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Fashion


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Align for Summer: The Hottest Trends


Stripes reign supreme this season 

 

Align for Summer: The Hottest Trends


Stripes reign supreme this season 

 

Lifestyle > Fashion



Align for Summer

July 10, 2015 / by Babette Radclyffe

Horizontal, vertical or diagonal stripes are here in any and every way you could want this season. As bold brushstrokes of colour at Paul Smith or in mature monochrome at Edun, statement stripes are demanding a place in your wardrobe this summer. 

Both high-energy horizontal and vivacious vertical came out to play at DKNY. Fashion-forward silhouettes showed in a multitude of sports-luxe inspired fabrics and textures, as stripes in a kaleidoscope of colours ran the gamut from layered knit tube skirts to bold crop tops.

Prince of prints Peter Pilotto heralded the return of the stripe in a signature bright and pattern-heavy collection. Models paired A-line dresses and skirts in a carnival of colours with minimalist natural makeup – letting the clothes do all the talking. 

Stripes appeared bold and skinny, and in a plethora of shades and sizes at Uma Wang. The collection was full of slouchy silhouettes, drawing inspiration from the luxe loungewear trend, and creating an overall effect of effortless glam. 

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Stripes and Paul Smith fit together like Paul Smith and stripes, and this collection saw tangerine and teal horizontal declensions played across loosely fitted slips, boxy t-shirts and dropped hem dresses. Menswear tailoring influences swept through the collection, too, with wide pinstripe blazers and cropped trousers in mellower shades.

Stripes even extended to the catwalk itself at Carven, where models powered down the runway wearing bold stripes inspired by Formula One racing and Japanese graphics. 

Stripes took a more subtle turn at Edun with monochromatic stripe trims adorning a range of boxy judo-uniform inspired silhouettes. Bands of pattern appeared throughout the collection, which at first glance resembled a vibrant hue of animal print, but were in reality inspired by Ivory Coast tribes whose dot-covered kponyungo masks ward off evil spirits. 

Adorning monotone shirt dresses and overcoats paired with striking silver trousers, stripes took a fresh yet sexy turn on the Altuzarra woman. Nicolas Ghesquière continued the minimalist mood at Louis Vuitton, expertly and intricately piecing together strips of leather in a range of jackets, slip dresses and mid-thigh skirts. 

The stripes at Chanel sported a nautical air. Supermodel extraordinaire Gisele Bündchen put the sexy back into sweater dresses as only she could with iterations in blue, white and tan that she paraded on the catwalk.

Marinière stripes abounded at Philipp Plein too as retro-inspired crinoline dresses opened a playful collection. Plein showed the stripe’s versatility as rhinestone embellished varietals adorned black skinny jeans along with boxy tops paired with puffball skirts. 

Look to stripes as fashion’s shared code this summer: monotone, marinière and multi-coloured, there’s something for everyone who loves all the right lines.

1, 2. Philipp Plein SS15
3. Altuzarra SS15
4. DKNY SS15
5. Louis Vuitton SS15
6. Carven SS15
7. Paul Smith SS15


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Aye Aye Captain: Nautical Menswear


Set sail this summer with the latest trends for men

Aye Aye Captain: Nautical Menswear


Set sail this summer with the latest trends for men

Lifestyle > Fashion



Aye Aye Captain

July 10, 2015 / by Babette Radclyffe

From Breton stripes to striking slickers, channel your inner pirate, captain, voyager or beach lounger with this season’s silhouette of nautical-themed menswear, and our roundup of go-to maritime-inspired regalia. 

Designers took to the seas for inspiration by turning to those navigators of stormy seas to create collections for much calmer waters. 

It was full steam ahead on luxurious decks at Gucci, with a sharp collection in tricolour hues. Navy and white nautical stripes adorned casual shirts, luxe suiting and even boating blazers, while crisp white shirts and jackets with epaulettes took centre stage. Insignia made bold declarations on knitwear and showed subtly on the breast pockets of more formal tailored pieces. 

