NEW YORK -- It may not exactly rival Beatlemania, but at least some Americans are readying themselves for yet another British Invasion in 2001.
Charming Shoppes, the specialty retailer based in Bensalem, Pa., has formed a joint venture with Monsoon PLC to bring the London-based fashion retailer's Monsoon and Accessorize store concepts to American soil beginning in mid-2001. If not exactly "I Want to Hold Your Hand," Charming is hoping for a few choruses of "I Want to Wear Your Clothes."
What is Charming -- which is putting up 80 percent of the capital for the joint venture here -- hoping to do that existing stores, including chic imports such as H&M and Zara, aren't? At a luncheon at the restaurant Daniel in New York last month, Charming's management team made it clear to an audience of financial analysts that its mission was fashion.
"The opportunity today, as we move into a new millennium, is to bring a new fashion concept to the U.S. market," noted Donna Schmid, the former Bon Marche general merchandise manager who's heading the U.S. Monsoon venture. "The consumer is bored with apparel, and even with home furnishings, and wants new brand concepts and new shopping experiences."
While Monsoon is chic, it hardly fits the "cheap" category. Monsoon describes its product as "better, fashion-forward and highly differentiated" and its customers as savvy and upscale with average household incomes of $65,000 and up. (With a product assortment that complements rather than defines the wardrobe, Accessorize caters to a slightly younger customer, 16 to 35 versus 25 to 45 at Monsoon, with average household incomes of $50,000 and up.)
But what Charming chief executive Dorrit Bern believes will make Monsoon and its sister division stand out in the U.S. retail marketplace is its affinity for "feminine clothing that's so hard to find in this country" amidst the informal tendencies of casually oriented stores and the buttoned-up proclivities of those offering business dress. To help bring the point home, Charming officials at the luncheon dressed in Monsoon outfits or, at the least, ornamented their outfits with Accessorize pieces. Models -- including several children who immediately elicited ooh's and aah's from the assembled -- showed off the breadth of Monsoon's offerings with outfits appropriate for activities ranging from a day at the beach to a night at the altar.Although leases haven't yet been signed, plans are to open about 20 units in 2001, most of them under the Accessorize banner. Two Accessorize stores are slated for May, and both standalone and combination stores are a possibility.
Charming executives noted that Monsoon's broad assortments would be edited for the U.S. market and that additional pains would be taken to make sure that Monsoon merchandise complied with U.S. statutes and regulations. When Eric Specter, Charming's executive vice president and chief financial officer, noted that U.S. flammability standards differed from those of other markets, Lazard Frere's Todd Slater sardonically asked if the U.S. merchandise was expected to be more or less flammable.
"'Dynasty' is all about gowns, the diamonds and the scandal, so it's a bit like the fashion industry. When we come to Cannes it's all about the red carpet dresses too, so it all fit really well," said designer @philippplein78 on the theme of his high-glamour resort 2019 show at his mansion in Cannes. #wwdfashion #cannes (📷: @zefashioninsider)
"I think Spike is such a brilliant director because he holds up a mirror to society and reflects these issues, yet he doesn't shove it down your throat, he doesn't tell you what to think," says @lauraharrier on her latest film @Blackkklansman. Harrier was at the Cannes Film Festival – for the very first time – with @officialspikelee. #wwdeye #cannes (📷: @zefashioninsider)
“I would think to myself, Are you happy? Yes, I’m wildly happy. I go to this studio every day and, in my inside voices, I’m giggling; I’m singing. Yes, it’s a lot of work, it’s a [huge] volume of material. It wouldn’t be for everybody. But I was very happy,” said soap opera star @therealsusanlucci of checking in throughout the years with her career trajectory. Lucci spoke to WWD about her decades-long career, love for pilates, motherhood and her QVC activewear line. Read Bridget Foley’s full piece on Lucci on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: @celestesloman)
@balmain has taken a stand at the #cannes Film Festival, dressing 16 actresses at a press call for the project “Noire N’est Pas Mon Metier,” or “Black Is Not My Profession.” The multimedia project includes a book, photo exhibit and documentary, which aims to expose discrimination in the French and American entertainment industries. “The moment I was asked to participate, I knew it was right for me, and for this brand, to form a part of this moment,” Balmain creative director @olivier_rousteing told WWD. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
"I always feel curious and I feel like there's more to learn. But I think being relevant, feeling relevant, I personally always feel that there's just so much more to know. And maybe that's the key.” — @themarcjacobs #wwdsummits #wwdbeauty (📷: @patrickmacleodphoto )
“The most amazing thing about her is that, regardless of all the things that have happened to her, her spirit is so undaunted by all of it. She is the most cheerful person you will ever meet. She doesn’t see problems, she only sees solutions,” said @ajanaomi_king of activist Ifrah Ahmed, who she plays in a new film “A Girl from Mogadishu.” WWD caught up with King at Cannes — Head to WWD.com to read more about her new role, personal style and how she uses social media for causes like Time’s Up and Black Lives Matter #wwdeye
WWD asked a number designers to share their thoughts on what Meghan Markle’s wedding gown will look like this Saturday. Here, Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli sketches his look. #wwdfashion #royalwedding #meghanmarkle