2015 was an eventful year in the fashion industry! Paris-based design house, Givenchy, finally ditched the Rottweiler t-shirts and returned to showing couture. Burberry, the iconic British brand, announced that it is not only restructuring its entire house but also implementing a name change. A couple young brands called it quits, while a couple broke new ground. And still others filed for bankruptcy, announced major mergers, or initiated brand new fashion weeks. Here are some of the most noteworthy developments …
American Apparel, known as much for its sexually charged advertising and controversial founder, as well as for its fashion offerings, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. The Los Angeles-based company, which has not made a profit since 2009, joins a growing number of U.S. retailers selling to teens and young adults that have been unable to adjust to changing spending patterns and intensifying competition. American Apparel, one of the only clothing retailers still manufacturing in the United States, said its stores and manufacturing operations will continue to operate normally despite its bankruptcy filing.
Following a string of couture-free seasons, Givenchy has returned to showing its most prized wares. You may recall that creative director Riccardo Tisci consistently presented couture collections for the house of Fall and Spring each year, but began scaling back in 2010, when the format of the couture shows shifted from runway shows to showing looks in a presentation setting. Then, in 2012, the Paris-based design house announced that it would be taking an indefinite “hiatus” from showing formal couture collections. The house’s June menswear show marked its welcome return to couture, with Tisci showing a number of handcrafted creations on the runway in Paris. Moreover, its Spring/Summer 2016 show in New York consisted of an array of couture looks from previous collections.
This year, Paris-based luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which owns Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Celine, and Marc Jacobs, among other brands, parted ways with one brand and welcomed another. Very early this year, LVMH relinquished its minority stake in 28-year old designer Maxime Simoens' eponymous label, which it acquired in 2013. And to end the year, the conglomerate announced that it has taken a minority stake in Paris-based fine jewelry brand, Repossi. Both acquisitions were spearheaded by LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault’s daughter, Delphine Arnault, who is swiftly rising through the ranks at her family’s company.
This year saw an influx of design patent protection for both garments and accessories in fashion. From Yves Saint Laurent gaining protection for its Janis pumps and an array of its runway bags to Balenciaga securing protection for its Bow jewelry, high fashion houses are heavily relying on patent protection to ward off fast fashion and mid-market copiers alike.
Burberry announced that major changes – including a name change – are coming. In a press conference in November, Christopher Bailey, the brand’s Chief Creative and chief executive officer, declared that he will oversee the consolidation of all Burberry labels (think: Burberry Prorsum, Burberry Brit and Burberry London) under one core Burberry brand. The Prorsum collection, which is the one we see on the runway each season, will reign supreme, albeit without the Prorsum name. Far from just a cosmetic shift, Bailey said the change will be "huge" and "will make it simpler and more intuitive for our customer." Stay tuned!
2015 brought the news that two of the most successful luxury shopping sites, Net-a-Porter and Yoox.com, are merging for what will become a combined entity called, YOOX Net-A-Porter Group. While Natalie Massenet, Net-a-Porter's founder and executive chairwoman, was expected to stay on in that role, she announced her abrupt departure earlier this year. Yoox founder and CEO Federico Marchetti is slated to take the role of chief executive of the combined entity.
"Today marks the first official step in the journey of our game-changing merger and the realization of a dream that started 15 years ago - a dream that all of us have worked incredibly hard to make a reality: to become the leader in our sector," Marchetti said in October when the merger became official.
Following years of stagnant growth, American accessories brand, Coach, paid $574 million for luxury footwear brand, Stuart Weitzman. For nearly 75 years, Coach focused exclusively on its own label, a strategy that worked quite well until a couple of years ago. Despite an ambitious brand makeover, the company has failed to reverse falling sales and maintain market share, and its plan B appears to come in the form of acquisitions. That's the way luxury conglomerates LVMH and Kering have managed to maintain their sparkle. It's a new strategy for Coach, since the old one simply wasn't working anymore.
