Burberry To Consolidate Brit, London And Prorsum Labels Into A Single Monobrand By Next Year

More than a few eyebrows were discreetly raised several months ago when Marc Jacobs said he would do it, and now Burberry is the next designer  brand to follow suit and combine all of its various sub-labels into a singular, all encompassing Burberry brand. After next Spring, you will say goodbye to the separate Prorsum, Brit and London labels as creative director Christopher Bailey undoes the tiered strategy installed by former CEO Rose Marie Bravo who spearheaded the British brand's reinvention in the late 1990s. In a statement to the press yesterday, Bailey says he is after “a much more consistent experience of the collections. Those categories were created when Burberry sales were 70 percent wholesale and 30 percent retail. Now it’s the opposite, with retail sales that are bigger. The key is to present a cohesive brand experience.”
In doing so, Bailey is adopting the model of European luxury brands like Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton which have generally eschewed diffusion offshoot labels. A few years ago, Dolce & Gabbana closed its lower priced D&G collection which had originally been a more casual licensed jeans and sportswear line that developed into fully fledged sub-brand. Folding it back into the main collection may have lost it a few retail doors, but ultimately, it has left the hugely popular label with a stronger, more focused fashion image. Similarly, Marc Jacobs  announced late last year that his Marc by Marc Jacobs contemporary label will be merged into a more broadly defined main collection for Spring 2016, and now Burberry is following a similar path to strengthen its brand image.
While there are two main Burberry boutiques on East 57th Street and in SoHo, the smaller Brit and London shops on Bleecker Street, Madison Avenue and at Brookfield Place will be rebranded simply as Burberry by next Summer. Bailey has already begun to mix the three labels in his runway shows (including Spring 2016 pictured above) which had previously been restricted to the most luxurious Prorsum label. In case you are wondering if the company is just trying to put a spin on cutting losses, there will reportedly be no jobs eliminated in the brand consolidation. In fact, the company is doing so well that it has announced a plans for a new factory in Leeds, England which will allow it to increaser its iconic trench coats. The new facility will include state of the art technology that will alleviate pressure on the two Yorkshire factories which have been pushed to capacity manufacturing the coveted coats from the weaving of the fabric to the finished product.

Burberry to Merge Brands, Open New Factory (WWD)


Lanvin Employees In Turmoil Following Alber Elbaz Dismissal

Alber Elbaz takes his final bow at Lanvin's Spring/Summer 2016 runway show in a still from the video on Lanvin's website

While the luxury industry's collective head is still spinning from the unexpected turn of events at some of the most prominent labels in Paris, it looks like the story of Alber Elbaz at Lanvin might not be completely over. WWD is reporting that the house's 330 employees are devastated that the beloved designer has been pushed out and are using whatever resources available to them to protest. The company's works council, an employee board that that French companies apparently have, is demanding that Taiwan-based Lanvin owner Shawn-Lan Wang return to Paris to answer their concerns and hear their pleas to reinstate Elbaz. 
Shortly after Elbaz's departure from Lanvin was confirmed, it became clear that he did not resign, but was dismissed by the owner over disagreements not about the label's creative direction or his workload, but about business issues, specifically, Ms. Wang's failure to secure sufficient financing to successfully support Lanvin's continued growth. Elbaz, along with other minority shareholders, have been pressuring her to sell her majority stake to someone better able to fund the company's expansion, specifically the rollout of more company owned boutiques. This is an area where Lanvin lags behind its competitors, receiving only about 20% of its revenue from its own stores, causing it to rely too heavily on the wholesale business. This has slowed Lanvin's growth as well as development of ancillary divisions like handbags and accessories. WWD had previously reported that Ms. Wang has been reluctant to sell, demanding too high of a price for the company and requiring a handpicked buyer which .
Whether Lanvin's employees have the clout to reverse their boss's decision, or Elbaz will even return if asked remains to be seen, but it seems that Ms. Wang has not only turned out her golden goose, but also alienated the rest of the company, whose support she will need to move forward.

