With another frenetic Fashion Month in the books, some major new issues have emerged — and they are impacting every area of the business. Here are six burning stories that will dramatically reshape the industry in the months ahead.
1. Luxury E-Commerce Is Rapidly Evolving
Susanne and Christoph Botschen struck e-commerce gold once with MyTheresa.com — and now they are out to do it again with Martha Louisa, which went live last Thursday. At Paris Fashion Week early this month, the duo drummed up attention for the site with their boudoir-inspired tea party at the opulent Hotel de Crillon. “Shoes are actually our favorite part of the industry,” Susanne Botschen told FN, “but it’s a jungle of merchandise out there, so we felt it’s time for curated specialists.”
The site debuted with more than 80 labels, including Saint Laurent, Gucci and Aquazzura, as well as more emerging names such as Alchimia Di Ballin, No. 21, Vibi Venezia and Chloe Gosselin.“Susanne and Christoph have a family approach to the business, which I love,” Gosselin said. “They emphasize the designer behind each brand and their personal story. They created a special section for new talents, which will give us a real opportunity to compete with leading brands. I have no doubt the site will be a huge success.”
On a larger scale, some major players have announced innovative new partnerships during the last few weeks.
Harvey Nichols and Farfetch are joining as part of the department store’s aim to reach and serve a wider international audience and the website’s goal to become a global platform for luxury. José Neves, founder and CEO of Farfetch, said the deal marks the debut of a department store strategy for his company, which is already talking to other retailers. The conversations, he said, are going on in multiple countries and geographies, but he’s not disclosing any concrete plans now.
“Department stores are amazing curators of fashion, and our mission is to be the platform for the best creators and curators. It was always part of our evolution to selectively bring department stores on board,” he said. “We started with boutiques, which remain a core part of our DNA, and in 2015, we expanded to brands selling directly on the platform. We now have over 300. For us, it’s all about being the platform for the luxury industry at a global level.”
The company also recently signed a joint-venture agreement with Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based Chalhoub Group.
It also teamed up with Burberry to expand the British brand’s e-commerce. In addition, Farfetch, which is reportedly prepping for an IPO, has partnered with Chanel on an augmented-reality initiative.
2 The Women’s Sneaker Revolution Is Finally Here
During the height of Fashion Month in Europe, some powerful players made huge women’s sneaker statements. The messages from both Nike and Selfridges were clear: There is great opportunity in women’s, an area that is growing rapidly and has been underserved.
This month, the Swoosh will debut Nike Unlaced, a digital-first retail concept that will bring female consumers a dramatically expanded offering: unisex sizes of iconic styles, women’s-specific performance looks, a unique shopping environment and custom services.“It’s the idea that not one size fits all in the women’s market,” Julie Igarashi, VP and creative director of Nike Women, told FN during a tour of the captivating Unlaced space in Paris. “Some consumers want a men’s shoe, but they want it in their size. In other cases, she wants it for her and by her. So it’s exciting to be able to offer that breadth.”
That same week, Selfridges opened its new women’s sneaker space in London after the retailer saw demand skyrocket for styles from luxury leaders and traditional athletic brands alike.
The 1,776-square-foot space is positioned within the second-floor Shoe Galleries. There are more than 700 sneaker styles available for purchase — split over two sections. One focuses on fashion sneakers from luxury leaders such as Chloé and Balenciaga, while the other targets the sneakerhead consumer, with the focus on Nike, Vans, Converse — and special drops from the likes of Yeezy and Off-White.
Independent retailers are also banking on the category as a big business driver. “Sneakers are not going anywhere for next season,” said Ida Petersson, women’s buying director at Browns Fashion. “With new iterations from Prada, McQueen, et al., it’s still one of the favorite ways to get around.”
3. For Young Talent, It’s Getting Harder to Break Through
Europe continues to be a hotbed for young talent, but one thing is clear: Building a successful brand — and one that has staying power — is becoming more challenging. “It is definitely harder as the market is getting saturated, and now it takes a real standout collection with a clear marketing plan and a strong social media presence to make it big,” Browns’ Petersson noted.
The competition is fierce, with just a few brands dominating the business today, according to Alberto Oliveros, GMM at Level Shoes. He noted that new labels must be unique — and they also need to carefully consider pricing.
What stood out for Oliveros this season? “Valentina Micchetti and Perla Alessandri’s first collection for Alevì was definitely one of this season’s highlights,” Oliveros said. “Their PVC mules, slingbacks and booties were gorgeous — the collection will be a hit with our more sophisticated clientele.”
