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Christian Dior in Shanghai

John Galliano gave this city a heaping dose of Parisian chic on Saturday night, unveiling Christian Dior’s Nouvelle Vague-inspired cruise collection in a massive tent along the city’s celebrated Bund. The show coincided with the reopening of Dior’s revamped boutique in luxury shopping mall Plaza 66 and the inauguration of a retrospective exhibition. Galliano’s decision to incorporate haute couture creations, such as dramatic organza and tulle gowns, into the show further underscores just how much the house is banking on big spenders in China. For Bottega Veneta’s Cruise 2011 collection, Tomas Maier used the words “architectural, ”graphic” and “clean lines” to describe it, but he might as easily have been speaking of another just-completed project: his new design studio that occupies 4,000 square feet in the Fuller Building on 57th Street. All stark white and sanded glass, the digs are a minimalist’s dream; there’s not even an inspiration board in sight. “The [cruise] collection is finished,” Maier says. “The boards will come for spring.” For cruise, architectural shapes reign, “a little Bauhaus, squared and then collapsing,” the designer notes. Throughout, he incorporates vibrant tones played against black and white. There are obvious surf references, but the designer says it’s not about hanging 10. Case in point: bold, bicolor pieces, which, though reminiscent of scuba gear, are inspired, Maier explains, by “the Romanian girls — you know, the gymnasts.” And while prints, color and California are not words typically associated with Jil Sander, those concepts unite in Jil Sander Navy, Raf Simons’ new casual collection that the Milan-based company is launching for spring 2011. So bold magenta, orange and kelly green are interspersed among the house’s signature neutrals — khaki, black, white and, of course, navy — along with a few graphic stripes and a beachy print based on the work of 17th-century artist Abraham Mignon. Clean, simple shapes alternate between the structured, like crisp white shirtdresses, and the easy, as in bias cut jersey T-shirts shown with the traditional house oxfords, now in canvas, and gladiator sandals. All of it is done in Japanese or European fabrics, with an emphasis on light weights in cotton voile, micro twill and nylon with techno gabardine.

Estée Lauder to Buy Smashbox Cosmetics

The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. has gone Hollywood, nabbing the photo-studio-born makeup company Smashbox Beauty Cosmetics Inc. in a bid to move deeper into the fast-growing, alternative retail channel and gain entrée into the digital media space. Lauder said Monday it has signed a definitive agreement to buy the Los Angeles-based makeup brand, founded in 1996 by Dean and Davis Factor, the great-grandsons of legendary Hollywood makeup artist Max Factor. The acquisition includes a minority stake in Smashbox Studios, the Los Angeles photo facility started by the Factor brothers in 1991. The deal is expected to close in July, subject to certain conditions, including regulatory approval. The purchase price was not disclosed, but sources estimated it was between $200 million and $300 million. WWD first reported on April 23 that Lauder may have been in talks to buy Smashbox.

Economic Fears Send Stocks Down Thursday

Hopes for a seamless economic recovery might have been a mite optimistic. That was the verdict of the world’s securities markets Thursday as investors on both sides of the Atlantic — troubled by an unexpected increase in U.S. jobless claims, lingering doubts about the European Union’s bailout of Greece and even the uncertain outlook for retailing among stores reporting quarterly results — sold with a zeal approaching abandon. By the time U.S. markets closed, retail stocks were down 3.2 percent, the S&P 500 had sunk below 1,100 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, above 11,000 at the start of the month, had fallen to within 68 points of the 10,000 mark. Also, four major retailers stretching from mass to class took a cautious stance about the outlook for the second quarter, and it was enough to send retail stocks into a swoon. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Saks Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and The TJX Cos. Inc. on Tuesday all delivered bottom-line results in the first quarter that were not only better than the depressed ones of a year ago but also ahead of Wall Street estimates. However, all hedged their bets in some fashion, whether through forward-looking guidance that disappointed Wall Street, as with Wal-Mart and TJX, or with a deceleration of strategy for Europe, as evidenced by A&F’s stringent margin standards for expansion on the Continent, itself the focus of considerable economic turmoil in recent months. And shares of American Apparel fell more than 40 percent Wednesday after it said it does not expect to be in compliance with a covenant covering debt to adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization under a credit agreement with Lion Capital as of June 30. The firm based the projection on “existing trends” and results for the first quarter ended March 31.

