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Apr 06, 2010



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I looked at him in perplexity and distress. Natasha’s eyes besought me to be kind and not to judge him harshly. She listened to his talk with a sort of mournful smile, and at the same time she seemed to be admiring him as one admires a charming, merry child, listening to its sweet but senseless prattle, I looked at her reproachfully. I was unbearably miserable.
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There's certainly a great deal to know about this issue.
I like all of the points you made.

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Karl Lagerfeld surprised everyone when he picked Alice Dellal, known as model-slash-socialite but mainly for having "punky" and "rocker" style, as the new face of his Boy Chanel handbag collection.

With her half-shaved head, tattoos and a couple of unconventionally placed piercings, ; she "represents the perfect incarnation of all that is unique about the Boy Chanel handbag collection, which strives [to be] far from conformist notions of femininity."

We got a sneak peek at the campaign from a short film released last month, a silent film directed by Lagerfeld in black and white called "My New Friend Boy."

and they're just about as "punky" and "rocker" as you'd imagine: Dellal in her shaved head glory, wearing ripped, footless fishnet tights and a Chanel zip-up hoodie (and no pants). Oh, and carrying the new Boy bag.

Check out the newest face of the French brand. Do you dig the darker feel of the new Chanel spots?

Alicia Keys has been turning-heads with her sensational style as she makes the rounds during Paris Fashion Week. The singer was spotted at list of high-brow shows including Givenchy, Yves Saint-Laurent, Stella McCartney and Chanel.

While Alicia has stuck to a black and white palette throughout the week--she's been adding a bit of visual interest with her unique choice of accessories.

She paired her ivory buttoned-up blouse and tuxedo jacket with a large cross statement necklace to take in the Givenchy show and just yesterday decided to up the style ante by donning a jeweled headpiece to the Chanel runway presentation.

The dangling hair jewelry was definitely head-turning, but we're not quite sure we love it. But this isn't the first time we're seen Alicia rock a set of crowned jewels.

In fact, we think the "Empire State Of Mind" singer looked quite regal in the to music producer Swizz Beatz.

But, what do you think of this most recent attempt?

Here's a look at Alicia's Paris Fashion Week ensembles and a few other A-listers (like Kanye West, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Cassie) who have been running around the the City Of Lights' stylish scene.

By Linda Rosenkrantz for

Want to give your baby a name that truly telegraphs a sense of style? One way is by going directly to the world of high fashion: representing several different cultures, the names of many 20th/21st century fashion design icons prove to be exceptionally distinctive, diverse, creative and inspirational. Here are the Nameberry picks for best :

Public opinions differ on the CW show 'Gossip Girl'. Whether you love it, loathe it, or have never watched it, I find a certain stylish attachment to the show that seems impossible to shake off. 'Who wouldn't want a closet like Blair Waldorf's?'

When Karl Lagerfield choose it-girl of the moment Blake Lively as the new face of Chanel, it made sense.

She’s young, blonde, beautiful, and sporty.

So, why am I so bored?

I’ve read reviews from other fashion insiders, and I have to say, I’m not the only yawning.

This underwhelment is bumbling under the service.

It was present in the New York Times article by Irina Aleksander, the sub-text asking "whatever, how long will this last? Will people be talking about her in 6 months?"

Designers have been guilty of choosing girls that are able to have the clothes wear THEM, to showcase their craftsmanship on live mannequins.

Which is where Lively comes in. When all-American girl gets tossed around to describe your look, it usually means pretty….and kind of boring.

Yes, I said it.

Where’s the high fashion? Where’s the rebellion? Where’s the intrigue? I already know her. I’ve seen a million other girls like her as the new thing. It’s been done.

Consumers are paying for the wonder, elitisim, and individuality that comes with Chanel. Ads are the place to steer the brand in an edgy direction. So, what makes Lively so different?

The answer: absolutely nothing.

She the best choice out of what is available right now. It’s a classic case of natural selection. And once the Darwinism of the fashion world will kicks in it'll be survival (literally) of the fittest.

And I’m afraid, Ms. Lively, won’t be in that group.

Blake Lively has certainly become fashion's newest darling -- she's been and and it seems the kind words won't let up any time soon. as the face of Chanel and drilled the actress on how she got into fashion to begin with. :

Her mother, Elaine, was a fashion model who fronted a Hanes campaign and teamed up with her daughter to make dresses. "We'd always go down to the garment district with my father. We would go to really cool vintage stores or boutiques and we'd get a bunch of clothes and we'd sew a lot," Lively recalls.


Yet the actress says she has no ambitions to jump into the melee with a project of her own.

"I have such a respect for fashion and such an appreciation for it that if there are people like Karl Lagerfeld out there designing, who am I?" she asks. "I want to bow down to them and be a representative for them if they'll have me."

The "Gossip Girl" was also the subject of . She revealed, "I had other opportunities and I would say, 'Thank you so much, but I am holding out for Chanel.' That's who I want to be the face of. And people would say, 'Well, that's unrealistic, they only hire Europeans,' and I said: 'Well, how great. I'll be the first then.'"

And, of course, there were other designers on-hand to sing her praises. Michael Kors , "You look at her skin and her hair -- she's healthy," Mr. Kors said. "It's the anti-bored, too-cool-for-school, locked in a club for months on end look that you see a lot of young actresses going for. There's something very optimistic about her. I think she's the anti-downer, anti-sad."

Anyway, take a look at Blake's Chanel ad:

Plenty of fashion labels have used mirror in advertisements at one point or another (). But , featuring the lovely actress staring back at herself, is even more familiar than usual.

Lively's first ad as the new line hit the web Friday, and to our surprise it looks strikingly similar to the spots for her Mademoiselle handbag campaign for Chanel.

That's right, Chanel -- Lively's fashion champions and home to her BFF Karl Lagerfeld. It wasn't too long ago that Lively was and toting bags for the French fashion brand. and taken the modeling lessons learned at Chanel with her.

The Gucci ad shows Lively staring out a window into a dark sky overlooking a lit-up city. It's yet so striking similar to the dark Chanel ad also featuring Blake's profile reflected in glass.

So the real question: intentional or not? Is Gucci pouring salt in Chanel's wound after stealing Karl Lagerfeld's or is the similarity a mere coincidence?

See the ads for yourself below and tell us what you think!



Gucci and Chanel aren't the first lookalike fashion ads...

Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .

In case you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours (or entirely engrossed with ), you've already heard the startling news: this weekend!

The "Green Lantern" co-stars, who have been dating for about a year, that took everyone by surprise. While there were plenty of A-listers involved -- Bette Midler and Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine reportedly sang at the reception -- there's no photographic evidence to be had, i.e. no snaps of what we're sure was a stunning wedding dress. With no pics, how will we know what Blake wore??

! While most news outlets have reported that Lively wore a Chanel gown down the aisle, and can set the record straight:

The bride and her bridesmaids walked down the aisle in custom Marchesa gowns designed by Blake's friends, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, with shoes created for the celebration by Christian Louboutin. The groom and groomsmen wore specially made Burberry suits with custom leather suspenders designed by the groom's friend, Christopher Bailey. The couple exchanged unique wedding rings by Lorraine Schwartz.

Whoa. No love for Karl Lagerfeld? Nor Gucci? Lively has been a longtime pal and muse to the Kaiser, who made her , and .

Lively also recently , the Italian label's new fragrance. (Despite our secret evil hopes for a juicy feud, it seems like Blake's Gucci gig didn't result in a dramatic fallout with Karl.)

But both Lagerfeld and Gucci's Frida Giannini have reason to be jealous, since Marchesa's Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig scored the coveted wedding dress gig. Blake in was clad in "a hand-draped silk tulle bodice adorned with custom crystal and rose gold embroidery," according to Marchesa's press office. To be fair, we should have guessed Lively was going to be shopping around for her wedding wardrobe. just months ago, wondering aloud, "Which couture house should I go to?"

The shoes, on the other hand, .

For more details, click over to , which has the exclusive scoop for its December issue.

Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .


It's official: has evolved from his disheveled days into . The has been chosen as the first male face of Chanel No. 5 perfume, . (Gaspard Ulliel appeared in a Chanel men's fragrance ads, but at least as far as we can tell, he was never the official spokesperson of No.5.)

Mr. Pitt will join the ranks of past promoters of the scent Nicole Kidman, Audrey Tatou and Catherine Deneuve when the ads are released overseas later this year.

The campaign is scheduled to shoot in London this week, and we're interested to see Karl work his magic on the dreamboat. No word from on exactly why he's taken on the duty of embodying the couture house's best-selling fragrance, but the couple will reportedly take home a seven-figure paycheck from the modeling gig. Brad must have taken when he made the high-paying overseas product-shilling deal.

This kind of endorsement begs the question: Why is Brad repping one of the most iconic women's scents? He's not exactly the epitome of the effeminate fragrance's target demographic. If the new Chanel face stays mum, we'll just have to wait until we see the ads to piece this together.

UPDATE: It's confirmed! :

CHANEL has selected world renowned actor Brad Pitt to be the face of the upcoming advertising campaign for CHANEL N°5.


Check out Brad and Angelina's style below to get a refresher on the new fragrance aficionado's many looks with his feminine other half.

Also on HuffPost:

If you needed any more conclusive proof about just how blinkin' good looking Brad Pitt is then this is surely it? The Hollywood star has just been signed up to be the new face of Chanel No.5. You know, the classic ladies fragrance?

The 48-year-old actor will make history as the first ever man to front the new advertising campaign for the French fragrance and has reportedly been paid a seven figure sum to do so.

Brad will follow in the high-heeled footsteps of Nicole Kidman, Keira Knightley, Audrey Tatou, Catherine Deneuve and Lauren Hutton who have all fronted previous campaigns for the scent.

Brad is due to film the ad in London this week, which is handy, as him and fiancee Angelina Jolie have just .

The couple decided to buy the £10million property - Whornes Place in Richmond - .


Also on HuffPost:


Yesterday, it was reported that Brad Pitt is going to be the new face of Chanel and now, new details have come to light. Brad is set to begin shooting the ads in London later this week.

We like to blithely toss the word "icon" around in reference to our modern day fashion stars: Karl, Kate, Marc, Gaga (and, uh, ). But all it takes is a few costumes to remind us that none compare to a true fashion icon like Coco Chanel.

The storied fashion designer is getting yet another homage in "The Little Black Jacket: Chanel's Classic Revisited," an upcoming book by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld. The tome honors the jacket created by Coco and worn by hundreds of socialites, models and celebrities ever since.

at the project, for which Lagerfeld photographed everyone Georgia May Jagger to .

But our favorite jacket-wearer? Well, it's a toss-up. Carine dresses up as Coco herself, wearing the traditional straw boater, the strands of pearls and that signature jacket. In the unmistakable outfit, the former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief reminds us of what an icon -- a true symbol -- Coco Chanel was.

Then again, Sarah Jessica Parker wears the jacket on her head. And totally owns it.

Like we said: toss-up.

"The Little Black Jacket: Chanel's Classic Revisited" comes out this fall -- will you be buying it?


Carine Roitfeld , but the former editor-in-chief has had no shortage of work since leaving the glossy.

Two weeks ago, we learned that Roitfeld -- including the catalog, the windows and a short film -- working with photographer Mario Sorrenti and Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman. She told Women's Wear Daily, "It's good to have a new life, because now I can do projects that I never dreamed of before."

Another such project? Working with Kaiser Karl, apparently.

Roitfeld styled Chanel's fall/winter advertisements, which were recently shot in Paris. The new pics feature model-of-the-moment Freja Beha Erichsen, and Lagerfeld told the fashion newspaper, "The mix with Freja was genius."

Will Carine and Karl keep on keeping on, collaborating in the future? Only time will tell. We wonder if one Tom Ford is jealous yet...

Would you pay $20 for

No, not shoulder pads. No, not some kind of new, super chic accessory. Cotton pads. Like the things you use to swipe off your eye makeup remover.

When we first , we balked. $20??

But hey, these things are probably nicer than Swisspers. And they are! They're downright international!

Sayeth Chanel:

LE COTON is an exquisitely soft tri-layer pad developed in Japan: its outer lining, made from delicate, handpicked Egyptian cotton, and its inner filling, comprised of lightly entwined, elastic Australian fibers.

Nothing but the world's finest to scrub off your mascara clumps.

And there are more splurge-y cosmetics accessories where that came from; check out some other outrageously priced beauty tools in our slideshow below.


Don't steal designer brand names. Just, don't. Because those brands are really big and really rich and pretty scary and they will come and sue your butt.

this week when the Seoul Central District Court ordered it to pay Chanel approximately $8,800 in damages. As AFP reported, .

Which may or may not be worse than that time when...

... a South African boutique owner

... someone spotted

... in "The Hangover 2."

... all those existed.

That's not counting the countless shoes, bags and clothes that have been confiscated for falsely bearing a designer name (including just last week). What have we learned, class? Don't steal designer brand names.

Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .

After , 46-year-old Kristen McMenamy slipped back into a swimsuit for Monday's Chanel Croisiere show at the Hotel du Cap in Cap d'Antibes, France.

The silver-haired supermodel led the way for Karl Lagerfeld's cruise collection models, clad chiefly in black, white, black-and-white or a bold print...or a bejeweled turban, in the case of the kaiser's man muse Baptiste Giabiconi.


Would-be Marlene Dietrichs sauntered the catwalk in bias-cut gowns of ivory silk that twinkled at the neckline with oversized pearls, their sultry gaits reflecting the very easygoing getaway chic that the Cruise line is meant to embody.

"It's about dressing down these very sumptuous looks, about easy elegance," the label's uber-designer, Karl Lagerfeld, told The Associated Press in a post-show interview.


"This is about the women of Cannes, women who mix bathing suits with real pearls and diamonds," Lagerfeld said. "After all, you can't wear fakes into the water."

Obviously not! What an utterly unsophisticated assumption.

Take a look at Karl's newest offerings. And to see who sat front row, .

Chanel's set designer was clearly inspired by the right?

Today as Paris Fashion Week nears its apogee, Karl Lagerfeld capitalized on the drama, putting on a show that was soaked in luxurious coats and trousers as well as striking scenery.

As celebs like Alicia Keys and watched from the front row, Chanel's models strutted out in front of jutting crystal-like sculptures, walking on sand that was strewn on the runway. (Fashionista's reporter one woman pocketing some of the crystals and sand.)

Who walked? Miranda Kerr (of ), who strutted in an embroidered coat with glittering eyebrows, although our fave Karlie Kloss was nowhere in sight. The rest of the collection was similarly dramatic, featuring signature Chanel textiles like tweed and wool, and a crop of sheer plastic shoes that were also adorned with crystals.

There was also a tiny, Chanel-bedecked tot on the runway -- whose dad Brad is a male model and close friend of Kaiser Karl.

At the show's conclusion, Lagerfeld ambled out between the crystals to pay his respects to the crowd, who appropriately cheered him for putting on such an artistic fete.

Check out pics of the runway looks and video of the Chanel finale below:



Chanel‘s fall/winter 2012 runway presentation ended just hours ago and the fashion world is already buzzing about one standout beauty detail: thick, glittery eyebrows.

Want the easy-to-achieve secret behind Rose’s flawless complexion?

The arch-free appliqués came in a variety of collection-complementing colours and the beading and sequins matched the decorative trim on jackets and jewellery.

Obviously this is a look made for the runway but with our current obsession with wild nails and colourful, ombré hair, could glitter eyebrows become a trend?

More from TheKit.ca:

Related on HuffPost:

PARIS - On day two of Paris' haute couture week, Giorgio Armani took fashion on a midnight romance, Stephane Rolland channeled Supergirl-style capes and Chanel got nostalgic for past vintage styles.

It was certainly a diverse collection of creations from A-lines to dropped waists, palettes that were muted or bright, and styles spanning decades.

But Tuesday's shows had one key thing in common: imagination.

"Haute couture will exist as long as people want to dream," Didier Grumbach told The Associated Press.

The French fashion president, one of the most discreet yet powerful figures in the world of fashion thus answers detractors who predict the demise of the age-old tradition.

Grumbach believes that couture — an artisanal clothes-making method that exists only in Paris— has many healthy years ahead.

Haute couture exists against all the odds: creations which range in price from $19,000 to $125,000 being bought by women thought to number no more than 100 in the world.

"But Armani's coming here to Paris, it shows that fashion needs haute couture. ... It's not just about selling clothes: it's an advert, an ideas factory," added Grumbach.

Strong showings both from Armani Prive and Chanel prove that couture — 150 years since its birth — still has a lot to say.


What do a supermodel and a 79-year-old former French first lady have in common? Chanel haute couture.

The unlikely pairing of Laetitita Casta and Bernadette Chirac was seen at Karl Lagerfeld's aptly titled "New Vintage" show.

Their presence showed the unique and enduring allure of 100-year-old Chanel. Down the catwalk, adorned with vintage sketches of Coco Chanel's lavish house interior, went shimmering silk tweed skirt suits, ensembles from the '50s and '60s, and a '30s bolero jacket. Other outfits sparkled with a contemporary metallic sheen.

In some instances, Lagerfeld resurrected the 1980s. A series of ensembles in big, bold textured checks in black, grey and white channeled the decade's strong shoulders and narrow hemline. In other looks, pink tulle fringing recreated a dropped waist effect from the 1920s.

Elsewhere, double-breasted A-lines, a Peter Pan collar and ensembles in pale pink and white might have come straight out of Jacqueline's Kennedy early '60s wardrobe.

The boldest looks came toward the end: Lagerfeld let his pony-tailed hair down in a shimmering electric blue dress that could have been Coco's answer to 1970s glam rock.

"Ravishing," said Chirac.

"It's French perfectionism," said Casta.

"It's hard for the seamstresses," said Lagerfeld. "They toil over the clothes. The tulle with pearl took 3,000 hours. Couture is for a world of privilege."

"New Vintage" was a typical contradiction in a constantly moving fashion world. But is there ever time for looking back? Not really, according to Lagerfeld.

"In fashion now, vintage means six months," he said.


Giorgio Armani found romance in the midnight sky in a sumptuous haute couture collection that followed the changing hues of the sun.

His accomplished fall-winter collection 2012 on Tuesday began with a daybreak of sorts, in lighter shades of mauve and lavender in organzas and double crepe.

Shoulders were emphasized, some with upward scooped tailoring. Others had upper bodices in graduated shades of pink — dawn's first rays of sunshine.

Then as the sun set, the couture got to work.

Embroidered veils appeared, signalling the dimness of dusk. Geometric embroidery accompanied black tulle tops with Swarovski crystals.

Spectators gasped as the show climaxed at midnight (in blue, naturally) with some of the most sumptuous dresses seen this season.

A blue silk bustier dress — the program notes say, made of triple organza — rippled with its generous overlaid skirt and a gentle tulle shoulder shrug.

The subtlety proves one thing: Armani lives up to his reputation for versatility.

Only last month, in Beijing he staged a show with bright va-va voom, mermaid silhouettes.

Here, things were more restrained and the looks, mirroring the cycle of time, oozed elegant sensuality.

And what better advertisement for elegance across time is Sophia Loren? The beautiful 77-year old film star sat in the front row.

"It was magnificent," she said.


Haute couture shows are often celebrity circuses.

But rarely does the front row presence upstage a show, as reality TV star Kim Kardashian and her boyfriend, musician Kanye West, did during Stephane Rolland's rather predictable fall-winter 2012 offering.

The couple's entrance and exit triggered a crowd that spilled out into the street.

The media scrum caused a mother and her young daughter to be shoved to the side.

But the celebrity presence here is no great surprise.

The French designer — responsible for singer Cheryl Cole's red and white mermaid dress at Cannes — has been courting stars for several seasons now.

Last season, Yasmin Le Bon was Rolland's muse.

In this show, he went East and chose Chinese actress Fan Bing-Bing.

With the celebrity hullabaloo, fashion insiders momentarily forgot the reason they came: the clothes.

The trains and long capes in many of the ensembles, like last season, floated past giving the model a Supergirl silhouette.

But the lack of new ideas, made the show feel more like a diluted superhero sequel.


Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

Style confession time: while we love watching (and could absolutely never afford) Chanel's newest collections, we absolutely adore seeing who wears what in the front row.

And we weren't disappointed after Tuesday's Haute Couture show in Paris. All the cool girls were there: Vanessa Paradis, Kirsten Dunst, Lou Doillon, Diane Kruger and Alexa Chung to name a few...and we can't get over actress Elodie Bouchez open-toed boots.

Oh yeah, and there was a runway show featuring nearly every model of the moment draped in Karl Lagerfeld's latest creations. Are chokers coming back in?

Take a look and tell us who was best-dressed at the Chanel show.

PARIS — "Don't take things too seriously," said Karl Lagerfeld standing next to a towering wind turbine inside Paris' Grand Palais, "especially not fashion."

Chanel's veteran designer, with trademark humor, thus summed up an important message of this Paris season.

The iconic house's fun, young collection headlined the penultimate day of Paris spring-summer 2013 show.

The fact the show had nothing whatsoever to do with the several eco-turbines constructed for the event – no doubt at a huge cost to the environment – didn't seem to matter.

Fashion insiders were busy concentrating on the myriad 81 ensembles_ which made this collection possibly the longest Chanel show in history.

A pinch of salt, too, may have been required Sarah Burton's ode to the McQueen bee, which mixed regal looking crinolines, 1950s silhouttes with bees and insect armory.

As ever, the Alexander McQueen's ready-to-wear show was Paris Fashion Week's most original, living up to the spirit of the designer who died in 2010.

Trends on Tuesday included cutouts, as featured in a strong showing from Valentino – with Jennifer Lopez on the front row – and in Paco Rabanne's signature "69" dics that exposed inches of bare flesh.

Wednesday – the grand finale of a dense and vibrant week – includes shows from Elie Saab, Miu Miu and powerhouse Louis Vuitton.


Fun was the healthy mantra which infiltrated Tuesday's Chanel show – a bright and diverse collection brimming with great new ideas.

Silver bauble appliques became buttons, A-line skirts were playfully short, colorful checks contrasted funkily with geometric flashes, and feather fringing billowed exuberantly.

One model in a crossing "C" swimsuit even carried a three-foot (nearly 1 meter) handbag.

A bold new fashion idea was the reworked bolero jacket with curved shoulders, often spruced up with inflated arms.

The wide T-shaped bolero silhouette spread onto sweaters and inspired many of the show's best looks.

Naturally, many of the brighter ensembles stood out, too.

Bright pink and blue felted oversized sweaters were accessorized to kitsch effect with huge pale or silver pearl necklace clusters.

There was a highly accomplished delivery of color palette also, which lifted one checked red-and-white A-line dress, with the top part sliced off.

It paired beautifully with a contrasting, yet complementary loose blue and red coat.

Another stand out piece was a white bateau-neck ensemble with check navy bands with a clean, slightly sporty vide.

Lagerfeld, who turns 80 next year, certainly hasn't let age slow him down: It's the youngest collection Chanel's seen for a while.


Fashion is body armor.

At least it is for Sarah Burton, who tapped her fantastical imagination for Alexander McQueen to conjure up fashion week's most original show: Mixing insect-like armory with on-trend stiff bar jackets of the New Look, as well as 19th century crinoline.

If it sounds strange, it was – set to a backdrop of images of bees and honeycomb – with each model wearing a visor reminiscent at once of the 1950s wide hat, a cage and a beekeepers mask.

Have fashions over the ages, she seemed to ask, caged and protected us like in the natural world?

A cinched metal or tortoiseshell waist band – a recurrent Burton feature – which fanned out into a peplum in some of the looks resembled an abdomen of a wasp or queen bee.

The fascinating collection of 31 looks – which had fashion insiders amazed – was as thought-out as it was perfectly executed with metal mesh materials that sparkled mechanically.

The 1950s were visited in full skirts which mixed with structuralist fashion: Hard bodice cages, which showed the inner working of corsetry of the crinoline age, on the outside.

The last collections revisited the queen theme: Billowing structured skirts in beige, soft yellow and vermilion looked like a surrealist take on Marie Antoinette.


"Suggestion is seduction," was the theme of Valentino's accomplished spring-summer 2013 show in Paris, which saw the storied Italian fashion house move subtly more sensual.

Italian design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli kept their strict, high collars and didn't bare too much flesh but eased their conservative designs, in razor-thin slits and tiny transparent cutouts.

Elsewhere, diaphanous see-through outer garments in black tulle really worked well in bringing home the collection's message of provocative shyness.

Some of the outfits sported front bibs – wavy silk U-shaped bands – Valentino's more conservative version of the on-trend ruffle shown by Riccardo Tisci's show for Givenchy.

Two gorgeous red silk dresses appeared at the end, evoking the spirit of the house DNA.

Founder Valentino Garavani, 80, was seated in the front row and applauded thunderously when the show ended.


Lydia Maurer put a spin on the house archives in her debut collection for Paco Rabanne that included myriad variations on the `60s Do-It-Yourself discs of the Rhodoid dress.

The starting point of the show was Jean Clemmer and Paco Rabanne's controversial 1960s photo collaboration called "Canned Candies," which resurfaced two years ago: Images of naked women in bold armorlike jewelry.

Maurer's show thus had a vibe of the sexual revolution with provocative dresses that bared much flesh – all held together with Rabanne's signature "69" disc.

It evoked the essence of the founder, who first cut his teeth in jewelry design.

One gold fringed number made a bold gladiator-like statement, marching past to the sound of rustling metal.

But some of the tailored ensembles let the collection down.


Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

with Chanel Iman pre-Paris Fashion Week to talk about what's going on in the wonderful world of the 20-year-old Victoria's Secret Angel. Here are our favorite Qs and As from the interview. For more, .

What do you think about everything that has been going on with John Galliano?Well, I think that John Galliano is a genius. I've been working with him since I was young, and I admire him. I just wish for him the best.

There have been a lot of images or editorials over the last couple of years that feature all black models -- you just appeared in one called February 2011 issue. How do you feel about these types of spreads? Do you feel like they are gimmicks or do you think they help take steps toward more inclusion in fashion?
Edward Enninful is an amazing stylist for Italian Vogue, and he called me up and he asked if I would be a part of that story. Of course I said yes. I think that anything that's going to help better the community and [allow it] to stick together and stand strong, I'm definitely going to be a part of. The story came out beautiful.

So you find them empowering?
I think that [diversity] is becoming a very very huge thing for the market. I think that it's 2011, and it's definitely time for change. And I'm just really grateful to be a leader in helping that change.

Do you see yourself as the Tyra Banks or the Naomi Campbell for the next generation?
No, I look at myself for who I am. I think those girls are good at what they do, and they have an amazing name for who they are. I'm my own person, and I want people to know me for who I am.

. And to see Chanel in the "Black Allure" spread, .

What is with these ladies?! One V.Secret model is living on water before a show and now another is gorging herself to gain 15 pounds (which sounds really unbelievable considering the fact that 15 lbs would change her measurements...) where is the concept of being fit and eating healthily and whatever that leaves you looking like is what it is? Either side of the polarities (not eating or gorging) is still not a healthy image to project to women. I have some advice for these models, how about not talking about what you eat (or don't) this is one time when I wish these models would stand quietly and look pretty. Stop putting this potentially harmful information out there, young girls are listening, watching and learning. If you can't say anything to upgrade the conversation don;t say anything at all! I know this is harsh but I'm just annoyed!$1 million for a perfume bottle? See, this kind of crap is why I say the world has gone mad. There are people dying of starvation, dehydration, and exposure all over the world, and these people have poured a million dollars INTO A PERFUME BOTTLE!! !! What is wrong with you people!? And what's worse is I guarantee that there not only are people out there who not only wish they could have this silly crap, but people who would actually pay that much for one. And people wonder why so many people want to raise taxes on "the rich." Because of pointless, useless, impractical baubles like this. I personally have never seen the preoccupation and obsession with "shiny things." Jewelry is nice, in moderation. But gold is too soft to be used for anything but. Yes, diamonds are ultra hard, and make for great abrasives and cutting tools, but their ridiculously exorbitant costs make them impractical in wide scale use. And then you have things like this, or rappers who spend a half million dollars on a diamond encrusted cross, then go and rap about killing people, raping women and doing drugs. I say tax the rich at an ever increasing rate commensurate with their level of income, until everyone is within just a few thousand dollars of each other.

Have you officially made it as a model when you're a frequent victim of Photoshop disasters?

If that's the case, then we'd like formally to welcome Chanel Iman to the elite models' ranks. Just like from 2010, something very egregious is going on with this new February cover of France's .

The cover shoot stars Chanel looking gorgeous as always in a tropical-printed Dolce & Gabbana romper, but wait... what's the deal with her manipulated proportions?

Is it just us, or are her hands the size of her face? We're pretty sure Chanel doesn't have arms that slowly expand lengthwise as they reach her wrists. A quick scan of her previous campaigns (, , ) reveals that, yep, Chanel's arms are downright normal IRL.

The whole gaffe kind of reminds us of Maybe it's just a bad month for magazine cover airbrushing. (, anyone?)

Check out the Photoshop-abused cover below, and see even more retouching disasters in our slideshow. Mon dieu!

Scroll down for more photos.

Related on HuffPost:


What would you do if you found your man cheating with another woman?

We're sure there would be lots of be yelling, a complete emotional and physical meltdown--and you may even pile all his belongings into his car and set it on fire (Too much? Gotta love ).

But in a new short film , model Chanel Iman channels the emotions of a jilted gal in a somewhat unconventional way. The Victoria's Secret beauty decides to slip on some sexy lingerie, sedate her cheating lover and seductively torture him.

Hmmmm, definitely not the typical reaction but to each their own.

The film's description reads:

"After apprehensions that her lover is cheating on her, a woman seeks revenge to ultimate circumstances. What begins as innocent foreplay turns into a deadly game of confession."

Elizabeth teamed up with and the accessories line Reece Hudson for the film. And although we love , it's hard to notice at anything other than Chanel's killer body and equally killer disposition.

Check out Chanel and her cunning and revengeful performance in the video above.

With , we often forget how young some of these gals are. Case in point: Chanel Iman is about to celebrate her 21st birthday!

To ring in the alcohol-soaked milestone, Chanel's got large-scale plans (although for a girl who's walked the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, "large-scale" is a very relative term). :

"I'm going to Jamaica. Me, my family and my closest friends are staying at a really cool resort called Round Hill and I'm going to throw a reggae-themed party on this island."

We're also assuming And what will the young model be imbibing?

"I'm a rum girl," she confessed, "Maybe a Pina Colada."

Funny -- we're rum girls, too! Maybe we can tag along, Chanel?

Sigh. We suppose we'll settle for seeing fun party pics afterwards. We just hope they don't give the younger models any crazy ideas... Karlie, you've still got a few more years to go.


"How ___ is made" videos tend to be all technical and science-minded (read: not our jam). But watching a Chanel jacket come to life before our very eyes? Totally our jam.

, taking you into the Chanel atelier and right onto the cutting table. The seamstresses carefully cut the patterns and sew the pieces of the iconic tweed, collar-less jacket themselves, finishing it off with a Chanel label on the collar.

With all the manpower that goes into it, you realize why these coveted jackets are so pricey -- and thus why they're worn most often by celebrities, socialites, royals and the occasional stylist (we're looking at y'all, Caroline Seiber and Rachel Zoe).

Check out our slideshow of the famous Chanel jacket in all its iterations -- black and pastel, cropped and long, embellished and spare -- and bliss out with .


Want to school your children in the ways of chic?

Chanel has launched a fun interactive website to accompany an exhibit they're hosting in Beijing, . The exhibit's best feature, in our opinion? It also includes a digital coloring book. YES!

The coloring app is, we begrudgingly admit, designed for children, but we're kids at heart, right?

To get started, go to click "English" (if you prefer), then click "Kid's Space" at the bottom. Pick your Chanel design and digitally color away! We'll see you in about 3 hours. When you're done, you can also play .

Unfortunately, there's no "Order Now" button you can click after you custom-color your Chanel shoes; just our fantasy for the future, Chanel webmasters.

Check out some of our creations below. How did we do?

Chanel cosmetics is aiming to reach a broader range of ethnicities with their new foundation line Perfection Lumière launching in mid September, .

The new line will include 23 shades, 20 of which will be available in the U.S. The shades are categorized by skin tones ranging from very fair to very dark, and include pink to yellow undertones.

executive vice president of Fragrance and Beauté for Chanel in the U.S.. “Chanel’s creative director for makeup, Peter Philips, counts perfect skin among the most important features a woman can have and since joining the brand in January 2008, has made it his goal to create a ‘perfect’ foundation: one that adjusts to the skin needs of every ethnicity and stays in place with a flawless finish.”

The company's current leading foundation line Pro Lumiere offers only 6 shades, which is a poor representation of a significant portion of the buying community--minorities.

Mainstream companies such as Chanel, and CoverGirl are starting to take notice of the large amounts of money black women spend on cosmetics. Let's hope this interest extends not only to the expansion of their color choices but also their advertising dollars.

of the $263.7 billion spent annually on advertising within the nation, less than one percent is used to target African American consumers, despite the fact that Black buying power is estimated at around $857 billion, according to the 2010 census.

The campaign for Perfection Luminere will feature Alyssah Ali, an Indian and Spanish model. There is no word on whether a black model will also be represented. Fingers crossed!


VERSAILLES, France - As some of the world's most glamorous women prepare for the Cannes Film Festival later this week, Karl Lagerfeld has shown again that he's a step ahead of the game on the Riviera's red carpet.

The celebrated designer rolled out a baroque-tinged cruise collection on Monday at the seat of French opulence, Versailles Palace, with film stars and other celebrities such as actress Tilda Swinton and singer Vanessa Paradis in appearance.

"The palace is the perfect place for Chanel, you couldn't imagine anything better," said Paradis, who watched as models filed by with ruffled eighteenth century tulle sleeves.

Eclectic gold platform sneakers were among the touches that broke up the historic feel, making this one of the funkiest Chanel shows in some time.

Cruise or resort collections — mid-season show, shown by only a handful of the world's fashion power houses — were created conceived to target wealthy women who travelled on cruise ships in winter.

Nowadays, they're used as a lucrative means of re-stimulating fashions in the mid-season lull, in an industry that's increasingly buoyant and bucking the global financial downturn.

Model of the moment Cara Delavigne opened the show in a velvety, pale blue denim dress, with a crisp A-line skirt.

But the rest of show felt more like Chanel's answer to a Baroque history lesson.

Beauty spots, bottom-heavy skirts, and floral chokers infused spectators with a feeling of Marie Antoinette's heyday.

Baroque-tinged wigs and ruffled, courtly hair bows in silk, meanwhile, added a splash of androgyny.

It's well known that Karl Lagerfeld is a workaholic, but in this show he seemed to have studied every reference under the sun.

One outfit dizzied: a white, double-breasted skirt suit, with embroidered gold roses and a stiff shawl collar mixed with a short tennis skirt and glam-rock platforms. The width of the skirt and shoulders matched identically, in extravagant visual unity.

Added to the mix were silver chokers with roses, a look that recalled 18th-century trendsetter Madame de Pompadour, as captured by painter Jean-Honore Fragonard.

Another look twinned a black, fitted sequined zipper jacket, with a raw-edged, silk bustle skirt which hung like petals in soft pastels of pale pink, blue and yellow.

One ornately knitted cotton top in white had a jacquard swag with decorative catkins hanging on either side — a strong nod to the Rococo period.

Was the opulence a bit too much in a country that just elected a Socialist president, who has vowed to tax the uber-rich more?

"Oh no, lightness is what France is known for. I don't delve into politics here," said German-born Lagerfeld, after the show. "Besides, I can't vote."

All you Chanel shoppers out there (and we know there are oh-so-many of you), listen up: your clothes are in serious danger.

We can't remembered the last time a major luxury company had to recall an item, à la Toyota or Fisher-Price. But Chanel, purveyor of some of the most desirable high-end luxury goods, has .

The danger? The clothes fail to meet federal flammability standards and thus pose a fire hazard to all of Chanel's well-heeled customers, .

The recall announcement was listed alongside a warning about , and .

For all of you with said silky garments hanging in one of your many walk-in closets, have no fear. to stop wearing your awesome Chanel shirt and contact Karl Lagerfeld personally for a full refund.

Just kidding. A phone call to Chanel's customer service will suffice.

. .

We're big fans of high fashion here at HuffPost Style. (Obviously.) But even we're having a hard time wrapping our heads around the price of this whimsical Chanel bag.

Part of -- remember, the show where ? -- the shell-shaped minaudieres would make the perfect bag for a beach wedding or a fancy Hamptons gala. (The gym, not so much.)

the resin version of the Chanel clutch sells for $33,000. And the special version that's covered in real pearls? That one will set you back $48,000.

After we picked our jaws up off the floor, we decided to figure out what OTHER bags you could get for $48,000:

Hmm. While your bag is quite cute, Chanel, we don't think we'll be slapping our Visas down for this one any time soon.

Check out the devastatingly expensive bag below, and below, see some OTHER really pricey clutches shaped like inanimate objects. (Yes, there are plenty!)

In case you had any doubts, the Chanel interlocking C's can be put on anything.

On ping-pong paddles? Sure. How about some tennis balls? You bet. What about heinous neon high-tops, circa 1994? Oh, hell to the yes.

in Madrid recently and snapped some fun photos of the newest Chanel goods -- there's new nail polish, quilted bags, some skirt suits.

There was also a treasure trove of branded athletic gear including some pairs of shockingly bright kicks. Who do you expect to wear these, Karl -- the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?

Then again, they're just the thing for when you play a game of H-O-R-S-E with (price upon request, obvs).

Check out the sporty designer gear below -- how much are you loving the idea of Anna Wintour wearing these sneakers?



Thou shalt not use the name of Chanel in vain, or so readers of fashion newspaper WWD learned on Monday. The fashion house took out a back-page ad reading:

"A note of information and entreaty to fashion editors, advertisers, copywriters and other well-intentioned mis-users of our Chanel name:

Chanel was a designer, an extraordinary woman who made a timeless contribution to fashion. Chanel is a perfume. Chanel is modern elegance in couture, ready-to-wear, accessories, watches and fine jewelry. Chanel is our registered trademark for fragrance, cosmetics, clothing, accessories and other lovely things. Although our style is justly famous, a jacket is not 'a Chanel jacket' unless it is ours, and somebody else's cardigans are not 'Chanel for now.' And even if we are flattered by such tributes to our fame as 'Chanel-issime, Chanel-ed, Chanels, and Chanel-ized', PLEASE DON'T. Our lawyers positively detest them. We take our trademark seriously.


Chanel, Inc."

to find out more about employing the 'C' word and contacted intellectual property attorney Anne Sterba, who explained that Chanel or any other trademarked label cannot be used as an adjective. Anne told the style site, Chanel is "policing their brand. They have to do it, because if they end up in court with a trademark issue and they can't prove to a judge that they've been trying to protect their brand, they will lose credibility."

A simple that Chanel was on the prowl for name-droppers as far back as 2004 (and probably before), telling a website named CHANELOVE.com to transfer the domain name to Chanel and "agree not to register any domain name(s) in the future that incorporate the word CHANEL, or any similar word." Chanel, of course, is very protective of its logo, as well, and .

Karl Lagerfeld has continued his foray into films with a 30-minute-long piece entitled "The Tale of a Fairy," set to be screened at the Chanel Cruise collection show next week. The Kaiser described his new project as "a movie about an ill-advised use of money which begins with violence and ends with feeling."

We got a hold of the trailer and here's what we can tell you: Anna Mouglalis sits at a cafe and laughs while wearing CC-adorned sunglasses, Freja Beha Erichsen goes topless and then those two ultimately smooch. Meanwhile, Kristen McMenamy has both a gambling problem and a nose ring, and may or may not be involved with Lagerfeld man muse Baptiste Giabiconi, whom she calls a "bad boy" and slaps. Also starring Bianca Balti, Brad Koening, Jake Davies, Mark Vanderloo, Oriol Elcacho, Sébastien Jondeau and Seth Kuhlmann.

You can find the full production on . Until then...


While we prepare our barbecue menus, pack our beach bags and strategize the best firework-watching locations, celebs and designers are in Paris making some fancier plans. It's Couture Week, guys, when all of Hollywood's classiest It Girls pull up alongside designers, editors and assorted socialites to take in the world's best fashion from the front row.

Yesterday was all about -- and everyone was on hand to judge his success (or failure). But today other designers got their moment to shine, namely and . One day, two major couture shows: who landed the best guests?

As he does for ready-to-wear, Karl presented his Couture Fall 2012 collection in the Grand Palais. Among the grand guests were Milla Jovovich, Poppy Delevigne, Sofia Coppola, Clemence Poesy, Ines de la Fressange and Karl BFFs Alexa Chung and Diane Kruger. One less predictable face? Leslie Mann, wife of Judd Apatow and the best part of "Knocked Up." Who knew Mrs. Apatow was a couture fan?

Turns out she's fairly devoted, considering she pulled a double-header and showed up at the Armani Prive show as well. She was joined by Zoe Saldana, Shailene Woodley, Sophia Loren and the typical editor coterie: Anna Wintour, Anna Dello Russo, Carine Roitfeld, etc.

So... Chanel FTW? Not so fast. Also spotted at Armani were Princess Tatiana of Greece and Denmark and Princess . Royals! In the flesh! Swoon.

So who has it: the It Girls vs. the Princesses? Judge for yourself in our fashion-filled slideshow.

Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .

I have gained some weight and am at my biggest to date in these 22 years. At this size, the only way I'm participating in any of the new fashions is if I get some serious alterations, mainly in the booty region. The worst part about my struggle with ill-fitting clothes was that I didn't want anyone to think less of me as a fashionista. I am ashamed that my concern with my weight gain was not my health or well-being, but what I could no longer wear nor buy.

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PARIS - "Don't take things too seriously," said Karl Lagerfeld standing next to a towering wind turbine inside Paris' Grand Palais, "especially not fashion."

This healthy mantra infiltrated Tuesday's Chanel show — a bright, fun and diverse collection brimming with great new ideas.

Silver bauble appliques became buttons, A-line skirts were playfully short, colorful checks contrasted funkily with geometric flashes, and feather fringing billowed exuberantly.

One model in a crossing "C'' swimsuit even carried a three-foot (nearly 1 metre) handbag.

The fact the show had nothing whatsoever to do with the several eco-turbines constructed for the event — no doubt at a huge cost to the environment — didn't seem to matter.

Instead, fashion insiders were busy concentrating on the myriad 81 looks — which made this spring-summer collection possibly the longest Chanel show in history.

A bold new fashion idea was the reworked bolero jacket with curved shoulders, often spruced up with inflated arms.

The wide T-shaped bolero silhouette spread onto sweaters and inspired many of the show's best looks.

Naturally, many of the brighter ensembles stood out, too.

Bright pink and blue felted oversized sweaters were accessorized to kitsch effect with huge pale or silver pearl necklace clusters.

There was a highly accomplished delivery of colour palette also, which lifted one checked red-and-white A-line dress, with the top part sliced off.

It paired beautifully with a contrasting, yet complementary loose blue and red coat.

Another stand out piece was a white bateau-neck ensemble with check navy bands with a clean, slightly sporty vide.

Lagerfeld, who turns 80 next year, certainly hasn't let age slow him down: It's the youngest collection Chanel's seen for a while.


Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

Interesting pictures of Chanel. One correction is needed. Pic 4 of 60 with Jackie Kenned arriving in Dallas in her pink 'Chanel' suit is wrong. Jackie liked this style so much she had this copy made by an America for this particular trip. It has been so often referred to as 'Chanel' it has almost been impossible to remove this tag including Wikipedia. It sat in the attic in her house in Martha's Vineyard still with the blood stains in a box marked 'November 22, 1963' for years until her death. The suit is now stored out of public view in the National Archives and will not be seen by the public until at least 2103, according to a deed of Caroline Kennedy. At that time, when the 100-year deed expires, the Kennedy family descendants will renegotiate the matter.

If Coco Chanel designed for liberated female customers, it may have been because she counted herself among them.

a new book entitled "Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life" contains juicy details about the couturier's exciting romantic history, which apparently included an open attitude towards bisexuality, an affair with then-married Salvador Dalí and a German boyfriend named Hans Günther von Dincklage who also might have been a Nazi spy. Biographer Lisa Chaney also chronicles Coco's drug habit (opiates, of course). Who knew?


Unearthing an astonishing life, this remarkable biography shows how, more than any previous designer, Chanel became synonymous with a rebellious and progressive style. [...] Drawing on newly discovered love letters and other records, Chaney's controversial book reveals the truth about Chanel's drug habit and lesbian affairs. [...] While uniquely highlighting the designer's far-reaching influence on the modern arts, Chaney's fascinating biography paints a deeper and darker picture of Coco Chanel than any so far. Movingly, it explores the origins, the creative power, and the secret suffering of this exceptional and often misread woman.

Plenty has been made of Chanel's eclectic past, including two recent movies. features her romance with Arthur "Boy" Capel plus dalliances with a baron or two, while highlights her romance with the Russian composer. She also served as the subject matter for the , with illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld, , Coco "wasn't only a designer -- she was a woman of her time."


So you want to be a French seductress. Simply put, it's all about simplicity. Less is definitely more (except, perhaps, when it comes to champagne and personal grooming). Although restraint is key, a significant effort must be put in at all times, as 'prevention' is always better than a cure!

We were a bit confused by this New York Post headline:

But it turns out the title is pretty darn accurate: "tacky trannies," , shoplifted $6,000 worth of Chanel bags from Lower East Side boutique A. Turen.

Store owner Ashley Turen described the male bandits' over-the-top get-ups as "almost like a Halloween costume,” ('tis the season, after all).

At least they didn't as they made their get-away.



Dakota Fanning, a newly-minted NYU freshman, has been adjusting to college life as well as any celebrity can.

She goes to class, ... while , sitting front row at fashion shows and donning the kind of oversized sunglasses required for such celebrity outings.

, Dakota struck the same balance when she stepped out to the gym yesterday in downtown New York.

The 17-year-old star wore her sneakers, black workout pants and a tough leather jacket. She toted, of course, a giant black Chanel bag.

We're a bit surprised the bag was not by Marc Jacobs, . But we're not at all surprised that she was doing the classic water-and-cell phone carry, . What good are luxury bags if you actually put things in them?


Very, very BAD things happen to people who betray their own genetic race, ancestors, family, culture, society, and most of all our Creators. If you actually think that you can go bopping around this world having sexual relations and biracial offspring with those who are NOT your own genetic race, think again!!

And one last note about the subject of offspring. Have you noticed just how infertile so many men and women are now, and how millions can no longer reproduce on their own? This is one of the primary reasons. When you screw around and mess with genetics and DNA you are playing with fire!! They are unable to reproduce because they are NOT suppose to reproduce.

Artificial children are just that: ARTIFICIAL! They have are NOT part of our Creators design, plan, or creation, and they certainly have no spirit, essence, or soul. Humans who are implanted, carried, and created artificially are NOT supposed to exist, and there will be a reckoning and punishment for playing Creator, just the same as there will be for betraying your own genetic race. It’s immoral, indecent, unethical, shameful, outrageous, unacceptable, and disgraceful.people have highlighted this! Huzzah! This text has been highlighted.

Highlights is a new way to discover the most interesting text on Huffington Post!

Elle, Hailee, Christina -- all our favorites were out last night... together!

Fashion's mini darlings, Hailee Steinfeld and Elle Fanning, joined Christina Hendricks, Kate Bosworth, Lydia Hearst and Cat Deeley at the Chanel Intimate Dinner held at the Chanel Boutique in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

From young to old(er), all the women looked super chic in various combinations of black, white and gray (it was a Chanel fete, after all). We're particularly loving Hailee's gray frock with black booties, although Hailee could pretty much wear anything and look adorable.

Check out the lovely Chanel fans below -- who had the best look of the night?

has become quite the fashion plate over the course of her recent, multi-week "Amazing Spider-Man" promotional tour. For the worldwide journey, the 23-year-old starlet has donned "a million and five" outfits (her words, not ours -- see the vid above), from to .

But this might be our favorite yet. At Thursday's "Amazing Spider-Man" premiere in Los Angeles, with dark pink embellishments, taking a cue from one of . As she recently told Entertainment Weekly:

“I wanted to dress like the Spice Girls [when I was a kid]... I got platform Skechers. I had bell-bottoms. A lot of peace signs. I cut bangs like Baby Spice because I had blond hair. I wanted to be Baby Spice."

Thankfully Stone's ditched the Skechers and bell-bottoms (as we all have), but she's still got the sweet, girl-next-door look going on.

The Spice Girls were not the only fashion idols on Stone's list. According to EW, Emma was was also in the 1988 film "Beetlejuice" -- maybe that explains that from earlier this month?

We much prefer Emma's lighter, airier look. Paired with her white Chanel frock were strappy sequined heels and a giant gem-encrusted rose ring... on her left ring finger. Trying to tell us something, Emma?


See what Emma's worn on her "Amazing Spider-Man" tour!

Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .

In this photographic series, American photographer Cindy Sherman exhibits new, large-scale works that depict enigmatic female figures standing in striking landscapes, and wearing vivid Chanel costumes. Rather than staging scenes in her studio or using projected images, the dramatic settings were all photographed by Sherman and then manipulated in Photoshop to achieve a painterly effect.

Sherman's self-portraits are based on an insert she did for Dasha Zhukova's magazine using clothes from Chanel's archive. The images published were significantly altered as Sherman developed the series for this exhibition. Wearing early haute couture pieces from the 1920s designed by Coco Chanel to more recent Karl Lagerfeld collections, she selected eccentric, often fantastical, outfits before pairing them with images she shot in Iceland during a 2010 volcanic eruption and the isle of Capri. While the series recalls photography's early mission to map the "new world," Sherman's analysis equally references the tradition of 19th century landscape painting, where lonely figures are dominated by the magnificent nature that surrounds them. The artist's looming characters however reverse this heavenly view by relegating nature to the supporting role.

Cindy Sherman's new series is currently showing at

April 28 - June 9, 2012


Follow Evelyne Politanoff on Twitter:

Georgia May Jagger--the offspring of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall--is the new face of Chanel. The 18-year-old's Brigitte Bardot-esque looks have garnered much attention...so much that Kaiser Karl couldn't resist shooting her for the campaign. Check out the images and tell us which is your favorite.

Hillary Clinton isn't one for expensive designer labels, but it seems she is going through a bit of a Chanel phase.

The Secretary of State spoke at a press conference with Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister yesterday looking chic in a black and turquoise boucle jacket. Paired with plain black pants, the collarless garment looked just like a Chanel (you know, the kind ... which it sort of is).

Hillary must be channeling Anna, because on Tuesday she wore another Chanel-like look. Clinton met with Mike McFaul, ambassador-designate to Russia, at the State Department in a black and white boucle jacket with a high, buttoned-up collar.

While we don't know from Hillary herself whether the jackets are, indeed, Chanel (and frankly the Secretary of State has better things to talk about than her clothing labels), they definitely have a prim, high society look.

Clinton the chunky in white ceramic (a watch we've coveted for a long time). But her tailored pieces this week are still a surprising switch from the more bohemian styles she'd been sporting, including and funky jewelry (and even ).

But if this is a new Hillary signature, we're totally on board. Maybe she should try having them personalized and selling them, ?

Hillary Clinton has always struck us a low-key, unflashy dresser. So when she stepped out in January , our fashion senses perked to attention. How chic! How ladylike! How designer! (Although to be fair, we have no idea if they're by Chanel. They're just channeling the French brand hardcore.)

It turns out that wasn't a phase; rather the jackets have worked their way into a regular rotation. Over the course of the past three days, the Secretary of State has re-worn both the turquoise jacket and the high-collared white jacket just two days apart and with nearly the exact same hairstyles as in January.

She also, we noticed, did the same thing in February: on February 4 she wore the white jacket, followed by the turquoise one on February 5.

We're digging Hillary's new fashion motto: If it ain't broke, wear it every four weeks on back-to-back days. A girl after our own heart.

Check out Secretary Clinton's favorite jackets. Is the elegant style fit a good fit for Clinton?

How many times have you seen a quote re-blogged on ? How about one from on ? Or on ? It happens all the time, and it seems to be the same quotes over and over again.

But, this quote-sharing is no surprise, as fashion designers, models and actresses seem to be full of wise one-liners that stay with you. But, what are the most iconic of all time: Is it, "Fashion fades, only style remains the same" or perhaps, "When in doubt, wear red"?

There's a lot of competition, but we've rounded up a few others that we think fit the bill from , and more. Let us know: Which do you think is the best and which quotes are missing?

Karl Lagerfeld and Ines de la Fressange settled a decades-old feud on Tuesday, with Ines taking to the runway at Chanel's Spring/Summer 2011 show. De la Fressange, now 53 years old, was the face of the fashion house in the '80s, but she had a falling out with Lagerfeld in 1989, "after a fracas over her lending her likeness to the French republic," .

And don't think their fight didn't get ugly. Lagerfeld once said, "I wish her all the luck in the world, just so long as I don't have to see her any more or hear her spoken about." However, the pair recently made up and Karl has even cast Ines in Chanel's spring/summer ad campaign. He told WWD, "She is beyond stunning. Also, she is the Parisienne."

Check out images of Ines from Tuesday's show and from her past Chanel catwalks:

Move over, and ! There's a new girl at fashion week -- and she's already scored a seat at Chanel.

, 's daughter with Marc Anthony, sat front and center with mom, decked out in Chanel gear. Pretty chic for a 4-year-old's first show, if we say so ourselves. , wearing a plunging white mini dress and some sexy black and gold pumps.

Even though little Emme didn't look particularly amused by the always-epic spectacle that is a Chanel fashion show, she was seated just a few seats away from Kanye West and was snapped kibbutzing with famed photographer (we're sure will have a thing or two to say about this). We imagine they chatted about the Saint Laurent collection yesterday and how the shows were so much better before bloggers made the guest list...

But Jennifer's daughter wasn't the only one attending her first runway -- , , took in his first fashion show alongside Emme. He seemed to appreciate the situation a little more though, tweeting a picture of his impressive Grand Palais surroundings. This obviously wasn't , but with Jennifer's schedule, we're guessing Emme's in for plenty of industry events turned family affairs.

Check out the photos of Jennifer Lopez's clan at the Chanel show today and tell us what you think.


At my 1st fashion show..

— Beau Smart (@BEAUcasperSMART)

Jennifer Lopez isn't the only star who loves Chanel. Check out more celebs in the French brand!

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Coco Chanel would have appreciated the coquettes who artfully arrayed themselves at the Legion of Honor for the MidWinter Gala. Invited by the organizing Junior Committee, these guests knew they had responded to a coveted invitation, and were not going to miss their chance to establish their presence in support of the Fine Arts Museums and their own good graces. Taking their cues from the Mademoiselle and the brand she begat, the women received a double, intertwined C for concerted chic. Blowdryers all over SF had been buzzing all afternoon, cementing updos and eyelashes in earnest.

There was something amusing about the lithe, dressed-to-the-nines nifties enjoying their cocktails amongst the corporeal muscle-bound bronze nudes of the Rodin Sculpture Gallery. But Rodin focused on the male form, not the gym-sculpted females who had served as their own Pygmalions this evening. The MidWinter Gala is all about the damsel in a dress, ideally purveyed by the marquee sponsor Chanel, whose ravishing décor was enough to want the damsels to remain entrapped in this castle for quite some time. The ladies were themselves mostly works of art, with the teensiest touch of artifice to demonstrate their effort. Invited gentlemen obliged by appearing in their Saturday best, with embellishments as allowable. (Joel Goodrich, your shoes were duly noted.)

Fundraising aside (although never too far out of the limelight), the evening offered the opportunity for the Heights' yummie mummies to make it a date night, for the sexy single seekers to size up the (small "S") situation, for cooing couples to cement their status on one anothers' arms. Some stalwarts chose to go stag for the night, to no detriment -- this crowd knows one another from way back when the Junior Committee had barely jettisoned the children's table. Judging by the trouble the gracious McCall's staff had in actually compelling guests to leave the cocktail clamor and be seated for dinner, the exquisitely decorated courtyard of the Legion might as well have been a rickety card table off Aunt Alma's kitchen.

Once they did sit move to the courtyard, they were treated to a double feast, eyes first and palate second. Marquee Sponsor Chanel created a swoon with the all-black tent that served as a smoky backdrop for encircled crystal chandeliers and thousands of white candles. Purple cattleya orchids alternated in silver julep cups with deep burgundy anemonies, the only touch of color on an otherwise black, grey, and silver table. A calligraphied menu doubled as a place card, with a deeply silver-stamped typescript that carried the heft of a debutante invitation. In keeping with the convivial spirit of the soiree, the meal was a perfect riff on francais bistro fare: a lovely pastry-capped tomato bisque and butter lettuce salad, classic filet with bernaise and spring vegetables, with guilty-pleasure cones of frites passed table-side, and an irresistible tart tatin with caramel walnut gelato. Alexis Swanson Traina, whose husband Trevor warmly called the Committee meeting to order, generously donated the delectable Swanson wines to accompany each course: the pear-scented Pinot Grigio, an oaky Oakville Merlot in magnum, and an ambrosial Angelica to add abundance to excess and encourage abundant bidding on the laudable live auction items.

Those duties were ably carried out by event sponsor Christies' auction house, which had flown its top auctioneer, Los Angeles President Andrea Fiuczynski up to coax up the bidding six irresistible items: tickets to the Chanel fashion show in Paris, dinners at French Laundry and Quince, a tea party at the Palace Hotel, a bowling party at Lucky Strike, a dinner party at the Fine Arts Museum, weekly H.Bloom floral delivery. Bidding paddles were dispensed with in favor of old-fashioned nods and waves, the better to confuse a sidelong shift in the seat with a show of support.

Once the tables were cleared and the Woodhouse Chocolates consumed, the turntables were turned once more, and Chanel's midnight tent became the MidWinter revels. The art of celebration and seduction became the exhibit on the dance floor, as the evening wound up and then down to a coco-phanous, coquettish close.

Stretching the canvass: Honorary Chairs Vanessa Getty and Trevor Traina, along with Committee Chairs Kathryn Lasater and the equally effective and effusive Allison Speer; Event Sponsors Marissa Mayer and Zach Bogue, Jean-Pierre Conte, Mo Clancy and Nathaniel David, Jeana Toney and Boris Putanec, Sloan and Roger Barnett, Carol and Shelby Bonnie, Paula and Bandel Carano, Jeremy Stoppelman, Connie Nielsen, Juliet de Baubigny, Anna and Mason Morfit, Serena and Alec Perkins, Gina and Stuart Peterson, Mary Beth and David Shimmon. Co-Chairs, Benefactors, and Members of the Committee, too numerous to mention but gloriously in appearance, helped make the MidWinter into one of the magical moments of the year.

A lot has changed in Johnny Weir's life since he taped the second season of his reality show for Logo. He's returned to competitive skating and strictly monitoring his diet. He's also now a happily married man and finally enjoying going to practice. But the more his life changes, the more his unique style stays the same.

"The show is all about me trying to find my life as a normal person. I have been a figure skater for so long that when I stopped that competitive day-to-day grind, I didn’t know what to do with myself," Weir said. "I don’t know how the world works outside being barked at by a Ukrainian woman and watching my weight.”

After wrapping up taping for season two of "Be Good Johnny Weir," he's already back in training, preparing for the next Olympics.

Weir said that while he was filming, it was nice not to have to wake up early, go to practice, nap, miss lunch, train again, miss dinner, go to bed -- then repeat it all the next day.

“It was so nice to have all that time off to eat chicken fingers,” said Johnny, adding that a return to competitive skating was the natural thing for him to do. “I tried everything in season 2. I tried singing, I wrote a book, I was designing and I really tried everything I possibly could. It was a great opportunity. It felt for the first time in my life, if I failed at something, it wasn’t the end of the world. Now I’m skating again because I want to, not because I have to. And that’s a huge change in my life on a day-to-day basis."

"Time off has been beneficial to my training, but I will never change. I will be 60 or 70 years old still rocking my Chanel blazer with my hair all coiffed," he added.

The second season of "Be Good Johnny Weir" premieres on Logo at 9 p.m. on Sept. 17.

CelebrityPhotos Of The Week:

NEW YORK -- If Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are dating together for publicity – it's working.

The reality starlet and rapper have refused to confirm they're a couple, but they arrived hand-in-hand at Chanel's seventh annual artists dinner at the Tribeca Film Festival Tuesday night. The two happily posed for the cameras, then sat among a galley of stars at the event.

Other attendees included Robert De Niro, Liev Schreiber, Liv Tyler and Kellan Lutz.

West and Kardashian – already tabloid magnets apart from each other – have garnered even more attention since they became a rumored couple. West recently confessed his love for her in song, and they've been spotted out together in New York.

Also Tuesday, E! announced it was extending Kardashian's family reality show for three more years.

CNN interviewed Karl Lagerfeld for an upcoming special, "Fashion: Backstage Pass." They have only released the teaser so far (the show premieres on Saturday, October 15 at 2:30) but leave it to the Kaiser to give us a detectable quote in the preview. He discusses taking on the role of creative director of Chanel, "You know, when I was asked to do it, Chanel wasn't trendy at all. The owner said, 'I'm not proud of the business. If you can make something, OK. If not, I'll sell it.' And we made something out of it because he gave me total freedom.... The label has an image. It's up to me to update it. What I did, [Coco Chanel] never did, she would have hated."

We're glad he took on the task! Watch the preview below:

Although Karl Lagerfeld "I am a cocktail," and "I have no idea of what it means to take yourself seriously," at the International Herald Tribune's Luxury Heritage conference on Tuesday, the designer did have a bit more to say.

that he chatted a bit about Coco Chanel herself. Karl remarked, "Coco did a lot but not as much as people think or as much she herself taught at the end of her career." He also dished on a pair of mistakes Chanel made late in her game:

"The first was when she said 'Not one man I have spoken to likes a woman in mini skirts'. I think no one dared to tell this 86-year-old lady that miniskirts are great and really sexy," he says. "Number two was when she decided blue jeans were horrible. This was the fashion of the world at that partuclar moment -- it was the Sixties. No one wanted to be told by an old lady that miniskirts and jeans weren't chic. The result was that she lost her power and in the end no one cared about what she did."

Oh, Karl. It's never too late for some Chanel denim bellbottoms!

may be the most famous (and spoiled) cat in fashion. Not only is she the subject (in which the designer revealed that she eats on plates at a table, has two maids that take care of her hair and hates the smell of ), she's also one of the .

Having made her courtesy of Stephen Gan's Twitpic , . But is the , who currently has just under 14,000 followers, any competition for her owner?

Take a peek in our gallery below for some of our favorite tweets from . Who do you think is funnier: Man or feline?

Want more? Be sure to check out Stylelist on , , and .

I saw the movie about Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel; it was a kind of sad story about her, especially when she lost her male business owner/friend (twice) but I admired how she always tried to stay strong, moved on and kept her business going. She had such great flair in designing two piece suites for women and Chanel No. 5 perfume smells great too.

PARIS -- It was blue-sky thinking for Karl Lagerfeld, as he treated guests to a luxury jet-set experience in Chanel's spring-summer collection on the second day Tuesday of haute couture week.

The wet Paris morning failed to dampen the mood outside the imperial Grand Palais, as guests waited excitedly to see the inside theme – always a closely-guarded secret. The "Cocos" – as one fashionista called Chanel followers – were led nervously down a space-age passage.

There were gasps as they reached the catwalk: a life-size jumbo-jet reconstructed complete with luggage lockers, walkways and even a Champagne trolley.

"Are we jetting to New York?" one woman asked.

On the runway, signature Chanel skirt-suits were given a retro airhostess makeover with wide bateau collars in pastel colors. There was a distinct feel of the 1960s – the glamour days for air travel – with one embroidered silk short dress in pale blue with geometric band features on the collar, sleeves and low waist.

It was as if stiff-suited Karl Lagerfeld had finally decided to relax into the flight as soft, floaty floor-length silhouettes replaced last season's more fitted, shorter and architectural look.

But the artistry behind the clothes proved the mile-high couturier had not put his feet up for long: a palette of over 150 different shades was used, with meticulously embroidered silk in dazzling blues and grays – the colors of the sky.