Lanvin Employees Contest Alber Elbaz Ouster (WWD)


Alber Elbaz Is Leaving Lanvin

So, basically, no designer is secure in his or her job unless they also own the company outright.
Today, on the heels of Raf Simons' exit from Christian Dior, Lanvin announced that the designer who seemed most secure in his position at a great Parisian maison, Alber Elbaz, would be leaving his job as creative director there following a disagreement with the company's major shareholder.
The obvious conjecture is that much as they did with Nicolas Ghesquiere, who left Balenciaga and landed at Louis Vuitton, Bernard Arnault and LVMH will scoop up the much loved designer and install him in the corresponding post at Dior that Raf Simons just vacated.
Whether or not that will happen, and the hopes of Elbaz's many fans and probably a lot of retailers are certainly pinned on it, remains to be seen, but there is a similar scenario connecting the situations of both Ghesquiere and Elbaz. Both can be credited with not only reviving storied French couture houses which had fallen into quasi obscurity, but reshaping them from the bottom up and catapulting them to the forefront of the fashion scene in Paris. Both departed their respective companies with equity stakes originally meant to keep them tied to the houses and resistant to potential poaching by competing labels. Both left as result of unhappiness with upper management, requiring costly buyouts of their ownership stakes.
A hint of Elbaz's recent state of mind can be gleaned from an acceptance speech he gave just last week when he was honored at Fashion Group International's annual Night of Stars gala, pictured above with presenter Meryl Streep in an Lanvin Instagram post from earlier today. In an unexpectedly long speech, Elba expounded on the relentlessly accelerating pace of the industry and the pressure it puts on designers' creative process. Would Elbaz even want the notoriously high pressure job at Dior which comes with its own limitations and pressures? He has been rumored to have interviewed with LVMH for open design positions in the past, but ultimately choosing to remain at Lanvin where he has had his greatest success. Elbaz released the following departure statement of his own:

"At this time of my departure from Lanvin on the decision of the company’s majority shareholder, I wish to express my gratitude and warm thoughts to all those who have worked with me passionately on the revival of Lanvin over the last 14 years; express my affection to all my wonderful colleagues in the Lanvin ateliers who accompanies me, and who enriched and supported my work. Together we have met the creative challenge presented by Lanvin and have restored its radiance and have returned it to its rightful position among France’s absolute luxury fashion houses.

"I also wish to express my profound and deepest gratitude to all of the clients and friends, to the French and international press and to all those business partners who collaborated with Lanvin, providing us with support since 2001."

"I wish the house of Lanvin the future it deserves among the best French luxury brands, and hope that it finds the business vision it needs to engage in the right way forward."

With two of the biggest design jobs in Paris now open, let the speculations fly, but it must be noted that well-known Elbaz fan and friend Natalie Portman has a fragrance endorsement at Dior, but often appears in Lanvin when her contract allows her to wear other labels. There's one person who would likely be thrilled to keep her favorite designer's clothes coming, regardless of what label he designs under.

Alber Elbaz Leaving Lanvin, Label Confirms (Business of Fashion)


Raf Simons Exiting Christian Dior

RafSimons The Fashion world will be driven to distraction for at least the next few weeks trying to predict who will be tapped to fill its most prominent vacancy now that Raf Simons has announced that he is leaving his post as creative director for Christian Dior. In a surprise move, Simons chose not to renew his contract by all reports for personal reasons despite Dior management's efforts to negotiate a deal for him to stay. While his reasons may be clarified in days to come, he wouldn't be the first designer to feel overburdened by the six collections he was responsible for there as couturier and women's prêt-à-porter designer along with his responsibilities at his own Belgian-based menswear label where he originally made his name in the 1990s.
Expect the same names to be bandied about as the last time a prominent vacancy emerged, but speculators should keep in mind that some of the most qualified candidates —Nicolas Ghesquière, Riccardo Tisci, Phoebe Philo etc.— are already ensconced as fashion labels which, like Dior, are controlled  by LVMH chief Bernard Arnault. It is unlikely that they would be moved while the companies where they are currently employed are doing too well for their progress to be disrupted.
The job will have to be filled soon. Any new appointment will have to have a Dior Haute Couture collection for Spring 2016 ready to be shown in January, so let the speculations fly.


