What 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.
What do you do when the person whom you have named your most famous product after slams you in the press?
We were pretty sure that this was a decision that had to be made quickly, and it was. Following on the heels of
NBCUniversal, Univision and several other companies, Macy's Inc. has dropped Donald Trump merchandise from its 789 stores.
A statement released today reads:
“Macy’s is a company that stands for diversity and inclusion. We have no tolerance for discrimination in any form. We welcome all customers, and respect for the dignity of all people is a cornerstone of our culture. We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico. We do not believe the disparaging characterizations portray an accurate picture of the many Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Latinos who have made so many valuable contributions to the success of our nation. In light of statements made by Donald Trump, which are inconsistent with Macy’s values, we have decided to discontinue our business relationship with Mr. Trump and will phase-out the Trump men’s wear collection, which has been sold at Macy’s since 2004.”
This comes in the wake of a moveon.org petition that garnered over 7000,000 signatures in a few days protesting the real estate mogul and declared presidential candidate's statements about Mexican immigrants earlier this month while announcing his candidacy. His characterization of them as drug-ridden criminals and rapists incensed many in the media world and caused Univision to drop the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and NBCUniversal to also cancel the pageants as well as sever all other ties with him, effectively banning him from returning to The Celebrity Apprentice reality show should he not get elected to the highest office in America.
Macy's has sold Trump branded merchandise for about 10 years, and often used him as a spokesperson for the store most prominently in TV adds along with Martha Stewart, Tommy Hilfiger, Sean "P.Diddy" Combs and other designers and celebrities whose product lines the store carries exclusively. The most recent such personality is Mexican singer and actress Thalía, whose collections launched at the chain earlier this year in an effort to invite more Latino customers to shop at Macy's. That would, of course, be at odds with showcasing Trump's merchandise, especially as the list of companies and celebrities distancing themselves from him grows longer. WWD describes Tump and Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren as "golf buddies", and notes that Macy's has also been a supporter of the Ice Skating in Harlem program for young girls, which holds an annual benefit at Trump (formerly Wollman) Rink in Central Park. There's no word whether or not that sponsorship will continue. At this point, Donald Trump's theory that his business experience makes him a good choice for president seems only to be proving that, at least at a consumer level, politics and business are better off staying as far away from each other as possible.
And the shoe is on the other foot.
Will Donald Trump's retail partners now give him the boot as well?
Yesterday, Donald Trump who has reveled in dismissing contestants from his reality show "The Apprentice" with a curt "You're Fired!" got a taste of his own medicine when NBCUniversal announced that it would no longer air the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants which they both co-own, and end its relationship with him altogether. Initially, Spanish-language network Univision announced that it would drop the pageants in response to Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants in his speech earlier in June announcing his candidacy for the presidency. He referred to them as mostly criminals and rapists which incensed not just Mexican but many other immigrant communities from Latin America and beyond. Now that NBC has followed suit by ending its association with the real estate mogul, who had already announced he would not be hosting upcoming seasons of "The Apprentice" while he campaigns for President, attention turns to Macy's which sells men's tailored clothing, furnishings (pictured above) and home items under the Donald J. Trump and Trump Home labels as well as his fragrance called Success. WWD reports that a moveon.org petition garnered over 700,000 signatures on Monday, pressuring the store to dump Trump's brands which it carries exclusively. Trump's anti-Mexican screed has put Macy's at odds with its efforts to target Hispanic customers including a huge private brand launch earlier this year featuring Thalia, the Mexican singer and telenovela star. Macy's may be weighing its potential Thalia business against its current Trump business right now, because in classic fashion Trump has remained unapologetic about his statements, instead choosing to slam Univision and NBCU for dismissing him and his productions. Will Macy's be next in line for Trump's retaliatory vitriol? Time will tell, but this issue seems to be gaining traction rather than blowing over as the typically self congratulatory businessman discovers that being a general jerk gets taken very differently once you officially put yourself forth as a candidate for President.