Polo Plans Aggressive Investment

Polo Ralph Lauren CORP. has more than $1 billion in the bank — and now wants to spend some of it. Roger Farah, president and chief operating officer, told analysts on a morning conference call to discuss the firm’s fourth-quarter and year-end earnings that, with “more than $1.2 billion in cash and investments,” the company is reinvesting in its businesses. In addition to ongoing stock buybacks and debt reduction, he noted, Polo is planning an “aggressive acceleration of our investment in growth in 2011” with international retail and e-commerce initiatives slated for specific attention.

Vanity Fair and Gucci’s Bash in Cannes

The party Vanity Fair and Gucci held in Cannes on Saturday night in honor of the 20th anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation brought out a galaxy worth of stars. Tim Burton, Pedro Almodóvar, George Lucas, Gael García Bernal, Catherine Deneuve, Meg Ryan, Juliette Binoche and Ellen Barkin all mingled around the infinity pool of the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, overlooking the Mediterranean. Jennifer Lopez held court on the terrace, while Naomi Campbell and a gaggle of socialites hogged the bar. Campbell, puffing on a Sobranie Black Russian cigarette, was telling a friend that she’s mulling moving to Miami in the next two years. Meanwhile, British media man Charles Finch held his second annual Finch’s Quarterly Review dinner at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc on Monday, bringing out his loyal crew of famous friends and clients. And though Cannes is all movies all the time this week, Finch revealed that his new clothing line Chucs will be sold in a store he will open on Dover Street this summer. And dream team Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis sparked a fury of flashbulbs in Cannes Tuesday night when they arrived to Canal+ Patio for a dinner hosted by Chanel and Madame Figaro in honor of Paradis and Karl Lagerfeld. Dree Hemingway, Ludivine Sagnier, Vincent Cassel and Depp’s longtime collaborator Tim Burton were also there, mingling on the terrace. Burton, president of the film festival jury, said it had taken him roughly five minutes to get ready. “I’m known for my fashion sense,” he deadpanned. His wardrobe is actually designed by costume designer Colleen Atwood. “It’s a bit Chairman Mao,” he said of his look.

‘Sex and the City 2’: From Downsizing to the Desert

Between the trailers, the teasers and the endless “Access Hollywood” countdowns, the only thing audiences won’t already know about “Sex and the City 2” when it hits theaters May 27 are a few particulars of the plotline, which, as everyone knows, includes a big gay wedding of MGM studio proportions (Liza!) and a Middle Eastern getaway fit for a sultan, during which — no surprises here — Carrie runs into Aidan. And costumer Patricia Field wasted no chance to beturban and bejewel the ladies to cartoonish extremes, which is by now par for the course. And Michael Patrick King seized every opportunity to play on the cultural divides (and unifiers) between the way American and Middle Eastern women are expected to dress. In his world, the women of Abu Dhabi wear Vuitton under their burkas.

Jones Makes First Men’s Denim Push

Building on its $800 million women’s jeanswear business, Jones Apparel Group Inc. is set to make its first big push into the men’s denim market. The company will today unveil a licensing and distribution agreement to launch men’s jeans and related sportswear under various Andrew Marc labels owned by G-III Apparel Group Ltd. The first product under the agreement will be shown to retailers in August and will be in stores in the fourth quarter of this year. This is Jones’ first foray into men’s denim, apart from a small test of its L.E.I. brand in the men’s space at Wal-Mart about a year and a half ago, which did not move forward, as L.E.I. was too female-centric, said Gross. And Le Bon Marché is showing some bonhomie to Balthazar — its men’s wear department — by devoting more space to high-end tailored brands and shoes. The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned department store on the Left Bank here is clearing an additional 30,140 square feet in the basement (formerly the stationery section) for its men’s wear department. The department store will unveil the revamped 44,000-square-foot men’s wear space in September. For fall, designers found in knits the catalyst for this season’s touch of sophistication. Chunky knits and oversize scarves define a globe-trotting, raw, bucolic trend, while thin cardigans and pastel sweaters inject a modern, sleek sensibility into the casually elegant mood.