Raglan balloon sleeves complemented hourglass party dresses in sparkling petrol blue. It provided a much-welcome dash of glamour in a collection watched by cocktail-sipping guests quite obviously enjoying themselves.

Speaking backstage in the reconstructed cockpit, Lagerfeld, in his traditional shades and powdered hair, said that blue was used because it's an optimistic color.

Revolutionary the show was not, but the Chanel brand is definitely flying steady with reason to be excited about the future. A strong clientele, and robust business mean that like other couture-producing labels, they are bucking the downtrend in a gloomy financial climate.

Some watching the show called the collection bold but respecting Coco Chanel's iconic codes.

is known for fantastic accessories. Whether it's the iconic 2.55 bag that is now more expensive than a small car, or shoes adorned with faux stalagmites, knows his ladies love their accessoires. So when he sent models down the runway this Monday (we're late to the game due to our !) wearing bags with handles that looked like hula hoops, we can only guess how many members of the audience were mentally placing their orders. Our money is on carrying that bag shortly, and of course, over-the-top Vogue Nippon editor will probably make a video where she literally hula hoops with .


But it does have us wondering: Who will actually purchase the latest ? Can you imagine entering a crowded subway train with a bag whose diameter is larger than your average, umm, car tire? Mon dieu, the dirty looks would be endless (though we suppose that anyone willing to shell out the big bucks for such an extravagant bag isn't taking public transportation).

What do you think? Would you pay good money for the latest

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British designer Simeon Farrar has done it again - caused a stir within the fashion industry that is.

The man who gave us the iconic 'Kate Mouse' motif tee, even though she's now officially dead (the mouse that is, not the real supermod, obviously), has launched a line of t-shirts with a cheeky nod to fashionistas everywhere.

The designs, which feature slogans such as Totes Jel Of My Chanel, Tom Ford Is My Homeboy, Gucci Got Game Yo and Dior Is Dope, are part of his new label Blackscore - a more daring, darker and 'punk' edged unisex t-shirt range, independent of his main Simeon Farrar line.

With a team made up of his own staff and some willing helpers keen to experience the buzz of fashwan, all carrying swag bags full of the designs - Farrar made his mark on one of the most important weeks in London's fashion calendar, by stopping well known bloggers, fashion editors, celebrities and supermodels as they made their way into shows, handing them one of the many styles.

Those who were happy to pose for a pic with their slogan tees and vests included singer Pixie Lott, Topshop's Kate Phelan, style guru Caryn Franklin and models Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn and Charlotte Free, among others.

Paying homage to fashion's most iconic brands and designers, the collection mixes humour with just a hint of irony, and so it's befitting that on the last day of Fashion Week, TOWIE's Lydia Rose Bright was more than happy to be snapped with her Totes Jel Of My Chanel vest!

"The idea for this little Black Score stunt emerged out of a conversation with The Huff Post's very own blogger Kate Lawson who has always been a great supporter of ours" said Farrar. "Together we came up with the giveaway idea and I thought it would be cool to design a set of images that referenced the fashion industry specifically. Black Score spans many different cultures and subcultures so it was fun to treat high fashion to a bit of BS. The stunt as a whole went down a storm. Everyone loved them. "
"I think it brought a bit of much needed excitement to Fashion Week", he added, "Each tee was gladly accepted from everyone from your average fashion fan to celebrities to models coming out of the shows. It was a hungry market and I think we've only just wet the appetite. London Fashion Week got Black Scored good and proper this season. Paris, y'all better watch out."

(Jourdan Dunn's got game, yo)

(Cara Delevingne knows who her homeboy is)

(Pixie Lott falls for Prada)

The collection will be available on the Blackscore website shortly, and will also be part of an exclusive pop-up at Shop at Bluebird on London's Kings Road. Blackscore will also release new designs all year round, shortening the waiting time between seasons and offering something fresh and funny to keep us all entertained.
For more info and to see the other designs in the collection, head and you can also read more about the label and Simeon in a previous interview I wrote for the Huff Post .

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The Internet is abuzz with news of the coming to the U.S. this week. The exhibit celebrates Chanel's iconic black tweed jacket, and, in a nod to the jacket's dynamism over the years, showcases 120 ways the jacket was reinterpreted and reimagined in a series of black-and-white photographs taken by Karl Lagerfeld, longtime head of Chanel's iconic fashion house. The project is the brainchild of Lagerfeld and former Vogue France editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld. And while Lagerfeld is usually one to toot his own horn, this time, he's actually got something worth about.

"The interesting thing is that one simple thing, a little jacket with four pockets, you can play so much and create 120 different types," Lagerfeld said. "It's play time with an item that is timeless."

Timeless is right. While it's undeniable that much has changed at the Chanel house since Lagerfeld took the helm (in my opinion, both for good and bad) the brand's adoration of its famed tweed jacket is one thing that hasn't. First imagined by Coco Chanel in 1954, the jacket has been a staple of women's fashion through its many iterations over the years.

But the jacket didn't just appear out of the ether: it was the result of deliberate design, and borne of frustration. Coco Chanel was nothing if not candid, and of fashion post-WWII, she had some choice words.

"Fashion has become a joke," Chanel said. "The designers have forgotten that there are women inside the dresses. Most women dress for men and want to be admired. But they must also be able to move, to get into a car without bursting their seams! Clothes must have a natural shape."

History tells us that Chanel was a woman of great spirit and determination, and it was with this spirit that she was inspired to design a jacket that was not only pleasing on the eyes, but was something women -- and even men -- could feel comfortable in.

And like many classic designs, it's got secrets. Each tweed jacket is with silk, which conceals one of the jacket's biggest weapons: its chain. While designing, Chanel used the chain to help the jacket retain its shape while fitting the contours of the body. To this day, Chanel is one of the few remaining fashion houses to weight its jackets, or, in this case, line them with a fine chain. Additionally, paneling in each Chanel jacket makes it possible for the jacket to expand within three size ranges of its original design. One size fits... many?

This exhibit gives guests a chance to see some of these secrets. But more than anything, by paying tribute to the Chanel jacket, Lagerfeld is paving the way for its future. As the years pass, I expect the jacket will change. Colors will come and go; it will see new designers and adornments. But in a way, I'm confident it will remain the same: dynamic yet classic, simple yet elaborate. But never outdated.

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Images from the Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel campaign Keira Knightley shot forever ago (ok, last September) have finally surfaced.

Take a look as the actress shows off her cropped 'do, nibbles on a bottle and wears only a bed sheet in what we'll venture to call a non-boring series of fragrance ads. Could such a thing exist? C'est possible.

All images .

The new preview for Keira Knightley's upcoming Chanel ad gives a nice behind-the-scenes look at the Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) directed mini film. The Coco Mademoiselle 'advertising film' will continue Chanel's tradition of pairing directors with familiar muses. Jeanne-Pierre Jeunet with Audrey Tatou in 2009 after Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, and Baz Luhrmann teamed with Nicole Kidman for the Moulin Rouge-esque .

The spot presents Knightley looking back at her first impressions of the shoot, her narration set against b-roll footage. She recalls being told there was "something about a motorbike," that "it would be beige," and that there would be a "sort of catsuit" involved. The film, which will feature Knightley as a "Chanel Superwoman," will premiere Monday, March 21.

There were on Tuesday night, but two stars were notably missing: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

KimYe (or whatever we're calling them) tried their best to avoid the red carpet at Tuesday night's Tribeca Film Festival Artists Program dinner. Although if you ask us, the swank Chanel-hosted dinner was a stage of its own, making it a rather fashionable joint appearance for the blossoming couple.

That is, if they are a couple. asking Kim about the media attention surrounding her new beau. Kanye jokingly replied, "Who are you talking about? What guy are you talking about?"

Funny one. The couple has been everywhere, and . Kim even .

But this KimYe appearance is their most stylish appearance -- and our personal favorite -- yet.

Check out a photo below and scroll down for more pics.

See Kim's 72 days of married style when she was with one of her previous exes!

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's headstone in Lausanne, Switzerland

While on a Chanel high (see my previous piece), it is only fair to pay equal respect to the woman and legend behind the brand that has single-handedly made quilted bags and ballerina flats universal fashion must-haves. Gabrielle, or "Coco" as she preferred, was a complex and complicated woman. Or, atleast, that is how she is portrayed in the three (yes, three) books that came out just this season. Having only read one so far, I can promise that Coco's romances are explored just as thoroughly as the rumors which surrounded her life between the covers of Justine Picardie's Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life. Between the captivating photos of her past and sketches by Karl Lagerfeld, Picardie's writing makes for an illuminating tale of a woman torn between two lives: fashion designer and wartime woman.

My personal fascination has been focused on Coco's years in Switzerland. I've spent the past two months living in this country known for the Alps and fondue, and can't help but imagine what it must have been like 65 years ago when the designer frequented the shores of Lac Léman. As Picardie notes in her book, Chanel once said she felt "free as a bird" when visiting Switzerland; her unsmudged red lipstick and conservative clothing concealing a life of lovers, flings, family drama, and a token best friend with a drug problem.

Chanel's nickname displayed in greenery across her grave in Lausanne, Switzerland

Following her death at the Ritz in Paris on January 10, 1971, Coco was buried at the Cimetière du Bois-de-Vaux in Lausanne. The turnout for her burial appeared meager in photos, as a formal, more-sizable ceremony had been conducted in Paris two weeks prior. Her gravestone is recognizable by five lions that appear across the top of her headstone; Coco's astrological sign was Leo, something that defined her to the end. Today, greenery in the formation of her name, "Coco", is perfectly placed across the area where her body rests. Next week, it will be 41 years since she passed.

The cover of Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life; Karl Lagerfeld's illustration of Chanel at rest.

As written in Picardie's pages, Chanel once said to Paul Morand, "I would make a very bad dead person, because once I was put under, I would grow restless and would think only of returning to earth and starting all over again." I'll keep my eye on her plot.

A close-up image of Chanel's grave in Lausanne, Switzerland

I was en route to the Chanel show when I realized my heart was racing. As the car sped down Rue De Rivoli, past the Jardin de Tuileries and towards Grand Palais, I felt my stomach start to knot up. When I pulled up to the pulsing crush of people attempting to squeeze themselves into the imposing marble façade of the building, I finally understood why I was having such a physical reaction to a fashion show. In Paris, Chanel is so much more than fashion -- it is an institution. As I squeezed my way through the crowd I could feel the anticipation building: What would Karl Lagerfeld do next?

The enigmatic Karl Lagerfeld is the artistic director and designer of the Chanel brand, and has become an icon in his own right. A lover of spectacle, invitees to this Spring/Summer show were clearly looking to be impressed. As I slid through security, heart still pounding, I marveled at the ornate ceiling before panning down to the massive wind turbines peppering the exceptionally blue, exceptionally long runway. To see the modern architecture of these wind turbines contrasted with the 17th-century venue was both stunning and eerie. The trance-y music washing over the crowd and the brightness of the room made it feel like I'd stepped into an alternate universe: Karl's universe.

I took my seat and watched paparazzi clamor over Kanye West and Jennifer Lopez. French style icons like Laetitia Casta and Lou Doillon flitted about the grand room, and I felt totally overcome by the level of production -- we definitely weren't in New York anymore. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better the music picked up and the show began. Models, just specks in the distance, began to materialize on the far-end of the runway. Running some kind of fashionable flight pattern, scores of models resplendent in Chanel made the long journey to the end of the runway and back.

With 80 looks in total, the Chanel show felt like it was teeming with energy. So many different design stories floated down the runway: printed boleros were layered on top of dresses, chunky striped platforms were paired with everything from sweet day-dresses to tweedy pantsuits and transparent Lucite hats felt like a fresh take on the classic Chanel wide-brim. Inspired by the 'windmill' motif, the three-dimensional blossoms and embroidery jumping off the finale dresses were a definite highlight. Between the wind turbines, the venue and the breadth of the collection the message was clear: Chanel has energy, and lots of it.

After the show, buzzing invitees poured onto the street in front of Grand Palais and struggled to navigate swaths of street-style photographers. Slipping into idling town cars, the fashionable set made their getaway. I grabbed a few friends outside and we teetered in our high-heels to L'Avenue, the fashion canteen on the Avenue Montaigne -- the home of Parisian luxury. Settling on espressos and a plate piled with crème, strawberries and bright raspberries, I couldn't help thinking that Mr. Lagerfeld would approve.

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In Los Angeles, where I live, the movie stars are the celebrities. Here in Paris, the celebrities are the fashion designers -- and they're treated like royalty -- oohed and ahhhed at on the street.

That said, the biggest A-Lister is Karl Lagerfield and today his show for Chanel was indisputably the hottest ticket in town. All during Fashion Week people here put relationships on the line to try to get tickets. Some don't actually find out if they have a ticket and are actually going until the morning of! Needless to say, I was thrilled when a friend of mine invited me to go. Luckily, our tickets were delivered in advance.

Did the Chanel show for the Spring/Summer 2011 Collection live up to all the mega hype? Yes, and it wasn't just for a novice like me. Many people who'd been to Chanel for years noted it was the best, most elaborate show in Chanel history. Quite frankly, it was a spectacle more than an event. A full orchestra played in the background, while 85 models strutted across the stunning location, The Grand Palais. The models walked around the gigantic, incredibly well-lit, cavernous structure, decorated with 10 foot high fountains and huge black metallic cut-outs -- constructed to resemble low, French garden hedges. The ground -- what the models actually walked on top of -- was covered with a fine, white gravel -- that actually left a powdery residue on your shoes. I didn't dust my shoes off as the dust was seen as a sign of prestige that said I was at the Chanel show!

The clothes were breathtaking - with lots of color, adornment, eyelet inlays, fringe and tons of feathers. The jewelry focused on mixed metallics, chains, lucite-type cuffs adorned with rhinestones and pearl type rounds of all sizes and colors. There is nothing delicate or dainty about Chanel jewelry. It is meant to say "Look at me -- I have arrived!"

Nearly all the models wore platform shoes, made by Chanel, that were rather clunky looking. The had a 1970's feel to them. The upper part of the shoe varied -- but the bottom part was always the same dark colored platform with a rather square, solid heel. That platform shoe sole -- it appeared black -- appeared also in the form of a wedge. The shoe was the polar opposite of say a classic, ladylike Jimmy Choo or a Manolo. No pointy toe. No thin heel.

A few interesting tidbits:

All the models wore contacts to make their eyes a rather iridescent green. As if it's not hard enough to walk daintily in tiny, sheer frocks! Pale makeup, dark dark eyes with dramatic kohl shading on the entire lid.

A few of the models sported jackets with teeny, tiny shorts and their bums (also tiny!) hanging out.

There were no models who were women of color. Apparently, the designers want all the models to look similar so that all eyes are focused on the clothes.

The front row is where top editors, famous and important people, and royalty sit. At the very center of the show in the front row (pictured below): Vogue Editor Ana Wintour seated next to Susan Tolson, wife of Charlie Rivkin, U.S. Ambassador to France.

Unlike many of the other shows during Fashion Week, at the Chanel show, a vast majority of the attendants wear an item by the designer. But you don't have to be decked out head to toe. For example, Vogue's Wintour, pictured above, wore a dress by Chanel, but a maxi length, fur trimmed coat by another designer.

The show lasted about 20 minutes and it was quite dramatic when the white haired Karl Lagerfield came out at the end with all the models. Everything about this fashion guru is so dramatic -- down to his collar-- which must be five inches tall and so starched it almost looks like a neck brace.

After the show was over, he greeted the VIP's like rocker Courtney Love pictured above. Then he sat and spoke with the press for nearly an hour. He was constantly mobbed -- people were literally tripping to get to him -- and he had no fewer than 8 bodyguards. He apparently is easy to spot here in Paris as he travels in a gold Hummer.

The outfit range at Chanel was full spectrum -- from jeans and motorcycle boots to floor length evening attire. One man was even dressed as what looked like one of the Village People from way back when! I'll have more on that -- plus some of the celebs who were there and their favorite outfits -- in the next blog. For more photos, check out

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Before I began my biography of Coco Chanel, I knew what you probably know: she was one of the most famous fashion designers in the world, who liberated women from corsets, created the sexy little black dress, and designed nubby wool jackets with braid trim and gold chains. Oh, yes, and those black tipped beige sling-back shoes and the quilted bag with chain handle. And, of course, Chanel No. 5. She was a genius, everyone said -- and the model of a self-made, independent woman.

What I learned along the way, as I researched the life of this fascinating and infuriating woman, surprised me: women had been liberated from the corset long before Chanel arrived on the scene, by the designers Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet. Many other designers were creating clothing in soft jersey, with menswear inspired lines, at the same time as Chanel. Her little black dress -- which I had pictured as low-cut and body-skimming -- had long sleeves, a loose dropped waistline, and looked like it should be worn for a board meeting rather than a nightclub in the Roaring Twenties. And the boxy jacket, shoes, and bag: those came from Chanel's comeback in the 1950s, after she was already a stunningly famous designer. I was surprised, too, that she didn't sew and couldn't draw; that she signed away 90% of her business to the company that agreed to market her perfume, Chanel No. 5 (and spent the rest of her career suing for restitution of her rights); and that she died a lonely, bitter woman. Famous as she was, she could be paranoid and cruel. She lied to cover a past of which she was ashamed; she lied to cover her own insecurities.

Even though she has the reputation of being independent and fearless, she always yearned to find a man to protect her. Being loved, she said, was the most important goal a woman could achieve. Without love, and without a man, a woman was nothing. Those ideas don't sound very liberated, and yet, even though her ideas about life and love were widely known throughout her life, Chanel was someone many women wanted to emulate.

Certainly, she was a genius; she had a fine intuition for what women wanted to wear, an amazing appreciation for fabric, and infallible sense of line. But her genius was not only for fashion. Chanel was her own most famous model. Slender and flat-chested, she looked great in her own designs -- in fact, she claimed that she first tried on all of those designs herself -- and women dieted and wore flattening bras to try to copy her figure -- an impossible challenge for women who were not, and never would be, petite.

She was brilliant at marketing herself as a celebrity, and one of my goals in this biography is to show how her public -- the women who coveted her fashions and perfume -- helped to create her legend. These women followed her flamboyant, and much publicized love life (among her many lovers, she was courted by the Duke of Westminster and a Russian Grand Duke, and had an affair with Stravinsky); they saw photos of her vacationing in Venice and Biarritz and at fabulous parties in Paris and London. She was photographed by some of the most talented artists of her time -- like Cecil Beaton and Man Ray. One of the first print ads for Chanel No. 5 showed Chanel herself, in a gorgeous beaded gown, standing in her own elegant rooms at the Ritz in Paris. She appeared in fashion magazines along with her famous friends, like Jean Cocteau, Serge Diaghilev, Salvador Dali, and a host of dukes and duchesses. Before there were movie stars, there was Chanel. And by the time Gloria Swanson and Ina Claire became famous, Chanel already had been the epitome of glamour, for decades.

Today's print ads for Chanel perfumes, featuring the lithe and lovely Audrey Tautou perfectly capture the image of Chanel that has persisted since the 1920s, when she burst on the fashion scene. She fashioned herself as a beautiful romantic heroine, ensconced in luxury, pursued by a handsome lover. The legend is irresistible even now, and Chanel is the genius who created it.

I think Lisa uses shoes as an independence statement. She and I had some face time shortly after Zoe was born, and she was wearing shoes that the soles were separating from; had silver duct tape around them to keep them together, struttin' around L.A. like that, in places where she was sure to be noticed. As I recall, Lenny (who was with us), wear wearing similar foot attire. Did it diminish her? No. Was it a blatant statement of not being bound to other people's ideas of what was "cool", "chic", even "appropriate"? Certainly! Sure, the thought "Why would someone with more than enough money for some Cons, at least for PayLess, run around like that?" eventually flashed through my mind, as an afterthought -- way after; like a couple of days after. Why? [A. She's dear to me and it just didn't occur to me to think that way, and B)] Because her Light's not limited by what' she wears!!! I was more impressed by who she is, so much so that how she had dressed that evening was completely irrelevant. Such is the case now; the lady be SHININ', unusual choice of footwear notwithstanding.

Consider how many people come dressed to the 9's without the candle power Lisa has. [Even without the entertainment career], she's a star; let her shine, Julee, and stop raggin' on her for the elements she chooses for her own solar system! At least her shoes are shining too!!They are lovely young women, but dam, all I want to do is go up behind them pull the shoulders back and tell them to stand up straight. I've seen the slouching stance on really tall girls trying to be shorter, but these girls are peanuts. A lot of women it seems in the entertainment industry think this slouchy look is the way to look, they don't know how to show themselves off to advantage, how to carry themselves. Did you ever see Sophia Loren or Grace Kelly slouching for pictures?

As long as I'm on a roll, my other pet peeve, if you are going to wear those tall stiletto heals learn to walk in them, don't walk like a truck driver.

Admitting that she paid $500 for a new floral print Vera Wang bag, Adriana Castro couldn’t help but blush.

“I got it on sale two months ago,” the hospital coordinator said quietly, away from the ears of her teenage niece. “It was originally $2,250. And it’s something different, not like your typical black or brown leather.”

On a recent Saturday at mall in Los Angeles -- where nearly everyone sports a sparkling logo or three -- Castro wasn’t shopping, but hanging out with her family. “I don’t shop as much as I used to,” she said. “Especially for splurgy items, clothes, shoes. With the economy, you try to be more conscious.”

Still, it’s hard to resist a good sale once in a while when, at least for the moment, you have a job. Castro wasn’t the only one to treat herself this holiday season. Industry insiders have noticed a comeback of what they call “aspirational shoppers” -- those women and men who spend big chunks of their incomes on bags, watches, gadgets and other status symbols. Armed with credit cards, they’re charging "affordable" luxury brands like Michael Kors -- the self-proclaimed " -- toward whirlwind success.

But are these luxuries really affordable? In an economic recovery that is still itself , some are worried that the return of middle-class overspenders is no more than a relapse in disguise.

Armine Melkonyan, 35, of Los Angeles, bought the classic quilted Chanel "Timeless" bag in December after obsessing over it for nearly two years, paying with a credit card. The price? $2,100, according to a sales representative at the Beverly Hills Chanel store. Melkonyan doesn’t have a job right now -- she’s a student at the Los Angeles City College -- but says the money isn’t a problem. "You just have to keep up with the bills every month,” she said.

Banks, it seems, are just as relaxed as Melkonyan, handing out cards with uncharacteristic generosity. Bank of America, for one, saw a 50 percent surge in new during the last three months of 2011, compared to the same period of 2010. In November, meanwhile, rose 7 percent, according to merchant processing company First Data.

Stores noticed the change. Luxury department store Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the biggest winners in the 2011 holiday retail tussle, reported same-store sales up 7.7 percent in the last three months of 2011, which it credited in part to middle class shoppers.

“You are clearly seeing aspirational customers starting to shop,” CEO said on the company’s earnings call with analysts last week.

Of everything sold at Saks, handbags did particularly well. Macy’s, a mid-range department store, saw similar trends. “I think [the customer] really wants designer and logo right now,” said Russell Orlando, Macy’s accessories fashion director in an interview. “The whole classic piece in leather at a higher price point is driving the business ... It’s been going on a year now.”

The aspirational "look" is becoming a fashion trend, as well. Michael Kors, one of retail's most profitable brands, has championed the aesthetic with logo-covered bags ranging from to .

The "sweet spot" for shoppers is $348 to $398, Michael Kors executives told analysts on the company's most recent earnings call with analysts, saying "jet-set" no less than five times. "Jet-set" is Michael Kors’ favorite buzzword for its look: Picture soft leather and classic prints, safe enough to wear in Minneapolis or Milan. raised $944 million in an IPO in December, valuing the company at $3.8 billion.

Ironically, a $348 tote might just be what kills the trip to Europe for some people.

Genevieve Spitz, 23, of Boston, says she sometimes has to pick between plane tickets and shopping. "I'm one of those people who'll say 'Wow, I love that piece. I'm going to buy it, no matter the cost. And then I do. Unless, of course, I could buy a plane ticket to Spain instead."

"I'm not buying designer stuff," Spitz says. "It's more like, can I technically afford those $300 shoes? No. Will I be unable to afford food for the next few weeks if I buy them? No."

As in dieting, it's especially hard to say "no" to cravings after a long dry spell. More than three years after the recession began, many Americans are looking for small tokens to make life feel richer, like high quality fabrics or an eye-catching watch.

George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, is working on a study with colleague Russell Golman examining how society's image of "the good life" impacts consumer decisions. "Sometimes people are worried that they're poor or appear poor, so they spend money as a way to reassure themselves," Loewenstein said. "But of course, it's about the worst possible strategy you could have."

For any class of shopper, the current push by banks to issue new credit cards will no doubt create temptation to overspend. "Credit cards anesthetize the pain of spending money," Loewenstein said.

Melkonyan, for one, isn't losing sleep over her new Chanel bag -- unless you consider the late night parties where she’ll wear it. "I don't care about the brand; it's not because [the bag] is expensive," she said. "I want something beautiful."

Styleite.com : they unearthed photos of Martha Stewart from her modeling days in the early 1960s.

On "Martha" this morning, Andre Leon Talley disclosed that Karl Lagerfeld recently told him that Stewart was once a Chanel model. Who knew? So Styleite dug around and found some incredible images (albeit not from the Chanel shoots). Here are our two favorites. .

seems to have it all these days -- a lucrative career, plenty of chances to and . But it seems that there's one more thing on the actress' wish list: a Chanel skateboard.

Even though she seems to be a t-shirt and shorts (well, ) kind of girl, the newly-engaged star :

soooo I really need a custom @ skateboard!Aint that right @?!

— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus)

Who knew the 19-year-old had such high-brow sports gear taste? And with on an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, her beau and , we're thinking that luxury sports equipment is here to stay. And if Karl Lagerfeld's listening, he just might find it in the kindness of his heart to send a Chanel skateboard Miley's way.

What do you think of these sports-related indulgences? Are these expensive products worth the high price tags?

Check out Miley's style evolution and see if you think she's grown up enough to get a Chanel skateboard!

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The stars came out in black and white for the Chanel Couture Fall 2011 show in Paris on Tuesday night.

Karl Lagerfeld's glamorous gal pal Diane Kruger channeled old Hollywood glamour in vintage Chanel Couture (okay, so it was Fall 2009), while rising starlet Elle Fanning rocked chunky white platforms and a swingy dress from Chanel's Spring 2009 couture collection.

But it was Milla Jovovich who took the couture cake, pairing her black skirt and Chanel bag with a sheer white tanktop and a black bra. How 1990s of you, Milla!

As for the clothes? The Kaiser went dark and brooding, with classic suits and layered dresses in black and gray with pops of magenta.

Click below to check out last night's front row dwellers and some of our favorite runway looks.

Yesterday marked what would have been Coco Chanel's 129th birthday, despite dying in 1971 her legacy still lives on. Coco was a pioneer in the world of fashion with a colourful and exuberant character. Her iconic designs from the 'little black dress', the boucle jacket, the classic quilted bag and strings of pearls still remain relevant today and are wardrobe staples for many fashionistas. She redefined how to dress women with classic and timeless designs and she was a firm believer in elegance...and of wearing perfume! She left the world with a legacy of fabulous, wise and witty quotes which transcends generations, and here are a few favourites.

"A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous."

"Dress shabbily and they remember the dress, dress impeccably and they remember the woman."

"A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future."

"Some people think luxury is the opposite to poverty. It is not. It is the opposite to vulgarity."

"As long as you know men are like children, you know everything!"

"Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping it will turn in to a door."

"Fashion fades, only style remains the same."

Here are some of my most favourite Chanel designs of late, which showcases how this classic French brand is still relevant, timeless and oozes as much elegance as when Coco first opened her very first shop in 1920.

Images from

I make no secret of my love for elegant design, so today I would like to bring some Chanel styling in to interior design. Below are some rooms that Coco herself would adore, all you'll need to do it pop on your box boucle jacket, have a spritz of Chanel No.5 and imagine an era of timeless sophistication. Voila! I'm thinking a classic black, cream and neutral colour palette, pearl, luxurious accessories, and simple, classic designs, with of course copious amounts of Parisian chic.

Image from Image from

Image from

I hope Chanel will continue to give us aspirational and elegant designs. Oh, how I love Chanel!

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paints vibrant multicultural murals with disjointed narratives that confuse and delight. With a bold palette and bolder sense of humor, Abney creates bizarre scenarios that add a hint of perversity to each piece, resulting in a mashup of celebrity and literary references.

Abney's scenes are full of bizarre costumes and undecipherable symbols, and even her characters' faces resist familiarity, looking more masklike than natural. The images are forceful, viewers can sense a political passion but cannot quite decipher the "moral," similarly they buzz with both masculine and feminine energy. To make sense of her work, we asked Nina some questions:

 HP: Can you describe how you found your visual language??
NA: I think it kinda found me. I work very intuitively, so my visual language is a combination of the different things I'm interested in as well as whatever happens in the moment that I am creating a painting. And I feel like my visual language is, and will continue to constantly change as times goes on. I am always trying new things, and editing out different elements in my work.

HP: Would you call your work narrative driven? Is there a message or more of an experiment/experience??

NA: ?I think my earlier work was more narrative driven, in which I focus on one particular story or experience, but I've become more interested in mixing disjointed narratives and abstraction, and finding interesting ways to obscure any possible story that can be assumed when viewing my work. So I don't necessarily aim to send out a particular message, rather I want the work to provoke the viewer come up with their own message, or answer some of their own questions surrounding the different subjects that I touch in my work.?

HP: ?To what extent is your work personal/autobiographical? Do you think all artwork is autobiographical in some way??

NA: I do think that all artwork is personal/autobigraphical in the sense that it's a reflection of the artist's thoughts. I treat the canvas like a journal in that it's a place where I can release any concerns, emotions, and just the different thoughts swirling around in my head in general.  ?

HP: ?That kind of alludes to what I was going to ask you about all the diverse ground you cover in your work (religion, politics, sex). Would you say that in your head they are all on an equal playing ground??

NA: Definitely. There's so much information that comes at an individual during the course of a day.  In one day, I may read the paper, get on the internet and browse through YouTube, my Facebook timeline, look at Twitter, watch the news, watch Bravo, VH1, read gossip blogs, listen to music, and do this all while talking on the phone and texting, so it's ??impossible for me not to cover a multitude of topics.  I'm living in an age of information overload.  ?

HP: What's a work of art that inspires you?? 

NA: Dana Schutz's painting ? and

Take a look at Abney's wild worlds below, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Here at HuffPost Style, we love sharing what we do on social media. (If you follow us on , , , and you'll know that we sometimes like to overshare.)

In case you missed it, we've rounded up some of our latest photos, and this week was a big one for HuffPost Style. Some of our favorite snaps included a champagne celebration on Monday after , blog editor drinking wine with "" star Ramona Singer and (we're already coveting).

Check out the photos below and make sure to follow us on your iPhone or Android.

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'Tis the season for holiday gatherings, parties and galas!

But as the invitations start piling up, so are your worries about what to you'll wear. Never fear, is here.

The online boutique is the premiere destination for fashion forward gals looking to rent designer dresses for next to nothing. You can indulge in 145 designers and 20,000 dresses at up to 90% off their retail prices. Yes please!

And just in time for the holidays RTR has teamed up with the vintage store to offer its stylish shoppers .

If you've always or flashing a pair of double-C earrings, now is your chance. Prices range from $100 to rent a pair of earrings (retailing $1,210) to $350 to rent a handbag (retailing $3,850). Rental periods last four to eight days. Just enough to flaunt your finds!

Sure, that's still a bit pricey--but if you've always wanted to splurge on a Chanel accessory, shouldn't you test one out to see if it's worth the dough?

Here's a look at the amazing vintage Chanel items available to rent.

A cranky customer is seeking restitution of HK$50,000 -- and, get this, two Chanel bags -- from a luxury Hong Kong department store after

32-year-old Dion Leung Wai-yin says she went to the store to validate the authenticity of a HK$17,900 Chanel bag she had previously purchased there, after finding some defects in the bag. That's when her nightmare began:

"I was locked in a VIP room, [an employee] served me hot chocolate and he started to chit-chat with me. When I asked him when were we going to discuss the bag, he tried to [talk] about his divorce, the size of his feet and where he came from," Leung

Leung also says that she was suffering from anxiety and depression at the time, which were both exacerbated by the 90-minute wait she endured in the store's VIP waiting room. Nevertheless, she still accepted a full refund of the price of the bag, which management offered her after her wait.

The store has released an . They've also offered Leung a HK$10,000 gift voucher, even though she requested the higher sum of money, and two new Chanel bags as restitution for her emotional distress.

Is she accepting?

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Despite last week's media frenzy over braved the paparazzi cameras at today's Chanel Couture show.

Wearing a slinky silver satin dress under a black jacket, the actress, model and longtime Chanel muse joined Paris' chicest women for Karl Lagerfeld's couture presentation.

Held in a faux airplane complete with a carpeted aisle and window seats, the runway show featured plenty of short-sleeve, sky blue dresses that recalled vintage airplane uniforms.

But that he didn't want to "make it too literal," which made sense given how many die-hard Chanel couture fans were in attendance. After all, Diane Kruger, Caroline Sieber and Alice Dellal will be needing some high-fashion threads to wear this season and they can't be looking like the cast of "Pan Am."

As for Vanessa, we're not as certain. With compounding her already under-the-radar ways, Paradis might be making this one of her only public appearances for some time. But if she had to pick just one event, we wouldn't be surprised if her beloved Lagerfeld's couture show was it.

Check out the stylish show-goers aboard Air Chanel as well as select runway looks. What do you think of the collection?

Jerry Hall and Georgia May Jagger, Patti Hansen and Theodora Richards -- model moms often produce the chicest daughters.

Yasmin and Amber Le Bon are no exception. hit the runway with daughter Amber at yesterday's Chanel show, strutting amongst the sumptuously laid tables for the brand's Pre-Fall 2012 presentation.

The pair wore donned two of the 78 (!) looks presented by Karl Lagerfeld in Paris' Grand Palais. The theme of the show was India, or some glamorous version thereof, with Chanel's typical skirt suits and trousers rendered in shiny silks and luxurious lace with gilt embroidery. Some of the models, both Le Bons included, even sported elaborate metallic headgear.

While top models like Jacquelyn Jablonski, Arizona Muse and Crystal Renn () walked the show, we're mostly impressed by the dynamic mother-daughter duo -- particularly Yasmin, who somehow looks about a day older than her daughter.

That's what happens when you have supermodel genes.

Check out the photo below -- can you tell who's the mommy and who's the child? (Fine, we'll tell: Yasmin is on the left, Amber on the right).


The runway used to serve as a backdrop against which designer looks could pop. Lately, however, it is the sets themselves that do much of the popping. The background becomes the foreground in this Chanel 2012 Spring/Summer runway, designed by Zaha Hadid. Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize for architecture, is known for the strong, curving forms of her elongated structures. She has designed everything from the National Center for Contemporary Art in Rome to a high speed train station in Naples.

She first teamed up with Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld in 2008 with Chanel Pavilion, a gargantuan, mobile pavilion based off of Chanel's signature quilted purse. described the piece as incorporating "undulating surfaces and flowing volumes converge, constantly redefining the quality and experience of each exhibition space, while guiding movement throughout."

Her new construction captures a playful side of Chanel not often explored. Candyland icecaps and bleached coral decorate this bubble of fantasy, against which Chanel's classic couture truly does pop. Rather than walk in a straight line, the models mill around in all different directions as if scuttling across the ocean floor. The view seems possible only by opening a clam shell and gazing in at the miniature world in the pearl inside.

Watch below to see fashion and fantasy dressed up in all white.

Chanel is privately owned by the Wertheimer family and reserves the right to ensure any financial figures remain under wraps. But its spectacular revenues are a given. It should come as no great surprise, then, that the clothes, too, were not for shrinking violets.

Models with glossy, slicked-back ponytails and huge glittering eyebrows wore boucle wool parkas with jewel-encrusted hoods, skinny cropped trousers and striped knits, layered one over the other. Here was a grey flannel cap-sleeved ankle-length gilet decorated with what looked like a map of the solar system, there the iconic little black dress, with a bodice finished with hard-edged tiles of mirrored plastic. Some of the accessories were equally striking – even including, in one notable case, a three-year-old child.

If last season, Lagerfeld's message was one of sweetness, for the autumn a tougher aesthetic came to the fore. Colour was almost invariably dark: bottle green, navy, plum, black and shades of grey; embellishment was loud and proud as opposed to fragile and more than a nod to the Eighties came in the form of Lurex and an oversized silhouette.

Then, of course, there were the money-spinning accessories: heavy metal cuffs, the famous quilted 2.55 bag dangling from gilded chains and necklaces finished with lozenges of semi-precious rock all made an appearance. Later in the day, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, designers of the Valentino label, also hardened up the prettiness of their summer collection in favour of something more austere.

Theirs was a subtle shift, however, and a lovely one for that. Soft black leather was finished with frogging and braiding – a nod to the military mood that has been seen elsewhere – but executed with restraint. Cotton dresses in black and Valentino red and with youthful scalloped edges were similarly refined.

If the idea behind employing new talent to reinvent old names is to draw future generations into the fold, then this show was a brilliant demonstration of that. Suffice it to say that all of those young, beautiful and, of course, rich enough to invest in high-end designer fashion would do well to spend their money here.

This autumn's must-have accessory

Everyone knows cute kids can make great accessories, and the three-year-old boy who graced the Chanel catwalk yesterday was no exception.

Despite knowing the dangers of working with children and animals, designers often do – they know it's a surefire way to grab headlines and extra column inches, not to mention lull their audiences into a broody swoon.

For autumn 1999, Alexander McQueen punctuated his autumn snowstorm show with a pair of young, red-headed twins, who only added to the other-worldliness. Last September, the London-based label Meadham Kirchhoff had a troupe of pre-teen ballerinas pirouette along the catwalk before models returned for a finale.

And Jean-Paul Gaultier, always one to take things to extremes, had models walk different breeds of dogs for autumn 2006, as they showed off his priceless pieces.

Harriet Walker

Anna Wintour, we all know, now regularly graces the British capital's shows with her presence: they're more likely to be held in the dazzling penthouse of a west London office block or in the Royal Courts of Justice than in a snooker hall in the outer reaches of Hackney or an underground car park with concrete ramps where – in more well-mannered circles – a runway might be. The British Fashion Council ambassadors, meanwhile, from ladies who lunch to First Ladies, are glacial and groomed, dressed in London-born designs. In the past they would simply have been grumpy and perhaps in possession of a statement hat.

And then there's Meadham Kirchhoff, consisting of the designers Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff, whose clothes are as desirable as they are marginally deranged, whose hair and make-up is reminiscent of Leigh Bowery's in his heyday and whose mise-en-scène has been known to transport the audience everywhere from a hyper-real flower garden (the colours were brighter, somehow, than nature ever intended) to a satanic St Trinian's (think plaited white wigs, crimson lips and the soundtrack to Psycho). Their show titles are no less evocative: 'He Gave Me Blue Roses. LIFE! (Vicariously)', 'A Wolf in Lamb's Clothing', 'I Am a Lie That Tells the Truth'.

They are, then, the brilliantly anarchic exception that proves the rule. Oh, and they claim to be "somewhat allergic" to Samantha Cameron, who is unlikely to be spotted in anything carrying their label any time soon.

"We're a bit reluctant to do interviews," Edward Meadham says from their studio in Dalston, east London, where the two designers live and work with their lovely, preternaturally glossy cats. He's dressed in red mohair jumper and shorts and shiny pink stockings.

"People always write about how moody we are and how dirty our house is which upsets Ben because he's quite a clean freak." In fact, there is nothing even remotely grubby about the space in question. Meadham's room is painted an orange so bright it's positively throbbing. Benjamin Kirchhoff's office is more subdued and populated by well-cared-for plants. The latter's clothes are chic, black and understated. Are Meadham and Kirchhoff bad-tempered?

Not today, certainly. In fact, the odd flash of vitriol, directed primarily at themselves, is, as it turns out, as entertaining as the clothes.

Here's Meadham talking about the autumn collection, for example. "It was about all the things I'm not," he says, "about all the things I've always hated myself for not being..." And that is? "Fun. The shows are entirely my way of being nice, you know; they're my way of being really nice. Because I'm not nice. I want everybody to sit there and feel completely joyful and not hate themselves for five seconds."

True to his word, in the past year alone, the label has offered up a troupe of Courtney Love lookalike can-can dancers (Meadham is among the singer's most obsessive fans), a group of fledgling prima ballerinas, and a parade of glam-rock poster girls complete with rainbow-coloured teeth and ears, all of which was indeed enough to bring a smile to the most po-faced commentator's lips. The collections themselves have been witty, pretty, beautiful and brave.

Ostrich feather chubbies, crystal-fringed silk bloomers, ankle-length ruffled chiffon dresses and jackets made out of what looks like the grandest vintage furnishing fabrics imaginable, all executed to a level not often found outside the Paris ateliers, have earnt Meadham Kirchhoff a following that extends way beyond the fashion establishment. They have a predominantly teenage fan base, they say – everywhere from America to Lithuania – and they are more than happy to communicate with these young aficionados directly.

"Very often we see kids making their own version of our things," says Kirchhoff. "I saw a girl the other day who'd covered a pair of jeans in the heart pinafore we made for summer. Someone else has made the cardigan. We love that."

For his part, Meadham has recently received an elaborately crafted fanzine, inspired by their work and sent to him by another young, like-minded soul. "The fact that this girl took the time to do that," he says – it clearly took a lot of time – "it makes me happy... Happy and sort of touched and proud."

When Meadham Kirchhoff collaborate with Topshop, any merchandise sells out almost before it makes the rails. No less than 25,000 sets of Meadham Kirchhoff nail stickers sold through the high-street chain.

Ask Meadham how old he is and he comes back with: "too fucking old". Kirchhoff who is, on the surface at least, the gentler soul, says they are "ageless and constant". Meadham started life in Somerset ("it was kind of idyllic, I used to play in the countryside") and then West Sussex ("I think I was always the weird gay one at school").

Of southern French extraction, Kirchhoff was born in Chad and moved to Guinea until, aged 15, his parents sent him to school in France. "I had no social skills, no knowledge of coolness, or music, or movies or anything. I wasn't made to feel very welcome. I think Ed and I both grew up being socially awkward and not necessarily having a tonne of people around us and only very few who we felt comfortable with," he says.

Both of them were also, in their own very different ways, above averagely interested in fashion. Meadham made clothes for his toys and later bought Buffalo platforms and Huggy Bear records. Kirchhoff used to source fabric and then give his drawings to street tailors in Africa and have suits made. "I probably looked like a right tit," he says now. "But I didn't care."

They met at Central Saint Martins where Meadham studied womenswear and Kirchhoff menswear and launched Benjamin Kirchhoff, purveyor of the latter, after graduating in 2002. Four years after that, Meadham Kirchhoff was born.

"It's not just about the clothes," Kirchhoff says of their label today. "It extends to the presentation, to the hair and make-up – we always direct the way it's choreographed, everything about it." Their attention to detail is such that Meadham Kirchhoff's shows even smell of a particular perfume: a different one is given to them by Penhaligon each season. "We try to create a world," Kirchhoff says.

It's a world populated and influenced by the things Meadham in particular identifies with. "It's a whole visual language and an attitude that goes with it," he says. "Courtney and Hole, that just never goes away, the Riot Grrrl situation. Siouxsie Sioux. I saw David Lean's Great Expectations when I was about four and thought it was just the most amazing thing. I love Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire..." He stops to think: "In fact, I think my whole personality is actually Blanche [DuBois] and Stanley [Kowalski]. They're having a bit of an argument in my head."

"It's about an individual and a person and that has to come through more than the clothes you're going to sell somehow," adds Kirchhoff. "I read a lot when I was young. I loved [Emile] Zola, the way that every single aspect of a story is described to you, like the sound a glass makes, a chip on crockery, a rip on a dress... All those things had a really big impact on the way I see things."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vivienne Westwood is the single living designer Meadham claims to be indebted to. "She was incredibly important to me when I was younger. She's the only one I can think of who has done, as far as I can tell, exactly what she wanted, forever, and seems to still be very much in control of what she does."

Westwood, it almost goes without saying, has also made a career out of an uncompromisingly original and often confrontational stance and that – in the current climate, at least – appears to be increasingly rare.

And with that in mind, Benjamin Kirchhoff states: "We do things how we want to do them and not how someone else expects us to do them. It's not that we don't play the game... but we play it on our own terms."

Model: Lucia at IMG

Make-up: Alexandra Byrne at Terrie Tanaka using Chanel S 2012

Hair: Cher Savery at MY-Management using Kiehl's

Photographer's assistant: Jed Skrzypczak

At Prabal Gurung, models wore cat's eye sunglasses by Linda Farrow Project – an extreme update of the Fifties-style eyewear seen over the summer, but in this rendering deconstructed and given wavy edges to soften the graphic frames against the face. Perfect for sheltering behind in wintry sun.

Meanwhile, the sci-fi smoky-glassed visors by Alexander McQueen are the most statement showpiece to have gone into production since the label's sky-high armadillo shoes. Part-cyborg, part Olympic velodrome, it's just the ticket to top off the new season's Star Trek-meets-sports luxe look.

Jewellery-wise, go goth or go glam. Leather accessories have been in the style doldrums, thanks to the ubiquitous 50 Shades of Grey, but Lanvin's black leather panther choker is a suitably fierce and scarily sophisticated return to form, embellished as it is with jewelled eyes and mouth. Grrr. But if glitz is more to your taste, Dolce & Gabbana's opulent, stranded gold necklace evokes all the arcane and baroque elegance of the Italian duo's heritage, dripping with pearls, curlicues, roses and rosary-esque beading.

Feet come into sharper focus too, but shoes are anything but razor-like. Instead, think clump: Acne's elasticated slip-on brogues in high-shine and slightly sinister black leather are key to this autumn's "ugly" trend, while at Balenciaga Nicholas Ghesquiere mixed the Eighties with out-of-this-world references to create a retro-futurist shoe: a wedge and kitten heel combined in the form of an Edwardiana ankle boot. Phew.

Print will play an important role in your wardrobe this season, but it shouldn't stop at your ankles. Follow Mrs Prada's example (for a change) and take it to your shoes as well, mis-matching the patterns on your stompy heels to the swirling lino-graphs on your painfully hip trouser suit.

Even wardrobe staples aren't immune to an overhaul, as at Givenchy, where designer Riccardo Tisci gave the timeless riding boot an altogether more functional makeover, affixing leather gaiters to knee-high wedge-heels, upping the dominatrix factor considerably but in a characteristically unconventional way.

Finally, pay attention to what is hanging on your arm. The It-bag is dead, but long live its blinged-up cousin, the statement bag. At Miu Miu, classic doctors' bags were streakily marbled in incongruous and sludgy colours; Chanel's clutch, meanwhile, looked more like it had been rough-hewn from the wall of a quartz mine, topped off with a hunk of semi-precious masquerading as a clasp. And Marc Jacobs' elegy to old-fashioned elegance at Louis Vuitton included a glittering and sequinned structured handbag in the shape of the house's famous monogram print. At the show, Jacobs provided porters to carry these for his models, but you may have to tote your own.

Alan Grieve is a 21st-century Dickensian. He was the bright young solicitor who earned the trust of a self-exiled millionaire called John Jerwood (even the names have a Dickensian ring), and with the fortune left on Jerwood's death he created his own empire. In 20 years, Grieve has given £90m to the arts, building theatres, dance houses, libraries and creative facilities, and helping the careers of countless young artists, performers and craftspeople.

At Hastings, among the fishing boats and net sheds on the Stade, a working beach where the Peggottys of David Copperfield might easily live still, Grieve has built the latest and perhaps his last in a line of capital arts projects. For a while there was a vociferous protest against the plan – an effigy of a gallery was even burnt on the beach long before any designs had been drawn up – because it would be seen to clash with historic Hastings, but the campaign ran out of steam when the understated architecture emerged as being rather complementary.

Costing a modest £4m in an £8.5m development partnership with the local authority, this seaside gallery joins the South-east coast "string of pearls" of Margate's Turner Contemporary (£17m), Eastbourne's refurbished Towner (£8.5m) and Bexhill's De La Warr (£8m). The Jerwood Gallery opens on Saturday, devoted to 20th-century British art.

Grieve is the last of the Victorian "entrepreneur philanthropists" – his own phrase – autocratic, single-minded and the only recipient of a National Lottery grant to give it straight back. When searching for talent to help him, he is inclined to look no further than his own family: his art historian daughter Lara Wardle is the new director of the Jerwood Foundation, and his son, Tom, is the architect of the new gallery in Hastings. The eldest of his five children is "fashion's first lady", Amanda Harlech of Chanel.

Grieve has personally assembled the art that the gallery has been built to house, filling a hole in what was on offer, he believes. Latterly, this has been done with advice from Lara, former associate director of 20th-century British art at Christie's, and from the new director of the gallery, Liz Gilmore, who was brought from the Arts Council where she had been head of visual art. "It is a private enterprise for the public benefit, and that's true philanthropy," he says.

Grieve was 30 when the senior partner of his Gray's Inn law firm asked him to look after a "tricky client", tricky because he and his pearl business were based in Tokyo. Grieve travelled the world for Jerwood as his business lawyer, becoming his friend and confidant. In the mid-1970s, he was given power of attorney to create a charitable foundation, the chief interest of which, initially, was Jerwood's old school, Oakham, to which he gave close to £8m. "He had no children but he had money and he liked education and the arts," Grieve says. "He did what he wanted to do."

When Jerwood died in 1991, Grieve took control of an organisation with huge assets but no order. Even to establish the extent of them took him two years. He acquired property, principally the handsome Fitzroy Square townhouse that was the Jerwood headquarters until last autumn, and he invested shrewdly enough to treble the assets. His CBE came in 2003.

Grieve has a Micawber-like respect for good financial management – "It isn't my money, after all" – and an extreme aversion to paying what he considers over the odds. He made a handsome profit for Jerwood when he sold Fitzroy, moving the Foundation to a converted Notting Hill mews.

The art collection, he estimates, is worth around £6m but cost only £1.5m. He has never paid more than £100,000 for a work, yet has assembled a canon of British art which started with Frank Brangwen and David Bomberg, and has progressed through Sickert, Augustus John, Stanley Spencer, Winifred Nicholson, L S Lowry, Christopher Wood, Terry Frost and Keith Vaughan. He has added Jerwood Painting Prize winners such as Craigie Aitchison, Maggie Hambling and Prunella Clough, and the gallery will show a large representation of the collection, plus temporary exhibitions, starting with Rose Wylie. "It's still organic, we'll continue to buy, but sometimes we fail at auction because we're not prepared to pay prices we can't afford," he says. Most recently, Lara failed to buy a Tristram Hillier when bidding broke Jerwood's ceiling.

It was the painting prize that started Jerwood's serious arts sponsorship in 1994. At £25,000, it was the richest of its kind when it was phased out in 2004. Then came the first major capital commitment, the Jerwood Space in Southwark, south London, a much-needed dance and drama rehearsal facility. The rents are calibrated according to what the client can afford, and this is the project for which Grieve applied for lottery funding.

"I made an application, like a lot of people in those euphoric days, and it took quite a while, very bureaucratic, but eventually we got a grant. I only kept it a few weeks before I realised that the Arts Council would want to bear in on me, tell me I hadn't done this or that. So I rang up Gerry Robinson [then chairman of Arts Council England] and asked to whom I should make the cheque out. I think you'd say he was taken aback."

When the Royal Court was on the brink ofclosure, considered unsafe in the mid-1990s, Grieve offered £3m to help rebuild it. A news story suggested he insisted the quid pro quo should be a renaming to "Jerwood Royal Court" but that Buckingham Palace vetoed the idea. "Absolute nonsense," he retorts.

The Royal Court rebuild was by the architects Haworth Tompkins for whom Tom Grieve later worked, but his own practice, HAT Projects, was born after Jerwood's Hastings scheme was already under way. Hastings was chosen as a site, with the advice of a planning consultant, Hana Loftus, as much for the amenable attitude of the local authority as for the seafront site, and Loftus later joined HAT as Tom's co-director. "When we were being considered, I knew nepotism would come up, and I asked Hana's advice," Tom Grieve says. "She told me to look at the project and nothing else, and then make my decision if the offer came. As it was, my father pretty much left us to do our job." Alan Grieve, unfazed, refers to "enlightened nepotism". He and his co-trustees, he says, chose, from a competition, a practice which came in at "a bargain" £4m, well below any other.

His enlightened philanthropy, however, will never realise the dream of the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, of taking the burden of arts funding from public subsidy. "Politicians will always do that, whenever there are cuts they will try to come up with an alternative [to public funding of the arts], but there isn't one," he says, "not without the tax breaks American givers get, the difference between America and Europe. Philanthropy will continue to work alongside subsidy here. It won't replace it.

"Philanthropists have always been key to the arts, particularly to the Victorians when there was no state subsidy, and sponsors like Cadbury and Leverhulme were the nearest thing," he says. Now their equivalents are the foundations set up by Paul Hamlyn, Isaac Wolfson, W Garfield Weston and Jerwood – but without the colossal pound power of a century ago.

The new philanthropists are business leaders who can see to the end of a project and make assessments accordingly, without "blind chucking money at something" he says. "The thing about Jerwood is, there must be tangible identifiable results before we start. That's absolutely characteristic of us." And very characteristic of Alan Grieve.


The Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, opens Sat (01424 425809, jerwoodgallery.org)

The luxury car marque lost the top spot to the technology superbrand, which has just launched its iPhone5 to near universal acclaim, falling to third place after dominating the annual CoolBrands list for six of the last seven years.

The 11th annual poll placed YouTube second, Twitter fourth and Google fifth.

Just under 3,000 British consumers and a panel of 39 "key influencers" – including the chart acts Rizzle Kicks and Plan B and the actor David Harewood – ranked a shortlist of 1,200 brands from more than 10,000 initially considered.

The panel scored each brand for factors including innovation, originality, style, authenticity, desirability and uniqueness ahead of the public vote.

The BBC's iPlayer, the Glastonbury festival, Virgin Atlantic, hi-fi maker Bang & Olufsen and department store Liberty rounded out the top 10. Almost half the list is made up of technology and media brands (45 per cent) compared with just a quarter last year, while a record number of online brands made the top 20.

Among the highest movers into the top 20 were Twitter, Skype and Nikon. YouTube was up eight places from last year while Facebook did not feature at all in the top 20.

It is also the most "affordable" list yet, with 25 per cent of the brands featured being free to consumers – including YouTube, Google, Twitter, Skype and BBC iPlayer, and 15 per cent of them costing under £10 – including Haagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry's and Vogue.

Luxury brands that have fallen out of the top 20 include the car brands Maserati and Ferrari and the fashion houses Chanel, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.

Stephen Cheliotis, chair of the expert council, said: "It is interesting that in this age of austerity our perception of cool has increasingly shifted from aspirational, luxury brands to free or more affordable brands."

It’s been subject to some upheavals. Toer van Schayk’s planned new version of Ode – a lost 1920s ballet that was groundbreaking in its use of film and lighting – had to be abandoned for personal reasons. In its place, company director Wayne Eagling staged a solo from another 1920s ballet, Le Train Bleu, and his own new version of Jeux. The cheers that greeted Eagling’s Jeux suggested personal support. He will step down as director at the end of this season, an unexpected decision that has caused controversy.  

His Jeux is literally a mixture. Nijinsky’s original ballet is lost. This version draws on photographs and on the sequences Kenneth MacMillan choreographed for the 1978 movie Nijinsky. Eagling sets all this in a rehearsal studio, with a framework of Nijinsky creating the ballet. It’s a slight work, with dancers waving tennis racquets or watching each other in involved trios. There are some appealing, darting moves for the women, in chic 1920s sports dresses.  Gavin Sutherland conduct’s Debussy’s lovely score.  

Vadim Muntagirov bounds through the very jolly solo from Le Train Bleu, Nijinska’s response to the sporting 1920s. Dressed in a bathing costume designed by Chanel, he turns cartwheels with and without hands, dips into a diving pose and whirls onwards.   

The evening opened with a fine account of Balanchine’s Apollo. Zdenek Konvalina, a very elegant dancer, plays the young god with smooth lines and intelligent phrasing. He’s matched by Daria Klimentová’s Terpsichore, danced with clarity and warmth.  

Serge Lifar, one of the stars of the original Ballets Russes, went on to create Suite en blanc in 1943. It’s a classical showcase, stuffed with solo roles and opportunities for display. Muntagirov, Laurretta Summerscales and Ken Saruhashi shine in the pas de trois, buoyant and quick. Nancy Osbaldestone boings through the pas de cinq, matched by her four cavaliers.  

Elena Glurdjidze is outstanding in the “Cigarette” solo, with curling, floating arms and grand authority. Lifar’s view of classicism features academic steps and lots of chic, with dancers tilting flirtatiously into slanting poses. In the pas de deux, Erina Takahashi leans against Konvalina, tipped sideways without turning a hair. The company dive into Lifar's grand finale, ending the evening with a flourish.    

Until 1 April. Box office 0871 911 0200

As studies show an ever greater number of Americans suffer adverse medical reactions, sometimes severe, upon involuntary exposure to artificially scented substances, bans are being imposed across the country on the wearing of smelly aromas, whether pricey perfumes or bottom-shelf colognes.

Freedom of expression is a fiercely guarded right in the US, but it is slowly being trumped by something more modern than the Constitution – allergies. As many as 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergic condition that can be triggered by things ranging from foods – gluten, peanuts, dairy and chocolates are popular culprits – to animals and chemical substances, including perfume.

"It's got no formal action behind it but it is working," says City manager Tim Young, referring to the sign that has been hanging near the front entrance of City Hall in Tuttle, Oklahoma, for the past four years. It merely says, "Allergy Alert! No Fragrances Please!" Anyone who spritzed before leaving home is asked to wait in the public area and meet the official they wanted to see there.

The policy was adopted for a simple reason. "We had a former employee who had some extreme medical issues with this," Mr Young said. "She kept working as long as she could, but when other people came in with certain fragrances, she would turn red and swell up and we had to take her to the hospital."

Though hard to enforce – no one has deployed any pong-patrols yet, nor is it easy to determine how much fragrance is too much – edicts elsewhere in the country are stricter. On a federal level, the US Census Bureau enacted a ban on scent-wearing for employees in all of its offices in 2009 and the US Health and Human Services Department followed with a similar policy a year later.

The city fathers in Portland, Oregon, a place with a history of progressive social initiatives, instituted a fragrance ban for all city employees last year. It also told custodians of public buildings to use scent-free cleaning products.

The science of perfume allergies is not simple. The most vulnerable are sufferers of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), who can react to an array of substances that go into perfumes but also into paints and cleaning fluids. By some estimates just over one in 10 Americans has MCS. But experts say asthma patients are also at risk because perfumes can set off their symptoms.

"The chemicals in some of these products can trigger nasal congestion, sneezing and the runny nose," said Stanley Fineman of the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic. "With the asthmatics, there's really good data showing their lung function changes when they're exposed to these compounds."

National attention to the problem can be traced back to 2006, when a Detroit public worker, Susan McBride, sued the city, saying that perfume worn by co-workers had prevented her from doing her job because of allergies. The city paid $100,000 in compensation and issued a city ordinance against scented bath products for public employees. For two years now, public servants in Motown have been told not to wear perfumes, colognes, body lotion, scented deodorant or use scented candles.

When Hollywood stars aren't posing outside, you'll be able to start your walk at the film festival's main venue, the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès (00 33 4 93 39 01 01; palais desfestivals.com), at the western end of the Boulevard de la Croisette. This shorefront slab of concrete and glass has rolled out the red carpet for Hollywood's finest since 1983 – the first Palais was up the road at the JW Marriott hotel. It is vast, containing 35,000sq m of exhibition space – take a closer look on a tour (00 33 4 92 99 84 22; admission €3).

Next, head east along the south side of La Croisette, the city's palm-lined seaside drive. The California-style mix of sun, sea and sand is said to have informed the choice of this city for the film festival back in 1946. Look south-east out to sea, where Ile Ste-Marguerite rises before you, one of the two Iles de Lérins. Tucked behind it is the second island, Ile St-Honorat (00 33 4 92 99 54 40; abbayedelerins.com), home to the Cistercian monastery that built Cannes out of a fishing village. Today, the monks produce fine wines. Boats make the 20-minute journey there between 8am and 6pm in summer from the ferry terminal just beyond the Albert Edouard jetty (cannes- ilesdelerins.com; €13 return).

Continue along the poodle-ploughed promenade until you see the sign for Rado Plage (00 33 4 93 94 20 68; rado-plage.fr), the oldest private beach restaurant on La Croisette, run by the same family since 1958. Dip down the stairs to enjoy a coffee and watch the glamorous people on its blue-striped sunloungers.

Cross the road near the Hotel Martinez (00 33 4 92 98 73 00; hotel-martinez.com) and admire one of the strip's grand hotels, dating from 1929, a favourite for the stars. Double back along the north side of La Croisette to a Belle Epoque treasure, the Carlton Cannes hotel (00 33 4 93 06 40 06; ichotelsgroup.com), the festival's unofficial HQ.

A few steps further west brings you to La Malmaison (00 33 4 97 06 44 90; cannes.com), the sole public art gallery, set in the only surviving original section of the 19th-century Grand Hôtel. The summer exhibition, "Picasso, les Chemins du Sud", opens on 1 July. Browse the designer shops that line La Croisette – Dior, Chanel, Gucci – until you reach Rue des Etats Unis. Turn into it and walk for a couple of minutes till you hit Rue d'Antibes, the Oxford Street of Cannes. Turn left, and walk a block to the junction of Rue des Serbs, where you should stop and look north to see the huge Marilyn Monroe mural on the side of the Best Western Cannes Riviera, one of a series of film-inspired murals around the city.

Continue all the way down Rue d'Antibes until you reach Rue Emile Négrin, where you turn right, then take a left into Rue Meynadier for some tasty local shopping. At number 22, you find the deliciously pungent cheese shop Ceneri (00 33 4 93 39 63 68; fromagerie-ceneri.com). The dishes at number 31, Au Bons Raviolis (00 33 4 93 39 36 63), include the southern French take on pizza: pissaladière. Pata negra is the star of the deli-café Le Comptoir des Gastronomes (00 33 4 93 68 61 83).

Turn right on to Rue Louis Blanc, then left into Rue du Marché Forville to reach the covered food market where you'll see heaps of fish. At the western end, carry straight on and peep into the sombre 16th-century Chapelle de la Miséricorde. Turn left, out of the chapel, along Rue de la Miséricorde, right into Rue Meynadier and right again into Rue St-Antoine, a steep cobbled street lined with bistros that comes alive at night. The road becomes Rue du Suquet – Le Suquet is the name for the old town, which you're now entering.

Mantel (00 33 4 93 39 13 10; restaurantmantel.com) makes a good lunch stop. Refreshed, leave and continue up the hill. Turn right at Place du Suquet and right again into Rue de Pré. Fork right into Rue Louis Perrissol and continue up to Eglise Notre-Dame d'Espérance (00 33 493 39 17 49) and Château de la Castre (00 33 4 93 38 55 26; admission €3), the Gothic church and 12th-century castle that crown the old city. Climb the tower for views across the bay and inland to the posh hillside enclaves of Californie and Super Cannes.

Make your way down to Rue Louis Perrissol, cross on to Rue Montchevalier and go down to the bottom of the hill on to Rue Georges Clemenceau. When you reach a halt at the pavement's edge, look up and you'll see the giant Cinema Cannes mural on the side of the police station. Pick out the stars and characters, from Charlie Chaplin to Roger Rabbit. Turn right for Place Bernard Cornut Gentille and on to Les Allées de la Liberté, site of the Hôtel de Ville and, at weekends, a flea market. Here stands a statue of Lord Brougham, the English peer who founded modern Cannes. Cross the road to the Palais, and your slice of Cannes is complete.

Fresh cuts

Get the star treatment at the new spa at Hotel Martinez (see main text) – the L Raphael Beauty Spa (00 33 4 92 98 74 90; l-raphael.com). Its indulgent three-, four- and seven-day Beauty Cruises promise to tackle signs of ageing or help with slimming. Cannes's latest lodgings include Five Hotel (00 33 4 63 36 05 05; five-hotel-cannes.com). The slick boutique property, tucked behind La Croisette, has 45 rooms and 15 suites, a spa and restaurant. Doubles start at €360, including breakfast.

