March 26, 2009

News flash: Do try this at home. Well, some of it.

While retailers desperately try to offload their wares, the media have found a new tack: how to make the most of the clothes you already have. The Today Show offers up an unintentionally hilarious demo on how to update your current wardrobe (answer: glue on zippers and fringe. No, no, no!), while AnOther magazine includes homemade cardboard bralets and plastic-bag bustiers in a sexy spread of '50s pin-up looks. Meanwhile, Teen Vogue, an early adopter of the DIY ethos, this month has designer Rachel Roy show you how to convert a T-shirt into a rather frightening zebra-striped prom dress. Not sure what exactly this bodes for retailers, since Gap's effort a few years ago to showcase spokesmodel Sarah Jessica Parker's techniques for customizing her clothes completely bombed.

One thing retailers can do, though: band together. New organization S-3 in New York ("Shop Small Stores" -- not original,  but to the point) is gathering boutique owners to swap tips for customer retention, lobby for more tax-free days, create a festive atmosphere for the month of May, and plaster their windows with stickers of the org's ugly, generic logo. Small boutiques, listen here: Your advantages lie in your small size and ability to give personalized service to the customers in your niche. Just do what you're doing well, and please use your windows to show off your merchandise, not unnecessary signage.

In other, non-Topshop-related good news for New York, the city is considering taking over an 8th Avenue building to run as a nonprofit space for apparel manufacturing only, a rare respite in the gradual takeover of the Garment District by restaurants and other non-apparel businesses.

March 25, 2009

News flash: Yes, Virginia, there is some good news out there

Amid word of Barneys' layoffs, Thom Browne's possible bankruptcy, and even the previously indomitable jewelry market taking a turn for the worse, there are actually a few bright spots. American Apparel secured new financing to stave off a close scrape with bankruptcy; a resurgent Chloé has opened a pretty new flagship in Los Angeles; and Topshop's van is giving away free things on the streets of Manhattan to celebrate its upcoming April 2 opening.

March 18, 2009

News flash: Jil Sander for Uniqlo, LV sues Google

Our designer of the year, Uniqlo, sent its stock prices skyrocketing this week with a surprise announcement: Jil Sander -- that's the real Jil Sander, not the sculptural Raf Simons-designed label that bears her name -- will be helming the Japanese mass-market chain's design section. British Vogue is wondering whether the notoriously monochromatic Sander will institute changes to the label's usual paintbox palette, while WWD notes in an aside that Uniqlo's rising sales have propelled its chairman, Tadashi Yanai, to the position of Japan's richest man.

Meanwhile, our un-designer -- er, copycat? -- of the year, Erin Wasson, has announced that "…there's art everywhere, there's art all around us. To create is my ultimate goal. So why would I ever sell out?" Hmm, good question, Erin. In other copycat news, Louis Vuitton is suing Google for letting imitators buy ads that appear when "louis vuitton" is searched. Google says consumers can choose for themselves which ads to click on. And while we're on the subject of copycats, here's an oldie but a goodie:

March 10, 2009

News flash: Store openings, for better or for worse

Hipster T-shirt juggernaut American Apparel opened 81 stores last year, bringing its total to more than 260 doors worldwide. It seemed to be on its way to becoming the Starbucks of cotton jersey, but instead, the company may be on its last leg(ging)s, reports WWD today. Founder Dov Charney has loaned AA $6.5 million out of his own pocket since December, not nearly enough to pay off a $51 million loan that comes due next month. 

This should come as no discouragement to Adidas, which launched its new concept, SLVR, with a freestanding store in New York last month, with more to come in Paris and around the world: Miami, Bangkok, Los Angeles... The eco-conscious, reasonably-priced, highly designed line is based on the Y-3 concept, but at a more recession-friendly price point, with ingenious designs like the one-piece Zero Waste T-shirt and the 7-piece sneaker that waste less material. Rave reviews in the New York Times and across the blogosphere have sent customers packing to the new shop, which opened Feb. 17.

Meanwhile, the latest word has it that Topshop is finally opening in New York April 2, dipping its toe into the waters across the pond, while the ladylike contemporary line Milly just opened its very first store in Tokyo.

March 4, 2009

News flash: Luxury tightens its belt

Amid Karl Lagerfeld's let-them-eat-cake quotes, Donatella Versace's staunch refusal to dilute her brand by offering sales, and the opening of Giorgio Armani's lavish new Fifth Avenue flagship, the fact remains that the economy is affecting everyone's sales -- well, everyone except Uniqlo, whose same-store sales rose 4% in February. And so, even luxury labels are now starting to tighten their belts, both literally and metaphorically. WWD reports that belted coats are storming the runways for fall, while high-end Paris brands are cutting down on lighting budgets,  flowers, and even - gasp! - hand-lettered invitations for their runway shows. At the mass-market level, even beloved Project Runway host Tim Gunn fears for his job at Liz Claiborne -- understandably, since the company best known for its 1980s office clothes posted an $830 million loss last quarter.
Creative Commons License
MBF Trend Talk by MBF Trend Consulting is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at