Thick or skinny, Breton or beguiling, seafaring stripes coursed every which way at Dior Homme. Working sailors were referenced with yellow slickers that punctuated the collection, while quirky toggle fastenings embellished suave tuxedos. Navy and white were the key tones throughout, with occasional bursts of outerwear in maraschino and citrus.

Patrick Grant at E. Tautz took Brits at the beach as his starting point for a collection which pushed the boundaries of traditional tailoring with up-to-date profiles. Statement navy and white deckchair stripes ran through the whole collection, on wide-legged trousers, across knitwear and on boxy tees. And not straying too far from the realities of perennially capricious British summertime, layers and mackintoshes were central to the collection.

The theme took a turn into a separate genre at Louis Vuitton, with a menswear collection inspired by designer Kim Jones’ travels in India and imbued with subtle Air Force references. MA-1 flight jackets came in classic olive green as well as a terrific tangerine. Air went surface later with jumpsuits, another dominant design in the collection, coming in a nautical navy with metallic detailing as well as a striking hot pink. 

So, be you poolside, beach-bound, or high-seas adventuring this summer, be sure to get on board with a pitch-perfect maritime ensemble.

1, 2. E. Tautz SS15
3, 4. Gucci 2015 Fashion Show Men’s Look
5, 6. Louis Vuitton SS15

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Forever Audrey: Hepburn’s Enduring Legacy


What every woman wants: Audrey Hepburn and the making of her legendary 20th-century silhouette

Forever Audrey: Hepburn’s Enduring Legacy


What every woman wants: Audrey Hepburn and the making of her legendary 20th-century silhouette

Lifestyle > Fashion



Forever Audrey

Above image: Audrey Hepburn, 1955 © Norman Parkinson Ltd

July 10, 2015 / by Jean-Marc Zheng

 

“The imprint of Miss Hepburn is absolutely, totally present. Like it or not, she will be the most important look of the 20th century”

Audrey Hepburn How to Steal a Million

Audrey Hepburn How to Steal a Million

In a career that saw him shoot for Harper’s Bazaar and Hollywood studios taking “on-set” promotional stills as a “unit photographer”, American cameraman Bob Willoughby was famous for his shots of Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Jane Fonda. But, there was one lady, Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston, otherwise known as Audrey Hepburn, who was peerless. 

Asked to photograph the rising starlet one morning for a routine portrait shoot after her arrival in Hollywood in 1953, Willoughby later recalled the feeling of meeting Hepburn for the first time. “She took my hand like… well, a princess, and dazzled me with that smile that God designed to melt mortal men’s hearts.”

And cinematic and stylistic hearts too. The Belgian-born beauty (1929), daughter of a Dutch baroness and an Anglo-Irish banker, with her gamine hair cut, flat ballet shoes, turtlenecks, dresses and portfolio of classic handbags, silhouetted her way through films such as Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sabrina and My Fair Lady, to become the go-to fashion blueprint for women worldwide. It wasn’t her frame – 34A-20-34 – women wanted, so much as the dress sense she put on it, and her face.

“The imprint of Miss Hepburn is absolutely, totally present. Like it or not, she will be the most important look of the 20th century,” said shoe designer Manolo Blahnik in the late ’90s. 

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Audrey Hepburn in Richmond Park by Bert Hardy

Audrey Hepburn in Richmond Park by Bert Hardy

Anthony Beauchamp, a photographer who captured Hepburn early in her career during a 1950 fashion shoot for a department store in England, was beguiled by her: 

“I couldn’t quite fathom that she was real. There were so many paradoxes in that face. Darkness and purity, depth and youth, stillness and animation. She had a fresh new look, a beauty that was ethereal.” Hepburn became one of the world’s most photographed women, and in May, Getty Images revealed that its most requested photographic subject over the last 20 years was Audrey Hepburn.

All of which makes it something of a cultural moment when Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, 35 photographs of Hepburn from her sons’ personal collection, goes on display at London’s National Portrait Gallery from July until October 18.