On the heels of its crusade-by-graphic-video against Hermès for its alleged mistreatment of crocodiles, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights organization, famous for its shocking media campaigns, acquired a very small stake in the French luxury goods brand this summer. Why, you ask? Well, the single share will give PETA access to Hermès’s shareholder meetings and allow it to further pressure the brand to stop using alligator and crocodile skins to make its pricey handbags and accessories.
Fashion’s longest running television show, America’s Next Top Model, aired its final episode this year after 22 seasons. While the show’s success in launching any legitimate “Top Models” in the realm of high fashion is very much up for debate, if we consider the aim of any television show, to attract viewers and achieve ratings, I'd say America's Next Top Model was a smashing success.
2015 marked the end for two London-based brands. Following reports late last year that Meadham Kirchhoff's business was not doing so well, the brand officially closed up shop in September. The brand, which was known for its romantic and whimsical designs, was launched in 2005 and headed up by Ben Kirchhoff and Edward Meadham. From early on, Meadham Kirchoff was a golden child of the British fashion industry, earning industry awards and stellar reviews, and building a cult of loyal fans.
And just this month, Jonathan Saunders announced that he is closing is eponymous label, following his decision to step down as creative director of the brand for personal reasons. The company said in a statement that Saunders and his investor and business partner, Eiesha Bharti Pasricha, will officially shutter the brand once they honor orders from the Spring/Summer 2016 collection, which Saunders showed during London Fashion Week this past September - after 12 years in business.
As two young(ish) labels saw their demise this year, two young(ish) New York-based brands are taking their businesses to the next level. Cushnie et Ochs, the design duo consisting of Parsons graduates, Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs, have found an investor to build out their 8-year old brand. The brand, which has found and maintained a very solid place on the red carpet, has sold a minority stake in the business to Farol Asset Management and a group of fashion insiders. Gary Wassner, who is chief executive officer of industry factor Hilldun and a founding partner of InterLuxe, made a personal investment. Per WWD, "As part of the transaction, Peter Arnold was brought on board as CEO.
New York-based that designer Thakoon Panichgul, who launched his label 11 years ago, also found an investor this year. The designer’s brand has been bought up by Vivian Chou, a daughter of Silas Chou and the leader of Bright Fame Fashion, a family investment vehicle. Thakoon is Bright Fame’s first major investment, and the relatively young fashion brand’s organization structure is not set to change drastically as a result of the acquisition. Panichgul will remain chief creative officer and Maria Borromeo will continue as CEO of the brand.
Donna Karan, a pioneer on the New York fashion scene for decades, is stepping down from her post as chief designer of Donna Karan International. The company announced in June that Karan made "a personal decision to step down from her day-to-day responsibilities" at her namesake brand. She will personally shift her focus to Urban Zen, a standalone project she founded in 2007 that sells apparel, accessories, jewelry, home decor, and beauty products. Karan will remain with Donna Karan International "in an advisory role,” but the company will suspend its main collection in favor of focusing on its younger, DKNY brand, which named two new creative directors this year: Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School.
Following years of talk that New York-based menswear designers were being disadvantaged by the schedule for showing their bi-annual collections, the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced the launch of New York Fashion Week: Men’s, a standalone showcase for American men’s fashion. The first leg of the biannual event took place between July 13-16, 2015 with the Spring 2016 collections, and is slated to show Fall/Winter collections next month. Of the participating designers, Calvin Klein Collection, Rag & Bone, Billy Reid, Todd Snyder, Michael Bastian, Duckie Brown, and Patrik Ervell were some highlights.
To fully cement the next stage of its life, Maison Martin Margiela changed its name this year. The house, which was founded in the mid-1980’s by Belgian designer Martin Margiela, didn’t make a big announcement or issue a statement or anything like that. Instead, the Paris-based design house, which has been under the creative control of John Galliano since 2014, simply dropped the “Martin” and printed “Maison Margiela” on its January 2015 couture show invitations.