Women’s Denim by the Numbers

The denim industry has shrugged off the recession and is showing stronger growth and renewed vigor. Women proved throughout the economic downturn that they had come to view denim as a wardrobe staple, an item with higher perceived value due to its versatility and durability. They may have been willing to trade down on price, but they certainly weren’t willing to trade out. Sales of women’s jeans in the U.S. rose 6.2 percent to $8.52 billion for the 12 months through March 31 compared with sales of $8.02 billion, a 4.6 percent increase, during the same period in the prior year, according to data from market research firm The NPD Group. Guys are buying fewer jeans these days but paying slightly more for them, keeping overall men’s denim sales stable over the past year. For the 12 months ended in March, total sales were $5.4 billion, up slightly from $5.39 billion the previous year, according to NPD Group data. And sometimes it’s not all in the jeans, even for denim labels. Accessories appear to be the new frontier for a spate of denim lines eager to increase their exposure and capitalize on brand awareness through such products as shoes, bags, watches and eyewear. G-Star, Joe’s Jeans, Parasuco, Rock & Republic, True Religion, Silver and Seven For All Mankind are among the companies expanding their accessories repertoire, most of which is produced by licensees.
Click here to see all the articles from WWD’s Denim in Depth>>

Dance Class

Sometimes what happens in Vegas moves on to tonier locales. Such will be the case when the exploits of one Benjamin Siegel — that’s Bugsy to you, me and his enemies (and never to his face) — are explored in “Call Me Ben,” a new work by the New York City Ballet premiering June 5 at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. The one-act ballet by Melissa Barak stars Jenifer Ringer and Robert Fairchild in the roles of Virginia Hill and her lover Siegel, the infamous gangster lured by greed from Brooklyn to Hollywood and then to the infant gambling mecca he ultimately helped develop. This afternoon, 50 supporters of the NYCB will be treated to a private rehearsal followed by a luncheon at the theater hosted by company ballet master in chief Peter Martins, Bergdorf Goodman president and chief executive officer Jim Gold and Gilles Mendel, who designed the costumes for the performance. The designer was intrigued by the project, and particularly fancied the Siegel story. “The first thing you think,” he says, “is Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire — and how the hell I’m going to make this dress glide on stage.” And it’s no surprise that Gilles Mendel drew on a ballet theme for his resort collection for J.Mendel, but there’s nary a gangster or Forties riff in sight. “I create more emphasis on the ballet feeling,” he explains. “I’m using the same lightness and design principles.” The translation? Ethereal frocks cut from tulle, mousseline and organza that work a glam ballerina vibe. Ditto for the shoes. Whereas the “Call Me Ben” dancers are shod in Forties-style dance shoes, the Casadei for J.Mendel footwear collection is tutu sweet — beribboned and encased in pleated silk mousseline.

Marc Jacobs Launches New Men’s Scent

Marc Jacobs is baring his all for his new men’s fragrance, literally. To make a point that the new fragrance, Marc Jacobs Bang, is a personal passion, Jacobs will appear in his own advertising for the first time, lying naked on a silver Mylar bed — with only an oversize bottle of the fragrance for modesty’s sake. And it’s only one of many projects the designer has up his sleeve — he also is eyeing men’s and women’s underwear as well as color cosmetics. Posing nude was business partner Robert Duffy’s idea, said Jacobs on Thursday in an exclusive interview. “Robert and I work closely with Coty on these projects, and he said, ‘Marc, you look so great now — you should be the model for men’s fragrance.’ My immediate reaction was, I don’t know. But then I came to see that it made sense. Men’s fragrance, unlike women’s in a certain way, is very personal. It’s a layer on top of skin — for women, it can be like changing a makeup color, but not for men.”
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