 Among the rare finds, some of which have never previously been shown in public, is Hepburn performing a 1942 dance recital, aged 13, and a shot of her taken on location in Africa during the 1958 filming of The Nun’s Story by Leo Fuchs. There’s also a behind the scenes shot of Hepburn being fitted-out in an Edith Head costume for her role in Sabrina

Audrey Hepburn by Philippe Halsman

Audrey Hepburn by Philippe Halsman

Hepburn moved to London from Amsterdam to take up a ballet scholarship at the Rambert Ballet School, in Notting Hill in late 1948. After a number of important stage performances as a chorus girl in the West End, Hepburn made her earliest film debuts in British films. Her critically acclaimed stage performance in Gigi (1951) introduced Hepburn to American theatre audiences and confirmed her position as a new star. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, Hepburn’s career flourished with a string of highly successful roles, and she became the first actress to win Academy and BAFTA Awards as well as a Golden Globe, for a single performance,  her leading role in Roman Holiday (1953). Hepburn worked as a UNICEF ambassador from 1988 until her death in 1993 and in 1992 was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her contribution to the arts, and her humanitarian work.

“Style is a word we use often and for a multitude of purposes. In the case of my mother, Audrey Hepburn, it was the extension of an inner beauty held up by a life of discipline, respect for the other and hope in humanity. If the lines were pure and elegant it was because she believed in the power of simplicity. If there was timelessness it was because she believed in quality and if she is still an icon of style today, it is because once she found her look she stayed with it throughout her life. She didn’t go with the trends, didn’t reinvent herself every season,” says her son Sean H. Ferrer. 

National Portrait Gallery deputy director Pim Baxter says:

“Audrey Hepburn was one of the world’s most celebrated actresses, and I am delighted that the National Portrait Gallery will hold a major photography exhibition exploring the life and work of such a significant and much-loved figure who spent the formative early years of her career in Britain. It is particularly appropriate that the exhibition will be staged in such close proximity to where she performed as a young woman at the very start of her career.”

There’s only one matter shoe legend Blahnik couldn’t have anticipated; it’s now 2015, and Hepburn is still the dominant aesthetic fashion presence of the 21st century. (npg.org.uk/hepburn)

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LBD: The Little Black Dress


LBD: The Little Black Dress


Lifestyle > Fashion



LBD: The Little Black Dress

Above photo: © Inaginechina

July 10, 2015 / by Bei Li

The little black dress or “LBD” is often considered the must-have item for any woman’s wardrobe. The definitive go-to, fail safe choice for an effortlessly elegant look that can take you from work to cocktails, dinner parties and social events the world over, where did this magical little black number come from?

Black dresses were considered unsuitable for fashionable wear due to their long association with mourning dress. Queen Victoria wore black for nearly 40 years following Prince Albert’s death in 1861. In the mid ’20s ground-breaking designer Gabrielle Chanel turned that notion on its head with the introduction of her, now classic, LBD. 

Chanel’s LBD drew comparisons with Ford’s Model T car; providing a pure and practical design solution which could be reinterpreted for a mass market as well as appealing to the fashion elite. Although Chanel introduced the LBD into the modern fashion lexicography, probably the most iconic image of the LBD remains Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly adorned in pearls and a Givenchy LBD gazing into Tiffany’s windows in cult classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a fashion moment frozen in time which propelled the LBD further into fashion lore and its place at the heart of women’s wardrobes.

Image on the right: © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP Paris 2014

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Fringe Benefits


We look at the season’s key womenswear trend: fringing

Fringe Benefits


We look at the season’s key womenswear trend: fringing

Lifestyle > Fashion



Fringe Benefits

May 29, 2015 / by Babette Radclyffe

A nostalgic nod to the decade which brought us style icons from the Navajo-clad Cher, to supermodel extraordinaire Jerry Hall with her endless-legs and on to hippy delight singer Kate Bush, retro chic dominated the catwalks this season.  From Gucci and Louis Vuitton to Proenza Schouler and The Row, this season designers are turning to the 70s for inspiration, and fringing is fast becoming the definitive design takeaway. 

