Turbulence in overseas markets, a designer shakeout and Michelle Obama’s wardrobe are hot topics for 2009.
In fashion, few things are as tricky as designer succession, and save for a few exceptions, first attempts have failed more frequently than not. In 2009, all eyes will be on Valentino’s new creative team of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, who will present their first runway outing for the house during the haute couture shows in Paris next month. The duo was previously in charge of designing Valentino’s accessories, and worked side by side with the namesake designer until his retirement last year. They succeeded Alessandra Facchinetti, who was abruptly dismissed in October after just two seasons.
Chiuri and Piccioli promise to evolve the brand from its original founder rather than completely transform it. In light of the global economic crisis, they could, however, face a few challenges in their quest to woo Valentino’s existing clientele, while bringing in new customers. That said, they have the support of Valentino himself. “They are two serious capable professionals that I had alongside me for many years,” Valentino said in October. “They always demonstrated an enormous respect and love for my work.”
— Marc Karimzadeh
China, the Middle East, Russia and India — in 2008, these markets presented much growth potential for luxury goods makers. But the recent global economic downturn; a precipitous decline in the price of oil, which is affecting oil-rich Arab countries as well as Russia, and last week’s terror attack in Mumbai could impact some of these companies’ expansion strategies. That said, experts see continued growth in many of these countries, particularly as an alternative to the sluggish U.S. market.
Robert Burke, founder of consulting firm Robert Burke Associates, said, “With a number of our clients, we are focusing on international distribution. While it’s also impacted, it’s not as bad as in the U.S. There are still opportunities abroad, and we have been working to find showrooms and international distribution channels.”
Jeffry Aronsson, co-founder of the Aronsson Group, said last month that China, the Middle East, Russia, India and Brazil continue to present opportunities. “The Middle East has always been there, and there it’s a question of access,” Aronsson noted. “It’s about either being sought out by a distributor there or by knowing whom to talk with to explore the potential there.”
Aronsson cautioned the recent drop in the price of oil could impact the markets, however. “It has to be impacting the spending,” he said.
Like no other fashion capital, New York has emerged as a hotbed of young talent, with increasing numbers of new designers vying to make their mark on the fashion scene in the past few years. But with Wall Street in trouble, major firms cutting back across the board, and private equity money less readily available, the impact is likely to be particularly felt by emerging designers. They often rely on investors and sponsorships to sustain their businesses, and several industry executives agree 2009 will be the year of survival of the fittest. The shakeout could well change the fashion landscape — and could impact anything from the number of designers starting their own businesses to the scale of runway shows.
“I can’t imagine a young designer successfully starting his or her own business independently in this climate and finding money,” said David Wolfe, creative director at The Doneger Group.
“I think we will start seeing presentations of things that will actually sell, instead of things just for entertainment, because it’s not going to seem entertaining anymore,” Wolfe added. “We are taking a giant step back into practicality and economic morality and, dare I say, common sense and good taste. I think it’s going to be a 50-50 split. The smart designers will understand that they will have to be hard-core commercial, yet there will be an element of escape and fun. I think most designers will show both sides of the coin. Solely to do one or the other will be a mistake. We don’t want them to look too boring or too frivolous.”
The Show Must Go On, Or Not
Given the economic fallout in recent months, it isn’t surprising that more New York-based designers are considering having presentations instead of runway shows in February to reduce expenses.
Vera Wang and J.Mendel are among the designers considering trying something new instead of a runway show. DKNY has already done so, planning a Feb. 13 presentation after last season’s anniversary runway show. Donna Karan is staging her Collection show on Feb. 16, which is a Monday, at 2 p.m., instead of the closing day of Friday, which has been her preferred slot for years. The move is meant to accommodate those attending London Fashion Week, according to a company spokeswoman.
The Fashion Calendar’s president, Ruth Finley, who schedules the time slots for the various runway shows and presentations, expects smaller presentations to be of greater significance in February. “There will definitely be more presentations rather than runway shows,” she predicted.
But the final tally is still weeks away. In fact, the first installment of the Fashion Calendar for New York Fashion Week in February will be mailed Dec. 19. Even though much of that first glimpse of the schedule is unsettled, Finley has heard from designers that there is concern about the expense of staging a show, or a presentation for that matter. “Initially, some of them thought it would be less expensive, but that depends where you do it. Of course, if you do a show in your showroom, you will save a lot of money,” she said. “If you do one on mannequins, that is cheaper, too, or if you use six models walking around instead of 20 girls on a runway.”
Presentations don’t necessarily mean scrimping, as proven by Marchesa and Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti, which have been known to pull out all the stops. And Marchesa isn’t about to knock a good thing. The company will be back at the Chelsea Art Museum on Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti is tentatively planning a presentation for Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Eyebeam Gallery.
— Rosemary Feitelberg
The Big Day
On Jan. 20, the world’s attention will be directed toward Washington for Barack Obama’s inauguration. Naturally, in fashion circles, there has been heated speculation about Michelle Obama’s wardrobe choices for the event, both for the daytime ceremony and the evening’s ball — and the pre-buzz is already positioning them to become major fashion moments for 2009.
Much hope is pinned on Michelle Obama becoming a style icon not seen in the White House since the days of Jacqueline Kennedy. On the campaign trail and since, she’s shown loyalty to local Chicago designer Maria Pinto, but has also sported looks by the likes of Thakoon, J. Crew, Isabel Toledo and, for her husband’s victory speech on Election Night, Narciso Rodriguez. While a few of her fashion choices have been controversial, Obama overall has impressed most fashion observers for her choice of strong colors and simple, flattering silhouettes.
Bill Blass Hangs in the Balance
After several rocky months, Bill Blass’ standing remains shaky at best.
The brand and its ready-to-wear component, Bill Blass Couture, are currently for sale. But parent company NexCen Brands Inc. has yet to secure a buyer.
In October, Peter Som exited the company as creative director of women’s wear. At that time, sources close to the operation said the sale process had taken longer than expected, and as a result, some stores have decided to pass on spring orders. That could affect NexCen’s asking price, which is said to be in the $20 million range.
The designer company’s fate remains undecided. Bill Blass and NexCen executives declined to comment Monday.
In addition, Bill Blass New York, the direct-sales apparel firm, has stopped taking orders and is liquidating. Earlier this year, the direct-to-consumer seller generated an estimated $1 million in revenues, according to sources. The operation typically offered four collections a year, with prices above bridge and below designer.
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye