Month: October 2015

Tommy Hilfiger and the Case for Reissues

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Last week, Tommy Hilfiger and MyTheresa rolled out a capsule collection of 90s-inspired, logo-heavy reissue pieces. All of the nine pieces available have, smartly, been updated “with innovative fabrications, luxe fabrics and modern silhouettes,” including scuba material and longer-line crop tops and sweaters that look chic. sporty, and, even – yes, shockingly – European.

This is brilliant brand strategy for Hilfiger – for the short term. It comes at the perfect timing, at the peak of 90s nostalgia; and the collaboration with MyTheresa gives it a cool, youthful, and Justin O’Shea-approved feel that it wouldn’t have if it were partnered with say, Net-A-Porter, or god forbid, Hilfiger’s old stable, Macy’s. Suki and Immy Waterhouse front the campaign, which is a good, but random choice, as they are not exactly the postergirls for American sportswear – they are much more at home bloodlessly modeling Burberry and Muberry and the like. The collection’s price point is surprisingly high, with the least expensive item, a bandeau top, coming in at €130, which is certainly too high for the 16-21 year-old Instagram users and Waterhouse fans who would be desperate to get their hands on a bit of the 90s that they, albeit briefly, experienced and are now painfully wistful for.

But nostalgia pieces won’t do in the long-term for Hilfiger and it will tempting for him to ride the 90s-00s throwback train for the next two to three years without planning for his long-term brand strategy – which has in desperate need of redefinition for some time now.

The last few years at Tommy Hilfiger have been a schadenfreude nightmare, full of strained efforts to revitalize the label with a string of mismatched cool, young celebrities and try-hard, themed runway shows. Mr. Hilfiger ought to position himself as the Kate Spade of preppy American staples, and not keep trying and failing to be the zeitgeisty-cool designer he once was. Instead of targeting millennials, he should cater to an older crowd, the men and women who grew up wearing his label in the 90s and 2000s, who are looking for something sportier and more fun than JCrew and Brooks Brothers, and less tragic than Tory Burch. There’s certainly room in the marketplace for this kind of label, and lots of people hoping that Hifiger succeeds – he just needs to stop playing the short game and stop resting on the laurels of his once-popular name.

The reissue model for fashion is brilliant, though, and I’m surprised more designers haven’t seized the ‘heritage’ PR and marketing angle that is so ripe for the picking. It’s also an incredible chance for the average shopper to own a real piece of brand history – not a fast fashion take, a knockoff, or a vintage item in middling to poor condition. Fantastic reissue pieces are what fashion consumers want, but labels must be thoughtful about the pieces they choose to reissue. Few items in classic shapes, like the Mark Cross “Grace” overnight bag (a reissue of the suitcase Grace Kelly carries in Rear Window) and the Max Mara 101801 camel coat are perfect examples of reissues done right, while Topshop’s recent archival rollout achieved only middling success because of the wide range of available pieces, apparent randomness of selection (online voters were the culprit – a nice idea in terms of democracy, but not in terms of profit), and un-updated designs. Other major labels need to get in on the reissue game. I can only begin to fathom the kind of hysterics that might break out in the fashion community if Dior decided to reissue a limited release of 1950s and ‘60s cocktail dresses, or if Saint Laurent released some updated accessories from the iconic “destination” collections. People would lose their minds. Snap to it LVMH and Kering – there’s a rabid market out here for your labels’ classics.

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Ford on Film: The Real Meaning of the Tom Ford S/S ’16 Video

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Allow me to begin by by saying just how deeply I love Tom Ford. I often dream about him. I would take a bullet for him. I am frequently washed over with a nausea-like feeling of deep jealousy of Richard Buckley.

Which is why gives me great displeasure to say that I did not remotely like or understand why Mr. Ford decided to show his Spring/Summer 2016 Womenswear collection in a three-minute video format.

In the Nick Knight-directed video, models disco down a runway and are cheered on by other dancing models in the frow, as it were. Quick cuts and high-energy movement give it a music video feel. Lady Gaga shows up and the dancing continues. I walked away feeling dizzy, wondering what exactly I had just watched – it certainly did not have the usual sexy, mysterious, over-the-top Tom Ford Feel.

Videos are nothing new for fashion shows. Most designers livestream their runway shows, allowing people around the world to watch in real time. This is a fantastic and democratizing tool for fans, bloggers, and buyers, who can experience the show firsthand, and not rely solely on still photos or critics’ commentary. However, the short video format Mr. Ford implemented for S/S ’16 simply is not an effective media for viewing a fashion show. The focus is entirely on mood which, granted, is important, but the viewer walks away with no recollection of what the clothes looked like – a factor that will certainly prove problematic when it comes down to pre-ordering and retail. And then, there’s the missed opportunity. Mr. Ford is one of the great showmen of our time. He is the king of spectacle, masterful at setting a scene and manipulating an audience (see: deep carpet of rose petals falling from the ceiling at F/W 2015), and deeply obsessive about his work. Why would he pass up this opportunity to display his showmanship, and instead send out something that felt last-minute?

The choice to make a video likely mirrors where Mr. Ford is creatively. He is about to start filming his second film, Nocturnal Animals, and is likely deeply ensconced in the medium of film. The video is more likely in reaction to the film project—perhaps he simply didn’t have the time to produce a sumptuous live show because of his other creative endeavors.

Then there is the alarming issue of Lady Gaga’s presence. Why she was cast as the face of this video initially seems unfathomable, as she has been musically and culturally irrelevant for some time now, and doesn’t espouse the Fordian ideals in the way that, say, Carine Roitfeld and Rihanna do. If Mr. Ford was looking for a new face for the S/S Campaign, he should have gone with Lucky Blue Smith, who also makes a cameo in the film. Having a male model front the womenswear campaign would have been edgy and in line with the current androgynous movement, and Lucky Blue has that special charismatic Ford Factor that Gaga lacks. However, as Lucky Blue is relatively unknown outside the fashion world, and the collection is already forgettable because of its format, it makes sense that the label would go with a universally known celebrity to front the campaign. Choosing Gaga was more of a necessary strategic, and not an artistic, decision due to the video format.

Although Ford’s video format was well received by the media, it is doubtful that it will become a trend in fashion shows. The short film makes the pieces forgettable, lacks a sense of drama and narrative, and distorts brand identity. The best place for videos in fashion are for marketing purposes—setting a scene, depicting a short narrative, and ultimately reinforcing the brand’s meaning. Prada does an especially good job with this, and Dior is beginning to break into the medium as well (Miss Dior and Dior Addict fragrances have been making fantastic videos for the last five years or so). Burberry smartly has an “Acoustic” music video channel, featuring independent British acts performing exclusive sets for the brand, which reinforces the cool, youthful, Britishness that Burberry promotes. Even Ford has used this format to promote his cosmetics, both for the Lips & Boys collection and the men’s skincare line, to great effect — which is why his fashion show video was such a disappointment.

What Ford’s video really makes me wonder is if he’s getting ready to leave fashion again. I’m still suffering from abandonment issues from when he took a break to make A Single Man in the late aughts. I’m afraid he’s going to go out one Sunday morning to buy a wide-lapel jacket and never come back. Ford’s true skills lie in creating a world, a brand, and his obsessive attention to detail and instincts in setting a mood serve him well here whether he is making a collection or a film. I think it’s fantastic that he’s pushing himself creatively to explore new media and put his extraordinary eye to good use, but I’m not ready to see him go from the fashion world. I’m afraid this S/S ’16 womenswear video is indicative of Ford hedging his bets, deciding between continuing as a designer, or pursuing filmmaking or other artistic endeavors, perhaps even full-time.

Raf Steps Down: What it Means for Dior, the Designer, and His Successor

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Another designer leaves a major fashion house after only a short tenure. Raf Simons is unexpectedly out at Dior. I was initially astounded to hear this news, but the more I thought about it, it the more it made sense to me. He did beautiful things at Dior, but it never truly felt like he was comfortable there. You can see it in some the clothes, especially later on in his tenure – they’re ladylike, but feel cold and vaguely discomforted. Still, I’m surprised to see him leave so soon, especially after the publicity boost due to the recent release of Dior and I, the documentary charting the making of his first collection at the company.

Hopefully, this also means the end of Jennifer Lawrence as the face of the brand; a completely baffling pairing that benefits Lawrence’s personal brand, but hurts Dior’s. The house desperately needs to re-focus its brand identity, because as it is, they’re gunning to look like Giannini’s Gucci. Under Raf, Dior didn’t stand for anything – I don’t know who the customer is, or what kind of world she inhabits, because all of the advertising was restrained, empty, and faced by a bland big-time movie star — I had to get all of my information about the brand from the runway shows, which, admittedly, were stunning. The ads need to be a more sophisticated (but not boring) version of the vision so perfectly executed by their fragrance campaigns, especially Miss Dior and Dior Addict – French, ladylike, and daring.

