Milan fashion week: high-minded mix of old and new guides Gucci revolution

Gucci, how you’ve changed. In recent years you’ve been luxurious but, well, just a tad dull. But now you’re so exciting, so youthful, so cool. This was the take-home message from the Italian brand’s menswear show during Milan fashion week on Monday.

In six months, Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, has managed to completely turn around the industry’s perception of this juggernaut of a brand. Gucci had became known for staid, caramel luxury, but now, after three shows from Michele, it means men in geeky glasses and flares carrying handbags. In terms of catwalk tactics it has been a masterstroke.

The message has not been subtle. For this, his most confident collection yet, Michele moved the show to a new venue for the first time in almost two decades: a simple manoeuvre which underlined the new order. The venue was a disused railway shed in north-west Milan. Coloured strip lights contrasted with the fancy floral opera chairs lining the concrete catwalk.

A model presents a creation for fashion house Gucci at Milan fashion week on Monday

A model presents a creation for fashion house Gucci at Milan fashion week on Monday Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

The show notes began with a quote from the situationist theorist Guy Debord which proclaimed “Détournement is the opposite of quotation” and went on to explain that this meant putting “decontextualised fragments back into circulation” with new meaning. High-minded stuff, as far removed from luxury share prices as it is possible to get. It could be read as the height of pretension, but in terms of the clothes on show, it made a lot of sense.

On the catwalk, fragments of the old Gucci were there: in the loafers with the backs of the shoes trodden down, in the double G belts, in the logo-adorned trench coat and in the mix of dark green and red – the colours of 1970s Gucci. But they had been pieced back together to entirely different effect. Backstage the designer said he had wanted to put the brand into the show but did not want to be a prisoner inside it. “I love to work with the past to translate the future,” he said.

The collection’s vibe recalled Fleetwood Mac. Models wore pussy bow blouses and embroidered silk dressing gowns with fur sleeves; pink lace shorts followed men in hairclips. Flared tracksuits made way for Lurex blouses, pie crust collars and large lapels. Handbags were carried by men with Robert Peston hair and Jarvis Cocker glasses. Prints recalled the floral wallpaper of 1970s sitcoms. It was a challenge to masculinity, albeit a beautifully embroidered one. Michele said breezily that masculinity was about beauty and that you could interpret that how you wanted.

Gucci’s high-speed creative revolution was much needed. As the flagship brand of its parent company, Kering, it is the conglomerate’s cash cow: the world’s second most valuable luxury brand, according to Forbes. But revenue in 2014 showed an annual drop in its sales of 1.1%. In December, Gucci bosses sacked both the CEO and the creative director, Frida Giannini, and promoted the then unknown Michele to the top job. François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s chairman and CEO, recently said that he expects the change in personnel to revive the brand.

In fashion, perception is all. The message from the catwalk flows down fast and success relies on creative impact translating speedily into sales. It is clear that Gucci is now about youth, excitement and energy – an intoxicating commercial force if ever there was one.

Milan men’s fashion week: teenage girls jostle with the press at Calvin Klein

There was a new breed of lurker outside Calvin Klein’s menswear show during Milan Fashion Week on Sunday: teenage girls, in orderly but excitable groups, waiting patiently for male models.

Andre Doyley models Calvin Klein on Sunday.

Andre Doyley models Calvin Klein on Sunday. Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

Increasingly, male models are building followings on social media – something Calvin Klein has been keen to capitalise on. In the runup to its show this season, the brand posted topless shots of the models who would be walking on the runway to 1.8m Instagram followers, along with fun facts (Andre Doyley, 22, is “a big Kenny Rogers fan”, for example).

While Calvin Klein will forever be associated with gym-honed male bodies and tight, white underwear, the view from the catwalk was a lot more covered up. After all, this was Calvin Klein Collection, the brand’s premium line, and creative director Italo Zucchelli presented an assured selection of military- and utility-inspired pieces in black, white, khaki, denim and stone.

Shapes were simple and wearable – suit jackets over round-necked jumpers, cropped boxy jackets and T-shirts printed with faded palm trees – but that simplicity was subtly subverted throughout. Sleek, tailored trousers were decorated with elasticated straps like a loosened ammo belt; the standard casual uniform of boxy white T-shirt and jeans had an unexpected texture. On closer inspection, the stonewash denim effect of the “jeans” had been created with jacquard.

