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Pharrell on Elle UK. Why the controversy?

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Do you think Pharrell should not have worn a Native American head-dress on cover of Elle UK? We don’t.

Although this sparked understandable and respectable outrage from communities and commentators alike, resulting in a sincere apology by the cultural icon, we believe this new controversy shows society has figured fashion out all wrong.

pharrell

As a matter of fact, the base of controversy seems far-fetched to us, or at least most of commentators express it with little concision: most of the tweets bear judgments such as “it’s not ok”, ‘what’s wrong with you” and “this is scandalous”, only a few mention the reasons of anger:

“Urgh. Why does the fashion industry insist on turning sacred cultural items into fashion props? #NOTHappy @ELLEUK” – says @OnceAPARNATime.

Cultural appropriation seems to be the problem, as highlighted Refinery29. But the real question is where is the line to draw for offensiveness?

We believe blackfaceing a model is a mistake, but criticizing a graphic and photographic fashion job made with respect (at least benefit of that doubt can be given to the team in charge, right?) seems way over-crying. Why did fashion teams like this one chose this item? Because it bears positive symbols, it also has impeccable visual style and it may remind us that some cultures should not be lost in contemporary moments.

This cover is beautiful. It has character. It does not depict a community in any negative way. Let’s stop underestimating the fashion industry’s capacity to curate cultures. Fashion is not a superficial discipline, whatever twitter might say.

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London Fashion Week AW14 – Under the Spotlight

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It’s the fashion event that you must pencil into your calendar – of course it’s London Fashion Week. From Somerset House to Kensington Gardens, the streets were filled with fashion bloggers, journalists, socialites and the press who were all fortunate enough to get the first peek at the latest collections – I happened to be one of those lucky few!

On Monday, I set off to the beautiful Somerset House and saw the latest line by M&S who are aiming to bring out the ‘Best of British’. The scene was a simple, minimalist background with a ladder, chair and desk – an unusual set, but it did bring out the best of its 60’s-esque bold coloured swing coats and shift dresses.

m&s

I later went to a dim lit, carpeted car park behind Selfridges to see the latest line by Erdem, which was my favourite of the day. Erdem illustrated a mix of contrasting textures such as patent leather on crochet with subdued splashes of gold, grey and scarlet. To put it simply like The Fash Pack have quoted, it was ‘the type of collection that dreams are made of.’  With a revamped version of Heart of Glass by Blondie, the scene was buzzing with an edgy femininity. Simply amazing.

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With the spotlights shining on their scraped-back hair, David Koma was the final show of the day. His collection highlighted bold purples and dark greys, with the clothes structured in sharp cuts and finishes. Again, it was a very minimalist, bright lighted scene to emphasise what Koma had to display.

david koma

There is nothing quite like being a part of the camera flashes and loud voices. David Koma and M&S both displayed lovely collections, but the aura was exactly how I imagined a fashion show to be, therefore I wasn’t taken aback. However, Erdem was the stand-out as its unpretentious setting was revamped into an electrifying setting – it was just a shame that it was over so quickly.

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Adidas x Who ??

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Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Jeremy Scott, Mark McNairy, Kazuki Kuraishi, Stella McCartney, Yohji Yamamoto, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim from Opening Ceremony/Kenzo… This never-ending list is not the next Fashion Week schedule but the list of designers who collaborate with Adidas. The Adidas roster which now also includes the designer Tom Dixon and Kanye West, will probably welcome Pharrell Williams as well, who has almost confirmed the rumor by wearing a red Adidas Track Jacket during the last Grammy Awards. adidas-x-Kanye-West (1) Thus, Adidas which has just stolen Kanye West from Nike, acts unlike his famous rival by accumulating partnerships. These collaborations are not fleeting as well as they are not only related to a specific product. In this way, for most of them, they have become side product-lines developed through several years.

At the first sight, these collaborations seem to be a brilliant idea. Indeed, the fashion world keen on Hypebeast or HighSnobiety loves the announcements such as a top-designer like Raf Simons who teams up with Adidas. Thus, this kind of collaboration generates an immediate buzz. Nevertheless, in order for a partnership to be convincing, it is above all a matter of mutual passion and universes. For instance, even if the Kanye West recruitment looks like great news for Adidas, but currently Kanye West particularly matched Nike in people’s mind thanks to the most innovative and striking sneakers launches. Whereas Nike and Kanye West collaborated sporadically on a single product and distributed theirs sneakers only in a few selected retailers that created huge expectations for sneakerheads, Adidas x Kanye West, according to both of them, would be a larger collaboration on a range of unlimited products like Adidas x Opening Ceremony or Adidas x Jeremy Scott. Furthermore, at least regarding their impact on US mainstream culture, Nike and West seem to share more than the American artist and the German brand.

That is why except if they are concealing an amazing launch, a new innovative technology or a groundbreaker design, the coming collaborations between Adidas and West or Pharrell would be not relevant. Even if at the time these side lines are quite commercially successful, because of the proliferation of collaborations (and I will not tackle subjects such as one-shot partnerships with retailers like WoodWood or brands like Clot, or the integrated lines like Porsche Design or late-SLVR), because of the choice of retailers as well as the lack of coherency in the choice of designers, these partnerships do not look “honest”.

The trendsetters do not any longer rush for Y-3 and they have never done it for Adidas x Opening Ceremony (editor note: except for VQ who recently bought a fluo leopard tee from them). For a brand, the choice of the right interpreter may be difficult. It could be an artist (Adidas x Lee Quinones), a fashion designer (Adidas x Raf Simons), a sportsman (Nike x Jordan), an architect (Melissa x Zaha Hadid), or a designer (Puma x Starck)…  However, the success of a collaboration does not only rely on the fame of the interpreter, no more than in the product itself. For instance, the designer Michael Graves teamed up with Alessi and then with Target. He created almost the same kettles. Nevertheless, they sold much more Alessi one than Target one while the Alessi kettle was much more expensive. Indeed, the partnership between Alessi and Graves was approved by Alessi customers as well as Graves lovers while Graves lovers was not interested in Target and Target customers did not care about Graves.

                                                                         alessi_kettle_graves1

About this point, Nike used to act in an opposite way. Nike does not complete a lot of partnerships and the collaborations are temporary and limited. Of course, Nike teams up with Jordan on a wide range but nowadays, the Jordan brand image is quite separated from the Nike brand image and the Jumpman logo is almost as famous as the Swoosh logo. Nike is collaborating with Riccardo Tisci but only on a product that linked them through basket-ball: the Air Force One. Finally, Nike x Undercover is the only collaboration which is not limited both in time and range, however this line is related to SPORT. Whereas Dior and Chanel have created Haute-Couture sneakers for the last Haute-Couture week, Adidas creates sport products only with Stella McCartney. Adidas continues to believe in the so 00’s “retro” field: for Adidas, the most important launch of the year must be the Stan Smith come-back. Adidas does not believe in sport while it supports more athletes in more sports. Adidas creates more technologies than Nike but not the dream ones: Air vs. Adiprene, Flyknit vs. Primeknit, Lunarlon vs. Boost,… More than an umpteenth Adidas Forum customized by Jeremy Scott, we would prefer an uncrowded roster and a back to innovation and creation which it may be heralded by the Adidas x Rick Owens Tech Runner.

Less is more… rick-owens-for-adidas-2014-fallwinter-tech-runner-1  The « Interpreter » concept is taken from « Design Driven Innovation » (Roberto Verganti, Harvard Business Press).

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When did Miley become more real than a Fashion Blogger?

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For the sake of our ecosystem we had to cry this out. Our darlings and colleagues from the fashion blogosphere have gone too far. We’re not talking about these buffoons roaming the sidewalks during Fashion Week, but really about those delicate creatures that made boys and girls just like us dream of an eternally and integrally beautiful street, populated with muses and characters.

But then Kristina Bazan just released her new version of KAYTURE. As the pinnacle of her later trajectory, it showcases the most surreal shots of a young talented blogger ever. We’re feeling the brands and all these “amazing projects” they’ve submitted to her have alienated the idea of what we used to love about K: a sophisticated spontaneity. She embodied how cool yet charming and level-headed one person could be when it came to fashion perception.

Kayture Collaboration with Louis Vuitton

Now she looks more plastic than any over-the-top luxury campaign. Fake glows and shopped auras have covered the homepage. Thank you Louis V.

And then we watched Miley Cyrus’ music videos again. And somehow it felt more real. Proof that posterizing an icon is a delicate art that even the greatest brands on Earth still have to master.

 

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The lesson of Stylist Magazine 24-hour challenge to the fashion magazines “à la papa”

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We’ve worked with and for fashion media. And a lot of print magazines tend to cry and shout out loud the fact that their industry is collapsing, because, uh, the consumers are now online.