No longer relegated to the dressing-up box, powerhouse model Kendall Jenner and her equally famous gal pack brought fringing up to date at the Coachella music festival.  From subtle hints to full-on fringing, we round up the perfect pieces for this season. With small trickles appearing in autumn/winter 2014 adorning accessories or small detailing such as Just Cavalli’s pre-autumn 2014 fringed handbags matched with tasselled scarves, the surge of fringing is now upon us. 

Proenza Schouler’s floor-sweeping, thigh-high slit, unravelling fringed dresses added a bohemian edge to evening wear and are guaranteed to make an entrance – with statement waist-high slits for the more adventurous.  

Fringing even made an appearance in their accessories with a leather-fringed pair of gold heels, perfect for that subtle touch. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s mini-dresses and crop tops saw a rainbow of fringing with a hint of inspiration from golf stripes, giving a more sport-luxe feel to the collection.

The 70s influence extended to the models at Sonia Rykiel as the offspring of famous 70s icons swooshed down the catwalk with Georgia May and Lizzy Jagger following in their leggy mother’s footsteps modelling for the label. Models swished down the catwalk in bright white and classic camouflage-coloured knee-length fringed skirts paired with cropped jumpers and elegant knitwear.

Extreme fringes appeared in resort wear too as DKNY’s faux leather jacket called out to the inner rock chick. Other labels kept the fringing more subtle such as J.Crew Collection’s peach fringe sweater, and Burberry Prorsum’s form-fitting, fringed knitted midi skirt. Theory’s fringe-fronted sleeveless top in monotone shades is perfect for taking the trend into the office.

Accessories received their fair share too, such as Isabel Marant’s fringe mesh necklace and Charlotte Olympia’s suede kitty-faced pouch. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen of luxury line The Row introduced a fringed woven statement bag with leather tassels to boot and while Marni’s fringed clutch bag might not have as much fringing, it definitely still makes an impact.

So whether you have Coachella freshly under your belt, or you’re leaving the mud to the teens, there’s festive spirit for everyone this summer thanks to fringing.

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Game On: Sports Luxe


Men start the summer with a new active silhouette

Game On: Sports Luxe


Men start the summer with a new active silhouette

Lifestyle > Fashion



Game On: Sports Luxe

May 29, 2015 / by Babette Radclyffe

Menswear is taking to the tracks and the Calvin Klein Collection hit a home run this season with a collection dominated by sports luxe looks - where loosely tailored trousers were paired with high-tops. The sports luxe trend has been on the fashion radar for the last couple of seasons and this showing marks its transition to a wardrobe staple. At Calvin Klein muscular male models wore layered T-shirts and vests, in fresh peach and apricot shades.  Tailored shorts were layered over skintight cycle shorts and paired with matching blazers. 

The audience sat ringside as Moncler Gamme Bleu brought the boxing ring to the fashion runway. Moncler’s ‘fashletes’ wore plaid menswear staples including suits, jackets, coats and shorts but gave them an athletic edge with knee-high socks and boxing boots. Boxing robes draped over plaid suits illustrate this season’s sports luxe melange of tailoring and sportswear. The French brand used a patriotic colour palette of red, which offset the monotone plaids, with models sporting NFL-style eye-black in the Tricolour hues. 

Bold player numbers were emblazoned on sports singlets at John Richmond in a season that saw singlets rapidly become a must-have item and key player. The athletic tempo was picked up by Dirk Bikkembergs whose models even carried bicycles down the catwalk. Blazers were paired with neoprene trousers and Italian triathlete Daniel Hofer closed the show with a jog around the catwalk. 

Balmain’s collection celebrated a sports luxe classic with their stylish leather joggers and detailed leather jackets paired with slouchy tracksuit bottoms.  Relaxed tailoring was a key look at Fendi as models wore tailored trousers with baseball jackets and slip-on shoes. 

Sports luxe took a more wistful turn at Dries Van Noten whose collection was inspired by revered ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Ballet inspired details featured throughout the collection with flowing coats, and trousers with elasticated waistbands. Baseball jackets punctuated the collection and models wore shoes that mimicked classic ballet slippers.

With roots in hip-hop styling and high-tech performance wear, sportswear is no longer relegated to the gym and stands proud on the podium of menswear.