Retail real estate is renting at such high levels right now that it doesn't really matter if a landlord has a prestigious and desirable renter. Tenants who aren't paying optimum prices for leases in pricey neighborhoods are almost guaranteed to be pushed out including tony designers like Vera Wang, who has just sued the landlords of her Mercer Street boutique in SoHo (pictured left). Premier Equities purchased the retail condo of 158 Mercer Street earlier this year and promptly billed her for $272,000 in back taxes on her $45,920 monthly rent since her store opened in 2007. Wang contends that the previous owner covered the taxes, and the new owners simply want to oust her because she is paying around $220 per square foot while the average asking rate is now nearly $1,000 for a location like hers. While Wang's lease is up in 2016, she has the option to renew for five more years, which would make it a long wait for the owners to optimize their revenues from the building's retail space. How the case will shake out remains unclear, but it shows that landlords, particularly ones that have just taken over a property with existing clients, are becoming increasingly ruthless, even with presumably enviable clients.
Bridezilla: Vera Wang sues landlord to keep Soho lease (The Real Deal)
Well, you can't please everybody.
Since it was discovered that an Apple Store was opening on the corner of Madison Avenue and 74th Street, (pictured at right under construction) a group of neighborhood residents has been protesting that new establishment would destroy the genteel character of the neighborhood and create disruptive lines with the company's periodic product launches. Last week, 89-year-old Herbert Feinberg, a longtime neighborhood resident and the leader of this NIMBY protest, filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court to prevent the store's opening which is scheduled for this Saturday, June 13th. Court papers state, "Madison Avenue is one of the great New York City Streets ... (and local residents) are opposed to the congestion and commercialization of the neighborhood that the store will bring,” as the suit attempts to prosecute complaints about the upcoming store such as the "massive increase in pedestrian traffic" it is expected to bring. According to Feinberg, the neighborhood is only meant for small luxury boutiques and galleries. Despite the measurable drop in traffic since the Whitney Museum at Madison and 75th decamped for the Meatpacking District, The Metropolitan Museum of Art which is planning to make use of the building in the coming months, is expected to make up the shortfall with even larger crowds. The suit also refers to the over 400 signatures Mr. Feinberg has collected to block the store as the leader of group called "Saving the 74th Street Residential Neighborhood." Of course, it has been widely reported that merchants on Madison Avenue above 72nd Street are suffering from the drop in traffic since the Whitney's departure, and are actually hoping that the Apple Store will do exactly what Mr. Feinberg is predicting it will in bringing shoppers to the area.
According to the Daily News, Mr. Feinberg has taken it upon himself to personally file suit because the city officials responsible for such zoning issues had ignored his pleas to save the neighborhood from this retailing scourge, which would actually suggest that they are ignoring frivolous and unreasonable complaints, hopefully in favor of dealing with more pressing issues. Though The Shophound is not a legal expert, it is hard for us to imagine that any judge not dismissing this case outright , especially since Apple claims to have specifically conceived the store to be in keeping with the neighborhood's hours and character and no actual laws or zoning rules appear to have been violated. It doesn't seem like this will end well for Mr. Feinberg who is likely to have accomplished no more than confirming the stereotype of Upper East Siders as self centered snobs.
This has been a big week for Sample Sales. The Shophound checked out a few yesterday, and found a patient line outside of Band of Outsiders, eager shoppers still scooping up bargains at the ICB/J.Press/York Street/Cardigan sale and a calm shoppers perusing The News showroom where there were still good items to be found from Tim Coppens, Public School and Common Projects among others. Even the Sferra Sale at Chelsea Market was also relaxed but doing good business, with no pushing or shoving. Perhaps the advantage of an abundance of sample sales happening at the same time is that the crowds get spread out making it easier to shop all the sales —a theory that might hold true until you get to Manolo Blahnik.
Yesterday, the crown jewel of every Sample Sale season took place as it always does at the Warwick Hotel in midtown, but all reports have all hell breaking loose as shoppers fell into the worst possible behavior to be found when there are bargains to be had. It's not like this is a rare occurrence. We know there will be a Manolo Blahnik sample sale every season, but this time they were cagier than usual, with rumors circulating that it would be last week, and then confirmation that it would happen for sure yesterday without any specific hours announced. Manolo's folks really weren't out to make getting inside easy for the non-VIP, but enough people knew the drill for about 100 of them to get in line on Thursday morning to get an entry ticket. What happened when they were let in was, reportedly, total mayhem. Our friends at Racked report that what was once a relatively civilized event that often had André Leon Talley holding court and advising shoppers had devolved into a circus of hoarders who had ransacked the place, indiscriminately filling the sale's own plastic bins from under the tables with as many pairs of shoes as they could grab and hauling them to the cashiers.
