Tag Archives: women’s retail

WBUR’s Cognoscenti

Sorry it’s been a while since I have blogged but I was traveling, buying actually, for Spring/Summer 2013 (can you believe it’s 2013 already?). But in the meantime I was fortunate enough to participate in WBUR’s cognoscenti page on their website. Here’s the link, I think it came out well.

Cognoscenti

Meanwhile thanks for reading!

How Do We Get Out Of It?

Starting in the early 90’s we engaged in the frenzie of buying. As goods became cheap and disposable the act of shopping became our mantra, our therapy for whatever ailed us. Purchasing was the activity of the rich and famous, and for some reason we wanted to be “just like the rich and famous” (no matter who they were or what they accomplished). Well its been a long road to where we are today…a broken, divided country that refuses to budge on who is going to pay for all the thing we feel entiltled to. As Greece pulls the EU down , the United States should take a close look at how they are trapped in their own inability PAY for their sins. It’s quite clear how they got there …..citizens’ entitlements and the prosperous not paying taxes. But someone, some elected “Leader”, needs to be the mommy of the situation and say “You BOTH are wrong and you both need to give in to get ahead of this”. I don’t understand why human compassion doesn’t kick in and move towards a better evolution of living. We seem to be a very religious populous but don’t practice the basic principles of religion. But that’s Greece, not us right?

There are 3 million job opportunities in America right now. They may not be the ideal jobs, they may be jobs that feel like the work has no meaning…. but just the same they are jobs that PAY for things…and help the government create revenue to pay for the entitlements that keep our government working. Yes if the congress was working together we could make the neccessary cuts in those entitlements, but we can’t eliminate ALL of them to make this mess go away.

There are many billion dollar companies that are not paying their fair share of taxes. While (the ever important) small businesses of this country manage to pay their taxes at a higher rate. They do not have the lobbying power of big business to get that rate to where someone like GE is paying nothing. The same goes for hedge fund managers and companies that have their offices overseas to avoid paying taxes. Again they don’t want to PAY their fair share….they want a DISCOUNT…aren’t they just so smart????? There could be a compromise but no one wants to PAY for anything.

When did we get to this point of feeling like we shouldn’t be paying for anything? Wasn’t capitalism all about that…paying and making money or has it just become stealing money any way we can????

For the next five months wouldn’t it be rich if we had an honest debate about how we are going to get out of this mess, instead of all the negative retoric of whose fault it was….I know that won’t happen and I know we will be listening to blah blah that doesn’t mean anything and then we will vote for “someone” who made less mistakes in the blah blah world. It’s time to realize that we need to PAY for what we want and appreciate what we have….Please

Does It Really Make A Difference?

Well the news has finally arrived, Raf Simons, formerly of Jil Sander is now the designer for Dior.

Raf Simons the "New" Designer for Dior

So what does that exactly mean? Let’s backtrack shall we. A year ago, the former designer for Dior, John Galliano, was fired from his post because of racial slurs spoken during a drunken rage at a Paris bistro. A year long search took place but in the meantime the interim designer was a “second in command”  known for his tame, well crafted collections.  The public statements by LVMH, owner of Dior, say there hasn’t been any fluctuation in sales, and they have been experiencing an increase in sales due to the Asian market. So one designer, who was slowly deteriorating, gets fired but had no real influence on sales.  An interim designer, whose aesthetic was completely different, takes over and surprisingly there is no change in sales. And now we have yet a third designer put in place and everyone is writing about the merits of his talent and what effect it will have on sales. My guess is “it” will make no difference.

The basis for this statement is looking at the numbers, or the numbers told to us by LVMH. They are doing a great business no matter what because the foundation for their unbelievable success is their BRANDING machine. The sales come from consumers that “want to be”. They want to be known as rich, they want to be known as part of the “style club”, they want to have instant recognition as if they were famous. That recognition comes from “stars” wearing their clothes, shoes and handbags. That recognition comes from editorial appearances in all the top fashion magazines around the globe which is LVMH’s top priority. LVMH has monthly reports done on how many times their products appear in the press (editorial and/or star related) and put constant pressure on their public relations army… the same way Toyota puts pressure on their dealers when they look at their monthly unit numbers.

80% of Dior sales are shoes and handbags (which only a few pieces are in the fashion show). They are sold around the world at Dior shops in malls and airports. global department stores and then specialty stores which tend to sell more clothing. So the “designer” and the fashion show are just SHOW, that’s it.  The fashion show is one big advertisement that makes the press and buyers feel important. The show also gets editorial immediately and afterwards. If the fashion show reads over the top expensive, that translates to the consumer as “luxury”. But the designs and integrity of the product (clothing) means very little. So my prediction is the Raf Simons will do just fine. Once again design integrity is last on the list of consumer importance.

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

Why Is Ugly The New Black?

So I land in Paris at 6:30 A.M., make it to my hotel at 8:00 A.M….of course the hotel room isn’t ready so I have a leisurely breakfast (lots of coffee) and take a walk down Rue St. Honore to look at the selection Fall clothing displayed in the French shops. I see a glimpse of the beginning of “Ugly” which is what I’ve seen in New York for the last two weeks (buying women’s Spring/Summer 2012). I’ve been trying to digest the large quantities of FASHION that have been thrown at the retailers/consumers and I keep asking why?  Why now is the industry (and it’s pretty unanimous) pushing ultimate, in your face, loud, FASHION? These are clothes that will wear you, that scream VICTIM !!!! Why now?

It has it all loud color, embellishment, mixing everything

Shiny and Overly Designed

These Shoes have been promoted in every Magazine this Fall

There are two theories I have about this. First I think the internet has such a strong influence on the designers and the industry that it forces a consensus of trends and these “trends” make every designer look the same. When most of the designers and magazines utilize the same trends they are pushing these trends on the consumers as if they were already a fact, which they assume will force the consumer to buy. But not all consumers are blind followers. Second, I think no one knows the answers to the economic downturn so designers are trying too hard, looking desperate, thinking they will jump start the consumer into buying again. In the end the collections look all over the place.

I am not afraid of FASHION, but I’ve been around fashion long enough to reject superficial techniques as an excuse for modern design. I’ve seen merchandise on my sale rack that scream that mistake…my mistakes…the customer has taught me well…they will spend money on new, innovative and yes, different but the consumer will not fall for clown like clothing (especially expensive clothing) readily.

When consumers have such a lack of confidence in…well everything…. why would the clothing industry push such over the top FASHION on them? This will only make them feel more uncertain.

Meanwhile I have managed to find some beautiful clothes for next spring, yes it has color and it has innovation but it’s not theatrics…it’s clothes you will want to put on your body and make it your own. But as I keep looking around I shake my head and ask is Ugly the new Black?

I Forgot How Much Fun We Had in The 70’s

 

I usually poo-poo the fashion worn in the 70’s…it definitely was the worst time for men…it ruined the industry, Men have never trusted Men’s Fashion media and manufacturers/retailers since.  Separates dominated Women’s fashion during the 70’s and were the vehicle for individual expression. After the 70’s, the fashion mantra became EVERYONE wears black or EVERYONE wears denim and EVERYONE carries the “it” bag. Actually Women’s dressing during the first 50 of the 20th century were dresses, dresses, and dresses with a nod to jeans during the 50’s and a bigger nod to them during the 60’s. The 70’s gave the newly liberated woman a fashion choice with separates…separate tops, jackets, sweaters, pants, skirts and yes dresses. We had lots of fun in the dressing room the other day channeling the 70’s and here are some of the results. 

