WWD Week in Review 4/16/10

The top stories of the week ending April 16, 2010.

A Grand Bonjour: Polo Ralph Lauren Goes Big in Paris

The new Ralph Lauren store opened in Paris this week. It’s currently Europe’s largest retail endeavor for the American designer — a 23,000-square-foot flagship in a 17th-century town house on the Left Bank. To be sure, the designer’s third boutique in the French capital is an ambitious statement, spanning a 128-seat restaurant and four floors of fashion set in a series of transporting rooms: reminiscent of a Nantucket sailing club one minute; a grand, colonial parlor the next. Throughout are enough artworks, chandeliers and painstakingly restored rococo details to rival a museum — a refined backdrop for one of Lauren’s most complete brand statements in Europe, spanning his various women’s and men’s collections, from runway looks to an attic showcase for rugged RRL denim. Also, Fashion’s Night Out is offering retailers in the U.S. and Canada an expanded collection of FNO branded merchandise to build buzz about the Sept. 10 shopping event. Tying in with the evening, the collection includes fashion-forward short- and long-sleeved T-shirts and tanks, in addition to a unisex hoodie emblazoned with the FNO logo and a new abstract cityscape print. Forty percent of the proceeds from the collection, scheduled for August delivery, will benefit the NYC AIDS Fund. Retailers don’t have to participate in the event to sell the collection. And it was announced this week that Japanese retailer Takashimaya is closing its New York flagship in June.

Levi’s Launching New Brand for China

Classic Americana purveyor Levi Strauss & Co. is heralding the arrival of the young mainstream Chinese consumer by launching a new brand this summer in China — its first unveiled on foreign soil. Befitting the new label’s vast home turf, the San Francisco-based denim company has ambitious plans to grow the line’s store base in China to 1,000 by 2015 from 20 this year. Levi Strauss wouldn’t disclose the name of the brand, which is likely to be priced slightly below traditional Levi’s and is being called Standard internally, but revealed it would be in English and make its Levi’s pedigree apparent. The Levi’s design also team flew in earlier this month from San Francisco to hold a preview of its fall collections in New York. Hosting the event — which included a performance by the British band One Eskimo — were designers Carl Chiara and Janine Chilton-Faust and brand creative director Len Peltier.

Health Care Costs to Pressure Industry

The industry’s bills are already coming due for the new health care law. Health care reform might have been a key political win for President Obama, but accountants and human resource departments are just now wading into the details, figuring out how the costs of expanded coverage will hit their bottom lines. The early read is that companies of all sizes will be paying more. How much more won’t be clear for some time and this kind of general muddiness should continue as officials decide how to apply the new laws, reforms phase in and insurance providers and individuals choose their paths. And the pain of the recession is lingering at U.S. shopping centers, and the sting is worst in the once-booming Western states of California, Arizona and Nevada. Even as the national economy gains traction and there are signs that some consumers are more willing to spend, retail vacancy rates keep rising partly because unemployment remains high at 9.7 percent, and also because stores are having financing difficulties. The challenges are most serious in Western states that were fast-growing before the downturn and fell just as quickly. Tight credit, along with falling retail rents and property values, mean investors and developers are having a hard time refinancing loans. The foreclosures that ravaged residential real estate in 2008 and 2009 are likely to take a toll this year on the commercial real estate market, including retail, analysts said.

Off-Pricer K&G Redefines Its Strate

There’s a woman making a big impact at The Men’s Wearhouse Inc. Her name is Mary Beth Blake and she’s president of K&G Fashion Superstore, the off-price division of the men’s $1.9 billion, 1,294-unit retail powerhouse. Since joining the company less than two years ago, the former Macy’s Inc. and May Department Stores Co. executive has revamped the merchandise mix, increased the percentage of women’s wear, launched a designer showcase, upgraded the presentation and adjacencies in the stores, and launched a new image-centered advertising campaign. Although sales are still running in negative territory — in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 30, revenues fell 6 percent to $92.7 million, comp-store sales were down 5 percent and projections for the first quarter were for low-single-digit comp declines — the 106-unit chain is gaining traction in some key areas and the overall response to Blake’s strategies is positive. Also in men’s fashion, starting from the fall collection, Link Theory Holdings Co. Ltd. has appointed former Issey Miyake designer Naoki Takizawa to design Helmut Lang’s men’s wear line, Patrick Ervell launches a web store and Edwin Denim plans for a domestic relaunch.

Bridal Fashion Week Spring 2011

It was bridal fashion week and designers unveiled gowns that were ruffled, draped, ruched, feathered, embroidered, strapless, corseted and adorned with rosettes. At Carolina Herrera, the designer looked to strong creative women for her collection, from a nod to singer Edith Piaf with a pale pink tulle mermaid silhouette embroidered with a sequin floral design to sculptor Camille Claudel. At Marchesa, a draped gown with asymmetric flower appliqués and cascading tulle ruffles, and a lace column dress with an asymmetric peplum bowed in the waist were the stars of Georgina Chapman’s lineup for the brand. Monique Lhuillier offered much to satisfy many a fairy-tale dream, with gowns covered in frothy rosettes or featuring beautifully embroidered corsetry and Reem Acra showed a beautiful collection of gowns with tiered full skirts topped with lingerie-style corsets and lots of floral embroidery on everything from a side train that ran up to a gathered waist to a tulle sleeveless underlay that spiced up a less-adorned princess dress. Oscar de la Renta fulfilled one beautiful wedding fantasy after another, offering standouts such as a mermaid shape with embroidered tulle and an icy blue underlay, and a princess sillhouette with an intricate guipure strapless top and full ostrich feather-embroidered skirt. And rivers of tulle rippled and swirled into rosettes and feathery trains as Vera Wang showed a dreamy collection of bridal gowns in hues that ranged from white to a soft blush and a pretty, pale lilac.