Travel Essentials

Getting there

The nearest airport is at Nice, served direct from the UK by British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com), easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet .com), Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com) and Jet2 (0871 964 0016; jet2.com). A bus service, No 210, departs Nice airport every half-hour and takes 50 minutes to Cannes for a fare of €26.50 return; it is run by Nice Airport Xpress (00 33 8 20 48 11 11; uk.niceairportxpress.com).

In summer, arrive in style by helicopter with Hélisécurité (00 33 4 94 55 59 99; helicopter- saint-tropez.com), a 15-minute journey costing €300 return.

Kate Simon travelled with British Airways, which offers two nights at the five-star Hotel Martinez from £309 per person in May, including return flights from Gatwick to Nice and B&B accommodation.

Further information

Cannes Tourist Board:

She once was a model – a first generation super, in fact - and her effortless hauteur lit up the catwalks, not to mention the covers of any number of glossy magazines, for more than fifteen years before she married outgoing French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Since February 2008, less than a year after he was elected and three months after divorcing his second wife Cécilia Ciganor-Albéniz, Bruni Sarkozy has adapted effortlessly to her role as immaculate first lady, like an aristocratic duck might to water. Overnight, she ditched high fashion and even higher heels in favour of a discreetly expensive and comparatively demure (read serious) wardrobe. In terms of any style credentials at least, she has barely put a foot wrong.

Whether stepping of a plane on her inaugural state visit to London in 2008, perfectly elegant in head-to-toe haute couture, or gracing the cover of the Sunday Times magazine photographed by Juergen Teller, her face scrubbed clean of make-up and in nothing more attention-seeking than blue jeans and white T-shirt, the sight of her has proved enough to bring grown men to their knees. When, that same year, Christies New York auctioned a naked portrait of her taken by Michael Comte in 1993 at the height of her success as a mannequin, its value was estimated as between $3,000 and $4,000. It sold for $91,000.

Mme Bruni Sarkozy has natural good looks and poise in spades and that certainly works in her favour. More than that, though, her judgement regarding what to wear and when and how to wear it is faultless. If Jackie Kennedy, with whom she has most often been compared, was chastised for her failure to wear American labels, Bruni Sarkozy has consistently flown the French fashion flag for public appearances. Here she is smiling graciously in tailored grey Christian Dior coat, matching pillbox hat and paper flat pumps, there she beams happily in Chanel black jacket and white boucle wool dress or perfectly draped sapphire blue Yves Saint Laurent gown. That she exudes the class she was born with is a given, on- and off-duty, and always with grace.

Only heightening her appeal: lurking just beneath her groomed surface lies a less polite creature – a veritable tigress, in fact. She is a reputable singer/songwriter, actor, mother and woman who springs to her husband’s and children’s defence through good times and bad. The effect is potent to say the least. It’s not news that her tenure has brought with it a degree of controversy: rumours of extra-marital affairs, forthcoming divorce and, more recently, comparisons with Marie Antoinette following her admittedly somewhat deluded claims to live “a modest life”. In Undressed a little known 1998 documentary following the history of 20th century fashion, she demonstrated the difference between a “natural move” and a “model move” for the camera, explaining that the point of the latter was “to look down on people”. In the end, however, her power as a clothes horse par excellence is only added to by the humanity of any more earthly flaws.

This article previously implied that Bruni Sarkozy and Nicolas Sarkozy were a couple when Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in May 2007. This has since been amended, as they did not meet until November 2007, and married in February 2008.

Chisato, who has been showing in Paris since 2003, was in good company yesterday, part of a packed schedule that included some of the biggest names in the industry from France and further afield: Cacharel, Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier and Commes des Garons.

Kenzo, Céline, Hermès and Givenchy unveil their women's ready-to-wear collections today, while Stella McCartney, Chanel and Louis Vuitton will be showcasing their latest designs tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

The first ever fashion week was staged in New York in 1943. Paris Fashion Week was launched 30 years later in 1973, with Milan the next to follow in 1979. London finally jumped on the bandwagon in 1984.

And what of the clothes? More than anyone else in the French capital, M Lagerfeld knows how to showcase the workmanship of the petites mains that staff the specialist ateliers responsible for haute couture's execution. This was spell-binding – from feathered angel wings finishing languid gowns to tiny strips of fragile organza applied to more dresses, every one massaged by hand until edges were frayed just so.

It all started, as always, with the boucle wool suit that is this house's most well-known signature. It was almost chubby this time, warm but clearly light as a feather, in gentle shades of pink and grey, shot through with sparkle and with glittering jewelled buttons. Should the Chanel couture customer want a bag to match, the new clutch, so soft and plump one could cuddle it, comes with a chain handle so that no one can snatch it.

There was nothing uptight about this collection. Instead, kaftans, sweaters and even a proudly utilitarian all-in-one, only densely covered in sequins coloured cornflower blue and bright rose, were the ultimate demonstration of the luxury of not caring. The woman who wears these clothes is as relaxed in her highly exclusive wardrobe as the rest of us might be in jeans and T-shirt. For the more conservative customer, there were coats that nodded to the mid-20th century haute couture silhouette that M Lagerfeld understands well. He was there the first time, after all. Any vintage appeal was modernised, not least by accessories including painted pewter leather gauntlets and silk slippers with suitably ferocious metal toe-caps and heels.

Chanel's haute couture business is not just for show. Such unique pieces may only sell in small numbers but they are vital to the maintenance of this elevated craft form nonetheless. To demonstrate its commitment to the skills of the workshops in question, some of which are staffed by seamstresses who trained under Mlle Chanel herself, 10 years ago the company she founded bought seven of Paris's leading ateliers including Lesage (embroidery), Goossens (goldsmiths), Lemarié (flowers), Guillet (feathers), Massaro (bespoke footwear), Desrues (costume jewellery) and Michel (millinery) with a view to expanding their businesses. Since then, these have not only provided a service to Chanel but also to high-end ready-to-wear labels including Lanvin, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton among others, all of whom call on their expertise for more elaborate designs.

But nobody does it like Chanel. As ever to end the haute couture presentation, M Lagerfeld took his bows with the bride, who couldn't have looked more romantic in over-blown gown fluttering with pure white marabou.

Barrie Knitwear, part of the collapsed Dawson International, is expected to be sold back to its management in a deal valuing the Hawick-based business at between £3m and £5m within a fortnight. The management bid – led by Jim Carrie and Clive Brown, who have backing from an Edinburgh-based businessman – became favourites following the collapse of previous sales talks last month. The company behind the US menswear chain Brooks Brothers – Italy's Claudio Del Vecchio's Retail Brand Alliance – had been in talks to buy the brand.

Famously never compromising design for comfort, the master of shoe couture seems surprisingly taken by my flats. "I'm really not a fascist," he murmurs. "Everyone wears what they feel great in, or comfortable with. It's a beautiful day, you have an armless shirt: it goes with flip-flops."

I was expecting Louboutin in person to be as intimidating as his shoes, but he's playful, chatty and as expressive as any self-respecting Frenchman, frantically conducting the air for emphasis. "I don't hate the idea of comfort," he says. "I just don't think it's important for me as a designer, it's not in my creative process. Some people say, for instance, they're in a comfortable relationship. I favour someone who would tell me: 'I am in a very passionate relationship'. It's the same thing for shoes. I would rather someone say, 'Your shoes look passionate and sexy', than 'Your shoes look so comfortable'." He says this applies equally to his own relationships. "I'm really not a comfortable person," he adds. "I don't think comfort equals happiness."

His vertiginous, red-soled shoes stand accused of anti-feminism. This he dismisses, leaping into dangerous territory with both well-shod feet. "Madonna is a feminist and has been doing more for the cause than all the grumpy feminists, who are giving nothing back by being grumpy," he says. He believes suggesting women should not wear heels is actually anti-feminist. "It's saying women are not smart enough to make their own choices."

We meet at Claridge's, the day after Louboutin, 49, launched Martini's quest to find the new face of the drinks brand. He will be one of the judges. "Their philosophy of 'luck is an attitude' is similar to my own motto: 'Why not?'."

I'd caught a glimpse of him at the Design Museum the night before, at the current exhibition celebrating two decades of the spikes, studs, sequins, curves, arches and toe cleavage that make his designs so sexy, if unashamedly impractical. To say he'd given a short speech would be an oversell, but he believes speeches are very Anglo-Saxon. "It's not in the French habit," he says. "Even for weddings, here you have the best man doing their fun speeches. I've been best man for weddings and would never even think to do that."

He may have been 20 years in the business, but shows no signs of resting. He's opening four new men's stores worldwide, and is working with Disney to design Cinderella's glass slipper for the animation. This month, he announced he would be launching a beauty range – so fans can presumably match their nail varnish and lipstick to their scarlet soles. He says the venture, a collaboration with Batallure Beauty, is a "natural progression", but won't reveal more until the official launch.

He's also expecting the verdict of his appeal against a judge's ruling that Yves Saint Laurent's use of red soles in their designs in July did not infringe his red sole trademark. Despite his protests to the contrary, his anger over the battle is clear. Especially because PPR Group, owner of both YSL and Gucci, was last week awarded £3m in a trademark infringement case against Guess (clothing).

"In my opinion, they understand a signature when it's about them, but don't see when it's about somebody else," he spits. "There is something incredibly hypocritical in PPR trying to break what I consider is my trademark. It's incredibly rude and double standards," he says, gesticulating with frustration. "I'm like a mouse with this elephant that can crush me. They have spent so much money on lawyers. But I have to stand up for who I am, and for everyone who believes there is still the possibility to start your own thing, instead of having to be paid and employed by just one or two possible groups."

Before setting up his own company, Louboutin designed shoes for YSL, among others. But he believes the current company has no relationship with the late designer. "As far as I'm concerned, it is driven by marketing people who don't know what they're talking about, and is totally apart from its fabulous and wonderful creator. He would never have done such a thing like that, for sure."

Louboutin grew up in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, unaware of his parents' poverty until a classmate offered his mother a maid's job. An only son, with four older sisters, he was doted on. "She [mother] was a free spirit, never judging, the best support. When you have this education, driven by love, it keeps you straight for a long time – and when you have a solid character, you can do anything."

His father, a cabinet maker, taught him to follow the grain. "He showed me a piece of wood and said, 'You see, there is a line. If you go in the direction of the grain, you can do beautiful sculptures. If you go against, it never works: you end up having splinters.' I took it literally, but also as a metaphor – go in the direction of the grain of life and good things happen to you; go against it, and you end up breaking yourself and everything around you."

He left home aged 12, and acts as if this is unremarkable. "I never had a conflict; I was just quite mature. I left, but came back for lunch; left, came back another day to sleep in my old bedroom. When I was 15, I came back for a few months, and then left. It never was a break. It was much more natural; the progression of it."

He went to live with a photographer 10 years his senior, and spent his teenage years at Folies-Bergères, one of Paris's oldest music halls, where he wanted to design shoes for the dancers – an ambition he never fulfilled. He was also a regular at the theatre, watching only the second half of plays, as he could slip in during the interval for free. He spent time in Egypt, a year in India, and returned to Paris in the 1980s, where he worked with the shoe designers Charles Jourdan and Roger Vivier, credited with inventing the stiletto. His first store in Paris opened in 1991.

While Louboutin remains close to two of his four sisters, who both wear his designs, "two don't live in France, so I barely see them," he explains. "And I never was that close. I have 23 years difference with my oldest sister, and I'm 16 years younger than my second sister."

He splits his time between four houses: in France, Portugal and Egypt, and a 13th-century castle in the Vendée, western France. He has been in a non-comfortable relationship with his partner, the landscape architect Louis Benech, for the past 15 years. "I could not live with someone 24/7. I just never did, and I could never do. But, yes; it's very nice to go by yourself to do your thing, and then you meet. It's very much a reflection of where I've been with my family. I never remember any conflict in my family, people shouting or anything," he says. Having shod anyone who's anyone, he might be forgiven for having few ambitions left. In fact, he has much he still wants to achieve, including designing a pair of shoes for the Pope. "It would be exciting – a fun collaboration. He's very much a designer, you know." Perhaps. But I can't help wondering how Benedict XVI would fare in a pair of flip-flops.

Curriculum vitae

1963 Born in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, the son of a cabinet maker and a homemaker.

1975 After being expelled from school three times, he runs away from home aged 12 to live with a friend.

1979 Appears in several films, including the cult classic Race d'ep released in English as The Homosexual Century.

1981 Returns to Paris after time spent travelling in Egypt and India, with ambitions of being a shoe designer. Works at Charles Jourdan.

1991 After several years working as a freelance designer for such companies as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, Louboutin forms his own company and opens his first shop in Paris with Princess Catherine of Monaco as his first customer.

1997 Meets long-term partner, landscape architect Louis Benech.

2007-09 Tops the Luxury Institute's Luxury Brand Status Index for three consecutive years. Customers include Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian.

2011 Files an unsuccessful $1m trademark infringement suit against YSL, with the judge saying: "Louboutin's claim would cast a red cloud over the whole industry, cramping what other designers do, while allowing Louboutin to paint with a full palette."

2012 Opens 1,000sqft boutique in New York, a location in Turkey and the first Louboutin Men's Boutique on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paris. In May, announces launch of own beauty range.

From mainstream witch to indie darling – or, more precisely, from Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter series to Chloe in In Bruges – Poésy is increasingly bestriding the Anglo-Gallic film-making divide, a duality neatly encapsulated last year when she played both the French national icon, Joan of Arc, in the Cannes-competing Jeanne Captive, and a piece of arm candy in the hip American cable show Gossip Girl.

"I feel very privileged to have been welcomed in England in that way," says Poésy, who flits between London and Paris almost as often as the Eurostar. "I always thought that there was a little door that was open for me." Her latest English project has also been her most daunting – and although the role of Queen Isabella in Shakespeare's Richard II is only a minor one, the challenge of mastering iambic pentameters for the BBC's upcoming cycles of Shakespeare plays was considerable.

"It was like learning how to speak another language," she says in accented but perfectly fluent English. "You do Shakespeare at drama school but you do it in French. It's interesting to see, when you study theatre in France, the different translations of Shakespeare – because obviously in England you just work on one material."

She was able to learn from her Bard-hardened Richard II co-stars, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw and Patrick Stewart, and to reflect with amusement how she managed to get into the Conservatoire National Supérieur d'Art Dramatique (France's equivalent of Rada) by performing, in English, Juliet's balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. "No one had any idea of whether it was any good," laughs Poésy, who took her mother's maiden name for the stage. Her father, Etienne Guichard, is a theatre director, who used to pretend to Clemence and her younger sister, Maëlle, that their TV only played videos of movies.

After a stab at couture that ended after a disastrous work-experience placement when she was expected to stitch together a wedding dress, Poésy grudgingly accepted her thespian fate.

"I was the one in the family who was saying I wanted to do something else," she says. "Mostly because I felt a bit silly saying that I wanted to be an actress before I actually was an actress – or it might have been being scared of failure." A string of French roles playing teenagers ensued, before her English-language breakthrough as Mary, Queen of Scots in Jimmy McGovern's 2004 BBC drama Gunpowder, Treason & Plot – a role that led to Harry Potter. Her mother, a schoolteacher, had already encouraged her to read JK Rowling's books, although Poésy says she only really became interested in witches – "what were considered witches in those days" – when reading up for her role as Joan of Arc.

Harry Potter led to a variety of English language parts, from the aforementioned In Bruges, with Colin Farrell ("people love that film"), and the 2007 TV mini-series War and Peace, to playing Jim Sturgess's enigmatic girlfriend in the London-set horror film Heartless and as James Franco's lover in Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. Now Poésy is involved in a somewhat more unusual romance, Mr Morgan's Last Love, an age-gap meeting of lonely hearts between a free-spirited Parisian and Michael Caine's retired and widowed American philosophy professor. It sounds like Lost in Translation.

"Yuh, it's two lonely people finding each other, except it's Paris and not Tokyo," she says. "It's not a real love story but there's a lot of love in it... It was lovely to get to know him. He's incredibly simple, and he's got a very playful approach to the whole thing still. "

Apart from being an actor, Poésy is also a musician (she plays guitar, and sang on last year's debut album by the Last Shadow Puppets' Miles Kane) and fashion icon – a face of the perfume Chloé and now the new face of Dutch urban fashion chain G-Star Raw – as well as being something of an all-round It Girl and muse for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel – although she thinks the Lagerfeld connection is exaggerated.

"I'm not that close," she says. "It's very strange to read these things". One poster we won't be seeing however, is of a naked, or semi-naked, Poésy. After a bad experience as an 18-year-old starlet, she has a clause in all her contracts that states that any nude scenes she films can't be used in trailers or publicity stills. "People can find the scene and so whatever they want on the internet," she says defiantly, "but at least they can't use on the trailer."

'Birdsong' is out on DVD on 12 March. 'Richard II' is on BBC2 in July. 'Mr Morgan's Last Love' is released this autumn

But the autumn/winter 2012 collections, which kicked off at the Ritz in Paris last night with Donatella Versace's first bona fide Atelier Versace catwalk show since 2004, demonstrate that haute couture is thriving.

There may be no more than a few hundred women wealthy enough in the world to afford couture, but industry figures say the business is "an active one".

Earlier this year, Versace chief executive, Gian Giacomo Ferraris, told Women's Wear Daily that the company's couture workshop, which today employs about 30 seamstresses, had escaped restructuring cuts made in 2009 because Ms Versace "protected and maintained it".

But the cost of a runway show was deemed prohibitive. Instead, private clients and celebrities have been viewing the collection behind closed doors. After healthy haute couture revenues for 2011, and a slightly larger presentation in January this year, more money is now being invested in this, most upscale and elitist, arm of the label.

Given that the economy continues to nose-dive, it may seem surprising that Versace is by no means the only fashion house to report significant, even double-digit, growth in sales of haute couture. This craft is the jewel in fashion's crown ? each of these garments are hand-sewn, beaded, embroidered and fitted to suit the client's every curve. Such exclusivity is expensive. Prices start at about £20,000 for a simple day suit. It is not uncommon for more complex pieces to weigh in at 10 times that amount.

Chanel is expanding its haute couture business, too. That collection, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, will be shown on Tuesday. "We feel more and more interest from customers for something unique," Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel fashion, told Women's Wear Daily. "People are looking for top quality."

The company, which is privately owned, reserves the right to keep exact figures to itself, but said 2011 was "a very good year". Couture is a "small business" Pavlovsky continued, "but an active one" nonetheless.

Both Givenchy, presided over by Riccardo Tisci, and Valentino, designed since the Roman couturier's retirement in 2007 by Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri, have injected new life into the twice-yearly calendar. This time Maison Martin Margiela, famed for transforming found objects into hand-worked designs, has been invited onto the official schedule for the first time.

All eyes are on Christian Dior in particular, meanwhile, where Raf Simon officially took over from John Galliano in April. His debut on this most rarefied catwalk takes place later today.

Photographs: Katya De Grunwald

Model: Smita at IMG

Make-up: Angela Davis-Deacon at Sue Allatt using Chanel Hydra Beauty Serum

Hair: Jan Przemyk at Naked Artists using Kiehl's

Retouching: Samuel Bland

From the top floor of the by now lovingly restored and quietly impressive place the views over the city, including the famous cathedral with the Rubens' altarpiece, are spectacular. This particular area is reserved for buying appointments and all of that profession who attend can expect to be served with traditional Flemish fare – meatloaf with cherries and roast potatoes, to be precise. Much of the raw structure of the building has been preserved and it is furnished by an eclectic mix of antiques. Van Noten is an avid collector and so, when the Antwerp courts of justice chose to rid themselves of any original 1930s fixtures and fittings, for example, he was only too happy to take these items off their hands. There's a black, high-shine 1960s sofa here, oil-painted portraits of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium in gilded frames there, all of which form a perfectly harmonious and relatively domestic counterpoint to a sense of industry and modernity that is also very much in evidence throughout.

On the third floor, bolts of fabric from past seasons are piled up on shelves alongside zips, buttons and labels. Van Noten's labels are distinctive, as the size of the garment is printed beneath his name. Although the complex nature of his design process renders his twice-yearly collections more difficult than most to copy, the archive is a precious commodity and is closely guarded for that. It is testimony to the fact that Van Noten's rise to success was a gradual one that it dates back no further than the mid-Nineties. Until that point, and still struggling to make ends meet, he paid his models in clothes, as was the custom with any up-and-coming name worth his or her credentials at the time. On the second floor, the newly arrived (and vast) spring/summer collection hangs in polythene wraps and is subjected to rigorous quality control before being shipped around the world to upwards of 500 points of sale.

Van Noten's office and studio is on the fourth floor. He's dressed today in smart blue chinos and sweater (I am reliably informed that he doesn't wear jeans) and is kept company by his dog, Harry, a magnificent Airedale terrier with a butch bark and a gait like a prima ballerina, all out-turned toes. "Harry is a lot of work," Van Noten says. On weekdays and when he doesn't have the run of the designer's famously lovely garden at his 19th-century home on the outskirts of the city, Harry has his own unusually glamorous dog walker.

It's more than 30 years since Van Noten founded his business. With a turnover estimated at around 50 million euros a year, it is a minor miracle that the label remains entirely independent and ultimately under the control of this unassuming and highly civilised man. In the last decade of the 20th century, when corporate superpowers were snapping up each and every designer name they could get their hands on, Van Noten resisted the temptation to play along, although "I thought at certain points that was maybe the way to go, that that was the future. The big groups weren't only buying labels but also all the factories. Our shoes were made in Italy. The heel manufacturer was sold to Gucci, I think, the last manufacturer to the Prada Group and the producer itself was bought by Armani. My most important yarn suppliers were also bought by Prada. And it's still like that at least some of the time." In the end, though, "that's not my way of doing things. I like to choose my own way forward. I really do want to create something that I personally like a lot."

For similar reasons, Van Noten doesn't design a pre-collection or any subsidiary lines, preferring instead to concentrate on two ready-to-wear collections for both men and women a year, all four of which he shows in Paris. "For me, the show is the only moment when I can tell my story," he says. "It's the way I communicate my ideas to the world." The collections are expansive in that they include both high-end and entry-point pieces.

"For me personally, there's too much fashion around in this world," Van Noten says – not something one might expect to hear from the mouth of a fashion designer. "There are too many images, too many impressions and the danger is that the whole thing is lost in one big blur. That's a pity. Before you had only images from ready-to-wear designers, now there's Topshop, Diesel... Everyone does fashion shows and produces imagery that is as strong as possible, just to attract attention. In the past, it was twice a year for men and twice a year for women and then there was couture. It was far more definite and there was breathing space in between."

Given that today's industry is notoriously driven by money-spinning accessories, it is equally remarkable that less than 10 per cent of this designer's business is based on those. "I'm a fashion designer, not a shoe designer," he says by way of explanation. "I like to design clothes. It seems strange to me that people buy a whole outfit in a high-street store, but they still have very expensive shoes. OK, shoes and bags are important but not so important. The whole thing, the combination of all the elements, is important." Van Noten chooses not to advertise or bombard celebrities with his designs, although he has dressed Cate Blanchett and Maggie Gyllenhaal for the red carpet. "Who are the clothes for?" he wonders. "It is challenging to create clothes for people who perhaps don't have the perfect body, who aren't a size 38, and to put those into the collection too. Why not? It's a real world out there."

We are talking today about his offering for his spring/summer collection, currently flying out of stores, and something of a departure from Van Noten's signature, more ethnically-informed work. Now, as always, however, the fabrics take precedence, providing the starting point for the collection – although never at the expense of the silhouette, which is just as considerate of its wearer's needs as it always has been.

"The idea was to find things that were aesthetically interesting but which have no connection with fashion at all," the designer says. "I thought: 'What would happen if we use elements on garments that were not created to be printed on garments?'." Van Noten looked at technical drawings of butterfly wings from the 17th century and at 18th-century black-and-white etchings of landscapes. "What's on the etchings? A lake and some houses. So, OK, that's the way they used to do it, now let's look at the modern way of doing it. So we have water from the 18th century and we have 21st-century water, too."

Then there's his collaboration with the photographer James Reeve to consider – Van Noten first came across his work at the Hyères International Fashion and Photography Festival in 2010 when he was president of the fashion side of the event, which is aimed at nurturing young talent. "He obviously has a completely different way of looking at cities," Van Noten says. Reeve's night-time images of everything from London's Albert Bridge to the casinos of Las Vegas have a similar quality to that seen when flying over urban spaces at night. Applied to clothing, at first sighting each piece appears to be scattered with tiny jewels. It is only when looked at more carefully that these patterns reveal themselves to be figurative. "We had to find a balance between the prints and achieving a garment that is nice to look at and, especially, nice to wear."

You do indeed, but there is something uplifting about wearing an oversized cotton dress or vest that turns out to be printed with blue sea, green palm fronds or ancient black-and-white sycamore trees – or indeed all of these things at the same time. "The danger with prints like these is that we would end up with very simple sack shapes – you can't use too many seams," Van Noten says. The solution? The cut of the garment looks to mid-20th-century Spanish and Italian haute couture – and to Balenciaga especially – for inspiration. "French couture at that period was very Cardin and Courrèges," Van Noten explains. "Whereas in Spanish and Italian couture it was more about lace and about ruffles – olé, olé! – and I like that much better."

Dries Van Noten was born in Antwerp in 1958. His grandfather was proprietor of a men's ready-to-wear clothing store in the city. His father was responsible for a larger designer clothing boutique in its suburbs. "It was a completely new concept," Van Noten remembers. "Until that point, all the stores were in the city centre. This was destination shopping ... on a Saturday people would drive to the store. It was menswear, womenswear, childrenswear, there were small fashion shows every weekend." Van Noten's elder brother and two sisters were at university studying by this point, so he used to join his father after school and do his homework there. His mother also owned a clothing store and collected antique linen and lace. "During the school holidays, I accompanied my parents on buying trips to Milan, Florence and Paris," Van Noten says. It is fair to say, then, that fashion is in his blood.

By the time he was 18, in 1976, Van Noten was ready to enter the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in his home town and to undertake the rigorous fashion course there presided over by the infamous Mme Prigot. "She thought that long hair for girls was untidy, that they had to have a chignon, or she just took them to the hairdresser's herself and paid for them to have it cut off. Oh, and she didn't like knees," says Van Noten now. "She thought the only good fashion designer in the world was Coco Chanel. It was the end of the 1970s. It was punk. Of course, when you have that many restrictions you rebel against them and that makes things quite interesting.

It is the stuff of legend that, with Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, Marina Yee and Walter Van Beirendonck, Van Noten formed the Antwerp Six, perhaps safe in the knowledge that few outside their native country would remember, or even be able to pronounce, their individual names. In 1986, and with Van Noten having worked as a freelance designer since graduating in 1980, they drove their collections to London in a van and took the biannual collections in the British capital by storm. They were all completely different, both personally and professionally, of course, but they shared a belief that it was possible to break from tradition and to create innovative fashion without outside financial support. It says something of those involved that, to varying degrees, they went on to do just that. Although Van Noten remains friends with most of his contemporaries, he brushes off any suggestion that there is a shared Belgian aesthetic. "But we maybe do look more at clothes piece by piece. That's why shops can easily sell Belgian designers, because they can mix their clothes with other things."

Van Noten's own pragmatic approach is certainly refreshing. "Doing only the creative part of the job would be boring," he says. "In the end, it's all part of the same thing. What's the point of designing something if afterwards you don't know whether it sold? It's not that if something sells really well we're going to repeat it, because everyone who wanted to buy it has done so already and will want to move on to something else. But it keeps me in touch. I keep in mind what people want and maybe also why they want it. Did other countries buy it? Yes, no. Why did a collection not sell very well in one country when it sold fairly well in another? Maybe the balance of certain shapes wasn't right, the volumes were too oversized or not oversized enough. It's interesting. I like to look at that."

Van Noten says that he is, for the most part, left alone when out and about in his home town. "People recognise me but not too much. I'm more recognised when I walk around in Tokyo or Hong Kong than I am here. And that's good because I'm not really a big fan of that. I like to have my own life. I have my house. I am able to do things I like to do which are not always the most fashionable..." He lives with his long-time partner, Patrick Vangheluwe, and they work together, too. Cooking and gardening are both high on their list of favourite pastimes.

"I think it's the dream of every fashion designer to have six months off," Van Noten says. "To have a sabbatical just once because it all goes so fast. But that's impossible. I'm forced to think about the future because I have a responsibility to the people who work for me and who have been working here for 10 years, as well as to the people who open stores and to suppliers. We have a few thousand people working for us in India who do the embroideries, for example, so I have to make sure that every season I sell so many pieces of embroidery that represent so many hours of work..."

Although Van Noten travels frequently, he's as likely to spend the summer driving around the northern English countryside as fly off to anywhere more obviously exotic. He has spoken in the past of his clothes being inspired "by travel of the mind". Of Paris, where he has a second office and showroom, he says: "I'm always very happy to go to Paris but I'm always, also, very happy to leave. Paris is a city where you need a lot of energy to survive."

Dries Van Noten is Antwerp's most successful designer. His stand-alone store on a corner at the city's centre, around a 15-minute walk from his office headquarters, is a destination for local residents – who queue round the block each time a new collection arrives – and tourists alike. It's an elegant space where staff are attentive and well-informed but never intrusive.

"Antwerp is a very easy city to live in, I think," the designer says. It helps that it is lovely to look at, too. As so too are Dries Van Noten's clothes. They are a multi-faceted, cultural and philosophical reflection of one another in more ways than one. Above all, though, both are somehow modest – this is neither a city nor a fashion designer that likes things loud.

"I don't really want to make clothes that shout," Van Noten says. "I think the people who buy our clothes are quite individual. They're not buying them because they want the label or because they want people to admire that label. They're buying them because they like them."







Reclining on a plush cream sofa with short, slicked hair and red lips, wearing a fitted black cocktail dress, she is every inch the sophisticated socialite. Poor Emma Watson, I then counter immediately, having constantly to prove to people like me that she isn't 11-years-old any more.

Her new role as the face of Lancôme's "Rouge in Love" lipstick range will go some way towards changing that view – shot by Mario Testino, the campaign captures her youthful vitality in a new and chic, gamine expression. It's rather more urbane and quite apart from the reputation for precociousness that the Harry Potter franchise – fairly or not – has foisted upon her.

"As I've got older, and since I cut all my hair off, I've felt a bit more liberated about trying different things out," she smiles, when I suggest she has successfully shaken off the fetters of having played a gawky teenage witch for a decade. "I think there's this idea that lipstick is something quite old or something you'd only wear at night. The nice thing about these is that they're really translucent, like a tinted lip balm, so you can wear them in a more casual way."

If she sounds like a professional, that's because she has been one for the majority of her 21 years. Picked from thousands to play Hermione Granger at the age of nine, after eight auditions for producer David Heyman, Watson is now – eight films later – rumoured to be worth £43m. She signed a contract with Lancôme in April to feature in the commercial for its Trésor Midnight Rose fragrance, and has been at Selfridges all day to promote the brand's latest launch of lipstick and nail varnish.

"Make-up is actually something I've always really loved," she continues. "The hair and make-up department on the Potter films were the people who saw me first thing in the morning and last thing at night, so that space was somewhere I felt at home. When we had spare time on set, I'd do their make-up and get them to teach me how to do stuff." Make-up artist on the films Amanda Knight remembers Watson making up extras for crowd scenes, too, but Watson has today left it to the professionals. "I haven't had my make-up done for two or three months," she says, as if expecting me to say, "No way!" I raise my eyebrows and she laughs. "I know! But it's really weird for me because I used to have it done every day. So it felt like a treat today."

She refers regularly to privileges and treats, to feeling lucky and counting her blessings, and she doesn't seem troubled or distracted by the host of opportunities available to her. She is studying English at Oxford, on a secondment from the American Ivy League campus Brown.

"It's just given me time, really," she says. "People use their time at university and at school, which I didn't have, to really think about and figure out what they want to do, and who they want to be. And it's been so nice not to be pushed around or pushed into doing things."

In fact, Watson has carefully peppered her career with choices that pertain very closely to her own interests, putting her name to a collection for eco-fashion range People Tree as well as partnering with designer Alberta Ferretti to work on a "Pure Threads" ethical line too. Her next film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, will be released later this year. She paints and reads books. She has, she tells me guiltily, a university essay to hand in the next day, not yet finished.

"Doing the Potters was such a bubble," she says, "and then having to figure out how to function in the real world has been a challenge. But it's been the small successes for me: I know how to use a washing machine, I can cook. It's worth it to me not to feel disconnected from everything, feeling like I'm in touch with people who do other things than acting or being in the entertainment industry."

In a few hours, she will host the Lancôme pre-Baftas party, posing in a crimson lace Valentino dress for the world's cameras. But for the moment, she has her bare feet hooked up underneath her and is fiddling with her BlackBerry; she looks at the basil plant poking out of my shopping bag and wonders what I'm having for dinner. She is terribly normal – if elfishly beautiful – in her rendition of a well-brought-up young woman.

"I think humour has been a help," she says. "I have schoolfriends, a group of people around me, who have carried me through this whole experience and aren't fazed if they ask, 'Oh what are you doing tomorrow?' and I say, 'I'm going up to see Mario [Testino] in Notting Hill, he's shooting me for the new Lancôme campaign.' I don't know – it is mad, and some days I feel a bit mad, but it's the balance that keeps me sane. I don't fully live it, this side of my life."

Watson is sanguine about the attention she receives and is logical about it; she plans to travel more now that she has a more lax schedule, and talks about going to the post office, buying milk, getting the Tube, though I can't believe for a minute that she is actually able to do these things fuss-free. "Some days, for some reason, I can't go anywhere and I'm like, 'That was a mistake,' and other days no one will even notice me."

There was a time, though, towards the end of the Potter franchise, when Watson came of age and began appearing on front rows at shows such as Chanel and Burberry, in whose billboard campaigns she featured along with her younger brother in 2009. "I was fully game for 'Throw me in this, throw me in that,'" she admits, "but I'd like to develop my own sense of style, and dress for myself. The press destroyed me over this Rodarte dress I once wore – it was bright blue with chains on it." She laughs and shivers slightly. "I loved it. And I wore a leather Christopher Kane dress with embroidered flowers all over it. It wasn't that crazy, but at the time..."

She seems to have ridden out the post-Potter publicity admirably, though. "Fashion gave me a chance to feel like I was something outside of Potter," she explains, of her appearances front row at shows such as Chanel and Burberry. "I'm a multidimensional person and that's the freedom of fashion: that you're able to reinvent yourself through how you dress and how you cut your hair or whatever."

Her haircut was, of course, an international sensation, and turned into a global debate. Was it a good idea, did she regret it, why did she do it? Watson faced compliments and criticism in equal measure, staggeringly so. This was more than the average celeb 'do and more like a cultural event: Potter fans were horrified, while the fashion industry discreetly applauded the severing of Hermione's bookish locks.

"I had journalists asking me if this meant I was coming out, if I was a lesbian now." She rolls her eyes. "That haircut did make me realise how subjective everyone's opinion is. Some people were crazy for it and some people just thought I'd lost my shit. All I can do is follow my instincts, because I'll never please everyone."

The hues are saturated, pure, sharp, clean – proto colours. There is a hallucinogenic edge to it all. Any minute now a white rabbit might come hopping down the cobbled streets, an elephant with flapping ears might glide between the dreamy spires. I wonder about the latitude and the intensity of the light. Up here on the shores of the Baltic, I reason, we might be closer to the sun. But then what's reason got to do with anything?

If logic had any rules, this small former Soviet republic in the furthest corner of north-eastern Europe should be drowning in the whirlpool of the eurozone. But it's not like that. Despite a brief blip when the property bubble burst and the economy went into reverse around 2008, this Baltic Tiger is back, not quite roaring, but purring nicely. The good times are rolling on. The anticipated growth figure this year is just under 2 per cent – not thrilling by the Estonian standards of the early 21st century – but George Osborne would be over the moon if he could make a similar projection.

In the commercial heart of Tallinn the Soviet-era Kaubamaja, with its natty new "K" logo is unrecognisable from the department store that marked its dreary communist inception – its acres of high-end retail are now as glitzy a temple to consumerism as you could hope to see on Fifth Avenue. Viru Keskus, the mall next door, is equally awash with talismanic international brands – Chanel, Armani, Swarovski, Calvin Klein – powerful enough to erase all memory of the grim old days.

Following independence in 1992, the headlong rush for all things Western was perhaps inevitable. Hotelier and restaurateur Martin Breuer recalls how it used to be. "People wanted to eat exotic – they wanted to eat strange – after so many years of Soviet rule. The stranger it was, the better it was." But over the past 20 years tastes have matured into something less flashy and more indigenous. Style and quality come with an Estonian imprimatur these days.

Restaurants are finally recognising the joys of sourcing locally. The recently opened F-Hoone (F-Block) in the Kalamaja suburb keeps it simple. The restaurant is popular with the bohemian set – it is housed in a former electro-mechanical factory reputed to have turned out components that went into space in the Sputniks. The interior is an effortless mash-up of industrial chic, exposed steel joists, naked brickwork, and vibrant colour. The atmosphere is warm and open. The food is unfussy; my salmon is fresh, lightly poached and excellent value.

Fashion boutiques such as Nu Nordik, at VabaduseValjak 8, and Naiiv, at Pikk 33, also suggest a new aesthetic: cosy, quirky, fun, warm, and outrageously vivid. Designer Liina Viira uses Estonian folk motifs for inspiration. Her shop, Naiiv, displays a range of knitted hats, scarves, bags and dresses. The eruption of carnival colours challenges any preconception you may have that Scandi/Nordic design is muted and minds its manners.

In a similar vein, Etno.ee at Tartu Road 6 is a sign of the times – the store takes evident pride in the country's ethnic design traditions. Folk patterns from various parts of Estonia are given a new twist and deployed to invigorate a range of household goods – cushions, kitchen stuff, lampshades. A bright yellow pair of wellies printed with folksy floral designs from the island of Muhu catch my eye partly because of their sheer exuberance and partly because I am headed for the island.

Muhu is a two-and-half-hour drive west from the capital. The ferry from Virtsu to the island feels like an ice breaker – navigating a narrow channel through the frozen sea. Mini floes grind against the hull of the boat, giving the short crossing the feel of an Arctic expedition.

Padaste Manor dates back to 1566, though the current structure is largely 19th-century. Framed by ash trees, the house stands out against the surrounding snow in its warming cream and terracotta livery. It was rebuilt from a ruin in 2008 by current owners Martin Breuer and Imre Sooaar, part of a long-term love affair with a property that they took on in 1996.

Now it is a luxury hotel, finished tastefully in the modern idiom under the marketing tag of Simple Luxury. Gold taps and chintzy drapery are conspicuous by their absence. Stripped wooden floors, kilims and animal-skin rugs, occasional antiques and log fires set the tone for cool and cosy comfort. It's tempting to stay indoors for the duration.

Martin's pitch for his hotel is disarming: "Nothing much happens here," he says. "A farmer moves a cow from left to right in the morning and from right to left in the evening, and then his day is done. There are no spectacular things – no big mountains, no waterfalls, no things which have an 'awe' effect."

I get his drift but he is being unfair. The manor is located on the shoreline of the Gulf of Riga. The view stretches out from the front of the property through the grounds onto the frozen sea and onwards to some small islands. Martin is right – there are no mountains or waterfalls or wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plain. But there is plenty to awe the visitor in many subtle and magical ways.

Today the sun and clouds are playing tag. The light changes by the moment – the landscape is benign one minute, sullen and menacing the next. The view is perpetually on the cusp, always rearranging itself into the next tableau.

There are of course things to do, and this afternoon a horse ride in the ice and snow has been arranged. A lovely idea, in theory, if I forget the deep mutual distrust that usually characterises the relationship between horses and me. As I arrive at the stables an elf comes bounding out to greet me. This is Martin Kivisoo, the horseman of Muhu. He has a long white beard and is wearing a white sheepish hat. For a few seconds I am not sure which way up his face is.

My mount is called Racy, a gentle horse I am assured, suitable for beginners. She is part of a tough and ancient Estonian breed that can be left out in all weathers – and here that can mean -30C for weeks at a time. Martin spends much of the ride telling me about the spirits of the forest. We dismount at a seven-way crossroads in the juniper forest. This is an auspicious spot, he explains, to honour Uku, the ancient Estonian god of the sky and the harvest. We circle a holy rock, bang it with a smaller rock and throw grains (which Martin carries in his pocket for just such eventualities) towards the west as a gift. I'm OK with all this as it means less time in the saddle.

His assistant, Kati, is keen, however, that I do some riding – and keeps breaking the horses into a trot. Try as I might I have never mastered the rhythm. The more I try the worse it gets. The bumpity-bump is not good; not good for me, not good for the unfortunate horse. We are mercifully at the end of our ride, within yards of dismounting, when Racy decides enough is enough. And tries to kill me.

She shies to the right and throws me off her back. I land on my head on the crème brûlée icy crust of the snow. I am upside down with my feet still tangled in the stirrups. This is not an attractive look – luckily no photos are taken. I am removed from the vicinity of thundering hooves. Racy appears to be smirking. No damage is done, though my dignity is sorely bruised.

The sunset back at the manor is dramatic. As the shallow sun begins to dip, a red blade of light travels like a laser up the grand avenue, illuminating the canopy of the barren trees and bathing the manor in an eery pink glow. Having locked on to its target the red beam intensifies until the house looks as if it might be catching fire. Looking westwards, the heart of light is blinding, a rose-tinted halo projects around the reeds and shrubs poking through the ice.

The Simple Luxury slogan seems slightly disingenuous when dinner is served. As befits the restaurant named the best in Estonia for the past two years, it is an elaborate feast for the senses. The seven-course tasting menu is calibrated to the seasons and leans on local traditions and ingredients, which can include, somewhat counter-intuitively, ostrich reared on a local farm.

Tonight's medley is more traditional: courses include cod with cauliflower mousse, beetroot consommé and steak with wild mushroom sauce. Chef Peeter Pihel saves the best till last with his Muhu Apurokk. It looks deceptively like cheesecake but is, in fact, his take on a local pudding made with potato and sour milk. It is served with gooey fermented birch sap and flakes of liquorice and ash meringue. The apurokk is beautiful to look at and seductive and mysterious in the mouth.

In the morning, Martin Breuer marshalls his guests for a walk on the sea. We don snow shoes. Martin takes us to the edge of the shore, which is indistinguishable from the frozen sea. It's a blazing sunny day and there are visible fissures in the surface of the ice. He reassures us by going ahead. "I weigh more than most of you, so if you follow where I tread you should be OK," he jokes.

The guests are a varied group, from Italy, Holland, Russia, Estonia and North Wales. It is an unlikely location for the tribes of Europe to be coming together. Our shadows are elongated on the glittering crystal surface. Occasionally the ice is cratered and volcanic, in other places it has thinned to a transparent lens through which we can see flowing water.

We shuffle to a small island across the bay, cooing at the wonders around us in a babel of European languages. As we return I glance back and see the line of footprints we have left on the surface of the sea. The laws of physics have been suspended. I am in Estonia. It seems the most natural thing to walk on water.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Sankha Guha travelled with Regent Holidays (0117-921 1711; ), which offers a twin-centre holiday with four nights at the Telegraaf Hotel in Tallinn and three nights in Padaste Manor on Muhu Island, both with breakfast. The starting price of £995 per person based on two sharing includes return flights with Estonian Air from Gatwick and transfers. Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ) flies to Tallinn from East Midlands, Edinburgh, Luton and Manchester; easyJet (0843 104 5000; ) from Liverpool and Stansted; and Estonian Air () from Gatwick.


Further information

Holiday beauty is no less haphazard, although it may be the one time of year we actually have the space to pamper ourselves. Hair gets crispy, skin frazzled and dry, and those "no make-up make-up" looks become increasingly unrealistic thanks to the blistering, honking redness beneath the foundation.

You may roll your eyes at the prospect of a holiday beauty regime, but take the time to suss out some key products and you'll look better than ever on your return. Whether it's a beach break, an urban escape or something altogether more exotic, looking after your assets while you're away will prolong the feeling of well-being even when your feet are firmly back under the desk.

Sun protection is key, so invest in a quality cream that won't dry out your skin – remember to reapply regularly and watch out for strap marks. The recent profusion of BB (beauty-benefit or beauty-balm, dependening on who you ask) creams combine the hydrating qualities of a moisturiser with the tint of foundation, and usually include some kind of SPF – these are a great choice for when you can't be bothered with a full face of slap but fancy a reassuring bit of coverage.

Going away is also an excuse to lavish yourself with chic miniatures that comply with luggage regulations, the larger sizes (and corresponding prices) of which might usually make you balk. Eve Lom's £75 travel kit includes four of the renowned facialist's most famous and feted products, while Chanel's travel-size No 5 perfume is every bit as elegant as the original – but at £62 for a pack of three mini fragrances.

Seek to make life as easy as possible – if you're heading for the beach, invest in a surf spray that will make any tangles look intentional; look for a really good waterproof mascara, too. Start using a gradual tanning moisturiser before you leave so that you'll fit in straight away – and don't forget a snazzy bag to carry all your bits and bobs in.

Beauty travel tips from the experts

Alessandra Steinherr, Beauty Director, Glamour

The air con on planes is diabolical so I carry Clarins HydraQuench Serum, £40, with me. It's great for travel but also to ease post-sun dryness. A total holiday multitasker.

Bobbi Brown, make-up artist

Multi-use products are perfect for travel because they make packing less of a hassle. My essentials are concealer, foundation stick, and a good moisturising balm, which I use on my face, lips, cuticles, and even my heels.

Jayne Demuro, Head of Beauty, Selfridges

As soon as I set foot on an aircraft I can feel the moisture leaving my skin. I use Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief (£30) as an initial hit and top up my skin with face spray for the duration of the flight.

Laura Mercier, make-up artist

I love to travel, but don't like what it does to my skin. For flights I take something cooling for my eyes. My new Tone Perfecting Eye Gel Crème is the perfect light texture to relieve and calm skin and keep you fresh.

Additional research by Rosa Schiller Crawhurst

At Louis Vuitton, comically oversized headpieces had a gently crumpled, elegant flamboyance, while Marc Jacobs opted for a similar look in his eponymous collection, just furrier, wider, brighter and taller.

For Grand the hair was about "colour and proportion". Hairstylist Guido Palau clamped the hair straight at Prada, brushed it back off the face and lengthened it with extensions in artificial hues matched with the models' natural colour, while at the McQ Alexander McQueen show he created a dense ring of hair that hovered, suspended above the forehead in a donut-shapedring. Crowning confections these certainly were.

But they were only half of the story. What about the face? One need look no further than the multibillion-pound cosmetic industry to know that make-up matters. Over the years designers have become increasingly interested in what the make-up artist Alex Box, a long-term collaborator of Rankin and Pugh, terms "face architecture". Think Hussein Chalayan's tear-drop wooden mask, Gareth Pugh's ecclesiastical mouth lights or McQueen's veil spiked by enormous antlers. Sounds a bit heavy? As luck would have it, many designers found a new lightness of touch with their fashion-forward creations north of the neck.

Take Rei Kawakubo's spring/summer offering for Comme des Garçons, where frothy rounds of creamy fabric bordered plain, childlike faces. Or Sarah Burton's collection for Alexander McQueen, where fabric crept up from the body, encased the skull and reached down on to the face. The finely woven lace in balmy pastel hues crafted a graceful softness from the macabre silhouette. Burton sought the femininity in a futuristic aesthetic for autumn, with mirrored visors adorning plain ladylike faces.

Kawakubo, meanwhile, inverted her previous season's silhouette by covering the face completely with a bondage-style balaclava that grew out of a bright floral body suit. The silhouette was constrictive but the character was warm and invulnerable. The thinly woven balaclavas pulled down over faces painted with a spirited flash of red lipstick at Rick Owens had a similar effect. His models strode out against an inferno; this was, he later asserted, a look he saw as completely wearable.

Predictably, not all designers embraced covering the face in such a theatrical fashion. Instead, traditional make-up was whipped up to show that eye shadow and lip-gloss were not for the sartorially small minded.

At Meadham Kirchhoff, designers Edward and Ben came to make-up artist Florrie White with a clear vision for their autumn winter show: 1990s supermodel meets 1980s drag queen. "It was gradual, as if the two were meeting each other," White says. As the old-school glamour and sculpted features of Christy Turlington entered a collision with Trojan, the drag queen at the heart of the Eighties club scene, a scrawl of paint around the eye grew into an hallucinogenic eye patch, a nude lip became a canvas for hyperactive pastel doodles. And those eyebrows? Lest any detail get lost in translation, each zig-zag was scrawled on by Edward.

The conflation of traditional beauty with an unusual element captured attention elsewhere. Bejewelled, ruler-straight eyebrows – embroidered in collaboration with the Maison Lesage – provided a graphic embellishment against a simple and austere base at Chanel. Colour was big elsewhere. Baby-blue hues and licks of white paint were flicked across the eyelids at Miu Miu in playful flourishes, while Prada dispensed a lesson in grown-up glamour, with orange scored across the eyebrows, a smoky-black lid and a flash of purple underfoot. Charlotte Tilbury took inspiration directly from Prabal Gurung's clothes for her autumn/winter creation. "We wanted to complement and enhance the clothes by creating an enchanting beauty look inspired by 'beetle wings' and birds of paradise. Dual tone teal green and bright blue shadows were applied diagonally on the lids all the way up to the eyebrows like colours in a peacock's feather."

As Tilbury aptly surmises, "the make-up looks for autumn were about making the girls look beautiful with a twist". So what had designers and make-up artists beating the same drum? For Grand, this was partly a reaction against celebrity models: "It was about keeping the girl blank, creating a blank canvas." Box applies this diagnosis to the look in general: "It's amniotic times and people want to wipe the slate clean." It is ironic and perhaps fitting for fashion's often contradictory grand narrative that the simplicity of new beginnings is located in a cacophony of colour and concealment. For this year, at least.

Make-up maestros

Kevyn Aucoin

Arriving in New York City in 1983, Aucoin quickly caught the eye of photographers Steven Meisel and Irving Penn and soon became the go-to make-up artist. "His signature touch was transforming a face by using neutral tones to sculpt, define, highlight and shape the complexion, minimising and maximising features," Charlotte Tilbury says. A true master of sophistry, Aucoin made up Cindy Crawford for her first Vogue cover.

Serge Lutens

Born in 1942, Lutens is a fashion veteran: his precocious work for French Vogue in his 20s earned him the task of launching Christian Dior's make-up line in 1967, where he created an industry powerhouse. "He did everything and really pioneered a rounded look," Alex Box says. Lutens has collaborated with the Japanese brand Shiseido since the 1970s and launched an eponymous collection of essentials in 2005.

Gucci Westman

Westman is something of a world-wide tastemaker. She was International Artistic Director at Lancome from 2003, until she took up the position of Global Artistic Director at Revlon in 2008. She speaks five languages, trained at École Chauveau in Paris and turned Cameron Diaz into frumpy Lotte Schwartz in Being John Malkovich.

Pat McGrath

Vogue has called her "the most influential make-up artist in the world". Not bad for a girl from Northampton. McGrath moved to London in the early 1990s and worked for i-D and The Face before going on tour to Japan with Caron Wheeler from Soul II Soul. Twenty years on and McGrath counts 20 of the world's greatest designers as clients.

Peter Philips

Philips did not pick up a make-up brush until he was 27: a degree in graphic design was followed by further study at the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts. On graduation in 1993, Philips cultivated his passion working with Alexander McQueen and Raf Simons before his appointment as creative director of Chanel make-up in 2008.

Charlotte Tilbury

If you haven't heard of Tilbury, you will have seen her work with covers for Vogue, Vanity Fair, W, LOVE and Pop, and ad campaigns for Versace, Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton under her belt. Tilbury makes her subjects look beautiful and interesting; think high-octane smoky eyes or a glazed lip on glowing skin.

How much spare time does he have? Not only is he creative director at both Chanel and Fendi, his K Karl Lagerfeld line – a more accessibly priced selection of shirts and signature high collars – launched earlier this year on Net-a-Porter, and he cut the ribbon on a pop-up store devoted to his image in Selfridges last month.

Previous shows for his eponymous label have seen models wearing bejewelled motorcycle helmets, complete with interior iPod slots. Clearly, there's no danger of the creative juices running dry.

When asked backstage at Fendi last week how he managed to keep on top of his workload, Karl Lagerfeld simply said: "I love what I do. That's the best motivation there is." A lesson to us all, perhaps.

Intricately tooled leather, languid skirts weighed down by tiny chains hand-sewn into their edges, opulent crystal embroideries and more made for darkly romantic and spectacular viewing. And should madame be interested in one-step dressing, she need look no further than long, lean, all-in-ones with their own haute couture boots attached.


A Chanel garden party at the Grand Palais was peopled by quite the most beautifully dressed models in the world. Nobody knows how to showcase the skills of the haute couture ateliers better than Karl Lagerfeld and there was a romance and even emotional power to these hand-worked garments that took the breath away. Far from uptight, the silhouette was, for the most part, relaxed, or dégagé. Mlle Chanel herself would have approved. To sum up: these were throw-on pieces, if only for the world's wealthiest and most sartorially discerning women to wear and then pass down to their daughters and granddaughters.

Christian Dior

Three hundred thousand freshly cut flowers is excessive even by haute couture standards but that was what met guests to spectacularly beautiful effect at the hôtel particulier in the chic 16th arrondissement of Paris for Raf Simons' debut for Christian Dior. The clothes were like blooms themselves – skirts resembled upturned lilies and tulips; New Look-line dresses were embellished with petals of silk; and colour ran the spectrum from Victorian garden roses to vivid blue delphiniums. More masculine – and a gauntlet thrown down to Hedi Slimane, perhaps – was a perfectly cut tuxedo and black cigarette-legged trousers, best worn with jewelled bell tops.

Jean Paul Gaultier

This was a vintage couture season for Jean Paul Gaultier. By the close of the show the audience were cheering at the audacity of the vision and indeed the clothes sent out by the couturier. If an intimate salon environment and the importance of seeing the workmanship of the petites mains up close was the overriding story, this was a grand gesture, old-school style. Models wore long, lean, deconstructed tuxedos, beaded flapper dresses, laced leather and frisky sheer organza… And that was just the boys.


Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri's show for Valentino balanced a respect for the traditions of haute couture with an understated elegance that was more contemporary by nature. A deceptively simple midnight blue velvet gown, a navy cape that only its wearer would ever know was double layered (chiffon and cashmere) and "tree of life" prints and embroideries featuring the plumpest and prettiest birds were all executed with the refinement that is by now the hallmark of this designer pairing. Like Valentino in his heyday, they know how to showcase exquisite workmanship, while always ensuring clothes remain light.

Maison Martin Margiela

Maison Martin Margiela's Artisanal collection is small and studiously imperfectly formed. This house loves the authenticity of age, and its flaws are left intact. An Edwardian silhouette dominated here but was given a tender twist: doorknobs from that period replaced buttons; leather baseball gloves were flattened and transformed into an S-bend jacket. Models' faces were masked – a signature of this very innovative collective – but this time, coloured crystal was applied to the surface. Imaginative, innovative and made entirely by hand, of course.

Giambattista Valli

Exuberant flower prints and ruffles everywhere from neckline to hem almost threatened to engulf the slender models wearing them at Giambattista Valli's haute couture collection. Restricting his colour palette almost entirely to shades of red and green, with the odd splash of vivid iris, only added to the drama of this, a fashion fantasy inspired by the most high-impact of gardens. Models stepped out with butterflies where otherwise their lips might be, a strangely surreal and slightly macabre sight.

Atelier Versace

Strips of patent leather were studded with solid rose gold for the Atelier Versace collection as modelled by Ms Versace herself as she stepped out to take her bows. This was the designer's first haute couture catwalk show for almost a decade and it was big on the high-octane glamour the Italian label is famous for, from blazing colour – bright rose, violet and citrine – to patchworked rubber, silk and lace held together with oversized stitches threaded with glittering beads and crystal metal mesh. Prints – a Versace signature – referenced tarot cards and the work of Picasso. It was all a matter of "deconstruction and reconstruction", Ms Versace said.

Armani Privé

Eschewing his 1980s shoulder line in favour of a softer silhouette and, often, an empire line, Giorgio Armani showed three sections in the old-school manner, moving from day to evening to night-time, signalled by a backdrop on to which was projected a sunrise, a sunset and, finally, a starry sky. Soft, black wide-legged silk velvet trousers were worn with blouson jackets and little flat pumps. Narrow evening dresses in more velvet or embroidered with crystal beads were high on shimmer and shine but always polite. Sophia Loren sat in the front row, as did many a client. They looked good dressed in the grand old man of Italian fashion's designs.

Up in the Air

9pm BBC2

(Jason Reitman, 2009) George Clooney (below, with Anna Kendrick) stars as a corporate "downsizer", paid to do the unpleasant business of firing people, whose neatly ordered life unravels once he learns his own job is at risk. A comedy about the depersonalisation of modern life, and thus also the importance of making human connections, Up in the Air lightens its satirical and cynical mood with just the right amount of romanticism. ****



6.50pm Channel 4

(Baz Luhrmann, 2008) It's set in a real time and place – Australia's northern territory before the outbreak of war, and then during the post-Pearl Harbor Japanese invasion – but Baz Luhrmann's kitsch, mock-epic romantic adventure story is an impressive work of pure filmic artifice; the country's landscapes made to look as vivid and pretty as a painted studio backdrop. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman star.  ****


Coco Before Chanel

6.50pm Film4

(Anne Fontaine, 2009) Focusing on the period in Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's life before she was famous, and eschewing the triumphalist narrative favoured by most rags-to-riches biopics, this film also stops just short of reclaiming the elegant Chanel (Audrey Tautou, above) as a feminist figure. It instead shows us the compromises which this most uncompromising of women was forced to make in patriarchal Belle Epoque France. ***


The French Connection

1.30pm & 12 midnight Sky Movies Modern Greats

(William Friedkin, 1971) William Friedkin brought a near neo-realist sensibility and aesthetic to bear in the making of this gritty policier, so that Gene Hackman's (above) hardman cop "Popeye" Doyle, and the streets of Seventies New York that he swaggers down, still feel tough, raw and real. Meanwhile, the famous car chase set the standard against which others measure themselves to this day. ****



8.30pm Sky Movies Classics

(James Whale, 1931) Boris Karloff (above), with the help of the make-up artist Jack Pierce, defined forever the way that Frankenstein's monster looks and acts in the popular imagination, and made him a more sympathetic and tragic beast than he is in Mary Shelley's novel. The film is the greatest of Universal's Thirties and Forties horrors: a haunting, melancholy work of gothic beauty. *****


Total Recall

10pm ITV2

(Paul Verhoeven, 1990) The biggest-budget action film of its day, this sci-fi mind-bender adapted from a Philip K Dick story stars Arnie Schwarzenegger (above, with Sharon Stone) as an interplanetary superspy who thinks he's a construction worker. Or is it the other way round? Violent, somewhat ludicrous and now badly dated, it is still terrific fun. See it before the remake with Colin Farrell is released in August. ****


We Need to Talk about Kevin

10.15pm Sky Movies Premiere

(Lynne Ramsay, 2011) Tilda Swinton stars as Eva, a woman whose life has been shattered by an act of violence committed by her son Kevin – a malevolent teenager with whom she's had a fractious relationship his whole life. Lynne Ramsay's expressionistic, uncomfortably up-close adaptation of the Lionel Shriver novel is haunted by Eva's fear that she didn't give birth to a monster, but created one. ****

Way before crime, my infatuation with the sexy Latin manager of my health club had turned into a deep friendship, and culminated in true love so strong that it bound us together no matter what... even when heroin made the man I knew with the heart of gold, unrecognisable. He says prison saved his life because he had to hit rock bottom. But like Robert Downey Jr, he did finally stop using and changed his life around. When I finally saw Gil after two years into his sobriety, he looked like Captain America, strong, clear-eyed and definitely reborn. And that's when I proposed to him...

I had been visiting Gil for months when I overheard some women talking about sleeping in the prison. "Can I really sleep in your cell with you?" I asked one day. My handsome, Puerto Rican boyfriend's frowning face burst out laughing. "You mean trailer visits?" he cried. "Honey, you have to be married to be eligible for an overnight visit in the little cabins." "Well, then let's get married..." The words popped out of my mouth immediately, and then I argued for weeks, finally convincing Gil that it was the only sensible thing for us to do. It would make waiting for freedom all the more tolerable and fill the void I always felt after leaving him. When I wasn't with him, half of me was torn apart.

It took six months of paperwork to get the approval needed, but we were finally granted our first overnight visit. However, now I was in a quandary: what would be the perfect outfit to begin my jailhouse honeymoon? In this movie of my life, I needed to look the part I wanted to play. My outfit was like Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility – a shield to make me impenetrable and not allow the ugliness, stress, and fear from those prison walls to affect me and the precious time alone I would have with the man I loved. I was insistent on creating an oasis and on bringing sunshine and freedom into that den of despair. So, I scoured the store for hours until I found what I was looking for, a beautiful pair of pale-lavender, linen overalls; they were perfect. I felt the soft light linen between my fingers. They were casual but also luxurious and utterly impractical, which made them all the more perfect. And they fitted like a glove, making me feel feminine and sexy. As I looked at myself in the mirror I thought, the overalls looked thoroughly appropriate to walk through the corridors of the all-male prison. I envisioned myself almost floating down the halls, confident and happy in my lavender overalls, my own suit of armour. I was determined to bring pretty to that place, no matter what.

Soon, I was next in line to be processed through the prison's security check-point. "Take off your shoes, jewellery and hairclip," a mean-looking female guard barked. Barefoot I walked through the metal detector in my overalls. The alarms went off as if I had been carrying a Magnum 45. I was shocked. "You can't go in if you don't get through the metal detector. You'll have to leave." "But I have nothing to hide!" Tears welled up in frustration and anger at the sheer stupidity and pig-headedness of those who held the keys to my happiness. Then it hit me – the 20 small silver engraved buttons on my overalls. The metal detector didn't differentiate the small buttons from a gun. The guards knew that I was not carrying a gun, but they were cruel and having a good laugh at my expense.

I had a choice: I could change clothes or leave. I stepped into the bathroom, wiped my tears, and pulled a Brazilian sarong from my bag. I had nothing else to wear. I handed the overalls to the guard, then passed through the metal detector easily. She glared at me and returned my garment. It took all my courage but I walked ahead through the prison, barefoot and naked underneath the flimsy wrap. I was led to a backyard with four little cabins enclosed in 20-foot concrete walls, but standing outside one of them was Gil. In one night and two days, I was transformed. Our goodbye was so hard but seeing the same guard again, I smiled. I would play by the rules, but I was unwavering in my way, too.

'The JM Barrie Ladies' Swimming Society' by Barbara J Zitwer is published in April by Short Books

"Discontinuing the association with her is also good PR for Nivea because it allows them to reiterate the values that they don't feel she aspires to," says Claire Beale, editor of Campaign. "Celebrity endorsements give brands an instant value to tap into and if you associate yourself with a big personality you'll instantly gain credibility with all the people that love that celebrity. The problem is celebrities often don't behave themselves."

While Rihanna's firing might seem somewhat unwarranted, there are plenty of other celebrities who have given good reason to be dismissed. Both Wrigley and the Milk Processor Education Program (that's the "Got Milk?" campaign to you) quite rightly terminated contracts with R&B performer Chris Brown after he pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend (yep, Rihanna).

Fashion labels such as Chanel and Burberry quickly deserted Kate Moss after she was caught on camera allegedly snorting cocaine (although the entire industry has since done a U-turn after realising the supermodel is far too valuable to blacklist). Another star who must regret allegedly dabbling in drugs is Michael Phelps, who had a lucrative deal as the face of Kellogg's (despite everyone knowing that the swimmer chows down fried egg sandwiches, omelettes, French toast and pancakes for breakfast, not a sad little bowl of Corn Flakes). After pictures surfaced of the Olympian apparently puffing on a bong, the two soon parted ways.