At Martha Louisa, Korea-based Reike Nen, Berlin-based Aeyde and London-based Le Monde Beryl are ones to watch, according to the Botschens.Petersson — who noted that Korean label Yuul Yie and Both Paris topped her newcomers’ list — offered some advice to emerging brands.“Network. Don’t lock yourself away. Be out there, meet people and connect. Those relationships can be the difference between success and failure,” she said.
4. Intense Designer Shuffling Will Continue
Burberry’s March 1 announcement naming Riccardo Tisci as its new creative director had the Paris Fashion Week crowd buzzing. It was the first big move during a frenetic week. Three days later, FN broke the news about Bruno Frisoni’s successor at Roger Vivier. New creative director Gherardo Felloni — who will debut his first collection for spring ’19 — joins the Parisian house from Miu Miu, where he headed up footwear, leather goods and costume jewelry. While insiders expected Vivier to select a familiar name, it sometimes pays to think outside the box (see Alessandro Michele’s meteoric rise at Gucci). Plus, Felloni has footwear in his blood — his family owns a shoe factory in Arezzo, Italy. More eagerly awaited debut collections: Hedi Slimane at Céline and Kim Jones at Dior Homme. Now Christopher Bailey, who is leaving Burberry, is also a free agent, and Bruno Frisoni is plotting his next move post-Vivier.
5. Female Empowerment Messaging Is Here to Stay
Fall ’18 was the first runway season since October’s Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations became the catalyst for the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, and designers had a lot to say about the matter — whether it was outright or in their undertones.
Both Prabal Gurung and Christian Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri continued to offer their outspoken feminist ideas. Gurung did it through pink and red hues (inspired by female-dominated societies in China and India), sculptural heels that were both sturdy and soft, and an invitation to #MeToo founder Tarana Burke to join his front row.
Chiuri, meanwhile, referenced the Paris student protests of the late ’60s (especially a 1966 protest against Dior by the British Society for the Protection of Miniskirts), with the show’s walls covered in protest
rhetoric and a runway that included miniskirts, a sweater reading “C’est non, non, non et non!” Chiuri also featured ’60s-inspired patchwork pieces such as a pair of embroidered boots with “Peace, Love, Dior” stitched in red.
Elsewhere, feminist views were more subtle but still present: At Aquazzura, Edgardo Osorio was inspired by the empowered and hedonistic women of Alicia Drake’s fashion tome “The Beautiful Fall” and an equally self-possessed Charlotte Rampling in a 1973 photo by Helmut Newton. “It was a time of creative freedom, which I think is so relevant right now. It was also a time of big, big changes, of liberation and empowerment,” Osorio said. “It really got me thinking about femininity now and what it is to be a strong woman today.”
And Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton focused on a spectrum of femininity that included tailored tuxedos paired with sneakers and insect-embroidered chiffon gowns with matching ankle boots. There was also a general tendency toward a strong, sturdy boot over any sort of stiletto pump, a message that was heard loud and clear — literally — on the runways.
But perhaps the strongest empowerment statements came during International Women’s Day on March 8, when dozens of major players introduced initiatives to mark the event.
For example, Gucci launched its Chime for Change international campaign, aimed to empower women and girls, while Diane von Furstenberg hosted four days of panels and events to spotlight female leaders.
6. Virgil Abloh Is at the Top of His Game — and Other Brands Should Take Notes
Even in the age of Instagram, fashion has remained an exclusive experience — with a traditional show format that includes editors, buyers, industry insiders and only the top customers. Virgil Abloh isn’t subscribing to this formula. Instead, the designer of the moment is bringing consumers — namely the coveted millennial shopper — into the center of Fashion Week.
In Paris, Abloh staged the most buzzed-about fashion show with Off-White — in which hordes of fans swarmed the entrance in the hope of getting a glimpse into his influencer- and model-filled world. (His runway included Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin and Kaia Gerber; his front row, Odell Beckham Jr., Justine Skye and pretty much every cool kid in town.)
Last week, Off-White also teamed up with Moda Operandi on a trunk show, marking the first time it’s been available for preorder.
Plus, Abloh racked up more buzz with a number of attention-grabbing collaborations introduced during the week, including a capsule and Paris-themed pop-up for Le Bon Marché’s Let’s Go Logo initiative. “It’s about making store visits true experiences,” he told FN at the launch. Later in the week, Abloh signed Off-White x Chrome Hearts sweatshirts and introduced a new tie-up with Byredo’s Ben Gorham called “Elevator Music” — a multicategory collaboration that launched with an interactive installation.
Of course, the partnership that continues to generate the most heat is Abloh’s collab with Nike — and that was firmly in the spotlight, too.
For many fashion-minded shoppers, Abloh and Off-White are their current entry point, and brands would do well to pay attention to his democratic but still-elevated approach. — With contributions by Samantha Conti