This is what is commonly known as eBay reseller behavior, but it is rarely demonstrated with such blatant zeal. On the one hand, some companies really don't much care who buys the goods at their sample sales as long as they clear out of their old merchandise, but on the other, sample sales are not meant to be de-facto wholesale opportunities for small-time online entrepreneurs who can make a nice profit when prices start at $100.
How the folks at Manolo Blank will react to the eBay invasion remains to be seen.
Will they shrug their shoulders and carry on as always?
Will they impose a limited number of pairs to purchase per customer? After all, does anyone really buy more than 6, 8 or 10 pairs just for themselves at this sale?
Or, will they just abolish the sample sale altogether? (All together now: This is why we can't have nice things)
Maybe they will move it to another city like L.A. or Chicago where they can count on a sophisticated population who would jump at the rare chance to have a Manolo Blahnik sample sale in their own city.
We will have to wait and see.
The Shophound has certainly seen more than our share of eBay resellers at sale events, but they tend to maintain some degree of discretion as they load up their arms with goods. If it comes to the point where they are hoarding the goods away from everyone else, will we see the end of our favorite sample sales as designers turn to alternative methods for disposing of their overstock?
Two controversial apparel CEOs lost their jobs last year.
One, Abercrombie & Fitch's Mike Jeffries apparently recognized when it was finally over for him and left without creating a public spectacle.
The other, Dov Charney (pictured right), the founder of American Apparel, has been fighting tooth and nail to regain his position and control of the company he created, but it's not looking good. After his initial ouster, Charney joined forces with hedge fund Standard General in an unusual deal that combined his stock with their financial backing to regain control of the chain. Ultimately Standard General wound up supporting the board in its firing of Charney for a host of reasons, the most attention getting being his inappropriate behavior in the workplace over the years as well as allegedly misusing funds. Feeling double crossed, Charney has been pursuing legal action, but new reports have American Apparel gathering a sizable dossier of complaints from employees over the years about workplace conditions regarding their former boss's behavior. According to Bloomberg News, the complaints are recorded in e-mails as well as video and audio recordings and include incidents of Charney throwing a medicine bottle at an employee as well as calling another a "slut" and a "whore". A departing employee reportedly stated, "I’m afraid to return to work and face further abuse," in a resignation letter. An unnamed former American Apparel executive is said to confirm the reports that the former CEO was verbally abusive in the workplace causing several employees to quit as he was given to foul, derogatory language and embarrassing staffers in front of coworkers. Aside from the obvious inappropriateness of the behavior, it seems clear that Charney created a reputation for the company's workplace that made it difficult to retain highly qualified employees as well as attract new ones.
Charney denies the reports, and his lawyers are questioning the authenticity of the documents, though it is known that the company settled several sexual harassment lawsuits out of court during Charney's time running the company. What we do know for sure is that this feud is getting uglier and isn't looking like it will end anytime soon. One would have to ask the question, if Charney did somehow regain his position at American Apparel, how would he and the company look after the dirty fight that would have gotten him back there?
As the company attempts a turnaround under new CEO Paula Schneider, it's stock price has tumbled, and th most recent quarterly reports indicate a wider loss that the company will make up for by selling stock. Charney claims that he has been pushed out because the board wants to sell the company, which it denies, but if business doesn't pick up for American Apparel, it's hard to imagine how it can remain independent for much longer.
