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ORANGE YOU GLAD: “Was it too early?” Hermès chief executive Patrick Thomas asked sheepishly before dawn on Thursday. After all, to announce its annual marketing theme for this year, “Beautiful Escape,” the French luxury brand asked some 300 editors and Hermès staffers to assemble at 5 a.m. for a surprise visit to Rungis, the sprawling wholesale food market on the outskirts of Paris that nourishes an estimated 12 million to 15 million people. Wearing white smocks, the fashion pack was eerily silent filing through the giant meat locker — where a young woman in a tuxedo tinkled a gleaming black grand piano — but woke up in the fragrant cheese hall when a mouse-headed waiter glided towards them on Rollerblades offering a tray of cubed cantal. The tour ended with gourmet samplings — from oysters to crepe suzette — while Hermès’ artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas led a crew of cyclists through the dining hall, capping off a quirky morning.
This story first appeared in the April 3, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A SWISS ACCOUNT?: Could Christian Lacroix be zeroing in on new investors? According to sources, Lacroix’s owner, Florida-based Falic Group, is in advanced discussions with a group of investors from Switzerland. The likelihood of a deal could not be learned, but it is understood talks are centered on selling a majority stake of the Paris-based fashion house. Last year, Falic Group began searching for potential investors to help accelerate the fashion company’s expansion and capitalize on the brand’s recent repositioning as a pure luxury play. Lacroix officials could not be reached for comment.
BARRETT HOPS THE POND: It’s only taken 10 years, but designer Neil Barrett will make his first U.S. public appearance this weekend, at Bergdorf Goodman Men on Saturday afternoon. “I’ve only done four of these events in my life, but I need to dedicate time to the American market. Bergdorf Goodman is my best U.S. account. They’ve done incredible increases, season by season,” said Barrett, who is known for modern tailoring with punk influence. In addition to suits and vests, Barrett’s leathers do well at the store. While he’s in town, he plans to see a Katy Perry show. They’ve been friends since before she got famous for kissing a girl. Then he’ll head to Los Angeles on Wednesday to do a few celebrity fittings and spend his birthday weekend in the sun.
IN THE TRUNK: The trunk show season appears to be in full swing. After hosting a Lanvin trunk show last week, Barneys New York did the honors for Givenchy this week. Among the top-selling pieces in the three-day trunk show were $2,965 gray leather motorcycle pants, a $2,780 coated cotton motorcycle jacket, a $1,300 knit turtleneck top with leather sleeves, a $3,540 fur trim collar military jacket, a $1,155 jersey one-sleeve, draped blouson top, a $1,570 covered pearl jersey, drape neck sleeveless top and a $2,060 viscose knit one-sleeve asymmetric, flare-front dress with feather inset shoulder. Accessories bestsellers included a $1,305 evening chain clutch, a $1,750 pair of black studded heels and a $995 leather ankle bootie. “We started carrying Givenchy when Riccardo Tisci became the designer,” said Julie Gilhart, Barneys’ senior vice president and fashion director. “From the very beginning, our customers responded just not to the clothes but to the shoes and bags as well.”
WEST DEVON: Manhattan-based designer Lyn Devon is packing her bags and heading to Los Angeles next week. On Monday night, her childhood best friend, actress Lake Bell, will fete her with a garden party at interior designer Nathan Turner’s West Hollywood store. The next evening Devon fans will have a chance to buy her spring collection and order from her fall line at a cocktail party-cum-trunk show at new boutique Arcade. This June, Devon will have more to celebrate: she’s launching a 50-item capsule collection of summer sportswear, which will be available to private clients.
GOOD LUCK WITH THAT: Lots of designers have trimmed their budgets for press samples lately, but James Perse is going to an extreme, making editors purchase products in order to shoot it. Under the brand’s new policy, euphemistically named the “Studio Sales Discount,” editors must prepay by credit card for product, minus a 10 percent discount. They have 10 days, not a day more, to return the product for a refund, minus a 20 percent restocking fee. James Perse will not accept returns of T-shirts, (which are its bread and butter,) undergarments, footwear or bathing suits. Apparently, the company has decided an editorial credit isn’t worth more than 30 percent of the cost of a T-shirt. Returns will only be processed by the brand’s Melrose Avenue store in Los Angeles — not a showroom or press office. Still interested, editors? The first step is to fill out a credit application. Later on, if you need to transfer the account to a colleague or a successor, you will be required to notify James Perse by certified mail.