– CUNNINGTON TAKES TOP HONORS: A well-executed collection of voluminous black wool dresses earned British designer Matthew Cunnington top honors at the 23rd International Festival of Fashion and Photography held in Hyères over the weekend. The Birmingham, England-based designer’s work wooed a jury presided over by Givenchy’s creative director Riccardo Tisci. Thirty-four-year-old Cunnington, whose inspiration was his own mother’s reconciliation with the illegitimate daughter she was forced to give up in 1969, was picked from among 10 designers for the L’Oréal Professionnel-sponsored prize of 15,000 euros, or $23,400 at current exchange. Meanwhile, Belgian designer Jean-Paul Lespagnard’s humorous collection of clown stripes, cowboy-style pants plus Texan shirts, accessorized with French fries fashioned from Perspex, captured French fast-fashion firm 1.2.3.’s prize of 15,000 euros, plus the opportunity to produce a collection for 1.2.3.’s stores. In the photography competition, Audrey Corregan of France won the top prize while a special mention went to Germany’s Amira Fritz.
– WET SEAL’S WORLD: The Wet Seal Inc. on Monday said it has launched a new online fashion community, available through the specialty retailer’s Web site, that will offer customers an enhanced shopping experience. The new online social networking site allows customers to not only shop, but create original Wet Seal styles. Features include the ability to build, tag, share and purchase outfits through a personalized boutique, build a fashion network by chatting with other stylists in the message center, and rate and purchase other stylists’ outfits in “The Runway,” the company said. “We think this is going to be a great new tool, which could not only increase average visit time on the site, but also could improve online and in-store sales by allowing our girl to choose among thousands of outfits generated and rated by her peers,” said Ed Thomas, chief executive officer.