Sunday, November 29, 2009

Waking Up en vogue

In fashion, designers don't act alone. There are usually teams and teams of individuals who come together at the helm of one person (the designer) who acts more like a conductor than a multitasking jack-of-all-trades. Most designers may start with a concept or a few sketches as inspiration for a collection, but then leave the draping, the pattern making, the sewing, the construction, or some other key piece to the teams to perform, of course reserving final approval. Don't get me wrong - some designers are more skilled than others and are able to perform all of the tasks associated with creating a collection from start to finish. Gone are the days when Christian Dior and CoCo Chanel create fabulous collections, keeping their hands literally in the mix from conception to reality.

We see the same concept applied to Boutique Owners and Store Directors. It's becoming more and more rare to find an individual who is equally as motivated vacuuming their store as they are going to market, focusing on vendor relations, creating inspired visual merchandise schemes, and the like. As a consumer - it's very obvious when you enter a store that is lead/owned by a caring individual - one who is goal oriented and driven towards the reality of a bigger picture.

I'm not saying that every designer or boutique owner needs to do it all. Their inspiration, guidance, and example are sometimes all that is needed for success and happiness. But for those who do and can do it all, there seems to be even greater reward and pride.

We can argue the same concepts for music as well. YoYo Ma might be a terrible singer - but he's a virtuoso on the cello. Beyonce is a powerful, popular singer - but her piano or guitar skills might be incredibly lacking. Having one talent in the music industry is all you need for success, as long as there's a niche market and people generally like you. For those musicians and groups that can actually sing, play instruments, and produce music - that is the triple threat.

Enter: Ryan Tedder. Zach Filkins. Eddier Fisher. Brent Kutzle. Drew Brown. Better known as OneRepublic. Formed in 2002, the boys do it all - they sing, play their own instruments (from the piano/organ, drums, guitars, cello, and a myriad of other sounds), write (not just for themselves - Ryan co-wrote and produced Leona Lewis's Bleeding Love) and produce. You may have been getting sick of the group's Apologize or Stop and Stare after the seemingly 10,000,000th time you heard them on the radio or television. But there's so much more to the band. Their sound is real. Intensely musical. Unpretentiously awesome. Natural. They might just be my favourite band. I'm not saying they'll have the same impact on music as Dior and Chanel did for fashion, but I'd say they're definitely en pointe.

OneRepublic's new album, Waking Up, was released on 17 November and highly recommended.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

real style, from head to toe

I was thinking the other day about the perfect outfit, from head-to-toe for one of my clients. He wanted to exude everyday style, comfort, and luxury. Here's what I came up with:

Michael Kors
Fairfax Check Shirt

Navy/white check. Contrast mini check lining. Spread collar, button front. Long sleeves with button cuffs. Cotton. Imported.


Dark oat (brown) with Burberry Check. Fringe. 78 3.4" long x 17 3/4" wide. Crinkled merino wool/cashmere blend. Made in the UK.

Dolce Gabbana

1,6" high. 100% leather. Made in Italy.

Martin + Osa
Straight Fit Jean
Double Dyed Khaki Wash


This is an every day, every guy jean. A rise that sits at the waist makes this fit easy through the hip and thigh for a comfortable, staple piece for long lasting wear. 100% cotton. Tacking at waist and pockets. Whiskering, light sanding. Logo buttons, rivets, embroidery, patch.

Cole, Rood & Haan
Genuine handsewn moccasin construction hand-constructed of vegetable tanned Italian leather on upper, sock, and sole. Unlined upper. Heel counter lined in blood red suede. Hidden elasticized goring for laceless wear. Antique brass heel tacks. Raw sole edge finish. Embossed logo on footbed and outsole.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Give Thanks for Great Deals

It's no secret I love the everyday, casual luxury of M+O. And what what could make a good thing better? Well, all day today Martin + Osa is having all sweaters 50% off. And in celebration of Thanksgiving, they're giving you a special head start on the Black Friday promotion and pricing all cashmere sweaters for men and women at US$59.

Now is the time to consider who's been naughty and who's been nice...

And, Branch Home, one of my absolute favourite companies, is offering a special friends and family discount this Saturday and Sunday of 20% on nearly all items. Simply enter code "branchfriend09" at checkout.

Origins, bringing you health, happiness, and harmony - both inside and out - the natural way - is also offering a perfect assortment of their three best selling products. Valued at more than US$110 and on sale for only US$55, you get an "at-home size" and a "travel size" of Checks and Balances (the frothy face wash that evens your skin tone and leaves skin happy and healthy), Modern Friction (the most gentle yet effective exfoliant), and Ginger Souffle (the deliciously spicy moisturizer for body).

