Tag Archives: Retail at the Waterfront

I Guess You Can Have It All at My Expense

Have Someone Else Advertise for You

I am a Marni freak…I admit it, I’m addicted to her design style and aesthetic. We have sold (very well I might add) Marni in this store for more years than any other store…we were the first store to buy it. So you can imagine the fumes that come out of my ears when people ask me what I think of Marni for H&M. Oh yes I know it’s a marketing tool, so that the masses  get to know Marni, a “relatively” underground designer. Let’s just go back to how Marni got to where it is now in “designer world”.

Consuelo Catiglioni a.k.a Marni got into designing at a relatively late stage in her life. Her children had just gone off to college and she wanted to do something with her now empty time. So she started to design coats in her husbands factory…they were good, so were the pants she designed for the models to wear underneath. I bought them all. And sold them. The next season she designed everything in leather, we sold it to the piece. Consuelo and her husband were smart enough to recognize the salability of her designs and they merchandised the line by category. Soon Marni blouses were the item to get, then her pants, and she really started the dress trend. All were in her now famous prints.

Actually you the reader probably do not know half the trends Marni started because she always relied on independent retailers to introduce her designs, not the press. The reason the press never mentioned her was because she didn’t advertise. I hope everybody reading this does know that fashion magazines do not feature any designers that do not advertise. (Hence the same cast of characters are always featured in editorial even though they are not relevant any more) (even more important these same designers steal designs from Marni and others and then claim the ideas for themselves). The relationship worked very well because the stores got exclusivity of her product and the knowledgable customer got to discover a brand that wasn’t a BRAND.

But ahhhh things never stay the same. I think that the Asian market is heavily reliant on the BRAND paradigm. So Marni needed to raise it’s awareness (so they thought).  They got together with H&M and Consuelo designed a collection (supposedly a one time event) to be released this March. Well it worked.

There Were Lines Around the Block

Just Maybe They Knew About Marni Before H&M

For a designer that doesn’t advertise the public relations of this “event” was huge. The press party before hand included a movie directed by Sofia Coppola. H&M, with their resources,  grabbed what took years for independent retailers to build up and maximized it with a sell out, day one.

Sofia Coppola

H&M had no problem advertising the event, and they had a killer take away bag which became a collector’s item on it’s own. Needless to say it was a success, but what does that do for my business. The answer is I don’t know. Most of the designs were redos of things done WAY in the past. The sophistication level really didn’t match what we carry in the store. The quality was great considering the simplicity of what was on the racks. I am going to watch it and keep you posted.

I think I just wanted to explain all the work that goes into nurturing a designer. And it’s tempting for these designers to get their name out there and think they are producing garments for “every man and women”. But here’s a thought. Why not promote the quality of good design and construction and help the “every women” to trade up, instead of having your knowledgeable customer rush to trade down. Because the biggest customers at H&M that day were women and men who already knew the value of Marni…they lined up outside the doors of H&M in the early morning light.

Line at H&M for Marni

Jil at Jil

Will It Be The Real Jil?

Twenty five years ago we started carrying a line from Hamburg Germany called Jil Sander. It was perfect for Louis, incredibly well made, modern researched fabrics, minimalist styling and a price tag that matched all this luxury. At the end of the 90’s Jil descided to sell 75% of her company to Prada because “she wanted to improve on the breathe of her handbag-shoe business” . She was promised by Prada’s chief executive officer that the business would remain the same. Well it didn’t stay the same. The first thing that Prada demanded was that all of the clothing would be made in the Prada factories. There went the quality that Jil was known for, and the fabric research was cut in half, there went the modern take on clothing. Jil couldn’t work under those conditions, and feeling duped, she left. There went the design. We dropped the line as soon as Jil made the announcement. (how could it ever be the same value?)

After that, Prada worked hard to try and restore the value to the company which was of course, impossible. After a few tries they brought in a menswear designer named Raf Simons.

He Had Never Design for Womenswear

Raf had never designed for womenswear. (Somehow they thought it was a good bet). A few seasons later they sold the company to an English investment company who quickly announced that they were going to sell the company as soon as they made it profitable again (like that could happen). Raf’s first attempts at a collection were actually better than I thought they would be and each season you could see he was learning and growing, but the company still struggled . A few years later a Japanese/Italian company bought the company and continued to support Raf and you could see improvements with the collections and sales (the quality still could not match the standards of the original Jil Sander).

Last year around this time John Galliano was fired from the Dior house for racial slurs during a night of drinking in Paris (one of many nights). It was announced the Raf was a consideration for the job. Well now…. here is the fashion world in a nutshell. Gibo, (the Japanese/Italian company) who had been investing money (while losing it) in Jil Sander (a company abandoned by it’s designer) watched it’s designer publicly announce that he was interviewing for a job in a company that was trying to rebuild their brand that was abdondoned by yet another designer. (I know that was a run on sentence) So Gibo fired him.

