There is so much to admire about the French. The food, the culture, the art de vivre ... the list could go on and on. They seem to do just about everything with more elegance and style than we do right down to their scandals. Take for instance the case of l'Oreal heiress Lilliane Bettencourt whose dispute with her estranged daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, has been unfolding in the French press since December 2007 and shows no sign of waning any time soon.
It cannot have been easy for Sarah Burton these past few months. In addition to coming to terms with the suicide of her boss and mentor and completing alone the half-finished Autumn/Winter 2010-11 collection he left behind, she assumed the role of creative director of the Alexander McQueen brand. It is now upon her petite frame that rests the responsibility of carrying on his legacy. An unenviable task if ever there was one.
It's often said about the luxury industry that it is an insular world set in its ways and slow to embrace modernity. This is especially evident when it comes to communicating or reaching out to customers. With the exception of a few pioneers such as Net-A-Porter and Burberry, there are precious few instances of luxury brands leading the way on e-commerce or social media. The growth of both online sales and the use of social media amongst affluent consumers are pushing many luxury brands to expand beyond their comfort zone but for the most part, progress is slow.
Derek Blasberg, Style.com's man about town whose job description seems to consist primarily of attending parties with his friends then writing about it (the parties) and them (his friends) in glowing terms, may have gotten himself into a bit of a bind recently. The kerfuffle began when the website Jezebel published a brief article according to which Blasberg, who was assigned to cover a Yves Saint Laurent party for Style.com, allegedly approached the brand about helping to generate buzz for the event for a consulting fee of $2,500 (presumably in addition to his Style.com writing fee). As a result, Blasberg's employment is currently under review by Style.com. Oops.
As I mentioned last week, I was invited to the Luisa Via Roma celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of its transformation from a strictly bricks and mortar fashion multi-brand boutique to online fashion emporium. The celebrations entitled Firenze4Ever took place in Florence and included among other things, a Styling Lab where bloggers were given access to the latest Fall/Winter 2010-11 collections (many pieces straight off the runway), a professional make-up artist, models, a photographer and some of the most beautiful settings across Florence to stage a photo shoot.
Cristóbal Balenciaga in conversation with then Editor of U.S. Harper's Bazaar Carmel Snow.
Each time a new exhibit examines the work of one of fashion's great masters, I wince just a little. I wince because exhibits such as these serve as a reminder to current generations of just how impoverished modern fashion has become in comparison. A sense of loss and regret is precisely how I felt when I left the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2008 and I suspect I will feel the same when I see the new Cristóbal Balenciaga exhibit, BALENCIAGA: Spanish Master, at New York's Queen Sofía Spanish Institute scheduled to open in Manhattan this November.
Readers of The Luxe Chronicles may recall a young London-based luxury sunglasses brand called Zanzan which I wrote about back in May 2009 and again in January 2010. I've made a point of keeping in touch with the duo behind the label, Gareth Townshend and Megen Trimble, because I believe in their approach to luxury and am impressed with how they're building their brand (they also happen to be truly lovely people). This is why I was so pleased to come across a brief mention of their charitable activities while perusing the FT's How to Spend It over the weekend.
Luxury brands have long sought to align themselves with the arts. This is at least in part the result of a certain natural synergy between art and luxury: Individuals who are drawn to art are likely to be drawn to the creativity and artistry inherent in certain luxury goods. It also happens to be an elegant way for a brand to market themselves without appearing to be trying too hard (in other words, the art of selling something without actually appearing to be selling something). While many tend to view the marriage of art and luxury with a certain cynicism, I take a more generous view. In particular, the precipitous drop in arts funding following the financial crisis sheds a softer light upon the alignment of art and luxury than before.
Our notion of what constitutes "luxury" has changed dramatically in recent decades. So too have our notions of craftsmanship and heritage, terms we hear with increasing frequency since the downturn. What does it mean for a luxury brand to remain true to its heritage? Does it matter that a brand no longer crafts its wares in the manner of previous generations? As consumers, should we care how or where a luxury product was made? These are questions many within the luxury industry are grappling with today.
Daphne Guinness, style icon, fashion collector and muse to many has bought privately the entire Isabella Blow wardrobe that was to have been sold by Christie's this autumn. In doing so, she had this to say: “It’s Issy — it’s her DNA — it should not be scattered to the four winds. I want it to remain as a monument.” Well said Ms. Guinness and more importantly, well done!
The Luxe Chronicles is a collection of interviews, profiles and musings on various aspects of the luxury industry and occasionally, a rant on our celebrity obsessed culture and the dumbing down of our collective sense of style and esthetic.