It's Chapter 11 Bankruptcy For American Apparel

American-apparel2In what has been seen as an inevitable move, American Apparel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late on Sunday. The move will allow the company to restructure a massive debt load as it continues to transition to new management after the ouster of controversial founder and former CEO Dov Charney.
WWD reports that the filing will allow for $90 million of debtor-in-possession financing, most of which will go toward restructuring the company. It will also cut the chain's debt from $300 million to an estimated $135 million, reducing annual interest by as much as $20 million. Those are big numbers which demonstrate how dire the company's situation has become. While American Apparel's management continues to battle legal challenges from Charney, a great deal of its troubles stem from issues that developed under Charney's management such as enormous amounts of excess inventory that had to be sold at margin destroying clearance sales, as well as expensive investment in operational systems that ultimately functioned poorly.
In a public statement, current American Apparel CEO Paula Schneider stated, “This restructuring will enable American Apparel to become a stronger, more vibrant company. By improving our financial footing, we will be able to refocus our business efforts on the execution of our turnaround strategy as we look to create new and relevant products, launch new design and merchandising initiatives, invest in new stores, grow our e-commerce business and create captivating new marketing campaigns that will help drive our business forward.”
One of the effects of the bankruptcy will also likely be an opportunity to close poorly performing store locations. While a few American Apparel store locations have vanished in recent months —like the recently shuttered Upper West Side unit in the Ansonia building— we may see more locations go dark as the chain has the chance to jettison particularly unprofitable stores.
While a lot of people hear bankruptcy and immediately think "going-out-of-business", what this news means is that the company now has a stronger chance of moving forward successfully and reinventing itself for a post-Charney future. Instead of the slow motion train wreck it has been over the past year, American Apparel just might be a chain we can watch as it evolves into something new.

American Apparel Files for Bankruptcy (WWD)


Tom Ford's Spring/Summer 2016 Show Is A Dreamy Lady Gaga Video

Tom Ford
is busy with a new movie right now, so the question of where and when he would show his Spring 2016 women's collection has been in the air over the past few weeks. He announced that there would be no runway show this season, and teased a video that has finally hit the web this morning, and it looks like more fun than any runway show you'll stream this season.
Ford enlisted photographer Nick Knight, a gaggle of the hottest models on the runways including Mica Arganaraz, Lexi Boling, Kayla Scott, Xaio Wen Ju, Valery Kaufman, Aymeline Valade, Lida Fox, Lucky Blue Smith, Alex Dunstan, David Agbodji and Tarun Nijjer and, the real surprise, Lady Gaga, who recorded a special cover of Chic's "I Want Your Love" for a disco soaked 3 minutes and 36 seconds of pure fashion pleasure in the form of an old fashioned Soul Train-style runway party. On his website, Ford explains how it all came together,

Instead of having a traditional show this season, I wanted to think about how to present a collection in a cinematic way that was designed from its inception to be presented online. I have always loved "Soul Train" which used to be on TV in the 70's; as it was as much about the clothes the music. I asked Nile Rodgers to collaborate on a new version of one of his great hits from that time, "I Want Your Love," and worked with Gaga to record the vocals. I then staged a full show in Los Angeles and filmed it with Gaga on the runway, Nick Knight directing and Benoit Delhomme as our director of photography.

Now, why won't anyone let models move like this on the real runways anymore?
Watch and rewatch over and over again below.


Hermès Is Politely Feuding With The Birkin Bag's Namesake

Hermes-birkinWhat do you do when the person whom you have named your most famous product after slams you in the press?
This week, actress Jane Birkin caused a fashion scandal by publicly asking Hermès to remove her name from the crocodile version of its signature Birkin bag after having seen a video produced by People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals that detailed brutal slaughtering and skinning methods of alligators and crocodiles. It appears that Birkin would like for her name to remain on the other versions of the famous handbag, but be removed from the luxury crocodile version (pictured at left) which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
In a response statement issued today, Hermès International states, “Jane Birkin has expressed her concerns regarding practices for slaughtering crocodiles. Her comments do not in any way influence the friendship and confidence that we have shared for many years. Hermès respects and shares her emotions and was also shocked by the images recently broadcast.”
While it declined to rename any of its products, the French luxury label stated that the farm depicted in the video is not one of its suppliers and is also under investigation for violating approved slaughter methods for alligators and crocodiles, whose use has been highly regulated since being removed from the endangered species list decades ago. The company indicated that not only does it meticulously follow established rules and regulations in acquiring animal skins for its products, it also visits its suppliers on a monthly basis to ensure that standards are being upheld.
Ultimately, this is a case of PETA attacking a famous animal product using brand and taking advantage of a celebrity connection for extra publicity. The advocacy group is famous for showing grisly videos of animal abuse and slaughter to gather support for its cause, but it may now be better understood that one cruel and abusive factory does not accurately represent an entire industry. Hermès like many other famous companies focused on leathergoods (Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton etc.) has probably become used to attacks from PETA and other similar groups and appears unfazed. Where Jane Birkin will ultimately fall on the dispute remains to be seen, but while PETA has gotten a few days of publicity out of the deal, it seems unlikely that anything will change at Hermès.

