Here’s the Good News

The good news revealed here is as diverse as the companies and people surveyed. Some identified modest gains — reorders, healthy sell-throughs, traffic increases at retail — which once might have been taken for granted. Others spoke on a more universal scale, about shifts in consumer psychology. Though points were often highly brand- or retailer-specific, much of the information fell into categories, a veritable fashion “Jeopardy!” of thoughts positive enough to please a latter-day Norman Vincent Peale. Numerous executives spoke of continuing to open around the world, as Dries Van Noten put it, by choice and not because the decision “was made before the crisis started.” In the final installment of this two-part report on good news they told WWD: The customer is still engaged. Hard times lead to creative explosions. You can’t win playing defense.

April Puts A Bit of Spring in Stores’ Steps

Retailers experienced a mild spring thaw last month, but hardly April showers of customers’ dollars. The shift of Easter into April and the first signs of spring weather helped most retailers trim the decreases in their comparable-store sales last month, and in some cases, even raise their margins and first-quarter guidance. One winner: Uniqlo, which reported a 19.2 percent increase in April same-store sales. Industrywide, online sales were flat in the first quarter and might be stabilizing, according to data released Wednesday by comScore Inc. Meanwhile, financial analysts and private bankers expect the global economy, with the help of a more dynamic Asian region, to bounce back sometime in 2010.

Adidas Profits Fall 97 Percent

Hit by discounting, higher sourcing prices, currency effects and restructuring costs, the Adidas AG saw net profits fall 97 percent in the first quarter to 5 million euros, or $6.5 million at average exchange rates. Among other companies reporting financial results: Avon’s profits fell in the first quarter, Beiersdorf AG reported a 30.6 percent drop in net profits and Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. posted a first-quarter loss and a decline in revenues. In positive territory, L’Oréal reported that its first-quarter 2009 sales rose 0.3 percent, Hermès International posted a 3.2 percent rise in first-quarter sales and Giorgio Armani SpA reported a 1.5 percent increase in sales last year.

Designers Weigh In on Michelle Obama’s Style

Maria Cornejo, Thakoon Panichgul and Narciso Rodriguez each gave the First Lady points for her unpredictability, multidesigner high-low wardrobe, bold color choices, sleeveless dresses, unexpected personal touches and indifference about Seventh Avenue’s Old Guard in a discussion Sunday at The New York Times’ headquarters with fashion critic Cathy Horyn. The trio of designers practically saluted Obama for dressing like a modern working woman instead of following the same-as-it-ever-was dress code of some of her predecessors. Incidentally, Obama was spotted wearing a floral Tracy Feith dress in New York and wore a Michael Kors dress and a Peter Soronen corset at the Time 100 Most Influential Dinner.

Fall 2009 Japanese Goth Trend: Good Mourning

Guests leaving Gareth Pugh’s March show in Paris likely had more questions than answers about the collection. For starters, the designer eschewed the runway for an avant-garde video projection that, though arresting, left fashion editors squinting for a better look at the clothes. A kohl-eyed Natasa Vojnovic vamped, stretched and twisted her way through the video, pulling off clothes and turning capes into flapping wings. Black dresses melted into inky swirls. Sheaths covered with “Hellraiser”-like pins glistened under the arty lighting. But the show made one point crystal clear: Goth lives on. (Watch behind-the-scenes video from the WWD Japanese Goth fashion shoot and see all the looks.)

The New Guard: Fabrizio Freda Takes the Reins

During a wide-ranging interview two weeks prior to his appointment as president and chief executive officer of the Estée Lauder Cos., effective July 1, Fabrizio Freda outlined his ambitious strategy for the company, with the goal of transforming its diverse assets into a more sustainable business philosophy. He repeatedly makes the distinction between top-line gains and sustainable, profitable growth, and is clearly intent on achieving the latter. Also featured in WWD Beauty Biz, Ed Shirley, Procter & Gamble’s new vice chair for beauty and grooming, unveils his game plan for reigniting growth.

Target Signs Designer Anna Sui

Target Corp. is hoping a dash of Anna Sui’s downtown New York style will lure thrifty consumers. As the discount retailer pushes to bring designer names to the masses, Sui will be the second participant in Target’s Designer Collaborations series. The company also unveiled one of its largest pop-up shops to date in Chicago, called Bullseye Bazaar. Special features include colorful clothing from surfer-turned-designer Tracy Feith, such as a $39.99 canvas dress, which will not be available in Target stores for another two weeks, and furniture usually only available online.

WWD List: A Global View

If the first signs of a turnaround take hold in the U.S., what is the longer-term outlook for weakened retailing worldwide? Research manager Jon Wright of Euromonitor International, a market-intelligence firm, told WWD, “In terms of the next five years, we should see continued increase in consumer spending.” Euromonitor has provided a ranking of the top 10 countries by estimated 2013 retail sales.

Courting the Muses at the Costume Institute Gala

From Richard Avedon and Suzy Parker to Yves Saint Laurent and Betty Catroux, having a muse is as fundamental for a fashion god as knowing how to cut on a bias. On Monday night, the women whose je ne sais quoi has inspired countless collections gathered with their designer counterparts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute gala. And models as muses, the theme of this year’s exhibit, are a thing to be taken extremely seriously, it turns out. (Click to see over 100 images of attendees, from Madonna to Elizabeth Hurley and video of the “Model as Muse” exhibit.) Meanwhile, Azzedine Alaïa is upset none of his designs were included in it.

Marc Jacobs on the Vuitton Life

Marc Jacobs sat down with T: The New York Times Style Magazine’s Stefano Tonchi, to discuss his work at Louis Vuitton and at his own company. On a more personal note, Jacobs said it’s true he is “very much in love” with Lorenzo Martone — they are getting married, buying a house together and would like to have children. But well-wishers should steer clear of any Marc Jacobs Facebook pages; they are all fake, according to the designer. Also, Jacobs has added a new women’s fragrance: Lola.

Obituary: Toni & Guy Co-founder Gaetano Mascolo

Just four months after selling his global professional product company, Tigi Linea Inc., Gaetano Mascolo suffered a massive heart attack at his Dallas home on Wednesday and later died on the way to the hospital. His family, including his wife Flora, his four children and his business partners/brothers — Anthony, Toni, Bruno and Andrea — are in a state of shock, as is the professional beauty industry. Mascolo, known as Guy, was 65.

Click to read last week’s WWD Week in Review (5/1/09).