WWD Week in Review: 3/5/10

The top stories for the week ending in March 5, 2010.

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Milan Fashion Week Wraps Up

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana consider themselves designers as well as customer service professionals, who listen to what their clients want. These days, that doesn’t include wearing what appeals just to magazine stylists, something Dolce and Gabbana kept in mind last season while addressing the customer’s feminine wiles. And last Sunday, their practical focus fell on a woman’s masculine side with a stunning collection rooted in “sartorialità,” or tailoring, Italian-style. As the saying goes, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. And by that standard, Frida Giannini just might have taken Gucci down that tricked-out, laced-up but bankable road again. But not this time. Giannini did an about-face, and in her most successful show since joining the company, delivered a clean, polished collection that pulsed with insouciant glamour. “The New Chic” was how Giorgio Armani defined his fall collection, according to program notes. And since Armani prides himself on maintaining a constant minimum of high chic, grounded in his long-established house codes of strong, sophisticated tailoring and elegant evening attire — dually represented here — the question was, what did he consider new? No, not the fringy, in-your-face hats but color: saturated Crayola tones, such as orange, cherry red, pink and the deep emerald green that opened the show.
See all collections from Milan fashion week here>>
See the scene backstage, all the parties, front row scoops and videos from the Milan shows>>

Paris Fashion Week

At Nina Ricci, Peter Copping struck an air of romantic gentility similar to spring’s debut. But as his opening look — a sturdy black coat, all wide lapels and fake fur sleeves — hinted, this was going to be a much more grounded affair. And, indeed, he aimed at tempering the flou, shuffling between sturdy and frothy elements to provide contrast. During a preview the day before his show, Dries Van Noten said he was in the mood for a little fun this season, which was interesting since neither the overarching military theme nor the mood of the collection he showed Wednesday was particularly light. Rather, what Van Noten, who’s not prone to perverse head games, considered a good time was departing from his terrific cross-cultural inspirations and instead, applying that mash-up treatment to various periods of fashion — Fifties, Sixties, Seventies — with beautiful, graceful results. At Balmain, the Eighties were back (even though they never really left the premises). Those wondering if Christophe Decarnin would push his sexy sensibility to new terrain got their answer in the raucous opening score: 1984’s “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince. And Nicolas Ghesquière’s Balenciaga collection he delivered Thursday was another nimble negotiation between his own futuristic pursuits and reverence to the name on the door.
See all collections from Paris fashion week here>>
See the scene backstage, all the parties, front row scoops and videos from the Paris shows>>

Rumors Swirl Around Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger Corp., which has been owned for nearly four years by private equity firm Apax Partners, could be in play. According to sources, Apax has been talking to companies to gauge their interest in acquiring Hilfiger, while at the same time continuing to explore an initial public offering for the American brand, which was postponed two years ago when global stock markets began to slide. At the moment, the lead candidate to acquire Hilfiger is said to be $2.4 billion Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., which has been openly on the prowl for acquisitions and proved with its 2002 purchase of Calvin Klein that it can successfully incorporate a large global brand into its business.

Oscars by the Numbers: The Most Appealing Best Actress Nominees

With the 82nd annual Academy Awards set for Sunday, E-Poll Market Research ranked the best actor and best actress nominees based on overall appeal. Sandra Bullock and Morgan Freeman topped the poll of more than 1,100 people. Gerry Philpott, chief executive officer of the firm, told WWD, “Consumer sentiment toward the Oscars seems to be very positive right now. Entertainment, and movies in particular, fared well during the recession because it wasn’t considered an expensive pastime.” While classic, glamorous styles will most likely rule the red carpet, he said, “We’re interested in seeing some names of people who may really start pushing the boundaries in terms of fashion. Some of the young Hollywood up-and-comers, such as Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Zoe Saldana and AnnaLynne McCord are starting to rise in our tracking polls for their style and appeal.”