Calvin Klein has cannily targeted younger customers in recent years, linking up with stars with huge social media followings, such as Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner, and capitalising on a mood of 90s nostalgia in fashion. Earlier this month, Phillips-Van Heusen, which also owns Tommy Hilfiger, reported stronger than expected quarterly results, which CEO Emanuel Chirico said were thanks to “the strength of our Calvin Klein business”.

Luxury industry analysts are watching menswear keenly this season, though for a very different reason than those teenage fans. Global sales of menswear rose by 4.5% year-on-year to £298bn in 2014, compared with growth of 3.7% to £448bn for the women’s market in the same period, according to Euromonitor.

Recently, womenswear brands from Moschino to House of Holland have launched menswear lines, while next month, for the first time, New York will stage a dedicated men’s fashion week in an effort to capitalise on the boom. Ralph Lauren is staging menswear shows for the first time since 2003 this season, showing his Purple Label collection in Milan on Saturday and Polo Ralph Lauren at New York next month.

SA new destination for luxury fashion brands

South Africa has emerged as a hot destination for leading fashion brands of the world.

Sandton City’s new Diamond Walk which opened to the public recently, has staked its position as Africa’s definitive luxury and super-luxury retail destination.

The striking Diamond Walk at Sandton City in Johannesburg now hosts an array of top brands: Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Ermenegildo Zegna, Billionaire Italian Couture, Jimmy Choo, Tod’s and Arque Champagne Crescent.

The world’s top luxury brand Louis Vuitton and its close competitor Gucci, both already part of the Sandton City Complex, are also taking the opportunity to enlarge their offering and form part of the stellar list of international fashion houses at Sandton City’s Diamond Walk.

Sandton City offers an unparalleled retail experience with more than 330 shops in a contemporary, stylish setting. It is in the heart of the country’s most affluent playground and is the retail darling of Africa’s elite and fashion-forward.

It doesn’t stop Sandton City. At Menlyn Park shopping mall in Pretoria, a new fashion wing opened early this month with over 100 cutting edge fashion brands including Paris Hilton, C-Squared, Geri, Superdry and Palladium – all firsts for Pretoria.

Across South Africa’s urban hotspots, malls are being developed at astronomical costs where premium labels pay mindboggling rentals to open their shops. Apart from the high rentals some of these retailers are willing to pay, spending on their shop spaces is on a grand scale.

The Diamond Walk Prada store, for one, is now Prada’s biggest in the world, covering 800 sq m and featuring black and white marble chequered flooring, crystal tables and velvet sofas.

The answer to the proliferation of fashion and splurging lies partly in the fact that South Africa’s rich are getting richer and a rising middle class that now has more disposable income.

Above-inflation wages and a relatively low inflation rate have fueled priority spending on designer labels despite hefty price tags.

Until recently, South Africa wasn’t on the radar of the world’s top fashion and luxury brand. Now, the country is a premier destination for almost every major brand in Europe, UK and the US


Hillary Clinton emerges as new style icon for over 50s


With her announcement that she is running for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton has emerged as new style icon, especially for women over 50s.
Following her announcement, the 67-year old grandmother and former first lady of the US has caused a 27 per cent increase in tailoring, according to a recent JD Williams State of the Nation report.
The report, which surveyed women aged 50 and above, found that Hillary Clinton is the new style icon driving womenswear sales.
Clinton’s style is simple: prefers classic separates and tailoring but mixes them with bold colours and statement jewellery which help her look fresh and modern.
Commenting on Clinton’s style, Carie Barkhuizen, spokesperson for JD Williams, says, “She has moved on from the dreaded scrunchie and inspired a nation of over 50s with her inspirational attitude to ageing.”
However, this is not the first time that Hillary has become a fashion icon. Much before she met the former president Bill Clinton, she was seen wearing bug-eye glasses and brightly coloured pants with occasional stripes.
When she became the First Lady of the US in January 1993, television screens and newsstands flashed her cardigans, pantsuits, costume jewellery and the headbands.
In fact, she is said to have been photographed wearing monochrome pantsuits in various colours, especially during her years as senator and secretary of state. (RKS)


H&M collaborates with French fashion house Balmian

Olivier Rousteing

Swedish apparel retailer H&M has collaborated with French fashion house Balmian for its autumn collection.

