Shopping the High Street with Kate Moss

October 16 2013

Oh, Kate, you know I love you and have been faithful to you. I love seeing you in David Yurman’s evocative supermodels wearing super jewelry ads, and you are still doing worlds of good for Rimmel. I even bought the Kate Red lipstick, and it was my dear friend all last summer.

We all know that you are a girl from post-war Croydon (south of London), and that you ushered in the waif look of the 1990s, and that no matter WHAT YOU DO, all is forgiven. And that you were the model for the eighteen-carat gold statue entitled “Siren” that was shown in 2008 at the British Museum. The artist, Marc Quinn, described you as "the ideal beauty of the moment". So there you are, Kate, installed at the pinnacle of respectability and at the height of your beauty, much like Christy Turlington and the Met, whose faceless face lived on through many of the Costume Institute exhibitions, because it was “so perfect.”

But Kate! What about your collaboration on a fashion “accessories” collection for Carphone Warehouse, the massive UK discount cellphone chain? Really? iPhone and Android cell phone cases? We know you believe strongly in the high street, or you wouldn’t be doing yet another collection for Topshop. Even though haters call you “old model” in their disdain for you, we know that the over thirty-fives will care a lot about your skinny jeans and vintage inspired dresses. And it seems that China loves you, Kate, because to them you are RIGHT NOW, not 1990s or so last decade at all, and that your association with Topshop will help to provide entrée and a shopping option for the growing Chinese middle-class and their appetite for certified Western, high street fashion and beauty as embodied by Kate Moss.

I feel a little split, Kate, although I’ll always be true. I love you in Yurman, and Dior, and wearing that spikey Rimmel mascara, and I’ll even make a trip over to Topshop to see your togs next year. But Carphone Warehouse? Kate, that’s just not good for your brand – it’s only good for your wallet.

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American Apparel: When Simplicity isn’t So Simple

October 09 2013

American Apparel is a brand well known for its’ pared down, comfortable aesthetic, one that appeals to the young. urban, hipster-chic teens and 20s of America and across the World. Long known for simple basic unisex t-shirts, hoodies and jeans, they have moved into the territory of vintage-inspired disco pants, chiffon blouses and palazzo pants. By bringing more “design” into their clothing, American Apparel has attempted to set themselves apart from their competition -- Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Urban Outfitters. They have been so effective in branding themselves in the mind of the consumer that it will be interesting to see what happens as they move forward in this new vein.

On a political level, American Apparel’s heart has been in the right place (at least from my leftie perspective). The brand is a strongly voiced advocate of LGBT rights, it is committed to environmental protection, and is known for having all of their clothing made in the U.S. without the use of underpaid sweatshops in other countries. That is a big one, as more and more ethical issues arise regarding how the fashion we love and wear is made. American Apparel’s company website also has a list of other ethical causes that they support.


via americanapparel.tumblr.com

This is a brand with some major disconnects despite its success and good heartedness. Despite their ethical chops, the brand has been scrutinized in the past for having overtly provocative advertisements, for not being plus-size friendly, and for their inflated price point, given the quality and lack of originality in the merchandise. In addition, if American Apparel is going to claim a more constructed, designed sensibility, they will need to pull other elements of their brand communications in line. Their window design frequently looks like a cheap mall brand that sells five-dollar T-shirts and ten-dollar parkas. The store merchandising is decidedly barebones as well. It’s certainly not an issue to expand upon a brand’s sensibilities, as Juicy Couture moved very successfully from coveted velour tracksuits into much more cultivated pieces that still retained a high level of comfort. American Apparel might benefit from studying Juicy more closely, as that brand has had all of the elements working in sync since the beginning, and was just sold to Authentic Brands Group for $185 million. Get it together, AA!!

However, American Apparel has come a long way in the message it gives through its brand. What makes American Apparel such a strong brand is their exuberant, precise, and edgy advertisements. American Apparel speaks volumes through their fashion photography. Each advertisement exudes a feeling of the American dream through clothing, in other words the emotion of living your life through these clothes.