Infidelity doesn't go down well with big business either. Wayne Rooney was dumped by Coca-Cola and Tiger beer after being caught cheating on a pregnant Coleen, while Tiger Woods' extra-marital escapades cost him not only his wife but deals with Gatorade, AT&T, Accenture and Gillette worth millions (although probably not quite as much as the divorce settlement).

And while cheating on partners is not appreciated by sponsors, celebrities should remember not to cheat on the product either. Just last month Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho had his sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola revoked after he turned up at a press conference sipping on a Pepsi. A can of fizzy drink is usually about 60 pence; this one cost £500,000.

So it is with Haider Ackermann who first showed at the Paris collections 10 years ago now and who has built up a loyal following with the most sartorially forward thinking. Now, though, his runway presentations and the highly singular vision they represent are one of the high points of the French fashion season across the board.

Still – and relatively speaking – Ackermann works against the mainstream. His collections comprise a stately procession of models, each wearing their own individual, intricately worked and impeccably realised style. Colour sings. The drape of his fabrics is among the finest in the industry. Leather is moulded, tooled and washed until it is as delicate as tissue paper. There are no money-spinning bags or other trinkets to detract from the story that is, and always has been, the clothes.

There is little straightforward about Ackermann's designs. In fact, they are often so complex that when, for example, in March 2011, Lady Gaga appeared on the front cover of American Vogue wearing Haider Ackermann, the hapless fashion editor responsible for styling her look called the designer to ask for his personal help dressing her. No "how many fashion editors does it take..." jokes called for, please. Oh, and the fact that Ackermann even ended up in that position in the first place is quite a coup. The prime cover spot of any glossy magazine worth its credentials is predominantly the preserve of big-brand advertisers. Haider Ackermann, which is independently owned, doesn't have the budget for that.

Ackermann was born in Santa Fe de Bogotá in Colombia and adopted by French parents. His father, a cartographer, travelled across Africa with his young son and a brother and sister, also adopted. Ackermann remembers Ethiopian women draped in bubu. "When you're a child, everything seems so much more big and tall and they have these very skeletal figures and a certain fragility. I still project those women." Certainly, a sense of proportion reminiscent also of Giacometti's sculpture is part of the picture. In Algeria, Ackermann saw "mysterious women hidden behind metres of fabric, slippering through the medina of Oran", and enveloping the female form more than exposing it continues to be important to him.

Aged 12, the designer moved with his family to The Netherlands, and then on to Antwerp where he furthered his education at the Academie des Beaux-Arts, alma mater to Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten to name just three. Raf Simons, the newly appointed design director at Christian Dior (Ackermann was rumoured to be in line for that position too, incidentally), didn't study at the celebrated fashion school in that city but he was at the epicentre of its creative scene while Ackermann was a student. "He [Haider] never graduated because he couldn't finish his collections. If he had to do five silhouettes, he would only do three. But they were the best," Simons has said. In Belgium, Ackermann learned that it was important to consider the comfort and dignity of any future devotees. "There is so much respect for the woman who will ultimately wear the clothes in the Belgian school and the intention is always not to make decoration out of them," is how he puts it. "It's about the woman first and foremost. The clothes should only reflect what she is."

After college Ackermann spent a short time as an intern at John Galliano before setting up his own label. So naïve was he that when he debuted on the catwalk he neglected to invite any buyers. Still, the style press were in attendance and knew a good thing when they saw it and it wasn't long before his designs were sold in Colette in Paris, Corso Como in Milan and Louis in Antwerp. Since then, his company has grown, organically and in a perfectly well-judged manner. Ackermann is no fool and has never claimed to be averse to working for a label other than his own. As well as being name-checked for Dior, he was thought to be the most natural successor to the aforementioned Margiela when he retired in 2009. For now, though, his prime concern is his signature line. That Ackermann has friends in high places is a given. Karl Lagerfeld for one endorses his talent. In 2010, the Chanel creative director told press that the younger designer would be his preferred successor as and when the time comes. Praise indeed.

Perhaps more importantly still, the actor Tilda Swinton loves Haider Ackermann. No one wears his preternaturally long, lean and covered silhouette quite so imposingly. A little over a year ago she talked to her friend for Interview magazine. "I just feel this satisfaction that what seemed so clear and inevitable to everyone around you for so long – that people would one day be open to your work – is finally taking place," she said. "You must feel that there's such a Haider-shaped space that you're filling now for people beyond the few of us who'd been invited into your world before..."

That Haider Ackermann-shaped space is a million miles away from fast fashion and the endless invention and reinvention of trends. Instead it is opulent, modest, majestic even and a deliberately slow burner... The more closely you look, the more lovely it all seems. It is precious, then, in the best possible sense of the word.

In keeping with the fashion world's tradition of the long and simmering feud, this weekend's outburst is just the latest salvo in a skirmish that began last January, when one of Newsweek's fashion contributors described the ponytailed creative director of Chanel as "overrated". Robin Givhan, the scribe in question, undoubtedly touched a raw nerve. Even though she is the first person to have won a Pulitzer prize for writing about fashion, Lagerfeld dismissed her critique imperiously, taking pains to point out that he had never heard of her.

It was no coincidence earlier this year when Ms Givhan found her ticket seated her with the hoi poloi at Chanel's show in Paris Fashion Week.

Nevertheless, Lagerfeld had ammunition left, so at a press conference on Friday he let Ms Brown have it: "First of all, Tina Brown's magazine is not doing well at all," he said to an international press pack, warming to his theme as he ripped into the story: "She is dying ... I'm sorry for Tina Brown, who was such a success at Vanity Fair, to go down with a shitty little paper like this. I'm sorry."

Newsweek, of course, was having none of this, though it avoided expletives and loaded its return fire with statistics: "In the past year since Tina Brown took over as editor-in-chief of Newsweek, newsstand sales have increased 30 per cent year on year, advertising pages have seen a 27 per cent increase for the first quarter of 2012, we have over 2.2 million people engaged in our social media communities and, perhaps the most telling indicator of the renewed vitality of Newsweek, subscription renewals, in a consistent state of decline since 2005, rose by 3 per cent last year."

In truth, the most likely outcome is that the two protagonists will air-kiss and make up at some point. But theirs is just the latest in a long and ignoble tradition of handbags-at-dawn encounters between the great and the good of the fashion world.

Tony Cragg, a very English sculptor, suffered from it at the start of his career, when he first moved to Wuppertal, near Feldmann's home town of Düsseldorf. Cragg would scour the banks of a neighbouring river for bits of like-coloured plastic – shards of blue bleach bottle, say – and turn them into two-dimensional sculptures. They were lovely, in a Povera kind of way. But they also seemed specifically local, to do with German history, a need to remake from fragments, to work in a childlike way.

In Feldmann's case, this urge to reconstruct has taken a more conceptual turn. In his show at the Serpentine Gallery – the first, oddly, in a British public artspace – is a group of five vitrines, each containing a woman's handbag with its contents emptied out and put on display. These Feldmann bought from their owners intact: you wonder how he broached the subject.

One vitrine is labelled Susanne, Berlin, 38 years, its handbag a garish red number with a torn handle, the contents including Chanel nail varnish and face powder, a BlackBerry and a great many cigarette filters. By contrast, Renate, Cologne, 43 years has artistic interests – there are art postcards and gallery tickets – while Oriane, Berlin, 27 years (old Nokia, pebble, earplugs, L'eau d'Issey roll-on, scuffed shoes) seems the most scatterbrained.

Seen under glass, the handbags have the feel of evidence, perhaps from a mugging. What we deduce from them is the characters of their owners. Feldmann is big on the idea of completeness, of Vollständigkeit. Here are the total contents of a finite thing, unedited and unmediated. And yet for all their information, for all their intimacy and unguardedness, the vitrines remain entirely boring and unrevealing.

That, in a nutshell, is Feldmann's message, restated again and again in different media over the past 40-odd years: more knowledge is only ever more knowledge, never omniscience. When he photographs each of the 68 strawberries in a half-kilo box individually and tacks all the pictures to a wall unframed and unadorned, we can truthfully say that we have seen every strawberry in a particular punnet. And so what? It tells us nothing of the essence of strawberries, of strawberriness. Likewise with the six beautifully printed and framed slices of rye bread on one wall of the Serpentine's central gallery, or with the sequence of shots – empty frame, bow, whole boat, stern, empty frame – of a tug passing up the Rhine.

It is, in its strange way, compelling: the more evidence Feldmann gives us, the less we know; the stronger his positives, the more we feel the negatives around them. In a curtained-off niche in the Serpentine's West Gallery is an installation called – unusually for Feldmann, who prefers his work anonymous – Shadow Play. This consists of a trestle table with spotlights on it made from coffee tins, each light illuminating a spinning turntable covered in what can only be called "stuff": from memory, a statuette of the Eiffel Tower, another of HM The Queen, a model of a British Airways jet, the upper half of a Barbie, two bridal couples (one heterosexual and one same-sex) from the tops of wedding cakes, and much, much else besides.

You could go on reciting the ingredients of Feldmann's recipe until you were blue in the face, although no amount of listing would prepare you for the outcome. Projected on the niche's back wall, à la Noble and Webster, is the shadow play of the work's title, a joyous and yet macabre place, redolent of fairgrounds and travel and glamour but also of Hitchcock and nightmares. As with Webster and Noble, the trick is not in the transformation from solid to shadow but in the fact that we are still amazed by it even though we can see – we are forced to see – how it is done. Facts, in Feldmann's world, are not an antidote to astonishment, nor to ignorance.

All this makes his insistence, often voiced, that he is not an artist faintly irritating. For Feldmann to say that he is merely an archivist is less modest than it sounds. Beneath this claim is the suggestion that his work is unmediated, honest, found rather than made. That is not childlike: it is untrue. The contents of Renate's handbag have been laid out differently from those of Susanne's, and it is Feldmann who did the laying; likewise, who chose when to press the button of his camera as he stood by the Rhine? Or what junk to put on Shadow Play's turntables? But his belief, in the end, is that we should never believe anything – including him.


To 5 June (020-7402 6075)

Visual choice

Gillian Wearing gets a first retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, east London. See if you can stare down her personal, pithy photographic works and films (till 17 Jun). Industrial steel sculpture in the grounds of a stately home? That's the unlikely juxtaposition at Chatsworth House in Derby-shire, where 15 of Anthony Caro's works have found a home till 1 Jul.

Two of her most recent films, the raucous comedy-drama Bachelorette and Lars von Trier's apocalyptic Melancholia were released first on VOD (video-on-demand) in the US. It is fitting, although not very flattering to her, that Bachelorette should have become a No. 1 hit on iTunes at just the time that Robert Aldrich's caustic thriller What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) is being revived. (Marking its 50th anniversary, Aldrich's classic is being shown in a restored print at the London Film Festival this month.)

"Women old enough to know better act like horny sailors on leave, absorb mass quantities of alcohol and drugs, and generally behave horribly," complained USA Today about Bachelorette. The more serious problem for Dunst, though, is that when your movies are watched first on laptops and TVs rather than in cinemas, your mystique is bound to be compromised.

No one is suggesting that Dunst is yet in the same doldrums as Baby Jane Hudson, the one-time child-star turned hectoring harridan, who torments her sister in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Nonetheless, Dunst's case illustrates how completely Hollywood has been transformed since the heyday of female stars like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo. These actresses may not always have controlled their careers but they were ferociously protective of their screen image.

Dietrich, for example, was (as her New York Times obituary made clear) "a thorough professional and perfectionist, expert in make-up, lighting, clothes and film editing." Having been tutored by Josef von Sternberg, who discovered her and directed her in films from The Blue Angel to The Scarlet Empress, she knew exactly how to project glamour on screen.

Garbo, meanwhile, had her own cinematographer, William H. Daniels, who used filters and side lighting to make her close-ups as striking as possible. Her hermit-like existence once her Hollywood career was over helped her retain an air of mystery.

As for Joan Crawford, she grew up dirt poor but, once she became a star, went to extraordinary lengths to live up to her fans' expectations. In an interview with the American writer Studs Terkel, she revealed that on a typical publicity tour, she changed costumes five times a day and travelled with 36 matching bags and gloves.

"It gives you a responsibility to be to them [the fans] whatever they want you to be," she told Terkel in his book American Dreams: Lost and Found. "It's quite a responsibility, dear friend. You get on your mettle. You get a little taller, you stand on your toes."

It's easy to mock the vanity of Hollywood's aging divas. As What Ever Happened To Baby Jane and Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard make very evident, the one-time stars led wretched lives, forever peering back into their pasts. Norma Desmond, the forgotten star played by Gloria Swanson, isn't exactly a role model to emulate. Nonetheless, as she so famously put it as she remembered the silent era: "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces."

The problem for Dunst's generation is that these stars don't have "faces." If their movies are being watched on laptops and TVs rather than the big screen, they become just yet more talking heads. When sadistic celebrity gossip sites publish pictures of them getting drunk or taking their garbage out, fans are reminded very forcefully of how earthbound they now are.

The fans have long had a sneaking interest in the dark side of the industry. From the Fatty Arbuckle controversy in the early 1920s (when the popular comedian was charged with murdering the actress Virginia Rappé) to the deaths, suicides and illicit affairs covered in scandal sheets like Confidential ("uncensored and off the record"), the private lives of the stars have always been pored over in exhaustive detail. The popularity of Kenneth Anger's muckraking Hollywood Babylon books underlined the fans' interest in prurient yarns about the misbehaviour of their idols. However, countering this worm's eye view of the business were the films the stars actually made. Whatever allegations Anger made about Crawford's misdeeds and dubious career choices in her early years, we could see her up on screen in Grand Hotel or Mildred Pierce. Even late in her career, in a film as curdled and vicious as Baby Jane, she retained the glamour and arrogance of a real movie star. With a contemporary tabloid idol like Lindsay Lohan, the balance isn't the same at all. She hasn't made enough movies to distract from the constant stream of unflattering stories about her private life.

It's obvious that many contemporary actresses yearn for the glamour they associate with an older Hollywood. That's why so many are playing stars from that era. Lohan's new film Liz & Dick, in which she stars as Elizabeth Taylor opposite Grant Bowler's Richard Burton, premieres on American television next month. Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman recently started shooting Grace of Monaco, a biopic in which she stars as Grace Kelly. Last year, we had Michelle Williams' virtuoso turn as Marilyn Monroe in the British-made My Week With Marilyn. Sienna Miller is shortly to be seen as Tippi Hedren in The Girl and Scarlett Johansson is playing Janet Leigh in the new film Hitchcock.

What is equally clear is that these contemporary stars will struggle to emulate the power and charisma of Davis, Crawford, Monroe, Kelly, Hedren et al. on screen. This isn't to do with their ability. They are mostly fine actresses. Their problem is that the machine that helped create the older stars is broken. Keira Knightley is fortunate in having a cinematographer (in Seamus McGarvey) she works with regularly both on films like Anna Karenina and on her Chanel ads. Nonetheless, the armies of publicists, make-up artists and technicians who helped mould stars like Davis and Crawford have long since disbanded. Notions of what constitutes glamour have changed too. Outside pop promos and advertisements, the highly stylised lighting, camerawork and make-up that characterised Dietrich's collaborations with von Sternberg would seem jarring and odd to audiences today. The roles that stars are taking has changed too. After all, portraying a coke-snorting, hard-drinking party girl (as Dunst does in Bachelorette) isn't quite the same as playing Queen Christina. Greta Garbo's movies didn't premiere on VOD – and she never had to share the screen with male strippers either.

'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?' screens at the London Film Festival, 18 & 21 October

It is filled with the new and exclusive Karl Capsule Collection; Karl, the affordable range for men and women; and Karl Lagerfeld Paris menswear, a more upscale affair. All of these are designed, according to the press release, to allow customers “to experience the Karl Lagerfeld world”.

Judging by the bright young crowd in front of the store's main entrance and dutifully lined up at the sides of its escalators, in anticipation of the arrival of the man himself, more than a few are intent on doing just that.

"You know, personally, I don't even think that I'm famous," says Lagerfeld, at this point in full possession of his body and comfortably installed in a suite at Brown's Hotel for the afternoon. He is due to drop in on the launch in question before long.

"I wouldn't say I was a beginner but you're only as good, not as your last show, but your next show. I can't go into a shop without people in front of the door taking my picture on their iPhones. That's very strange to me."

He will doubtless be more taken aback still, then, when he sees that the outline of his profile also graces everything from the interiors of lifts at the aforementioned department store to the T-shirts of those operating them or showing guests to the roof where cocktails are served and Alison Mosshart is DJing.

"Yes," he says. "Sometimes even I'm surprised at what can be done with my head." Surely, though, he must realise that his self-styled, always black-and-white image – from the clothes, to the hair to the dark glasses – has as much in common with a lithograph as a living, breathing, human being.

"But I didn't do that on purpose. I see myself more like a cartoon. I wanted to become a cartoon artist when I was a child. I'm pretty good at it." His skills as an illustrator are unrivalled as anyone even remotely interested in fashion will know. "But I never proposed my face [as part of the branding]. The company asked me if they could use it. I personally am too modest, if I can say that, to make such a proposition."

It must be a relief, in an age where respect for privacy is conspicuous by its absence, that people at least have the courtesy to seek permission before stamping his silhouette here, there and everywhere. "Yes. Yes. Yes. Everybody still has to ask if they can use my head… the head doesn't come for free." Whether he fully understands it, Lagerfeld is as instantly recognisable as royalty and rock stars but nowhere near as intimidating as might be imagined. And he is perfectly well-mannered to boot. "I got here two hours ago," he says, "It's fun. It's nice. One shouldn't be too difficult, no? It's the first time I see London with so much sun. It's beautiful. All those Regency buildings in the sunlight. The standard is really quite impeccable."

Although great pains are taken by his people to separate the designer's work on the line that bears his name from that of his creative directorship at Fendi and, of course, Chanel, Lagerfeld says what he wants to say, when he wants to say it. And given his long, spectacularly grand career and ability to keep up with the times, that is as it should be. And so the Karl and Karl Lagerfeld collections are "a reflection of me as a person and the others are more like an interpretation of a style. It's never mixed. Fendi never looks like Chanel, Chanel never looks like Karl Lagerfeld. I don't know how I've managed it. I think I have no personality but in fact I have three." Lagerfeld's public persona has effectively blocked any real attempts at probing over the years and the personality he speaks of is therefore communicated on a surface level. "You see a silhouette. There's nothing else to see. I remember a photographer saying to me, 'I have to spend three days with you to know what's behind the image'. I said, 'You're wasting your time; there's nothing there'."

Both Karl and Karl Lagerfeld rely on sharp cuts inspired by menswear, on a monochrome colour palette on the contemporary uniform of T-shirt and jeans and – closer still to the designer's personal style – detachable high collars and fingerless leather gloves. For his part, Lagerfeld's skinny black brocade trousers are of his own making as indeed is his tie, but his shirt is made for him now, as always, by Hilditch & Key and his narrow black jacket is Dior Homme. "But I have worn Dior for a long time," he says.

Lagerfeld's output is more diverse than any other designer's: he is responsible for everything from Chanel haute couture where money is no object to the accessible Karl. In 2004, he was the first big name to collaborate with the Swedish high-street chain H&M: he says it was that company's decision to use his photograph in the accompanying advertising campaign that made him a household name.

"I'm very much against the idea that 'commercial' is a boring word because you cannot make a collection that nobody wears. Fashion is what people wear and what they buy. I know exactly what can be done and for what price. I know what costs what and why something is expensive or affordable. That is part of my job. I think it's very pretentious to think that you are only catering to a limited group. I am lucky, though, as I have the total range."

Luck, in a world where Lagerfeld's very longevity is the exception that proves the rule, has nothing to do with it. Instead, his is the infinitely protean model that has set the standard for contemporary fashion as practised by everyone from Miuccia Prada to Marc Jacobs. As well as designing Karl, Karl Lagerfeld, Fendi and Chanel, Lagerfeld has a publishing imprint, 7L, a subsidiary of Steidl, and he is also an accomplished photographer.

"I'm militating for a 48-hour day but that's a problem, especially in France, with the 35-hour week," he says. "I have 35 hours of rest. But I'm not tired, so that's okay with me. I have the job I want and the right circumstances in which to do it. Nobody has that like I do."

If Karl Lagerfeld is blessed then his good fortune pales into insignificance as compared to that of his one-year-old cat, Choupette. "Now, Choupette really is famous," he says. "She has become the most famous cat in the world. I even get propositioned by pet food companies and things like that but it's out of the question. I'm commercial. She's not. She's spoiled to death. Obviously. "

Choupette travels with Lagerfeld to St Tropez on his private jet "in the cockpit, with the pilot, she loves looking at the sky". She has three maids whose duties include keeping a diary of all activities and taking her to the vet for a check-up every 10 days. "I don't take her," Lagerfeld says. "I don't want her to be furious with me."

And with that he's off to make a brief appearance at his own party and then back to Paris. "Choupette waits for me at the front door," he says. "She doesn't like being alone. She gets moody."

The actress has decided to give the clothes to auction, with proceeds going to her favourite charities including the Gurkha Welfare Trust, after being inspired by M&S's Shwopping campaign. The outfits, which include the Jean Muir clothes she modelled, will be sold in September by Kerry Taylor auctions.

Lumley is spokeswoman for the Shwopping campaign, which has seen shoppers donate more than half a million garments in store over the last six weeks, which are all given to Oxfam. The chain store is hoping that more than a million cast-offs will be donated by the end of the month, with items either sold in Oxfam shops, sent to Senegal where they are sold to local market traders, or used for fabric to stuff car upholstery.

Lumley said she believes there is a much-needed step change in people's attitudes to conspicuous consumption.

“I think it's dying of its own accord, I think it becomes disgusting: people opening their cupboards to 400 pairs of white high heels or something, and you go, 'You're ill actually'. To a certain extent, magazines, advertising and sales pushes have tried to [create the image] of a carefree kind-of girl who has 80 bags. You'd want to give her a tight slap,” she said.

“I was born after the war, and we were brought up by our mothers with the notion of make do and mend. A new thing was quite a thing: during the holidays we might go out and get one new skirt. On the continent, when I was growing up and was a model, a French girl would choose one well made tweed skirt, one beautiful cashmere jersey, her hair would be glossily done. She would have one Hermes silk scarf - and she'd look like Grace Kelly. We've got a more hectic, hooligan attitude here which is very good for fashion but sometimes leads you down the primrose path to hell.”

She believes we simply need to have more respect. “Before you buy things, think about it, and before you throw them away, think about it. Why can't schools give a rule: 'Never throw clothes away'?”

The Shwopping campaign is aiming to kick start a 'buy one, give one' culture on the UK high street to try to prevent the one billion garments that are thrown into UK landfill each year - some one in four of all items bought. Every M&S has bins to donate clothes, and the company hopes to eventually get one garment back for every one sold: a total of 350m a year. A new YouGov poll, published tomorrow [MON] has revealed that, in contrast to the Duchess of Cambridge and Livia Firth championing repeat wearing of clothes, one fifth of people in the UK have binned an outfit after just one wear. Three quarters of people have thrown unwanted clothes into the bin over the past twelve months, as opposed to recycling them, while one in five women admitted to having more than 100 items in their wardrobe.

Looking round the Oxfam sorting depot in Milton Keynes, where the Shwopping garments are sent to be sorted; donated books are scanned for the online store and bric-a-brac is sifted through, Lumley declares of her character Patsy: “She wouldn't understand anything of this: it would literally mean nothing to her. She would be amazed, quite possibly disgusted, but actually she'd have no idea: she only wants Chanel that has been given to here - she doesn't have any feeling about this. She is landfill.

“Edina is the one who is the shopper. She'd buy everything that is new and fashionable, whether it fits her or suits her or not. Ab Fab shined a light on fashion and the notion of how it can become extremely foolish, and can lead you into an area of great folly and overspending.”

The colours are pretty – all the shades of white, pastel pink, blue, primrose and mint green – the silhouette is reminiscent of one a princess might like – wasp waists, bell-shaped skirts and a narrow shoulder – and embroideries are the sweetest imaginable – jewelled daisies and more meadow flowers decorate the surface of silk chiffons, organzas, jacquards and lace.

As for pattern... perhaps the most conspicuous technological advancement in recent years can be witnessed in the rise and rise of the engineered print. Be it figurative, graphic, photographic, whatever, these are as busy, bold and modishly mismatched as even the most fierce fashion follower might dare to wear. Nothing escapes this mindset, least of all the still-ubiquitous skinny jeans. They come stamped with everything from tropical landscapes to exotic blooms, and in colours intended to dazzle, to boot.

This is no time to be shy, then.

The principle reference across the board nods to the age-old art of haute couture. Couture equals quality: hand-workmanship and an attention to detail and finish that is second to none. It's a no-brainer, really. When times are tough, the sartorially discerning go in search of that rare thing, an investment piece, a garment which looks as though it might actually be worth any hard-earned cash and which might be passed down through generations as a bona-fide heirloom. Worry not that this may lead to the type of bourgeois, French style that, in our modern times, seems just a tad on the heavy side. In the finest designers' hands, it has been duly subverted. Raw edges, a marginally larger-than-life line and a naïve, home-spun feel ensure that clothing that has its roots here boasts a spontaneity that is more contemporary in flavour.

For those who prefer a more understated look, good news comes with the minimal aesthetic still upheld by Phoebe Philo at Céline, providing a much-needed counterpoint to any overriding nostalgia and/or sweetness. Androgynous tailoring, oversized cotton dresses and coats, and masculine shirting are all very much on the agenda with just this sort of woman in mind. Sportswear, too, gets more than a look in: lace-trimmed, body-conscious Aertex and a splash of true red in an otherwise monochrome world ensures all those possessed by Olympic fever can dress to match.

Shoes, meanwhile, run the gamut from spike-heeled stiletto to stomping brothel-creeper and from fetishistic ankle boot to ballerina flat. And bags come in the form of jewelled clutches, purses not unlike those your granny might once have carried and, of course, satchels, which remain the functional carry-all of choice.

The simplest piece may cost upwards of £10,000. For more elaborate designs, meanwhile, the sky's the limit. And who, in their right mind, and in this day and age, is prepared to invest in that? On the other hand, one might not unreasonably argue that, given the circumstances, such attention to detail is just the thing the discerning fashion follower is looking for: garments that can be worn and loved season after season, year in year out, and then passed down to a daughter or grand-daughter like a fashion heirloom.

Haute couture equals quality, the story goes, and there is no arguing with that, which is why, presumably, so many ready-to-wear designers have turned to it for inspiration. Despite the fact that their fashions are for the most part machine-made, the spirit of hand-craftsmanship has been reinvigorated and, in at least some cases, the finishing touches executed by hand.

Junya Watanabe's treatment of lace – the most classic and resonant of all the haute couture fabrics – is far from predictable or banal. Lace, of course, carries with it a symbolism that is unparalleled – lace for christenings, lace for weddings, funereal black lace. It is an important addition, then, to any woman's wardrobe and even life.

Conventionally, however, lace is frilled and stereotypically feminine, sewn in delicate pale colours and fit for a fairytale princess. Watanabe is not one for conservative treatments of heritage clothing. In fact, if there is a single unifying feature to his brilliantly diverse body of work it is his combination of a profound respect for timeless fashions coupled with an inventiveness, imagination and technical expertise that is second to none.

The designer has in the past applied this to everything from tartans, tweeds and bouclé wool – another haute couture stalwart, incidentally, thanks to Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel. He has worked frequently with denim – patch-worked, fused with vibrant African inspired prints – and collaborated with Levi's, in the first instance, to make jeans under a joint imprint and now under his own name.

In Watanabe's hands, the trench coat becomes a thing of great beauty and any trace of fustiness is overthrown. As for Savile Row inspired suiting... Suffice it to say that Watanabe is probably the most inspiring tailor of the ear – particularly where taking menswear and adapting it to fit the female form is concerned.

Watanabe's lace dresses are cut in the type of slightly stiffened and proudly acrylic threads that is also an integral part of his handwriting, and that would doubtless make the lacemakers at Chantilly, say, drop their thimbles in horror. For the most part following a sportswear-inspired line, with not a flounce or furbelow to be seen, in some instances black opaque panels and more intricate patterns make an appearance, although there is nothing trussed-up or old-fashioned to be seen.

This is lace, then, that retains all the sweet romance of the original but with a freshness and ease that is all new. It has also been vibrantly recoloured: there's not a cliched Miss Havisham shade of ivory or cream to be seen. Instead, choose from gunmetal grey, leaf green and rose and, pictured here, very slightly hyped-up violet, lilac and candyfloss.

The woman who wears these clothes won't be accessorising her lace dress with talon heels. That would be too obvious – too jolie madame – by far. Watanabe's signature take on footwear is, almost invariably, studiously heavy and flat, and this season's robust handling of the archetypal schoolgirl Mary Jane is no exception. Under-cutting any trace of woman as trophy still further, meanwhile, the powers that be at Junya Watanabe insist that all dresses be photographed with accompanying and decidedly demure cotton slips worn beneath them. No flashing of flesh required.

While other designers' takes on lace have been less extreme, and simpler to boot, Miuccia Prada's ultra-cute A-line dresses for Miu Miu are similarly stiff – even stiffer – and cast in strong block hues not normally associated with the fabric – plum and tomato layered over pale yellow and beige included. For Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs' lace designs are more retro in their unabashed pastel coloured prettiness and the attention to embroideries and finish are nothing short of extraordinary. Given that this remains the wealthiest designer brand of the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) stable, Jacobs has all the skills of the Paris ateliers which execute haute couture proper at his fingertips and that shows.

There is, by contrast, a slightly distressed look to Peter Copping's patch-worked treatment of lace at Nina Ricci, which embraces the haute couture tradition wholeheartedly while subtly subverting it. Finally, the great Roman couturier, Valentino Garavani, was always a lace lover par excellence and throughout his long and grand career was known for his relatively restrained handling of this delicately beautiful material. His successors – Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri – are similarly enamoured but there is a clean-cut modernity to their no-frills variation on an age-old theme that will suit a younger customer in search of some of the most exclusive ready-to-wear available down to the ground.

She was among bidders who paid almost half a million pounds for items from the personal collection of Daphne Guinness which was sold at Christie's. The lots went for four times the original estimate.

Gaga is understood to have set a new high for a McQueen, bidding £85,250 in a sale which saw her facing rival bids from institutions and couture collectors from around the world.

The record price was for an ivory silk tulle empire line gown, entitled The Girl Who Lived In The Tree.

Another McQueen - a metallic silver mini-dress dating from 2008, the year before he committed suicide - also beat the previous record, fetching £79,250.

Guinness was auctioning items from her personal collection to raise funds for the Isabella Blow Foundation, which she set up in memory of her friend to support emerging fashion talent.

Fashionista Blow killed herself in 2007, and her own extensive wardrobe - sold to settle debts on her estate - was bought in its entirety by Guinness to keep it intact.

Chart-topping star Gaga has spoken of her admiration for Guinness and Blow in the past.

She said in one interview: "Isabella and Daphne are two exceptional human beings, women, icons.

"Daphne, like Isabella, is a huge source of inspiration for me. I cherish them both. It is as if we are all cut from the same cloth."

The top lot of the sale was a photograph of Guinness taken by Mario Testino for a 2008 British edition of Vogue magazine. It was sold for £133,250.

McQueen was found dead in his Mayfair apartment in February 2010, days before London Fashion Week. His death shocked the fashion industry.

Christie's confirmed that Gaga was a bidder but was unable to provide further details of the items she purchased. Bidders from 21 countries took part.

Guinness said: "This cause is close to my heart. I am genuinely touched by the response it has generated, and truly excited for the future of the Isabella Blow Foundation.

"I'm overwhelmed by how many bidders took part this evening and I'm particularly moved by Lady Gaga's support for the foundation. I like her very much, and it's lovely to see the nascent beginnings of something that may help other people."

The collection went for £467,800, including buyer's premium.

Other items on sale came from designers such as Chanel, Gareth Pugh, Lacroix, Prada and Gucci.


Perhaps the set was a reference to the essentially optimistic, gentle, protective and beautiful nature of the clothes. Sweet trapeze shapes, moulded sweaters and tulip dresses ensured space between garment and wearer – modesty more than in-your-face glamour appeared to be the message.

Such things are relative. If the clothes – black chiffon dresses appliqued with silk petals in faded colours, optic white columns embroidered with garlands of flowers and the Chanel suit, predominantly following a youthful and naïve Sixties line – spoke of innocence, the marketing of the money-spinning accessories confirmed experience. Lagerfeld is the most accomplished image maker in the industry, after all, both in terms of his work and glittering persona.

The Chanel quilted bag looked anything but shy, oversized and nestling in what resembled a pair of black leather hula hoops for handles. The Chanel pearls were the size of gobstoppers shimmering in clusters at slender necks and wrists, and the Chanel sunglasses went so far as to feature the house founder's own silhouette – finished with more ropes of pearl again – at one corner of their frames.

"It was a celebration of femininity," Sarah Burton said of her exquisitely judged collection for Alexander McQueen shown later in the day. And that it was, in all its guises. First came the exaggerated curve of a structured hip on a densely embroidered, wasp-waisted golden jacket that upheld the hourglass silhouette this house is known for. It was followed by crystal encrusted tortoiseshell caging and corsetry worn under and indeed over overblown organza dresses appliqued with meadow flowers. They were as sexually charged as they were sugary.

Any sweetness came at least in part courtesy of the humble worker bee: honeycomb bodices gave way to skirts woven with swarms of that insect that caught the light prettily as models walked. Black patent beekeeper hats, fetishistic neck pieces and glittering black fishnet thigh-high boots with laced seams ensured that a spicy undercurrent was always part of the story. And hopefully it always will be. The woman who wears this label is, after all, queen.

The fact is that you can't ski in Las Vegas, though the name of the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort suggests otherwise. It was known for most of its 48-year life as Lee Canyon, on the reasonable grounds that that is where it is located, but in 1995 it converted to what one might call the Ryanair school of geography, and changed its name to the mouthful commonly abbreviated to LVSSR. It is actually about 40 miles from the city. But one of the many things tolerated in Nevada (along with gambling and, in some counties, prostitution) is travelling at 75mph on a freeway; given that linear Las Vegas has such a road running its entire length, 40 miles means 40 minutes' travel time or less. Which isn't a bad commute from a city to the slopes.

After the name-change, the next important event in LVSSR's life occurred in November 2003, when its management was taken over by the US ski-resort owner and manager Utah-based Powdr Corp. (Powdr also owns the property, jointly, with a local family big in real estate.) The "resort" part of LVSSR's name is as misleading as the rest, since this is a small ski hill with just four lifts serving 11 intermediate trails and a vertical drop of only 860ft (unless you are prepared to hike up from the of the lifts). But Powdr is a company with big ideas; hence its "Master Development Plan" to expand LVSSR, a $35m project involving 10 new lifts and 50 trails.

It's one thing to make a plan, another actually to execute it. But last July, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, on whose land LVSSR is located, gave its approval to the expansion, which also involves increased snow-making facilities, bigger parking areas and new guest facilities. The co-owners also have the means to fund the project; does that mean it is actually going to happen? I put that question to LVSSR's director of business development, John Morelli. "Yes," he said.

That was one reason for heading off to into the Nevada desert. The other was to confirm something which seems self-evident: that Las Vegas has the best après-ski anywhere in the world.

The route out of Las Vegas starts with the usual lane-changing chaos of an urban highway, then settles into a fast, comfortable drive along a wide desert valley. Just before Route 95 reaches the vast airforce base at Indian Wells there is a turn-off marked "ski area", and the 15-mile climb begins. On either side of the road – blessed with official Nevada Scenic Byway status – are stubby cacti growing so densely that you would swear they were being cultivated as a cash crop. The route winds up into what is the biggest natural forest in the contiguous United States, until the roadway suddenly widens on a sharp bend. This is where skiers park their cars, at 90 degrees to the carriageway with the radiator grille up against the verge.

At the lift base there are offices, ticketing, equipment rental and a café/restaurant, plus two ski-school yurts. Beyond, a couple of middle-aged lifts climb to the upper slopes, and another – old and slow enough to be their father – labours up the nursery slope. This was real, old-school skiing; and I loved it.

The weather helped: it was beautiful, as it very frequently is in Nevada, and LVSSR – in a mountain bowl with north-facing slopes and a south-facing sun deck – gets the benefit of blue skies without compromising the skiing surface. In unusually dry early-season conditions, the snow was almost entirely man-made, but meticulously groomed. The fun park, a high priority on a hill where 75 per cent of tickets are bought by boarders (at $50 on weekdays, $60 weekends), was equally pristine. Crowded? Hardly: with barely 40 people on the slopes, we had almost two acres each. And the atmosphere was as relaxed and friendly as it usually is in small ski areas.

Currently the area gets fewer than 150,000 skier-visits per year, but LVSSR's management reckons that number should triple when the planned expansion (to 500 acres) is completed, in 10-12 years' time. Almost all the new terrain – including seven trails for advanced skiers – will be above the existing ski area, and from the snow deck Morelli showed me where the new top boundary would be. The pitches looked impressively steep at the top, although gradients are difficult to judge from below.

The new terrain will certainly make the journey up from Las Vegas well worthwhile. And what about the drive down to Las Vegas? That's not so much worthwhile as essential, because LVSSR has no lodging and (barring a dramatic change in US Forest Service principles) never will. Las Vegas, on the other hand, is said to have more than 12,000 hotel beds – a lot for a place that prides itself on burning the candle not only at both ends but in the middle, too: it's the only place I know that has a nightlife and a "daylife", which is frequently just more of the same thing.

On a first visit to the Strip, the southern part of the city with most of the notoriously excessive hotels, there's a lot to take in, some of it hard to keep down. The architectural pastiches – Eiffel Tower, black pyramid, Italianate lake and canals – are much bigger than I expected, clumsier and less playful. Pumped out on to the sidewalks, "classic rock" is perpetually in your ears and sex in your face.

Clothes cling to the girls out on the town, their high hems and heels making them look like Pretty Woman hookers. And half-naked women are advertised for sale on the hoardings-on-wheels being driven along the Strip, and on fliers handed out by hawkers. All these women could, apparently, be in my room in 20 minutes; for what purpose is not stated, though small print on the leaflets has a helpful reminder that "prostitution is against the law in Clark County", Las Vegas's local authority.

The city famously advertises its amorality with the slogan "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". I know what that means, but while wandering around the lobby of the Wynn hotel I was cheered by the thought that what happens in Vegas stays there rather than coming to a neighbourhood near me. A mood swing started, and I began to get on to the city's wavelength.

Wynn is the classy Las Vegas resort hotel: its owner Steve Wynn collects artworks by Rembrandt, Turner and Picasso and hangs them in his hotels. The hotel's shops are pure Bond Street – Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Cartier, plus Ferrari and Maserati – but they share the lobby with the sort of garish one-armed bandits that you'd see in an amusement arcade on a pier. Somewhat to my regret I was booked to dine there at the Sinatra, which – sure enough – plays and displays the singer to excess. The food in this Italian "theme restaurant"? Absolutely first rate.

Such confusion of tastes reached its apogee at the Cosmopolitan hotel, in which I stayed. Upstairs it's all high style and design; in the lobby there's just the low life of gamblers smoking, drinking and playing the slots, night and day. My preferred way of crossing the vast lobby was to drop down a level and walk through the parking garage.

The point about Las Vegas is that it is utterly indiscriminate, a giant bazaar which sells everything, good and bad. You just have to find the good stuff.

I found the Marquee, a fabulously animated dance venue in the Cosmopolitan, with retro styling and thunderous electro music. I found Dig This, a construction-machinery driving experience curiously appropriate to a city whose buildings have a short lifespan, and also curiously thrilling. I found the old Downtown area, so much more engaging than the the Strip. I found the romantic Neon Boneyard, a museum of historic Las Vegas signage. And I found, to my great surprise, that it's not the après-ski scene that is so good, but rather the pre-ski scene: Las Vegas and the surrounding desert are sensational in the dawn light.

Travel essentials: Nevada

Getting there

* Stephen Wood travelled with Ski Independence (0131-243 8097; ) which has a one-week Las Vegas package including non-stop flights on BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com) from Heathrow and room-only accommodation from £969 per person, based on two sharing.

* Virgin Atlantic (0844 874 7747; virgin-atlantic.com) flies to Vegas from Gatwick and Manchester.

Staying there

* Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (001 702 698 7000; cosmopolitanlas vegas.com) has doubles from $160 (£107) for Terrace Studio. Marquee opens 10pm-4am, Mon and Thurs-Sat; cover charge from $20 (£13).

Visiting there

* Dig This (001 888 344 8447; dig this.info). Bulldozer or excavator drive is $210 (£140) for 90 minutes.

* Neon Boneyard (001 702 387 6366; neonmuseum.org). Tours at noon and 2pm, Tues-Sat, $15 (£10).

More information

* Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort (001 702 385 2754; skilasvegas.com)

Styling: Gemma Hayward

Photographs: Rhys Frampton

Model: Saray at Ford Models

Hair: Gow Tanaka using Paul Mitchell

Make-up: Adam de Cruz at Yumikoto using Chanel S 2012 and Hydra Beauty Serum

Stylist's Assistant: Emma Akbareian

Photographer's Assistants: Rokas Darulis, Andy Picton

Filming and Editing: Daniel Burdett

Retouching: Oliver Ingrouille

With thanks to , 0844 692 6792. return flights London to Miami with Delta Airlines from £547.

Shot at Kimpton's Surfcomber Miami, South Beach;

Such indulgence – and some might call it pure fashion whimsy – was once the preserve of the haute couture ateliers. Now however, and increasingly, it is making its presence felt in the ready-to-wear collections too.

As is often the way, it might be argued that it all started with Chanel. Ten years ago now, this famous French name bought six of the most revered couture ateliers in Paris, saving them, the story goes, from extinction. Given that at the turn of the 20th century there were around 500 such workshops up and running, specialists in everything from buttons to bows, and that today no more than a handful remain, that may well be true. Chanel bought Lesage (master embroiderers), Lemarie (specialist in feathers), Massaro (shoe makers responsible, among other things, for the Chanel two-tone pump), Goossens, (goldsmiths), Desrues (costume-jewellery makers), Maison Michel (milliners) and Guillet (creator of fabric flowers). And their names were news once more.

Putting its money where its mouth is still further, to showcase their work, the monolithic French brand introduced an annual metiers d'art collection which it continues to show in exotic destinations all over the world – most recently Versailles, a far from shy location particularly given that the presentation took place only days after the election of Socialist president, François Hollande. You have to hand it to Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld. He is nothing if not provocative. In the meantime, the raised profile of the time-honoured institutions in question decrees that everyone from Balenciaga to Louis Vuitton now turn to them to ensure that the more elaborate pieces in their womenswear collections are finished just so. Such craftsmanship comes at a price, of course. And so it is not uncommon for a single garment to cost five figures. Make no mistake, despite an unstable economic climate, there is a market both for haute couture proper and for this, which may perhaps best be described as high-end ready to wear, today just as there always has been.

"I think that with so much competition around and with times being quite difficult people really do want good quality," the Nina Ricci designer Peter Copping told W Magazine recently. His collection, with its light-as-a-feather hand-finishing, garnered rave reviews across the board and was nothing if not testimony to the fact that the few people left in the world prepared to spend thousands on a single garment insist that it be precious.

"People want investment pieces," Copping continued. "And if something does reference haute couture, well, then that's a no-brainer, really." Indeed.

And so Chanel's spring/summer ready-to-wear collection features lace, silk blossom and a veritable ocean of pearls, Louis Vuitton's jewelled floral embroideries are among the most exquisitely wrought imaginable and Balenciaga's iridescent fringing is so special that the house is keeping the techniques behind its development under wraps.

It should come as no great surprise that in London, where designers are less likely to have the means to tap into such elevated resources, a similar viewpoint results in a more irreverent and homespun aesthetic but one that is delicate and highly complex nonetheless. The pyrotechnic presentation of Meadham Kirchhoff's all-singing, all-dancing summer collection almost belied the fine workmanship – much of it executed by hand – that has gone into the creation of this season's fondant-pale lace dresses, curvaceous brocade jackets, and appliquéd knits. Christopher Kane's collection of embroidered silks and oversized cashmere cricket jumpers, meanwhile, appears to fuse the golden age of haute couture and school uniform as far as silhouette is concerned, all while pushing fabric development forward. In particular, reflective appliquéd flowers in childlike colours which, upon closer inspection, resemble nothing more than a young girl's sticker collection steal the show. Yellow pansies, orange dahlias, giant daisies and blue roses are scaled up then edged with silver sequins or trapped between layers of aluminium organza and the effect is as sweet as it was uplifting. The end result is also clearly more make-do-and-mend in spirit than anything the aforementioned Maison Guillet might have to offer.

And that, it almost goes without saying, is precisely the point. Backstage immediately following his show last September, Kane said he had been thinking about "a teenager living on a council estate, in her bedroom, dreaming". It is perhaps no coincidence that this designer – and his sister, business partner and creative collaborator Tammy – grew up in Motherwell lusting after (and later saving up for) the opulent designs of Gianni Versace especially. Certainly there is a heartfelt atmosphere to this collection that suggests any references are close to home.

With that in mind, since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2006, Kane has not only been responsible for an increasingly accomplished twice-yearly own-name womenswear collection, he has also collaborated with Versace's sister, Donatella. In the manner of the finest fashion fairytale, he is now single-handedly responsible for designing her label's more youthful Versus line.

The cashmere company has been keeping people warm for 215 years, but recently efforts to combine its long heritage with more modern glamour has given the Scottish firm's chances of cracking the global market a rosy glow.

Johnstons is in its fifth year of a collaboration with Christopher Kane, the multi-award winning designer who has dreamt up outfits for Kylie Minogue videos. Never mind that it is the only remaining vertical mill in the UK – meaning it does everything from taking the raw fibre to producing the finished garment for its own label. Supplying luxury brands including Chanel and Hermes has helped to lend it a new-found cachet with fashionistas.

Linny Oliphant, brand manager at Johnstons says: "We have recently re-branded and spent £1m on our Eastfield Mills site in Hawick. We remain true to our roots and customers love our heritage and the fact we are made in Britain."

With London Fashion Week in full flow, it is reassuringly familiar story. Add in hopes that the Olympics and Queen's Diamond Jubilee will lure the rich and famous to Britain from around the world, and 2012 is shaping up to be a big year for the British luxury goods.

Capitalising on this unique opportunity was top of the agenda last month at a breakfast organised by Walpole, the British luxury body, and hosted by jeweller Boodles on Bond Street.

There is a chance for some of Walpole's members to move up – from being part of a cottage industry to genuine challengers to those few UK fashion powerhouses, such as Mulberry and Burberry.

London Fashion Week is important to the capital: it pumps £30m into the economy and brings in £100m of orders for the designer brands that grace the catwalks. However, the show is still in the shadow similar events in the major fashion centres like Milan or Paris. As the chairman of a major Italian luxury goods house says: "London is known for watching the young and the up-and-coming designers but not for the large, established luxury houses."

Many of the designers whose garments make it on to the catwalk have wafer-thin profits; the most successful designers globally are supported by wealthy conglomerates that make the real money on perfume sales.

The figures also show the UK hasn't completely cracked the fashion market. The UK exports an impressive £3.9bn of clothing and footwear a year, but this is dwarfed by the £14.6bn of imported garments.

A handful of British luxury brands have made it big. Burberry has a market cap of £6.3bn and Mulberry is worth more than £1.1bn. Other successful labels have been snapped up by overseas buyers, with Jimmy Choo and leather goods firm Belstaff owned by Swiss company Labelux and McQueen and Stella McCartney part of French group PPR.

Like Johnstons, they are making the most of the British credentials as a way of wooing spenders. Burberry has been big on promoting its 'Made in Britain' roots. It is sponsoring a scholarship at the Royal College of Art and Design and last year expanded its factory in Castleford, West Yorkshire. The group even shows videos of its factory in overseas stores.

Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council and owner of Jaeger and Aquascutum, says: "We are having our time. British fashion is back and we have the opportunity to grow globally. People want to buy British – made in Britain reeks of quality. Our customers are international – not just Chinese but from across the globe."

Upmarket jewellery brand and host of the luxury breakfast get-together, Boodles, also boasts a long history. Michael Wainwright, sitting in the plush surroundings of his lavish white leather and silk upholstered boutique in the heart of London's luxury sector, is the fifth generation of his family to run the 214-year-old business. Wainwright is trying to ensure the business keeps up with the 21st century despite its age, and is launching a website in Arabic and Mandarin in May. There are also shops planned for Hong Kong to add to the five Boodles has in the UK.

However, Wainwright argues that UK luxury groups cannot rely on using their long lives as unique selling points. For example, handbag and accessories brand Mulberry has been a dazzling performer and is a relative newcomer [created in 1971].

Wainwright says: "It isn't just about the heritage, it's making the people behind the brand accessible."

Wainwright is doing just this by cancelling his summer holiday, so that he is in town to welcome shoppers to his London stores during the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee. Similarly, Burberry will open its huge Regent Street flagship store before the Olympic flame is lit in late July The influx of summer visitors mean sales are expected to rocket. A 3.5 per cent increase forecast for the London's West End alone. The New West End Company predicts an additional £16.6m in revenue as a direct consequence of the Games. There will be impossibly wealthy tourists spending implausibly vast sums from the US, China, Russia, Middle East, Nigeria and Brazil.

The Jubilee celebration has a ready made face of luxury: the Queen and the Royal family. Julia Carrick, chief executive at Walpole, says: "For the luxury sector, the Queen and her family are the best ambassadors of all. The Queen has helped British brands expand to become global players."

Verdict Research forecasts the global luxury goods industry will increase by £37bn to £107bn by 2015. This market is not just important to the brands themselves. The manufacture of luxury goods does its bit for the UK's economy, while there is a wealth of other jobs the sector supports.

Luca Solca, Crédit Agricole Cheuvreux global head of European research with a focus on luxury, says: "The most important British brands seem less dependent on domestic manufacturing than what one typically finds in Switzerland or France. Hence, most of the benefits to the British economy come in the shape of high level job creation – creation, marketing, commercial and general management are typically in London – retail investments and operations, and all of the indirect effects a heightened level of economic activity typically brings."

The UK doesn't have luxury conglomerates on the scale of LVMH, Richemont or PPR but brands are – after two centuries in some cases – investing in global expansion for a brighter, luxurious future.

Johnstons of Elgin

Sales: £50m

Johnstons has been dyeing, spinning, weaving and knitting cashmere since 1797.


Sales: £1.5bn

Thomas Burberry, a 21-year-old draper’s apprentice, opened his first shop in Basingstoke, Hampshire in 1856

Paul Smith

Sales: £196m

Sir Paul Smith opened his first shop in 1970 in his home town of Nottingham and by 1976 he had shown his first collection in Paris. He now has 12 different Paul Smith collections.


Sales: £122m

Founder Roger Saul was ousted from the Mulberry board in 2002 after a spat with then chief executive Godfrey Davis. The Somerset based company will soon be headed by a Frenchman when Bruno Guillon joins from French rival Hermes next month.

Since reaching an all-time high last July of 1,600p, the group has failed to move above that. Last night, however, it closed close to the top of the Footsie after Credit Suisse upgraded its advice to "outperform" following a survey of 20 of the world's most upmarket department stores.

Scribblers from the broker noted that, compared to last year's results, an increasing number of respondents believed the image of Burberry – at one time more linked to football hooligans than fashionistas – was now at least at the same level as brands such as Louis Vuitton or Chanel.

At the same time, nearly half of those surveyed said they expected Burberry to perform better than its luxury rivals while all planned to either increase or keep steady the amount of space in their stores dedicated to its products. These findings, said the analysts, suggested "sustained, top-line outperformance" for the group, adding that it looked "healthier than ever".

Burberry's response was to shoot up 68p to 1,392p, with the move coming amid the revival of speculation it could become a bid target. Credit Suisse's scribes believe its 100 per cent free float meant there was a "potential takeover risk", although traders, who have heard the idea many times, were unimpressed.

Considering the boom in growth it is enjoying from China, Burberry will not have been harmed by the shock decision of the country's central bank to cut interest rates in an attempt to prop up growth.

It meant the lack of activity from the Bank of England was forgotten as the heavyweight miners charged up on the news. Rio Tinto and Xstrata raced up 115.5p to 3,015p and 28.2p to 966.8p, helping the FTSE 100 rise 63.68 points to 5,447.79, although US Fed boss Ben Bernanke, playing down hopes of stimulus measures, dampened the mood late in the day.

Having watched Glencore reach an all-time low of 334.35p last week, the trading giant's boss, Ivan Glasenberg, has decided to give it a push. The group revealed he has spent nearly £10m on almost 3 million shares, raising his stake to 15.8 per cent.

Given a lock-up expired last month on employees' shares – including some of Mr Glasenberg's – traders were encouraged by the fact he was buying instead of selling. The chief executive had promised to spend a "substantial" proportion of the recent £70m dividend he received on shares.

The vote of confidence helped lift Glencore 13.45p to 361.2p, while it was also helped by the news that Australian regulators have approved its takeover of Canadian grain giant Viterra.

Tullow Oil spurted up 30p to 1,468p after revealing it had struck oil off the Ivory Coast, giving a boost to the explorer's hopes of finding black gold in other nearby prospects.

Diageo slipped 4p to 1,577p as Liberum Capital's Pablo Zuanic suggested it may need a name change in order to achieve its goal of taking control of the world's biggest tequila brand, Jose Cuervo. "Sealing the deal may be as simple as buying shares back to pay [Cuervo owners the Beckmann family] and rechristening Diageo," said the analyst, who suggested "The Johnnie Cuervo Walker Co".

On the FTSE 250, Kesa Electricals powered up 4.24p to 54.1p following promising sales data from the high street. Fund manager Schroders has raised its stake in the retailer, which will be relegated to the small-cap index at the end of next week, to more than 11 per cent.

A rather busy session left Synergy Health 40.5p better off at 864.5p. As well as publishing its full-year results, the sterilising equipment supplier also announced a share placing and revealed it had struck a $25.1m (£16.3m) deal to buy US rival SRI/Surgical Express.

The widespread rally was accompanied by gossips reheating a number of familiar bid tales. Chip designer CSR (6.4p better off at 208p) and iron ore producer Ferrexpo (7.8p better off at 207p) were among those once again finding themselves the subject of takeover speculation, although dealers were playing it down.

Down on Aim, Ithaca Energy shifted up 5.75p to 115p on the start of oil exports from its Athena field in the North Sea. The explorer remains more than a third lower than before its admission last week that takeover talks had ended without a deal being struck – some, however, still hope it could receive a hostile approach.

H&M, it goes without saying, is a less elusive beast. That's not to suggest that it is not an inspired one. Karl Lagerfeld, who was the first big designer to collaborate with the Swedish-born store in 2004, credits the link- up for making him a household name. Not bad given that, for the past three decades, he has been creative director of Chanel. Dutch designer pairing Viktor & Rolf's collection for H&M – which famously included a budget but beautiful wedding gown – sold out in minutes and then turned up on eBay priced 10 times the original amount. Ditto collections by Stella McCartney, Lanvin...

In 2008 the high priestess of the fashion avant-garde, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, worked with H&M. The enlightened queued round the block to gain reasonably priced access to this often impenetrable name. More recently, Donatella Versace's collections for H&M have made those enamoured with dressing to impress very happy.

But before you buy when the collection goes on sale worldwide on 15 November, there are some things you need to know about Martin Margiela – or Maison Martin Margiela, please. The label's Belgian-born namesake's retirement was officially announced in 2009. The house is now owned by Renzo Rosso of Diesel but still designed by at least some of Margiela's long-standing team. They have done much to keep his signatures alive. And they are? A broad, sharp shoulder – really broad, the sort that would barely fit through the door. The colour white – from the coats worn by all employees to the cracked white paint that decorates the showroom and the blank, white label tacked roughly into main line clothing. NB too: cloven-toed "tabi" boots which are more comfortable than they look; leather leggings (Margiela's were among the first and best) and any amount of trompe l'oeil (a bra printed on to a nude jersey body, say).

Don't say: "Martin Margiela, I had dinner with him last week." You didn't. And everyone will know you are lying. Do say: "Ah, Martin Margiela. The most influential designer of the past quarter century." That may well be true.

"I hide it pretty well but I do go into a show really anxious and it doesn't get any easier," he says, his elbow propped on the back of a sofa in the Savoy Hotel suite where we meet. "I've found that the nerves haven't subsided in 15 years; they are worse than they were in the beginning. I guess you've got more at stake. The business is bigger now so there's more to lose than there was back then." The man best known for boho chic pretends to bite on his fist for emphasis: "I just try to white-knuckle it and keep calm."

Chances are he has nothing to worry about. Since showing his – legendary, in fashion circles at least – colourful debut collection, Electric Angels, in London in 1997 on the models Kate Moss, Jade Jagger and Helena Christensen, Williamson has attracted a legion of A-list fans, including his friend Sienna Miller, and built an international presence. His latest pieces, being unveiled at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, are inspired by Russia and its costumes, palaces and tsars – and, more subliminally, by the economic downturn.

"In a way it [the recession] has inspired because I think it's made designers really look deeper into their offer. That garment has to have many more reasons why you would buy it than it did pre-recession," says Williamson, 40, himself decked out in designer threads from Etro and Thom Sweeney. "It's harder, and I think there are more challenges, and people want the same quality but they want a lower price point." Yet his business has enjoyed an "upswing in the highest price point", with customers opting for "a box-ticking" – as opposed to fashion – piece that will last.

Williamson's latest project is for charity. He has collaborated with Sainsbury's to create three canvas shopping bags being sold in aid of Sport Relief: at least £1.50 of each £5 bag goes to the charity. He recently visited Kids Company in Kilburn, north London – one of Sport Relief's good causes – and worked with children on an art project.

As a child, Williamson used to draw and paint every night after school and he knew from an early age what he wanted to do for a career. Born in Chorlton, Manchester, the self-confessed un-sporty designer was named after the celebrated Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby, thanks to his football-fan father, David. He was inspired to draw by the way his mother, Maureen, a receptionist for a chain of opticians, dressed, and went on to graduate in fashion design and printed textiles from Central Saint Martins, London in 1994. Three years later, he founded his fashion house with his business partner Joseph Velosa.

Nowadays it is Miller, as opposed to his mum, who is recognised as Williamson's muse. Although he says he does not think of just one person when he designs, he describes the actress as "inspirational". "You know, she's willing to try anything and her sense of humour is very close to mine and our eye is drawn to the same things, creatively speaking."

Williamson is about to move into a new London home with his partner, the model Stephen Baccari, and dog, Coco (after Chanel). He believes British fashion is in a better state than ever, turning over money that "is not to be ignored". And he says definite effort are being made, including by the Government, to support the industry. "I think the future's very hopeful if they continue to see those new designers into their middle term of growth," he says. "I think it will finally dispel the idea that London is just about creative talent that then disintegrates, which it was back in the day."

Start at Piazza San Babila, a busy intersection that used to lie just outside Milan's medieval walls. In the Middle Ages, merchants had to declare their goods at this gate before entering the city. The red brick church of San Babila (00 39 02 7639 4297) dates back to 1095.

From here you can enter the Fashion District up Via Bagutta. This street of restaurants and antiques shops was a poor bohemian area in the 1930s, frequented by artists. As you emerge on Via Sant'Andrea, Palazzo Morando is on the left, containing a very good museum of costume (00 39 02 8846 5933; ). Vogue is staging a fashion event here, open to the public, from 21-24 September.

Walk to the intersection with Via Monte Napoleone for espresso (€1) at Caffe Cova (00 39 02 7600 5599; past ). This stylish sequence of rooms opened in 1829. In those days Monte Napoleone was where the aristocracy of Lombardy built its townhouses. Who would have guessed that it would one day become the most fashionable addresses for a new kind of Italian aristocracy, the Milanese couturier? Today this street is so important it even has its own glossy magazine, Monte Napoleone, and Cova is where the fashion press congregates during Fashion Week.

Now turn about and head east down Via Sant'Andrea past Chanel, Hermès, Miu Miu and Gianfranco Ferré. Crossing Via Senato and passing along Via San Primo, the Baroque building on your left is Palazzo del Senato, with its convex façade. A statue by Joan Miró stands outside.

At the intersection with the busy Corso Venezia look for the plaque on the Banca Commerciale Italiana, which commemorates the birthplace of Count Luigi Torelli, the man who hoisted a large Italian tricolour on top of the Duomo during the fight for independence in 1848.

Across Corso Venezia, weave through to Via dei Cappuccini. This area is one block after another of gorgeous early 20th-century apartments. The best is at the intersection of Cappuccini and Via Vivaio: Palazzo Berri-Meregalli (1914) was designed by Giulio Arata of Piacenza. These apartments are an unrepentant mishmash of Liberty style, oriental mosaics, statuary, cantilevers and frescos.

Turn left up Viale Piave and immediately, on the opposite side of the road, at Number 24 is a former cinema still called the Metropol. This now belongs to Dolce & Gabbana who converted it into its showroom for use during Fashion Week. Further up Viale Piave is the Hotel Diana Majestic (00 39 022 0581; ). Three sets of unmarked black double doors on the corner with Via Lambro signal the entrance to Gucci's private Fashion Week showrooms.

Crossing Piazza Guglielmo Oberdan, note the massive 19th-century ceremonial gates of Porta Venezia. These mark the beginning of Corso Buenos Aires, which contains about 350 fashion outlets, the highest concentration of clothing stores in Europe. Serious shoppers should divert now.

Turning back towards the city centre, enter the Giardini Pubblici, opened outside the old city walls in 1790. Here, between the park's trees, is where Alberta Ferretti stages her shows in a marquee. Keeping to the right of the Natural History Museum (00 39 02 8846 3280; ), see if you can spot the statue to General Giuseppe Sirtori. Sirtori was a comrade of Garibaldi who fought during the unification of Italy and died in 1874.

Emerge in Piazza Cavour and go through the 12th-century city gates known as Archi di Porta Nuova. Heading towards the city centre down Via Manzoni, the Armani Hotel Manzoni (00 39 02 8883 8888; ) is on your right. Here you can live the style in a hotel where every piece of furniture has been personally chosen by Giorgio Armani. Turn right in front of the Grand Hotel et de Milan (00 39 02 723 141; grandhotel etdemilan) where Giuseppe Verdi died in 1901. In the 1970s at the beginning of the Italian ligna pronto (prêt-à-porter) movement, many fashion houses presented their first shows in this hotel.

Head towards Via Borgonuovo and you'll pass the Armani Bookstore and Café (00 39 02 723 18600; ). At 11 Via Borgonuovo stands a 17th-century palace that is now the headquarters of Armani. Here the "Divine Giorgio", a former Milanese medical student, will be presenting private views next week.

Fresh cuts

Galleria del Corso is a little brother to the stately Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Last year it was converted into a café, multi-store, recording studio, multiplex cinema and the Ambassador Hotel (00 39 02 7602 0241; ), where doubles start at €202.50 (£162), room only.

This autumn, Daniele Confalonieri of Hotel Principe di Savoia (00 39 02 62301; ) is offering Passion Night, a vodka-based cocktail which was created for last week’s 2012 Vogue Fashion Night Out, at €20 (£16) a glass.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Railbookers (020-3327 2439; ) offers short breaks to Milan from £389 per person, including rail travel from London St Pancras via Paris and two nights’ B&B accommodation.

You can fly to Milan on British Airways (0844 493 0787; ) from Heathrow and Gatwick and easyJet (0843 104 5000; ) from Gatwick.

Staying there

In the heart of the Fashion District, the Four Seasons (00 39 02 77088; ) at Via Gesu 6/8 offers double rooms from €676 (£542), room only.

More information: Tourist Information: 00 39 027740 4343;
Milan Fashion Week:

Mr Murdoch, shunned by most political leaders since the phone-hacking scandal broke, will be at the poolside with his wife, Wendi Deng, and business leaders. The visit is part of Mr Johnson's drive to use the Games to promote London and encourage investment.

Sources close to the Mayor said he was "very comfortable" about being photographed with the tycoon. He is understood to regard Mr Murdoch as an important supporter of British sports through initiatives such as sponsorship of Team Sky cyclists, including Bradley Wiggins. A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: "The Mayor has always said he would use the Games to shamelessly promote London as the leading business hub in Europe ."

