MEN'S FASHION WEEK SNAPSHOT:

Duckie Brown Pares Down

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They weren't kidding when they called it "Just A Little Duckie".
Steven Cox and Daniel Silver gave the menswear crowd a jolt yesterday morning with their surprising Duckie Brown show at NYFW Men's which lasted for exactly six looks. That's the entire collection pictured above.
What did it all mean? 
It seems clear that the duo was presenting a 'Back to Basics' moment. The label has had its ups and downs over the past few years with a surprise hit shoe collaboration with Florsheim that put the brand in front of en exponentially larger customer base than it had ever seen before. A follow-up apparel line with Perry Ellis fizzled, however, with nothing of the collaboration ever seeing production. The designers have been candid lately about the struggles of being independent designers once the lucrative collaborations end, and their response has been to pare down their collection to the most basic pieces. As the fashion world has finally caught up with Duckie Brown's signature explorations in androgyny, Cox and Silver have turned to the core items of men's clothing. Blazers, pants, shirts and coats all reshaped with Duckie Brown proportions. Sometimes, less really is more, especially when it's time to start again from scratch.


COURSE CORRECTION BLOODBATH:

Macy's Is Closing 40 Stores & Planning Off-Price Outlets Inside Existing Stores

MacysHSIs it really such a big deal to close 40 stores if you have 773 of them?
Maybe not. After all, it's less than 10% of the Macy's store count, but it just goes to show that the kind of course correction that might be seen as relatively innocuous for another company becomes an event of a completely different scale when you are the 800 (or possibly 773) pound gorilla of the department store industry.
In fact, 40 stores is substantially bigger than most of the regional chains that have been absorbed over the years by what is now known as Macy's Inc. The mega-chain didn't get that big organically. It is the result of individual acquisitions like the Bamburger's chain once well expanded through the Mid-Atlantic region, but more importantly mergers with larger consolidated retailers that operated many individual nameplates. The current chain includes the remnants of former retail giants Allied Stores, Federated Department Stores and May Company which have ultimately put Macy's in every major market in America.
One could argue that despite pruning its fleet less dramatically over the years, those mergers and acquisitions have still left Macy's over-stored. In many cases acquired stores in the same mall as an existing location have been converted to separate Home or Menswear units and in at least one case, Tyson's Corner Virginia, there are two full Macy's stores literally across the street from each other in competing malls. Both of those stores are remaining open, a testament to the strength of that particular market where elsewhere it would be clearly redundant.
Three to four sales jobs will be cut from each of Macy's existing stores —which doesn't do much to respond to the recurring complaint that it is hard to find a salesperson in Macy's. That will still be a whopping loss of about 3,000 jobs. In addition only about 30% of retiring or voluntarily departing senior executives will be replaced, and about 600 back office jobs will be eliminated with 450 of those workers being laid off permanently rather than reassigned within the company. The total job loss is expected to be about 3,500 positions.
All of this is a response to a 4.7% decide in sales over the past few months which was higher than predicted. It is almost certain that the extremely unseasonably warm weather in most of the United States over the Fall season has contributed to the drop.
“In light of our disappointing 2015 sales and earnings performance, we are making adjustments to become more efficient and productive in our operations," says Macy's Chairman and CEO Terry J. Lundgren in a press release issued yesterday outlining the chain's strategy, "Moreover, we believe we can operate more effectively with an organization that is flatter and more agile so we can pursue growth and regain market share in our core Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s omnichannel businesses faster and with more intensity."
It's not all grim news, however. Three new Macy's stores and Two Bloomingdale's branches are set to open by Fall 2018, but more interestingly, the Macy's Backstage format, a budding off-price chain meant to compete with Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off-5th and the like, is set to grow with 50 new units, most of which will be opening within existing Macy's stores rather than as freestanding entities.
We remind ourselves that 50 stores is only a fraction of the 733 stores that will remain after the store culling, but it means that an off-price or clearance department will become a permanent fixture in some of the chain's full-line stores. What will this be like, and how will it affect the chain's full-price selling and its typically heavy promotional activity? Also unknown is how the chain's key vendors will feel about having to compete with discounted merchandise in the same store that normally would have been diverted to other channels after seasonal clearance sales. That will be very interesting to see unfold as, traditionally, most other chains have chosen to at least keep their outlet stores in separate buildings, though they have been losing in on their full-line mothership locations in recent years. We are reminded that Filene's Basement began literally in the basement of the flagship Filene's department store in Downtown Boston. Though it was eventually spun off into a separate company, it ultimately lasted longer than its namesake progenitor. Do we dare draw comparisons?

Macy’s, Inc. Outlines Cost Efficiency Initiatives and Lists Store Locations to Be Closed (Press Release)


FASHION WEEK FALLOUT:

Fashion Week Is Falling Apart Again, But It's OK Because Tom Ford Is Coming Back!

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Now that it has abandoned its unloved tent complex at Lincoln Center for some alarmingly stark quarters in SoHo and the glacially developing Moynihan Station in Midtown, the future of New York Fashion Week still seems to be in question. The CFDA has retained Boston Consulting Group to conduct a multi-week study to determine how designers should proceed with their seasonal runway shows in the future. With Thakoon's new owners promising to upend the runway system to provide a stronger buy-now wear-now business plan and  Rebecca Minkoff promising to put on an in-season show of her Spring 2016 collection this February (does that mean she is going to re-show the collection she already presented last September?) and replace some editors and press in the audience with customers, Designers are once again questioning the wisdom of heavily publicizing their newest collections online and through social media half a year before anyone can actually buy anything. Retailers and designers are again offering opinions, without seeming to realize that if they turned fashion week into a series of buy-now promotional events, they would have to the put on some other kinds of presentations for the next season for retailers and editors who still need long lead times to fill their stores and shoot their stories. European designers -for whom live streaming runway shows to anyone with a high-speed internet connection is far more prevalent- seem to have looked in the direction of New York to basically say, "Let us know how that goes. We're going to keep doing things the way we always have".
While New York's designers quibble about what to put on runways —their main concern seems to be keeping their collections under wraps to avoid fast-fashion copyists— one expat has announced that he will be returning to show his Fall 2016 collections for men and women in New York. Yes, Tom Ford, who has been bending the fashion system to his fit his own needs for the past two seasons, has announced that he will be doing small presentations in New York on February 18th to buyers and press rather than showing in Milan or London where he has been showing in the past. Ford has been busy moonlighting on his next movie which is why last Spring he debuted his Fall 2015 collection with a star-studded show in Los Angeles during Oscar week, and stayed off the runways altogether for his Spring 2016 collection by releasing a secretly produced virtual runway show/disco party/music video starring Lady Gaga which was a hell of a lot more entertaining than a good portion of the runway shows that The Shophound has ever attended (we have embedded it below again because it is still just so much fun to watch). For the past two seasons, Ford has proved that he has enough clout and control over his wholly owned business to basically do whatever he wants for fashion week, but like Givenchy's visit to New York last September, you can now count on Ford's intimate showings in February to be the hottest ticket that will overshadow everyone else. Perhaps he is telling us that the way to win Fashion Week is to be bold and show however you want wherever it suits you. Who will have the guts to follow his lead?

Tom Ford to Show Women’s Wear, Men’s Wear in New York in February (WWD)


BRAND MANAGEMENT:

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

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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)


REPORT:

Lanvin Employees In Turmoil Following Alber Elbaz Dismissal

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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)


BOMBSHELL REDUX:

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)


BREAKING NEWS:

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.


CONTINUING SAGA:

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)


FASHION WEEK SPECIAL:

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

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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.
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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.

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


LUXURY DISPUTES:

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)