So in case you're not sure what to get me for Christmas, or need some good suggestions for people on your list, I suggest a cashmere sweater, an over-the-top skincare basket and this fabulous tote.

Now get out there and stimulate that economy! Or at least stimulate something!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Black Friday Specials

This week in America marks the traditional shopping bonanza known as "Black Friday" or the Friday after the US Thanksgiving holiday, when stores traditionally offer special incentives, discounts, and promotions in order to lure and entice customers to shop en masse and boost their annual profits finally from the red (or negative) to the black (or positive). This year's Black Friday is going to be closely watched be market analysts and economists for spending trends, or the lack thereof, and an indicator to the holiday sales forecasts.

Another important day to watch is Cyber Monday - the Monday after the American Thanksgiving - when a surge in online shopping (and lack of productivity by office workers as they discretely shop online instead of work on their actual jobs) occurs.

For those with liquid income, or who want to get a head start on shopping for Christmas while getting the most bang for your buck, Black Friday and Cyber Monday provide lots of shopping incentives.

Here is just a sampling of offers I've heard thus far:

-- Guess will be offering a generous discount off the entire store. I'm not sure how long the special will run, so shop early for the best selection.

-- Banana Republic is offering a "buy one get one free" special on all cashmere sweaters. Buy one for yourself - give one as a gift. Or knock out two people from your shopping list for the price of one.

-- Express for Men and Women typically offer a gift with purchase. This year they'll be opening at 5 AM nationwide. Macy's department stores will also be opening at 5.

-- Electronic superstore Best Buy also opens at 5 AM, and will feature low priced electronic while supplies last, including a 42" HD LCD Samsung Television for US$999 (a savings of US$700), as well as many other discounts on movies, games, and other electronic equipment.

-- For the real bargain hunter, many outlet centres nationwide are opening at midnight (0:01 AM) on Friday morning for those shoppers who just can't wait to get their credit cards swiping.

You can always beat the crowds and shop "early" online at sites on Thanksgiving Day as well. Many retailers put advanced sales, deals, and promotions online. This is also a great alternative for those stores that aren't featured in your area, or for hard to get products.

As always, remember the following tips:

-- Shop early. Many deals and promotions are for a limited time, or while quantities last. So for best selection, shop early.

-- Unless something is clearly marked as "final sale", everything is returnable. If you think you might like something, and the price is only good for a few hours - go ahead and buy it. Later, when you're not caught up in the hustle and bustle of hunting sales and shopping early, you can think clearly at home about what you really want to keep or give as gifts, and what you don't really need. So be sure to save all of your receipts.

-- Just because something is a great deal doesn't mean that you must buy it. Do you really need it? Is there someone on your gift list that actually would enjoy or benefit from owning said bargain?

-- Make a list before you head out. Who do you have to buy for? What items are you looking for. Have a budget and stick to it. If your budget for Johnny Q. Neighbour is US$25, and you get a DVD box set of his favourite movies for US$15, you don't need to spend an additional US$10. Budget not only in currency, but in value.

-- Shop with friends. Some bargains and deals are limited to one per customer. So if you just have to have that second deal - give your friend the cash and have them buy the deal as well. Your friends can also split up and grab items from other departments (which can be handy when stores' quantities are limited). Also remember to trust your friend's judgement. If you're not sure if you need to buy something, or if you're deciding whether or not a gift is appropriate, ask your friend. They're always on your side.

-- Be kind to the associates. Remember - they've been awake for a lot longer than you have, and ate just as much food on Thanksgiving as you did. So be nice. Trust that employees are doing the best they can to help you, in the shortest amount of time. The more they're helpful, the more they sell - the more money the stores make and the more secure their jobs become. So don't be mad when the discounted, discontinued items you thought you wanted to buy a few months ago are no longer available.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Luxe Loves of the Moment

(in no particular order, of course)

-- Vietri's Old St. Nick holiday dinnerware

-- the Old Hollywood, Vintage Vixen vibe for women

-- the over-the-top Christian Louboutin Dillian pump

-- Giorgio Armani's mobile phone by Samsung

-- Handmade cable-knit scarves, hats, sweaters, and cardigans for men

-- Burberry's new flagship boutique @ 444 Madison Avenue

-- Vosges Haute Chocolat

-- for both men and women - multiple bracelets worn all at the same time

-- giant cocktail rings for women

-- for both men and women - luxe gloves (think cashmere lined lambskin)

-- Nars drop dead gorgeous mini nail polish set

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The not-so-luxe client

I've said for some time now that our current economic situation is actually doing us a favour; stores have been forced to step up their client experience, ramp up their product knowledge, ranges, and offerings, and competitively price their items, and stores are more easily focusing their resources on clients who actually shop, rather than tending to those who constantly are "just looking", are able to negotiate pricing, model stock, minimum purchases requirements, shipping, etc.