In 2010, Mr Johnson described phone-hacking allegations as "codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party" and a "song and dance about nothing". He later said he "misunderstood the severity of the allegations".In an interview in March, he said: "I don't regard [Mr Murdoch] as quite the satanic influence that some do. He did a great deal to set the newspaper industry free."

Basketball star's wife turns to retail therapy

Retailers in London's West End have seen a decline in footfall since attention turned eastwards, but thankfully one determined shopper seems keen to revive their fortunes. No, not Mary Portas but Vanessa Bryant, wife of the US basketball player Kobe Bryant. Not renowned as a spendthrift, she took to Bond Street clutching a red Chanel purse and emerged from one designer store with a bag of goodies so large it could accommodate a small child. Mrs Bryant, who is in London with their two young daughters for a fortnight, is reportedly "furious" with her husband and "embarrassed" after he was pictured chatting shirtless to two women at a nightclub in Barcelona last week.

Swimmers father gives unpredictable interview

The father of the South African swimmer who beat Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly gave a gloriously unpredictable interview to the BBC's Clare Balding yesterday. Bert Le Clos, father of 20-year-old Chad Le Clos, was dragged to a poolside spot after his son's tearful medal ceremony. Seconds later, the producers surely wished they hadn't. Speaking in gruff, Afrikaans-accented English, and sweating profusely, Mr Le Clos ignored Balding's questions. "I've never been so happy in my life," he said. Defeating her attempts to rein him in, he rambled: "Wow. Look at him. And he's beautiful. Look at this. What a beautiful boy."

When asked about his family, Mr Le Clos also took the chance to make Lord Coe's day a little bit worse. "My other son is here, the small one. I can't find him. We're all over the place. It's not easy to get tickets."

Country of the day – San Marino

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino is only 24 miles square, surrounded entirely by Italy, and has only 31,000 inhabitants, yet it has competed in 12 summer Olympics since 1960 (though without ever winning a medal). This surely qualifies it for the adjective we British often apply to such tiny nations: plucky. This year, San Marino has sent a team of four, kitted out by the Italian fashion label Salvatore Ferragamo, no less.

The burgers were good, as burgers go, and a couple of decent cocktails dealt with the inner curmudgeon. But as I turned in my £30 share of the bill, I experienced that same feeling of vague resignation that closes many of my meals out in the British capital. It took another six months before I hit on exactly what was disappointing me about London's dining scene, and it was in the last place you might have expected: Paris.

Long considered to have fallen behind London as a culinary trendsetter, the French capital is viewed condescendingly by all but the most informed of foodies and Francophiles on this side of the Channel as a teacher we've outgrown. They will point to crummy tourist-trap brasseries, overblown haute cuisine and McDonald's at the Louvre as evidence of its dramatic fall from grace. And where it does succeed, it is still playing catch-up, poor thing, they will simper. The truth is, here in London, we have nothing to learn from Paris any more.

On an early autumn night a few weeks ago, however, I found myself in east Paris, in the rough and ready 20th arrondissement, receiving what felt like a re-education in dining out. A French friend had recommended Roseval, a new restaurant run by talented young chefs Michael Greenwold, a 28-year-old Brit, and Simone Tondo, a 24-year-old Sardinian, that has become an instant hit since its July opening.

An unassuming little corner plot, Roseval seats around 20 in its pocket-square-sized dining-room. Roughly plastered white walls and simple wooden furniture allow the space to breathe but retain a homely feel. Unlike London, where the fashion for "no-bookings" means a meal now routinely begins with a two-hour wait, there's no queuing or names on clipboards, just plain old reservations. And no choosing what to eat, either – like many Paris restaurants now, Roseval offers a set menu only, although you can ring ahead for special requirements. I was more than happy to cede control – a welcome pause in the endless flow of decision-making, there's also something companionable about eating the same thing as everyone else at the table.

That we were in playful but skilled hands was made clear by the starter: a salted ricotta soup with mackerel and heirloom tomatoes, prettily sprinkled with chive flowers and lemon breadcrumbs, took the bright flavours of a salad into unexpected forms. A dish of cod, tempered bone marrow, tangy wild sorrel, and pil-pil emulsion sitting atop soft, buttery potato was a featherweight delight, while 12-hour-cooked pork belly, finished on the grill, deglazed with Muscat grape juice and served with endive and gambas fair cured me of my indifference to that meat.

After a perfect panna cotta topped with sweet, earthy fig, the final course of almond ice-cream, cloaked in crumbs of olive-oil cake and 28-month-aged pecorino and spiked with wild blackberries was a fitting summation of the chefs' facility with vivid combinations and lightness of touch. With each course, Greenwold and Tondo zipped back and forth from their basement kitchen to present the dish to diners.

It was a great meal by any measure, but at a prix fixe of €35 (just shy of £28), it was jaw-dropping. With a rather indulgent wine choice, we knocked the price up to nearer £40 a head, but it still felt like a steal for something genuinely special. Shuffling into the night, buoyed by a glass of dessert wine on the house as we waited at the bar for a cloudburst to ease, I reflected on what the same sum might have bought me in London. My burger and kitchen roll with a few more cocktails on the side? A couple of decent courses, provided you opt for the house wine, in Soho?

Before the Olympics, in a last-minute sales pitch for the city, Boris Johnson boasted that London had more Michelin-starred restaurants than Paris – though it's odd that, when those stars were more plentiful on the Continent, they connoted fussy soft furnishings and overwrought food, whereas now they are used as hard evidence that Brits do it better. No matter – for the vast majority of people, comparisons at that high-falutin level are about as relevant as whether you should buy Chanel or Burberry.

You can, of course, eat fantastically well for rather a lot of money in London – and for very little, if you go frill-free. It's finding something in the middle that's not mediocre which is the problem. If you're neither a restaurant critic nor exceptionally wealthy, just someone in gainful employment who'd like to go out for a properly good, interesting meal without breaking the £50 ceiling, London is a tricky prospect. If you're not crazy about inane gimmicks or gentrified fast food, it can be quite depressing.

Paris, meanwhile, is full of possibilities. Happily for its denizens, Roseval is not a bargainous aberration, but typical of a local, independent restaurant scene founded on the talents of a fresh generation of young chefs, many of whom are not French, but have cut their teeth in some of the city's most creative kitchens and are now boldly striking out alone with their first ventures. Yes, there is also a clutch of trendy burger and steak joints, but they aren't setting the tone. Meg Zimbeck, editor of the Paris by Mouth restaurant blog, cites the recently opened Abri and the reopened Vivant Table, both of which have Japanese chefs, alongside Roseval as her top picks of the new season.

Common features include addresses in scruffier parts of town (but we're talking mainly the 10th and 20th arrondissements here, not the back end of the banlieues), low-key décor and a deliberately relaxed environment – all of which mean they can offer inventive dishes and pristine produce at a ridiculously fair price.

"I still think that one can eat better in Paris than almost anywhere else in the world, but the action is no longer happening at the haute-cuisine level," explains Zimbeck. "Chefs who have interned at Michelin-starred restaurants are now performing on smaller, more personal stages where they can innovate and use ingredients that go beyond foie gras, truffle and turbot. The calibre of lunch that you can have in Paris for €25 is unmatched anywhere in the world."

Youthful, dynamic and international in outlook, the scene is miles away from the aforementioned caricature of Parisian cooking over here. When I call Greenwold, to ask if he and Tondo will share their insider perspective on the contemporary Paris scene with a Londoner, he seems surprised: "I just didn't think anyone knew much about what's going on over here," says the Oxfordshire-raised chef. "I see articles about Paris in the food and travel sections of British papers, but I don't feel there's been that acknowledgement of what's been happening here."

I mention that the most recent face of Parisian dining is expat Brit Rachel Khoo, who had TV audiences drooling over her mismatched crockery, vintage dresses and her own, not especially exciting, "takes" on French cooking. "Is she a chef?" asks Tondo. "Well, she describes herself as a food 'creative'… I think she opened a pop-up restaurant in her flat," I offer. Tondo rolls his eyes.

So though we clearly love a bit of Amélie-esque Paris, when it comes to bistronomie – the move away from classic haute cuisine towards a more experimental style of cooking, offered in casual "neo-bistro" surroundings and at more affordable prices – we have been pretty slow on the uptake.

The seeds were sown by chefs such as Pascal Barbot as far back as 2000, but it found its full definition in the mid-noughties. In 2006, French-born Basque chef Inaki Aizpitarte brought daring reinventions of bistro fare and a slug of rock'n'roll glamour with his highly acclaimed Chateaubriand (Greenwold's training ground and currently 15th in the World's 50 Best Restaurants list). Gregory Marchand, returning from stints in New York and London, where he worked closely with Jamie Oliver – whose influence may be detected as much in his fashion sense as his approach to food – opened the insanely popular Frenchie in 2009.

Beyond a commitment to quality, simplicity and accessibility, the rules of bistronomie are pretty much that there ain't no rules – creativity and individuality are its watchwords. It's this ethos that has encouraged the Roseval generation to forge ahead with their personal visions, diversifying the scene and maintaining its dynamism.

All this flies in the face of accounts of the demise of Parisian gastronomy – as recently as 2009, US journalist Michael Steinberger's award-winning Au Revoir to All That presented a seemingly persuasive argument that the decline of the country's food, yoked to the offering in Paris, mirrored France's dwindling political and economic status. Although purporting to be as much eulogy as elegy, Steinberger's tome drove another nail into the metaphorical coffin in which international media seemed happy to inter Paris's culinary prowess.

Yet Steinberger's argument has not dated especially well in these recessionary times. Mocking the French distrust of free-market economics and globalisation, he also drew a direct link between the "vast amounts of wealth created in London", Spain's "flourishing" economy and their rise as gastronomic powerhouses, fuelled by diners with deep pockets. But if (temporarily) booming economies spurred a certain kind of innovation, the new genre of dining that was being created in Paris was better placed to weather a downturn. Increasingly, it looks as though the French were wise to have scaled things down in the dining-room while others were ramping them up.

Paris's latest clutch of restaurant openings also shows up the fallacy of another broader claim often made about France, that the country's labour laws and bureaucracy strangle entrepreneurial spirit. I ask Greenwold whether it would have been any easier to open a restaurant in London. Though he admits the bureaucracy was maddening, it seems to galvanise the city's cheffing community (friends in the business obligingly lent Greenwold and Tondo their business plan to copy). And the bottom line is money: "We could do what we wanted here for a lot less. Even in east London I can't imagine we could have opened this for less than half a million; here we did it for 150k. Our rent is expensive by Parisian standards, but cheap for London. We'd love to do something in London, but we'd need serious investment." The figures go a long way to explaining differences in the capitals' dining options. In Paris, you can go small-scale and do OK. In London, mere survival requires something very commercial. Something like a burger on a piece of kitchen roll, perhaps.

Not long after my Paris trip, I speak to Luc Dubanchet, the food critic and former Gault-Millau guide editor who 10 years ago, bored with the capital's staid restaurant scene, founded Omnivore, a food publication set up in explicit opposition to the Michelin Guide and the stuffy approach to eating he felt it encouraged. Since then, the magazine has fought passionately to define and promote the new wave of jeune cuisine simmering away in Paris.

I ask Dubanchet if he is pleased with how far the city has come. "Well, I was right that we could do better – so that's good," he laughs. "Paris is great now; you can feel something there which is about excitement rather than history and Michelin stars. But it's fragile. Everywhere, not only in France, you have to fight for something new all the time."

It is in a spirit of enquiry and exchange that Dubanchet launched the Omnivore "World Tour", a series of events across the globe connecting local chefs with their counterparts from Paris and around Europe for a programme of dinners and masterclasses. The Roseval boys are among those now involved: Tondo showed me a large Babushka tattoo on his arm that commemorated their stint at a recent Moscow event, confirming the youthful, irreverent nature of the gatherings.

I ask whether either of them might be acquiring some London-themed body art any time soon. "I think so," says Greenwold. "I don't know how the kind of thing we're doing over here will go down to be honest. The [east London-based chefs] Young Turks are part of Omnivore and I know that they've got quite a lot of attention in London with some of their combinations. James [Lowe] does a dish that's aged steak cut into a tartare with an oyster emulsion. It's really good, I'm not knocking it as a dish, but if you look at what's been going on there, it's not that out there. If people think that's crazy in London, they're going to think that the kind of stuff Inaki does, and maybe we do sometimes… well, they're going to think it's fucking weird." Perhaps we're not quite the cutting-edge sophisticates we think we are.

Dubanchet is a big fan of a good hamburger, so he has no sympathy for my kitchen-roll-related woes in London. But he is unimpressed when I tell him of a recent meal in Piccadilly's new Brasserie Zedel, the vast, Disney-esque repro French bistro that has been serving up competent oeuf mayonnaises and choucroute at chain-restaurant prices to the general approval of the city's critics. "There are so many French copies. Even here in France there are French copies. Why another one?" he sighs. "You have to be careful you don't get too complacent. Otherwise, you will wake up and find that you're, well, French."

Ooh la la! The brightest young stars of Parisian cuisine


Already a foodie favourite since opening last month. Japanese chef Katsuaki Okiyama turns out exquisite plates, such as potato soup with coffee and cardamom foam, in a low-fi setting. A prix fixe four-course lunch is €22; six-course dinner €38.50. Abri's excellent sandwiches, served all day, are fast becoming legendary too. 92 Rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, 75010, tel: (00 33) 1 83 97 00 00


The international pedigree of the young couple behind this diminutive restaurant (Victor is French, Alice Italo-Brasilo-French) makes for bright, thoroughly modern cooking in an unpretentious atmosphere befitting its Ménilmontant location. Described as adorable by Le Figaro's redoubtable critic François Simon, dinner à la carte averages €40. Closed lunch. 6 Rue Victor Letalle, 75020, tel: (00 33) 1 47 97 25 77

Chez Aline

Although strictly speaking not a restaurant, this is unlike any snack bar you'll have known. Housed in a former horsemeat butchers, Delphine Zampetti (aka Mrs Inaki Aizpitarte) turns out superlative sandwiches (from €4.50) and a couple of plats du jour (€10). Try the rabbit baguette with sundried tomatoes or go old-school Parisian with a simple jambon-beurre. 85 Rue de la Roquette 75011, tel: (00 33) 1 43 71 90 75

Restaurant Pierre Sang Boyer

A finalist in the French equivalent of Masterchef, Korean-born Boyer opened a spot in trendy Oberkampf this summer, where imaginative but polished cooking rules: veal tartare with figs; gambas with aubergine caviar and frozen banana slices. Trust us, it's good. The four-course prix fixe is €35. Sadly, no reservations are taken. 55 Rue Oberkampf, 75011, no phone

Vivant Table

The bistro formerly known as Vivant has reopened with an upgrade on the menu as well as the name, thanks to two skilled Japanese chefs, Atsumi Sota and Masaki Yamamoto. Early whispers describe the food as "mind-blowing", but there have been quibbles over the prices – €45 for the fixe – which shows the value Parisians expect. A bar à vins opens next door soon. 43 Rue des Petites Ecuries, 75011, tel: (00 33) 1 42 46 43 55

Perhaps this goes some way toward explaining the phenomenon of the celebrity fragrance: we just want to feel like our idols do after they've had a wash. Lopez's scent is credited with reigniting the Nineties vogue for superstar endorsement a decade ago and remains top of the perfume parade, bringing in an estimated £570 per hour for the curvaceous singer, or £50m in the past 10 years.

"The trend started back in 1991 when Elizabeth Taylor launched 'White Diamonds'," explains Alessandra Steinherr, beauty director at Glamour magazine. "Many have come and gone since then and, of course, some are beyond hideous, while others are beautifully formulated and super popular. The good ones stand the test of time and the bad-quality ones tend to disappear."

In the past six months, Lady Gaga and Madonna have released their own fragrances, as have – rather lower down the celeb spectrum – Amy Childs (of The Only Way is Essex fame), X Factor runner-up Cher Lloyd and X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos. Clearly, there is a market for these products.

While the most popular overall – in terms of sales – remain Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker and Britney Spears, for many years "Shh" by Jade Goody was a bestseller. Launched in 2006 after Goody's stint on Big Brother, it sells today (three years after her death) as a collector's item on eBay.

"Fragrance has become increasingly part of everybody's daily dressing ritual," says Nicholas Gilbert, an olfactory expert based at London's top-end scent shop Les Senteurs. "The price point of celebrity fragrances seems to explain their popularity, however, you get what you pay for."

Most celebrity scents, he explains, use inexpensive fruity notes that are easily created and have widespread appeal among the nostrils of the masses. Sweet fruits, such as blackcurrants, strawberry and peach, are popular, as are "fantasy floral accords", invented concepts such as Red Vanilla Orchid, Dewy Lotus Flower, Coconut Orchid. Typically, celebrity scents combine fruity top notes with a floral heart and a cake-like base, with vanilla a common ingredient in many.

"Vanilla's comforting," Gilbert continues, "because it recalls the security of youth and nursery desserts, and is considered by some to be an aphrodisiac."

But celebrity fragrances tread a thin line between sex and sensuality: most of these products must be accessible to young fanbases with uneducated palettes, which is why so many of them smell so sickly sweet.

Pint-sized popstar Justin Bieber's fragrance "Someday", launched in 2011 (the bottle sports a rubber floral effigy uncannily like that of Marc Jacobs's "Lola") is a case in point: starting notes of mandarin, pear and berries ends in vanilla and soft musk. Wearing it for a day is like being trapped in a fudge kitchen.

"It explains a dream," Bieber told fans when it launched. "Someday I will drive a BMW. Someday I will be an astronaut."

When Bieber debuted his second perfume "Girlfriend", British high-street chain The Perfume Shop reported selling one bottle a minute in the opening weekend, and a 132 per cent rise in online sales on the previous year. "All records were broken with the launch of 'Girlfriend'," says the store's advertising manager Michelle D'Vaz. "It's safe to say Bieber fever is still a phenomenon."

Refreshingly, when reports last year surfaced that Lady Gaga would release a fragrance, the popstar said she wanted it to smell of "blood and semen". Since then however, she has had to row back a bit: the resultant scent, which came out last month, is merely based on the molecular structure of these two substances, and is structured by three accords – that is, three sets of notes which harmonise together. Belladonna; honey, saffron and apricot, and Tiger Orchid combine to make a singular perfume that is presented in a bottle that resembles an onyx egg clutched by an alien claw. Righto.

It might not sound very nice but what Lady Gaga, along with Madonna and reality-television star Kim Kardashian, has done is de-sweeten the celeb scent shelves. Madge's "Truth or Dare" is a traditional white floral scent undercut with amber, while Kardashian's mixes a difficult tuberose with sandalwood. They're very different from the other citrus celeb offerings: whatever one might think of buying into a brand because of the famous face behind it, these perfumes are noticeably more complex and less obviously wearable.

"I feel that fragrance houses need to take a risk to smash the mould of what a celebrity fragrance can be," says Gilbert. "The continued focus on group testing that the mainstream insists on using is leading to a homogenisation of the celebrity-fragrance market."

But Sarah Jessica Parker remains a cautionary tale. After releasing the bestselling "Lovely" in 2005 – capitalising on her profile at the end of the Sex and the City television series – she went on to create another product "Covet", a woody chocolate and lavender scent or fougère that she was heavily involved in building, and which proved simply too challenging for the common nose. It was swiftly discontinued.

"It's really down to how the celebrities approach the making of their perfume," says Steinherr. "How involved they are, how much it is a personal project or just a way to make a quick buck.

"Of course, initially the face of the fragrance is the determining factor as to whether the perfume sells, but the trick to getting longevity and repeat sales is to produce a great scent."

Ultimately, if it smells nice, most people will probably like it and part with their hard-earned cash for it. And others will do as a friend of mine does: decant her favourite fragrance – "True Reflection" by Kim Kardashian – into a Chanel No. 5 bottle so that her secret remains safe.

A brief glimpse of the former Libertines frontman's tattooed torso and scarred belly reveal the ravages of his 32 years. He quickly replaces his T-shirt, which had been inside-out, and begins posing moodily for photographs, in a room littered with strange objects: taxidermy, antique furniture and canvases. Is this for a music video? Has he got an album coming out? No. It may look pretty rock'n'roll, but it is, in fact, the start of Doherty's bid to be taken seriously as a fine artist.

Jumpy like a cat, Doherty shows me around London's Cob Gallery, where his first UK solo art exhibition (he showed work at the Chappe gallery in Paris in 2008) will open next week. Most of the artwork is yet to arrive, but nine canvases are scattered around the black-walled, underground space in Camden. The paintings are spare, with lots of white space showing through linear outlines, glued-on paper and Doherty's spidery scrawl. Their unifying feature, apart from the artist's signature, is that they have been painted in blood. Doherty's blood. It is a technique he refers to as "arterial splatter": an ex-girlfriend's father coined the phrase. The streaky, brown-ish marks, by turns thick (as if he's just swished a bloodied thumb across the surface) and bespattered (he squirts his blood from a syringe) are unmistakably human.

A further 20 new blood-paintings will be shipped in from Paris, where the singer now lives, to form the top half of a collaboration between the curators of Cob and another gallery, Guts for Garters. The show is called On Blood: A Portrait of the Artist. The first part of the title refers to his blood paintings, and the latter half to a decision by curator Cassie Beadle to exhibit a selection of strange curiosities, trinkets and detritus hoarded by Doherty over the years.

Painting is something of a collective process for Doherty. A "fucking accurate" portrait of his friend Peter Wolfe, from the band Wolfman and the Side-Effects, was drawn by his friend Alizé Meurisse, and Doherty has added a splatter or two and some song lyrics into the mix. An early portrait of The Libertines, which the artist modestly disparages, has been added to, not only by his eight-year-old son Astile, but also by his good friend, the late Amy Winehouse, who drew a small self-portrait in her own blood.

"She was on the phone to her dad when she did that. She said, 'Dad, I'm with Pete and he's making me draw with my blood!' He didn't like me much, her dad."

The actress Charlotte Gainsbourg added a sketch of a house to a painting called Leet Strife – a less pretentious title than "Street Life", he says.

Doherty explains that for his newest works he has been using watercolours. He says it is the only way he can begin to replicate the "emulsive, wishy-washy residue on the neck of a crack-cocaine bottle". Alarmingly, he then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a broken crack-pipe ("It's an old one, I promise") and holds the glass up to the light so I can see the silvery remains of the drugs.

"Look at the colours, the oranges. You see that there? You can only get that with watercolours."

Marc Quinn made wonderful sculptures from his own frozen blood, but is there something a bit faddy and pretentious about painting with it? I suggest that the self-harm element might be rather gruesome, but Cob curator Victoria Williams has an intriguing take on it. "It's about breaking down the boundaries between yourself and your art. I don't think it's destructive, it's quite giving actually," she says. "It's certainly not about gore."

Later in the day, the curators, Doherty and his manager are getting ready to drive a van to Wiltshire, to the mansion the artist used to rent from Lord Cardigan but vacated after the roof fell in. There is some anxiety, Doherty having arrived over an hour late, that they will not get to rifle through the storage container there until after dark. Doherty is rather apprehensive about what they will find.

"Everything flooded when the roof fell in," Doherty says. "Then it froze, then it flooded again when it melted. We stuck everything into storage but lots of it was ruined. Have you ever seen mould that looks all fluffy and white like snow?"

I haven't. Nor have I met Doherty before, although he insists that I have: that famous face, his dishevelled hair now touched with grey, eyes outlined by lack of sleep and a smirking, disarming smile.

The curators have quite a task ahead, sifting through the piles of "silks, bones, leathers, skulls, palettes – what's that thing you put canvases on? – oh yeah, easels, frames, boots, laces, wigs, mannequins..." that are, apparently, Doherty's passion.

His proclivity for hoarding leads him to talk about his infamous on-again, off-again relationship with the supermodel Kate Moss, from whom he finally separated in 2007.

"Kate used to collect elephants, so I'd buy them for her wherever I went," he says. "When we split up she destroyed all my stuff, but she didn't destroy my elephants. Because I couldn't get over her for a while I just kept buying elephants and now I've got a huge elephant collection for sale. I might post them anonymously to her as a wedding present."

Despite Moss having married her long-term boyfriend, Jamie Hince, last July, her name is rarely printed without mention of her tempestuous relationship with Doherty. The singer's penchant for heroin and crack-cocaine led to the end of their relationship and the model's association with him dented her reputation and helped to earn her the epithet "Cocaine Kate". Moss publicly split from Doherty after footage of her allegedly taking cocaine at a studio where he was recording with Babyshambles was sold to the press. Prosecutors decided not to charge the supermodel, in the absence of forensic or direct eyewitness evidence, but Moss lost contracts with H&M, Burberry and Chanel before admitting herself to rehab.

I ask Doherty if he has any regrets about the demise of their relationship. He is silent for a long time: "I suppose I must have, but I was a bit unhinged at that time," he shrugs. "The drugs. The thing is, she knew from day one when we began our relationship that I was using very heavily. She knew that. So, you can't suddenly turn around and say, 'you've got to stop all that'. I do have regrets about Kate, but I wouldn't want to talk to you about them. I'd only talk to a highly skilled doctor with large amounts of morphine and a hypnotherapist. And a small monkey."

He laughs and then lets out a scream before putting his finger in his mouth. He has cut it on the broken crack-pipe in his pocket. He bleeds only slightly, but it's a sign that we need to talk about something else. I joke that I've got some paper in case he wants to make a drawing. He declines, the mood having dropped, and for a moment the connection between his art and his well-documented self-harming hangs in the air.

The show is a chance for Doherty to revitalise his image in the wake of his many falls from grace. In 2003 the singer was ejected from The Libertines, at the height of their success, by his one-time best friend Carl Barât, thanks to his increasing dependence on Class-A drugs. Doherty went on to front Babyshambles, with whom he released two albums, and also produced a solo record called Grace/Wastelands in 2009, but his celebrity reputation has always rather eclipsed his music. In 2010 The Libertines reformed for appearances at the Reading and Leeds Festivals – but, as the release of Roger Sargent's film about the band's revival, The Libertines: There Are No Innocent Bystanders, released next month, reveals, with Doherty the appeal of the story is usually greater than the sound.

Doherty has been in prison three times, had at least 15 court appearances, a conviction for burglary, more than 26 drugs charges and is currently on bail for cocaine possession. I ask how he is managing his addictions.

"I've stopped injecting," he says, giving credit for this improvement to a new girlfriend, whose name he decides not to disclose, but whose parents he is meeting at their Oxford home this evening.

"The only way I see myself in a serious relationship is if I am toning it down a bit. When you're banging up all day you can't really have someone else in your life, especially if she's an English rose. I wouldn't let her touch anything, I just wouldn't." Doherty tells me he is being treated at a walk-in clinic for users and is currently on a pharmaceutical opiate called Subutex ("Posh and Becks, as they call it"), which "doesn't get you high" but suppresses withdrawal symptoms.

Gone is the implant which he had in his stomach to block the effects of heroin. "Jesus Christ, thank God them days are over. That was when I was up in front of a judge every five minutes and he was saying, 'get clean or go to jail'". Doherty had quite a hard time in prison.

"I got on OK in Pentonville [in 2006] because it was kind of my local, if you like. A lot of people wanted to get me, but more wanted to do me a favour. In Wayland last year it was lads from east rather than north London, and loads of other places. People I didn't know." As soon as he arrived, he says, people started getting at him, requesting money and drugs for protection. "I didn't have any money, I didn't have any drugs. One guy said he was going to stick a fork up my arse. I threw my telly at him because I thought that would get me put in isolation."

Instead, they moved Doherty to another wing where he found an ally in his cellmate who "didn't like bullies, basically". Between them they managed to fend off the attention. "A lot of those guys are just scared little boys inside. If you stand your ground they back down."

When Doherty speaks it comes across that the constant danger, the addictions, and the hell-raising parties all stem from his wish to emulate the bohemian ideal. This was clear in his Libertines days, when the band's red jackets and the presentation of Doherty as a kind of Nick Drake of our times – a new romantic, a poet and a rebel – were still doing their work.

A decade on, the figure who describes quite eloquently and earnestly his passion for a time when men wore smoking jackets and when drugs and art were synonymous, seems deflated. I hope that the art will be a positive step for Doherty; his enthusiasm for it recalls the old Pete – the showman and the optimist.

"I have a distinct memory of friends I had at school whose parents were, for want of a better word, bohemian. That was the kind of England that I thought I should have belonged to," he says. Instead Doherty grew up in a series of barracks, the son of a Catholic Army Major, and received little encouragement for his creative pursuits.

"My family used to say, point-blank, 'We'd support you if we thought you could sing, or we thought you could write songs, but you can't'."

Last year his widely publicised estrangement from his father ended after a good meeting at his little sister's wedding. "The family was all there together and I think my father was a little bit surprised at how compos mentis I was. He turned around and said that I was welcome to come home for Christmas. That was the first time in six years he's said that."

Repeated flayings in the tabloid press from 2005 onwards – his fans loving his Keith Richards-esque behaviour, his detractors revelling in his destruction – took its toll on Doherty. Never mind the fact that he courted it to start with. Three years ago he upped sticks to Paris to avoid the relentless attention. He loves it there, his own modern-day bohemia.

"The media circus got a bit twisted when I was in London. It became a bit of a joke, really. In Paris, they're so serious I can take myself really seriously too. I can get really morbid without people telling me to cheer up." He still has a loyal fanbase and he hasn't abandoned his music. He has already played a couple of secret gigs in London this year.

Despite this retreat from public life, Doherty hit the headlines earlier this week when the South African supermodel Lindi Hingston told the South African Sunday Times that she had given birth to his baby six weeks ago. Pictures of the little girl, who has been named Aisling, appeared in the paper. There is a distinct Doherty pout to the baby's features. When I ask the man himself about the pictures, he claims not to know anything about the press coverage.

"I'm really surprised she's done that [talked to a newspaper]," he says rather sadly, looking to his manager for confirmation and support. "The little girl was two months premature. I said I'd try to be there for the birth. You know what, I don't want to talk about that." So she is your daughter?

"Yeah, she's mine," he says, adding: "We're using the baby's blood in one of the pictures". I'm almost certain he's joking. Almost.

On Blood: A Portrait of the Artist, Cob Gallery, London NW1 (cobgallery.com/ gutsforgarters.com) 26 February to 4 March

Some of Mrs Thatcher's iconic outfits of the time are shortly up for sale at Christie's, courtesy of a private collector – God knows how the collector got his or her hands on Mrs Thatcher's best frocks in the first place, but we don't inquire. There is an amazing bright yellow one with an interesting side-button effect, very Chinese empress. There is one in ultramarine with tutti-frutti cuffs. There is a black one with a broad polka-dot lapel, which Mrs T gave a conference speech in – there's a photograph of her with an artfully matching pussy bow.

Marvellous. All of them British, not a single one of them anything other than massively redolent of a time, and a place, and a social milieu, and an overpowering personality. Interestingly, they used to be described, as Mrs Thatcher described herself, as a size 14. The size 14 of the 1980s, apparently, is the size 10 of today.

Politicians often struggle quite hard to be identified with a particular item of clothing, or a look, or a prop. Sometimes it happens without them trying (Michael Foot's donkey jacket). There is Harold Wilson's pipe. There was poor John Major's underpants. There is David Cameron's apparent attachment to the Boden dad catalogue.

Impossible to think of Norman St John Stevas without thinking of monogrammed red velvet house slippers. Sometimes – I know this is a recherché example – the 1990s Tory MP Dame Jill Knight will come into mind for no reason other than the massive herbaceous-border frocks she used to wear in the chamber.

But nothing comes near the Thatcher look as an embodiment of a political figure, and, actually, of a political creed. It would be absolutely impossible for anyone to put one of these incredible outfits on and then say out loud, "Do you know, I really think the public service needs to be applauded for the way it values consensus in debate." You just could not go on giving free state milk to children with one of those jackets on.

Mrs Thatcher was not, in fact, averse to discussing the detail of her wardrobe. At one hallucinatory moment in the 1980s, she took part in an Angela Huth documentary for the series Forty Minutes and answered questions about her clothes, including her underwear – she bought it from Marks & Spencer, she said, adding, "Doesn't everybody?"

The whole period between 1975 and 1990 was rather like that. To look at these beautifully made, highly performative garments is to see the other side of Vivienne Westwood, of Adam Ant's stage costume, of a shouty T-shirt that said FRANKIE SAYS RELAX. As Marie Antoinette could tell you from the other side of the guillotine, political beliefs fade and lose their meaning. But style, carried on with enough conviction, can last for ever.

Brad the gent

What a gentleman Bradley Wiggins is, really. Not everyone noticed his exemplary behaviour on winning the Olympic time trial. He was informed that he had the best time, but made no response, even though by then, the subsequent riders could not match his time, indeed had already exceeded it. He only raised his hands in celebration when the last rider had crossed the line.

This beautiful behaviour was interpreted by the BBC commentator, however, as Mr Wiggins not knowing that he had won, or not being able to believe it, or something. Nothing of the sort. As with the moment in the Tour de France when he slowed down, refusing to take advantage when his rivals suffered punctures from scattered tin-tacks, Mr Wiggins was just behaving with great respect and decency.

No one these days wants to be considered a gentleman. It hasn't seemed like much of an advantage for decades. But to behave consistently well, like Mr Wiggins, and to do the right thing without being ordered to is the best lesson the Olympics can give us. We're not going to ride as fast as him, but we can all endeavour to raise our manners to the status of ethical principles.

Must 'Vertigo' look down on the rest?

Interestingly, the once-a-decade poll of Sight and Sound into the greatest films ever made has moved Hitchcock's Vertigo into the first place, replacing Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. It's curious, however, that this exhaustive poll of the world's critics couldn't find anything later than 2001: A Space Odyssey in their top 10. Have no films scaled the heights since 1968? What about Pulp Fiction? Or anything funny, like Tootsie?

Well, we all have our personal lists. It's difficult to know, however, whether we are living in a golden age of cinematic archive or not. From one point of view, it is easier than ever to source classic films. You used to have to wait until your local repertory cinema decided to show Last Year at Marienbad. Now you just get it off Amazon.

On the other hand, those repertory cinemas have now almost all gone, and the curatorial function they performed of introducing people to the classics of the past has disappeared. You are not going to watch Juliet of the Spirits if you've never heard of it.

But the retro-style photo booth is back in a big way. Standalone cubicles are popping up on streets and in bars in London and beyond. They're also fast becoming a fixture at parties and weddings. "There's been a huge rise in demand," says Seamus Ryan, founder of Boothnation, a photo booth rental company that counts Chanel and Calvin Klein among its clients. "It's spread so much that there is virtually a new photo booth company set up every week."

Next Saturday sees the world's first photo booth festival, being held off Columbia Road in east London. For £10 you can have unlimited use of more than eight bespoke photo booths including the Warhol-esque Pop Art booth, disco booth and 3D booth.

Now, of course, most have gone digital so there's no longer any danger of smudging your dewy snaps. The agonising wait for them to develop is over too. "The whole process is a lot quicker so you can have your prints in 20 seconds as opposed to five minutes", says Ryan.

Photo booths have been capturing stolen kisses and drunken flashes since 1925. What's their enduring appeal? "Because there's a curtain and no photographer, you lose your inhibitions. You can be yourself and therefore the pictures that come out are unique," says Ryan. "What's nice is that it has the same effect on every social class, no matter how wealthy or humble they are. Everyone has the same silly response to a photo booth."

Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton said that her show, which buzzed with golden honey bees, was "a celebration of femininity", and that could be a mantra for the season as a whole.

In place of ephemeral, trend-driven fashion, spring's focus is on character, of putting a look together more than stepping into a single statement piece. The Paris catwalks, still home to the most gifted designers, are the place where individuality shines. And so it did, brightly.

If there is an overriding mood, it is a minimal one. That could be seen in the pure lines and fondant-bright colours at Hussein Chalayan, in the prevalence of white and in a love affair with the trapeze line given to the world by Yves Saint Laurent but this season all over other designers' runways too.

Raf Simons's debut ready-to-wear collection for Christian Dior was so full of ideas it was difficult to keep track of them, on the runway at least. Simons paired a fine-gauge knit sweater with an overblown silk skirt, elaborate bell tops with black shorts and veiled black, strapless cocktail dresses to lovely effect. This was a huge collection, most impressive, perhaps, for its diversity: almost every piece told its own story.

Nicolas Ghesquière's collection for Balenciaga not only upheld the new season's central contradictions – hard and soft, masculine and feminine, black and white, often in a single garment – but also had a humanity to it that was good to see. Models looked as if they'd stepped straight off the street in their own clothes – albeit amazing clothes – wearing tiny golden charms round their neck and rings on every finger. The new so-called "minimal ruffle" (can there be such a thing?) found its spiritual home here – it is, after all, a name famed for architectural rigour. Tailoring – with sharp, laser-cut edges and in double-faced fabrics that stood away from the body – was masterful; the elaboration on dresses extraordinarily complex but never fussy.

"Crushing. The energy of an explosion," was how Rei Kawakubo summed up her Comme des Garçons collection and, with scrap-metal crowns made of battered upturned paint cans and broken toys, that rang out loud and clear. The clothes began with toiles – pieces of garments in raw-edged calico squashed together to form dresses, tops and skirts: a sweet frilled sleeve here, a ragged shoulder there and the odd padded protuberance. Glittering pale silver and gold followed and finally black, which was where this collection truly sang. Comme des Garçons pretty much invented the non-colour of modern fashion and uses it less these days now that everybody else does. This was a masterclass in invention: brilliant, brave and bold.

The spirit of punk that swept the London collections was evident in this collection and in Dries Van Noten's show, too. Here arms were stripped off jackets and wadding was on show, the tartan beloved of the movement was cut in finest silk chiffon, and black leather thongs tied the open backs of tops and jackets to suitably déshabillé effect. There were shades of grunge, too, as Dries Van Noten's woman layered a boyfriend sweater over a shirt, over a pair of floral-print sheer trousers, over tailored shorts.

"Friendship, beauty, support, life" were the words that Phoebe Philo used to describe her collection for Céline, which was her most gentle so far and wonderful for that. Clothing that caressed its wearer was deceptively simple – the low-slung but still hugely elegant proportions are clearly worked on to the nth degree. The pairing of white and ivory shouldn't work but it did. The teaming of sandals that make Birkenstocks look light with coloured mink was equally unexpected: witty and surprisingly pretty. The finest raw-silk dresses were finished with coarse cotton fishnet, the most lightweight pale-gold trench coats were fashionably frayed all to discreetly but extremely desirable effect.

Next season's Miu Miu girl is equally relaxed and mischievous too, as always. Miuccia Prada's take on film-noir heroine meets nerdy student was as upbeat as it was – for all its maverick playfulness – chic. An exaggerated A-line silhouette was here juxtaposed with a more distressed, narrow one as aged fabrics and skins – including bags – rubbed shoulders with the super-shiny and new. Add to the mix giant fur stoles, long leather gloves and elegant court shoes gorgeous in rose pink… We could all be forgiven for wanting to be this person. Maison Martin Margiela's muse was something of a swot too, with her heavy glasses (sans lenses), jewelled nose clips and in clothes that were ultimately French classic with a huge twist.

How great to see yet another new lease of life on the Chanel catwalk, where a youthful and fresh play on scale – shoes, bags and pearls were huge, clothes were teeny tiny in places, bell-shaped and swinging on bodies in others – was on show. The Chanel suit, meanwhile, was barely recognisable: bolero jackets, A-line dresses and colours that one might not unreasonably want to eat.

At Junya Watanabe, the Puma logo appeared on the back of some of the designs – a collaboration, perhaps? No. Watanabe simply acknowledged the fact that he'd borrowed high-performance fabric from the PPR-owned brand. Lucky Puma. This show took sport couture to a new level: bright, clashing colours, T-shirts and trousers with curvilinear go-faster stripes, techno-stretch dresses that made the body-conscious look cool (that's not easy) and spiked, studded silver head pieces all made for a look that the sartorially discerning bright, young thing will love to wear.

The shadow of Helmut Newton loomed large over collections including Peter Copping's Nina Ricci (black fishnet, zips and underwear as outerwear more dominatrix than David Hamilton in flavour), Givenchy (a lovely juxtaposition between the curve of an oversized frill and a more sharp-edged silhouette) and Lanvin, where a particularly powerful vision of a woman was upheld as Parisian style was duly reinvented. The "underpinnings as outerwear" theme that ran through the aforementioned Burton's collection also nodded to this woman, all while showcasing the fetishistic attention to detail this house is now known for.

More "butter wouldn't melt" than siren was a perfectly pitched show by the Valentino designers, Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri, the refinement of which doubtless fills that house's namesake with pride. And finally – fashion heaven courtesy of the Louis Vuitton designer Marc Jacobs. Perfect set, perfect soundtrack and perfect clothes all worn by not-quite-identical twins who were more beautiful than nature ever intended.

One in four admitted they would break the law for a bargain and in the last year close to one in three adults (29%) came across suspected stolen items for sale at a market, pub (22%) or auction website (21%).

In a study involving more than 2,000 people, it emerged a growingnumber of burglars were stealing brands to order and using shops and auction websites to sell illegal goods.

According to the criminologists' research, one in 20 (5%) burglaries committed last year was carried out with the intention of finding a specific brand.

The research was undertaken by home insurer LV= and involved interviews with burglary victims and convicted thieves.

It revealed the stealing to order trend has increased in the past five years.

Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and Dell items topped the thieves' shopping lists because they could be sold on easily for a largeproportion of the retail price.

The average going rate on the black market for popular items by these manufacturers are £345 for a stolen iPhone, £210 for an iPad and £160 for a games console - around half the cost of buying them new from an official retailer.

Government statistics show burglaries increased by 14% last year,from 651,000 to 745,000 in 2011, with victims losing £1,400 worth of belongings on average.

Small electronic goods are the most commonly stolen items.

One burglar told researchers: "Almost everyone I know sells moody (stolen) stuff online.

"Just get a photo from the internet and put it up.

"Wait till the orders come in and then go out and get it."

Auction websites have helped expand the marketplace for stolen goods with most of the thieves who took part in the research saying theyused auction websites to sell stolen goods.

Although most online auction sites have strict rules prohibiting sellers from using them to sell stolen goods, many thieves said they gotround this by having multiple seller identities.

As well as online auctions, thieves said they took orders from more traditional sources including markets and car boot sales, as well as some convenience stores who take 'under the counter' orders from customers in the know.

One burglar said he worked with a contact at a phone unlocking stall in a shopping centre who takes orders 'off the street' from willing buyers.

When selecting properties to target, unsurprisingly burglars targeted easily accessible properties in affluent neighbourhoods.

Burglars also trawled bins to garner clues from receipts and packaging.

High value fashion brands were also highly sought.

Mui Mui and Prada were the most common handbag brands that are ordered, as these can usually be bought for around a third of the cost of buying them new from an official outlet.

Designer perfumes and toiletries were also highly desirable with thieves mainly seeking out Chanel branded products, which can fetch around 23% of the official retail price.

Although handling stolen goods can result in a jail term, those who want the latest must-have brands at a fraction of the retail price are driving the trend.

John O'Roarke, LV= managing director, said: "It is not surprisingthat thieves are focusing on electronic gadgets, which can be easily concealed, transported and quickly sold on.

"Our own theft claims data shows a shift in recent years from larger electronic goods, such as TVs, to smaller electronic items - although the overall monetary value is the same.

"Legitimate owners must take care not to fall victim to theft by leaving goods in view from the outside of their home and should take care to dispose of receipts and packaging properly."


It is a craft form realised not by superstars. Instead, while it takes a couturier to direct the skills of the petites mains who staff the Paris ateliers, many of whom trained under the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel and Hubert de Givenchy, it is they who are ultimately responsible for the sheer beauty of the finished garments. When Givenchy retired, he took his final bows alongside them. It was a poignant gesture.

These people are, usually, French-born and -trained although as the Italian designers behind Givenchy (Riccardo Tisci), Valentino (Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri) and Versace go to prove, that country has its share too. They study for years, at school and on internships with fashion's great names. They pass their skills down through generations. A younger contingent is growing steadily, meaning the future of what to some is an anachronistic discipline is assured.

That is a very good thing. We may not all be able to buy haute couture, but that doesn't stop us marvelling at such painstaking and lovingly performed labour.

The men and women in question, famously, wear little white coats. Once their work is done, it is handled with little white gloves to ensure its immaculate surface is not damaged in any way.

In a world that seems to speed up by the minute and one dominated by throwaway fashion all too often created in far from ethical conditions, haute couture is at the opposite end of the spectrum. More than anything else, it takes time to create such elaborate garments, and that is perhaps the most precious commodity of them all.

And that, perhaps, is the reason behind Hedi Slimane's bewildering debut for Yves Saint Laurent – the designer has been working as a photographer since he left Dior Homme in 2007.

The show itself has since been entirely upstaged by the almighty and very public spat between Slimane and Cathy Horyn of The New York Times. But less of that, please, and more analysis of why the former chose to take a retro route last Monday when the anticipation that sprang up around his appointment in the first place was reliant on his bringing the hard-edged, architectural modernism that we all know he is capable of bringing to this most revered name.

Slimane could so easily have sent out a small, tight, hard-edged and ice-cool collection based on the narrow and androgynous tailoring that he was always known for – the Le Smoking tuxedo remains the most famous Saint Laurent signature and if anyone can reinvent that, then he can. But he chose instead to follow a warmer route and to reference Saint Laurent in his absolute heyday – the late Sixties/early Seventies – which, given Slimane's fascination with music, and rock stars' wives, is heartfelt, and I like that.

I would also be more than happy to wear the shrunken jackets and skinny jeans he sent out for spring/summer 2013: however scathing the reviews, I'd be prepared to place bets that I'm not the only one where that is concerned.

It is unfortunate, given the open-door policy today adopted by houses as successful as Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and now Dior – all direct competitors – that the powers that be at Yves Saint Laurent were so fiercely elitist and controlling with regard to everything from seating arrangements at the show to the publication of portraits of Slimane himself. It served only to raise the bar and nothing short of perfection would have made this degree of antipathy towards people who are, in the end, trying only to do their jobs, acceptable.

Here's hoping, though, that what appears to be arrogance is more a case of new-boy jitters. I say: give the man a chance.

If you're going to wear a train, at least do so with conviction: there's enough fabric on display here to upholster an entire bungalow in Hendon. Perhaps for that reason Fan Bing Bing looks very proud of herself in her strapless, corseted curtain. Do you think there might be someone curled up asleep in there?

Tilda Swinton

Beautiful, golden Tilda Swinton is probably the only woman on the red-carpet circuit who dares to wear fashion as it appears on the runway. And she looks all the more brilliant for that. This is designed by her friend, Haider Ackermann. She sat next to him front row at the Chanel show at Versailles earlier this week and he's quite lovely, too.

Barrie Knitwear, part of the collapsed Dawson International, is expected to be sold back to its management in a deal valuing the Hawick-based business at between £3m and £5m within a fortnight.

The management bid – led by Jim Carrie and Clive Brown, who have backing from an Edinburgh-based businessman – became favourites following the collapse of previous sales talks last month.

The company behind the US menswear chain Brooks Brothers – Italy's Claudio Del Vecchio's Retail Brand Alliance – had been in talks to buy the brand. The administrator, KPMG, had also held talks with US retailers, including the department store group Nordstrom, who had also been a customer, but these talks came to nothing.

Blair Nimmo, the head of restructuring at KPMG and joint administrator of Dawson International, would not comment on the identity of the new bidder but said: "Since our appointment as administrators we have worked hard to achieve a successful sale of the business. The sales process has taken a little longer than originally expected, which is due to the late withdrawal of the initial preferred bidder."

"We are pleased to report that we are now in advanced discussions with a new preferred bidder."

Dawson, which was listed on the Alternative Investment Market, collapsed into administration in August due to huge pension deficits thought to be in excess of £50m.

Supplying Chanel with cashmere makes up around 60 per cent of Barrie Knitwear's business. Chanel owed £800,000 at the time of Dawson's collapse and it is thought the French luxury goods company has played a close part in working with Barrie's management to secure a bid to rescue the business.

In the year to the end of March, Dawson turned over £9.7m, earning profits of £1.1m and had employed 180 people.

A lifelong horserider from the Chilterns, the 56-year-old housewife does not venture into the capital often. But, along with others wandering Greenwich Park yesterday lunchtime in a terribly genteel cavalcade of Hunter wellies and Chanel scarves, it was the turn of the countryside (or at least the posher end of it) to revel in a spot of Olympian elation.

Clutching her Union Flag, Mrs Ball said: "Simply wonderful. I could barely look as Tina approached the final fences. It is lovely our sport can make its contribution. I was mucking out 48 hours ago. Now I'm looking at the Thames, celebrating a silver medal."

Of course, notwithstanding the presence of HRHs William, Kate and Harry to cheer on Team GB royal Zara Phillips, the tweed-wearing Establishment did not have a monopoly on the jubilations on the Meridian.

For every perfect fedora at the equestrian venue, there was (whisper it so the Olympic brand watchdogs do not hear) a wonky Nike baseball cap and for every pair of jodpurs, a distinctly urban pair of rapper's jeans.

The resulting effect was something of a cross between the V Festival and Badminton, only with less mud and more smoked salmon and prawn sandwiches (the unchallenged best seller on the seafood stall).

As one ruddy-cheeked denizen of the shires, his leather wellies hitched up to his knees, put it: "It's all rather jolly, don't you think? Great atmosphere. Even the wine is passable."

The day had begun with hopes high that Britain could secure its first gold in equestrian eventing in 40 years after two days of dressage and treacherous charging around a London park in the cross-country. It reached its crescendo just after 1pm when mother-of-two Cook's final round, with a single penalty point, narrowly secured second place ahead of New Zealand.

It is a quirk of equestrianism that it is the team with the lowest score that triumphs. And in the end no one had a lower score than Germany, whose team, despite their last rider knocking down two fences on the final round to gasps of "ye-sss" from the less well-mannered end of the home crowd, finished with 133.7 points, comfortably ahead to Britain's 138.2. Not even the 12 fences designed to evoke Britishness, from a Cutty Sark and a montage of Trafalgar Square to Stonehenge, could deter a Teutonic triumph.

Overseers of equestrianism bridled, appropriately, at suggestions that their sport, with its thoroughbred steeds and followers, might be a touch elitist compared to, say, BMX or boxing.

A spokeswoman for British Eventing said: "We are the ultimate equestrian challenge; a healthy outdoor sport, where women and men of all ages compete on an even playing field. Thousands of volunteers and spectators support the sport at fantastic rural locations every weekend."

In the end, as Cook and 51-year-old colleague Mary King failed to push home their medal claims in the individual competition, it came down to the British team's unquestionably poshest Posh Bird to provide the common touch. Or, more to the point, her husband.

Rugby playing bad boy Mike Tindall, there to support his wife Zara Phillips, was asked what his thoughts had been as she completed her final round, in which she clipped down two fences.

Tindall replied using a robust four-letter Anglo-Saxon term unlikely to be deployed when he's in the presence of his wife's grandmother, before adding: "You always get little uptight. You want her to do well. And it ended up a really happy afternoon."

Meanwhile, the Queen's granddaughter, who expelled doubts about the merit of her own selection by scoring a perfect round to finish eighth overall in the individual event, showed how to deal with oiks unaware of equestrian etiquette.

When asked by persistent press photographers to pose while embracing her husband, she replied: "We already did. You missed it."



Age and experience need not be a barrier to Olympic glory

Amid the parade of gilded youth, it is easy to forget that experience also counts for something when it comes to sporting endeavour, writes Cahal Milmo. None are more experienced than Hiroshi Hoketsu, who at 71 is the oldest competitor at London 2012.

He and his horse, Whisper, take part in the individual dressage this week. Hoketsu, who competed in his first Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, leads the senior competitors who include fellow equestrian Ian Millar, 65, of Canada, who will break the record for most Olympic appearances by taking part in his 10th Games in London. The rower Greg Searle, a nipper at 40, won gold in Barcelona 20 years ago and has come out of retirement to compete in the men's eight final today.

Japan's Hoketsu, who looks 20 years younger than his age, swats aside questions about his advancing years. He said: "I don't know how you're supposed to feel at 71. I'm the same physique as I was at university. There's no special secret. I used to get up at 5am, go riding, go home and leave for the office for 30 years. Now I sleep until 7am. Luxury."

Saving the best till last is also something of a sporting tradition. Briton Mary King, who at 51 won a silver yesterday in her sixth Games, will, by Hoketsu's standards, have at least four more Games in which to improve that tally. But Hoketsu will not overtake the world's oldest Olympian, Sweden's Oscar Swahn, who was 72 when he competed in shooting in 1920. He has ruled himself out of the Rio 2016 Olympics because although he feels up to it, he worries that his horse will be too old at 19.

From the outer limits of probability Europe conjured the magic number 14 to retain the Ryder Cup. The impulse is to write that twice to make doubly sure. All around Medinah folk of a European persuasion were asking how this could happen. Perhaps the answer was tattooed across the sky. Midway through the afternoon “Spirit of Seve” appeared overhead in tiny puffs of cloud. It became possible to believe as Europe's heroic top order came in one after another in a blaze of scoreboard blue that the great man was indeed pulling celestial strings. First, Luke Donald then in quick succession Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose impaled the American foe to bring Europe level in this incredible contest.

At 11 apiece a triumph that at the start of play had looked beyond Europe's battered golfers was suddenly, tantalisingly within their grasp. Lee Westwood made it 12 points and Sergio Garcia came from behind to beat Jim Furyk at the last. Garcia pointed to his left sleeve, where the players wore a tribute to Seve Ballesteros, feeling certain that the father of the European Ryder Cup team had his hand on the rudder of fate. Jose Maria Olazabal, the Europe captain, dared not look. It came down to the last two matches, Martin Kaymer versus Steve Stricker and Francesco Molinari against Tiger Woods.

Kaymer needed a half at the last to secure the winning point, and spare Molinari, who had fallen one behind at the 17th . Easier said than done after finding sand off the tee. Stricker was feeding off adrenalin, too, and from the middle of the fairway could get no closer than 20 yards. His birdie putt sailed 12 feet past. Kaymer followed him past the hole leaving him an eight-footer to retain the cup for Europe. It never looked like missing. Cue delirium.

Europe were required to overturn history as well as a four-point deficit. Only eight times in 38 previous meetings had this team, firstly as Great Britain and Ireland and subsequently Europe, prevailed in mano a mano combat on the last day. The degree of difficulty simplified the challenge. It was win or bust straight out of the box. Olazabal top-loaded his line-up sending out his four best players in a high-risk strategy to put points on the board. No one could argue with that.



As much as they tried to guard against complacency, the American team betrayed a sense of comfort in their easy deportment at the start of play. Vice-captain Freddie Couples was bouncing around the first tee like a puppy, conducting the bonding session with the American supporters boxed behind the tee. Most of the seating had been taken three hours before the whistle went. As many as 40,000 were expected through the gate. There was the inevitable communion with America's mascot-in-chief Michael Jordan, who resembled a tower block with a coat on so much did his impressive physicality dominate the setting.

Europe responded with subtelty in the shape of Pep Guardiola. The former Barcelona coach was in the house with his wife and two children.

Keegan Bradley has been the screaming face of American endeavour. In deed and mood he had set the agenda over the opening two days. Hitherto unanswerable, the singles pairings threw McIlroy his way. At least it would do eventually.

Between them Captain Olazabal and his four lieutenants left their prize asset in bed. This was the morning when everything had to run like clockwork, no mistakes, everyone on his game. While preparations were under way at the course McIlroy was watching from his hotel room believing his tee time was an hour away. The Golf Chanel clock ticks on Eastern time. McIlroy was on Central time, an hour back. Oops.

While Bradley was sprinting around the tee box, working the crowd with his Arnold Schwartzenegger impressions, his opponent was speeding to Medinah via police escort. With less than 10 minutes to his tee time, McIlroy bolted from the front passenger seat to the putting green. No time to loosen up on the range. A quick swig from a water bottle and a munch on an energy bar and McIlroy was on the gantry making his way from the putting green to the tee.

This insane development with Europe in the midden bettered any of the cock-ups fashioned by Sir Nick Faldo at Valhalla four years ago. Never mind. Donald was out first after returning a point in the gloaming alongside Sergio Garcia on Saturday night.

Ranged against him was Bubba Watson on a course that was made to measure for the long-hitting Masters champion. He hadn't reckoned with Donald's surgical precision, silencing his noisy assailants in the stands, who taunted him over his majorless state. Donald had the major winner at four-down before prevailing at the penultimate hole to claim the first point of the day for Europe and reduce the deficit to three.

That would soon come down to two courtesy of the brutally efficient dispatch of Brandt Snedeker by Lawrie. Up ahead Europe's go-to sorcerer, Ian Poulter, was locked in a tense duel with Webb Simpson. Poulter was understandably slow to rise after the intensity of the previous day and fell two behind at the fourth and again at the sixth, but he was all square at the 12th and fully engaged once more.

They came to the par-three 17th locked together but when Simpson found sand off the tee the initiative passed to Poulter at the last. It proved to be the point that tied the teams after McIlroy speared Bradley at the 17th. Having overslept at the PGA and won by eight, McIlroy was not overly concerned. He led from the fourth hole, and though pegged back briefly at the 12th, hit the accelerator with birdies at 14 and 15 and won it at the penultimate hole. Golf, bloody hell.

It doesn’t disappoint: airy, spacious and packed to the rafters with the most sought-after labels, the second floor has been transformed. Eight boutiques – Chanel, Dries Van Noten, Balenciaga and Lanvin among them – surround a central space representing some of the more avant-garde names, such as Maison Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Junya Watanabe.

From today, the Designer Galleries play host to an exhibition of digital installations from some of the designers whose wares are stocked there. Comme des Garçons, Rick Owens, Alexander McQueen and many more have created unique videos of their spring 2012 collections which will be screened in the area, to better reflect their clothes in motion, and to explain some of the references and inspirations behind them.

“The brief to the designers was very open,” explains the store’s creative director, Alannah Weston. “The only stipulation was that there was a strong female character at the centre of each film.”

“The space isn’t just intended for shoppers,” explains award-winning set designer Simon Costin, who has worked on creating an environment for the films, using giants beds and sofas. “Any member of the public can come in and see the films. We hope people will come away having seen a familiar medium used in a new and surprising way. The films are really beautiful, and use the notion of fashion in an unexpected way.”

Overall, the department aims to provide a more personalised and individual service, allowing customers to opt into text and email confirmations of when their favourite labels arrive, and with the addition of an on-site tailoring service to ensure garments fit perfectly, there and then.

“We know that our customers are sophisticated, global trend-makers,” says Ms Weston. “And we look forward to presenting beautiful designer pieces, including some exclusive looks, in a serene and elegant environment.”

The videos are part of a digital push across the floor, which features an ultra-high-tech fitting room equipped with an interactive mirror that can take photographs and record short videos of customers, which they are then able to email to friends and loved ones to get second opinions – or to themselves, simply to savour the moment they tried on the dress of their dreams.

While the sweeping statement in question is not strictly speaking true, as Queen Victoria, not to mention the grandees of the 17th-century Spanish court, might have argued, it is certainly impressive and they were long gone by the time she laid claim to it. Luckily, Chanel is referring specifically, of course, to the little black dress, launched in 1926 and designed to be worn at times other than during a period of mourning or indeed when swanning around Barcelona circa 1620. The couturier, who favoured neutrals throughout her career personally and professionally, did make black the fashionable colour to see and be seen in at all times – from day to evening and dressed up or down, depending on the taste of its wearer.

Black is also the starting point of the company's new fragrance, Coco Noir. It is integral to the spectacular success of this, the mother of all French status labels, that all elements – from perfume to nail polish and, of course, any clothes – spring from the biography of the founder, however laterally. Coco Noir comes in a signature perfectly simple square bottle with rounded, faceted edges – only jet and opaque as opposed to crystal clear like the iconic design for Chanel No 5, known not only for its beauty but also its radical simplicity. The gold details discreetly in evidence on the Coco Noir bottle, meanwhile, refers to Mademoiselle's fascination with the Byzantine and the Baroque and, specifically, her love of Venice: she first visited the city in 1920 to promote her beach pyjamas and generally soak up inspiration. That city was then still the principal gateway between East and West and the experience of going there lent her aesthetic a darker, richer and more elaborate style. Chanel met many of the people with whom she would collaborate in Venice, including Serge Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes, and the illustrator Christian Bérard. If every fragrance begins with a story, then this is both a precious and romantic one.

The juice itself, created by Jacques Polge, the Chanel master perfumer since 1979, is rooted in similar concerns. As individual as a fragrance may be, Polge argues, it can "only exist because of those that came before it". Coco – debatably Coco Noir's exotic predecessor – was launched at the haute couture collections in July 1984 at the Paris Opera, where the scent of it filled the air. At its heart are spices, evocative of the Orient and the Coromandel screens that filled Chanel's Paris apartment. The original Coco is also distinguished by its floral-amber accord. Coco Mademoiselle followed in 2001, a fresher and lighter fragrance further infused with jasmine and rose. For its part, Coco Noir is based around sandalwood, vetiver, frankincense, patchouli, vanilla, tonka bean and white musk. It is a rich and complicated scent described by its maker as "a great nocturnal Baroque", poetically enough. Nonetheless – and this perhaps is key to all Polge's work – a lightness prevails thanks maybe to top notes of grapefruit and Calabrian bergamot, rose absolute, narcissus, jasmine, pink peppercorns and rose geranium leaf.

It is not every day that Chanel launches a new fragrance. Unlike many of fashion's big names that may now produce upwards of four new scents a year, the company affords Polge the luxury of time. Then there is the not-so-small matter of the unparalleled creative freedom he enjoys. And it shows: Coco Noir is the latest in a long line of olfactory endeavours that will serve to cement the reputation of French fashion's most spectacularly successful and magical name.

More Scents of Success

No 5

Created by Ernest Beaux in 1921 and with Chanel's star in the ascendant, it is said that, almost a century on, a bottle is still sold somewhere in the world every minute. It is the most successful and enduring fragrance in history. Essentially a rose-jasmine accord, it was revolutionary in the first instance for its inclusion of aldehydes, powerful-but-unstable synthetic molecules that enhance aromatic scents. At the time, the fragrance industry was characterised by one-note floral perfumes. No 5 is a far more complex creature and one that changed the face of fragrance for all time. In fact, No 22 was introduced at the same time. Then Beaux came up with Bois des Iles, a woody chypre and Cuir de Russie, a precursor to androgynous fragrances.

No 19

Beaux was succeeded in 1954 by Henri Robert, whose first launch was Pour Monsieur, the only men's fragrance introduced during Chanel's lifetime. It wasn't until 1970 that No 19 was born, commemorating Chanel's birthday – 19 August. It is a powerful rose-iris that is as beautiful as it is daringly confrontational. Last year, Jacques Polge reinterpreted the scent with the launch of 19 Poudre, a softer variation but unmistakeably an elegant and acquired taste nonetheless.


In 1974, Robert also created Cristalle, a summery scent that is very much a reflection of sparkling times. This time, citrus-based – Sicilian lemon and Calabrian mandarin to be precise – Cristalle was also created with Coco Chanel's life in mind and her life on the beach in Deauville, Biarritz, in particular. A newer version of the scent, Eau Verte, was issued in 2009.


Jacques Polge took over Chanel's fragrance division in 1979 both to create new fragrances and add new formulas to existing classics, in particular to develop Chanel's eaux de parfum – headier than eau de toilette but lighter than pure perfume. His first new launch was a men's fragrance, Antaeus, created in 1981. This is a woody, leathery scent and one this time inspired by the love of Coco Chanel's life, Boy Capel.


In 2003 Polge came up with Chanel's most youthful fragrance, which is a floral oriental following in the footsteps of Coco Mademoiselle, Chance. Its difference is immediately apparent from the sobriety of the brand's perfumes in general: the juice is a pretty pink and the bottle round.