What’s next for Raf? I wish he would go back to Jil Sander, an all-time favorite of mine that has crumbled since he left in 2012, but he won’t loop back around to the same company. He will focus on his own label, and perhaps another smaller line. I don’t ever see him returning to one of these mega-houses, even if the fashion cycle slows down to fewer collections per year.

But the even bigger question is who will replace Raf. Will Dior follow the current trend among big houses and pick an unknown? Perhaps, but that move would look trite after the recent Balenciaga appointment. I personally would love to see a woman at Dior. Cathy Horyn teased the possibility of Phoebe Philo on The Cut, which would be sublime; however I don’t think Philo would be willing to split her time between Céline and Dior, especially, as Horyn noted, because she has so much creative control over every aspect of Céline. Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski at Hermès might be a good choice, as would Stella McCartney, although I think, like Philo, McCartney is more invested in her own label at the moment. Kate and Laura Mulleavy would be a unexpected choice, but I think the sisters behind Rodarte are too media-shy to want to helm a major house like Dior. If I were Mr. Arnault, however, I would be pursuing Jonathan Anderson. He’s ultra-talented, young, a media darling, and not afraid of helming a big fashion house. It may be strategically savvy for Anderson to stay at Lowe, though, and build a mega name for himself, much like Philo did at Céline.

I’m sad to see Raf go — I was looking forward to see how he evolved as a designer at Dior. But in any case, I’ll be extremely interested to see who gets the appointment, and what they do with the brand. Stay tuned.

Gloria Steinem as Kate Spade’s Ms. Adventure: Misstep, or One Giant Leap?

I was dismayed and puzzled when I caught wind of Gloria Steinem’s cameo in Kate Spade’s latest “Miss Adventure” promotional video. These three-minute videos follow ditsy and fast-talking Anna Kendrick as “Miss Adventure,” Kate Spade’s high-maintenance and unapologetically silly poster girl who engages in cute moments of situational comedy. The video in question featuring Ms. Steinem, the third in the series, shows Kendrick attempting to entertain herself at the Russian Tea Room after she is jilted by her date. She engages in hijinks with her small dog and talks to her purse with a quiet desperation until Ms. Steinem joins her at the table, where they share dessert and the minifilm ends on a giggly and conspiratorial note.

This video is perfectly on-brand for Kate Spade: pop, silly, and cute, yet self-aware. These videos are part of their stellar marketing revamp of the past few years, and snagging Steinem was a great coup, adding a sliver of understated intellectual cool to their young and girly brand identity. Additionally, by choosing an iconic women with her own personal brand for their campaign, they reach an older audience, and benefit from the now tried-and-true model of using older and established women as symbols of aspiration in their marketing campaigns, like Catherine Denuve for Louis Vuitton, Jessica Lange for Marc Jacobs cosmetics, Charlotte Rampling for Nars, and the Joan Didion for Céline ad that caused (restrained) shockwaves through the fashion and pop culture communities.

But this label-pairing doesn’t immediately make strategic sense for Steinem: Gloria Steinem fits Kate Spade’s brand, but Kate Spade does not fit Gloria Steinem’s brand. The Ms. Magazine founder would not carry a clutch emblazoned with “Eat Cake For Breakfast,” nor would she wear a thick-striped A-line skirt and a statement necklace, Blair Waldorf headband optional. She would have been a much better fit at the more grown-up J.Crew, or join ranks with Lauren Hutton at The Row. So why, of all the brands who would be panting to have her helm their campaigns, did she choose to endorse Kate Spade, the almost-but-not-quite-witty, easily excitable younger sister of Tory Burch?

Probably not for money, and the argument for feminism is tenuous. Ms. Steinem explains in an interview with Kate Spade that one of the messages of the video is that it’s okay for women to dine alone (but then again, the characters don’t actually end up doing this.)

But perhaps there’s another feminist subtext at work here. Maybe Ms. Steinem’s endorsement of Kate Spade is a message to those of us (the author included) who look down their Karen Walker sunglasses-shod noses at brands like Kate Spade and the women who wear them as not being valid in the fashion world. With this video, Steinem makes the case that dress – and brand – is a feminist issue, and women have the right to wear whatever they choose – black and white being no better or morally upright than pink and green. Will it get Céline devotees to start wearing Kate Spade? No. But it will make them aware of their perhaps-unfounded brand prejudices as well as the feminist politics entwined in the fashion industry. It will, however, spur those who already enthusiastically wear Kate Spade to start reading Steinem, a win-win for both parties.

So let her eat cake (alone) for breakfast. Kate Spade’s Miss Adventure has a right to be taken seriously by fashion community.