HEADED TO HALSTON?: Could Halston be prepping for a reboot with BCBG Max Azria Group veterans steering the ship? Reports are swirling that Halston parent Hilco Consumer Capital LLC is close to naming BCBG Max Azria president Ben Malka as head of Halston Heritage, and Malka might already have his creative director lined up. Marie Mazelis, creative director of the Hervé Léger and Max Azria lines, has revealed plans to exit BCBG Max Azria Group, where she has worked for more than a decade and has been reporting to chief creative officer Lubov Azria. Reached at her BCBG office, Mazelis declined to comment on her next move. “I haven’t made a final decision yet,” she said.
Lalena Luba, a group spokeswoman, said. “We wish Marie all the best in her endeavors.” As for Hervé Léger and Max Azria lines, she added, “Lubov Azria will continue to oversee all brands.” Hervé Léger will still hold its spring 2012 runway show in September as planned, but the future of the Max Azria line is less certain.
WHO THAT?: The chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has inspired a rap album. Soulja Boy — the artist behind songs like “Crank That” and “Turn My Swag On” — released his new mixtape, the “Bernard Arnault EP,” to start the weekend and it was downloaded more than 13,000 times by Monday evening. The tape’s second track, “Louis Vuitton,” references LVMH’s flagship brand in one way or another 63 times. One line: “LV Bags, LV pants with that LV sag.…It don’t make no sense why they LV fake, but mine’s real.” But the rapper’s interest in Arnault seems to be more gimmicky than genuine. Sometimes he can remember the chairman’s name, but on at least two of the 10 tracks — “Texas” and “Fire Blunts” — Soulja forgets and invokes “Robert Arnault” instead.
67 FOR 93: As the lunch rush arrived at the Four Seasons on Monday, an unusual greeter was working the door at the Pool Room. Morgan Freeman was playing host at the back room, where he welcomed each guest with a handshake and a smile. It was Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday, or Mandela Day. Freeman, who portrayed the former South African president in 2009’s “Invictus,” had organized a luncheon to promote one of the main aims of the day: to encourage people to dedicate 67 minutes (one for each year of Mandela’s years of public service) back to the community.
The cause attracted a power lunch crowd that included Barbara Walters, Billie Jean King, Tory Burch, Christiane Amanpour, Mandela biographer Rick Stengel and the Al Roker and Ann Curry thirds of the “Today” show. U2 sang “Happy Birthday” to Mandela via video. Asked about his 67-minute-worthy cause, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said the Police Athletic League. Actor Anthony Mackie said he hadn’t settled on one yet. New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. declined to bestow any of his 67 minutes on the party reporter set, turning down a brief chat.
“They are all interested in Madiba, what he stands for,” Freeman said of the diners, using Mandela’s nickname. “All these people know and love him. They all want to be part of something that’s going to promote him and his beliefs, theories, his life. So I think that’s why they’re here. They’re not here because I asked them to come.”
Freeman said it had been about a year since he’d seen Mandela, when he’d driven from Johannesburg to Cape Town, stopping at different towns along the way to put in his 67 minutes.
“I guess arriving in Cape Town,” he said when asked of his favorite leg. He gave a very familiar laugh. “It was winter,” he said.
LONG LIVE LUXURY: Shoppers from Saudi Arabia are the single biggest foreign consumers of luxury goods in central London, according to a report issued by the New West End Company, which represents businesses in and around Mayfair and Oxford Circus. Saudi Arabians spend an average of 1,974 pounds, or $3,158, on luxury goods each time they visit London, the New West End said Monday, citing statistics from Global Blue, the organization behind Tax Free Shopping. Visitors from Kuwait came in a close second, with an average spend of 1,780 pounds, or $2,848, and those from Nigeria came third, splashing out 1,648 pounds, or $2,637, per visit. Other countries in the top list of consumers include China, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Russia and Hong Kong.
The New West End report said 2 billion pounds, or $3.2 billion, is spent each year on luxury goods in London’s West End, which includes Bond Street, Jermyn Street, Savile Row and Mount Street. According to the commercial real estate adviser CB Richard Ellis, there is currently a zero void rate — no empty shops — on Bond Street, and demand is outstripping availability. “Despite virtually nonexistent void rates, the potential to grow the area is strong, with an imbalance in the demand for luxury and the space to supply,” said Jonathan De Mello, head of retail consultancy at the firm.
Meanwhile, luxury spending in the West End has surpassed pre-downturn levels, according to American Express Business Insights, the consulting arm of American Express. “Since 2007, the West End has seen growth in luxury spending of 14 percent. It has maintained this momentum in the first quarter of this year, with growth up 11 percent, despite a difficult economic climate,” said Sujata Bhatia, vice president of American Express Business Insights. He said luxury spending by international travelers is up 19 percent year-on-year in 2010.
ON THE RUNWAY: Express wants to be in the record books. Before its holiday 2011 fashion show in Times Square Saturday night, Express will have the runway open for the general public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., in an attempt to break the Guinness record for most people walking a catwalk. An adjudicator from Guinness World Records will be there to officiate. The current record was set by Galeries Lafayette in Paris in 2010, when 521 people walked a runway. Express has been attempting to raise its profile and distinguish itself from other teen and young adult chains. One way has been through fashion shows, which have been recently held in Miami, Las Vegas and New Orleans. Photos from the Times Square show Saturday, which begins at 9 p.m., will be used for the store’s holiday marketing campaign.
GILT CITY EXPANDS: The lifestyle arm of flash sale site Gilt Groupe introduced four new cities to its offerings Monday — Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle and Washington — making the site now available in 10 cities across the U.S. This is the biggest expansion since the September 2010 launch of Gilt City, which now has more than 1.8 million members worldwide. The site’s other markets include New York City, Boston, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Tokyo.