The fashion world is in a tizzy…They are mad at Gibo for firing Raf (who, by the way, miraculously popped out the most beautiful collection for his last season). They are thrilled that Jil is returning, and they are expecting the company to return to it’s original splendor. Well guess what….in won’t. I was asked to start showcasing Jil again in the store. I thought long and hard about it and I refused. There were two reasons. First, Jil is now sold at many stores not just the controlled specialty stores that she insisted on originally . Second, Jil’s control on quality will be minimal. She will not have the control over the factories like she did before, and her obsessive control over details will be cost prohibitive. I’m sure she will push the envelope of the company owners, but the price of her pants in 1998 are still considered outrageous at $1200 (and that quality can not be replicated for the same price).

The musical chairs of designers that is going on with these fashions houses are going to catch up with their customers and eventually their sales. Branding IS important, I know that, but product integrity is also important. Is the consumer so gullible that it will eat anything companies throw at them? One change can be understood, but when the consumer needs a road map to understand how far away from the original concept the company has gone, the consumer will abandon the product. Success in a label is usually a combination of design, make and fit. When these elements are rearranged or eliminated the BRAND can’t stand on it’s own…look at the GAP. I wish Jil well and I will be watching carefully to see if I did underestimate the situation. But I thought I would give you, the reader, insight into how decisions are made. I will be the first to admit my mistakes, but I have to have some guidelines to give my store the integrity that I demand from my vendors.

Who Goes to the Waterfront?

 

The tall Ship in the Background with the Screen in the Foreground Says it All

Last Saturday was great day at the waterfront. RedBull sponsored an Extreme Diving Event off the roof of the Institute of Contemporary Art. 80 feet above the water (12 stories high) 10 men had the nerve to do triple summersaults with double twists and land feet first in the water. There was no doubt that these men were insane….but you couldn’t take your eyes off them. It felt like the 50’s something very daredevil but no high tech involved….just men in their speedos.

 

Starting from a Handstand....I can do that

Here’s another shot taken with a tanker cruising through the  middle of the event…never a dull moment. But that is the Waterfront, there is always something moving and there are so many pieces that complete the puzzle. We are so happy down here. The attitude  is fun and relaxed especially when the world is not. We had 25,000 visitors at the Waterfront on Saturday…the store (Louis) and Sam’s were hopping and the energy represented…well RedBull. I used Hipstamatic to take the next shot (film which makes your photo look vintage) . I think it is appropriate for the day.

 

Old Time Boston in Real Time

 

The Fashion Underbelly of Boston

More often than not I get asked the same question over and over again “Who Shops in Your Store?” My answer is always the same…Boston has an underground group of well dressed, art centric, patrons that keep their patronage quiet. We are definitely not a “Fashionista” town but we do have an “underground” following of entrepreneurial, innovative consumers who support people and stores that introduce them to “the new and different”. The Institute of Contemporary Art is a perfect example of how this town came together quietly to create a wonderful space to house “the new and different” in art. And it has become a destinations for people all over the world to come and visit. I’m very proud of the fact that Boston accomplished such a feat.

Well, I have discovered another underbelly in this town. We have an amazing group of young fashion bloggers that not only have style but have knowledge about the industry. We had a Blogger event here at Louis the other night and was floored by the kind of conversations I was having about what’s going on in fashion and retail (especially on line retail). Usually I set aside those kind of conversations for my trips to New York and Europe when I talk to people in the business. I usually steer my “fashion” conversations in Boston to …. well some other subject. That’s not to be mean it is a reality that Bostonians are usually not up to speed … so what, no big deal…but I just usually don’t talk business to people outside of my company.

Well that changed for me that night. As matter of fact I was having a hard time keeping up. That’s a good thing. The chit chat wasn’t about “the latest trends” which is usually the conversation with the printed and television press….the talk was about the new way to style with black and the merits and appreciation of un”BRANDED” designers. We talked about working and building a wardrobe not disposing of it after one wear. We also talked about the tricks of discounting in retail and on line sites and the pitfalls when purchasing for the sake of only saving money.

Here are a few of my new best friends…they rank up there with any of the people from the industry….all over the world….and believe me I know!

Samantha Chu, Jane Chun, Thomas Dai, Victoria Benjamin

Samantha’s Blog is “A Glimpse of Glamour”

Joseph Gordon Cleveland, Maria Fei, Brigid Nastasia

Joseph is styleboston blog and Brigid is Agency Contra

Jessica Sutton, Soonha Lee, Nicole Deponte

Andrew Ray One Man's Style Blog

Soonha Lee and Naomi Miranda

It was an exhilarating night and I thank all those who attended….I hope to see you again in the underworld.