the Insiders


Showing posts by Miles Socha - European Editor
THE INN CROWD: A self-professed fan of hotel living, Karl Lagerfeld has been tapped to design two luxurious suites at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris, currently undergoing a major renovation and slated to reopen in 2015.

You practically need an M.B.A. and a law degree to fully understand the complex financial machinations luxury titan Bernard Arnault employed over a two-year period to arrive at a surprising 17.1 percent stake in Hermes International.
PARIS -- Couture, the apex of the fashion pyramid, is on the cusp of big change, and it's happening at a speed unfamiliar to a world that requires stitches, hand-wrought, one after the other, for hundreds of hours to make a single dress.
It's made for a confounding week (make that three days), with Christian Lacroix's on-a-shoestring high fashion collection, possibly his last, greeted with a standing ovation and one of the hands-down favorites of the week. Two French journalists even unfurled a giant banner proclaiming "Christian Lacroix Forever" at the end of his show.

Fashion has such a giddy air of wealth and excess around it that it's difficult to fathom when seemingly high-riding designer companies falter.

I'll never forget the disbelief in the WWD newsroom in New York back in 1998 when the paper got word that Chanel Inc. was dissolving its partnership with Isaac Mizrahi and shuttering the business.

It was déjà vu when I walked into Christian Lacroix's headquarters on the Rue de Monceau in Paris on Wednesday to learn the company had filed a petition seeking court protection from its creditors. It's always disheartening to see a wildly creative designer -- at Lacroix, even the wires coming out of the receptionist's computer are festively decorated with wooden beads and glittering rings -- run up against a wall.

Everyone loves being in Paris for fashion week, but this season it felt like a party that went on a little too long. That many retailers and editors cut their trips short suggests the show-business aspect of fashion needs a reality check at a time when the industry is girding for even more turmoil as the recession drags on.

A look from Rick Owens.

When George Clooney arrived at a Versace women's wear show a few years back, there was a roar from the blasé fashion pack, and women and men surged in with the photographers to get a closer look.

Last week, when David Beckham strolled into the Emporio Armani show at the outset of Milan men's fashion week, the reception was incredibly subdued: a flashbulb here, a gasp there.

"We're civilized," a veteran men's editor said by way of explanation.

The first fashion week of 2009 was bound to be low-key, given the economic downturn. 
Red gowns might be the first thing people think of when they hear the word Valentino, but intimates know it means so much more. When the retired Roman couturier swept into Paris earlier this week for the opening of a retrospective exhibit at Les Arts Décoratifs, the lavish and effortlessly glamorous lifestyle he represents was in full flower -- from the hydrangeas-in-every-color-under-the-sun dotting the dinner tables at the gala dinner to the swirl of p.r. minions and international glitterati jockeying for his attention.

"I feel like I'm at Wideville," Marisa Berenson remarked, likening the grandeur of the museum's rich furnishings to the designer's chateau outside of Paris.

It will be interesting to see if Valentino's new brand stewards -- the private equity fund Permira and the designer Alessandra Facchinetti -- will be able to sustain the aura of exclusivity, privilege and refinement around the brand without the founding designer, who built it over a career stretching 49 years and with a loyal entourage of Hollywood A-listers, European royals and assorted jet-setters.

Not that the man seems worried, or wistful about leaving fashion behind. During our interview, he seemed relaxed, happy and enjoying his free time, looking forward to a summer vacation that would not be interrupted by the ceaseless cycle of collections. He told me his first idea was Spain, but then he ran into a Turkish friend in London and is now mulling the possibility of sailing his yacht in its blue waters. He's got a long list of other places he's keen to visit, including Fiji and Australia. There is definitely a life after fashion, and Valentino's sounds as glamorous as ever. His fashion foundation, and ambition to do ballet costumes, might have to wait.
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