Bergé on Yves Saint Laurent: Warts and All

Yves Saint Laurent is giving the Eiffel Tower a run for its money as France’s most famous monument. In addition to a blockbuster exhibition devoted to the work of the late couturier, 2010 will see the release of a slew of Yves Saint Laurent books, a CD, a movie and even a coloring book. Pierre Bergé, his former partner and longtime business manager, said he can’t take full credit for the avalanche of projects in the pipeline, though he trusts the retrospective to be staged at the Petit Palais will confirm Saint Laurent’s status as one of the greatest designers of the 20th century.

Fall 2010 Runway Trend: That’s Rich

Opulence ruled the runways in New York and London as fur, intricate embroideries and feathers galore made their way onto everything from sporty fare to elaborate evening dresses. Regarding accessories in Milan, forget about the three Rs; come fall, it’s all about the five Fs. Fur, feathers, fringe, feline — as in leopard, meerkat and ocelot prints — and fulva, as in red. Now that’s Italiano. Also this week, Christian Lacroix SNC signed a string of deals. The brand, reduced to a licensing operation in December following a bankruptcy filing, is back on the move. Although couture and ready-to-wear operations were shuttered, the Lacroix name will soon enter four new product categories: women’s optical frames, premium stationery, home textiles and decorative wood panels.

The Heritage of Milan: No Gimmick Lines Seen Luring Consumers

Designers here delivered solid collections, easing up on sex and flash to focus on heritage values and investment pieces as customers ease back into spending mode, buyers said. Despite a condensed Milan show schedule that penalized brands holding showroom presentations, retailers found plenty to like, from pantsuits and outerwear galore to flat shoes and furry boots. Buyers lauded a return to Made-in-Italy values like high-quality fabrics and craftsmanship, with a particular focus on tailoring and knitwear. Also in retail, Lanvin has opened its first West Coast boutique in Las Vegas, the brand’s second door in the U.S., and the first in America to offer the label’s men’s wear collection. The 3,000-square-foot boutique, which opened last week, is on the ground floor of the luxury haven Crystals at CityCenter, and follows the December opening of Lanvin’s first U.S. store in Bal Harbour, Fla. With Cindy Crawford, the Olsen Twins, Nicole Miller, Charlotte Ronson, Michele Bohbot and Marty Staff among the crowd, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. staged a runway show of spring fashion exclusives inside Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in Manhattan on Tuesday night. Fitted tailoring, animal prints, ruffle chiffon tops and city shorts were among the hipper, youthful looks trotted out, along with the creative individuals behind them. It’s all crucial to elevating productivity and differentiating Penney’s from Macy’s Inc., Kohl’s Corp. and other retailers scrambling to reach deals with designers and celebrities for proprietary lines.

Renewed Demand Removes Chill From Feb. Sales

Wicked winter weather couldn’t keep consumers from spending in February, propelling retailers to their best month of same-store sales results in more than two years and elevating hopes the upswing is here to stay. Stores reporting numbers Thursday were aided by extremely weak year-ago comparisons, but still managed to beat analysts’ projections despite lingering high unemployment, weak consumer confidence and continued deterioration in sales of new cars and homes. Even with these Swords of Damocles hanging over retailers’ heads, the surprisingly strong showing by stores in the first month of the first quarter fueled optimism the buying public is starting to get over its reluctance to shop. Despite tentative signs of a turnaround at the beginning of the year, European retailers are bracing for a see-saw recovery at best, and at worst a double-dip recession. Fears that Greece could default on its public debt have roiled financial markets in recent weeks, raising the specter that European economies, which borrowed heavily to sustain spending during the recession, could now raise taxes on their wealthiest citizens to help foot the bill. After three years in the designer business, European private equity firm Permira is looking at cashing in on its investment in Proenza Schouler, and possibly Valentino, too. Although the company denied it planned to sell its interest in the labels, sources indicated that Permira has started to put out feelers, and several investment funds are said to have looked at the two fashion properties. And according to a new book, the twin perils of growing global competition and decreasing pricing power have been limiting gains in the fashion business as similar products proliferate and “overlap” in a range of prices. This competitive environment makes the fashion business one of the “most fascinating” to explore, said Richard D’Aveni, author of “Beating the Commodity Trap” (Harvard Business Press, $27.95). The intensifying struggle to distinguish fashion items from competitors’ products held particular significance for the author.

Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper Appear at MAC Launch Event

MAC Cosmetics believes in pouting to make a point. That’s why the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.-owned brand and its celebrity spokeswomen, Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper, held a launch event in London Monday for its latest Viva Glam lipsticks. They are sold to help the MAC AIDS Fund. “Seventy-two percent of sexually active women in the United Kingdom have never been tested for HIV,” the ever-flamboyantly attired Lady Gaga told discussion moderator Sharon Osbourne, who put questions to the pop stars. The queries were culled from thousands sent by their fans via Twitter and Facebook. (The event was also streamed online.) Throughout the discussion, the duo placed particular emphasis on communicating to women about HIV- and AIDS-related issues, including testing for the illnesses, practicing safe sex and, in some cases, abstinence. Also, John Galliano and his fragrance license holder, Selective Beauty, will introduce an eau de toilette version of his signature women’s scent, Coach has plans to expand its fragrance distribution, and it’s being said that French actress Mélanie Thierry is to be the face of the next Yves Saint Laurent women’s scent.

Macy’s Inks Kenneth Cole Deal

Macy’s Inc. has snagged another exclusive. In an effort to bolster the assortment within the men’s sportswear department, the retailer will reveal today it has signed a deal with Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. to launch a collection of sportswear under the Kenneth Cole Reaction label this fall. The line will launch in 150 Macy’s stores and online in September and is eventually expected to roll out to 550 doors. Under the terms of the deal, Macy’s will be the exclusive department store retailer of the sportswear in the U.S. and its territories. However, Reaction classifications merchandise will continue to be sold at other department and specialty stores. After 100 years in the men’s wear business, Ermenegildo Zegna is taking on a scholarly role. The Italian suit maker is teaming with Milanese fashion school Istituto Marangoni to introduce a master’s degree in men’s wear. The eight-month program, which kicks off in October, will cover all the fundamentals of making men’s garments — research, creation, product management, retail, logistics and marketing. Marangoni professors as well as key managers and designers from the Ermenegildo Zegna group are to teach the classes. After stabilizing and expanding its women’s business and appointing a headline-grabbing president and chief creative officer in Sarah Jessica Parker, Halston is finally turning its attention to men. This fall, the investor group that purchased Halston in 2007 will launch two men’s lines as part of its continuing bid to revitalize the iconic brand. The effort will be led by a luxury-level main collection of suits and sportswear designed with accessible fashion in mind. The company will also offer a secondary line, called Heritage, which will be more fashion- and sportswear-driven and be offered at lower prices.

A New Wave of Films Has Fashion Fixated

When Donatella Versace was preparing her men’s collection for fall, she logged onto YouTube to check out trailers for the forthcoming science fiction film, “Tron Legacy.” Current and forthcoming feature films are influencing fashion to a blockbuster degree, with “Avatar” references sweeping through the spring couture collections in January and the release of Tim Burton’s Disney film “Alice in Wonderland” this week coinciding with a slew of product tie-ups and retail showcases, from windows at Bloomingdale’s in New York and Printemps in Paris to an “Alice”-inspired young women’s range hitting Uniqlo stores starting this month. “Movies are always an inspiration: It’s a reflection of the times,” mused Versace, whose spring women’s collection, unveiled in October in Milan, was partly inspired by Burton’s anticipated new film. Sunday’s Academy Awards will roll out more than the red carpet. Hollywood’s biggest night is turning to technology, social media and new formats for the 82nd annual Oscars to entice a bigger audience and generate more attention. A year after turmoil in the worldwide economy resulted in slightly lower key partying and fewer gift suites, the frenzy is building as top fashion and jewelry brands jockey to dress A-list actresses and capture the buzz and publicity that can help boost sales.
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