“A veritable bastion of French luxury, under the creative directorship of young Olivier Rousteing, Balmain has grown into a global pop-culture phenomenon,” a H&M press release said.

Rousteing and his friends Kendall Jenner and Jourdan Dunn walked the red carpet at The Billboard Music Awards revealing the first pieces of the collection.

“I want to talk to my generation as this is my main aim as a designer. H&M allows me the unique possibility of bringing everyone into the world of Balmain and get a piece of the dream,” Rousteing said.

The collaboration felt extremely natural to me, as H&M is a brand that everybody connects to and it calls for unity, and I am all for it,” he added.

Founded in 1945, Balmain has always remained true to the vision and spirit of its founder and expresses energy, fun, amusement and freedom, appealing to everybody.

“Rousteing has created a unique identity for the house, at once respectful of its couture DNA and rooted in the moment, with showbiz flair,” H&M noted.

“We are excited to have Balmain as our guest designer at H&M and create a truly involving experience for everybody,” Ann-Sofie Johansson, creative advisor at H&M said.

“With its mix of couture spirit and streetwear attitude, Balmain owns a unique style, at once opulent and direct, sensual and energetic,” she added.

“It is also closely linked to the show business and music worlds, which adds another element of surprise,” Johansson observed.

Available from November 5 in around 250 stores worldwide and online, the collection will feature clothing and accessories for both women and men. (AR)

Woolmark, top designers collaborate at London Collections

Richard James menswear S/S 16

A dedicated supporter of London Collections Men since the event’s inauguration, The Woolmark Company continues its involvement by teaming up with designers who have a passion and interest in Merino wool.

This season, The Woolmark Company is highlighting collaborations with Lou Dalton, Richard James and Sibling. The unique partnerships have seen these labels working closely with manufacturers and craftsman of Merino wool product, exchanging creative ideas and skills so as to further benefit and enhance their menswear collections with this versatile natural fibre, Woolmark said on its website.

Lou Dalton, Richard James and Sibling have created collections focused around lightweight Merino wool, challenging people’s perceptions of the fibre’s relevance for the season by showcasing its aesthetic qualities and natural performance attributes. From smart lightweight suits to casual separates and knitwear, the collaborations ensure that wool is seen as an important component of the spring/summer menswear wardrobe.

“Wool is a fantastic fabric to work with, so it’s always been a big part of what we do. There’s a lot of tropical-weight wool in this collection. And there are some beautiful wool blends. Both the tailoring and casual wear is beautifully light and we couldn’t have achieved that without wool,” explained Toby Lamb, design and brand director of Richard James.

“Sibling is really all about knitwear; it’s our starting point and the brand DNA since launching in 2008,” said Sibling co-designer Cozette McCreery. “For spring/summer we’ve worked with fine Merino wool so that there is warmth and yet a lightness…What’s really new and what we are most excited about is that we are doing tailoring for the first time ever – proper suiting.”

In a collaboration with Edward Sexton, the collection included bespoke suits and trousers made with lightweight Merino wool from Luxury Fabrics, mixing Savile Row heritage and Sibling inspiration. In addition, there were parkas using the same fine lightweight Merino wool in updated Sibling styling.

Designer Lou Dalton recalled: “Back when I was 16 and working for a bespoke tailor I came in contact with some of the finest wools in the world and from there on I was hooked. I’m obsessed with wool, the nature of it, how it’s evolved with time, what you can do with it. Wool plays a big part in the collections I produce; I’d be lost without it.”

Dalton’s collection included key fabrics from Lanificio Cerruti and laser printed Merino wool knitwear.

By partnering with design talents such as Lou Dalton, Richard James and Sibling, Woolmark said it is able to continue exploring the infinite possibilities of Merino wool.

“It’s a thrill to be able to witness what these three labels are able to do with wool. Each designer has put their own stamp on the fibre, working with its natural qualities to produce fashion that is at the forefront of menswear today,” said Woolmark chief strategy and marketing officer Rob Langtry. (SH)