WWD Week in Review: 3/5/10

The top stories for the week ending in March 5, 2010.

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A look for Kenneth Cole Reaction.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Renewed Demand Removes Chill From Feb. Sales

Wicked winter weather couldn’t keep consumers from spending in February, propelling retailers to their best month of same-store sales results in more than two years and elevating hopes the upswing is here to stay. Stores reporting numbers Thursday were aided by extremely weak year-ago comparisons, but still managed to beat analysts’ projections despite lingering high unemployment, weak consumer confidence and continued deterioration in sales of new cars and homes. Even with these Swords of Damocles hanging over retailers’ heads, the surprisingly strong showing by stores in the first month of the first quarter fueled optimism the buying public is starting to get over its reluctance to shop. Despite tentative signs of a turnaround at the beginning of the year, European retailers are bracing for a see-saw recovery at best, and at worst a double-dip recession. Fears that Greece could default on its public debt have roiled financial markets in recent weeks, raising the specter that European economies, which borrowed heavily to sustain spending during the recession, could now raise taxes on their wealthiest citizens to help foot the bill. After three years in the designer business, European private equity firm Permira is looking at cashing in on its investment in Proenza Schouler, and possibly Valentino, too. Although the company denied it planned to sell its interest in the labels, sources indicated that Permira has started to put out feelers, and several investment funds are said to have looked at the two fashion properties. And according to a new book, the twin perils of growing global competition and decreasing pricing power have been limiting gains in the fashion business as similar products proliferate and “overlap” in a range of prices. This competitive environment makes the fashion business one of the “most fascinating” to explore, said Richard D’Aveni, author of “Beating the Commodity Trap” (Harvard Business Press, $27.95). The intensifying struggle to distinguish fashion items from competitors’ products held particular significance for the author.

Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper Appear at MAC Launch Event

MAC Cosmetics believes in pouting to make a point. That’s why the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.-owned brand and its celebrity spokeswomen, Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper, held a launch event in London Monday for its latest Viva Glam lipsticks. They are sold to help the MAC AIDS Fund. “Seventy-two percent of sexually active women in the United Kingdom have never been tested for HIV,” the ever-flamboyantly attired Lady Gaga told discussion moderator Sharon Osbourne, who put questions to the pop stars. The queries were culled from thousands sent by their fans via Twitter and Facebook. (The event was also streamed online.) Throughout the discussion, the duo placed particular emphasis on communicating to women about HIV- and AIDS-related issues, including testing for the illnesses, practicing safe sex and, in some cases, abstinence. Also, John Galliano and his fragrance license holder, Selective Beauty, will introduce an eau de toilette version of his signature women’s scent, Coach has plans to expand its fragrance distribution, and it’s being said that French actress Mélanie Thierry is to be the face of the next Yves Saint Laurent women’s scent.

Macy’s Inks Kenneth Cole Deal

Macy’s Inc. has snagged another exclusive. In an effort to bolster the assortment within the men’s sportswear department, the retailer will reveal today it has signed a deal with Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. to launch a collection of sportswear under the Kenneth Cole Reaction label this fall. The line will launch in 150 Macy’s stores and online in September and is eventually expected to roll out to 550 doors. Under the terms of the deal, Macy’s will be the exclusive department store retailer of the sportswear in the U.S. and its territories. However, Reaction classifications merchandise will continue to be sold at other department and specialty stores. After 100 years in the men’s wear business, Ermenegildo Zegna is taking on a scholarly role. The Italian suit maker is teaming with Milanese fashion school Istituto Marangoni to introduce a master’s degree in men’s wear. The eight-month program, which kicks off in October, will cover all the fundamentals of making men’s garments — research, creation, product management, retail, logistics and marketing. Marangoni professors as well as key managers and designers from the Ermenegildo Zegna group are to teach the classes. After stabilizing and expanding its women’s business and appointing a headline-grabbing president and chief creative officer in Sarah Jessica Parker, Halston is finally turning its attention to men. This fall, the investor group that purchased Halston in 2007 will launch two men’s lines as part of its continuing bid to revitalize the iconic brand. The effort will be led by a luxury-level main collection of suits and sportswear designed with accessible fashion in mind. The company will also offer a secondary line, called Heritage, which will be more fashion- and sportswear-driven and be offered at lower prices.

A New Wave of Films Has Fashion Fixated

When Donatella Versace was preparing her men’s collection for fall, she logged onto YouTube to check out trailers for the forthcoming science fiction film, “Tron Legacy.” Current and forthcoming feature films are influencing fashion to a blockbuster degree, with “Avatar” references sweeping through the spring couture collections in January and the release of Tim Burton’s Disney film “Alice in Wonderland” this week coinciding with a slew of product tie-ups and retail showcases, from windows at Bloomingdale’s in New York and Printemps in Paris to an “Alice”-inspired young women’s range hitting Uniqlo stores starting this month. “Movies are always an inspiration: It’s a reflection of the times,” mused Versace, whose spring women’s collection, unveiled in October in Milan, was partly inspired by Burton’s anticipated new film. Sunday’s Academy Awards will roll out more than the red carpet. Hollywood’s biggest night is turning to technology, social media and new formats for the 82nd annual Oscars to entice a bigger audience and generate more attention. A year after turmoil in the worldwide economy resulted in slightly lower key partying and fewer gift suites, the frenzy is building as top fashion and jewelry brands jockey to dress A-list actresses and capture the buzz and publicity that can help boost sales.
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