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Models Who Do More: The Hyphenates Photo Shoot, including Lunchbox Fund founder Topaz Page-Green

September 27 2013

Awhile ago, I was thinking about models, those beautiful people blessed with extraordinary genes, some of whom are committed to projects and work that is much bigger and profound than you would think. My trend nose must have been twitching, as this was a bit before a few of the major fashion magazines published stories in this vein.

Anyway, I contacted my wondrous friend, photographer Matthew Jordan Smith, who is a committed humanitarian himself, to see if he would like to work on a fashion shoot that I called The Hyphenates, about models who had other active lives beyond the camera, both creative andphilanthropic.

One of the special people we photographed was Topaz Page-Green, a stunning model from South Africa who started The Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing daily meals for at-risk school children in township and rural areas of South Africa, a country where 65% of all children live in poverty. This month, she was featured in American Vogue's all-important September issue. The article talked about the interesting philanthropic model she has created, and the event she is organizing for foodies in NY, where you can photograph your meal at participating restaurants, tag the restaurant, and voila! the restaurant gives a donation to the fund. It’s a clever use of the photos we all take on a daily basis, and all for a good cause.

In honor of Topaz (in Pucci) and Jihae (in Rick Owens), who was long the face of Eileen Fisher, and who is a rocking chanteuse, and Gulia, an ER nurse who continues to work in front of the camera (cleverly outfitted in Harajuku Girls Red Cross T-shirt)), I'd like to share this wonderful fashion portfolio of The Hyphenates--models who do more.

Enjoy, and do more! As I tell all my clients, go forth with your dreams and put them into action. That’s how you satisfy yourself, and also build your brand.

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Anthropologie: A Faux Heritage Brand Hits the High Street

February 12 2013

 

          Anthropologie Regent Street's living plant wall, Image via www.businessoffashion.com


Major lifestyle and clothing retail chain Anthropologie, with over 147 stores in the U.S., and six in Canada, operates only two stores outside of North America—both in London. That’s a far cry from parent company Urban Outfitters, which racks up an impressive twenty-five UK locations, plus sixteen others throughout Western Europe. Catering to the universal teenaged fast-fashion set, Urban Outfitters has been able to easily make a name for itself within the European market. Anthropologie’s two London locations are fairly new, and are definitely an experiment for the brand.  So why the “pessimistic economic predictions” on the opening of the London locations from Vogue.co.uk?

A love of heritage brands is ingrained in British sensibility—from the royal family to Liberty of London, which has maintained its position as England's premier department storesince 1875. Liberty is still selected each year by the readers of Time Out London as the top shopping destination in the UK. So as a faux-heritage brand, one wonders in what way Anthropologie will be able to find a place in a country with actual heritage. In the U.S, vintage is a longstanding trend, as shoppers and merchants either connect to our real shared past or fabricated an idealized sense of what it means to be an American. Hence the success of Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, two brands that have constructed billion dollar businesses around the beauty and romance of what America never has been, but aspires to be. 

So why bring a faux-heritage mall brand like Anthopologie to Britain? First off, their girlish, embellished, romantic clothes and lifestyle items do fit in well with how British woman dress, and live. A friend there recently told me that his mom and her friends are starting to flock to Anthropologie. These women "get" the brand. They want pretty, and decorative.  On a certain level, it's also an investment brand, as this part of Americana does not come cheap. Antrhopologie is coming up against British high street brands with a more contemporary sensibility, so there may be a place for them in the market.

 

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H & M and COS, A Low and (some) Version of High Fashion

January 03 2013

The last few times I've been in London, where fast fashion is a way of life, I stumbled into what appeared to be a chainlet named Company of Style, aka COS. Initially, I didn't know that the simple, pared down designs and palette at COS was the work of a new brand design studio at H & M.

