What a year it has been! From bitter battles and bitchfights to the rise of the Brits, there were so many highs and lows this year. Here are the topics that got us talking.
Last week Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune lamented the fact that fashion designers have become commodities traded by luxury brands. A look at the hirings, firings and resignations this year only confirms it.
Making headlines were Brioni (who replaced creative director Jason Basmajian with Brendan Mullane) and Yves Saint Laurent (creative director Stefano Pilati left in March only to land at Ermenegildo Zegna’s women’s brand Agnona a few months later). Christopher Kane departed from Versace’s younger line Versus, fuelling speculation that he was joining Balenciaga as creative director (more on that later). Then hot British designer Jonathan Anderson confirmed that he would be designing a capsule collection with Versus.
The biggest shock of the year however came from Balenciaga. In November the brand’s much loved creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere resigned from a post that he had excelled at for 15 years. When the fashion pack thought it couldn’t get any worse, it was announced that New York cool kid Alexander Wang would be replacing him, making him one of the few Asian faces to helm a French luxury brand. Let’s just hope he’s not a one-season wonder.
Let the Games Begin
No one likes to air their dirty laundry in public –unless you are part of the fashion pack. Petty squabbles took on epic proportions this year thanks to the media and one too many bruised egos.
Even before the spring/summer 2013 fashion weeks had begun, the press were already dreaming up a rivalry of Kane & Abel proportions between Paris’ hottest new designers, Raf Simons (at Christian Dior) and Hedi Slimane (at Yves Saint Laurent). It was so overdramatised that no one noticed Jil Sander who was making a comeback to her namesake label. In the case of Slimane vs Simons, the fashion jury ruled that the latter churned out a better collection.
The real drama however started a few weeks earlier in New York when PR maven Lynn Tesoro was publicly slapped by Jennifer Eymere over seating arrangements at the Zac Posen show. Tesoro fired back with a US$1 million lawsuit against Eymere (and her mother and sister).
A few days later days, a hurt Oscar de la Renta wrote an open letter in WWD addressed to New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn after she called him a hotdog in a review. He rebuked by comparing her to a stale three-day old hamburger. Slimane also threw a few punches at Horyn after her negative review of his debut collection for Saint Laurent Paris, taking to Twitter to call her a “publicist in disguise.” The tweets have since been removed.
Even designers and brands got into the act. Roberto Cavalli called Giorgio Armani a “Little King” whose “every choice is perceived as an order,” when he was forced to move his show during Milan Fashion Week.
Other battles took place in court as Christian Louboutin continued his fight with Yves Saint Laurent over the trademark protection on the red sole (Louboutin finally won). Gucci received a payout from Guess for using its interlocking G logo while American society princess Tory Burch and her ex-husband Chris Burch are involved in lawsuits and countersuits over the similarities in their brands, C. Wonder and Tory Burch. All’s definitely not fair in love and fashion.
The Lure of the Masstique
As the Chinese shopper starts to demand more affordable fashion, many European and American mass brands chose Hong Kong as the perfect place to lure in this new consumer. American retail giant Forever 21 led the way by opening their first store in Causeway Bay measuring a whopping 10,000 square foot (with a hefty HK$11 million monthly rental to match). From Europe came H&M’s minimalist label COS while Inditex launched Uterque, a more classic version of Zara. French high street brands Maje and Sandro also opened their first Asian boutiques in IFC Mall, Central.
Not to be outdone however were the Americans. Abercrombie & Fitch made headlines even before it opened its doors with an announcement that they would be taking over Shanghai Tang’s former space at the iconic Pedder Building in Central for a cool HK$7 million rent per month. Two weeks before the opening in August the marketing onslaught began as the city was invaded by 100s of topless male models from the US and Europe flaunting their abs on buses and in clubs around town.
In October, preppy favourite J. Crew made history by launching in Asia exclusively at Lane Crawford, with promises to open a freestanding store by next year. Also coming to Hong Kong soon is British giant TopShop who will open their doors in May 2013, at Lane Crawford’s Lab Concept.
Who needs Paris when you have Great Britain? Although London has been experiencing a fashion renaissance in recent years, 2012 was definitely the year for British fashion (blame it on Kate Middleton). The Olympics of course helped. Stella McCartney added a cool fashion edge to the proceedings designing all the outfits for Team GB. Even the closing ceremony turned into a fashion show as nine British supermodels led by Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, both in McQueen, strutted their stuff for the world to see. Style icon Victoria Beckham reunited with her fellow Spice Girls for a one time only performance in a sexy black minidress.
It wasn’t just about the girls either. The British Fashion Council also organised the first ever men’s fashion week in October, where top talents including E. Tautz showed off edgy yet wearable designs. Next year, big wigs like Tom Ford and Alexander McQueen have also signed up to show their men’s lines.
On and did we mention that Stella McCartney was 2012’s most-searched fashion term in the UK, beating out Karl Lagerfeld and Victoria’s Secret?
While no one questions the buying power of the Chinese (according to Bloomberg, the Chinese have surpassed Americans as the largest buyers of luxury goods), the country is also proving its talents as a brand builder. This year saw Chinese companies buy up major luxury brands including Sonia Rykiel (by Li & Fung) and British brand Aquascutum (YGM Trading). On the other end of spectrum, French luxury goods conglomerate PPR recently bought its first Chinese brand, jeweller Qeelin. According to CEO Francois-Henri Pinault many more will follow.
Foreign brands also turned their attention to China’s online landscape thanks to its huge potential for growth. The Neiman Marcus Group announced a US$28 million investment in the privately held e-commerce company Glamour Sales Holding. Netaporter launched The Outnet.cn in March while multi-brand retailer Yoox.com launched its Chinese version site in October. Last month, Ferragamo went against the grain by choosing local partner Xiu.com to sell its collections in China.
China’s top creatives also spread their wings beyond the homeland as they gained international recognition. Superstar photographer Chen Man made headlines with a series of striking covers for i-D magazine’s Pre-Spring 2012 issue, many of which were styled by China’s own Katie Grand, Lucia Liu. Up and coming designer Uma Wang debuted her work at Paris Fashion Week and took part in the CFDA’s inaugural China Exchange programme. Even shoemaker Sergio Rossi enlisted the talents of Chinese artist Peng Wei who designed a collection of boots made out of rice paper.
While Europe may still dominate the fashion calendar, the biggest parties of the year were held in Hong Kong and China. Lanvin celebrated their 10th anniversary with a luxury bash in Beijing, along with other grand celebrations by Hugo Boss and Montblanc. Louis Vuitton recreated its autumn/winter fashion show in Shanghai and brought Marc Jacobs to the country for the first time. Towards the end of the year the action moved to Hong Kong where the international fashion pack including Kim Jones (Louis Vuitton), Olivier Rousteing (Balmain), Anya Hindmarch,Christopher Bailey (Burberry), Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez (Proenza Schouler) and Roland Mouret, among many others, made appearances in the city. Is there anyone left who hasn’t visited Greater China?
And the award goes to:
Must-have item: Balenciaga spaceship sweatshirts
Editor’s favourite: Anything from Comme des Garcons’ 2D collection
Best Comeback: Romeo Gigli with Hong Kong retailer, Joyce
Worst Comeback: Jil Sander at Jil Sander
Best Book: Grace by Grace Coddington
Coolest Party: Lanvin in Shanghai and Louis Vuitton in Hong Kong
Worst Pose: Angelina Jolie at the Oscars
Most Wearable Runway Trend: Peplums
Style Crush: J Crew’s Jenna Lyons
Memorable Quote: “Don’t F—K with Americans,” PR maven Lynn Tersoro
First published in the South China Morning Post on December 28, 2012