Les Exclusifs

In 2007, Polge excelled himself with Les Exclusifs. Initially released as a series of 10 new fragrances, but still growing, they are more expensive than the company's other perfumes and available only from Chanel's boutiques and website. Karl Lagerfeld favours the Eau de Cologne from this range. No 22 is the brilliantly abstract reworking of the original. Since the launch, Polge has added new perfumes to Les Exclusifs, most recently, Jersey – inspired by Coco Chanel's use of that fabric, once the preserve of men's underwear but famously incorporated into her designs.

Photographs: Andrew Leo

Model: Zhulin at IMG

Hair and make-up: Krystle G using Chanel S 2012 and Hydra beauty Serum

Photographer's assistant: Chloe Coates

Stylist's assistant: Magda Bryk

Location courtesy of the Barbican Centre;

But these were no ordinary robberies. Prugo is charged with breaking into the homes of a series of celebrities including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom. Last month he took the stand offering a deal whereby in return for testifying against his alleged partners in crime – Courtney Ames, Roy Lopez and Diana Tamayo – all but two of the charges would be dropped. If grassing on his former friends proves successful, Prugo could be looking at a sentence of just two years. He is due back in court next month for the verdict.

Prugo's hearing is the latest instalment in a saga that has dominated America's gossip pages since he was first arrested back in September 2009. Prugo is a member of the 'bling ring' – a group of affluent, club-hopping, (mostly) teenage Valley kids who, motivated by a warped obsession with celebrity, proved to be one of the most precocious burglary gangs in Hollywood history. They used Twitter to track when their targets were out, Google Earth to work their way into their mansions, and came away with a haul worth more than $3m. It's a story so perfectly of the moment it's as if it were lifted straight from the pages of a movie script.

Now Sofia Coppola, who came from Hollywood 'royalty' and has long been preoccupied with the vacuous nature of celebrity, has started making the movie. Shooting began in March (with Emma Watson as lead) and it looks as if the f film will be out even before the final few perpetrators have been sentenced for their crimes.

"Nick is feeling very despondent right now," says Prugo's lawyer, Markus Dombois. "He is physically very small and slight and is going to find jail difficult. I'm concerned for his safety. He was never the ringleader in all this. He's not completely without blame but he was like the little brother tagging along, he did it out of infatuation. He doesn't have a problem testifying against these people. At first they were his friends but now he realises how morally bankrupt they are."

The bling ring spree started towards the end of 2008 at the $4m Hollywood Hills mansion belonging to Paris Hilton. Initially, the perpetrators consisted solely of Prugo and his friend Rachel Lee, a classmate from Indian Hills high school in a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. They met when Prugo transferred there after being kicked out of his previous school for non-attendance. Lee was outgoing and popular – recipient of the highly coveted 'best dressed' award in the 2007 Indian Hills Year Book. By contrast, Prugo was quiet and awkward. She took him under her wing and the pair quickly became inseparable.

"In a platonic sort of a way Nick was in love with Rachel," says writer Nancy Jo Sales, who was one of the first to pick up on the story and is now a consultant on Coppola's movie. "He was a shy, troubled guy who followed this alpha female around. She kind of got him to do her bidding."

Prugo says they decided to target Hilton's place because they figured she was "dumb". The pair arrived at her mansion nervous and under the cover of darkness to find she had gone out leaving the key under the mat and both the door and her safe unlocked. "They found cocaine lying out on the bed and jewellery all around the place," says Dombois. "It was like stepping into a store on Rodeo Drive when the owners were out."

At first they were discreet. When Hilton returned she didn't even notice she had been broken into. But it didn't take long before things escalated. Lee started carrying around Hilton's door key, like a trophy, on her own key chain. She began bragging about their deeds to friends and the ranks of the bling ring swelled to around six. And it was Lee who introduced the bling ring break-in rallying cry of, "Let's go shopping".

"It became like a party atmosphere and Lee kept getting more people involved," says Sales. "I think they may have all had different motivations but certainly the designer labels were the main draw. They were totally obsessed with luxury brand names like Chanel and Prada. Nick told me that when they went into these starlets' houses they were just so shocked at the amount of clothes they would have – bags and bags of things that hadn't even been opened. I think that they idolised these people but at the same time there seemed to be a weird resentment, too – a feeling of you've got way more than you need so I'll take them from you. It was a great thrill. There was a feeling of power. They would go out wearing these clothes and joyriding around LA."

As time went on, their deeds began to buy them access to the celebrity world they so coveted. Adorned in their pilfered luxury labels and buoyed by their increasing sense of notoriety, they started getting into fashionable clubs such as Les f Deux and Miyagi's bar on Sunset Boulevard, where LA wannabes would gather in the car park after hours. They started hanging out with celebrities and, rumour has it, one of the bling ring even started a dalliance with a famous actor. For a while it looked as if their crimes were beginning to pay.

But it wasn't long before the net started to close. On Oscar night 2009, while she was out working the red carpet, they robbed the home of Audrina Partridge, star of The Hills, a faux-reality show, ironically also about the lives of a group of pampered LA fashionistas. "I watched the security video," said an incredulous Partridge, "expecting to see these big scary guys, but instead it was these kids." The bling ring made off with $43,000 worth of her possessions including a laptop, jewellery and jeans, which Partridge said, "were made to fit my body to my perfect shape". She posted the surveillance video straight on to her website.

Then, after being burgled four more times, Hilton finally woke up to what was going on – only after one bling ringer, Roy Lopez, allegedly helped himself to more than $1m-worth of her jewellery, stuffed into a Louis Vuitton tote bag. Another big haul was found in the house of Orlando Bloom when, joined by Indian Hills classmate Alexis Neiers, they came away with a Rolex watch collection as well as artworks totalling nearly half a million dollars. "Lee was moving to Las Vegas," explains Dombois, "and she fancied some artwork to furnish her new place."

The final straw came when they broke into Lindsay Lohan's place. According to Prugo, Lohan was Lee's fashion icon and her ultimate celebrity prize and she made the journey from her new home in Vegas specially to do it. The resulting surveillance shots, showing them casually stuffing their bags, picks out their faces as clear as daylight.

"The security videos are amazing," says Sales, "Nick always looked very jumpy and scared, but Rachel was so blasé that at one point she went to the toilet and had a bowel movement. Can you imagine doing that in the middle of robbing someone's house? It's mind-blowing."

But by this stage the videos hardly mattered as the bling ring's bragging had seen to it that the police had already received numerous tip-offs. Detectives simply used Facebook to work out who was friends with who, to put together the final pieces of the puzzle. One by one, at the tail-end of 2009, the members of the bling ring were arrested.

"It's one of those cases that defines a moment in terms of youth culture and media culture," says Sales. "Some of the attitudes of those kids were really unpleasant and disturbing and it holds up a mirror to things we are witnessing in American youth culture right now – the obsession with celebrity and the obsession with fame. Unfortunately, there is just no shame any more. The only currency is fame itself."

What it also demonstrates is the level of confusion we have now reached between celebrity and non-celebrity – and in turn, reality and non-reality. "The other striking thing it shows is how the wall between celebrities and ordinary people has completely broken down," continues Sales. "It's absolutely permeable now. You have celebrities acting like real people – making themselves all the more available and accessible all of the time. And you have real people acting more and more like celebrities by having reality shows and tweeting to their followers. There used to be a sense that Hollywood celebrities were god-like creatures who rarely came down from the mountain and mingled with the common folk. Now it's completely blurred."

Dombois agrees. "I think these kids felt the people they were robbing weren't actually real people – because they were celebrities. And I also think they felt they were vicariously participating in the whole celebrity lifestyle," he says. "In LA today, for some people, attention and fame is worth much more than any amount of money could ever be. I think that may be what has happened here."

Tellingly, when the bling ring's activities were reaching a crescendo, Alexis Neiers, then aged 18, who describes herself as a hip-hop and pole dancing teacher, was actually shooting a pilot for her own reality show. The original intention was that it should be yet another programme about a Hollywood party girl but, no doubt, to the glee of the producers, it quickly morphed into the story of her battle to stay out of prison.

The show, entitled Pretty Wild, was commissioned immediately and premiered on E! in March 2010. Neiers's court hearing duly turned into a media circus. She chose her outfit carefully, had her make-up touched up on the court bench and coyly pleaded no contest to felony burglary. She was sentenced to six months and ordered to stay clear of Orlando Bloom's home. In the event she was out in just 30 days, which fitted in perfectly with filming schedules. The show was never commissioned for a second series.

"Neiers was only being filmed for a pilot that might or might not happen," says Sales. "Then she got a reality show because of the burglary and then she actually does become famous. It's like the dog eating its own tail."

It's also worth pointing out that the very celebrities that the bling ring so admired – Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan – had themselves been regularly waltzing in and out of jail (Lohan five times in as many years). These days, when Lohan has a court appearance, the attention it attracts is far greater than anything she commits to celluloid – as if the courthouse steps have superseded the red carpet in a twisted new pecking order. And, as if the story couldn't turn any more in on itself, Neiers actually found herself, for one night, in a cell right next to Lohan. "It was insane," she told Extra, the American celebrity news show. "It was mayhem. They put us on lockdown all day. I got the feeling the girls were actually excited. They were screaming 'I love you Lindsay, I want to be your girlfriend'."

Inevitably, all the members of the bling ring ended up, with help from expensive lawyers, fighting their corners and pointing fingers. Lee is currently doing four years in Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, central California. "The last two years of my life have changed me from an irresponsible and childish drug and alcohol addict towards becoming a responsible adult," she wrote in a letter to LA Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler before being sentenced. "I was really messed up from so much substance abuse as well as poor choices of friends."

Out of all of them, Prugo seems to have suffered the most. After his arrest he said he was finding it difficult to breathe, sleep and eat. "I was even losing my hair," he says. And in his naivety, after his arrest, he confessed to crimes that the police had no idea he had committed.

Despite her guilty verdict, Neiers still flatly denies everything. "Eventually my story will come out," she said, doing the rounds on yet another chat show. "I witnessed a robbery. I didn't know whose house it was at the time until I woke up one morning with cops all round my house. It was devastating. I did make a bad choice of friends and I was out drinking that night and got taken to a very bad place. I already had a career going, I had goals, I had a show. Why would I do something like that?"

As her 'celebrity' career limps on, it's a denial that betrays a distinct lack of remorse. "Aside from perhaps Prugo, I just don't think they had any sense of consequence whatsoever," says Sales. "I think it's a hangover from the Bush era – when there was very much a feeling of no consequence. These kids did not seem to have any notion that there would be any outcome to their actions. They were so reckless and so utterly blasé about committing very serious crimes."

And still the bling ring controversy goes on, as it turns out Coppola, again blurring the lines between fact and fiction, has employed some of the perpetrators in the making of her movie. Dombois says that Prugo was offered $20,000 to consult on the movie but turned it down because he did not want to appear to profit from the case. Neiers, meanwhile, signed up immediately.

"The bottom line is that Sofia Coppola was going to make this movie with or without my help," she says, "so why not give input and help her to make it a little more accurate?" Also, she says, the pay cheque proved particularly helpful as her 22-year-old 'sister' Tess Taylor (not a birth sister, but a friend who had grown up living with her) was in the throes of heroin addiction and the money earnt would pay her way through Pasadena Recovery Centre.

The detective who led the investigation, Brett Goodkin of the Los Angeles Police Department, has also been employed by Coppola to play himself in the film. With three defendants still possibly facing trial, he has been accused of jeopardising their cases. "It's very generic cop kind of stuff," he said in his defence. "It's not like I'm Bruce Willis." Meanwhile, David Diamond, the lawyer for the bling ring defendant Roy Lopez, has just subpoenaed Coppola to have access to the entire payroll so he can see exactly who has been paid and for what. The story looks set to rumble on and on through the courts.

"It's a fascinating case which is why Coppola is making a movie out of it," concludes Dombois. "People may be saying these people are losers and criminals, why would you glorify them, but it's a societal and cultural phenomena and that's why it's of such interest. And why is Coppola making the movie right now? It's all about money – you've got to hit while it's hot. You've got to remember, we're talking about America here."


Nick Prugo

Twenty-one-year-old Prugo was a founder member of the bling ring. He was on prescription drugs for ADHD. Prugo would surf the internet to establish the target's itinerary and address.

Rachel Lee

Lee had a tricky relationship with her mother and stepfather and moved to Las Vegas not long before the break-in at Lindsay Lohan's house. Her Audi A4 was used as the getaway car.

Alexis Neiers

Neiers claimed to be so inebriated on the night of the break-in at Orlando Bloom's house that she had no idea what happened. She was found guilty and served 30 days.

Courtney Ames

Ames, another student at Indian Hills, had been a good friend of Lee's since 8th grade. The LAPD has pictures of her at Les Deux nightclub wearing a Diane von Furstenberg leather jacket allegedly belonging to Paris Hilton.

Roy Lopez

Lopez, a bouncer and the oldest of the group, at 27, was charged with one count of residential burglary of Paris Hilton's home and allegedly stole up to $2m of her jewellery.

Diana Tamayo

Student president who was voted as having the 'best smile', Tamayo reportedly once aided the burglary operation by crawling into a target's home through a cat flap.


£1,415, brownsfashion.com

After the success of the label’s PS1 satchel schoolbag, the PS11 takes Proenza Schouler’s accessories into more grown-up territory: it’s modern and minimal, roomy and tough, and the colour will keep even the most fashionable shopper happy.

2. Prada

£1,500, Prada.com

In the show, this appliqué leather bag was carried alongside all manner of clashing prints – you don’t need to do this, as it makes quite the statement on its own. A bit Seventies, rather nostalgic and uniquely strange, this number has Prada written all over it. Not literally – they’re flowers.

3. Chanel

£1,830, 020 7493 5040

Chanel’s Boy bag is named after Mademoiselle’s great love, Boy Capel, and is a new take on the classic Chanel quilted bag. This versatile version has more of a gothic flavour, which will fit in perfectly with autumn’s dark romantic trend.

4. Gucci

£1,760, gucci.com

Forget what you think you know about velvet – Gucci’s Frida Giannini has reinvigorated it with a gothic equestrian feel. The gold hardware forms part of the brand’s signature, while the panelling feels new and modern but isn’t about to date any time soon, either.

5. Miu Miu

£1,195, miumiu.com

At Miu Miu this season, the doctor’s bag is a key accessory. This tan leather version is less traditional, with its double clasps, but feels all the more special for it. The classic, warm and natural tone will go well with everything else in your wardrobe too.

6. Alaia

£1,400, net-a-porter

Make the ultimate understated statement with this perforated leather tote bag by fashion’s demigod Azzedine Alaia. It’s chic, classically elegant and spacious – and will only look better with age.

7. Louis Vuitton

£2,510, louisvuitton.com

We know we’ve been banging on about this North South tote from Louis Vuitton, but it truly is something to behold. The luxury label’s classic monogram print is picked out in twinkly paillettes on felt and will add a bit of sparkle to your routine.

8. Dolce & Gabbana

£1,810, 020 7659 9000

This season, the classic Dolce & Gabbana shape gets a baroque tapestry update – two of the biggest trends of the new season – and features one of the Italian duo’s favourite things: gold. It might look like something your nana did in front of the telly, but this ladylike bag is pure luxury.

9. Celine

£1,195, celine.com

If you don’t already own a floppy, over-sized clutch bag, where have you been? This fold-over version from one of Paris’s most desirable labels is one of the best around, showcasing all the sleek hallmarks of designer Phoebe Philo’s minimal style. And you can fit everything you need in it without too much trouble.

10. Marni

£250, net-a-porter.com

Is it a bag or is it Puffa jacket? Marni’s utilitarian and sporty shopper is like carrying a lightweight sleeping bag on one arm, and if you don’t want to add bulk to your body with the Puffa trend this autumn, why not try it out with accessories instead?.

2. Ladylike tote in tan

£36, warehouse.co.uk

Get the ladylike look in the bag (geddit?). This feminine option is structured and of medium size, with a tote handle as well as a long shoulder strap.

3. Black and cream shopper

£79, marksandspencer.com

From M&S's premium Autograph line, this cream and black shopper is made of high-quality leather. The unfussy aesthetic of the shopper is becoming increasingly popular.

4. Orange satchel

£199, hobbs.co.uk

If you're looking for a bag that is the height of style, then this good-quality leather version ticks all the right boxes. It comes with a detachable shoulder strap.

5. Black sturdy

£89.90, massimodutti.com

An elegant option with its understated style, you can rest assured this black leather shopper will never be deemed unfashionable – only covetable.

6. Green

£135, cosstores.com

Here's the Swedish brand's pared-down take on the usually clumpy satchel. Gone are the messy straps and pockets. Clean lines and lightweight leather are the order of the day here.

7. Purple shoulder bag

£45, missselfridge.com

If you have Céline and Chanel tastes without the bank balance to accomplish such lavish buys, then you will be interested in this brilliant leather shoulder bag complete with chain handle.

8. Gold shopper

£79, riverisland.com

The leather on this unstructured golden shopper is super supple and the finish only gently shimmers, so the overall effect is pleasingly subtle more than dazzling.

9. Fabric handbag

£110, frenchconnection.com

A nice alternative to all-over leather or pleather, this cotton bag mixes grey, black and brown. It's roomy, too, so ideal for anyone who doesn't travel day-to-day lightly.

10. Punched-hole tote

£79.99, zara.com

This tote bag from Zara has been a huge seller for the brand. Its latest makeover sees the sturdy leather bag updated with laser-cut patterns, which gives it a sporty feel.

£ 650,

Monroe gave a young Brooklyn photographer his big break by choosing him to photograph her. And here is the result – a limited-print-run heirloom of a book.

2. Magnum Contact Sheets


If you are serious about photography, you'll want this book. It lays bare the creative process by juxtaposing a famous image with the photographers' contact sheets.

3. Photofile: Sarah Moon


Moon has shot for Vogue, Harper's and Chanel. This new book is a showcase of both the scope of her work and of her ethereal, otherworldly style.

4. The Artist's Body


This 250-image book is best thought of as a photo essay, a rumination on the way artists have used their own bodies to create art through the 20th century.

5. Mario Testino Private View


Testino makes fashion types' hearts beat that bit faster. The Peruvian has also taken on the world of formal portraiture.

6. World Press Photo 12 by Teun Van Der Heijden


The stirring yearly annual put out by World Press Photo. Categories covered include: people, general news and sport.

7. Bob Willoughby: Audrey Hepburn

£ 44.99,

Willoughby's snaps of Hepburn, span the late 1950s right through to the peak of her My Fair Lady fame.

8. Dorothea Lange


Lange was the first woman to be awarded the Guggenheim Photography Fellowship and this book showcases her most famous work.

9. The Sites of Ancient Greece by Georg Gerster


With tails of strife and discord the daily bread of Greece, it is easy to forget why the country has beguiled so many.

10. In The Moment: The Sports Photography of Tom Jenkins


Few have proved more adept at capturing the passion of sport than Jenkins.

2. Pink-Silver multi-glitter

£2.99, Barry M, Superdrug and Boots nationwide

The multi-hued tones create a pretty pink with a slight disco finish that's ideal for weekends, and when you let your hair down.

3. Shrimply Devine

£6.95, Sally Hansen, 01233 656366

This promises to last up to 10 days, combining base, top and colour coats, and with a brush designed to cover the nail in one stroke.

4. Early Green

£5, GOSH Cosmetics, 0845 671 0709

Crisp green is a refreshing choice and taps into the season's trend for ice-cream inspired colours. Easy to apply and long lasting.

5. Sassy Pink

£4.99, L'Oreal, available nationwide

A gel-based formula that's designed to glide on, helped by the paddle-shaped brush, to help achieve a smooth, even finish without the expense of a salon visit.

6. Bikini so teeny

£7.99, Essie, Boots and Superdrug nationwide

The finely milled glitter in this icy-blue shade will create a subtle shimmer that lifts the finish from anything too flat. A great colour for tanned toes.

7. Burnished Rouge

£25, Tom Ford, 0870 034 2566

Disciples of red nail polish will have an old faithful shade that they return to. But this luxury number by Tom Ford is shot through with golden shimmer, and will stand up to the full glare of the sun.

8. Holiday

£18, Chanel, 0207 493 3836

You may not want your tan to look orange, but that doesn't mean it should be verboten for nails. This tangy option matches the brand's sheer lip gloss in Calypso.

9. Amchoor

£14, Nars, available nationwide

Designer Thakoon Panichgul's eye for modern and feminine colour is distilled into a long-wearing, high-gloss finish formula.

10. Artful Dodger

£12, Butter London, Harvey Nichols nationwide

A chemical-free polish which gives a shot of colour without being too bright, and hopefully will match the ocean as you paddle through it.

Tell us Fashion

More than just your average online retailer, TellusFashion sells not only designs from the most exciting new brands but also showcases multimedia content to go along with it including a magazine, blogs and an industry-networking hub.

Not Just a Label

  (Elizabeth Dunn shoes, £235)

If your preferred sartorial tastes lie with off-the-beaten-track designers, then you've found your haven. Not Just a Label, with its thousands of brands, is the world's leading online platform for new designer talent.

ASOS Marketplace

Marketplace is the democratic retail space created by online behemoth ASOS. The site is made up of smaller boutiques showcasing under-the-radar labels, indie brands and vintage-clothing sellers for the ultimate eclectic fashion forum.

Young British Designers

(Elise Berger dress, £255)

Created in recognition of great British design talents, this website is a stage for home-grown talent at the beginnings of their career. Designers include one of this season's NewGen winners, JW Anderson.




With 31 stores on the high street, Awear is a household name over in the Republic of Ireland. The online store, however, has quickly made a name for itself across the UK with its fashion-forward pieces at purse-friendly prices.

Linzi Shoes

  (Shoes, from £40)

Bringing the fast-fashion experience into the footwear forum, Linzi Shoes offers an impressive array of shoes and boots at prices that make it hard to check out with just one pair.


A daily delivery of new lines means you won't have to search far to find something you like. It's with dresses that this retailer really comes into its own with hundreds of styles in rainbow-worthy colours and prints.

She Likes

(Red dress, £22)

With new trends emerging on a near-weekly basis, websites such as She Likes are a welcome addition to the fashion scene. You'll find instant trend injections for your wardrobe at prices that won't break the bank.

Lavish Alice

You'll be in good company with a purchase from Lavish Alice, which counts celebrity names including The Saturdays' Mollie King and Little Mix among its growing fan base.


  (Blazer, £30)

In the eight years since its launch, Boohoo has become one of the leading online retailers in providing trend-led fashion for those on a budget. Taking inspiration from celebrity style, Boohoo has won many awards for its price-savvy designs.

Own the Runway

Using the catwalks as its inspiration, Own the Runway provides an affordable way to recreate high-fashion looks. It's not just the clothing that's worth a look, there's an impressive array of footwear to boot.


Having established itself as a must-visit destination for on-trend fashion, Missguided is leading the way in showing you how to wear it, too, with an interactive fashion blog and trend section.

Stylist Pick

Aiming to give a more personal approach to online shopping; after a short questionnaire Stylistpick offers its customers a selection of pieces to suit their look carefully curated by a team of fashion stylists.

Prodigy Red

(Striped shirt, £14.99)

With dresses priced as low as £9.99 and shirts from £14.99 you can't really go wrong with this value-led fashion retailer. Expect to find a colourful array of on trend items at prices you really can't argue with.



Vestiaire Collective

This is the online equivalent of a high-fashion car-boot sale where the online community comes together to buy and sell each other's wares, with the added advantage of an online team who check over the quality of every item.


(Dress, £250)

One of the best names in the vintage market, Rokit started out almost two decades ago from a market stall in Camden. Its vintage clothing can now be enjoyed globally with worldwide shipping.

Vintage Seekers

In addition to its beautiful array of vintage clothing and watches, Vintage Seekers also offers art and wine for sale via its seeker personal-shopping service.

Style Sequel


Style Sequel is a website that aims to give pre-owned, high-end designer clothing a second lease of life by selling it on to a new owner. Among its treasure-trove of second-hand pieces you'll find Chanel handbags and Christian Louboutin shoes.

Love Miss Daisy

For those in the market for vintage clothing but who prefer not to go down the rummage route, this site is for you. Love Miss Daisy sells vintage pieces from the Forties through to the Eighties, plus a stunning selection of wedding dresses.



Lux Fix

(Lara Bohinc boots, Prices vary)

Lux Fix showcases an ever-changing roster of designer collections, but this site is a rarity in that it offers stock from current-season collections at special (changing) prices. The only catch is that you'll have to sign up as these special deals are open to members only.


One of the largest fashion online retailers, Yoox's roster of brands includes Alexander McQueen and Prada, but where this site really comes into its own is with its carefully selected end-of-season product sales.

Then and Now Shop


This site says what it sells on the tin. Representing the "then" is past-season designer collections selling at discounts of up to 75 per cent off, while the "now" is a select collection of current-season stock from up-and-coming names.


One of the front-runners in time-limited online sales, Cocosa has established its reputation with an impressive and varied selection of sale goods. Look out for its newly launched beauty section with big-name brands at bargain prices.

TK Maxx Gold Label

TK Maxx has long been one of the leaders in discount designer fashion. It upped the ante, however, with an online presence and the introduction of Gold Label; reserved for only the most luxurious of designer labels.


The supermarket of online-sale shopping, Brand Alley features a daily line-up of brands from French Connection to D&G. In addition to the timed sales there's now also a year-round outlet section with no shortage of bargains up for grabs.

eBay Fashion Gallery

(French Connection dress, £29.60)

For those not wanting to go through the anxiety of bidding wars and buying from unknown sellers, eBay's Fashion Gallery provides a forum for discount clothing direct from the retailer, cutting out the middlemen but retaining the saving.

Secret Sales

There's nothing more exciting in the world of shopping than feeling like you're part of a private club. Secretsales.com has nailed the members-only formula to bring amazing discounts on fashion and accessories with new sales every day.

The Outnet

From the team behind Net-a-porter.com, The Outnet is a site dedicated to selling designer womenswear at discounted prices. It's worth signing up to email updates for the promotional sales with even further reductions.

My Habit

With online giant Amazon the brain power behind this online store, it's safe to assume it won't disappoint. Based in the USA but with flat-rate international delivery, the site offers 72-hour sales on women's, men's, children's clothing and interiors products too.



The Dressing Room

Based in Hertfordshire, this award-winning boutique has built up a dedicated clientele. Jeans lovers will enjoy its impressive array of premium denim brands including Hudson Jeans, Paige, Current/ Elliott and Mother.


A highlight on Islington's trendy Upper Street, Sefton has been pulling in the crowds both in-store and online with its exciting mix of menswear designers as well as its popular own line.


(Christina shorts, £210)

Austique made its name with its diverse range of international designers both established and up-and-coming. Fans of popular Aussie brands such as Zimmermann and Camilla and Marc will love this site.


With 30 years under its belt, Coggles, which started life in York, has become a master of its trade: more than just an online clothes shop, you'll find books, homeware and vintage pieces alongside its established mens- and womenswear collections.


  (YSL bag, £1,185)

Cricket is the leading independent-clothing boutique based in Liverpool specialising in high-end designer womenswear. Log on to find offerings from the likes of Isabel Marant, Lanvin and Chloé.




LN-CC, or Late Night Chameleon Café, takes the same approach of fusing a retail concept within an art installation online as it do with its store. A progressive array of labels is on offer in addition to lesser-known Japanese brands and a selection of rare books and music.

Avenue 32

A newcomer on the luxury online-shopping scene, supplementing the range of brands on offer the site focuses on providing high-end editorial content with an online magazine that includes designer profiles and trend reports.

My Theresa

German-based online store My Theresa has established a reputation as one of the world's leading online retailers. The site boasts more than 160 international designers and stocks hard-to-find online labels such as Balenciaga and Tod's.

Far Fetch


In Far Fetch you'll find an online store that allows you to shop at the world's best boutiques all in one place. It hand-picks the boutiques on offer to ensure the most diverse and luxurious offerings online. This autumn sees new signings from Miami-based boutique The Webster and London's Browns.

Moda Operandi

A first in online retail, Moda Operandi operates an online trunk-show concept in which you are able to make orders direct from the unedited collections of designers such as Zac Posen and Marchesa months before they go on general sale.


  (McQ dress, £255)

A decade since its inception, Stylebop has become a leading name in luxury labels online: two million users a month log on to check out the great mix of established designers such as Pucci and Balmain with newer names Casadei and Raoul.

London Boutiques

London is a hotbed of designer boutiques and this site makes shopping in them all a breeze. Shop from stores such as Notting Hill's The Gathering Goddess or Shoreditch's 11 Boundary without ever having to leave your lounge.

Shoe Scribe

  (Casadei shoes, £690)

This website is a haven for all things footwear-related; think shoe shopping, shoe news and even a shoe valet who can sort out everything from maintenance to styling dilemmas.

Watch That Label

Sometimes the best fashion finds are the ones from under-the-radar brands. Watch That Label is a site dedicated to bringing only the best new names in luxury fashion for those looking for something a little out of the ordinary.

Mr Porter

It's not only the fairer sex who love to shop online. From the same fashion team that forged Net-a-porter, is the menswear version, Mr Porter – equally as sleek and as well stocked as its award-winning counterpart.


For hire:

Girl Meets Dress

The perfect solution for those looking for something a little bit special to wear but without the whopping designer price tag.

Kennedy Purple

, (Balenciaga bag, 1 week £45)

If you can't afford to buy the latest designer it-bag don't despair because with Kennedy Purple you can now rent it instead. For a fraction of the retail price a new handbag from designers such as Chloé and Mulberry can be yours on a weekly or monthly rental basis.

The Shortcut

For those conscious of not being seen in the same thing twice, rental website The Shortcut offers a solution with its array of flirty party dresses for just £14.99 per weekend. Plus there's free postage, free returns and no need to worry about cleaning.

Wish Want Wear

As one of the UK's leading online dress-hire websites, on Wish Want Wear you'll find a roster of dresses for every occasion, whether it's black tie, bridesmaid duties or summer barbecues, in a range of sizes and brands.

That Dress

Eliminate the guilt factor of purchasing yet another evening dress by renting one instead. That Dress offers designer frocks to rent from as little as £35 and with a £3.95 damage waiver there's no need to panic about a little wine spill.

New York Fashion Week is under way, and this landmark hotel will surely have a few well-dressed guests slinking down its hallways at present. Not only is it set amid the glittering boutiques of Fifth Avenue, but The St Regis also boasts two sumptuous designer suites. There's the Dior, which comes with a pristine white living room and juliette windows that open on to the Manhattan skyline. Or the Tiffany, where rooms are dashed in the jewellery designer's trademark turquoise shade. Both come with butler service, naturally.

The St Regis, Two East 55th Street, Fifth Av, New York, US (001 212 753 4500; ). Suites US$9,500 (£6,333), B&B.

Missoni Hotel, Kuwait

From Edinburgh to the Emirates: this is the second outpost by the playful Italian fashion house, following on from its inaugural hotel in the Scottish capital. The latest address, which opened last year, lords itself over Kuwait City's cosmopolitan shopping enclave of Salmiya. Inside, pretty pastels clash with bright citric colours, the Six Senses spa soothes and there's a choice of two restaurants. The Choco Café has a delightful outdoor terrace and sweet treats stamped with Missoni stripes.

Missoni, Arabian Gulf Road, Symphony Center, Kuwait (00 965 2577 0000; ). Doubles start at 63 Kuwaiti dinar (£140), B&B.

Hôtel Le Notre Dame, Paris

This is the third hotel masterminded by revered designer Christian Lacroix. The latest haunt bears the same rich satins, opulent fabrics and graphic prints that have long set Lacroix apart as one of the world's leading couturiers. His interest in theatrical costumery and historical figures abounds in the 26 rooms which display murals of Paris, past and present. The location, as its name suggests, is directly across from the city's Gothic cathedral.

Hôtel Le Notre Dame, Quai Saint-Michel 81, Paris, France (00 33 1 43 54 20 43; ). Doubles start at €206, including breakfast.

Armani Hotel, Milan

An elegant palazzo on the via Manzoni is the site of Armani's second hotel. Much like the brand's first hotel foray within the soaring, stiletto-shaped Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the new hotel cuts a fine figure with a soft, sophisticated blend of creamy, chocolate shades in each of its 95 rooms. The polished restaurant and lounge look out across the red rooftops of the Italian fashion capital, with floor-to-ceiling windows, lacquered surfaces and a liberal use of marble throughout.

Armani Hotel, Via Manzoni 31, Milan, Italy (00 39 02 8883 8888; . Doubles start from €432, room only.

Schlosshotel im Grunewald, Berlin

Silver of hair and serious of face... there is only one Karl Lagerfeld. The creative king behind Chanel and Fendi turned his hand to hotel rooms when the opportunity arose at this fittingly regal palace. Set in leafy Grunewald, it has the air of an exclusive country house. There are high ceilings strung with chandeliers, vast rooms with wood panelling, high notes in the Vivaldi restaurant and a sultry cigar lounge.

Schlosshotel im Grunewald, Brahmsstr 10, Berlin, Germany (00 49 30 895 840; ). Doubles start at €239, without breakfast.

Claridge's, London

Old-world elegance was given a modern makeover at Claridge's when the timeless Mayfair hotel collaborated with Belgian design doyenne, Diane von Fürstenberg, to unveil a series of rooms and suites. Some are refined and honey-hued, others are monochrome with fine gold detailing, bespoke fabrics and geometric prints. There's also a more audacious clutch which flaunt the signature DvF leopard print and bold floral patterns.

Claridge's, Brook Street, Mayfair, London, United Kingdom (020-7629 8860; ). Doubles start at £495, room only.

Lip and Cheek stain in Tainted Love, £36, Tom Ford, harrods.com,

Coco Noir fragrance, 50ml £75, 100ml £106, Chanel, 020-7493 3836

Instant Definition mascara in 04 Intense Plum, £20, Clarins,

Pure colour nail lacquer in Berry Desire, £14, Estée Lauder,

Nail varnish in Rouge Garonne, £18, Dior,

Stella eau de parfum, £67, Stella McCartney,

Nail lacquer in Rougemarie, £10, MAC,

Ombre Solo eyeshadow in Deep Night Purple, £21, Yves Saint Laurent,

'Notting Hill Gate' frame sunglasses, £606, by pq eyewear designed by Ron Arad, 36 Beauchamp Place, London NW3, 020-7581 6336

Embellished shoes, £1,110, Prada, 16-18 Old Bond Street, London W1, 020-7647 5000

Wool and sequin North South bag, £2,510, Louis Vuitton, 17-19 New Bond Street, London W1, 020-7399 3856

Silk floral scarf, £255, Gucci, 18 Sloane Street, London SW1, 020-7235 6707

Velvet and lambskin shoulder bag, £1,711, Chanel, 26 Old Bond Street, London W1, 020-7493 5040

Bonded flannel fedora with leather trim, £169, Emporio Armani, 020-7823 8818

Artemis gold necklace, £175, Lulu Frost,

Crystal heel boots, £1,000, Chanel, as before

Styling: Gemma Hayward

Photographs: Catherine Losing

Set design: Sarah Parker

Assistant: Jemma Pearson

We're not sure about: Villain of the piece

According to the folk behind the latest fragrance off the Ed Hardy conveyer belt, "it's good to be bad", but whether that should refer to someone's odour is a matter up for some debate. With "kisses as sweet and addicting as crème brûlée", it sounds truly nauseating.

We're buying: Chic charity tees

The work of London fashion luminaries Jonathan Saunders, JW Anderson, Mary Katrantzou and Richard Nicoll may usually be out of reach for most, but these charity T-shirts are not only priced in the double digits, but will help support The Dispossessed Fund which fights poverty in London.

£60, matchesfashion.com

We can't wait for: Chanel's new store

Beauty buffs will be counting down the hours on their perfectly manicured fingers until the launch of Chanel's beauty boutique. The 57-square-metre space will be dedicated to exclusive products, make-up classes, and even a nail bar from the polish trendsetters themselves.

From 24 July, chanelatcoventgarden.com

We're cheating: Wrap it up

For nail-art obsessives who can't make it to the salon and aren't quite ambidextrous enough to achieve the same results at home, fashion favourite brand Wah Nails has extended its product line to include these easy-to-apply stickers with a choice of six of the most popular patterns.

£7 each, Boots nationwide

Languishing on the unloved list for a while, paisley prints have become a signature for young designer J.W. Anderson. The pyjama print jumped from nightwear to the catwalk as Haider Ackermann and Stella McCartney showed silky separates festooned with the twisted teardrops.

An Olympian year

Who can blame designers for latching on to the Olympics and running with it – excuse the pun. Sports fans will be pleased to see that sweatshirts, shorts, bomber jackets and hoodies have been given a high fashion spin in luxurious fabrics and a pastel palette.

In a flapper

Gucci led the glamorous Gatsby-era charge with a black-and-gold showing of fringed flapper dresses. If you're worried about playing dress-ups, make-up is a good way to achieve a subtle version of the trend. Nars' metallic smudge sticks (£17, Nars; from selfridges.com) make a gilded eye a doddle.

Vroom, vroom!

The retro references continued with Prada's hyper-feminine outing, of which muscle cars were a signature motif – on everything from stilettos (£650, prada.com) to skirts and bags. Hourglass curves made an appearance in Dolce & Gabbana's Mediterranean vegetable medley while the minimal pedal pushers and gingham at Jil Sander were a crisp take on the Fifties era.

Water world

Pearls were slung around models' waists, dotted down their spines and through their hair at Chanel's underwater-inspired extravaganza. Iridescent fabrics, jewel-encrusted netting and undulating ruffles all mimicked the delights at the bottom of the ocean. The conch-shaped clutch bags with a pearlescent finish are the accessory of the season, if you've a spare £18,200 (Chanel, 020-7493 5040).

Get waisted

Modern and sleek, this season, peplums, whether attached above or below the waistline, added volume to a straight silhouette at Céline and Dries Van Noten or emphasised an hourglass figure at Givenchy and Jason Wu.

Nailing it

Mix up the sweetness of the season with Dolce & Gabbana's new kohl collection which features a series of vampy, glamorous nail shades (£17, harrods.com), or match it with Chanel's newest must-have additions – three pinkish shades named for the months of spring.

Sweetness and light

There's no getting away from it, saccharine pastels are one of the biggest colour stories this season, shown by almost everyone. The girliness of the hues is not for the faint of heart – although it may feel easier to wear fondant shades as make-up rather than clothes.

Bobbing along

A newly chopped bob can be a refreshing beauty statement for the spring, but if you're not quite ready to take the plunge with the scissors, the faux bobs as seen at Jil Sander are a good place to start.

Short shorts

Forget the Daisy Dukes or tailored city shorts, this season the shape resembles nothing so much as a big pair of knickers. Scarf prints and florals showed in the last-ever D&G collection, while at Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquière balanced teeny-tiny shorts with boxy shoulders.

Lace ups

Spring and lace go hand in hand and the intricate fabric is sexy (of course) at Dolce & Gabbana, romantic at Valentino and Erdem, and colour-contrasted at Miu Miu and Junya Watanabe. The supersize broderie Anglaise collars at Louis Vuitton are one of the key buys of the summer.

Darling buds of May

This season, florals are graphically printed, appliquéd and embroidered. Follow the trend up the garden path with Gucci's new Flora Garden collection (£72 for 100ml, available nationwide), Stella McCartney's lily-of-the-valley-inspired L.I.L.Y or Jo Malone's newly customisable classic Red Roses.

Thirty thousand bright children from poor backgrounds will get the chance to go to top private schools under plans unveiled yesterday. More than 80 top fee-paying schools, including Westminster and Manchester Grammar, have agreed to award places solely on academic merit. An education charity is pushing for the policy to be included in the three main parties' 2015 manifestos.

Labour: cut number of women in prison

The number of women in prison must be reduced, the shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan will say today. Almost 11,000 women were jailed last year – separating some 17,000 children from their mothers. A Labour government would create a Women's Justice Board.

Obama and Romney prepare for debate

President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, were yesterday busy preparing for the first presidential debate, due to be held in Denver tonight. Ahead of the contest, Mr Romney signalled a shift in his stance on immigration policy.

Government risks complicity in torture

The British government will be complicit in torture should Abu Hamza and his fellow terror suspects be extradited to the US, a senior UN adviser warned. Juan Mendez said the solitary confinement they would endure in US "supermax" prisons amounts to torture.

MPs summon Ahmadinejad

The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been summoned to parliament to answer questions about the currency, with the rial at a record low against the US dollar. Alarm over the currency has sparked a rise in the number of Iranians buying foreign currency.

Opposition leader wins shock victory

The triumphant leader of Georgia's opposition coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has called on President Mikheil Saakashvili to step down after securing a shock victory in Sunday's parliamentary polls.

Tube train strikes 12-year-old girl

A 12-year-old girl was taken to hospital yesterday in a "life-threatening condition" after being struck by a Tube train during rush hour. The incident, which police are treating as non-suspicious, occurred at Brixton in south London at 8.40am. "People were petrified and some were screaming or crying," a witness said.

Inquiry into Pope's former butler

Judges in the Vatican have ordered a probe into the treatment of Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's former butler arrested in the "Vatileaks" scandal. Taking the stand yesterday, Mr Gabriele denied theft but accepted he abused the Pope's trust. He is accused of stealing documents and passing them to the media.

Ryanair boss says his £1m pay is unfair

The outspoken chief executive of the budget airline Ryanair has claimed that his £1m pay last year made him "the most underpaid and under appreciated airline boss in Europe". Michael O'Leary said being paid 20 times more than his average employee was unfair, because he works "50 times harder".

Six-year-old beat me up, says gym teacher

A 14st gym teacher in New York has sparked more than few smirks after claiming that a 6-year-old student weighing just 50lb had physically assaulted him. John Webster fractured his ankle and injured his knee after the alleged assault, according to the New York Post.

Trip to swingers' club on expenses

A German insurance giant has revealed that its employees put a trip to a swingers' hotel in Jamaica on expenses when it published an internal audit on a public website. Ergo, primary insurance unit of Munich Re, the world's biggest reinsurer, unveiled a website containing details of 12 similar incidents.

Chanel takes over Grand Palais in Paris

Wind turbines graced Paris's Grand Palais for a Chanel show unrivalled in scale and spectacle yesterday. The set was thought to be a reference to the gentle, beautiful nature of the clothes, which included black chiffon dresses appliqued with silk petals. The collection had a youthful 1960s theme, complemented by bold, oversized accessories.

American Airlines flights lose seats

A major airline is checking its passenger seats after some came loose following take-off on three separate flights. American Airlines said the incidents occurred on a flight last week between Vail, Colorado, and Dallas-Fort Worth and again on Saturday and Monday.

Sir Chris takes a ride in his velodrome

Six-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy cycled the first lap of the Commonwealth Games velodrome named in his honour yesterday. Sir Chris said he hoped the Commonwealth Games venue in Glasgow would mean that the next generation of champions came from Scotland. He hopes to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games should he stay injury-free.

BFI to spend £500m to develop industry

The British Film Institute (BFI) will invest £500m in the country's movie industry over the next five years in a bid to develop talent outside London. Equipment will be provided to 1,000 community venues across the UK, while the Film Fund will see its budget increased from £18m to £24m.

Year-long trip may blast off in 2015

The first year-long mission to the International Space Station may begin in March 2015, after an agreement between ISS partners. Alexei Krasnov of Russian space agency Roscosmos, said yesterday the two-person expedition will be a test for future flight lengths.

Pupils made to write cards to prisoners

A teacher has received a warning letter from the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board for making her fifth-grade pupils write Christmas cards to a friend serving time in prison. The cards contained the children's names and in some cases addresses. They were intercepted by a prison officer.

Tom Sawyer was a firefighter

The hero of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was a heavy-drinking firefighter, according to an American magazine. The Smithsonian claims the real-life Sawyer met Twain in San Francisco in 1863. Sawyer said of Twain: "He could drink more and talk more than any feller I ever seen."

If Alès is a spiritual man, then it is this breathtaking garden, located a few hours south of Paris, that surely serves as his altar. For much of his working life, nature has provided Alès with a never-ending driving force; first as a hairdresser to the Parisian beau monde (his salon is still located on the same spot on the Avenue Franklin Roosevelt where he first opened in 1965), where he revolutionised a technique 'the brushing', more of which later; and then as the person who developed and exploited the commercial potential of plants in hair products. "Even today, after working with plants for so many years, I believe that we are only at the beginning of understanding all they can teach us," he enthuses.

Here, set among 380 hectares of ancient woods and oaks, cedars, pines and sequoias planted by Alès, his 'garden' is a calming escape from the hectic outside world. At its heart lies the secret of Phyto's success, an impressive apothecary garden they call the 'Phytotèque' (as in a bibliothèque, but for plants rather than books). Run by his daughter Patricia, this is the company's true chemistry lab (they have a scientific one in Paris, too), complete with buzzing bees and butterflies, where they grow hundreds of different species of plants, all to be used in some way in a Phyto formula. Thirty varieties of basil and every kind of thyme, rosemary, lavender, rhubarb and mint you can imagine; unusual species like Arachis hypogaea (peanut) and pink Malabar spinach, Opium poppies and Anthemis tinctoria, a vivid yellow chamomile used for its hair-dying properties; and exotic (often endangered) plants being nurtured by the family for posterity.

Nearby is a superb rose garden with more than 200 species of roses; close to the 18th- century house (apparently built by the Marquis du Durantis for his mistress), lies the cathédral des sapins – an oval-shaped enclave of pine trees and a little path leading to a statue of Sainte Marie – and a little further away, a whole patch dedicated to the large, elegant silver-green-leaved beauty of the hosta plant, the symbol for the Phyto brand. There are ongoing experiments too, like the 5,000 ginkgo biloba bushes recently planted, extracts of which are used in the Phytocyane shampoo for thinning hair. It was "the only tree to survive the effects of the Hiroshima bomb" says Alès. "I feel there is a magic that lives in that tree."

Nothing goes to waste – the rows of American sweetgum (liquidambars) are harvested every three years for their leaves, which provide a foaming agent for Phyto's shampoos. Every leaf, bud, bark and stem is investigated for potential benefits, and – once distilled in the drying barn – it is sent to the Phyto lab to provide the ultimate benchmark of quality for comparison when the company sources ingredients in bulk for the production each year of their range.

At 82, Alès is living proof (if it was needed, given the legion of Phyto fans and hundreds of clinical studies to back his innovations up), with his own thick locks and the smoothness of his hands, of the magic of plants. Not bad for a young Spaniard who arrived in France in 1937 with his family, escaping their homeland's civil war, with an initial ambition to study architecture. "In the summer of 1946, before I was meant to start university, my father said to me, 'get a job'," Alès recalls in his soft, slightly stilted English. "So I took a job managing the stockroom in the biggest hairdressing salon in Paris at the time – owned by Louis Gervais, with more than 103 employees on the Champs Elysées in Paris – and when I walk in, and it's so nice, the ladies are beautiful, the salon is beautiful, so I told my father to forget architecture, I want to be a hairdresser." His father was shocked. "He said, 'this is work for women, not for you', but I told him that to make ladies more beautiful is the best job in the world. My father said 'OK'."

When he asked Gervais for an apprenticeship, Gervais took Alès to the stockroom, climbed on top of a chair and wiped the top of the shelf with his finger. It was spotless. "He said 'OK, I take you'," laughs Alès. It was also here that Alès first saw the hands of the women who did the shampooing all day, their hands swollen and nails destroyed by chemicals, and the first seeds of his idea for a much more gentle, less harmful range of products was quietly sown. "I started to look at plants, and to see how they grow and survive – I began to think it is possible to look at how to create a synergy with the human body and nature to create something more gentle."

Of course, it is impossible to imagine now, but at the time, everyone told him his botanical lotions and more natural approach to hairdressing would never work. When all the world was fixated with setting a lady's hair in chemicals and rollers in the late 1950s, Vidal Sassoon was on one side of the Channel starting to conjure glamorous new ways of cutting geometrically, and Alès was embracing the natural movement of hair by inventing 'The Blowout', much loved by A-list clients like Catherine Deneuve. "It was purely mechanical – I worked out the way the hair naturally grows and falls, so it went with the movement of the hair from the roots rather than against it," he explains. With it, he invented a round brush that, combined with a hairdryer, allowed hair to be 'brushed' in a way that allowed it to fall in sleek bouncy folds.

It was finding ways to rescue his client Brigitte Bardot's bleached and dried-out locks in the early Sixties that inspired Huile D'Alès, and then came his groundbreaking Phyto 7 which used the synergy of essential oils extracted from seven plants – calendula, sage, burdock, willow, soybean, rosemary and althea – to create an innovative natural hair conditioner. His long-term client Madame Pompidou introduced Alès and his products to Jacqueline Kennedy, who promptly spread fanatical word across the Atlantic. Phyto (or Phytotherathrie as it was called – phyto/plant, thera/care, thrie (from trixos)/hair) was an instant smash on a worldwide scale.

At first, however, Alès and his wife Jacquie – with help from his children Sylvie, Romain and Patricia – were making the products from the kitchen table at home in their house in Provence; this was the early 60s. He had even taken his ideas to L'Oréal but they were not interested, believing the future of haircare lay in chemistry not nature. With a small loan from a friend (and fellow high-profile hairdresser Jacques Dessange), Alès decided to manufacture for himself and started to sell his small collection of 12 products through pharmacies, including one at Saint Louis hospital in Paris, famous for its work in dermatology, from 1969. There he met Professor Vachon. Vachon was the first, in 1974, to confirm through clinical studies the beneficial effects Alès instinctively knew the active plant ingredients were providing in Phyto. Soon, products like the anti-frizz Phytodéfrisant (one of only two French products to be included in the exalted American beauty magazine Allure's Hall of Fame, the other Chanel No. 5) and Phytoplage (the first sun protection haircare) took the world by storm.

For Alès, despite the global success and acclaim (and a few hiccups along the way, including legal wrangles with L'Oréal after they bought Alès's silent partner Dessange's 49 per cent share of the business), it is still the search for 'plant magic' that keeps him going. "I am always looking at new plants and the synergy of how one can reinforce another's properties." The company, with its hi-tech, innovating scientific lab complete with doctors, pharmacists and scientists, works closely with the French National Centre for Scientific Research and Alès remains continually inspired by past botanical medicinal discoveries such as the cancer-treating drug Taxol (derived from the bark of the Pacific Yew), penicillin (from humble fungi) and the cure for leprosy (derived from the oil of the Chaulmoogra nut). He has made various inroads into finding a commercially viable, consumer-friendly solution to hair loss and alopecia – in fact, "we have one clinically proven solution right now, derived from a very ordinary plant used by Egyptian women to encourage the flow of breastmilk, but the smell is too awful," Alès sighs.

Back at La Lienne d'Alès, it's evident that if there are going to be any major scientific breakthroughs, they will be found here, unearthed possibly even by accident, through the Alès family's trial and error and passion for plants. "Trees have a message – whether it's in their leaves or bark, even where some look very simple and ordinary, there is a power there. We are only just skimming the surface of trying to assimilate the synthesis of what nature does. We need to look to it for the answers," he says. "I have just planted 400 more oak trees and I realise that I probably won't see them grow," Alès admits, aware that he is in his twilight years despite his still sprightly acuity and enthusiasm. "When we bought this land, some people had already planted some trees, and I am adding some more; and if they continue for the next generation I will be happy."

For more information, visit

2. Prada

£2,450, 020 7647 5000

The Prada collection is among the most feted of the spring/summer season, crafted in hyper-feminine fabrics and in colours to match. This Pyramide bag is just the thing to finish such a gentle look.

3. Proenza Schouler

£1,685, net-a-porter.com

The large version of this designer satchel is still as light as anyone might wish for, and will hold everything the modern woman needs to carry with her. This red version looks great with jeans.

4. Pierre Hardy

£1,075, Pierre Hardy, brownsfashion.com

What's not to want about this brightly coloured backpack? It's unlikely that anyone carrying this modish design in the colours of the spring/summer season will get lost.

5. Givenchy

£1,400, selfridges.com

The Antigona is as practical a bag as it is lovely to behold. It's big enough to function as a work bag, easily holding notebooks, papers, make-up and more, and has top handles as well as a shoulder strap.

6. Olympia Le-Tan

£1,110, brownsfashion.com

Olympia Le-Tan has made a career – and a business – out of crafting handbags that take their inspiration from the covers of books and films.

7. Chanel

£985, 020 7493 5040

It's a basic tote in a great colour but let's face it, the selling point of this is its logo. It's cut in cotton canvas, with leather trim and a signature leather and chain handle.

8. Yves Saint Laurent

£1,660, ysl.com

This Yves Saint Laurent classic has been given a sporting makeover, crafted as it is in the finest leather punched to resemble Airtex. The finished thing is as light as the proverbial feather.

9. Alexander Wang

£980, Alexander Wang, thecorner.com

Wang is the toast of New York and cool girls will love to carry this great leather bag. It's big enough to fit half a life in and looks gorgeous in ultra-luxe, grey suede.

10. Mulberry

£995, mulberry.com

This "travel day" bag is very much like the bestselling Alexa but with gleaming gold hardware added for good measure. It's even cuter that way but still light, though, which is clever.

Io9, the science fiction blog, suggests that mermaids might be just the thing to fill the vampire-sized hole in the lives of teenage readers. It notes there have already been 18 young adult books about the mythical sea creatures released this year. And by not being bound to the many rules dictated by vampire lore, the mermaid genre is much more flexible. The young adult mermaid fiction being released includes every underwater scenario from murderous sea nymphs to sunny, hippy tales about the ocean. Some are stories of friendship; other love stories.

Orange-prize winning Helen Dunmore has written five mermaid books for young adult in her Ingo Chronicles series, the most recent of which, Stormswept, was published earlier this year. In the US, titles such as Wake, about a teenaged siren, Wrecked, which has a merman as the main character and Fathomless, which will be published in the UK next month, are making waves. Studio execs will be watching closely the reading habits of teenagers. The success of the Twilight and The Hunger Games books has translated into big box office. So if it is mermaids that are currently capturing teenagers' imaginations then it is surely only a matter of time before a couple of dark, angsty films are given the green light. And in the same way that two Snow White films were released this year (Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman), a similar battle between mermaid-themed films seems almost guaranteed.

For those who grew up with the familiar faces – and tails – of Splash's Madison, played by Darryl Hannah, and Disney's Ariel, it might seem strange that mermaids have only now been rising to the surface. Sure, for die-hard mermaid fans there was H2O: Just Add Water, an Australian teen soap. But it's only recently that there have been signs that mermaids are ripe for a comeback, with Lady Gaga donning scales for her "You and I" video last year and Katy Perry, looking rather more glamorous and a lot less otherworldly as a sexy sea creature in an ad for GHD hair products.

The fashion world, typically one step ahead of the game, embraced sea nymphs in their spring/summer 2012 collections. Chanel had Florence Welch singing live in a huge white seashell at its underwater-themed show and designers such as Alexander McQueen, Givenchy and Armani have all been inspired by mermaids of late. And with Azealia Banks, currently one of the hottest acts in music, proclaiming to be the first mermaid of hip-hop, having released a mixtape called Fantasea (track titles include "Atlantis", "Aquababe" and "Neptune"), as well as putting on "Mermaid Ball" gigs in New York and LA, are mermaids set to replace vampires and werewolves as pop culture's new mythical obsession?

It looks like it's time for a sea change.

Her marriage is wonderful, she's given up alcohol and from tomorrow she's hosting the nightly 'Strictly' spin-off show 'It Takes Two'

Wear the trousers

Trousers are the new skirts. Often, however, they are worn with a tunic and/or dress – a case of enjoying the best of both worlds which is always good. At Junya Watanabe flocked velvet dresses are worn over tailored pants borrowed from menswear; Marc Jacobs styled narrow, empire-line dresses over cropped designs for his own label and at Louis Vuitton and at Prada too the shoulders are narrow, the hemlines wide by comparison.

From left to right: Marc Jacobs, Prada

It's a wrap

Stating the obvious: it's autumn so a coat is important. This time that coat must be big. It looks lovely in its masculine incarnation at Dries Van Noten, has a military borrowed from menswear toughness at McQ, is a signature cut in soft gabardine at Yohji Yamamoto and also in wool at Maison Martin Margiela. Jean-Paul Gaultier's parkas have a luxe-utilitarian appeal and Chalayan's oversized grey wool version is trimmed with neon: to ensure any wearer will be seen in the dark? Left: Chalayan

Baroque is beautiful

The fragility of surface embellishment was once its very appeal but now the opposite is the case. Crystals the size of cough sweets feature at Miu Miu. Marni's jewelled buttons are the size of saucers. At Lanvin lace, fur, ribbons and bows are piled onto jewelled cocktail dresses.

From left to right: Lanvin, Miu Miu

The new gothic

Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci has long channeled a gothic mood and made many a well-dressed woman and indeed man about town very happy by so doing. At Gucci, Frida Giannini is of a similar frame of mind this season; Peter Copping's take at Nina Ricci is more scary fairy and sweeter for that; Karl Lagerfeld's vision for Chanel is also softer though still spooky. Finally, at Versace a predominantly dark collection is embroidered with jewelled crucifixes. Vintage.

From left to right: Nina Ricci, Gucci, Givenchy

Hell for leather

Leather is more prevalent than ever in the form of full mid-calf length skirts at Christian Dior and Hermès and total look and totally black in the totally great Loewe and Valentino collections. For Stefano Pilati's final collection for Yves Saint Laurent belted racing green and ox-blood tunics are the height of tough luxury and then there's Celine leather which we all want.

From left to right: Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Celine

Winter flowers

More fairies, this time flowery ones. There's nothing more lovely than blooms printed, embroidered or appliqued in the autumn season. Valentino's are delicate in all the shade from pales pink to black. Dolce & Gabbana's are more exuberant. Christopher Kane's flowers are plain nasty in funereal flocked velvet and Giles Deacon's crushed roses on white satins and silks unashamedly romantic. At Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton's blossom-encrusted designs appear almost to be growing on models frames like otherworldly flora and fauna.

From left to right: Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, Giles Deacon

The big easy

Dare to wear clothing that is oversized in the extreme and – at Comme des Garçons and also, more discreetly, Celine – flattened. Sci-fi inspired sweatshirts with moulded sleeves at Balenciaga make for some of autumn's most covetable clothing as does voluminous wool tailoring at Haider Ackermann – most beautiful in blue. For Raf Simons' final collection for Jil Sander, the new Dior designer developed an oversized haute couture-inspired silhouette for an audience that was visibly moved by it. Acne's take is tough and utilitarian.

From left: Comme des Garçons, Haider Ackermann, Balenciaga

Punk princesses

Punk's riotous spirit is all present, correct and as anarchic as expected in the British capital where Meadham Kirchhoff's Leigh Bowery-inspired glamour girls, Louise Gray's brilliant mix-and-match colour and pattern, Kinder's twisted prints and Sister by Sibling's leopard knits with masks and ears are loud and proud. And of course, Vivienne Westwood is still the trailblazer here.

From left to right: Meadham Kirchhoff, Louise Gray

But that isn't quite why Daphne Guinness, heiress to the beer fortune and granddaughter of Diana Mitford, has donated a selection of 102 of her own dresses, coats, shoes and suits to Christie's, where they will be auctioned next week.

Two years ago, Guinness, 44, halted the planned sale of the late Isabella Blow's wardrobe at Christie's by buying the collection in its entirety. She said at the time that the breaking up of the fashion editor, stylist and muse's belongings would be "carnage".

"It gives me enormous satisfaction," she said yesterday at Christie's, "that my seemingly impetuous decision to purchase the entirety of Isabella's collection is now clearly going to set a few injustices to rights."

The takings will go to The Isabella Blow Foundation, a charity created by Guinness which supports young artists and designers, as well as funding research into depression and mental-health issues. Blow, who died in 2007, is credited with having helped nurture the talents of designer Alexander McQueen and milliner Philip Treacy, among others. Her personal pieces showcase some of Britain's most important designers.

Blow's mantle has been taken on by Guinness in the years since her death. She has been an artist, model, perfumier and designer, among the very small circle of women who still buy bespoke couture clothes from the likes of Chanel, Dior and Balenciaga, as well as supporting young London designers and collecting their work.

Recognisable by her idiosyncratic platinum and black-striped beehive, Guinness dresses in a way that is eye-catching and, at times, a bit gothic. Lady Gaga once described her and Blow as "exceptional icons" and soulmates. But many of the pieces going under the hammer are from her early years, before she had honed her personal aesthetic.

A purple textured A-line coat by Christian Dior, estimated to go for £1,000, was a favourite piece during Guinness's late-20s, while a lemon yellow satin and hide bubble dress by Christian Lacroix was the first piece of couture she ever bought, in 1987. There are several pieces created by Alexander McQueen before his death in 2010 – a pair of black leather boots estimated at £2,500 and two dresses worth around £20,000 each – as well as a pair of Guinness's trademark heel-less shoes by Noritaka Tatehana, which took more than eight months to make. Entry-level prices start at around £250 for a Givenchy dress and a Valentino skirt suit.

The Guinness auction collection is as surprising as it is diverse – given her reputation for extreme edginess, many of the pieces are more accessible than you might imagine, and they show a clear evolution in her personal style over the years, from timeless classics to the more outré numbers.

"The clothes are all by really important designers," says Christie's fashion and textiles specialist Clare Borthwick, "and they embody who Daphne is. Pieces from the big houses are always going to be a good investment, but I always advise people to collect things that they love, because you're going to have to look at it every day and you can't always guarantee what's going to make money in the future."

The funds raised by the sale, estimated to reach £100,000, will also go towards the upkeep and maintenance of Blow's extensive collection, which is set to go on show at the London design college Central Saint Martins, McQueen's alma mater, later this year. "The best thing is that [Blow's collection] can be seen and touched and conserved for the next generation of talent," says Guinness.

Photographs: Andrew Leo

Model: Adina at IMG

Hair and make-up: Krystle using Chanel S/s 2012 and Hydra beauty Serum

Photographer's assistant: Catherine Losing

Shot on location at Hylands House, Chelmsford

The 84-year-old died in his home on the city's famed Mulholland Drive, surrounded by his family and loved ones.

Among younger generations of women, Sassoon's name will be mainly associated with the brands of hairstyling products that made him millions.

Yet Wash and Go was not merely the name of his shampoo. It was a fashion concept that went some way to helping the momentum of the women's liberation movement in the 1960s, as he snipped away at the intricate and cumbersome hairstyles of British women to introduce bolder, simpler looks – most famously the bob – which required far less work. With the beehives and bouffants gone, so too were the curlers and the hours spent sitting in them at home.

"Women were going back to work, they were assuming their own power. They didn't have time to sit under the dryer any more," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. However, he added that his approach was not just about practicality. "My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric and take away everything that was superfluous." The fashion designer Mary Quant – whose clothes were intrinsically linked to Sassoon's cuts – labelled him the "Chanel of hair".

Last night the celebrity hairdresser Nicky Clarke said Sassoon was "one of the top five Swinging Sixties icons along with the Beatles, Carnaby Street, Mary Quant and the Union Jack". He added: "What he did was bring in a form based on Modernism. He just brought that to hair that worked in terms of it being all about the cut."

Sassoon opened his first salon on London's Bond Street in 1958, and began opening more in Britain and across the Atlantic in the mid-1960s as excitement grew around his styles, which also included the five-point cut and the Greek goddess. His ideas had ever-increasing influence in the fashion world, leading to him being flown from London to Hollywood at a reported cost of $5,000 simply to cut the hair of the actress Mia Farrow – with a pixie look – for Roman Polanski's 1968 cult film Rosemary's Baby.

Born in 1928 to a poor Jewish family, Sassoon joined the 43 Group to fight fascists on the streets of London in the 1940s, leading the author Michael Rosen to pay tribute to him last night. On one occasion he was arrested and spent a night in a cell for his troubles.

He left for Palestine to fight in Israel's war of independence in 1948, and later, in 1982, he established the Vidal Sassoon International Centre for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He was made a CBE in 2009, commenting after receiving his award from the Queen at Buckingham Palace that the monarch's hair had a "beautiful colour".

Despite moving to the US he maintained a strong affection for the UK – not least through his support for Chelsea FC. Indeed, his love of football led him to say in 2007: "I thought I'd be a soccer player but my mother said I should be a hairdresser, and, as often happens, the mother got her way."