Saks Fifth Avenue surprised the fashion and retailing industry yesterday afternoon by announcing that its new, high-profile president, Marigay McKee, had left the company and would be replaced by Marc Metrick (pictured right), executive vice president and chief administrative officer of the Hudson’s Bay Co. A year and a half ago, hiring McKee's away from Harrod's in London was considered a coup for Saks which had just been acquired by HBC. She was unafraid of making herself the face of the retailer, and enthusiastically vocal about her plans to upgrade the chain's stores with a higher luxury quotient to better compete with rival Neiman Marcus —particularly the Fifth Avenue flagship, which seems to be continually in a state of reconfiguration and renovation. McKee seemed almost like a throwback to flamboyant merchant princes like Marvin Traub of Bloomingdale's or Stanley Marcus who ran their companies with a hefty dose of dazzle dazzle.
So why did HBC's glittery new hire go sour so quickly? In today's post-mortem in WWD, David Moin seems to suggest that it was not her professional abilities but her management style that got her canned. According to unnamed sources, McKee stepped on many toes which led to the departure of too many valued longtime Saks personnel including most prominently chief merchant Jennifer De Winter who recently decamped to Tiffany. McKee is described as a not a "good fit" for the store, and as someone whose office frequently saw people leaving in tears after meetings with her. This, apparently, made it difficult to attract new talent to replace fleeing, formerly stalwart personnel who became attractive to other companies, a state of affairs that should be corrected with her departure as searches for several executive positions are under way.
And yet, it's hard to imagine that it was only management style that caused her dismissal. There are plenty of celebrated fashion and retailing executives whose management antics make industry insiders shudder. Was there something more behind McKee's firing? HBC executives stress that the extravagant $250 million re-imagining of the Fifth Avenue flagship store would proceed as planned, although McKee's vision included radically reconfiguring several floors including creating two-level in-store boutiques for luxury labels that would rise from the main floor to the second. A dramatic renovation like that including other plans for the building would likely cost quite a bit more than $250 million in New York City and put the store in a state of construction for years at a time. While Saks has real problems appropriately configuring its space, particularly on its over-packed main floor, that solution might have been overly costly even for HBC which is committed to investing in the store's redesign. McKee's other initiative was to cull the store's vast matrix of vendors and cut loose the brands that weren't making enough profit for the store, but a year into McKee's tenure saw Saks's flagship packed with merchandise, with every possible nook and cranny of the selling floors fitted with a rack for full-priced goods. For a store supposedly devoted to paring down its brands, it looked more like they were buying every possible label they could and throwing them on the floor to see what stuck with customers, as opposed to the strategy of a seasoned merchant carefully crafting an upgraded fashion image. Contrary to increasing the luxury quotient, it made Saks feel more like a moderate department store full of racks —not the best way to compete for customers looking for the most upscale shopping experience.
As for her replacement, Marc Metrick was a 15-year veteran of Saks before he came to HBC three years ago, so he comes with the longtime understanding of the store and its culture that McKee lacked. He is not, however, a merchant, but he looks exactly like the kind of person who is often brought in to steady a ship that has been rocked a bit too hard. So HBC's grand plans to strengthen Saks against its rivals has hit a delay, and the clock is ticking. While Bergdorf Goodman has always been the main store Saks vies with for customers in New York City, its two biggest competitors nationwide, Nordstrom and Bergdorf sibling Neiman's, are headed to Manhattan within the next few years. By then, Saks will have had its second store in the borough open at Brookfield Place in the Financial District. What it needs right now is the right merchant to get it ready for the influx of competition.
Marc Metrick In, Marigay McKee Out at Saks By David Moin (WWD)
TODAY IN BONEHEADS:
In Which Dolce & Gabbana Act Like Idiots & What Will Longtime Supporter Madonna Say About It?
Some people do not know when to shut the hell up.
If you are familiar with hashtags, you may have noticed that the latest one making the rounds in #BoycottDolceGabbana. Yes, the renowned Italian design duo Dolce & Gabbana have put their collective foot in their collective mouth in an interview released last week with an weekly Italian magazine called Panorama where they declared that, as a couple, they are against gay adoptions. Quotes abounded over the weekend, among them:
"No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed."
Procreation “must be an act of love,”
and that children born though any method other than good old sex are “children of chemistry, synthetic children. Wombs for rent, semen chosen from a catalog.”
