Store Wars?: Is there a war brewing between Gucci Group and Pierre Berge? Not so, both insist. Gucci chief Domenico De Sole and Berge are both downplaying reports of conflict over the opening of a YSL couture boutique on the Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris. On Monday, WWD reported that the shop, run by Saint Laurent muse Loulou de la Falaise and selling $770 cashmere sweaters and $1,600 blouses, could be the first in a chain. “We’re not competing with anyone,” she reasoned. “This is not ready-to-wear.”
Some in the industry assumed that Berge just wanted to needle the folks at Gucci — and especially Tom Ford — who will unveil their first YSL ready-to-wear collection on Oct. 13. Berge claimed that the shop was not meant to provoke, and, countering what de la Falaise had told WWD, insisted that there were no plans to open more boutiques. “Yves Saint Laurent wanted to show his creations in a shop. It’s perfectly legal. The shop was left to us as part of the Gucci deal.” He said that relations with Gucci are not strained, and that he planned to attend Ford’s show.
Meanwhile, De Sole said he doesn’t expect a Berge rollout, and he believes the former YSL chief will “uphold and respect our agreement: he deals with couture, and the ready-to-wear is ours.”
Couture clients are of the same mind, calling the dispute a tempest in a teapot. “In truth, I can’t really imagine people taking sides over shops,” said Deeda Blair. Ever the diplomat, she said she would probably visit both stores. Ditto for Nan Kempner. “There’s no reason they both can’t do well. Nothing succeeds like competition. It will pump everybody’s socks up,”she said. Then she added, “Well, you know me, I’ll go to both.”
The question is, what will she find at the Ford outpost? Ford’s YSL design studios on Rue Leonce-Reynaud have been under heavy surveillance by hardcore fashionistas. Observers have spied lots of lean, clean, sharply cut looks, mostly in black and navy. But a Saint Laurent spokesman said it would be wrong for those peeping on Tom to draw any hasty conclusions.
Just Super: The Eighties are back — in more ways than one. Helena Christensen, a star from the decade that spawned the supermodel — did the Alessandro Dell’Acqua show Tuesday and she is rumored to be walking for Dolce & Gabbana on Thursday together with her pal Naomi Campbell. Dolce & Gabbana would not confirm their runway lineup.
Model Trouble: Last-ditch negotiations between fashion houses and the French models’ union have broken down, casting a cloud over the Paris collections next week. Representatives from Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Chanel and the LVMH-owned houses met on Monday in an effort to find a solution to union demands that they pay additional fees if models appear on TV fashion shows and the Internet. Apparently the union wants houses to pay each girl an extra $800 before allowing her image to be picked up by a list of 20 TV shows and 50 Internet sites.
“We’ve reached a deadlock,” said Christophe Girard, director of couture strategy for the LVMH group. “It’s impossible for a house to fork over what the union wants. Now we have to find a solution — and quick.”
“This is a ridiculous situation,” said Chambre Syndicale president Didier Grumbach. “Their [the union’s] demands are totally extravagant and eccentric. Not even the richest house can accept, and that’s not taking into consideration the smaller designers, whose means are more limited.”
Paris’s Syndicate des Agences de Mannequins, or SAM (the union of modeling agencies) represents 98 percent of the almost 1,000 models who walk the shows in Paris.
Reacting to the impasse, houses are scrambling to find a solution. Girard said that LVMH houses would attempt to book models not affiliated with the union. A spokesman at Gaultier said that the house hadn’t hired models yet and was trying to find a solution to the impasse, with only a week left before the show.
At present, houses are allowed to transmit seven looks from their show without paying additional charges. The SAM contends that the diffusion of additional images goes beyond the transmission of newsworthy information. “When a model’s image is freely transmitted around the world, she is being exploited,” said Thierry Vannoorenberghe, secretary general of SAM. “A model deserves to be paid in function to the number of times her image is used. The houses think that the girls are stupid,” he added. “The union is defending their rights.”
Paul’s Call: Texas Pacific Group, the leveraged buyout fund that turned around Ducati and is now revamping Bally, has joined the list of suitors for Paul Smith. While a TPG spokesman declined to comment, sources said it’s the only financial company currently looking at Smith — and they want a majority stake. As reported, however, Gucci, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Bulgari are also in hot pursuit of the $300 million London-based company. Smith’s fashion house happens to have one of the cleanest records in the business: no debts, lots of property and an underdeveloped business in the U.S. The designer knows all this, and, not surprisingly, has been taking his time choosing a partner. And while negotiations have hit snags in the past — Smith doesn’t want to give up control of the business — he expects to seal a deal with someone this winter.
Chalayan & Co.: Pegasus Apparel Group might be expanding abroad — the company has approached Hussein Chalayan about possibly investing in his company. But Pegasus isn’t alone; sources said that the designer is in talks with several companies, both American and European. Chalayan, who also designs for Tse New York, told WWD this spring that he was searching for outside investment to help him grow, preferably with an investor taking a minority stake. His conceptual approach and sharp-edged clothing have made him one of the hottest designers around, and in the past he’s been courted by Prada, Gucci and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton about designing for one of their houses. but he’s always turned down the overtures in favor of growing his own company.
Spin Off: Once they were thought untouchable, but these days the Freds, the deejay darlings of the fashion world, are facing down some serious competition. Michaelangelo L’Acqua and Rene Arsenault, a musical duo from New York, turned up out of nowhere to land some extremely serious accounts. Actually, they’ve only roped in one client — Tom Ford — but they jetted in to set the pace at Gucci exclusively in Milan and will provide the beats for the Yves Saint Laurent show exclusively in Paris. “Tom Ford was looking for music that sounded more like a soundtrack,” explained Arsenault. Appropriately enough, the pair picked up and remixed two songs featured in “Magnolia.”
With a move that may prove to be even less appropriate, however, they threw in a couple of unreleased tracks by Fat Boy Slim that have yet to be heard beyond his record company’s walls. “Don’t ask how we got that music,” groaned L’Acqua. “Let’s just say it came in the mail. We’ve got connections.” If they created the Gucci soundtrack, what kind of movie would Tom’s be? “A melancholy action adventure,” said Arsenault. But don’t ask about the mood at YSL. These boys have signed confidentiality agreements.