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Time is Money at Baselworld


The Billionaire by Jacob & Co: a model to watch

Time is Money at Baselworld


The Billionaire by Jacob & Co: a model to watch

Lifestyle > Fashion



Time is Money at Baselworld

May 29, 2015

 

Russian-born watchmaker Jacob Arabo is hardly the shy and retiring type when measured against his Swiss watchmaking peers. Known as the king of bling – rapper P. Diddy features his watches in his music videos and Jay Z christened him ‘Jacob the Jeweller’ in song – Arabo glamourises the gaudy and his grandiose watches are worn by a glittering array of A-list celebrity, from Karl Lagerfeld to Victoria Beckham and Justin Bieber. 

Lagerfeld buys Arabo’s watches from fashion forward boutique Colette in Paris and rewards his staff with them as presents, while footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is the current brand ambassador. 

Little wonder then that Arabo’s firm, New York-based Jacob & Co, unveiled five unique horological models at this year’s Baselworld International Watch & Jewelry Fair in March, one of which was the far from bashful ‘Billionaire’. 

While not indicative of its monetary value, which equates to US$18.3 million, this one-of-a-kind watch reflects a collaborative endeavour between Arabo and storied Italian entrepreneur and fashion magnate, Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Lifestyle. 

Measuring an imposing 58mm by 475mm, the Billionaire skeleton timepiece boasts a case and bracelet set with 260 carats of GIA Certified emerald-cut diamonds, featuring individual gems weighing up to three carats. Each diamond is mounted in an 18K white gold bead setting, highlighting its brilliance. 

It’s classic Arabo. The watch gallantly revives subtle nuances of 1920s jewellery arts while reveling in the technical advances of contemporary watchmaking. Briatore, meanwhile, is celebrated as a leader in the luxury realm for both his strong management background in Formula One racing, and his role as founder of Billionaire Italian couture. 

The two say the Billionaire manifests their shared devotion to supreme quality and a tradition of adventurous trendsetting in the luxury sector. 

“I am thrilled to announce the partnership between Jacob & Co and Flavio Briatore,” said Arabo at the Swiss fair. “Mr. Briatore’s dynamic successes in the world of luxury align with the values of innovation, and incomparable quality that we seek to demonstrate through our work.” 

A sentiment evidently shared by fair-goers. An order was placed on the watch though the identity of the potential buyer wasn’t revealed and Jacob & Co spoke of an inquiry for a second bespoke Billionaire model from a private client. 

Heady times for Arabo, and the bling ring shows no sign of stopping.

What’s Hot & What’s Not: May 2015


Celebrate what’s hip and happening and avoid those fashion pitfalls

What’s Hot & What’s Not: May 2015


Celebrate what’s hip and happening and avoid those fashion pitfalls

Lifestyle > Fashion



What’s Hot & What’s Not

May 29, 2015


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Who Are You: SS15 Womenswear Trends


Our pick of the best womenswear for summer 2015

Who Are You: SS15 Womenswear Trends


Our pick of the best womenswear for summer 2015

Lifestyle > Fashion



Who Are You

April 24, 2015 / by Sophie Wong  

Call it the legacy of Karl Lagerfeld’s sneaker chic for Chanel last season, or the impact of Alexander Wang’s recent cutting-edge ‘athleisure’ wear for H&M, but women’s collections for Summer 2015 see everything from sports-inspired high fashion to street wear and feminine prints and silhouettes. Candy-colours, bold stripes, and wild florals predominate, while voluminous silhouettes add experimentation and fun. Romantic, rebel, bohemian or poet, even a throwback to the ’70s, whatever your silhouette, summer offers something for everyone.

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T by Alexander Wang pays tribute to activewear in his new collection with white and green tennis dresses and rompers that reference Adidas’ iconic Stan Smith sneakers, electric body-con dresses that recall Nike’s Flyknit, and a range of techno fabrics. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi explores a mix of influences, brightening white cricket jumpers with multi-coloured, tribal-inspired stripes and accenting lacy skirts and dresses with stripe trims. Stella McCartney employs a more relaxed take on the sportswear trend with fluid, parachute silk flight suits and matching sweeping coats, while Marni presents sporty bralets in neutral hues, styled with fluid bottoms and judo belts.