Sassoon's personal life proved somewhat rocky, taking in four marriages. He had four children with his second wife, but their eldest daughter, Catya, died in her sleep on New Year's Day 2002 after an accidental overdose. He is survived by his fourth wife, Ronnie.

It certainly doesn't appear to be. On her feet are the signature elevated platforms, a variation of which Naomi Campbell famously fell from back in 1993. On her head is an oversized helmet complete with a veil of bronze sequins, Westwood's fiercely glamorous alternative to military netting. The designer is recreating a style that she dreamt up for the Paralympics closing ceremony – this is the morning after the night before – where she was asked to appear as Queen Boudica riding a chariot conceived by stage designer Joe Rush and the Mutoid Waste Company. Joe Corre, her son by Malcolm McLaren, and Andreas Kronthaler, her husband and partner in design, went along for the ride.

"Joe [Rush] is a friend of mine and he'd done all these brilliant things," she says. "When he asked me to be Boudica, I said: 'No, get a model, you don't need me, anybody can do that'. And then afterwards I thought: if I can use it, then I'll do it."

And use it she did. Vivienne Westwood, Queen of Punk, grande dame of British fashion, media manipulator par excellence, one-time agent provocateur and now, more passionately evangelical still, full-blown activist, went so far as to avoid the dress rehearsal, knowing that should her intentions become clear, they might be quashed, whether they were to save the planet or not.

"I had to deceive everyone because I had this thing printed inside my dress and I knew they'd have checked," she says, her sense of mischief clearly as acute as ever. "They'd have asked: 'Have you got any branding?', 'Is there any nudity?'." Given that Westwood famously picked up her 1992 OBE from the Queen wearing no knickers, they might hardly have been blamed for that. These days, though (and now a Dame), she has serious issues, over and above mere indecent exposure, in mind. "I didn't feel that guilty because, you know, if I'd told them what I was up to they'd be duty-bound to stay on the safe side and not allow me to do it – and people always end up liking that sort of thing I think."

She hasn't seen the televised version of the stunt in question as yet. Westwood doesn't approve of watching TV, although she did cast an eye over at least part of July's Olympics opening ceremony. "I thought the beginning, with this green, pleasant land, the towers coming up, the hospital beds and the Queen was really wonderful. After the punks though… Whatever… I'd had enough." And the closing ceremony, where she was one of only five fashion designers represented (the others were Burberry, Victoria Beckham, Christopher Kane and Alexander McQueen), also failed to capture her attention more than briefly. "I did see the bit with my dress but, honestly, that's not so important to me. Fashion is my job and I just get on with it."

Vivienne Westwood, now as ever, uses fashion as a platform to express her views and, at the very least, tell a story that extends beyond the realm of clothes. Her interest in the bigger picture belies the fact that she is among the most influential designers in history. This season alone, London-based designers including Louise Gray, Meadham Kirchhoff, Sibling, Kinder and more have referenced the anarchic spirit with which she made her name. In America, meanwhile, it was announced last week that the subject of next year's most important fashion exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute will be Punk: Chaos to Couture, a show that will, doubtless, follow Westwood's trajectory more closely than any other's. And that's a smart move: the parallels between the world then (the late Seventies) and now are impossible to ignore for even the most polite fashion commentator. In the past, Westwood has reluctantly spoken about the impact of the movement she dressed so impressively. Now, though, she says: "Johnny Rotten's songs really were very clever weren't they? 'No future. Your future dream is a shopping machine'. Yeah. That's what he was on about and that is what we are, we're a consumer society."f

Not only did Westwood give the world the uniform of punk, but there followed 1981's Pirates, her first collection shown in Paris, that ushered in the New Romantic movement. "The punk always used to take things around himself out of the gutter, if you like, any old rubbish," she once told me. "There were these Irish punks who used kettles as handbags and do you remember getting crisp packets and baking them in the oven so they shrank? They were wearing those like brooches. Then there was Sid [Vicious] with his toilet-paper tie… Malcolm and I always said that we wanted to get off this island and plunder history too, and the world, like pirates. We didn't want to be seen as token rebels."

The Buffalo Girls collection (1982) – inspired by Latin American Indians and featuring asymmetrically-layered skirts and petticoats – came next and, not insignificantly, bras worn over blouses a good 10 years before Madonna's Jean-Paul Gaultier-designed conical bra. Later, Westwood gleefully reclaimed (and reinvented) the uniform of the British aristocracy and of royalty with mini-crinis, Harris Tweed and crowns; she turned to French Old Master painting for inspiration for, by now, signature corsetry and overblown ballgown skirts. The list goes on, and on, and on. More recently, and in line with a move towards more ethical values, she has reintroduced the virtues of DIY designs that were once an integral part of punk's spirit, advocating the joys of, say, cutting up a tablecloth to make a skirt or wearing your (male) partner's underwear as shorts – just as she herself does. Suffice it to say, though, that her skills as a pattern cutter are rather more deft than most.

For more than 30 years, Westwood has designed clothes for heroes. Outrageously flamboyant if not plain outrageous, they are beautiful, brave and often swim against the tide. Of today's so-called icons, she says: "Thatf Victoria Beckham, she always looks neat and sort of minimal and tidy". "That's not bad and her designs are good designs if you happen to like that sort of thing." She pauses for a moment before adding, with patrician hauteur: "But I don't". It would be "really great", she adds, if also neat and "posh – which is good" Kate Middleton and Samantha Cameron "formed the habit of not always changing their outfits, and wore the same things over and over again". As a woman in control of one of very few independently-owned and globally-recognised brands, she is also a force to be reckoned with. And people love Westwood for that, from fledgling designers for whom she is a source of inspiration, to the obsessive – truly obsessive – Westwood devotees who save up to buy her clothes. For Westwood, the thinking behind her brand is straightforward: "You have a more interesting life," she argues, "if you wear impressive clothes."

So what is more important to the designer than fashion and the company she has presided over for so long now? She is a patron of Reprieve and Liberty. She supports Amnesty International, Environmental Justice Foundation and Friends of the Earth. She is a long-time advocate to free Native American Leonard Peltier. She backs the Greenpeace Arctic Campaign and this year donated £1 million to rainforest charity Cool Earth. Her interest in human rights stretches right back to childhood. "I've said this before and I was embarrassed to tell people at first, but I think I was about four when I came across this picture of the Crucifixion. It was in my cousin's calendar. I'd never seen it before being a Protestant. Anyway, I just couldn't believe it. And ever since then I've thought people have to stop doing these terrible things."

Five years ago, meanwhile, she read environmentalist James Lovelock's Gaïa hypothesis and surmised that humanity was "an endangered species… Our economic system, run for profit and waste and based primarily on the extractive industries, is the cause of climate change," is how she explains it. "We have wasted the earth's treasure and we can no longer exploit it cheaply… Economists treat economics as if it is a pure science divorced from the facts of life. The result of this false accountancy is a wilful confusion under cover of which industry wreaks its havoc scot-free and ignores the environmental cost." At around the same time Westwood wrote her manifesto, 'Active Resistance to Propaganda', a text peopled by everyone from Ancient Greek philosophers to Disney cartoon characters – Westwood is interested in appealing to the young especially – to inspire an interest in learning and culture, in place of indiscriminate consumption.

Westwood is not unaware that all of the above begs the question: how can a designer at the forefront of a globally recognised and, yes, ever-expanding fashion business possibly point the finger at anyone without also incriminating herself? "Guilty," she says, literally holding her hands up. "My main point, though, is quality rather than quantity. It's a question of trying to have less product but for it to be great. I am definitely very worried about the extent of shipping and travelling. We're a worldwide operation and we're sending clothes all over the world, all of the time, and we have to find ways of dealing with that, of running down our carbon footprint. I want to see what we can do with the company that will be usefully good. What I'm always trying to say to the consumer is: buy less, choose well, make it last."

Putting her money where her mouth is, she has now changed into somewhat more modest attire – a draped white organza "summertime" dress which hails from her spring 2000 Gold Label collection: it is 13 years old. "Andreas moans at me sometimes and says myf clothes are beginning to look a bit threadbare or something," she says, "but I don't care. I like these things. I'm kind of insisting that however lovely a dress in a more recent collection may be, I actually like this one just as much so I don't need it."

Vivienne Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in Glossop, Derbyshire, on April 8, 1941. Her father came from a long line of cobblers; her mother worked in the local cotton mills when she wasn't at home looking after her children. When she was 17, her parents bought a post office and moved to South Harrow in Middlesex. After working in a factory for a short while, Westwood went to teacher training college and then married Derek Westwood and had her first child, Ben, by him. The marriage lasted three years, during which time she taught and made jewellery which she sold on a stall on Portobello Road. She soon met McLaren (then Malcolm Edwards) and became pregnant with her second son, Joseph. In 1971 she gave up her day job. McLaren had opened a shop called Let It Rock at 430 King's Road, London, and Westwood filled it.

It is the stuff of fashion history that in 1972, and in line with the fashion that was developing its own distinct character, the name changed to Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die and then, in 1974, to SEX. When, in 1976, the Sex Pistols, managed by McLaren, released "God Save the Queen", it became known as Seditionaries until, in 1980, and with Westwood disillusioned with the mainstream's adoption of punk and its main protagonists, she renamed it World's End. "I realised that they weren't real anarchists like we were," she remembers of punk's later, less radical protagonists, "they just wanted to be in a gang and smash anything to do with the older generation like kids do." That name – and indeed the clock that hangs on its façade telling the time backwards – remains.

In 1976, Westwood, punk legend Jordan and then shop girl, Chrissie Hynde were photographed at the store wearing the type of rubber clothing inspired by fetish and pornography that SEX, in the period immediately prior to Seditionaries, was known for. Westwood herself, however, though in stockings, suspenders and suitably intimidating platform-soled footwear, is wearing a man's white shirt. On to that apparently unassuming garment she has scrawled the French Situationist slogan: 'BE REASONABLE: DEMAND THE IMPOSSIBLE'. It would be reasonable, neatly enough, to argue that this marvellously audacious sentiment still drives her.

"You can save the rainforest for £100 million," she says, for example. "It's not that much money. It's the advertising budget of Samsung. They could protect the rainforest for that budget and would get so much publicity out of it if they chose to do that." Westwood was invited to 10 Downing Street by former advisor to David Cameron, Steve Hilton, specifically to discuss this subject. "I couldn't believe it. A Conservative government that was interested in saving the rainforest. I thought that was brilliant. He was brilliant. Then he left. I don't hate David Cameron but all politicians are just so delayed."

She is nothing if not outspoken. Westwood speaks disparagingly about Barack Obama (she's vehemently opposed to the use of drones) and Tony Blair is "a war criminal – he should be in The Hague". Neither are her views on feminism quite what one might expect them to be. "I've got people here in this company who pay as much to the baby minder as they earn at work," she says. "Because they'd rather work than look after their child. But I think they have to really think about what they're doing."

It seems only fair to point out that Westwood herself works and always has done. "I know and I was a terrible mother," she shoots back. "I didn't put my children first. You have to work today to make money but my mother didn't have to and we managed. I'm really glad to have been born during the war and afterwards during rationing time. We weren't rich but we were probably happier which I know is a cliché but it was before we had all this…" – she searches for the word – "this stuff."

At 72, Westwood says that her greatest indulgence is reading (she's currently immersed in a biography of Aldous Huxley) and visiting art galleries. With the showing of both her spring 2013 Red Label collection at London Fashion Week and her Gold Label collection staged in Paris only days away, how, I wonder, does Vivienne Westwood find time for her day job?

"Yeah, well, Andreas would like to know that as well," she laughs. "I just keep saying it's not my priority. Andreas is the most brilliant designer I have ever met. He's a genius. I've finally persuaded him to come out on to the catwalk with me now. He does at least half of the work. He's about the lining and the stitching and all of the fabric and everything. I'm the geometry of the thing. I usually work out the cutting principles, and the tearing of cloth, that comes from me too. I don't want to retire because my job gives me the opportunity to open my mouth and say something and that's wonderful. If I stopped, I wouldn't have my voice any more and I need it. What I wouldn't think is good is for a new person to become a fashion designer. I'd think, well, why on earth would you want to do that? There are enough of us now. A girl said to me recently: 'I really want to be a fashion designer but I also like biology'. I said: 'Do biology'."

In the end, there is as much warmth, wit, intelligence and imagination to Vivienne Westwood herself as there is to her clothes which, for all her outside interests, remain a powerfully potent force.

She knows that, but: "If I'm going to talk to someone for two hours then it can't just be about fashion. You know, I never really wanted to be a designer in the first place but about 15 to 20 years ago I decided that if I was going to continue I'd be better off starting to like it. I do think looking your best is really, really good for the spirit and my clothes allow people to project their personalities and express themselves. I offer choice in an age of conformity." A perfect Vivienne Westwood pronouncement.

All clothes and accessories from a selection by Vivienne Westwood Gold Label, Red Label and Anglomania collections, available from 44 Conduit Street, London W1, 020-7439 1109, . Vivienne Westwood Gold Label and made to measure couture is available from 6 Davies Street, London W1, 020-7629 3757



MODEL: Georgia Frost at Select

MAKE-UP: Alexandra Byrne at Terrie Tanaka using Chanel A/W 2012 and Rouge Allure 2012

HAIR: Peter Lux at Frank Agency using Bumble & bumble


Right now, massive, mind-bogglingly graphic woven epics by the celebrated photographer Craigie Horsfield on the theme of the circus are causing jaws to drop at Art Basel. Decades after artists like the Icelandic Dieter Roth, and feminist icon Judy Chicago – whose needlework and textile series, Birth Project, caused a stir in the 1980s – led the charge, the number of contemporary artists having woolly ideas is growing at a rate of knots.

So what is the draw of the loom? Adam Lowe of Factum Arte, the Italy-based studio that makes digital tapestries for the Louvre and the British Museum, believes a surge in interest over the past 10 years was inevitable: "Artists across the disciplines are attracted by the materiality and complexity of tapestry, particularly in a new age where the generation of the image – and often the output, too – is digital."

Like Grayson Perry's enormous Walthamstow Tapestry from 2009, a subversive Bayeux Tapestry of our time featuring Chanel handbags, Superdrug and a woman giving birth to the Devil, which was woven from digital files on a Jacquard loom (an automated, rather than human-operated, machine) in Belgium. It returns to the public eye at the opening of William Morris's London home next month, just weeks after six of Perry's new pieces (also digitally-woven, using a mechanical loom to create his images in tapestry form), The Vanity of Small Differences, launched at the Victoria Miro gallery.

But the human touch is by no means obsolete. A hundred years after it was founded in 1912 by William Morris's weavers, Edinburgh's Dovecot Studios is holding the torch for cutting-edge hand-weaving. Having been saved from closure in 2000, Dovecot has for the past four years occupied a vast space on the site of the city's first public baths. Now in its centenary year, the studio has been transformed beyond recognition.

On the day I visit Dovecot, the excavated ladies' pool is in the process of being styled for a fashion show. The day before, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra was playing one of a number of regular chamber concerts in among the looms, with guests looking on from the original gallery that circles what was once the main swimming pool; the walls are lined with abstract wall-hangings and colourful tufted rugs featuring geometric shapes and lighthouses, by artists including Alan Davie.

In August, as part of an ongoing series of centenary celebrations, this space will host a musical history of the studio, A Tapestry of Many Threads, co-written by creative polymath Alexander McCall Smith. It is all part of an attempt, explains Dovecot director David Weir, to break down the boundaries between artistic disciplines. "We've always occupied an unusual territory," he says. "Tapestry is a craft-based skill but the studio has always worked with contemporary designers," Weir, who used to work as a laywer, knows what he's talking about when he adds: "We don't live our lives in a single dimension."

Several feet below the original water-level in what was once a magnificent swimming pool, Naomi Robertson and colleague Jonathan Cleaver beaver away at their looms, producing pieces for Peter Blake and Peter Saville. Robertson replaced Douglas Grierson last year when the latter retired after 50 years as Dovecot's master-weaver and Robertson is making relatively fast progress on a series of woven versions of graphic images for Peter Blake, including a tapestry of his famous target symbol, beloved by Mods in the 1960s. Metres away, Cleaver is working on another piece called After, After, After, Monarch of the Glen, a group collaboration by Peter Blake, Peter Saville, and the Dovecot weavers (of which there are five). The piece acquired so many 'After' prefixes because it was reinterpreted by a number of artists: Cleaver's woven work is based on a print by Peter Blake of a picture by Peter Saville, which was based on Landseer's original painting, Monarch of the Glen. It is, Cleaver says, a modern take on the tradition of the stag in wall-hangings.

Working eight hours a day, Cleaver has been given three months to complete the work: "Initially we made samples to give Peter and Peter an idea of what we were thinking of doing; there were discussions about layout and lettering; you could do it lots of ways," he says. Eventually, the piece will be reproduced several times as a limited edition, and every piece will vary as each weaver painstakingly blends their own colours as they work.

It is a long slog, but one Dovecot director David Weir says a computer cannot hope to match: "Handmade tapestry is a thought process, everything is slow and deliberate... A machine can't replicate the human touch, the happy accident or the editorial decision." Adam Lowe, whose Factum Arte studio have also made digital tapestries for Perry and Quinn, disagrees: "Traditionally, the arts have been defined by their medium: printmaking, metal-working, painting... We are now in an age where we can take one sense and transform it into another using computers. Just look at the transformation of sound into light in discos."

"As a craftsman and an artist, the point is to build bridges between processes and ideas, and the reason weaving caught on is exactly that, because it is something many artists can do," Lowe adds. Digital tapestry is certainly more cost-effective than handmade – a copy of Perry's Hold Your Belief Lightly, for example, will set you back a relatively affordable £950.

By contrast, Dovecot's prices range between £5 and £15,000 per square metre, depending on the size of the project and the level of detail. "Because of the skill involved and how labour-intensive it is," Weir admits, "tapestry's most prized asset is its biggest obstacle: few people can afford it." It was ever thus: on his deathbed, Henry VIII was considered the world's richest man, based not on his stash of gold or silver, but on his inventory of woven masterpieces. But this rather expensive sense of tradition remains part of the appeal, Weir says: "When the rest of the world becomes increasingly challenging, there is a retrenchment to what is true, respecting the values of craftsmanship and making."

Today, the bulk of commissions for Dovecot still come from corporate collectors such as PepsiCo, which commissioned a piece by Frank Stellar, now hanging in its HQ in New York, and Rolls Royce, IBM, and the London Stock Exchange. While public buildings are still key clients – a 7mx7m Ron Kitaj/Dovecot piece hangs in the central atrium of the British Library, while Castle of Mey, woven for the Queen Mother in the 1950s, takes pride of place in her Caithness home – the number of private collectors, Weir insists, are increasing, with "rich yachtsmen" among a new breed of collectors chasing after the prestige a magnificent tapestry still affords.

However, with the price of wool sky-rocketing (thanks to increased world-wide demand) and with misconceptions about the art form still rife, the life of the modern weaver is still not perfect. "The biggest problem," Weir says, "is getting recognition as an artist in your own right." One of Hockney's first observations on a collaboration with the Dovecot weavers in the 1970s was not well-received, he adds: "Hockney complained that one line had taken three weeks. After a number of conversations, he learnt that collaboration is about a dialogue, about creating something between the designer and the weaver's individual visions."

In order to prove that they are more than mere technicians, in 2008 Dovecot asked its employees to create their own pieces in response to their new site. The results are dazzling. At the front entrance, Naomi Robertson's portrait of a female bather hangs opposite a colourful, more impressionist, piece by Douglas Grierson, in which their former master-weaver depicts a number of artists, including Hockney and Monet – alongside Damien Hirst's formaldehyde shark – in a brightly-coloured work.

"Sometimes I wonder," Weir admits, standing next to a mannequin dressed in a neon-pink woven corset, "what would William Morris's weavers have made of this?" His instincts are that they would have approved.

Styling: Gemma Hayward

Photography: Rhys Frampton

Model: Teresa at Union

Hair: gow tanaka using Paul Mitchell.

Make-up: Adam de Cruz at yumikoto using Chanel S 2012 and Hydra Beauty Serum

Stylist's Assistant: Emma Akbareian

Photographer's Assistants: Rokas Darulis and Andy Picton

Filming and Editing: Daniel Burdett

Retouching: Oliver Ingrouille


With thanks to and The Surfcomber Hotel, Miami,

All prices subject to change during sales

Working and studying in fashion often brings to mind scenes from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ with menacing figures at the root of fashion houses or magazines that make decisions on the latest trends, which affect everybody whether they realize it or not. Working in fashion is a career that many aspire to. with glamorous ideals painted by the media. Everyone can and has to engage with clothes and whether you realise it or not, this plays a huge role in your life and how it maps out; first impressions are always important. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of such a huge and influential industry?

Certainly part of the stereotypes behind fashion are true; it is a competitive industry - each job opening one ‘a million girls would kill for’, which means that an ambitious and hard-working nature is needed to survive and thrive in an ever-changing industry. It’s true as well, that we get discounts from friends of friends with a network of contacts all eager to scratch one another’s backs! However I’m sorry to deliver the news that fashion is not simply glamorous – we just work with glamour, but some of it is bound to rub off.

My story starts with a foundation course at my local college in general art and design where I took classes in ceramics, textiles, illustration and photography to experience previously unknown aspects of the arts. I produced two collections, one on regency dress and the other inspired by Midsummer Night’s Dream, and gained a distinction from my initial year immersed in design.

From here the London College of Fashion was my first choice for my studies since the course BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Development combined the savvy sense of business with the practical knowledge of design and garment construction. For me, each aspect of fashion supports and makes sense of the others within such a dynamic industry. London is, and forever will be, one of the fashion capitals of the world and a designers’ playground. That’s why creative people gather here, and where my college, one of the best in the world for fashion, forms an amazing community under the University of the Arts umbrella. The myth that an arts degree may be easier than others is just that: a myth. Working in any creative industry is a lifestyle rather than simply a job. Once you’ve completed one project you’re on to the next. They overlap, and you carry it with you in your mind wherever you go. It may be hard work but it enhances the world and makes you who you are.

The course offered ‘live projects’, which meant working with clients such as Volcom and Kings College London to get industry feedback on targeted designs for a specific customer in mind. My year prepared a portfolio and prototypes for new NHS nurses’ uniforms, and Volcom commissioned a younger perspective on women’s sportswear. This was perfect training for eventually working for a brand where the brand’s ethos and customer profile informs the outcome of their collections.

The third year of the course is a year-long placement year to gain experience of the industry first-hand and help us to see which direction we might wish to follow both in or final year project and in our future careers. I worked at Mulberry Company Design for the full year as a raw material buyer for both sampling and production purposes. Mulberry celebrated its 40 year anniversary last year and still remains one of Britain’s most successful heritage brands. During this year, I was offered a part-time role in Product Development which suited my skills of being a creative designer whilst still applying business sense to every decision made.

Working three days a week at Mulberry whilst studying in my final year pushed me to start my own business, Make Fashion British, to unite young designers such as myself with manufacturers here in Britain. I graduated in July with a 2.1 and am now working at Mulberry which is a wonderfully friendly company with an extraordinary team. I have the opportunity to work on the runway collections and work backstage during London Fashion week, dressing the models and preparing the outfits to be viewed at their best. Famous names abound in the fashion world and I have rubbed shoulders with Jimmy Choo, Lana Del Ray and Anna Wintour to name but three.

I would recommend a career in fashion to those who appreciate beauty in design, are ready to work hard under pressure and understand that fashion is one of the world’s largest international industries that has moral and economic issues as well as being the glittering show-stopper on the cover of Vogue.

Check out heels in the shape of coral on Chanel's shoes, Versace's shell-patterned dress and Peter Pilotto's tropical beach holiday-inspired patterns – and keep an eye out for the trend filtering through to the high street soon.

Some fashion trends are hard to work in the home, but this one can look better in interiors than on your back. The secret is to keep it simple. Add a marine motif to a neutral, sea-inspired palette and you're on trend without living in a Disney theme park. White can be your mainstay here, and accents of navy, turquoise or any other shade of blue work well. Distressed wood chairs or simple Danish lines are the perfect foil for ocean themes. Choose curtains or upholster an armchair in cream and navy stripes and you'll immediately evoke a seaside feel or pick a wallpaper with a watery theme to add a sophisticated note.

Then top up your scheme with a few on-trend objects – scallop-shaped plates, a distressed wooden boat, pretty patterned cushions or sea-inspired objets d'art. And at this time of year, when summer feels as though it may never reappear, bringing a little of the seaside into your home can go a long way to lifting your mood.

As the number of high-spending visitors from mainland China rises, tourist spots and shops, hotels and businesses in Britain are trying to encourage their custom.

The Hippodrome Casino opens in central London in a fortnight, with one exit on to Chinatown decorated in metallic colours according to feng shui principles housing a separate Chinese community centre. Harvey Nichols announced last month that it would be introducing Chanel and Christian Dior to its store to appeal to overseas customers, and a sea-view property in Dorset has just gone on the market for £888,000 – seen as lucky as number 8, ba, sounds similar to the word for wealth, fa.

With the number of Chinese visitors rising 35 per cent last year to 150,000 and expected to double by 2020, the Chinese tourist market is growing increasingly important to the UK. Not least because the average Chinese visitor to Britain spends around £1,700 – three times the average of £567.

Stephen Boxall, managing director of the Ritz, said: "Chinese clientele have become some of the world's most discerning spenders, consistently listing Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton as some of their favourite brands. Looking at the impressive double-digit growth in sales to wealthy Chinese tourists at both Harrods and Selfridges since the introduction of UnionPay terminals, it is clear this is a market with a significant expendable income, a desire for luxury brands and an increasingly well-travelled population who are looking to spend in the UK."

Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communications at VisitBritain, said: "China is clearly one of the most important markets. This is why we're making every effort to not only showcase Britain's culture and heritage, but also show exciting city life, our music scene, that our shopping is the best and that we have beautiful countryside."

But plans to set up Britain's first purpose-built Chinese holiday resort in Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, were put on hold this year after the Welsh government said designs were unacceptable.

The report of the Design Commission for Wales into the 100-bed hotel and 80 holiday home resort, with signs in Mandarin and English, read: "The bland, disparate and rootless architectural language, designed to appeal to international clients irrespective of site and location, does not do justice to the quality appropriate for this site."

Lamidi Evbuomwan, an architect with contractors Maxhard, said in May: "It is unfortunate that the plans have been delayed because I believe this project would have regenerated the area."


British racing is launching a multi-lingual website with Mandarin and Cantonese to promote itself to international tourists. While many racecourses serve Chinese fast food, Richard Mounsey, spokesman for the British Horseracing Associations said it was "quite a way from what you would pick up on the streets of Shanghai". The Hippodrome casino, opening on 13 July, has a back entrance opening on to Chinatown. The principles of feng shui have been adhered to on the Chinatown side, with metallic colours on the south side of the building. It also has a Chinese community centre with separate entrance, Chinese-speaking staff and all paperwork in Chinese. Chairman Simon Thomas said: "There is a dedicated cabaret theatre, which will see Chinese cabaret, and we will also be celebrating all of the Chinese holidays."

Tour operators and travel

VisitBritain is overtly courting the Chinese. It sent a Queen lookalike over to Shanghai for the Jubilee as well as a 3D canvas in Shanghai so people could virtually visit Buckingham Palace. Windsor Castle and London Bus Tours offer Chinese brochures and audio guides. The Roman Baths in Bath now attract 60,000 mainland Chinese visitors a year since translating their website into Mandarin.

Glamorous Travel will use the numbers eight and six on tour car number plates and hotel rooms, but avoid the figure four as it is associated with death. Any tour price containing that figure is upgraded to five. Chief executive Yan Zhang said: "Our clients like attending exclusive clubs, especially the Oxford and Cambridge Club in London, because those universities are highly regarded by Chinese internationals."


High-end stores are courting customers from China. Burberry said that 30 per cent of UK sales were to Chinese customers last year.

Harvey Nichols is introducing classic brands such as Chanel and Christian Dior, as they appeal to foreign shoppers, while Harrods and Selfridges have China UnionPay terminals instore. Harrods reported a 40 per cent increase in sales to Chinese customers after introducing more than 100 terminals. Chinese shoppers spent an average of £3,500 over Christmas 2010. The prestigious department store hopes this figure will double over the next five years. Selfridges is offering Chinese language lessons to staff.

The designer store outlet Bicester Village is such a success – it has become the UK's most visited Chinese tourist destination outside London – that when David Cameron met the Chinese ambassador for advice on enticing more Chinese to Britain, the ambassador suggested to the Prime Minister that the UK should be building more just like it.

Feng shui

The Chinese art of maximising good energy – qi – is being adopted by homeowners and businesses. There has been a 10 per cent increase in people joining the Feng Shui Society in the past year, and a similar increase in the number of Chinese people contacting the society when they are buying, selling or renting property. The South-east is known as the wealth corner, and it is auspicious to place a fish tank or money plants to encourage prosperity.

The society's Jan Cisek says businesses are especially keen. Brands including Coca-Cola, Orange, British Airways, Hiscox Insurance, Hilton Hotels and Marriott Hotels all use feng shui in a variety of business-related ways. High street banks also observe certain principles, such as rounding the corners within branches to avoid sharp lines.


The magic number 8 – associated with wealth – has led to Sotheby's Realty setting a guide price of £888,000 for a penthouse apartment overlooking the beach on the Sandbanks peninsula in Dorset.

Peter Bevan, head of UK Sotheby's International Realty's Mayfair office, said he believes that after China's currency is internationalised "the mainland Chinese could be the dominant purchaser in the London property market". He said clients are often looking for investment properties which their children move into while studying, so locations close to leading universities are popular. Ultra-wealthy Chinese buyers look to Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Belgravia and Kensington specifically for new freehold houses or luxury apartment blocks.

Harrods Estates has received an increasing amount of interest from Asian buyers, with 42 per cent of its sales coming from Asia.


Congee for breakfast and Chinese tea in the bedroom, along with noodles and Chinese newspapers, are all touches designed to appeal to discerning Chinese tourists at London's top hotels. At the Ritz, numbers of Chinese guests have trebled since the hotel introduced China UnionPay (China's only domestic bank card) terminals. Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking staff have increased, and guests arrive to find chrysanthemum tea, Chinese biscuits and Chinese magazines and newspapers in their bedrooms. A butler can advise on stores accepting UnionPay.

The Dorchester offers Dragon's Pearl tea and noodles with Chinese newspapers, and ensures Chinese-speaking staff will be on duty.

Hilton Hotels run to Chinese teas in rooms as well as slippers and a dedicated Chinese TV channel. Apex hotels translated their website into Mandarin in February and in two months saw revenue grow by 676 per cent.

Musto goes on: "Calvin, darling, you're embarrassing yourself. What's worse, you're embarrassing the whole community. You were never really that much of a gay hero in the first place. Remember when you suddenly had a wife because, as AIDS made it uncool to be gay, you took the wussy way out and closeted yourself so you could sell more T shirts and perfume?" Burn. Klein has been increasingly open about his sexual orientation in recent years — but only since departing the fashion label that bears his name. The whole thing is really worth reading. []

"When he wasn't casting aspersions on other luxury brands, he lobbed ribald jokes as an Italian variety show flickered on the television behind him," writes Women's Wear Daily of its interview with designer Roberto Cavalli, otherwise known as bizarro Berlusconi. Says Cavalli of his new outpost in Japan, "I will demonstrate this to the dear Messrs. Chanel or other people like that. Fine, you dress the grandmothers and the mothers and I'll dress their kids." The designer, who is 70, says he plans to live another 50 years. In which time he intends to have sex 15,000 times. []

Cosmopolitan's new Adele cover is out. This is the first time we can recall seeing Adele's face and body on the front of a magazine. [] H&M shot models and their families for its new holiday campaign. Included are Jerry Hall and her daughter, the model Georgia May Jagger; Kristen McMenamy and her two sons; and Karen Elson and her fraternal twin sister, the model Kate. [] Meanwhile, the current issue of British Vogue includes a Tim Walker photograph of a model dressed like a yak, riding a yak. The yak-like outfit costs £5820. []

We've already dissected and evaluated the female characters' , makeup, and costume choices based on early Great Gatsby images (and that ) — now it's time for the men. Brooks Brothers was the "official clothier" for the film, which is costume-designed by Catherine Martin (who won an Oscar for her work on Moulin Rouge). Martin trawled the company's 1920s archives of clothing and advertising imagery (such as that seen at right) to produce more than 500 men's day and evening outfits for Baz Luhrmann's $125 million adaptation. Maybe the movie won't be any good — but at least it will look good. []

Unsurprisingly, Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan's Shelter Island summer home is gorgeous and kinda kitschy in just the right proportions. [] Jimmy Choo — which is no longer associated with former creative director and co-founder Tamara Mellon — is unveiling a collaboration with artist Rob Pruitt. That apparently resulted in the dégradé, lace-printed zebra heels seen here. []Fashion editor Anna Piaggi was an old-school fashion eccentric. The longtime Vogue Italia contributor, who died on Tuesday in Milan aged 81, wore a wardrobe that was exceedingly varied — she claimed in interviews to never wear an outfit publicly more than once — but nonetheless had some common touchstones. Piaggi was particularly given to opera glasses, capes, canes, undersized hats (the better to show off her finger-waved blue hair), and elaborate shoes. If clothes are, as James Laver wrote, "the furniture of the mind made visible," then Anna Piaggi's mind was a riot of contrasting prints and textures, Stephen Jones headpieces, and corporate uniform items. Here are some of her best outfits.

Alessandra Ambrosio has confirmed she is four months into her second pregnancy. For those of you who can count, that means that yes, she was already pregnant (about eight weeks) when she walked the Victoria's Secret show. Imagine! Two months along and still ambulant! Us magazine seems very, very impressed that Ambrosio was still skinny, too. They must think that's some kind of record. []

The hilarious YouTube channel Pronunciation Manual — a spoof of the more useful Pronunciation Book — would like to embarrass you in front of your friends quicker than you can , "Thanks, I bought it at Versayce." [] A peeved-sounding Douglas Hannant told the Post that Jason Wu ripped off one of his designs in the latter's 2012 pre-fall collection. "If I knew that Jason Wu liked my dress so much, I would have sold it to him," said the designer. Hannant's dress was also worn by Anne Heche to an event. The dresses are similar, but far from identical, and frankly the whole "colorful shape on a black background to make you look all skinny," which is all the dresses have in common, is a pretty generic idea. Also, Wu's pre-fall collection shows a number of skirts and dresses that alternate black fabric with colored panels, suggesting it's at least possible this dress arose organically. Stella McCartney also sold a dress earlier this year; it's a pretty old trick. [] Kate Moss is on the new cover of Marie Claire South Africa. It is her third January 2012 cover: she poses as David Bowie for Vogue Paris, and in a pool for Australia's Madison. []

Malibu, CA, June 4: Actress Ali Larter attends Chanel's benefit dinner for the Natural Resources Defense Council's Ocean Initiative. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

Many of Silicon Valley's most powerful women are standing out amongst the area's schlumpy braniacs by dressing in expensive couture: Chanel cocktail shifts, Jimmy Choo heels, the works.

Of course, high-ranking men have donned fashion status symbols like cufflinks for ages, but it's a little different in Northern California, where most techies dress down à la hoodie-loving Mark Zuckerberg. But a number of notable women told the that "dressing well (and talking about it) could help erode the stereotypes that repel some women from the technology field."

"It's possible to hold your femininity and love of fashion," said Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, a former Google executive who now runs a video shopping site. "Now I feel not at all at risk that people would say, ‘How can she care about dressing well and run a billion-dollar company or be smart?'"

Marissa Mayer, who once paid $60,000 at an auction for lunch with Oscar de la Renta, said she didn't care what her employees thought of her proclivity for full skirts and bright colors. "My willingness to talk about it is because I believe the way we'll get more people into computer science and ultimately more women into computer science is by making it really clear that you can be yourself and don't need to give up parts of yourself to succeed," she said. "You can be into fashion and you don't have to be the pasty white programmer with a pocket protector staying up all night."

This is the first Times Styles trend piece about women and tech (or maybe, actually, Silicon Valley in general) I've read in ages that didn't . It's awesome that these women are wearing whatever they want, and even more awesome that so many of them are talking about it unabashedly, too.


American Apparel just missed another financial filing deadline, and for the last period for which the company has made results available, the numbers are not good: during the first nine months of 2010, American Apparel lost $67 million, and same-store sales fell a whopping 14%. (Same-store sales have now been falling at the troubled chain for over two years.) Dov Charney, naturally, still believes his company can be saved. "If we can increase top-line sales by 10 percent at our own stores, that will translate to over $20 million in EBITDA," he said, referring to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. (Increasing EBITDA is a key provision of the heavily indebted company's loan covenants; every time American Apparel falls out of compliance, its interest rates get jacked up and its lenders get to call more shots.) See! A hypothetical 10% jump in sales would solve all Dov's problems! "Staff's job is to get some gelt into those stores." Oh, Dov. "In the words of that old Yiddish proverb: ‘Get me an order. Everything else will take care of itself.'" []
Right now, because of the latest missed filing deadline for its full-year 2010 results, American Apparel is again courting the risk that its stock will be de-listed. The company says it will have 2010 numbers by March 31, and revised 2009 numbers — yep, it still technically hasn't filed those, either — by April 10. But if its stock price sits below $1 for more than 30 days, that would also trigger de-listing. American Apparel is at 93 cents a share. []

Male model Andrej Pejic, whose long blond hair and delicate features have led many designers to cast him to model women's wear, says the attention his look has attracted "is nice because it's offering me a wide array of opportunities. But sometimes I do just have to stop and hit myself in the head with my diamond-encrusted vase." When asked about Lea T., the transsexual Givenchy campaign model, he replied: "I don't think my situation and Lea T's are completely different when it comes to our personal lives but that's personal, for me at least. And I really think people should stop trying to categorize me because of their need for labels. When it comes to our professional lives, well she only does women's wear and I think I cover more fields. Some people in the industry will use us in a very similar way to represent similar ideas and some will want me to be a bit different from her — more androgynous, more boyish or even sex-less rather than womanly. I think professionally I am capable of being very versatile." []

American Apparel may be facing bankruptcy at last. According to the company's latest financial report — filed late, as is Dov Charney's custom — American Apparel lost $86 million in 2010, and had just $5.3 million in cash as of the end of February. Sales fell by 4%. Lion Capital, the private investment firm that has bailed the troubled t-shirt-maker out on more than one occasion — it first lent American Apparel $83 million to avert a bankruptcy in 2009 — had two seats on the company board; both of those members have just resigned. Charney is now talking about "creative financing."

Charney, who sank $1.3 million of his own money into the company last week, says he is seeking "creative financing." According to the Post, "insiders say the risk of a bankruptcy appears to be rising." [, ]
Related (?) news: American Apparel is giving away free clothes to everyone who spends $10 online today. []

Miu Miu is selling tiny versions of its handbags. They cost $115-$380. [] Here is your long-awaited Christian Siriano cleaning sponge. Handsome, isn't it! [] Karlie Kloss published a photo of her wearing her Jason Wu prom dress. [] Kate Moss and her teeny anchor tattoo star in the new campaign for Dior cosmetics. []

The investors that American Apparel from bankruptcy four months ago are selling their stock in the company. A consortium of investors bought $15 million worth of American Apparel shares at 90 cents a pop back in March is looking to sell those shares now that AA is trading at around 97 cents; the investors also have warrants to buy up to another $30 million worth of shares at the original 90 cent price over the next six months. Sounds like they're looking to make a quick buck, but are still not sure of the company's long-term prospects. []
Additionally, two private-equity firms are sniffing around American Apparel's copious debt. The company owes Lion Capital some $86 million, which it has defaulted on so frequently that it's now paying 18% interest. Leonard Green & Partners, which recently took J. Crew private and also has holdings in Neiman Marcus and David's Bridal, apparently offered American Apparel a $100 million loan. What did they want as security? American Apparel has no money — seriously, the company it had only $5 million cash on hand in March, which is less money than it had to pay in its settlement with Woody Allen for making him the star of a seasonal ad campaign without, you know, checking with him first — so Leonard Green asked for AA's intellectual property and brand name to secure the loan. And as has been reported previously, AA minority shareholder Ron "Air Fuck One" Burkle's company has also made overtures to acquire the troubled clothier's debt. Dov Charney, who was reached by Women's Wear Daily while sitting shiva for his grandmother in Montreal, had no comment on the stock sales or the debt deals. []

Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, and Alicia Keys are on the cover of the new Glamour. [] J. Brand is moving beyond jeans for the first time next spring. Expect t-shirts, sweaters, jackets, skirts, and some non-denim kinds of pants. And they'll be really fucking expensive: prices range from $200 and $1,500. [] Carine Roitfeld wonders sometimes if she's really all that interesting. "Sometimes I say, What is so interesting about me? I am just doing photo shoots. It's not something that extraordinary. I'm not a great artist, I'm not writing books, I'm not a painter, and people in the streets ask me for a picture or a note and I say why? But I think it's better to appreciate it, because maybe it's not forever." Irreverent, a book that looks back at some of Roitfeld's best shoots for Vogue Paris — including with Carolyn Murphy and André J — comes out this October. [, ] Thursday Friday, the makers of those canvas tote bags that are screen-printed with appropriated images of overpriced status bags, like Birkins and Chanel 2.55s, say they are confident they're on the right side of intellectual property law. (Even though a lawsuit from Hermès did force the company to agree not to sell the "Birkin" totes anymore.) Glamour seems skeptical of this notion, but didn't Richard Prince pretty much with Marlboro like 30 years ago? [] Paz de la Huerta will appear in some ads for Agent Provocateur. Falling drunk out of a black limousine while wearing expensive lingerie is totally the classy way to fall drunk out of a black limousine. []

Polo Ralph Lauren is under fire for its Olympic uniforms — which, like virtually all other Polo Ralph Lauren products, are made in China, not the U.S. Harry Reid even said, "they should take all the outfits, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over."

Nanette Lepore, a designer who manufactures around 85% of her goods in the Garment District in New York City, says, "Why shouldn't we have pride, not only in the American athletes, but in the American manufacturers and laborers who are the backbone of our country? What's wrong? Why was that not a consideration?"

Though the controversy could easily be written off as political demagoguery and jingoism — anything that Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner agree on should be regarded with suspicion — the issue is a sensitive one with national unemployment still high at 8.2%, and with the domestic textile and apparel manufacturing industry in a protracted decline. According to a study completed this year by the City of New York, the industry is to continue shrinking at a rate of around 2% per year. Earlier this year, the official tourism marketing agency of New York City found itself when the press discovered that its New York promotional t-shirts were made in countries like El Salvador. New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand put the economic impact of making the uniforms in the U.S. at $1 billion, and said in a statement, "When America's best athletes are representing our country on the world stage, we should be representing the best of American-made goods. The pride of our Olympic athletics goes hand in hand with the pride of American innovation and manufacturing."

The U.S. Olympic Committee released a statement saying it was "proud of" its sponsorship deal with Ralph Lauren, which it called "an iconic American company." (That's different from a company that actually makes shit in America!) [, , ]

Karen Elson dared refer on Twitter to comedian Daniel Tosh's telling an audience member that it "would be really funny" if she "got raped by, like, five guys." The supermodel Tweeted, "Daniel Tosh didn't get the memo that it [rape] never was and never will be funny." Immediately, Tosh's army of enraged fans started Tweeting threats at Elson (see the example given at left). Elson took down the Tweet, but added, "Until you have walked in a woman's shoes and have to walk in a world where being sexually harassed is common you may understand my point...The replies I received mostly from young men were vile and only proved my point that rape isn't funny. I also think Daniel Tosh wouldn't want his fans to react this way." [, @]
In unrelated Karen Elson news: she answered Rookie readers' pleas for advice about boys, healing after cheating, tattoos, and how to deal with street harassment. She advises against, by the way, getting a Harry Potter tattoo right now, because, "I loved the movie Labyrinth when I was younger, and I'm glad I don't have the words 'The Babe With the Power' on my back today." [] Mila Kunis is in a second set of Dior ads. Mario Sorrenti is the photographer. [] Dior edited together this video depicting the three-day undertaking that was covering the walls of its Paris salon with fresh flowers. The backdrop to the couture show — the first women's wear collection designed by new creative director Raf Simons — was widely admired. [] Lush is getting into makeup. The cosmetics will be available first in Chicago, then nationwide, and you can use the shades interchangeably on cheeks, lips, and eyelids. [] Naomi Campbell is on a very sparkly cover of Schön magazine. []

Victoria's Secret has quickly pulled an Asian-themed lingerie collection called "Go East" that traded in sexualized, generic pan-Asian ethnic stereotypes. The item people found most offensive? The $98 "Sexy Little Geisha" teddy. The teddy was part of the lingerie giant's "Sexy Little Things" product category — making it sort of like the outfit or the get-up VS also offers, only with overtones of Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

The "Sexy Little Geisha" teddy boasted an obi-style belt and was accessorized with chopsticks for your hair and a paper fan. "Your ticket to an exotic adventure: a sexy mesh teddy with flirty cutouts and Eastern-inspired florals," read the VS Web copy. "Sexy little fantasies, there's one for every sexy you." Jeff Yang at the Wall Street Journal interviewed one of the most insightful voices on the topic of fashion's construction of race, Mimi Nguyen from , about the "Go East" collection:

Mimi Nguyen, associate professor of women's and Asian American studies at the University of Illinois–Urbana Champaign and cofounder with Minh-Ha Pham of the Threadbared fashion blog, flags the collection as a set of "stereotypical images that use racist transgression to create an exotic edge," pointing out that all of the models wearing the Go East lingerie are non-Asian. "Asians can't wear things like the ‘sexy little geisha' outfit without looking ridiculous," she says. "But it's a way for white women to borrow a racially exotic edge for a moment's play." Or, as, Phil Yu, the inimitable voice behind the AngryAsianMan.com blog, puts it even more simply: "Hooray for exotic orientalist bullshit."

Following this uproar, Victoria's Secret promptly yanked the Sexy Little Geisha outfit, and then obscured access to the whole Go East collection, with publicists now saying that the line has "sold out," an assertion belied by the fact that the items have been purged from the website's very database: Searches for "Geisha" or "Go East" now come up as errors. ()

[, ]

This is Prada's fall campaign video and it is amazing. [] Karlie Kloss shot an editorial for the new Numéro. Notable things: 1. Kloss is fairly nude throughout. 2. She appears to be wearing a pair of boots from Kanye West's collection. 3. They didn't Photoshop out her ribs. [] The late Hélène Rochas' art collection is to be sold at auction. Rochas and her husband, the late couturier Marcel Rochas, accumulated hundreds of works of art and antiques, including paintings by Kandinsky and Balthus, and four Warhol portraits of Mme. Rochas herself. At left, the Kandinsky and on the right, one of the Warhols. [] Hilary Rhoda is on the cover of Vogue Mexico's October issue. [] Free People got Garance Doré to shoot Lou Doillon for its latest catalog. []Anna Wintour did something a little unusual last week at the White House state dinner: she reached deep into her no doubt capacious closet, and fished out a Chanel haute couture gown she last publicly wore three years ago. To another high-profile event — the Met Ball, which she organizes. That was far from the Vogue editor-in-chief's first incursion into the normal-person practice of outfit repeating. In fact, she's been doing it for years. Often she repeats an outfit several times in one season, but sometimes her repeats are a little more ambitious. Why, just last month, Wintour wore a five-year-old dress to an event for the Human Rights Campaign. Why would someone who receives a rumored annual clothing budget of $200,000 as part of her compensation package from Condé Nast bother outfit-repeating? Fucking Christ, people, she's Anna Wintour. She can wear whatever the hell she wants. If she never wants to take off her favorite Prada snakeskin coat ever, ever, ever again, she doesn't have to. Besides, I bet she really enjoys trolling us all.

Anna Wintour is apparently campaigning to get Kate Middleton on the cover of American Vogue. Duchess Shinyhair-Upon-Tyne is basically the ladymag world's biggest get right about now, so the "news" here is that Wintour is essentially behaving like any editor with a scintilla of news judgment, ever. Only better-connected: Wintour's been allegedly putting the screws on Mario Testino, who frequently shoots for Vogue (Testino does about 10, sometimes 11, of Vogue's 12 annual covers) and is also close with the royal family. (He shot Williams and Kate's engagement photos, remember?) []
In other news of Middlemania, Alice Temperley, a designer who had Pippa at her show a week ago is still talking about how wonderful it was. More interestingly, Temperley says her 2-year-old son "was obsessed with smacking the models' bottoms" backstage. []
And in other Wintour news: "In an interview published today in Italian daily newspaper la Repubblica, Ms. Wintour calls the Italian prime minister a dictator and urges the world of fashion to rebel against him during fashion week. In the interview, Ms. Wintour also speaks about the gap between Italy's flourishing artisanal industry and the country's tarnished image because of its leadership." []

If you read that Rebecca Mead of Daphne Guinness and thought, "Hmmm...little contrived" — well, here's a photo of Guinness in the 1980s, with her then-husband. And a photo of her in 2002. [] Did L'Oréal lighten Freida Pinto's skin in this ad? It wouldn't be . [] "Forget the ballet flat. Retailers claim that the hot trend in flat footwear for fall, from contemporary to designer, is the smoking slipper." Dolce Vita leopard-print smoking slipper at left; $159. Has anyone seen any evidence of this trend? Anyone? [] Women's Wear Daily thinks Tom Brady's "greasy long hair with a hint of a beehive suggests premature midlife crisis." [] Fashion figureheads, re-imagined as animals. []

The top international modeling agency Women has copped to an oopsie: its most promising new face of the season, a girl by the name of Valerija Sestic who has already walked for 16 of the biggest designers at New York fashion week, is underage. In a season when all modeling agencies made a pledge not to put girls under 16 forward for runway work, Women lied. Sestic is 15. And yet here she is, pictured walking in runway shows for Prabal Gurung, DKNY, and Marc by Marc Jacobs. This news will be an interesting test of the industry's resolve for change, and of the limits of its capacity for self-regulation.

A few things first: as long as there has been a modeling industry, it has been the case that most models begin their careers in their early teens. Carmen Dell'Orefice was "discovered" at age 13; in 1947, at 15, she made the cover of Vogue. Brooke Shields was 14 in 1980 when she was the face of Calvin Klein denim. Kate Moss, Patti Hansen, Niki Taylor, Kimora Lee Simmons, Bridget Hall, Gisele Bündchen, Karolina Kurkova, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington: these are just a few of the well-known models who started working at age 13, 14, or 15. More recently, Tanya Dziahileva, Chanel Iman, Karlie Kloss, Lindsey Wixson, Monika Jagaciak, Daphne Groeneveld, and Hailey Clauson have all found fame within the industry after starting young. (Of course, there are many more models who begin working in their early teens who never become well-known.)

There are some problems that arise when you have a labor force that is overwhelmingly young, foreign, and female, especially one that is in the employ of an industry dominated by wealthy, established interests. These girls work for clients that report quarterly earnings in the hundreds of millions; there are board members at these companies who have served longer than these girls have been alive. New models know that they are just one face out of the hundreds represented by their agencies. Is it any wonder that the workforce is therefore vulnerable, at least potentially, to exploitation? And this is an industry where some scouts talk openly of "grooming" their new faces.

I have long felt that the modeling industry's reliance on exceedingly young girls — children, frankly — breeds a certain lassitude. Put simply, it's system set up around the simple truth that girls — especially girls who don't know any differently, because they've never had another job — will put up with treatment that women won't. Model age isn't just an issue because a shoot for a magazine that wants to do topless or a runway changing area full of backstage photographers or any of the many, many places where someone working in fashion might encounter illegal drugs or a photo studio alone with Terry Richardson (or any of the men like him) is an inappropriate place for a young girl to be — although those are inappropriate places for a child to work. Model age is also an issue because the way that the modeling industry profits, to a certain extent, off of the relative youth and inexperience of its workforce is a systemic problem, and one that can only be addressed by having models who are adults. As Ashley Mears recently in the New York Times, "Decades of critiquing representations of bodies in fashion have not changed what we see on the catwalk; reforming the conditions backstage just might. Empowering models as workers could potentially help them stand up against other aspects of the industry, like unhealthy expectations about dieting."

So. Valerija Sestic. She's from the Swiss town of Thun. Her parents are Croatian. She apparently speaks five languages. She was born, her mother Mirela says, on October 21, 1995. She modeled as a child. Her mother also models; Mirela Sestic a Croatian-language news source in March that she was "Currently negotiating with several agencies" on Valerija's behalf, "and soon we start with the first engagement." Mirela said she has put her career "on ice" and planned to travel with her daughter. As Google translates her response when asked about her daughter's relative youth, Mirela says, "If you do not try, later might be too late. I am willing to sacrifice much to achieve, and her wishes. It's like in professional sports, if the parents at some point, in some years, do not stand behind their children and give them maximum support, it can be difficult to develop a top athlete. I would not like to later blame myself." This industry makes parents and girls believe that if they don't start at 14, they'll never get anywhere. But it's entirely within the power of agencies and clients to change that reality, should they want to.

Here's Sestic some traditional Croatian crafts at an event in Germany, also back in March. And here's Sestic in one of her test shoots for Women. Clauson, whom Sestic strongly resembles (I initially mistook her for Clauson on the DKNY runway), a photographer who allegedly sold a similar shot of her to be printed on Urban Outfitters t-shirts without authorization. That would be a strange coincidence, except I'm pretty sure that these days they issue crotch-shot-on-a-motorbike photos to all newbie models at signing.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America, a trade association that represents the interests of U.S. designers, has long recommended that its members not hire girls under 16 for runway work. This season, it asked its members to card models at castings, and extracted a pledge from all the top New York agencies not to put anyone under 16 forward for shows or highlight any underage girls in their show packages.

Now that we are at the end of New York fashion week, it is plain that the honor system has had some failures. 14-year-old Ondria Hardin, who is currently a face of Prada, was in Ford's show package, and was booked by Marc Jacobs for his runway show. And after Women lied about her age, Sestic walked in sixteen shows, including some of the biggest of fashion week: BCBG by Max Azria, Rag & Bone, Doo.Ri, Prabal Gurung, DKNY, Y-3, Carolina Herrera, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch, Hervé Leger by Max Azria, Rodarte, Theyskens Theory, Oscar de la Renta, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Ports 1961, and Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti. (Despite her age, Ports 1961 styled Sestic in a dress with a translucent top. That kind of styling is not uncommon: three seasons ago, when Lindsey Wixson was 15, she that exposed her breasts. Wixson had recently given an interview in which she talked about how awkward it was to ask for a strapless bra on a W shoot where the magazine asked her to wear some sheer garments, although the magazine did oblige her request.) Sestic skipped London — where a firm ban on models under 16 is in effect — and went straight to Milan, where so far she's walked for D&G, Anteprima, Blumarine, and Moschino.

And at least one of those clients is pissed. A spokesperson for Tory Burch said Sestic wouldn't have been booked had the company known her true age. "We are conscious not to use models under 16."

"It is true. She is 15," says Dejan Markovic, the president of Women Management. "This is never going to happen again from our company. I take full responsibility." Forgive me if I remain unconvinced of Dejan Markovic's sincerity on this score; the new face he lied about to give a start just became a breakout star.

Clearly, the honor system isn't keeping children off the runways, and even if it were effective to just ask agencies to pinkie-swear their girls are at least 16 — fashion week is just two weeks out of the year. There's a whole lot of modeling that goes on the rest of the time. What's needed is for the modeling industry to stop regarding 12-year-old girls as a natural resource. Ondria Hardin, who was 13 when she shot her Prada campaign with Steven Meisel, had already worked extensively in Asia, where clients and agencies are even more prepared to look the other way on age than they are in the West.

What would be so wrong with agencies taking a pledge not to sign any model for the adult market until she turns 16? And what if clients were to test that by ID'ing the models they hire — not just for runway jobs, but for all gigs? What if 16 were a firm starting age for all modeling work? What if the media started taking notice of, and reporting on, models' ages? If instead of models starting at 13-14, and being allowed onto the runway at 16, models simply started their careers at 16? It sounds like a small change, but the longer these girls have to devote to their educations, to grow their support networks of family and friends, and to develop in maturity and life skills before embarking on a career that can pose distinct challenges to all of the above and more, the better.


Some large retailers believe we may be glimpsing the end of the "big box" store. RIP, big box store, 1980s-2010s: now the we can all find limitless selection online, the point of having a poorly organized 200,000 square foot warehouse of a shop populated by underpaid, overworked, constitutionally unhelpful polo-shirted drones is rather moot, and with more people living in urban centers (where real estate is more expensive), a denser pattern of development make more sense. J.C. Penney just opened a smaller store in Daly City, California, and is rolling out more stores in the 50,000-60,000 square foot range. Wal-Mart has started opening 15,000 square foot Wal-Mart Express stores, and Target has its smaller CityTargets. Sears and Best Buy are among the chains that are apparently considering subleasing parts of their existing enormous stores in order to reduce their own area. Most of these "smaller" stores are still comparatively quite large, but they're not three-football-fields, pallets-to-the-ceiling, hyperventilation-in-aisle-117b large. And, according to Women's Wear Daily and the retail analysts it interviewed for this piece, there's "a new kind of consumer animal" running rampant in the city: WOOFs, or well-off old folks. "They are empty nesters in their 50s and beyond who have moved out of the suburbs and taken to the bright lights of the city for their twilight years." []

Liv Tyler is in a Givenchy makeup ad. [] Candice Swanepoel — who's been known more for her Victoria's Secret contract than her high-fashion work as of late — booked the Tom Ford fall campaign. Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott shot it. [] Crystal Renn shows off vintage-inspired fashions in this Mark Seliger spread from the new Vogue Spain. [] This photo of Edita Vilkeviciute is included in a Mario Testino show currently open in Rome. [] Kinga Rajzak is almost unrecognizable, in a beautiful way, in this editorial from Björk's guest-edited issue of Dazed & Confused. [] Kate Spade and L.A. denim brand Current/Elliott are collaborating on a line of handbags. They will retail for $245-$1295. [] M.I.A.'s eldest sister is a jewelry designer whose latest collection is intended to resemble gunshot wounds, machete slashes, and machine-gun spray. The pieces are all done in gold and precious stones. [] Two words: Zombie bikinis. []When you think "Giorgio Armani," do you think high contrast black and white? Do you think giant flower corsages? Do you think 1920s cloches and boaters? No? Well that's what he presented in Milan yesterday as part of his spring 2012 collection. Theere was an absence of color, but the clothes were super crisp, very fresh and totally sharp.

If there was one thing that stood out on the Golden Globes red carpet — well, one thing besides Helena Bonham Carter's purposefully mismatched shoes — it was the number of actors who selected dresses to fulfill their contractual obligations.

And they often didn't look great doing it.

Entertainment industry figures with endorsement deals are nothing new — but more and more these days, luxury brands are signing celebrities to exclusive, multi-year contracts that cover far more than the usual fragrance deal. Where once a famous lady or dude might have just been the seasonal face of an advertising campaign, now brands are locking in their services for all manner of high-profile public appearances for the duration of the contract. Magazine covers and awards shows are publicity opportunities not to be missed, and luxury companies want as much of that sweet lucre on lockdown as they can get.

Which is why Armani paid Megan Fox to become a face of the brand in 2009; Fox has worn practically nothing but Armani since. Ditto January Jones, with Versace. Ditto Marion Cotillard, with Dior. Nicole Kidman wore Chanel pretty much exclusively during her as the house's spokesmodel. Anne Hathaway wears Armani in public and attends Armani fashion shows with such regularity that she might as well be on the payroll. And any starlet who turns up on a red carpet in Marchesa (as Olivia Wilde did last night and Kate Hudson did last year) is automatically suspect. Harvey Weinstein's wife, Georgina Chapman, co-runs the label. And Weinstein is an industry figure not to be trifled with.

What this means in practice is that some of the more extraordinary dresses — the couture outliers, bound to polarize the peanut gallery — don't get worn. Brands and stars are united under the goal of never looking bad, but a red carpet without risk is a boring affair indeed. Where was the Dior couture? Why wasn't anyone willing to try and match the gorgeousness of, say, Cate Blanchett's periwinkle blue Jean-Paul Gaultier gown ? This selection bias that favors the neutral over the bright, the plain over the dramatic, the pretty over the beautiful is often blamed on gossip bloggers in particular and the level of discourse on teh internets in general, but I think it's more likely the natural consequence of overriding commercial considerations.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush made an appearance on Fox News yesterday, and when she was asked about what she thought about the Mother Of Five Ann Romney Has Not Worked A Day In Her Life kerfluffle, she had some game-changing knowledge bombs to drop.

In a three sentence response to Megyn Kelly's question on the matter, Babs said it was good of CNN pundit Hilary Rosen to apologize for her Romney remarks, but that ultimately, this crap doesn't really matter. She said, "Forget it. Women who stay at home are wonderful. Women who go to work are wonderful. Whatever."

Whatever indeed, Madam. Whatever indeed.

Full disclosure: Even though she is half responsible for the production of my generation's least favorite President, I love Barbara Bush. That old broad is ice cold, and so over everything that she couldn't find a fuck to give if you told her where to look. She's like a caricature of a rich lady inside a Chanel suit inside a cocoon of protective air that vibrates with powerful yet-to-be deployed shame. She's a force of WASP-iness. I bet it would take her about a minute to make Ann Coulter cry.


Betsey Johnson has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Johnson's company was given a from bankruptcy in 2010 by Steve Madden, the shoe maker and convicted felon, after it defaulted on a nearly $50 million loan. Madden's company paid the debt, taking as collateral all of Betsey Johnson's intellectual property, and began the process of restructuring the company and pumping out more licensed goods — but the restructuring didn't really take, and retail sales are down by more than 20% since 2007. As a result of the bankruptcy filing, about 350 people will lose their jobs, and the majority of the chain's 63 stores will be shuttered. Johnson, who got her start as a costume designer on Andy Warhol's films (and who was once to John Cale), says that the company will reorganize and emerge from bankruptcy, she will remain the creative director, and that she will have a runway show in September. [, ]

Linda Evangelista stars in a dancing-themed cover editorial in the new Vogue Italia. The magazine uploaded to preview GIFs to its Web site. [] Elle has a history of the two-piece women's swimsuit up on its site, including Frenchmen Jacques Heim's 1946 "Atome" swimsuit and Louis Réard's 1947 "Bikini." The 1944 of four Mexican women bathing in a stream, one of whom is wearing something that looks very much like a two-piece swimsuit, which was unearthed last year by fashion history blog Of Another Fashion is not included; in fact, all of the bikini-wearing women in Elle's history appear to be white. [, ] This photo of two models posing as a gay couple in 1942 is part of a new Ray-Ban campaign intended to glorify "rebels" throughout history. [] Yeah, maybe it's not such a good idea to call one colorway of your stupid manicure-with-lumps-in-it nail polish set "Ghetto Fabulous." That's shading into "Juarez" territory. []

Tom Scocca wrote a glowing review of Bill Cunningham New York, the documentary about New York Times street style photographer, which was just released in the U.S.: "Cunningham's work falls in the territory where fashion becomes clothing, or vice versa. The fashion industry itself prefers to obfuscate how this works, how the decisions of designers, prepared seasons in advance, correspond somehow to the collective desires of the public to choose put on a particular style in the moment. Cunningham blows away the smoke and mist, asking only, what do I see people wearing now?...The theory of Bill Cunningham is democratic and objective; the practice is autocratic and subjective. That is: he's a journalist, a real one. He imposes his sensibility on the world with severe neutrality." []
The film is outstanding. Here is a clip to tide you over until you go see it. []
James Franco gets a cover, a multi-page editorial spread, and 5,000 words devoted to his various excellences in the new issue of GQ Style, GQ UK's semiannual fashion supplement. []
Jean Baptiste Mondino shot Mia Wasikowska — one of the Kids who is All Right — in a white face mask for the cover of W. []
Karl Lagerfeld did some lovely fashion illustrations for a new edition of Justine Picardie's biography of Coco Chanel. []

Was there a dress code? Or do stars just hear "CHANEL Tribeca Film Festival Artists Dinner" and assume through long practice that it's an occasion for black and white?

Oh, the nauseating of the celebrity spokesmodel: "It's more than just a purse. It's a quilted case full of lipstick, , and the dreams and possibilities that I have always felt every time I see that beautiful 'CC.'"