One aspect that this economy has really been positive is the "mid-market, newly luxe" client. This client is still very much financially secure (all things considered), and still keeps a very discerning eye - but is more responsible with their liquid assets and spending abilities. For example, a client who in 2006 was unphased at spending US$1100 on a pair of Dior boots, might instead opt for 2 pairs of US$280 Cole Haan boots in 2009. Not that Cole Haan is a cheap or unfashionable brand by any means, but the traditional luxe client wouldn't have normally shopped at Cole Haan. Similarly, that same luxe client in 2006 might only wear Maison Martin Margiela vneck tshirts, but now in 2009 is opting for the US$19,00 special at Martin + Osa.

My point is - the luxe client has been introduced to an entire new shopping experience. And when corporate America and the other owners and managers of these stores can rise to the occasion, success is translated into dollar signs instantly.

I wrote a few months ago about the value of Mixed Marketing. When these "mid-market, newly luxe" clients shop these traditionally non-luxe stores, they still expect the same service they'd receive at a conventional luxe boutique. A genuine greeting, possibly by name. Lifestyle awareness. Beverages. Added services. Extended clienteling. Impeccable attention. The luxe client doesn't want to know that Martin + Osa is a concept owned by American Eagle Outfitters. The luxe client doesn't want to know that Lexus is made by Toyota. Not that there's anything wrong with AEO or Toyota, but the luxe client likes to remain exclusive, more elevated.

Ruehl, a concept by Abercrombie & Fitch, is closing its doors January 2010. "It has been a difficult decision to close Ruehl, a brand we continue to believe could have been successful in different circumstances," said CEO Mike Jeffries. "However, given the current economic environment, we believe it is in the best interests of the company to focus its efforts and resources on the growth opportunities afforded by our other brands, particularly internationally." The 29-store chain generated a pretax operating loss of $58 million during the last fiscal year.

Where did Ruehl go wrong? Where do we begin is the real question. The brand was marketed towards the "hip twentysomething" crowd as higher end, better quality, more grown up option to Abercrombie. Could the brand have been more profitable and longer lasting if the associates in their stores were exposed to a more dynamic training program, that included product knowledge and actual sales training? Possibly. Could the brand have been more profitable and longer lasting if its products didn't become more and more like those from their sister company's products but with higher price tags? Possibly. Could the brand have been more profitable if it didn't continue to market to the Abercrombie client, who was conditioned to loud music, lackluster service, and sold more on sex than on quality, value, and design aesthetic? Possibly. Could the brand have been more profitable and longer lasting if its marketing department focused on selling a lifestyle, rather than just focusing on sexy people? Possibly.

I'm not hating on Ruehl. I used to really love the products and the look of their apartment style stores. But quite honestly, when the products offered ended up looking just like the same things I could find on the shelves at Abercrombie but for at least half the price, I knew something was wrong. When ANF started marketing Ruehl as Abercrombie's sister, I knew something was wrong. But it's not just at Ruehl. Many stores in this "mid-luxe" tier are struggling to identify their clients and create lasting relationships with new ones.

Some of the clients I shop for refuse to buy anything full price or brand new at J. Crew, because they know the brand is quick to mark down new items shortly after roll out. Is it really worth spending US$88 for a silk ruffled tank top, when just two weeks later the shirt will probably be $49,99 and then a week later an additional 25% off? The same can be said for Martin and Osa, who recently have had more promotions in two weeks than stores have for an entire year. There have been friends and family discounts, special pricing for cashmere, denim, and outwear, new clearance items, additional discounts on clearance items.

When stores constantly are discounting items, clients begin to question why they should pay full price for anything. If a department store offers 20% saving for people who open credit cards, clients may ask "why can't I get the discount without opening the card" - and if they don't get the discount, the client takes their business somewhere else.