It turns out that COS is H & M's foray into a higher price point, although most items are still priced under $100.00 and thus very accessible for what seems to be well-made, streamlined design. Their tagline is Timeless, Modern, Tactile and Functional, and I have to admit that I'm seduced by this brand. I really feel that they got it right — it's very strong, controlled brand management, and is a concept that will do well no matter where it travels. The store design, by William Russell of Pentagram, London (love them! I loved working with Michael Beirut from Pentagram in the past), and his angular, restrained store design and layout brings the architectural quality of the clothing to life. Other retailers should heed how well H & M is managing and rolling out this brand. The store has already opened in 51 stores in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, of course. They have also just opened their first shop in Asia.

Of course, I'm awaiting their entry into the US market, where their brand of chic simplicity at an affordable price point will play very well in urban and exurban centers. C'mon over, COS!

 

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Josh Rothstein en Vogue

June 05 2012

In this month's issue of Vogue, our wonderful, long-time client Josh Rothstein was serendipititously included as part of their extensive coverage of US athletes who will be competing in the Summer 2012 Olympics in London, England. Josh was on set with Usain Bolt, "the world's fastest man", who he has been filming and following all over the world over the past year n a series of short films for PUMA. Josh's work as a photographer and a filmmaker has developed simultaneously, and his PUMA affiliation is one in a line of projects he has done with famous athletes. 

What's so exciting about this, though, is that Josh is building this part of his career based on a core element of his brand. He forms long-term relationships with his celebrated clients, and has filmed and photographed the likes of actor/philanthropist Hugh Jackman and NBA star Tracy McGrady in their charitable efforts. Josh's longstanding commitment to humanitarian efforts intersects well with the concerns of his subjects, and is definitely on-trend with many companies all over the world. While the Vogue story was not about Josh, sometimes being in the right place at the right time can help to push your own branding and marketing efforts forward in a big way. And c'mon guys, it's Vogue! Really cool!

Check out the article and slide show from Vogue.com!

 

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Macy's and the Capsule Collections

April 18 2012

Macys' is making some upscale and perhaps curious choices in their selection of limited collection designers for their Impulse shops. First up was Karl Lagerfeld, then CFDA winner doo.ri, and now Alberta Ferretti. I would say that in these designers are connected in that they are all upscale, kind of dressy, refined, and polished. I was very curious about the Lagerfeld collection and hightailed it over to Macy's very soon after its release into stores only to find that hundreds of pieces remained on the racks at the Herald Square store. Hmmm. So I queried the sales staff at length, who said that the collection did not sell well at all. They said that neither the design nor fabrication worked. When I went back some weeks later the collection was in serious markdown.

Why no ka-ching ka-ching? And why these designers? What is the decision behind the choice to associate the egalitarian Macy's brand with designers who are upscale (that we understand) and slightly unknown by main street USA (doo.ri and Ferretti)? Limited edition capsule collections are meant to reinforce a store's prestige, help the retailer gain traction with new audiences (consumers who might not normally connect with Macy's, for example), and to create a sense of urgency in the buying experience, so that it drives any curious and/or interested traffic to the brick and mortar stores and to the website. 

Then there is Macy's association with the new Fashion Star show. Ack! The fashion on the show is awful, but it's a great PR move, and is definitely driving sales. According to Women’s Wear Daily, the three retailers associated with the store are really pleased with sales as the items from the show are selling out. So here we are again in the realm of high/low, which any readers of my blog know is one of my major interests. What's working better for Macy's? Lagerfeld (advertised and promoted traditionally) or Miss No-Name Designer (with millions of viewers and panelists like Jessica Simpson and Nicole Ritchie)? I would LOVE to see those sales numbers!

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The Sporting Life

November 23 2011

                                                                                                                    Joseph Altuzarra. Spring 2012     

One thing that really interests me is how effective magazine publicity can be in building brand notoriety, and I mean this in a truly positive way. Take the case of this year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner, Joseph Altuzarra. Championed by Vogue editor Lauren Santo-Domingo (who we worked with on a big branding project for her full-price, couture flash sale site, Moda Operandi), Altuzarra has received serious coverage, support and love notes in the pages of the magazine.