So far, a translation of the entire article has been tough to track down, but at this point, the damage has been done. Leading the swift response is, not surprisingly, Elton John who, with his husband, has two children conceived through IVF and launched the hashtag while declaring that he would not wear another stitch of Dolce & Gabbana clothing. Naturally, a barrage of celebrities followed, and before the weekend was over, the designers were on the backtrack trail with little success. On Sunday, the designers released a statement claiming that "it was never our intention to judge other people's choices. We do believe in freedom and love," without actually apologizing for the insults.
Of course, it's hard not to glean a judgmental tone from the initial statements which echo a similar sentiment expressed by the designers in the pre-Twitter days of 2006 where they again expressed antipathy toward non-traditional families. It looks like the designers will be on Gay Twitter's shit-list for quite some time to come, but the question among many retailers who have devoted a great deal of floor space to the label is just how big this controversy will go and whether or not it will evolve into a John Galliano-level damaging scandal? Considering that the designers have a huge celebrity following including endorsement deals with Scarlett Johansson, Matthew McConaughey and Colin Farrell for fragrances and cosmetics, it is hard to imagine that an actress wouldn't think twice about wearing Dolce & Gabbana to a high profile event in the coming weeks.
While modern boycotts of massive businesses like Chik-fil-A and Target for proclaimed and perceived anti-gay bias have not really had much material effect on the companies, Dolce & Gabbana have a much smaller and more specialized business where it can be presumed that the designers have not just insulted many of their customers, but probably a good portion of their employees at many levels of their organization, not to mention buyers and members of the fashion press whose favor it is important that the designers maintain. Joining Elton John in admonishing the designers is a cavalcade of celebrities including Victoria Beckham, Ricky Martin, Courtney Love, Ryan Murphy and Martina Navratilova just to name a few, but notably still silent at this point is Madonna, whose early support in the 1990s gave a crucial boost to the designers when they were still a little known label globally. She has continued to wear their clothes over the years and starred in their advertising campaign in 2010 (pictured below). The designers' comments fly in the face of Madonna's longtime support of gay rights, and though the singer is currently appearing in ads for Elton John's pal Donatella Versace, it is hard to imagine her remaining silent about this, especially as she is in the middle of a heavy promotional schedule for her latest album and upcoming tour. It's hard to imagine the controversy ending before Madonna weighs in in some way, so, we're waiting , Madge.
There's no Critical Shopper column again today's Thursday Styles, but instead, the Times treats us to a profile of Burch Creative Capital CEO Chris Burch, the man who is, for better or worse, responsible for the nearly extinct retail debacle known as C.Wonder.
As far as we can tell, this is the first time that Burch has spoken in detail about the chain's failure, and as expected, he is somewhat guarded and just a little bit defensive. The article, by Laura M. Holson, recounts in detail the many mistakes of the ambitious rollout of the chain (along with some of Burch's other recent, unrelated blunders) including the ill-advised, expensive leases, the excessively rapid expansion, the costly overseas offices and, most prominently, the nearly universally recognized aesthetic similarities to his ex-wife Tory Burch's company's retail environments, products and general style. Unfortunately, Burch is legally restricted from discussing the lawsuit that brought C.Wonder and Tory Burch into civil court, but he does manage to speak about the chain in a way that is surprisingly remorseful, but ultimately not quite self-aware enough to fully comprehend why the venture was probably doomed from the start.
“I take full responsibility for the failure of C. Wonder,” Mr. Burch said in a telephone interview from his home in Miami. “Please understand that.” He said he wasn’t upset about losing his own money, estimated to be at least $70 million in investment and loans. “It’s not about my ego, O.K.?” he said. “It’s not about failing. It’s about the fact that this is a really good idea that should have been successful.”
While he still sees himself as something of a misunderstood visionary, he won't own up to the widely perceived notion that one of his main goals at C.Wonder was to show up his ex-wife's wildly successful brand which, in fairness, he did have a hand in creating —although exactly how big of one remains in question. The article is well worth reading at the very least as an anatomy of a retail venture gone wrong when there were so many opportunities for success despite its challenges, but for Burch it may just serve as a big caveat to anyone considering going into business with him in the future.
Revenge Retail Gone Awry? Tory Burch’s Ex-Husband Describes C. Wonder’s Fall By Laura M. Holson (NYTimes)