No matter how much money someone may be able to spend - everyone always likes a deal and to save more. So when clients are sold on value, on quality, on design - they're more inclined to buy. Associates who arm themselves with product knowledge are able to sell much more than those who do not. Sell me the product, sell me the romance, sell me the story - and you've got a buyer. Send me a thank you note, call me to make sure I like my product, invite me back to shop - and you've got a client.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Support the Troops in Style

When making out your holiday/Christmas cards this year, please include the following:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20307-500

UPDATE: The above address is not correct. I do apologize. Apparently Walter Reed won't distribute cards unless specifically addressed. But you can still make a difference. And here's how:

How Holiday Mail from the American Red Cross works:

We have established an extensive process to ensure all cards sent to our service members are safe and arrive in time for the holidays. Holiday cards will be collected through a unique P.O. Box address from Monday, November 2 through Monday, December 7*.

First, cards from across the nation must be sent to this address:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD

Every card received will be screened for hazardous materials by Pitney Bowes and distributed to participating Red Cross chapters nationwide. Once the cards arrive at the Red Cross chapters, they are sorted and reviewed by volunteers who then distribute them to service members, their families and veterans in communities across the country.

Sign all cards
Entitle cards “Dear Service Member, Family or Veteran”
Limit cards to 15 per person or 50 for school class or business group
Bundle groups of cards in single, large envelopes

Send letters
Include personal information such as home or email addresses
Use glitter – excessive amounts can aggravate health issues of wounded recipients
Include inserts of any kind as they must be removed in the screening process

For more information visit

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gwen Does it Again!

When you think of Gwen Stefani, a rush of adjectives comes to mind: blonde. bombshell. rockstar. entertainer. fashion designer. mother. wife. icon. chic. edgy. elegant. fabulous. fabulously fit.

Two months ago (to the day, I might add!) I wrote about Gwen's newest collection. I was most excited to see her carrying what appeared to be a bright green laptop case. And now, I hope you think "electronics accessory purveyor" as well.

The marketing campaign is spot on. This week, get carried away with L.A.M.B. Rocker chic is the name of the game with Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. collection designed exclusively for Apple. Mixing luxury and edgy style, these bags don't miss a beat.

Gwen says L.A.M.B. stands for "love. angel. music. baby." - but after viewing her new collection for Apple, I'm also saying LA.MB can be "Luxury Aesthetic. Marvelous Brand".

We all want to properly care for and protection our electronics - especially our laptop computers. And now we can do it in the utmost style. With Gwen's fashion forward edge, your laptop goes from "everyday function" to "especially fabulous". From hand tanned Italian lambskin, elegant and durable quilting, to signature L.A.M.B. striped faille lining, the collection features bags, sleeves, cases, and clutches for all of your favourite electronics.

And the Harajuku Lovers' collection is the perfect mix of Japanese Funk and American Style. Be Linksmart, cute, and organized all at once. Absolutely amazing.
Both of Gwen's new ranges for Apple are available exclusively online now, and shall be in the company's flagship stores within the next week or so!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Luxe Loves and Lusts

(in no particular order)

Stella McCartney for GapKids and BabyGap

Agraria San Francisco's AirEssence home fragrance diffuser

Scarves, Snoodes, and everything to accentuate the neck

Starbucks' Caramel Brulee Crème and partnership with (red)

OpenSkies' business-class only service between New York City and Paris

Flo, the most amazing sales associate at Barney's New York, Beverly Hills location

Krislyn Design

Jill, an incredibly business savy manager with Ilori, Pittsburgh location

Dolce & Gabbana's electronic magazine Swide

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pink Fashion + Music

I have always loved the classic inspiration with modern flair that is Thomas Pink. The impeccable tailoring of London's famed Jermyn Street, with a global reach and cult following. A visit to any Pink store is like walking into my dream closet.

It's no secret that fashion and music go hand-in-hand. Whether blasting down the runway as models present the newest collections and looks, or creating ambiance in a boutique, fashion definitely rocks. And now, Thomas Pink helps you carry music in a whole new way.

Take a look at the new Orange Commuter Tie from Thomas Pink. The sophisticated design incorporates 100% silk woven tie and useful media player storage device in one. The design features a small yet subtle pocket on the reverse of the tie. The music player is placed in the pocket and extra fabric loop keeps all wires out of sight and close to the body, leaving your hands free. Dry clean only. The width of the tie is 8.5cm. Made in England.

Colour: Orange
Product code: 70110329O2X

Now, normally I'm not a fan of mixing electronics and fashion. But as more and more men utilize public transportation (planes, trains, buses, hovercraft, etc) - this tie discretely conceals your iPod and conveniently organizes the wires and frees your hands. It's the perfect balance of style and utility!