Hermès Responds to Jane Birkin Appeal (WWD)


Alexander Wang Said To Be Already Exiting Balenciaga

AlexanderWangbyStevenKleinDidn't he just get there?
It's never a good sign when your supposedly confidential contract renewal negotiations are breathlessly reported upon for weeks, and while there has been no official announcement, WWD is reporting that Alexander Wang (pictured at right) is already leaving his post as creative director at Balenciaga after barely three years at the fabled house. Wang was hired to replace Nicolas Ghesquiere who left abruptly in 2012 and now appears to be comfortably ensconced at Louis Vuitton.
While Wang's tenure at the house has been favorably but not rapturously received by critics and the press, business is said to have been good under the designer whose notoriety kept attention on the label after Ghesquiere's unceremonious exit. He has revamped the company's retail design templates, kept its important handbag and accessory business humming with new styles and even tweaked the logo. Unlike his predecessor, however, Wang's design approach at Balenciaga has been much more reverent of the style of the brand's namesake, offering a sleeker, more elegant fashion image often focused on a black and while color schemes, which has dismayed fashion watchers who were expecting more adventuresome looks. Ghesquiere revived the nearly dormant label by veering between collections that only occasionally paid tribute to the archives and ones that highlighted streetwear looks or innovative materials that looked to the future. His signature item, the motorcycle bag, is decidedly not a reference to the sculptural couture designs of Cristóbal Balenciaga, and yet it remains an important component of the accessory collection well over a decade after its introduction.
It is also thought that Wang's expected departure signals the designer's interest in focusing more on his own New York based label which continues to grow. The rumored move suggests that the paradigm of a star designer heading two big brands based on two different continents may be over as creative directors find the constant commuting exhausting and the corporately owned couture houses increasingly want designers who will focus all their creativity on one label. Designers like Christophe Lemaire and Marc Jacobs have both indicated a desire to consolidate their attention on their own labels as part of the reason for their leaving Hermès and Vuitton respectively. For its part, WWD is reporting that executives from Balenciaga and Kering, its parent company, are looking for a lesser known emerging designer who can be promoted to replace Wang and hopefully create the kind of excitement and press attention that Gucci designer Alessandro Michele has enjoyed since replacing Frida Giannini at the Kering-owned Gucci earlier this year —although the jury is still out on how customers will react to Gucci's dramatically changed fashion offerings. Wang's final collection for Balenciaga is said to be for Spring 2016 to be shown this fall in Paris. If there is to be a replacement announced, look for it to happen after Paris Fashion Week — if the company can keep it under wraps until then.

Alexander Wang, Balenciaga Said Parting Ways (WWD)


New York Fashion Week Men's Is Unveiled With Shinola, Timo Weiland, Duckie Brown & Robert Geller

Yesterday The Shophound finally got a look at the long awaited New York Fashion Week: Men's at Skylight Clarkson Square on the northwestern edge of SoHo —and it looks good. Pretty much anything would be an improvement over cramming the American men's designer shows into the overstuffed women's schedule, but the new set-up seem to be working well, as far as we could tell, though some designers seemed to have growing pains in leaving their familiar showing spaces.
The good part is that the oppressive promotional atmosphere of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is gone, and on a day where scattered showers could make traveling around town problematic, a central location saved us and others from potential drenching.  Also, since the shows are in a real building, there are real bathrooms —an amenity whose importance is not to be underestimated. The sponsors are fewer and more relevant. Cadillac's show car is parked on the sidewalk where it belongs rather than in the middle of things leaving lots of room for showgoers to sit down, charge their devices and get to work without having to squeeze into some cramped press pen. Amazon has kept its promotional presence relevant, focusing on the fashion division it is dedicated to growing. Another major sponsor, SHINOLA (pictured above), used its space to present its Spring 2016 collection, giving the Shophound a chance to chat with our friend Richard Lambertson of Lambertson Truex who have transformed the Detroit-based brand's  artisanally styled leather line into a fully fledged accessories collection ready to compete at the top levels in quality and design with other luxury brands. No longer a charming side offering to the watches and bikes, the line boasts the same sumptuous leathers we are used to seeing from Shinola, now made into beautifully constructed duffels, backpacks, messenger bags and small leather goods featuring the thoughtful topstitching and details that erstwhile Lambertson Truex fans will recognize. Lambertson now shuttles between New York and Detroit where his design studio and sample workrooms are located, and like all of Shinola's products, the entire collection is manufactured in the U.S.A.