 

Check Out The Bag and Boots

 

This picture was taken with my IPhone and the Hipstamatic App. The film was “Float” and the lens was “Jimmy”. I love this App. Finally after eliminating the creativity of photography with digital cameras, there is an app that can change your photograph before you take the shot. It allows you to change the mood or the color or brightness….the possibilities are endless…what fun. Here’s another outfit created by “separates”.

Here's a Long Dress with a Knitted Fur Jacket

This again was shot with “Float” film and a “Jimmy” lens. Just as the word indicates the designers of these items are all separate as well. That’s the beauty of “separates” you can create new outfits everyday. This may change the way you shop, suddenly items have more merit by their flexibility, what you can put them with, instead of its’ designer.  It’s like the photograph you can mix films and lens and have multiple possibilities. Here’s another possibility:

 

Don't you just love Corduroy?

“Jimmy” again was the lens but the film was “Ina’s 1969” , doesn’t it look like it ….it matches exactly with the outfit. The color of the film looked like it came from a Kodak Brownie. Candice looks so cute and fresh with a vintage twist….so individual….Corduroy…. I don’t think I have worn that fabric since the 70’s. I forgot that it makes noise when you walk, and that it’s soft and comfy.

It is fun looking back….it’s fun teaching the next generation a look we created 40 years ago…..they look just as cute as we did…maybe.

 

Have We’ve Become the Communists?

Just look at us…. yes the capitalists that we are, how are we choosing to spend our money as a collective group? Ok let’s narrow down the question to how are we spending money on clothes in this country….what is an “acceptable look” when we walk down the street. Here are a few pictures of people I shot while I was walking down the street this morning.

 

Notice the uniform, flip flops, t-shirt etc.

The uniform, t-shirt, jeans and flip flops

Uniform, t-shirt and flip flops

Don't we look elegant?

All photos were shot within 3 minutes of each other

The reason why I called us capitalists is that we HAVE the freedom to choose individual clothes to represent our individual personalities. We don’t have to wear a uniform, we don’t have to equalize our society by dressing exactly the same. So why are we dressing the same…and by the way looking sloppy as we do it….Why?  OK I know the economy is in the tank and  disposable income is non-existent…but at a certain point we’ve  become a nation of people dressing sloppy with cheap, disposable clothing….. maybe we might want to start taking pride in our appearance….because that might make us take pride in ourselves and our country.

When I am in showrooms with stores from China (yes there are many) I notice the buyers to be exceptionally well dressed. They spend time to put themselves together in a way that reminds me of American women in the 50’s. These women look like Grace Kelly in a 1950’s movie. They have an individuality in their appearance that rivals the glory days of Hollywood. I realize these women are a small percentage of the total population of China but they symbolize a new generation of Chinese moving forward toward an affluent society. Where are we in America moving to?….Will we continue to buy cheap clothing and throw it away 3 months later? Will we continue to meld together and begin to look exactly the same as each other? Will we except sloppy as OK instead taking pride in ourselves and our appearance?

Maybe we are the ones who are moving towards communism and the Chinese are moving towards capitalism???? What a switch…..

 

Don’t Freak….it’s just more change on Fan Pier

 

In case you missed the news in Boston last week Joe Fallon and the Vertex company broke ground on two buildings (one city block each). It’s the largest development project in the country, along with being the most expensive. Vertex is an amazing company solving lifetime illnesses by marrying innovation with intelligent risks. I feel honored to be surrounded by companies that are not sitting waiting but moving forward with new business models and new ideas. The world as we know it has ALREADY changed it’s now a matter of Americans to catch up with the consequences from previous paradigms.

It took Joe Fallon 12 hours to Start Construction After the Ground Breaking

Plus extreme sailing is almost here. Everything is in place for Thursday’s activities. The races start Thursday and run through Monday 1:30 to 5 p.m. There will bands playing every night. Joe Fallon really knows how to throw a party!!!!

 

The Food Tents and Sound Stage are all in Place

 

The Buoys

 

The are Plenty of Good Looking Sailors from all over the World

 

They Put the Boats Together in the Parking Lot and Crane it into the Water

 

Ready to Go

 

Mary Benoit Organized The Extreme Sailing Event...She's Amazing!!!!

Red Bull Hospitality Tent

 

 

It’s Amazing How On Point They Are

The Twins…as they are referred to are two talented women. They were talented when they were on “Full House”, they were talented when they made tween movies for a generations girls that needed a voice, they are talented when fashion needed an overhaul. The Row for Fall/Winter 2011 was such an evolution from their roots that it made sense ….except when I first saw it I didn’t realize it. It was only after several viewings did I comprehend all the thought and intelligence behind the collection. I have been there since the first collection of “We just want the perfect t-shirt” which everyone copied, to casual minimal elegance which everyone is trying to take credit for to American made with unbelievable detail and quality and very expensive to boot! But the progression was never aggressive, always slow and calculated with an element of risk. With their progression they have lead the fashion community to a new direction, slowly, controlled, intelligently.

Here is a look from the pre collection, the elegance is in the details

Just as they penetrated and maximized the tween bubbled, they are going to do the same in the highly competitive world of American Fashion. So many have dismissed these women and penalized them for making a commercial success at almost everything they touched. If it was once or twice it may be considered a lucky break, but it’s not, it’s talent. No they are not perfect and they couldn’t possibly lead normal lives (not after being a “STAR” at the age of three) but there is something there, some god given gift that should never be underestimated even though i have the feeling they will be their whole lives. Hopefully they will follow their hearts and not be influenced by “everyone who has an opinion”. That will be their final act if they could accomplish that feat. But don’t forget they are only 25 we have many more years to watch their talent grow before we will know the answer to that.

It’s Not Even Warm Yet and Spring has Just Sprung

I must have received two hundred e-mails requesting I go to New York, and yes. Europe in May and June for appointments for pre Spring (November/December deliveries). This delivery may be 25% of the overall buy for the Spring/Summer season. I will have to go back in September/October for a January-March delivery. There is something wrong with this. I have been wailing about this since some marketing genius came up with this idea seven years ago. Hey, he/she thought that for Christmas, since every store was on sale and no one wanted to buy marked down apparel for presents, stores could supply fresh pre-spring merchandise that consumers would buy as “holiday presents”. But all that move did was change the consumers’ buying habits to eliminate apparel as a desired “holiday gift”, and stores are full of spring merchandise when it’s freezing out.  Here’s the rub, after five months it’s just beginning to feel like spring in Boston. The weather has been awful, and this has made spring late …. so I’m in pre spring buying for  well… pre spring?????  I know our weather is different from the rest of the country but that just means a longer period of warm weather for others. If the fall season could be fall merchandise for well …..”the Fall months” and then spring could be delivered when the weather IS turning warmer things would be as they should be .  If vendors could just show once a season instead making buyers travel twice a season or four times a year think of the time and energy we all would be saving. Vendors could easily spread out their deliveries (December-March), even the designers would be relieved  because they really only have one focus a season ….that is really viable  (if they were to admit it).

Just to prove that there is a reality gap in the northeast, it’s 50 degrees today and here are some pictures from my garden right now….

Cherry Blossoms around my house

What would spring be without tulips?

It's May and these are my dogwood trees they are late this year

It's May 11th and My Azaleas are just coming out

Here’s my prediction, it’s going to be too expensive to give inventories away anymore (on sale). Stores will have to pay up to 30% more to replace that inventory. Why shorten a season when adding merchandise is too costly?  So will pre spring remain relevant?  Will the fall season clothing stay in stores through the cold months?  Will all these stores readjust their timetables to coincide with reality?  Will giving apparel for Christmas or the holidays regain it’s importance again? How will American stores teach the consumer to appreciate what they are buying instead of purchasing for the sake of purchasing something that has been marked down?

Get ready for inflation it’s coming….and it’s going to change our purchasing habits from consumers to stores’ timetables….hopefully.