Boohoohoo.

That should actually be a good news: if Coca Cola is able to keep selling sugar while activating us through digital channels, why a good print product couldn’t find its way?

So Stylist Magazine, every week, reinvents itself.

They challenge the routine; so every week, you expect something new, “disruptive”, while still getting some rituals.

This week, the issue is just massive:

WE MADE THIS MAGAZINE IN 24 HOURS AND NOW WE’RE TIRED TIRED TIRED…

And their team really did that. They not only did that for the sake of doing it. They’ve actually created a whole story about this story: inviting influencers, brands, partners. This issue is far more powerful than another X-Mas party: it’s actually a demonstration of the power of their networks, the skills of their editorial team, the consideration that the London scene feels for this magazine.

It’s a real lesson of modern fashion journalism. The lords and queens of the other media brands should go back to Stylist school. It’s all about the readers, and making us dream.

Thanks Stylist for offering us our weekly fashion fix.

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“The world can be saved through design” – Kanye West

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We’re amazed at how the auto-proclaimed “biggest rockstar of all” Kanye West has managed to make a move on the whole media-sensitive creative sphere. As reluctant as the so-called underground scene might feel, Ye is smartly sharing his point to the world. After crying out loud on general media, M. West also took the discreet and subtle time to talk to the ones he says he defends: the creative minds.

Here he is, having a sweet talk to the ears of Harvard Graduate School of Design, waivering some subtle humor: “I’m not a politician, I am – at my best – politically incorrect”, and keeping his cool. No Rant For Once!

Creative genius? Who are we to judge. But Marketing genius? Definitely.

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Christopher Bailey to be appointed Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer, Burberry by mid 2014

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This is a massive news coming from Burberry: Angela Ahrendts steps down to join Apple to head their retail efforts while Christopher Bailey will become by mid 2014 Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer.

It’s a breakthrough when we think few minutes about the recent story of the British brand: Ahrendts is the real business genius who sat down one day with Salesforce CEO and wrote the whole strategy on a napkin…While Bailey achieved to implement a creative framework in every corner of the organization.

It’s one thing to be the creative godfather; it’s another story to fight against financial departments. One example: Asia is a financial myth which could also reduce the luxury assets of the brand. Diverse studies demonstrate that Burberry is slowing down in terms of innovation right there: how will Bailey manage this crazy unbalance between going luxury and going worldwide. Let’s see!

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Why Saint Laurent dumped Colette

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Yesterday, Sarah Andelman – cofounder of legendary concept store Colette (213 rue St Honoré, Paris), announced that Saint Laurent Paris severed their EUR 400k-worth-per-year business for an anecdotic story of merchandising and hip ironic tees. Fortunately, we are not that dumb to gobble up the “these parody tee-shirts make fun of our brand and destroys its value”. Moreover when it’s obvious that the commercial relationship was better than fine and lucrative for everyone until the drama. So what’s really happening behind these smokescreen business talks? Why did Saint Laurent really trashed their output with Colette?

Saint Laurent creative & marketing teams seem to have gone reckless in their fight against resistance to their “beliefs”. Appointing Hedi Slimane looked like a good decision back when it was confidential and heavy suits clinked champagne glasses to celebrate their ingenious transfer. It sounded like the signing Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. But it also meant putting the brand in the hands of a cultural guru / rock star. Mind the words, you’ll get my point soon enough.

Kanye West

Kanye West

In the wake of recent controversy, no sane mind can really believe the fallout between Saint Laurent and Colette is only the result of some merchandising feud. The fact is Hedi Slimane is at war with Kanye West. And rock and roll culture is clinging to life as it can, confronted to the tide of contemporary hip-hop culture now flooding the floors and runways (Alexander Wang, Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy, you feel me?)

The silent war has started a few months ago, but no serious fashion editor seems to have picked up on it yet. Most of our dear professionals have been doing what they’ve done for a long time: praising designers when necessary, ignoring them in other cases. Here we are looking at the big picture and a chain of events that should have triggered some experts’ curiosity:

1) Hip hop stars started wearing contemporary designer clothes – including slim pants, yes, these same skinny jeans brought back to the market by Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme.

2) Kanye West decided to try his way in Paris Fashion Week, challenging a very conservative milieu tolerant to culture only when it means “celebrities wearing our designs”.

3) Freshly appointed Hedi Slimane moves his studio to America, acknowledging a superior tide of trends coming from there, but keeps his nod exclusively to rock culture.