This is all well and good but for those who are neither sporty nor street, there is femininity and romance.  Proenza Schouler plays with fringing effects: dresses and skirts ending in unravelling strands that exude the essence of modern, feminine cool.

Sharp stripes pervade collections, from rainbows at Kenzo, Valentino, Dries van Noten and Peter Pilotto, to monochromatic at Givenchy, and Victoria Beckham, while designers’ colour palettes, from electric-chilli-red and fiery-orange, are going kaleidoscopic.

Echoing the feminine trend, albeit more escapist, some designers have gone with sheer fabrics, slippery satins, and fluid shapes, exhibiting a lightness and effortlessness evocative of another era.  Chloé channels bohemian chic with pretty pieces in lace and silk highlighted by balloon sleeves, breezy blouses, and relaxed kaftans.

Proportions are also prominent.  Alexander McQueen and The Row, juxtapose slim tunics, cropped tops, and sexy bralets, respectively.  There are slouchy, flared trousers from Lanvin, roomy culottes from Alice & Olivia, and sculpted, voluminous tops from 3.1 Phillip Lim for elegance.

The great outdoors is getting an airing with amped up buds and wild flowers splashed across collections. Both Céline and Saint Laurent are serving up bright, 70s florals spliced and clashed together; Thakoon is going tropical with prints of palms in burgundy and bright turquoise; Alexander McQueen’s kimono-inspired collection features graphic, blown-up floral motifs, while Dolce & Gabbana features black lace, bright red carnations, Castilian gold and bejewelled detailing. Mary Katrantzou, Diane von Fürstenberg and Giambattista Valli, are all blossoming with bold floral prints.

Finally, denim dominates as designers reinvent the workwear wardrobe staple in high-low combos.  From retro silhouettes flared and high-waisted at Stella McCartney and J Brand, to “mum jeans” made fashionable by Rag & Bone Jean, everybody is joining in with Gucci and Bottega Veneta. Even Alexander Wang is getting in on the act offering a slim leg with minimal stretch to a relaxed cut. Options abound.

Here comes the summer.

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Mighty Men: SS15 Menswear Trends


Suits, sneakers, and stripes dominate the dashing gentleman’s wardrobe this season

Mighty Men: SS15 Menswear Trends


Suits, sneakers, and stripes dominate the dashing gentleman’s wardrobe this season

Lifestyle > Fashion


Mighty Men

April 24, 2015 / by Sophie Wong

With a collection called ‘Book Covers & Bruce Chatwin’, Burberry’s Christopher Bailey featured illustrations and typographic prints that took their cue from vintage English book covers. He also showed Pharrell Williams-inspired buffalo hats, oversized rucksacks and a range of colourful trenches. Meanwhile over at Carven, Guillaume Henry gave ’80s sportswear a slicker Parisian update with more industrial minimalist designs.


From Left: Spring/Summer 2015 Accessories by Carven- Cap; Duffel bag; Sneakers; Luggage hang tags

From Left: Spring/Summer 2015 Accessories by Carven- Cap; Duffel bag; Sneakers; Luggage hang tags

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Margareta van den Bosch of H&M


H&M’s creative advisor on Marc Jacobs, Hong Kong fashion, a decade of designer collaboration and the brand’s success

Margareta van den Bosch of H&M


H&M’s creative advisor on Marc Jacobs, Hong Kong fashion, a decade of designer collaboration and the brand’s success

Lifestyle > Fashion



Margareta van den Bosch

April 24, 2015 / by Charles Oliver


“One of many keys to our success is efforts to keep improving product lines and stores, from design, to the customer experience when shopping, and via the electronic platform”

H&M broke the haute-couture/high-street mould, which had existed like church and state, with its pioneering 2004 Karl Lagerfeld collaboration. Now the Stockholm-based retailer is celebrating its first decade of such high-profile projects, which have been credited with democratising fashion and consumer taste. The crossovers have changed the lexicon, too, with words like “masstige” – a portmanteau of mass-market and prestige, and “massclusive” – mass-market and exclusive, entering fashion-speak. Most recently, at the end of 2014 the brand successfully collaborated with Alexander Wang on a sports-couture line.

