The executive sat for an exclusive and candid interview on why women’s is such a challenging sector and how the company is coping.
By on December 5, 2014
At J. Crew Group Inc. on Thursday, the disappointment was clear after the company posted a steep third-quarter net loss due to impairment charges, margin declines and difficulty selling women’s fashions.
This story first appeared in the December 5, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Hussein Chalayan, one of fashion’s great storytellers and conceptual creators, is celebrating his 25th year in the business. Here, his seminal telescopic coffee table skirt, which transforms from furniture into fashion.
Report: Samantha Conti
📸: Christopher Moore ELTD
Nelson Mandela’s sneakers have come back home to South Africa.
The late South African president and global icon of freedom, affectionately known as Madiba, walked out of the notorious Robben Island prison in 1990 after a total of 27 years of incarceration and hard labor wearing a pair of white tennis shoes, U.S. size 10, with the Hi-Tec logo in blue. “They were a classic design of tennis shoes called Hi-Tec Wimbledon, given to Mandela by his then wife Winnie Mandela,” recalled Frank van Wezel, chairman of the Netherlands-based multinational sports footwear and apparel company.
When the sneakers came up for auction in 1996 to benefit the Nelson Mandela Foundation, van Wezel wasted no time putting in the winning bid for the pair. They were scruffy and worn but no less significant. “Our shoes were on the feet of the person who had written ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ on the day that he was finally liberated. His walk started with our sneakers. There was so much history in that one pair of sneakers. And humor, too. Because there were certainly no tennis courts on Robben Island! But Mandela always had a playful sense of humor.” In December last year, van Wezel felt it was time to return the sneakers to their rightful home after being on display at the Hi-Tec Amsterdam flagship. He chose to put the sneakers on permanent display under a glass case at the storefront window of the new Stellenbosch store, a university town in the Cape Winelands two hours away from Cape Town. The words “STEP INTO GREATNESS” beckon to passersby.
The reaction from the public has been “sensational.” Stellenbosch is home to around 40,000 students, and van Wezel said that students have walked into the store and asked, “are they really Madiba’s shoes? ‘We didn’t know he was wearing quite modern sneakers,’ they’d say, ‘since he was an old man.’ But what they don’t realize is that he was a young man once; in fact he was quite young when he entered Robben Island. He was only 45.” Report: @bambina_o_ .
Carine Roitfeld is letting a new generation take the reins of the magazine she founded. Mostly.
Like the new logo for the biannual CR Fashion Book print magazine Roitfeld founded in 2012 after leaving French Vogue and has been the lead editor and stylist of since — now a much smaller, more refined “CR” that hovers in the top left corner after being a nearly cover-size signature — Roitfeld is reducing her role, and will now oversee editorial after years of leading it.
Vague as that description may be, the fact is Roitfeld doesn’t actually have a new title and there is no one replacing her as editor. But she will be doing far less styling of shoots (she only did one for the upcoming spring/summer issue; before she did all of them) and curation of magazine editorial going forward. Instead, Roitfeld will focus more on other projects, like collaborations and work for a growing roster of clients for her creative studio and brand consultancy CR Studio. There’s Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford, of course, but also a recent campaign for Jordache, which Roitfeld handled from beginning to end. "I don’t know what I now want to be called,” she said recently, having just arrived in New York for fashion week from Paris. “I don’t have a desk [at the office] either. I had one a while ago but I didn’t like it. I just sit at any table with a free chair. I don’t want a door, ‘Oh, knock before entering.’ That’s not me.” Report: Kali Hays