STRIKE FOUR: It’s been a tough spring for department stores in Paris, slammed by a drop in global tourism, the outbreak of SARS and the surging euro. In May, stores also had to face snarled traffic because of widespread transport strikes, which kept many shoppers at home. Sales dropped about 10 percent for the month, according to Paris’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It follows a 7.3 percent drop in Paris department store sales in April, according to the Chamber. Galeries Lafayette, for its part, said sales in its flagship Boulevard Haussmann store have slid 13 percent through the first four months of the year. Meanwhile, labor disputes over pension reform still rage in the French capital, further disrupting sales so far in June. — Robert Murphy

LEARNING LUXURY: Compagnie Financière Richemont plans to start up its own school in Milan. Starting next year, the Richemont Creative Academy will offer courses in areas like design, product development and communications. “Richemont has perceived a need to nurture and develop creativity and new talent in the industry,” the company said in a statement. Faculty will come from the academic and professional worlds, and the classes with be held in English to better attract an international student body of college or specialty school graduates. — Amanda Kaiser

LACOSTE CELEBRATES 70: When tennis legend Rene Lacoste first put a little green crocodile on a shirt in 1933, he made the first play for what would eventually grow into one of the best-recognized brands in the world.

The French sportswear firm will commemorate that 70-year-old phenomenon with an anniversary fete tonight at Roland Garros here. A visit to the recently opened Tennis Museum, where various Lacoste memorabilia is on display, will be followed by dinner and dancing.

But even as Lacoste celebrates its storied history, the firm is moving ahead. It plans to open a store this fall in a 2,600-square-foot space on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 49th Street. Its Champs-Elysees flagship here is being spruced up for autumn with a new concept, designed in collaboration with industrial designer and architect Christophe Pillet.Meanwhile, the company is leaning toward a runway show during New York fashion week in September. A final decision is expected in a few weeks.

The new activity is the latest fruit of Lacoste’s two-year collaboration with Christophe Lemaire, its artistic director. Lemaire, who also designs his own funky fashion label, has been tweaking Lacoste collections to give them more urban and modern appeal. — R.M.

IN A PINCH: The French were thrifty last year when it came to fashion. Household spending on clothing rose a scant 0.2 percent in 2002, according to a study published last week by Insee, the official statistics agency. Although a breakdown wasn’t given, Insee noted that men spent less for the fourth consecutive year, while women spent slightly more. Spending on leather goods declined, as did footwear after six years of moderate growth. Overall, the French spent $36.1 billion on clothing and leather goods, shelling out an additional $9.7 billion on shoes. Meanwhile, Insee reported overall household spending, across categories, increased 1.2 percent last year, after having jumped 2.6 percent in 2001. The agency blamed the slowdown on declining spending power and rising unemployment. — R.M.

SPAIN GAINS: Spanish fashion chain Adolfo Dominguez, which counts 235 stores including prime locations in London and Paris, is on an expansion kick at home. Mi Casa Adolfo Dominguez, a new housewares chain, will launch this year in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Santiago de Compostela and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. In addition, a range of accessories called ADC launched a pilot store last year in the original Adolfo Dominguez Madrid flagship, a 400-square-foot unit. Eventually, ADC will be integrated into existing stores throughout Spain. Finally, a new activewear line called Salta will kick off for spring 2004, a company spokesman said. Dominguez is often cited as the first Spanish designer to successfully move from exporting to setting up retail outlets abroad. In August 2001, he opened his first U.S. store, in Miami. The company produces two lines of ready-to-wear for women and men — Adolfo Dominguez and Linea U — plus fragrances. Revenues last year totaled $138.4 million, converted from euros at current exchange. — Barbara BarkerDESIGNER AID: France’s government-sponsored ANDAM association for the development of fashion talent awarded six Paris-based designers grants to help finance their next collections. Alexandre Matthieu, Anne-Valerie Hash and Felipe Oliveira Baptista were each given $35,000, while accessories designer Yazbukey was granted $17,000 and shoe designer Vicente Rey got $8,900. Meanwhile, former Feraud designer Yvan Mispelaere, who last season launched a signature collection, was awarded $44,500. ANDAM sponsors include retailers Galeries Lafayette and Henri Bendel in New York, as well as luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. — R.M.

MAKER’S MARK: Emerging Florence-based fashion house Ermanno Scervino has bolstered its production power with two acquisitions. The company has terminated its licensing agreement for knitwear with Lineapiù System to produce those goods in-house. It has assembled the knitwear assets it recently bought into a new subsidiary called Maglificio Anna. Ermanno Scervino has also bought out former clothing licensee Maiani and will work with that company’s founders to produce the men’s and women’s collections. The company would not disclose the size of the investment. Elsewhere, Ermanno Scervino plans to open stores in Moscow and Tokyo by the end of this year. — A.K.

CALLING MR. BOND: Andy Bond, the managing director of Asda’s George clothing line, has been promoted to non-food trading director, with responsibilities for clothing, general merchandise and speciality categories, which include pharmacy, optical, photo and jewelry. He replaces Richard Baker, who was the marketing and trading director at Asda, and Angela Spindler, who handled food trading. “Andy has been a major success in spearheading our George business through two years of incredible growth against both the market and our own like-for-like sales. Everyday low price has taken root in the George business and Andy has built a strong team to meet the tough trading conditions of 2003,” said Tony DeNunzio, president and chief executive of Asda, which is the U.K. branch of Wal-Mart. Bond has been with Asda since April 1994, having joined as a marketing manager. In other Asda news, a company spokeswoman denied market rumors Friday that Asda/Wal-Mart was lining up a $1.67 billion bid for the U.K. cut-price clothing retailer Matalan. “It’s pure speculation,” said the spokeswoman. Matalan also denied the rumor. “Nothing is for sale and no one has approached the company formally or informally,” a Matalan spokesman said. — Samantha ContiGETTING WIRED: Capitalizing on its rejuvenation drive under creative director Alber Elbaz, Lanvin is taking its message to the Internet, launching a Web site last week. While not e-commerce equipped, it aims to give consumers a richer knowledge of the brand and keep them up to speed with the latest at Lanvin. For example, it discloses that Lanvin plans to open a boutique in Moscow in August and in Casablanca in September. Visitors to the site also can learn about store locations and — of course — look at products from current Lanvin collections. Created by the French agency Magimedia, the new site is located at Lanvin.com. — Emilie Marsh

OFFENSIVE DRIVING: A Harvey Nichols magazine advertisement has been withdrawn and described as “irresponsible” by the British Advertising Standards Authority. The ad, part of the store’s “fashion victim” campaign, featured a man in danger of being hit by a car while a woman driver applied lipstick in her rear-view mirror.

“I am surprised that the complaint was upheld as the ad was meant to be tongue in cheek and humorous,” said a spokeswoman for Harvey Nichols. “The advert appeared in the April and May issues of British Vogue, Elle and Harpers & Queen. They all believed the ad was unlikely to offend their readers.”

Created by British advertising agency BMP DDB, the ad has been nominated for several British advertising awards. — Ellen Burney

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