No doubt, his forward-thinking, comfortable design sensibility is in tune with today’s busy gal. But there are also plenty of other worthy young designers (for example, the struggling ones on the FashionStake site) who are not getting the same level of free publicity, celebrity attention, income or awards.

Altuzarra walked away from the evening with $300,000 to put towards his business, as well as CFDA brand and business mentoring. So think about this when you are thinking about how you are building your career. Historically, shooting editorial was a surefire way to garner free publicity and buzz about your pictures. Today, maybe less so, as editorial jobs are not always so adventurous. But many of my agency clients are firmly committed to using strong editorial as a way of moving their photographers towards lucrative ad jobs.

Ponder that, young-uns.

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The Divine Miss M, Part Deux

August 11 2011

Our trend-watching nose was twitching when we last wrote about Miss Moss. She is just so darned influential — you want to be her, dress like her, hang out like her, be a muse like her!

Then, yesterday brought a press release from James Danziger, at Danziger Projects, a man who always has his finger on the pop culture photo zeitgeist:

Courtesy of Danziger Projects

The Kate Moss Portfolio & Other Stories
Opening May 12, 6-8pm
The portfolio (produced by Danziger Projects in collaboration with Kate Moss) contains eleven 30 x 24 inch prints by eleven of the world's leading photographers (including Bruce Weber, Chuck Close, Juergen Teller, and Annie Leibowitz) all of who have played a key role in picturing Ms. Moss.

Unlike any model in the history of fashion photography, Kate Moss has proved to be a unique subject blurring the boundaries between fashion photography and contemporary art. In a career that has lasted 23 years to date, it can be said that Moss's particular beauty and singular figure have made her more of a muse than a supermodel. No matter what she is wearing (or not wearing) Moss invariably becomes the subject of the photograph, supercharging the image and inspiring photographers to create some of their most imaginative work. Unselfconscious and unapologetic, Moss's persona and sensuality have not only changed our notions of beauty but also influenced the culture at large.

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The Divine Miss M

April 08 2011
Courtesy of Blavish

Lately I’ve been thinking about Kate Moss. Her boyfriend, Jamie Hince, part of the indie duo The Kills, has just released a new album and is getting lots of press coverage.  Miss Moss is always mentioned in these articles, particuarly as the press is inevitably more interested in Kate than they are in Jamie, despite his cult-like status. What particularly interests me about her is that her own brand supercedes everything else that she touches, and that her brand, despite the trouble she’s seen, always remains super cool and kind of unshakeable. Think back to the time after she was busted for cocaine use, and lost a number of her lucrative and most visible brand relationships. Twelve months later, she was bigger than ever, winning contracts for major advertisers like Rimmel, Agent Provocateur, Virgin Mobile, Calvin Klein Jeans, Longchamp, and Burberry. According to Forbes, Moss has earned more money since her cocaine scandal than ever before: her 2004–2005 earnings were $5 million, 2005–2006 earnings were $8 million, and in 2007, with  earnings of $9 million, she was the second highest paid model in the world.

Courtesy of London Evening Standard

Kate is also legendary as an influential fashion individualist, someone whose personal style and ability to mix fashion trends with vintage and personal pieces is constantly reported on in the fashion press. So here is where another part of the brand piece comes in. She designs the Kate Moss collection for TopShop, the major British high street retailer. It’s not upmarket, folks, but smack in the middle so that it is accessible and aspirational at the same time. Her next fashion designs were for Longchamp, where she designed a line of bags with prices that were a bit higher on the food chain, but not stratospherically priced like other couture bags.

So it’s once again the perfect brand of high/low that we saw in the Olson’s work as well. Women want to dress like Kate so they can be cool, too! They want to buy into HER brand — not something perceived as being fabricated by a designer, but emanating from Kate herself.

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