H&M creative advisor and former head of design, Margareta van den Bosch, says at the outset the company never envisaged such success. “The biggest surprise is that the collaborations went on for a decade. Originally, we thought there might be three or four,” she says in Hong Kong, prior the opening of the Swedish retailer’s inaugural Taiwan store in February.

The learning curve for all designers, H&M, its competitors and consumers, has been steep and meaningful. “It was great PR, something the customers loved, and although we didn’t see it at the time, it gave H&M a lot of credit in the eyes of the fashion industry; that we could upgrade the clothing quality for collaborations and yet still sell them at such affordable prices,” says Van den Bosch.

Initially sceptical couturiers were soon converts. “They were very happy with the results, got lots of attention and, in many cases, reached a new audience, even if just for two or three weeks.”

The “less is more” mantra was fundamental to success. “We insisted on limited-edition collaborations. If we’d been too greedy and made too much, you might have had items still on sale at a later date, which wouldn’t have benefited anyone’s branding.

“Collaboration also made us better. We had to work ever harder on quality control for these projects, and it really helped us.”

But has the Instagramable gratification of today’s world tired of H&M crossovers? “Oddly, it feels like they’ve now become something of a tradition and people are expecting them. We have 250 designers involved one way or another, comprising 20 different nationalities, including Chinese.” In 2004, H&M had less than 100 designers.

All positive news for Hong Kong and China’s design graduates on occasions when Van den Bosch comes to town, be it at Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design, or in Shanghai, as she was last year for H&M’s annual design awards, or at Hong Kong International Fashion Week, where she presided as one of this year’s judges in January. “These days I enjoy seeing graduation shows more than fully fledged fashion shows,” she says.

Of the former: “If someone catches my eye, I tell my colleagues back in Sweden. I’ve always been interested in design and an education in design. As a designer myself, I know what it takes to create and make clothes. I started as head of design at H&M.”

What did she think of Hong Kong designers’ work at January fashion week?  “Very handicraft, lots of embroidery, with felt fabrics, prints. There is a tendency to work with volumes, and draping. It was an interesting experiment in creativity.”

While we wait to discover whether a Hong Kong fashion design student can win H&M’s annual award, the retailing juggernaut rumbles on, experimenting and diversifying.

H&M Beauty will be introduced this year in response to the US62$ billion global cosmetic industry.  The company may also debut another of its subsidiaries “& Other Stories”, in Asia. Currently only available in Europe, it is their own womenswear and accessory brand, for which, unusually; they bring in other labels such as Nike.

There’s no resting on laurels for Van den Bosch and H&M.  “One of many keys to our success is our efforts to keep improving product lines and stores, from design, to the customer experience when shopping, and via the electronic platform.

“It can get messy in stores, hard to find items. We need to make it less so.” Some stores lack guidance for needy shoppers, she explains. “The shopping experience can always be improved.”

How does Van den Bosch assess the work of arch competitor Zara? “H&M has a younger clientèle; our price-point is slightly different from Zara. But they’re doing a very good job, too,” she says.

And how about going counter-culture and re-establishing the hierarchy it has made mass – H&M couture? “We already make complicated things. In the Martin Margiela collaboration, for example, we made the belts ourselves. However, our mass global customer is very much about price and once you start down the couture route it gets very expensive.”

And what of more designer collaborations on the horizon? “We have approached Marc Jacobs as he’s free of Louis Vuitton,” she says. [Jacobs headed design at the French luxury heavyweight from 1997 to 2014]. “Now he’s the big boss it becomes easier.”

She’s not about to reveal his answer, but appears to remain cautious. “So far that hasn’t been decided. He has several lines. He may feel that it might be too competitive to collaborate with H&M. But we love what he does.”

For H&M, signing up Jacobs would be a triumph, and would be applauded by expectant fashionistas. Here’s to a second decade of collaboration.

Photo: courtesy of H&M