Met Opera Premieres ‘Armida’ With Renée Fleming

For the last few seasons, Yves Saint Laurent and the Metropolitan Opera have enjoyed a nice, symbiotic relationship. YSL gives the Opera a new, young audience; the Opera gives YSL another layer of cultural cache. On Monday night, the French design house sponsored the gala premiere for the third time (they’re committed to one more). Chloe Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin, Emily Mortimer and Maggie Gyllenhaal came as guests of the brand, and saw a performance of “Armida,” an 1817 opera about an irresistible and manipulative sorceress being performed at the Met for the first time. On Tuesday, Art students mixed with the cocktail crowd at the New York Academy of Art’s annual Tribeca Ball. Guests, who included Helena Christensen, the Richards sisters and honorary chairs Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany, mingled across the school’s studios and with its artists in residence. Also that evening, former president Bill Clinton accepted a $1 million check to benefit Haitian earthquake victims at the Pierre Hotel from CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg. Tory Burch and Andrew Rosen, chief executive officer of Theory/Helmut Lang, helped hand over the donation, which stemmed from sales of Fashion For Haiti T-shirts. On Wednesday, designer Isabel Marant hosted a dinner to celebrate the opening of her New York flagship boutique and she obviously lured every hip fashion girl — and guy — to Kenmare (no slouch in the cool department itself). Lily Donaldson, Elettra Wiedemann, model Kasia Struss, Chiara Clemente, Inez van Lambsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Magnus Berger and Waris Ahluwalia packed the restaurant’s basement lounge to congratulate Marant on her new boutique.

Got Tweet?

The late Alexander McQueen may have been responsible for a lot of fashion trends, but one of his last also could be his most lasting. In October, McQueen broke fashion barriers by live-streaming his spring collection via Nick Knight’s SHOW site, allowing hundreds of thousands of fashion fanatics to view the collection in real time. Fast-forward some five months, and live-stream becomes the buzzword of the fall collections, with a long list of designers offering hundreds of thousands of devotees the ability to see next season’s clothes the second each model makes her exit. Prada, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte, Gucci, Alexander Wang and Calvin Klein were just a few that offered a feed. Dolce & Gabbana live-streamed its main line and D&G runways on the Apple iPhone, and Burberry broke fashion ground when it took a cue from Avatar and live-streamed its show from London in 3-D, with viewing parties in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Dubai and Los Angeles.

Marc Jacobs President to Marry: Here Come the Grooms

Aretha Franklin gospel tunes, romantic water view, peonies and lilacs for days — just some of the makings of an upcoming fashion wedding, and not the one that’s been speculated about endlessly. On Tuesday evening, Marc Jacobs president Robert Duffy married Alex Cespedes in Provincetown, Mass., where Duffy has a house and the company, a store. And where gay marriage is legal. The wedding date was chosen for pragmatic reasons: It follows Sunday evening’s fete celebrating the “reopening” of the Marc Jacobs Provincetown store after an upgrade from 500 square feet to 2,300. The nuptial plan included a tight guest list of 86, including numerous company employees with whom Duffy is close.

Jennifer Aniston Joins the Fragrance Fray with Lolavie

Jennifer Aniston is taking her own brand of natural, easygoing beauty into the fragrance market with her first perfume, Lolavie, which she described as “a nonperfume perfume.” Aniston hopes her sexy, casual persona will translate into a scent that stands out in a marketplace of stylized or glamorous brands fronted by other A-list stars. This week it was also announced that “Sixth Sense” and “Die Hard” star Bruce Willis is getting some fragrance action with his first scent, a signature men’s fragrance that’s due to be launched July 1. Also in beauty, the John Varvatos fragrance license has changed hands. Elizabeth Arden Inc. and John Varvatos Apparel Corp. said today they have entered into an exclusive global licensing agreement for the development, marketing and distribution of the designer’s men’s and women’s fragrances. Avon Products Inc. is adding to its already jam-packed celebrity roster by tapping singer Keri Hilson and Paul Innis as its celebrity makeup artist for North America. Hilson and Innis’ Avon roles were revealed in Las Vegas on Monday during the company’s annual leadership conference attended by 2,000-plus district managers and sales representatives.

The Top 10 Collections of Fall 2010

Sensational sportswear, sex appeal and savvy tailoring—the season’s best collections had it all. WWD’s top 10 picks included Balenciaga, Burberry Prorsum, Celine, Chanel, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Prada. In addition to standout collections, defining moments from the fall runway festivities included Prada’s voluptuous model moment, Sigrid Agren strutting in a staggering 70 shows and Karl Lagerfeld importing 270 tons of ice from northern Sweden for his Chanel ice sculpture extravaganza. As for trends- plaid, velvet, power suits and anything army dominated the runways.

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