From freelance journalists gone rogue and Hedi Slimane taking legal action – twice – against former employer Yves Saint Laurent’s parent company to unending battles between rivals Nike and Adidas, and Hermès and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the fashion industry was rife with feuds this year. Here are 10 of the most illuminating ones …
In March, Jacques Hyzagi went viral for a day or so after he penned an interesting and down-right damning article for the Observer, entitled ELLE on Earth. The article reflects on a “once-in-a-lifetime” interview Mr. Hyzagi was commissioned to conduct with Comme des Garçons mastermind, Rei Kawakubo for ELLE magazine.
The New York-based writer sheds light on the process of organizing the interview with ELLE’s top news editor, Anne Slowey, who Hyzagi claims was on a strict mission to co-opt his article from the beginning; on meeting with Kawakubo, who has interestingly never been invited to Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s annual Met Gala; and on the end result of the interview. Most interestingly, Hyzagi spoke to the power struggle in fashion, an industry struggling (particularly when it comes to print), in flux, and where appearance is everything.
A September Vogue.com article that takes on the industry’s well-known penchant for bloggers warrants a bit of attention, if for no reason other than the fact that it was hugely controversial. The piece at issue, entitled, Ciao, Milano! Vogue.com’s Editors Discuss the Week That Was, which was published on the heels of the Spring/Summer 2017 shows in Milan, includes some interesting and controversial excerpts, particularly from Alessandra Codinha, Vogue.com’s news editor, on the state of the runway show and fashion week, in general.
Given the lengths to which the fashion industry – as led by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour – went to raise money and endorse presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, it comes with little shock that many designers have vowed not to dress future First Lady Melania Trump. From Sophie Theallet, who issued an open letter vowing never to work with Trump and urging other designers to follow suit, to Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford, the fashion industry has taken a very strong stance when it comes to Melania Trump. A few of the most outspoken …
Joseph Altuzarra: “I don’t want to dress people I disagree with.”
Marc Jacobs: “I have no interest whatsoever in dressing Melania Trump.”
Derek Lam: “While I have incredible respect for our country’s political institutions, I find it challenging to be personally involved in dressing the new First Lady. I would rather concentrate my energies on efforts towards a more just, honorable, and a mutually respectful world.”
Tom Ford: “I was asked to dress her quite a few years ago and I declined. She’s not necessarily my image.”
Phillip Lim: “We do not have a current relationship with Mrs. Trump and I don’t foresee a relationship developing under the Trump administration.”
Kenzo’s Humberto Leon: “No one should, and if she buys your clothes, tell people you don’t support it. You know who you are!”
Following a years-long battle between Hermès and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton after the latter conspired to incite a hostile takeover of Hermès in violation of French financial regulations, the parties are slated to go up against one another yet again. Two LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton executives were taken into custody in September by French police for questioning in connection with a pending criminal investigation into influence-peddling. Shortly thereafter, Hermès opted to join in the legal matter – as a civil claimant – against LVMH, thereby allowing Hermès access to the details of the case.
Following decades of bitter competition (and no shortage of legal battles in connection therewith), 2016 saw the Nike vs. adidas battle heat up, particularly as adidas boasted significant growth in the North American market. Long the unquestionable leader in terms of growth, Nike is being dethroned by the appeal of adidas’ ongoing partnership with rapper Kanye West, paired with the German giant’s success in designing on-trend silhouettes, new apparel fabrics, and innovative technology. Adidas has also signed on key athletes to endorsement deals that help elevate the brand in the eyes of consumers. And the stronger sales growth and trendy look for adidas gear is resulting in greater interest from retailers.
To be sure, Nike’s business is still by far the largest, generating $3.74 billion in sales in the most recent period versus $877.6 million for adidas. However, adidas has captured the title of the “fastest growing [sportswear] brand in North America,” as adidas North America President Mark King announced in August.
Hedi Slimane launched a two-part legal battle against former employer Yves Saint Laurent and its parent company, Kering, on the heels of his departure from the Paris-based house in April. In June, Slimane filed suit in a French labor court against his former employer's parent company, Kering, in connection with the non-compete provisions in his previous contract with YSL. Kering has said it lifted this clause, prompting Slimane to file suit, allegedly requesting that this clause still be applied and that he be compensated for the rest of the duration of the non-compete clause, which is likely for a year or so.
The court sided with Slimane in this suit, ordering Kering to pay $13 million to Slimane in a provisional court ruling in connection with the way his departure from Yves Saint Laurent was handled. Kering has vowed to appeal that ruling.
Thereafter, Slimane launched a new legal attack on the famous Paris-based brand's owner, stemming from an additional ten million euro ($11.1 million) sum that his legal team believes he is owned in connection with the final leg of his contract with the brand, which expired earlier this year.
Moreover, the complaint asserts that the $13 million sum that the French Labor Court ordered Kering to pay Slimane in July did not take into account Slimane's ownership stake in YSL as set forth in his contract. The suit demands that Kering honor the terms of his original contract, which allegedly gave him a minority ownership stake in the Saint Laurent brand. "The talented designer is demanding that Kering abide by a partnership agreement giving Slimane certain rights, notably the right of access to information, as a minority shareholder in Saint Laurent.”
Following a string of rival lawsuits – some of which stemmed from American Apparel’s allegations that its founder, Dov Charney, engaged in misconduct, including misusing company funds and failing to stop a subordinate from creating blog posts, including ones containing nude photos, that served to defame former employees – American Apparel has seemingly shaken off Charney, one of its biggest liabilities However, Charney has taken – yet again – to bad-mouthing his former company, this time declaring that the “company can’t survive without [his] leadership.”
Long known for copying runway design, Zara and other fast fashion retailers drew even greater scorn this year when a handful of indie designers called them out for copying. Indie artist Tuesday Bassen, whose clients have included Playboy, The New Yorker, United Nations, Nike, and adidas, among others, took to her Twitter account in July to call out the Spanish fast fashion giant and shed light on its unauthorized use of her copyright-protected work, including an array of original pins that Zara allegedly copied and affixed to a number of styles of garments. The movement garnered quite a bit of steam, especially as a number of other designers and artists joined Bassen in calling out these multi-national brands for co-opting their work without crediting them or paying them a licensing fee.
In May, Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant and notorious facilitator of the rampant sale of counterfeit goods on its platforms, made truly major waves when it became the newest member of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (“IACC”). As a result, Michael Kors, Gucci, Tffany & Co., and other IACC members responded to the Chinese company’s inclusion by quitting the IACC, a non-profit organization devoted solely to combating product counterfeiting and piracy. Alibaba’s membership was ultimately suspended.
After acquiring a small stake in Hermès last year to gain access to the Paris-based design house's shareholder meetings, a representative from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”) confronted Hermès' chief executive officer at the company’s annual general meeting in May. Isabelle Goetz, a French spokeswoman for the non-profit animal rights organization, attended the brand's annual general meeting and asked CEO Axel Dumas if Hermès planned to stop using exotic skins, including those of ostriches.
The aggressive animal rights group also acquired a stake in Prada in order to pursue its protest over ostrich leather handbags from inside the luxury fashion group.