4) While Lady Gaga crossed minds with Nicolas Formichetti, Jay Z performed in a contemporary art gallery head-to-head with Marina Abramovic and a bunch of children of the rock and roll decades (Jarmusch, Apatow…)

5) As electronic music has had its way with rock music to finally blossom into a mainstream electro-pop industry (hello Calvin Harris, New Order, LCD Soundsystem), it’s now having a huge party of fun with hip-hop influences (hello trap music and dubstep fans)

6) Kanye finally clashes with Saint Laurent over a presence-at-show deal when SL allegedly asked mr West to attend exclusively to their event (thus demanding him to chose sides between them and Givenchy or Balenciaga whom he’s close to already). Which climaxes with a public slap on BBC to Hedi Slimane, basically claiming he’s now way behind. “Rap is the new rock and roll. We’re the culture.” // “Yeah, it’s been like that for a minute, Hedi Slimane!” // “We’re the real rock stars and I’m the biggest of all of them”.

Hedi Slimane

Hedi Slimane

So there we’re back to Colette. In Paris and New York, fashion followers still allow themselves to lean into rock culture but have overlooked the growing influence of street / hip-hop culture. Except Colette, who with always a step ahead has been a super stronghold of street culture x luxury for a while already. Regulars can testify they’ve seen Pharrell Williams and Kanye West hang around there consistently. The sneakers department of the parisian concept store has inspired a whole industry to move forward, and Nike has never been more powerful since the Jordan age.

Now who’s going to act surprised at the schoolboy retaliation played by Saint Laurent Paris and Hedi Slimane? You play with the wrong crowd, we can’t be friends anymore. That’s what it’s been all about.

People of the fashion industry, brace yourselves. War may have just started and these guys are going to take no prisoner.

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Rick Owens gives a street lesson to Paris Fashion Week: what a coup!

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There’s a lot to tell about Paris Fashion Week and we’ll write about it very soon. But we’re super impressed by Rick Owens fashion statement during his show:

The cast, made of African-American only, walked with angry faces as they were revealing the new Owen’s collection. Rick Owens scouted American college step teams: the Zetas, Washington Divas, Soul Steppers and Momentums after watching them on YouTube.

A fantastic coup to tackle a sometimes very sleepy fashion industry. Enjoy.

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How Reebok hijacked Nike with Purple Unicorn Planet

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Remember our post on our French blog about the Purple Unicorn Planet (PUP)? Well, it seems like Reebok heard the team better than Nike! A fantastic news for consumers who finally have a new opportunity to improve the sneakers market. And to a certain extent improves the balance between men and women

Emily Hodgson and Emilie Riis, the duo currently lobbying Nike to make its coolest men’s trainers available in women’s sizes, have been invited by Reebok to collaborate on its women’s trainers.

Hodgson and Riis launched a campaign last month to shake up the predominantly pink and girly women’s trainers market under the name Purple Unicorn Planet (PUP), with a website disguised as a fantasy trainer shop at www.purpleunicornplanet.com

The pair, who work together at ad agency 18 Feet & Rising, sent a letter to Nike with their requests. Purple Unicorn Planet has its own hashtag #pleasejustdoit and Twitter feed @PunicornP

Following the vast amount of press coverage and support PUP received since launch, sportswear giant Reebok got in touch to ask the two Emilies to collaborate with its team.

Meanwhile, Nike’s response to the campaign has been met with frustration and disappointment at PUP HQ. Nike sent a representative to meet with the pair to discuss PUP and subsequently issued the following statement:

“We have been in touch with Emily and Emilie and we find their campaign very interesting. We have always been and will continue to be supportive of feedback from our consumers. NIKE is committed to our sneaker community and will continue to work on offering new and exciting products.”

Despite Nike’s stated commitment to the sneaker community, the brand has given no explanation to Purple Unicorn Planet and its supporters on why the women’s range is so limited, and there is no response to PUP’s goal.
Emily Hodgson said:

“It’s great to see someone step up. We’ve been delighted and amazed by the response we have received since we launched PUP. The fact that the people at Nike haven’t yet given us the answers we’re looking for is a disappointment.”

Emilie Riis said:

“This is a big opportunity and failing to see it means you will be missing out. We want to collaborate with a brand that is taking the shortage in the category seriously. It’s great to see that we’ve struck a chord with so many women round the world who feel the same way we do, and we are driven by giving them a better trainer selection in smaller sizes.