun culminated in an incredible evening of fashion with a conscience. The question is can London Fashion Week compete?!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

ARmchair shopping

Augmented Reality (AR) is tipped to transform the consumer experience. AR, also known as "interactive video technology" is on the rise. The FT cites predictions from marketing group ABI Research that the AR market in the US alone will grow to US$350m by 2014, from US$6m in 2008. Indeed a number of fashion and luxury brands are already getting involved:
  • Tissot ran an AR campaign with Selfridges in May 2010 enabling shoppers to virtually try on its watches using a screen in Selfridges windows.
  • eBay has recently launched an AR app which can be used to digitally try on sunglasses by superimposing the glasses design over the user's face.
  • Back in November 2010, H&M launched an iPhone app with GoldRun which allows shoppers to try on outfits virtually.
  • Hawes & Curtis have launched a virtual fitting room on its website in collaboration with FitsMe, who have developed an adaptable mannequin to ensure you get the perfect fit for your shirt or suit.
Some brands clearly see the benefits of investing in this technology early to further grow their online sales. While Fashionista marvels at the clever wizardry that means she can snap up a fabulous frock from the comfort of her sofa, she wonders whether it can replace the real-life experience of trying on clothes, feeling the fabric and working out if she can justify the price tag on the gorgeous heels to match!