Next we were off to check out TIMO WEILAND's presentation. Platform 3, as the venue was called is a smaller room meant for static presentations. In recent seasons, the label has been showing its menswear at the Highline Hotel's cavernous space, and the move to a smaller room was not without its glitches. perhaps next season, they will avoid making a v-shaped presentation format that basically pushed the showers into a bottleneck against the narrower end of the room. Live and learn, but the collection looked fresh, a priority with the added attention a dedicated men's fashion week will bring. Known for a twisted take on preppy clothes, designers Weiland, Alan Eckstein and Donna Kang gave us more twist and less preppy for a more sophisticated feeling and a more international look. The line looked great. The presentation format needs rethinking.

Shophound Faves DUCKIE BROWN also had some relocation pains in moving from their longtime venue at Industria to the larger Platform 2 room at Clarkson Square. Menswear's current fascination with androgyny should put the veteran indie label right in its spotlight, as Steven Cox and Daniel Silver have been mixing masculine elements and traditionally feminine materials since day one. Their Spring 2016 collection found a way to continue their techniques without looking like their models stumbled through their mothers' closets or ransacked an overpriced thrift shop like a few high-profile European luxury brands have. Unfortunately, what was uncharacteristically awkward was the show staging which had half of the models walking the runway in shadow, frustrating the photographers who, as they will, made their displeasure known vocally. Having guest seated only on one side of the runway also left large portion of the room unused which seemed ill-advised. Again, with added attention to menswear this week, one would have liked such an accomplished collection to simply be seen better.

ROBERT GELLER, however, made the most of his new space. Used to showing in along, narrow, sometimes problematic space at Pier 59 Studios, the designer took to the spacious Platform 1 with apparent ease, constructing a northern European seaside-inspired set and a J-shaped runway format that made the most of the complex's largest room. Geller's sportswear beautifully reflected menswear's slow but steady move away from tight silhouettes toward looser fitting clothes with his rich color sense in full effect. Quirky hats and knitted cummerbunds pulled the looks together. Overall it was an upgrade in presentation for Geller along with a further evolution for his label.
Have a glimpse at the shows in the gallery below

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  • RobertGellerSS16-Finale


Donna Karan To Step Down With Her Signature Collection To Be Suspended

Donna_Karan_VF_2012_ShankboneAs the fashion press prepares for Haute Couture collections in Paris and the debut of New York's first organized Men's Fashion Week, one of the pillars of modern American fashion has dropped a bombshell. Donna Karan is stepping down as the chief designer of Donna Karan International, the company she founded on 1984.
She plans to maintain a close advisory role at the company, now a division of LVMH, but is expected to devote greater time to her own Urban Zen company and foundation. Karan's reduced role does not come as a total surprise to those in the industry who have observed over a period of years that the designer's interest seemed more focused on her personal projects than on the labels she created in the 1980s. What is a surprise, however is that rather than replacing her as designer for the flagship Donna Karan Collection as PVI did at Calvin Klein with Francisco Costa when its namesake designer reduced his role, DKI will suspend those collections and runway shows "for now", WWD reports. That leaves a very changed DKI, with DKNY as its main fashion driver. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow of Public School will be presenting their debut as DKNY's creative directors at New York Fashion Week this September.
While one might have expected that the Donna Karan collection would have been strong enough to continue with a new creative director, it has now been many years since Karan's original label has been the retail powerhouse that it was in the 80s and 90s when its deceptively simple designs powered by its designer's charisma and a rabidly devoted customer base racked up huge numbers for retailers. Her seasonal public appearance at Bergdorf Goodman regularly drew record-busting crowds to meet her, but it has been decades since Karan has presided over a trunk show, and collection no longer commands the prized real estate in department stores that it once did, despite more enthusiastic reviews for her runway shows in recent years along with a resurgence in her label's favorable appearance at red-carpet events and award shows.
Still, it's hard to imagine a New York fashion scene without a collection designed by Donna Karan who has been fixture since she took over the reins at Anne Klein in 1974 with Louis Dell'Olio. Look for lots of retrospectives and much deserved tributes in the days ahead.

Donna Karan to Step Down at DKI (WWD)