Blake Lively — who was only just to us about how Chanel didn't just make a nice handbag, "It's a quilted case full of lipstick, love letters, and the dreams and possibilities that I have always felt every time I see that beautiful 'CC'" — has defected to a rival luxury brand. She's now going to be a face of a Gucci perfume. Presumably it smells like money. []

MAC just added 65 new nail polish colors. Look at them all. Purrrrrrrty. [] Prada is releasing some t-shirts with artist Vahram Muratyan. [] Candice Swanepoel stars in the fall Versace Jeans campaign. []

Bobby Brown seems to have some sort of chip inside him that is programmed to make him cause trouble at regular intervals. Today Brown, who obviously is no stranger to substance abuse, was arrested for driving under the influence in Los Angeles. Bobby, Bobby, Bobby, this shit is getting old.

Apparently he was driving in Reseda, California at around noon when he was pulled over for talking on his phone. He was then arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and was taken to the Van Nuys jail. It looks like he was drunk, and, according to TMZ, "his people" are bailing him out. This will surely not be the last we hear about this incident. Brown, of course, is no stranger to tangling with the law, and, in fact, he has been convicted of a DUI once before, in 1996. So he's probably got this whole thing down to a science. Ugh. []

For a minute there, it looked like Taylor Swift and Dianna Agron were going to be sworn enemies waging an epic battle for the heart of Tim Tebow. But they've outfoxed us and showed that, in fact, they are friends. The two went to see Hunger Games together this weekend, and, at least from the photo that got , there's nary a hint of hatred between them. What's that old saying? "Hoes before Tebows" or something like that? []

There's further drama today surrounding Whitney Houston's death. A person with the amazing name Raffles van Exel, a "confidant" of Whitney's, told Dutch newspaper The Telegraph that he was the one who cleaned out her hotel room after she died because, "Someone had to do it." OK, maybe, but if that's true, then why tell a Dutch newspaper about it and not one of the 1,000 U.S. tabloids that probably would have paid you handsomely for that info? Oh, right, because he's the incredibly who sold the photo of Whitney in the casket to the National Enquirer and who also sold a fake photo of "Whitney's body" being wheeled out of the hotel to TMZ. God, who can you even trust in this world anymore if you can't trust a celebrity hanger-on named Raffles van Exel? []

If Twitter is good for anything, it's for spreading pictures of celebrities without their makeup on. The most recent instance is Lady Gaga tweeting out of herself sans makeup, and while she looks great, she doesn't look much like the Lady Gaga we're used to. She has more of a Stefani Germanotta vibe about her, which is actually quite refreshing. []

She may be approaching her 800th trimester of pregnancy, but Jessica Simpson was still game to be a bridesmaid in her friend's wedding. She and sister Ashlee Simpson both donned flowered gowns and walked down the aisle. The bride must have been concerned that Jessica would go into labor during the "I do" moment, but that'd probably mean her wedding photos would instantly be worth a fortune, which isn't a bad trade for having your party rained on by a gush of amniotic fluid. []

Carine Roitfeld has this to say about makeup: "I don't like it when makeup looks very try-too-hard. I like it when makeup looks like you have more important things to do than to look at yourself. Like you have other things to do than your makeup!" Roitfeld's collection for M.A.C. just launched, but she says her number-one piece of beauty advice is simple: wear sunscreen. []
Roitfeld also says that her apartment is messy. Really messy:

"One time, a burglar came to my apartment, so we called the police. My son was here, so I think they left before they tried to steal something. So the police come to the apartment and they say, 'Oh my god, did they steal everything?' I was like, 'No, it was like that!'"


Chanel released this behind-the-scenes shot from Brad Pitt's Chanel No. 5 commercial shoot. The actor was reportedly paid $7 million for his services, and the ad apparently "features Pitt speaking in a way that the viewer assumes he's speaking to a woman — and then it's revealed that the addressee is actually the scent." Clever twist, Chanel. Never would have seen that one coming. [] Jennifer Lawrence is on the new cover of British Vogue. [] This is a sketch of Anne Hathaway's Valentino wedding dress released by the brand. It was crafted in ivory silk point d'esprit tulle. [] Here are a handful of behind-the-scenes shots (all clothed) from the set of the 2013 Pirelli calendar shoot. Karlie Kloss and Hanaa Abdesslem are among the cast. The photographer is Steve McCurry, the photojournalist best known for his "Afghan Girl" portrait of Sharbat Gula. The models were reportedly cast for their ties to non-profit and humanitarian work. [] Refinery29 collaborated with DKNY on a line of bags. There's one for every city in which there's an edition of the site, and they cost $195-$395. [] The Cut unlocked the secret of Ann Romney's wardrobe, and that secret is a New York-based designer named Alfred Fiandaca. Fiandaca founded his label in 1960 and is responsible for some of the would-be FLOTUS's most remarked-upon outfits — including the pink suit she wore on the night of the first presidential debate and that black perforated-leather biker suit thing that was so racy it had the Mormon fashion community whether she was wearing her temple garments or not. Fiandaca, through a spokesperson, described himself as apolitical. "Everyone in the atelier just loves the Romney family," his P.R. said. "Mrs. Romney is just lovely." []In order to view comments on jezebel.com you need to enable JavaScript.
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Today in unsolicited uterus updates: Carla Bruni went out in public wearing sweat pants, and now there's gossip that she's pregnant. Bruni, who tends to favor luxury labels like Christian Dior, has been dressing more casually lately — maybe because she and Nicolas Sarkozy have an eight-month-old in the house? But French tabloid mag Closer says Bruni is definitely pregnant, and that her change in clothing style and "extra weight" are evidence:

For several weeks people have been asking why she has not been able to lose the extra weight gained with her last pregnancy, to return to that allure that Bruni has always possessed. Everyone was a little dumbfounded by her baggy, shapeless clothes, and her newfound preference for appearing in public in sweatpants.

But we can now reveal that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is pregnant again...And with her stomach looking ever more round, she can no longer hide it. She clearly wants to nurture this pregnancy with the utmost care, because, like the last one, it is later in life so all the riskier. She has therefore been advised to take as much rest as possible. We wondered what the Sarkozys would do with themselves after leaving office, and now we know — play happy families!

If she is pregnant, Bruni likely won't be making any official announcements anytime soon. With her baby daughter Giulia, she didn't comment on anything related to the pregnancy up to and including the birth.

People claiming to be members of Bruni's "entourage" have already told Gala and Voici that the rumor is false. "Carla Bruni will not deny it officially, but I can tell you she is not pregnant," says one "friend." "She's breastfeeding her daughter, and she's starting to lose the weight. To write that she is pregnant? No."

According to our sources, not only is the former First Lady not pregnant with her third child, she is furious and humiliated by the idea that such a rumor would take hold because of her difficulty in getting back into her pre-baby shape immediately. Unlike Victoria Beckham, Mariah Carey, Miranda Kerr and Beyoncé, who lost their kilos just weeks after giving birth, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy — like many women — is taking (a little) more time. But no, she is not pregnant.

[, , ]

Supermodel Elle MacPherson will not be returning as the host of NBC's little-watched reality show Fashion Star when it comes back for a second season. Also leaving the show is sponsor H&M, one of the retailers where the season 1 contestants sold their clothes. Jessica Simpson, John Varvatos and Nicole Richie are remaining as judges. [] Lindsey Wixson, Kati Nescher, and new face Cora Emmanuel scored this fall's Chanel campaign. Unfortunately, it's really ugly. [] Salvatore Ferragamo's fall ads star Kate Moss and Karmen Pedaru. [] Natalia Vodianova is on the cover of Jalouse. [] Awww. Lourdes Ciccone Leon borrowed one of her mother's Jean Paul Gaultier corsets, put it on, and took a photo for Twitter. []Last night, Cartier previewed its "New York City in the '70s" exhibition and held an after party attended by European princesses and America's royal couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé. For an event thrown by the infamous jewelers, there wasn't much bling.

The unregulated feline fashion model industry is booming, like a prospectin' town in the Ol' West or a shore town's lone custard stand over Fourth of July weekend. Cats owe their new popularity among fashion photographers largely to their conspicuous mix of fuzziness and haughtiness, and also to the fact that they dominate the internet and all magazines nowadays want to be because the internet is where all the super-cool people hang out, like you and me (but not any of these other dweebs, *elbow in the ribs, snicker snicker*).

Amy Odell over at Buzzfeed the rise of fashion cats, which have been appearing more often in ads ever since Lanvin's fall 2009 campaign. Since that fateful season, cats have infiltrated Miuccia Prada, Chanel, Givenchy and even magazine editorials (as writers, I would assume, because cats seem like they'd make good writers). Even Karl Lagerfeld's cat Choupette — who has more employees than you have had or ever will have acquaintances — is starting to make her presence felt on the fashion scene, securing representation from IMG and a recent photo shoot with model Laetitia Casta.

The problem, though, with the cat trend is that cats, according to Karen Hoeverman, cat whisperer, are really hard to train, probably as hard as they are to herd or teach how to samba on only their hind legs (it can be done). Even with regular training sessions, some cats can still be intransigent assholes and straight-up refuse to cooperate with anyone else's schedule. They earn comparatively less than human models ($20,000 a year is a really high cat model salary), and, surprise, the fashion industry is extremely choosy about which cats are most photogenic. If you think "smashed-in face" cats would be the most popular at fashion shoots because they are the most popular at fashion shows, it just proves how little you know about fashion — smash-face cats look too angry to help sell designer clothes, so designers prefer to use long-nose cats, ocelot-looking cats.

If you have a cat and you're thinking, "Hey, my cat is adorable and well-behaved enough not to kick poop out of the litterbox — I should put it in Vogue or something, the better to supplement my own income," two things: congratulations on being a responsible pet owner, and nobody wants your ugly cat to be in their ad for handbags. Career cats dominate the fashion scene (they have their own agents and everything), and if those cats ever saw an normie cat try to worm its way onto a fashion shoot, they'd probably snark on its belly pouch, because cats can be really shallow and mean.


The Veuve Clicquot held its Second Annual Polo Classic in Los Angeles on Sunday, which begs the question: What exactly is a Polo Classic? Is it like the more elitist, West Coast version of the Kentucky Derby? Are you supposed to wear breezy lawn dresses and hats? We're going to assume not, seeing as most of the attendees wore unimpressive clothes and carried Chanel purses that, unfortunately, looked like plastic under the October sun.In order to view comments on jezebel.com you need to enable JavaScript.
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Apparently, there have been "internal grumblings" at Chanel's U.S. division over the brand's choice to hire Blake Lively as a face. Certain people say that Lively's is an "off-brand look" — "the bitchy fashion industry's clinical way of saying that Lively's contemporary American beauty does not dovetail with Chanel USA's efforts to sell its fashions as the height of European sophistication," explains the Daily News. When Lively was named the new star of the brand's ads, she memorably told the press that Chanel handbags are special because they're "full of dreams." []

After studying Lara Stone's underwear very closely, a CBS affiliate is willing to advance the theory that this billboard has a hidden message that reads "F U c K." Once you see it, you can't un-see it. []

Hey there, moneybags! Were you standing in your bathroom this morning, staring at the priceless antique jar you fill with cotton balls, thinking to yourself, "These little wads of cotton just aren't soft enough for my fine face. If only there was something more luxurious I could invest in"? Well, it's your lucky day! Chanel has just the solution for you: Le Coton, "an exquisitely soft tri-layer pad developed in Japan."

It may look like a regular cotton pad embossed with the Chanel logo, but it is actually so much more:

It's outer lining, made from delicate, handpicked Egyptian cotton, and its inner filling, comprised of lightly entwined, elastic Australian fibers. Combined, this ultra-absorbent, lint-free composition increases the effectiveness of CHANEL Cleansers and Toners, treating even the most sensitive skin to unparalleled gentleness.

For a mere twenty American dollars, you can own 100 of these "generously sized" Le Coton pads. For those of you who are too rich to be bothered with math, that breaks down to roughly 20 cents per pad. For reference, you can buy 80 lowbrow for roughly two dollars, or 2.5 cents per pad.

Of course there is simply no luxury in that, and the truth is you will pay whatever you have to in order to have the Chanel Le Coton experience. You could never deny yourself the smooth caresses of Egyptian cotton floating majestically over your flawless face or the joy of watching the precious dirt and leftover foundation from your face build up in the tiny corners of the timeless Chanel logo.

[Via ]

We're not entirely sure what this...is...but it looks like Karl had a fever dream after watching Mannequin (or maybe after watching the horror vehicle Dead Silence), woke up, and thought, "What a tremendous concept for zee new video!"

The Fashion Test Dummies Lagerfeld cast for this little flight of fancy are , , and Bapstiste Giabiconi. Giabiconi — whom you may remember from his recent, and completely mind-blowing, Western-themed debut music video, — actually looks remarkably convincing as a plaster mannequin. Dvorakova keeps twitching, which is irritating. What this has to do with fashion, we don't know, but we can't stop watching.



Charlize Theron would rather not talk about John Galliano and the racist and anti-Semitic ("I love Hitler, you'd all be fucking dead," &c) that got him fired from Dior, where Theron remains a well-paid spokesmodel. "I think that he's going through a really difficult time right now, and I'm sure that he wants some privacy. He's got an important journey to go through right now. But I wish him nothing but well." Fellow Dior face Natalie Portman, you will recall, was in her condemnation of Galliano's statements. []
Theron says she has yet to get used to seeing her face on bus shelters, magazines, and billboards. "How is that normal? It's always very incredibly bizarre. It's like an out of body experience in many ways. I'm always so happy with the campaigns that I do with them… I'm very proud of it, but it's very awkward to kind of look at yourself like that. Very bizarre." []

Another of Kate Winslet's ads for St. John has dropped. [] Carmen Dell'Orefice will receive an honorary doctorate from the London College of Fashion this summer. [] We had no idea "Australian" model Catherine McNeil was the bearer of a New Zealand passport. That makes exactly one thing we have in common. Also, she cut her hair, as you can see. [] Marc Jacobs is launching a new fragrance. It's called Oh, Lola, and the campaign stars Dakota Fanning. [] Rick "Zombie Boy" Genest just nabbed his first magazine cover. He shot for Fashion magazine, alongside Polish model and Calvin Klein face Monika "Jac" Jagaciak. His interstitial inverted-commas nickname is the more bad-ass of the two. [] Duran Duran — who really pleasantly surprised us when we saw them live at a Paper party a while back, really, pleasantly, surprised — are filming a music video that stars Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova, and Helena Christensen, as well as Yasmin Le Bon (of course). Jonas Ackerlund, of "Paparazzi" fame, directs, and the event doubles as a cover shoot for British Harper's Bazaar. Here's a backstage TwitPic of Cindy Crawford; this sounds promising. []

Christina Hendricks has swimsuit season ish. She says, "It's really hard to find a bathing suit if you have breasts. You either get smooshed down or there's no support." The actress continues, "My husband and I have sketched out designs." Christina? We guarantee that if you paid someone to turn those sketches into samples, and showed those samples to stores, PEOPLE WOULD BUY THEM. Swimsuit designers generally have no clue what to do about a lady's funbags. []

Kelly Osbourne shot another season's worth of ads for Madonna's Macy's line, Material Girl. [] Here's Naomi Campbell, snarling away in the fall Givenchy campaign. [] YSL's fall campaign features Raquel Zimmerman posing in front of a full-length plate glass window, 31 floors up in a Manhattan skyscraper. [] Two more pictures from Hailee Steinfeld's Miu Miu campaign have been released. We continue to really enjoy the fact that this was not shot in another bloody studio! Great outdoors FTW. []
The ads were shot near Miami. [] Lily Donaldson graces the cover of August Vogue Japan Beauty. [] Soon-to-be divorcée Natalia Vodianova designed a lingerie collection for Etam, of which she is a face. [] This tiny minaudière, at $150 retail, is the cheapest bag from Nicole Richie's forthcoming accessories collection. The most expensive is a $625 "taupe and ivory pony burnout hobo." [] Refinery29's slideshow of well-dressed women in their 70s is absolutely amazing and wonderful. "A good pair of sunglasses is better than a facelift. It hides the ravages of time and lets you spy on people," says one. "To age is a privilege," says another. [] Today in Lagerfeldiana: Chanel quilted flat-screen televisions handbags. [@]

A new biography of Coco Chanel sheds more light on her wartime activities, and the house of Chanel seems to be bracing itself for backlash. What was ol' Gabrielle up to during World War II? Palling around with Nazis at the Ritz, basically — but the house of Chanel is denying that its founder and namesake spied for the German regime, and that she was actually anti-Semitic. Coco Chanel had an affair with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a Nazi military intelligence officer and immediate subordinate of Joseph Goebbels, during World War II, and was close with Walter Schellenberg, the Nazi head of foreign intelligence; she also sought to wrest control of the Chanel company from her Jewish business partners, the Wertheimers, under the Nazi anti-Jewish ownership laws. (She failed because the Wertheimers had secretly transferred ownership of the company to a Christian prior to the Nazi invasion of France.) Coco Chanel lived in Switzerland for nine years after the war's end, in part to avoid prosecution as a collaborator; although her ties to various Nazi figures have long been well-known, the author of Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War has added significant original research to our understanding of that period of her life. The book even makes the claim that Coco Chanel herself was a Nazi spy. Author Hal Vaughan , "I was looking for something else and I come across this document saying 'Chanel is a Nazi agent, her number is blah, blah, blah and her pseudonym is Westminster.' I look at this again and I say, 'What the hell is this?' I couldn't believe my eyes! Then I really started hunting through all of the archives, in the United States, in London, in Berlin and in Rome and I come across not one, but 20, 30, 40 absolutely solid archival materials on Chanel and her lover, Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, who was a professional Abwehr spy." Modern-day Chanel's response? "She would hardly have formed a relationship with the family of the owners or counted Jewish people among her close friends and professional partners such as the Rothschild family, the photographer Irving Penn or the well-known French writer Joseph Kessel had these really been her views." So, basically, she had Jewish friends. Chanel also denies that Coco Chanel spied for the Nazi regime, calls the timing of her relationship with Dincklage "unfortunate" but points out that his mother was English (as though that mattered), and asserts that she approached Winston Churchill about "acting as an intermediary between the Allies and the Germans for a peace settlement known as Operation Modelhut." That makes Operation Modelhut sound pretty benign, but the truth is a lot more complicated; the Times of London Operation Modelhut a "Nazi plot" that was to use Coco Chanel as "bait." []

The incredible photographer Deborah Turbeville is working on some kind of project with Donna Karan, to be unveiled during London Fashion Week. [] French actress Léa Seydoux, who plays Gabrielle the antiques dealer in Midnight in Paris, was once an American Apparel model. Link NSFW, because American Apparel, duh. [] Current Playboy cover model Daisy Lowe looks really cute in these promotional shots for her mother Pearl's latest (Stevie Nicks-inspired!) collection for Peacocks. [] Steven Meisel shot plus-size model Candice Huffine for the September issue of W. Huffine got two shots in an editorial that also featured Karen Elson, Carolyn Murphy, and Raquel Zimmerman. Link NSFW. [] Heidi Klum made the September cover of Harper's Bazaar's Russian edition. [] Esperanza Spalding is on the cover of the next issue of T. [] There are pictures of Anna Dello Russo's collection for Macy's INC brand. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the AMAZING SUNGLASSES that the models were wearing at the preview last night, so you'll have to take our word for their existence (and amazingness). []
Giambattista Valli has signed on to produce a collection for Macy's, too. [] In case you are or a man of your acquaintance is in need of a pair of pleated-front, elasticized-cuff khaki pants, Dockers is rolling out a series of designer collaborations over the coming season, including pieces from T by Alexander Wang, Michael Bastian, and Patrik Ervell. [] There's an article in this week's Times Style section on the excellent blog , which writer Jon Caramanica calls "now one of the foremost online repositories of black style." [] Thakoon is selling this lightweight wool plaid scarf for $250, and 100% of the proceeds will go to aid for the millions of people affected by Somalia's famine. The country is currently experiencing its worst drought in 50 years. []

Much has been taken from the French over the years, and now that includes their ability to be all snooty about staying thin. (who's on a roll this week) says:

You almost have to feel bad for the French here. First they lost their standing as the preeminent power in the world to a bunch of people who think that British food is "good." Then they lost their empire to a war with a bunch of people who think that lederhosen are fashionable. Then, mon dieu, they had to start taking orders in world affairs from a bunch of people who they not only saved from the British earlier, but then later turned around and became bestest buddies with those Limey assholes.

But they soldiered on, those industrious little frogs. A croisant in one hand, and a cigarette in the other, they let their disdain for the world and iron grip over Chanel drive them forward. Sure, their cars barely have a market in France itself, and nobody really knows what their economy exists for today, but goddammit, they soldiered on knowing that they were the skinniest and prettiest. And the food! They could eat their cheese and drink their wine and laugh at those uncultured Americains and eedeous English pigdogs.

And now even that is gone.

"Ye sons of France, awake to apnea,
Hark, hark! what McGriddles bid you rise!"

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The inimitable Pedro Almodovar was honored last night at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Instead of a red carpet, there was a wall of roses. The clothes were almost as lovely. But, as always, there were a few exceptions and near-misses.

With everything from birth control to equal pay under assault, it's never been more important that we, as women, tackle the issues that really matter to women today. Namely: are female politics reporters looking extra skanky nowadays, or what? How can we stop them before they rub their barely-hidden vaginas all over the news and make it smell all musky?

Fishbowl DC takes on the hard issues and more with their in-depth piece, entitled (seriously) . Basically, the problem is this — and they swear, honey, that they're not trying to put you down in any way and they're only saying this because they care about you so much and are just trying to be a good friend and, like, they want other people to see how amazing you are — young, female reporters like The Times' and The Hill's are parading around on the internet in dresses that show off their shoulders and are putting pictures on Twitter wherein they look kind of pretty and, well, Fishbowl didn't say this, but other people have been saying this, it makes them look like, well, a piping hot pot of sex. And maybe if female reporters want people to respect them and stuff, they should stop looking like such sluts.

Concerned, first and foremost, and not in a judgmental way at all, with the well being of these weapons-grade whores and their slutcareers, Fishbowl asked a marketing expert about what sort of damage their glistening, heaving breasts are doing to their images as serious reporters. The marketing expert said that the pictures used on Twitter weren't damaging per se, but that it was important for young reporters to remember that their user picture on social networking sites should reflect their "brand." (Which is why I'm totally not wearing pants in my Twitter picture.) So, according to the expert, their pictures weren't slutty at all.

Undaunted by the fact that the theory that maybe other people might think these women were looking a little round in the heel (if you get my geriatric drift) was debunked by the marketing expert, Fishbowl presented, for its readers, examples of just how unprofessional and strippery young female reporters have gotten. Why aren't they dressed like Madeleine Albright? Where are the Chanel jackets and prim poses? Did none of these women debut at a respectable deb ball?!

Not even Gawker's resident skank Maureen O'Connor was immune to the . She tweeted a sarcastic comment at FishbowlDC's account after they posted the story only to have whoever is running their feed basically call her another perfect example of the kind of harlot that's ruining the media. I'm not sure how it ended but now I think they have to fight to the death in a mudpit or something. And all over women who dare write while not looking hideous.

So let this be a warning to you, ladies: If you're going to write things and expect people to listen to you, you better do it from inside a paper bag or turtleneck. Or else no one will take you seriously. No offense.


Image via Carlo Depino/Shutterstock

This is kind of a DUH but so great to see it confirmed: Multiethnic beauty consumers are on the rise. WWD reports that there are "a growing number of women in the U.S. who associate themselves with multiple ethnic backgrounds, thus making it difficult for them to find brands that speak to them - or work for them - completely." Global beauty industry analyst Karen Grant says:

The world today is not a black-and-white one. [It is critical to] allow for women to embrace brands without thinking they are making an ethnic choice… Brands that have done well have recognized the potential in their portfolio. The ethnic complexion in the U.S. is constantly changing.

Grant names some of the fastest-growing demographics in the U.S. as Indians, Pakistanis, Middle Easterners, Brazilians and Hispanics, both as residents and visiting beauty buyers alike, and says the new multiethnic consumer is typically under age 45, beauty-oriented and underserved when it comes to her beauty needs. Basically, beauty companies who don't recognize and tailor and market toward these customers will get left behind. [, sub req'd]

Victoria Beckham is doing a Chanel Haute Couture shoot right now; she's been pix from the iconic staircase in the Paris Salon and rumor has it Karl Lagerfeld will be photographing Posh Spice for French Elle. []
By the by, Vicky Becks is exited about the Spice Girls reunion for the Olympics closing ceremony. I'm so respectful of my past and I love the other girls. We have some fantastic fans," she told RTE. "Who knows, maybe some day we'll do something else with the Spice Girls. I would love nothing more. I don't know about a comeback tour but I loved being back with the girls. There was a lot of fun, we did so much together and we'll see. If they're up for something then I certainly am. We are so proud to be English and we are very excited about the Olympics." []

Here's the first image made public from Carine Roitfeld's CR Fashion book. Death. Life. Drama! []
And that's not all: Carine Roitfeld will be using animated gifs! []

Ever heard of C Magazine? Well you have now, because they shot Katie Holmes for the September cover. Nicely timed. []

Mario Lopez has a line of underwear (of course), and to promote the MaLo brand, he posed painted gold. Behold Skivvicus, god of boxer briefs! [, ]

Have you seen Spain's Olympic uniform? Check out Spain's Olympic uniform. It looks like someone barfed on a McDonald's uniform. It looks like the pattern behind your eyelids when you're having a bad acid trip. It looks like stained glass in a cathedral in Hell. Quoth Erin: "I'd say someone should get fired over it, but Spain already has 18% unemployment." This is just the shirt, there's a hat and a hideous matching backpack at the link. []

The cover of January Cosmo is as sexed-up as ever — on newsstands at least. But we got a copy of the version the mag sends to advertisers, and it's significantly more chaste. What's going on here?

Note the miraculous disappearance of "60 Sex Tips" and "Orgasm Virgins" — suddenly, Cosmo's appropriate for your grandma! Or your grandma's favorite retailer — a tipster suggests that the cleaned-up cover is meant to be "more appropriate for conservative [advertising] clients, which the ad sales team is hoping to fool." If so, they're not doing a very good job — the table of contents in the ad-friendly version still lists both the sex tips and the orgasm piece as cover stories.

A spokesperson for Cosmo offered this terse comment in response to our queries: "It is common for magazines to have different versions of the cover." We decided to see if this was indeed common at other publications. Caroline Nuckolls at Teen Vogue told us the magazine usually has just one version of the cover — but of course, Teen Vogue has a cleaner image to start out with, and less to hide. So we called Maxim, known for its lad-mag raunch — a source there told us they too produce just one cover, which goes out to newsstands, subscribers, and advertisers alike. This isn't to say that no magazine does what Cosmo's done, but it's not an industry-wide standard.

Of course, it's not a surprise that a publication feels it needs to put its best foot forward to attract ad dollars — still, creating whole new cover lines is a pretty big step. Which coveted advertising account merited such a drastic cleanup? Some high-fashion brand? (Current Cosmo advertisers include Dior and Chanel.) Mainstream car or consumer products companies? (January's issue includes an ad for Chevrolet.) Maybe they're gunning for that account? Whatever the brand, Cosmo assumes the ad buyers don't read very carefully, and don't know that the mag's been providing sex advice and orgasm pointers to eager middle-schoolers for decades.

Dakota Fanning says she "really wasn't old enough" for the clothes she wore in her Spring-Summer 2007 Marc Jacobs campaign, pictured. "I was 12. I was always into fashion because my mom has always been interested in fashion. She majored in fashion merchandising in college, and it's always been something we have in common. When I did that first campaign for Marc Jacobs, I really wasn't old enough to wear the clothes. He made all the clothes from the runway in my size. I still have them." This is an interesting comment in light of the fact that fashion's use of (and celebrity faces) has been in the lately; Fanning's current Marc Jacobs perfume campaign has actually been banned in the U.K. for being too sexually suggestive (in the ad, the flower-shaped bottle is lodged between now-17-year-old Fanning's legs). And it's also interesting because even if Jacobs cut the clothes to fit her, the theme of Fanning's '07 campaign was still that she looked too small for the clothes, kind of like a kid playing dress-up. []

The December issue of Vogue features a wet-haired Charlize Theron emerging from the ocean. Why, don't you love going for a nice, refreshing dip off of Coney in December? We feel cold just looking at her. Inside, model Nyasha Matonhodze makes her American Vogue debut. [] Julia Restoin Roitfeld and her longtime boyfriend, male model Robert Konjic, are going to have a baby. [@]

Anderson Cooper ; Adriana Lima's pre-Victoria's Secret all-liquid diet is ridiculous and not to be admired. [] Hunger Games nail polish. Because everything can be turned into a nail polish, these days. [] A book of the late Chicago street photographer Vivian Maier's work is coming out on November 22. Read more about Maier — an amateur photographer who took more than 100,000 pictures in her lifetime, always on her day off from working as a nanny — and the rediscovery of her work . []

Look forward to seeing David Beckham's nude torso on a lot more billboards. He's launching his own branded company: his new cologne will hit stores in September, and his first men's wear collection is launching at some unspecified date later this year. "It's not my natural inclination to see myself as a brand, I'm just a person who has been fortunate to explore other interests and passions outside of the game I love," says Beckham, who says he was inspired to start his own clothing line after being the face of Emporio Armani. "They told me that their gross turnover in 2007 was €16 million [$22.7 million at current exchange] and after the campaign in 2008 it went up to €31 million [$43.9 million] in 2008. It proved to me that there is a real market for good-looking, well-made men's bodywear." Beckham's partner in the venture is Simon Fuller, the Spice Girls manager-turned-backer of Victoria Beckham and Roland Mouret. []

Here's one of Walter Pfeiffer's shots of Tilda Swinton for the new Pringle of Scotland campaign. Tilda's bowl cut is pretty boss, and also probably un-attemptable by anyone else on this planet. [] Louis Vuitton's fall campaign just hit the Internet, and as previously rumored, it features a bunch of models. Zuzanna Bijoch, Daphne Groeneveld, Gertrud Hegelund, Nyasha Matonhodze, Anaïs Pouliot and Fei Fei Sun, to be precise. As not previously rumored, it also has dogs! Cute little Japanese Chins. Awwwww. [] Prabal Gurung for J. Crew is pricey — there are some $400 and $450 pieces. This "exploding bow" top costs $295. [] Jeffrey Campbell knocked off Alejandro Ingelmo's wicked shoes for Chris Benz. []

This holiday season, Diane Keaton is going to be the face of Chico's. Although she has been a face of L'Oréal for years, this is — kind of astonishingly, given her image as for her role in Annie Hall — Keaton's first fashion campaign. "Chico's embraces being an individual, and I love individual style," says Keaton. "Love makes the world go 'round. And so do hats and gloves and a fabulous belt." Surely there's a "need the eggs" joke in here somewhere. []

Milla Jovovich says that when she a reporter that male models "are even worse than actors" and "I mean seriously: you're going to model for a living? It's embarrassing for a man to model" she was kidding. "[I]t didn't mention that I said it w a heavy e.European accent pretending 2 b my dads macho friends! Lol!" she Tweeted ([sic] for all of that). (In the story, Jovovich had discussed her parents' opinions of models and actors and how that had affected her own perceptions and cracked wise, so it's possible this was indeed a joke that didn't land.) [@] Here's a sketch of what Jason Wu's working on for Target. [] Jamie Hince kissed Kate Moss in one shot of her cover editorial for French Elle. Married love: so hot for fall. [] Architectural Digest shot Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres' home. This is their shoe closet. []

Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied got married this weekend! They did it under a chuppah in Big Sur, California. But on to the important details: Grazia, which claims to have seen "sneaky snaps" of the dress, reports:

Picture this, if you will: a classic white frock in a '50s stylee, full-skirted with a nipped in waist and a midi hemline. Yep, no floor-sweepers for our Nat. The sleeves are long and sheer and the design is fuss-free. As for the veil, a waft of chiffon cascaded to her lower back from a floral headband worn over loose brunette waves. The look was topped off with a classic pair of nude heels.

There is speculation that Portman may have worn Dior couture. She is a face of the house and several gowns from Raf Simons' recent collection seem to fit the above description — or could have been made to with the addition of sheer sleeves. UPDATE: In Touch is that the dress was Rodarte. Portman is friends with the designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy and wore Rodarte to the Academy Awards in 2011. You can see some rude (but now no doubt amply compensated) guest's bad cell-phone picture of the dress . []

Victoria Beckham, who is near-sighted, has launched an eyewear collection. She says she's always been "self-conscious" about her need to wear glasses, so she opted to design six styles herself. The frames will cost around $410. [] Lily Collins is in some Movado ads. [] i-D has some photos of Choupette, Karl Lagerfeld's kitten, for you to nomnomnomnomnomnom. [] Agent Provocateur has hired Monica Cruz, sister of Penelope, to be the face of its fall ads. [] Karlie Kloss is now the face of Juicy Couture. []

Dior insists that studio head Bill Gaytten, who oversaw that of a fall couture collection, is just a place-holder designer. The brand will "take all its time" to replace John Galliano, the longtime creative director it fired in March for habitual drunkenness/being an embarrassing racist. "You know when you ask young girls all the time when they are going to get married, they reply: When I find the right man," said C.E.O. Sidney Toledano. []

Balenciaga shot its fall campaign in "a church in Harlem" — anyone know which one? — and a studio made to look like a tiled bathroom. Models Julia Nobis and Liisa Winkler star, and Steven Meisel was the photographer. [] Here's Emma Watson's British Harper's Bazaar covers, newsstand and subscriber edition, side-by-side. [] Vogue asked designers to tell them which women embodied classic, American style: responses included Gisele Bündchen (who is "American" in the...larger sense, we guess), Cate Blanchett (who is, um, Australian), Willow Smith, and the eternal safe option, Michelle Obama. [] Gisele Bündchen is on the cover of the new Vogue Brazil. As Made in Brazil points out, the model is depicted "completely out of focus and with bad hair." [] The stars of Downton Abbey appear in a spread in the new British Vogue. [] Lindsay Lohan posed for Italian Vanity Fair. Wait, is that Pedo Bear? [] Fashion blogger BryanBoy is thrilled to have made Star magazine's worst-dressed list. [@]
BryanBoy was photographed while attending Prada's men's wear show — which has been widely praised, despite featuring a weird mixture of ugly 70s-inspired floral prints, polo collars, Boy Scout scarves, and tweed. But Fantastic Man editor-in-chief Gert Jonkers says he thinks the collection is for "fashion victims...There were lots of things that were very puzzling." []

has been fired by . Company C.E.O. Sidney Toledano, who is of Jewish heritage, called Galliano's behavior "odious" and said in a statement, "I unequivocally condemn the statements made by John Galliano, which are in total contradiction to the longstanding core values of Christian Dior." Notwithstanding its sudden lack of a creative director, Dior intends to go ahead with its fashion show this Friday. []
And a spokesperson for John Galliano's namesake fashion brand, which is financially backed by Dior, says that Galliano's show on Sunday will go ahead. []
At the Oscars on Sunday night, Natalie Portman — who recently became the face of Miss Dior Chérie perfume, and about how nice Galliano was to make vegan Dior shoes for her — did not wear a Dior dress. But when a reporter asked her about that choice at the post-Academy Awards press conference, Portman's publicist interjected, and the exchange was even stricken from the official transcript of the event. (Some are this "censorship," which is a silly bit of hyperbole, but still.) After collecting herself, after watching , and no doubt after making a discreet phonecall to Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy HQ, Portman released a statement last night that read: "I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano's comments that surfaced today. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way. I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful." []
As for his ongoing legal fight, Galliano yesterday went to police headquarters in the neighborhood where he is alleged to have screamed racial and anti-Semitic epithets during three separate incidents. He arrived around 2 p.m., and waded through a crowd of photographers and reporters accompanied by his lawyer. Police had previously announced that Galliano was to be interviewed face-to-face with two of his accusers, Géraldine Bloch and Philippe Virgitti. The designer left the station around 7 p.m. He made no statements to the press, but his lawyer did say that Galliano "never made an anti-Semitic remark in more than ten years at Dior." []
Meanwhile, Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani questions the intentions of the people who recorded the video in which a very drunk Galliano says, "I love Hitler," and talks about all the people, "your mothers, your forefathers," who should be "gassed." Sozzani wrote on her blog that Galliano was "clearly provoked" and that the people who released the cell phone video were "just some parvenus of journalistic scandal who, in our opinion, were waiting to have three minutes of video to sell to someone for thirty pieces of silver." She has since edited the post heavily, removing some of the above language, and adding, "we condemn the extremely seriously racist content of what he said." []

T's cover story on Salma Hayek — which is ever so beautifully photographed by Cass Bird — contains one interesting tidbit: the actress is launching a skincare line called Nuance, to be sold at CVS. "I always wanted to do this," Hayek claims. Some products will be based on recipes used by her Mexican grandmother, "because my grandmother, who was a beauty, she died at 96 with no wrinkles. And you should see my mother! We have some family secrets." [] Victoria's Secret model Chanel Iman is pretty much nekkid in i-D. []

According to the latest version of the / wedding dress rumors, the princess-to-be consulted with British Vogue editor before Saying Yes To A Dress. Shulman told her to pick McQueen. The Telegraph reports that "a Vogue spokesman refused to comment, but sources admitted that private conversations with Buckingham Palace had taken place." This news has already "prompted bookmakers to cut the odds on a McQueen wedding dress from 14-1 to 1-20." []
Meanwhile, Middleton wore another British label — a $1,000 Burberry trench coat — to an event in Northern Ireland. []

Donatella Versace and Miuccia Prada like to get together and eat paninis. Versace says the two Italian designers met at an event years ago in Milan and became fast friends.

"I made a joke and she started to laugh and she said let's go and get some paninis because we're starving… and off we went. We just talk, talk, talk. She's so inspiring. We make fun of each other and teach each other. She says, 'I could never make sexy clothes, but I love them.' And I say, 'Well, I love what you do.'"

Prada — who was a leftist and second-wave feminist while studying for her PhD in International Relations in the '70s — is on record as saying that feminism is dead in Italy. Versace, asked about her friend's remark, said:

"Feminism is dead in the world. It comes from another time. I'm a feminist. I want to fight, but I don't see many people with this desire to fight for something. Women don't help each other, especially in fashion. I know Miuccia… but that's it. Nobody else."


Schiaparelli may be a fashion house without a designer, but it is no longer a fashion house without a headquarters: this is what the soon-to-be-fully-revived brand's new Paris salon looks like. There's a chest of drawers shaped like a lobster and a Sphinx statue that adorned Elsa Schiaparelli's original offices. [] Here's Blake Lively's new Gucci perfume ad. [] This, starring male model Marton Dorfler, is Balenciaga's first men's wear ad campaign. [] In honor of couture week, Vogue has this slideshow of archival couture spreads. [] "Haute couture is supposed to die since 1925," says Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, when asked about the future of the business. "You'd be surprised to have extraordinary articles decrying the end of the artisanat, and as you see it's still existing and you are still interested. And wen you speak with some brands, they would never consider for one minute to stop the haute couture. So for me, haute couture will last forever." []

Critics are calling Donna Karan misguided and possibly racist for shooting her new spring ad campaign in Haiti, but using a white model as its star. In two ads, Victoria's Secret supermodel Adriana Lima appears alone, but in the third, pictured above, two Haitian teenagers pose in the background behind her. Unusually for a fashion campaign, the images all bear text identifying the location as Jacmel, Haiti, and directing viewers to the brand's web site, which has a whole on Haiti. Karan has raised a lot of money for Haiti, both through her own charity and along with the Clinton Foundation, and she frequently uses interviews and public appearances to talk about the country's development needs and earthquake-recovery efforts, even now, after Haiti has sort of ceased to be the "fashionable" cause on all the rich people's lips. She also credits by name the Haitian artist, Philippe Dodard, whose work inspired her spring collection. Nonetheless, the juxtaposition of luxury clothing — Donna Karan sells $2,000 dresses — and the poorest country in the Western hemisphere is troubling, and perhaps undercuts the message Karan thinks she's sending. Karan would have done better to highlight whatever local involvement there was in the production of the shoot. And, sigh, why do the black people always have to be in the background? []

Lily Cole covers the January issue of Russian Vogue. [] Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott shot Gisele Bündchen and Ryan Barrett for Versace's spring campaign. [] As part of New York's ongoing series of "cinemagraphs" — gifs made not by clipping a TV show, but on purpose, with a camera — by Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg features J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons sketching a dress. [] Here's one image from the new Balenciaga campaign. Steven Meisel shot four new faces — Juliane Grüner, Rosie Tapner and Kirstin Liljegren, and Laura Kampman, pictured — for the ads. []

Growing up, I didn't yet know Elizabeth Taylor as the volatile, verbose dipsomaniac Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Nor did I know her as the neglected wife Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a character whose beauty, whose ripeness posing on that bed in that white satin slip, I would later understand, perfectly communicated the practical uselessness, to a woman, of being generally considered "sexy." I hadn't watched those movies yet, or read those plays (although it turns out Tennessee Williams has a more compelling explanation for Brick's lack of desire than MGM felt comfortable putting on the big screen in 1958). I mostly knew Elizabeth Taylor as the woman from those funny perfume ads that ran in my American mother's outdated copies of Good Housekeeping magazine.

Elizabeth Taylor launched her first fragrance, "Passion," in 1988. Other perfumes — "Gardenias," "Black Pearls" — soon followed, but it is "White Diamonds," which will turn 20 this fall, that is still on shelves, and White Diamonds that still does around $200 million in annual sales today. Taylor was definitely celebrity to distill fame into a scent to be bottled and sold — Alain Delon released a whole series of perfumes in the 1980s, as did Catherine Deneuve, via a licensing agreement with Avon, and Sophia Loren, who signed a deal with the fragrance giant Coty — but Taylor was one of the first and the few to have any staying power at the perfume counter.

Most perfumes, especially celebrity perfumes, quickly fall from view: this is for the very simple reason that most celebrity perfumes are lackluster scents hitched seemingly at random to a "star" for no other reason than to make a quick buck. (Who now , let alone wears, Mikhail Baryshnikov's "Misha" or Cher's "Uninhibited"?) And once the initial glow of hype fades, that lackluster celebrity scent is left in the tough position of having to compete with the Chanel No. 5s of this world. But when it's right, it's right. A well-formulated scent, cleverly marketed, which retails for the right price, is basically a license to print money with an almost indefinite shelf life. Best-selling perfumes, along with cosmetics, sunglasses, and other small accessories are where most fashion houses make the money that keeps them in the black. That's why some fashion brands persist as perfume brands long after they have ceased to even bother making clothes. (Thierry Mugler, with its best-sellers like "Angel," was in that position for over a decade, until Nicola Formichetti was hired last year to make Mugler into a clothing brand again.)

Taylor's effort at parlaying all those well-earned decades of fame into cash money certainly . And my goodness, those ads! Those gauzy, Vaseline-lensed print campaigns, in which Liz inevitably looked as though she knew a secret you didn't (but could learn, maybe, for the cost of a $58 set of four mini-EDTs). And those television commercials with the horses galloping and the diamond jewelry and the rapid cuts! Taylor marketed little bottles of her own glamour, and she did marketed them earnestly, without condescending to her audience. How could she not move product?

[Perfume Shrine]

In case you were wondering how Elizabeth Wurtzel felt about wealthy stay-at-home mothers, she just wrote called, "1 Percent Wives Are Helping to Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible"

Okay then!

"Because here's what happens when women go shopping at Chanel and get facials at Tracy Martyn when they should be wage-earning mensches," Wurtzel explains: "the war on women happens." Hmmm, we'd say the war on women happens when politicians spew antichoice, anti-women rhetoric and try their damnedest to enact laws that ensure women aren't considered equals. But here are some more (troll-y) quotes from Wurtzel's piece:

"Let's please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don't depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own."

"Hilary Rosen would not have been so quick to be so super sorry for saying that Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life if we weren't all made more than a wee bit nervous by our own biases, which is that being a mother isn't really work. Yes, of course, it's something — actually, it's something almost every woman at some time does, some brilliantly and some brutishly and most in the boring middle of making okay meals and decent kid conversation. But let's face it: It is not a selective position. A job that anyone can have is not a job, it's a part of life, no matter how important people insist it is (all the insisting is itself overcompensation)."

"I do expect educated and able-bodied women to be holding their own in the world of work."

Pretty much all of Wurtzel's valid points — that economic inequality is key, for example — are masked with overwrought hyperbole ("feminism is pretty much a nice girl who really, really wants so badly to be liked by everybody"), but if you're bored tonight you'll probably want to check out the comments section; it's bound to be a doozy.

[The Atlantic]

Image via wavebreakmedia ltd .

Worth noting: There are four actual models on four different covers of the October issue of Elle. This is the first time a model has been on the cover in eight years. The ladies are well-known names: Miranda Kerr, Chanel Ima, Adriana Lima and Doutzen Kroes. It's both intriguing and disorienting to see models on a mainstream woman's magazine again; the effect is both retro and somehow new and fresh. Ladymags had fallen into in a rut in the last few years; recycling and alternating the 15 Hollywood celebs, including Aniston, Kidman, Simpson, SJP and Johansson. But the we saw a couple of years ago have been set aside for women who make a living out of posing and shilling clothes. At least for a month! Whether this change can translate into great newsstand sales remains to be seen. But this former magazine junkie — who hasn't picked up a ladymag for personal perusing in months — is definitely buying one. I just have to decide: Will it be awesomely smiley Chanel Iman? Or frakking fierce Adriana?

[The Life Files]

Karl Lagerfeld was asked at a party whom he'd like to massage. (A celebrity massage had just been auctioned for charity at said party, so this wasn't a totally random question.) "I hate massage and I don't believe in massage. I hate to be touched," replied the Chanel designer. So, nobody then? "No. I'm not John Travolta." []

Victoria Beckham is reading E.M. Forster on the new cover of German Interview. Inside, she tells the magazine that while she is "a happy person," if all she saw of herself were her sourpuss paparazzi pictures, she'd think she was miserable, too. "I created this persona and I'm very different from that. I don't feel like I have to scream and shout about it — I know I am a happy person. So I don't get upset when people comment on the fact that I look quite miserable all the time. But people think I am. And you know, sometimes I think the same thing when I look at the pictures." [] French customs unveiled a new ad campaign targeting buyers of counterfeit goods — which are illegal to own in France. Will slogans like, "Buy a fake Cartier, get a genuine criminal record" work? [] A company called Rayfish Sneakers claims to have perfected the genetic modification of stingrays, creating unique patterns and colors in their skin. A pair of (hoax?) "bio-customized" stingray leather shoes will set you back $1,800. [] Designer Maayan Zilberman of the Lake & Stars lingerie brand decided to stop dying her hair black to cover the gray she's had since her early 20s. To those of us who may or may not have found our first grays in the harsh light of a Milwaukee motel bathroom, age 19, her makeover looks fantastic. [] Susie Bubble has a fascinating step-by-step look at shoe designer Noritaka Tatehana's process as he applies a leather sole to one of his trademark heel-less shoes. (Lady Gaga and Daphne Guinness are among Tatehana's fans, and these Swarovski-encrusted gray shoes are destined for the feet of the latter.) []

I was just "talking" with Dodai about what to do for a Rag Trade lede. "Dodai," I said. "Karl Lagerfeld some krazy shit again!"
"Hmm," said Dodai.
"I know we highlighted the Adele-is-fat bit," I said.
"But there are so many other bons mots! 'People in magazines are 50% bimbo and 50% pregnant women.' 'If I was a woman in Russia I would be a lesbian, as the men are very ugly.'"
"Yeah," said Dodai. "The pregnant women bit was in Dirt Bag as well."
"'Nobody wants Greece to disappear, but they have really disgusting habits.'"
"What are your other options?" she asked
"The Model Alliance launch, haha?" I typed, hesitantly. "Doutzen Kroes, Coco Rocha, Crystal Renn, and a bunch of other models were there. Shalom Harlow came! Plus Robin Lawley and Sarah Stephens. It was amazing."
"I think that might be better," said Dodai.
"You think? But I helped organize it." I said.
"I know," she replied.
"I mean, it's a bit of a weird thing to do — make myself the lede."
"Nah, do that!" said Dodai.
Hmm, I thought. Let me check Getty to see if any of are available under our subscription. That photographer who I saw last night who remembered me from a Karen Walker show in, like, 2008 — was he shooting for Getty? I know someone was there for Getty. Either way, he was a really nice guy. Hmm. No subscription photos. Oh well. Hey, look, the Gloss posted a nice one! Let's go with that. Oh, and look what Ashley Cardiff about the Model Alliance:

Models are still a work force and still deserve the same basic rights as any teacher, waiter, blogger, plumber… Unfortunately, models are often reluctant to speak out when confronted with inappropriate behavior or financial exploitation for a litany of reasons, not the least of which is a constant reminder of their own expendability. Why complain about sexual harassment if there's someone even younger and thinner waiting to take your place?

Salient points. Couldn't agree more. A pretty good take on the Model Alliance, all told (which in case you haven't figured out by now, is a new nonprofit dedicated to giving models a voice in the American fashion industry, an organization on whose board I am proud to sit, and whose launch party last night at the Standard Hotel I helped to plan, and which I am now writing about because Karl Lagerfeld's latest kerrrrazy kuote was too kold for this news cycle). Ooh, there was also a piece on Luckymag.com. The Model Alliance "seeks to improve the conditions in which models work and live," wrote John Jannuzzi:

From the outside, modeling looks like a glamorous, effortless and "cushy" job. But like anything in this business, it's not always that easy. A grueling schedule (from shoots to multiple fashion weeks), marginal labor rights (they're typically freelancers), mounting bills (yes, in many cases, models actually end up owing money to agencies) and countless cases of exploitation, suddenly the profession doesn't seem so easy as, "walking from one end of the platform to the other."

Yep, also accurate. Looks like Reuters got our press release, too:

"The idea of models organizing may seem frivolous or, worse, downright funny — models are certainly not the people you picture when you think of child labor or bad working conditions," said former model and fashion writer Jenna Sauers. "There's nothing funny about a work force that is overwhelmingly young, female and impoverished, working for some of fashion's wealthiest, most powerful brands."

Oh yes. I remember when I wrote that. Fun times. Last night, Sara Ziff — the Model Alliance founder, and the co-director of the acclaimed documentary Picture Me — spoke eloquently about the need for the enforcement of existing child labor and contract laws, something the Model Alliance supports. "I have been very fortunate in my career," she said. But Sara — who started modeling when she was 14 — also described feeling unable to say no to work that conflicted with her educational obligations, being put on the spot to do shoot in the nude at castings from a young age, and having unauthorized charges levied against her earnings by her agency. I and the other board members, Susan Scafidi and Dorian Warren spoke, and so did our co-host for the evening, Coco Rocha. Coco read a long list of names of models who couldn't be there last night, including Karlie Kloss, Jessica White, and Behati Prinsloo, but who she said wanted to go on record as Model Alliance supporters. Oh, and Sara and Susan were Brian Lehrer this morning! That was awesome.
"Did you see ? because this could also be a lede maybe," typed Dodai.
"Yes I did see that," I wrote back. "Aw, now I'm writing a Model Alliance thing. Can this be the one time I do something weirdly self-referential?"
There was a pause.
So there you have it. Watch our video, visit our , like us , follow us , why not talk about us IRL with your actual friends? The Model Alliance is now officially live. And the real work of changing fashion for the better begins today. /soapbox [, , , ]

Stella McCartney recorded an anti-leather video for PETA. [] The campaign for Kenzo's spring collection — the first designed by Opening Ceremony's Carol Lim and Humberto Leon — stars an all-black cast of models. [] Even if you're not going to New York fashion week, you can still appreciate the creativity that goes into some of the best invitations. 3.1 Phillip Lim's is a pop-up card of the New York skyline. [] Vogue Paris editor Emmanuelle Alt dances and lip-syncs to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" in this video to announce the Web redesign of her magazine. We just spent about five very satisfying minutes imagining Anna Wintour doing this in honor of the new Vogue archive. [] Casting director Douglas Perrett shared some old Polaroids of famous models when they were just starting out. Here are Miranda Kerr, Chanel Iman, and the late Daul Kim. Perrett says of meeting Iman, "[I] realized how young these kids are. She needed a hug that day." Perrett's forthcoming book is called Wild Things. []

Brands often say that they rely on a cast of extremely young, acutely thin, and overwhelmingly white models because fashion is supposed to be "aspirational" — that if you can't envy the body and youth of a skinny Eastern European teenager in a glossy magazine, then you can't envy her dress either. Says who?

Modeling agency founder and academic Ben Barry had some questions about the fashion industry and its advertising, but he could find no research into consumers' choices that actually demonstrated casting such models motivated them to buy clothing or accessories. So he decided to do some for his Ph.D.

To conduct a study into the impacts models have on consumer choices, Barry first mocked up eight ads for the same Diane Von Furstenberg dress. The ads were identical in concept and art direction, but showcased models of different ages, body size, and race. Barry randomly selected two of the ads and showed them to women. He didn't tell them that he was studying their reactions to the models; he just asked them which ad made them want to buy the dress.

These were his results:

Barry then held focus groups with women across the U.S. and Canada where he asked them about the impact that model casting in ads had on their purchasing behavior. All told, he spoke to more than 2,500 women. His subjects told him that they preferred to buy clothing advertised by women who looked somewhat like them for simple reasons: they could see how it fit, they felt included in the brand's messaging, and they were more able to imagine themselves participating in the aesthetic fantasy of the ad. This is significant, writes Barry, because "While one side of the debate over model diversity argues that curvy models should replace thin ones — assuming that one model is universally more effective than another — I find that every model type can be effective. Their effectiveness depends on whether the model shares the consumers' traits."

Solipsistic? Maybe. But public health advocates and feminists have spent decades agitating against advertisers' preference for a narrow beauty ideal on grounds that such images can hurt the self esteem of women and girls — to almost no avail. The models who fill the pages of the women's magazines and populate the billboards and pop up on retailers' Web sites are as skinny, young, and white as they ever were. Making a well-reasoned appeal for diversity on behalf of the bottom line, however, just might work.

Barry also found that the women he interviewed, who ranged in age from 14-65, were very savvy at picking up on brands' cues about what "kind" of person is welcome in their clothing. Putting on the runway plus-size models — as Jean-Paul Gaultier, Mark Fast, and Chanel have each done, with varying levels of commitment — or models of different ages — as Calvin Klein did for Fall '10 — is nice, but not when it smacks of a stunt. "When two of 20 models on a runway are larger or older, consumers appreciate the gesture but believe it's tokenistic," reports Barry. "Similarly, when a brand showcases curvy or older models in clothes that don't quite fit or flatter them, it looks like they're trying to grab a quick headline." Diversity has to be an ongoing commitment to read as "authentic."

And consumers don't like it when older models (or curvier models, or non-white models) are portrayed in ways that set them apart from their model peers. They want the same attention paid to the styling and art direction of all the kinds of models. Skimping on the aesthetics in fact

reverses the positive effects of casting diverse models. The women in my research want models — regardless of size or age — to inspire them with glamour, artistry and creativity. One woman said it best: "What's the point of buying fashion if you're going to look unfashionable?" The underlying message is that fashion needs to sell aspiration, but it is not a standardized model's age, size or race that is aspirational; it is the clothes, styling and creative direction of the shoot.

So women want fashion to give them more, and better, images of beauty and diversity. You don't say!

Barry's research also casts doubt on the that people buy things because advertising stokes their insecurities, creating a need that can only be filled by the advertised product. It suggests that advertising can work by inducing in the consumer feelings of affinity for and identification with the people shown in the ad.

When one mature woman saw an older model, she explained: "[The model] does more than make me feel beautiful; she inspires me to go out and get this dress and celebrate my beauty." While some women in my study felt insecure when they saw idealized models, their insecurity didn't translate to purchase intentions as the industry hopes; it actually turned them off the product. As one of the participants summarized: "Ads like this want us to be part of their world, but they have the opposite effect for me. I feel excluded."

Contrary to long-held marketing wisdom, fashion ads don't need to lead women to aspire to an unattainable ideal to sell products. Instead, women will buy fashion when models convey a realistic, attainable image and make them feel confident; they will continue to demand the products to maintain the advertised look and their feelings of empowerment. To unleash this economic potential, brands should cast models who mirror the diversity of their target market: If a brand sells sizes 2 to 14 and the age of their target consumer is 18 to 35, the models should reflect the same size and age ranges.

Of course, this is self-reported data — and we know from other studies of consumer behavior that people can be unreliable when it comes to accurately describing their own motivations. (Who would ever sit across a table and say to a researcher, in front of an audience of other women, "I buy skin cream because the ads make me worry that I need it," even if it is the truth?) And telling a researcher that Ad 1 makes you want to buy the dress more than Ad 2 is a very different activity than walking into a store and ringing up a purchase. But Barry's research does raise some interesting questions for the fashion and advertising industries — not the least of which is why have we coasted so long on the assumption that fashion needs to make women feel bad about themselves to buy shit.

[Elle Canada]

Last night, the CFDA Fashion Awards honored the year's best designers, which attracted celebrities and socialites, looking to make statements of their own. With everyone trying to aesthetically express themselves, the only real crime of fashion at this event was to be boring.

After Dominique Strauss-Kahn embarked on a culminating in the alleged rape of a hotel maid in New York City, it was Christine LaGarde who picked up the reins at the IMF. She's the first woman to fill that role, a French woman with American ties. So what's she like?

If her teeth are gritted, it's impossible to tell. What lovely teeth she has – straight and white, they gleam out of a permanently, almost alarmingly, tanned face. Tall -– she's 5ft 10in -– and slim, the 55-year-old Lagarde dresses with the casual élan of a Parisian, patriotically attired in Chanel suits and Hermès scarves, along with jazzy bracelets and fur-lined ponchos. Lagarde softens her rather severe black-and-white outfits with silk scarves, a string of pearls or a brooch. She has widely spaced green eyes framed by a silver bob. She still swims, but not in formation.

Well thank goodness she's sexy. Actually, she might even be the World's Sexiest Woman! Hooray!

An otherwise excellent portrait of LaGarde in The Guardian is marred by the stereotypical body pan down that so often accompanies profiles of women. The yellow journalism of celebrity reporting has seeped into profiles of powerful women. Rather than being shown her credentials, we're first provided a litany of physical descriptors- her hair color! Clothes! Jewlery! Teeth!

When will a woman being conventionally attractive and accomplished cease to be news or comment worthy?

Assumption that being physically attractive should be enough for a woman to coast on forever and continues to blow everyone's mind when anyone has decided to be attractive and-. An attractive woman who is also funny? comes every minutes , but single one does, it's almost embarrassing the type of hullabaloo she causes. A smart woman who is conventionally attractive? Stop the presses! A ? Excuse me while my eyeballs multiply themselves and my heart beats out of my chest before I involuntarily make an AAH-OOH-GAH sound. And everyone knows a woman described as having a "great personality" is actually probably "ugly" because if a woman were beautiful, some complimentary looks-related phrase would be the first thing that would be invoked in describing her.

If you're beautiful enough, you shouldn't have to worry your pretty little head about working. Look at Kim Kardashian and Real Housewives from coast to coast. Why fill your head with useless knowledge when you could just find yourself a nice man and settle down?

I'm not trying to make a case that it's so very hard for beautiful women nowadays, but it is a shame that beauty is so highly prized that there always seems to be accompanying befuddlement when a woman decides not to coast on it, to use faculties aside from those genetically (or surgically) bestowed upon her to achieve her kind of success.

Imagine that the paragraph about LaGarde were written about newly-elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel-

If his teeth are gritted, it's impossible to tell. What lovely teeth he has – straight and white, they gleam out of a permanently, almost alarmingly, tanned face. Not very tall, but well-built nonetheless – and musclebound, the 51-year-old Emanuel dresses with the casual élan of a Chicagoan, patriotically attired in Brooks Brothers suits and Hugo Boss ties, along with jazzy shoes and fur-lined ponchos. Emanuel softens his rather severe black-and-white outfits with silk pocket squares, pearl cufflinks, or a Rolex watch. He has widely spaced green eyes framed by a silver mane. He still dances, but not in ballet.

The piece concludes on the same crappy note on which it started- revisiting LaGarde's looks.

She's keen on the feminine virtues, then, without being po-faced. At the finance ministry she used to keep a collection of cartoons. Her favourite shows her in fishnet stockings, whipping a banker.

Whether it's coming from a construction worker or a writer from The Guardian, if Christine LaGarde can't escape the male gaze, what hope do the rest of us have?

[The Guardian]

With models like Crystal "Vogue Paris" Renn becoming true crossover stars, and agents like Gary Dakin of Ford+ reporting so much demand that he turns work down, it seems like the fashion industry is finally starting to recognize the beauty of bodies that aren't runway-sample-sized. Here are five we think are ripe for mainstream success. We'd love to see any one of them on the runway this fashion week.

The 5'11" Ukraininan Alyona Osmanova came on to the international modeling scene in 2006, at the age of 18. Her agency, Supreme, listed her measurements as 33"-23"-33" — actually an inch smaller than the straight-size runway standard. Osmanova's first season was pretty much a blockbuster: she walked for designers including Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, and Thakoon, and scored the coveted Prada exclusive. (Every season, and her casting director, , choose one girl out of the hundreds of hopeful new faces, and give that girl and her agency a pile of cash to walk in the Prada show and the Prada show only during Milan fashion week. Sometimes Prada also books the model exclusively for her show in Paris; Osmanova did both.) She went on to walk for Proenza Schouler, and Chanel and Givenchy haute couture, among many others. Over the next four years, Osmanova racked up editorial credits in the top magazines, including Vogue Italia, Teen Vogue, V, and Pop.

But during winter last year, with New York fashion week approaching, she found could no longer keep her weight down. "I did part of Fashion Week, and I couldn't [finish] because I couldn't fit in any of the dresses," Osmanova New York's Amy Odell. "I pretty much didn't know what to do for three months or four months, and I was trying to work out and diet but I was stressing out." She heard about plus-size modeling, and signed with Ford.

Since her switch, Osmanova has walked in the Elena Miro show in Milan, and modeled for Teen Vogue. (She told the magazine, "The body is such a unique gift, and we won't have it forever, so there's no time to hate anything about it.") Those are great bookings, but it's undeniable that Osmanova's career has slowed down significantly since her crossover to plus — which is a great shame on the industry. Osmanova is an experienced model who's worked with some of fashion's greatest talents. Why aren't more clients keen to capitalize on that? Where are all the designers and the magazines who were scrambling to book her two years ago? Where's Russell Marsh? With legs for miles and those cheekbones, if ever there were a girl destined for high fashion, Osmanova is it.

The striking, 6' tall bi-racial Swede Sabina Karlsson is, like Renn and Osmanova, yet another girl who struggled as a straight-size model with the industry's size restrictions, and emerged later and healthier as a plus-size model. Karlsson was first launched into the industry in 2005 at the age of 17 via the Ford Supermodel of the World competition, which the agency uses to scout for new faces. She also competed on Sweden's Next Top Model (Karlsson came second). During her first New York fashion week, Karlsson booked 12 shows, and she would go on to walk for designers including , Betsey Johnson, and Tracey Reese.

At the time, her agency gave her hip measurement at 36", which is definitely on the larger side for a runway model, and there was some industry sniping about how Karlsson was "bottom-heavy." In 2007, she told a magazine, "It's sad that the model world requires models to be so skinny, just so they can fit the designer clothes. And, in a way, it's the designers who are pushing this problem forward — if they keep on making clothes in size zero, models will always need to be a size zero." (She claimed in the same interview to maintain her weight with healthy eating and exercise habits.) On the editorial side, Karlsson worked for American Elle (and we in Glamour), and she did ads for Madewell and American Eagle.

Karlsson crossed over to plus-size modeling in 2010, and I her in the One Stop Plus show at New York fashion week. You can see her and Osmanova interviewed by fellow plus-size model (otherwise She Whose Cleavage Was Too Hot For Fox To Handle) . Karlsson has the kind of truly unique look that fashion ordinarily values — those freckles! that red hair! that gap! — and it would be a natural fit for her to continue doing now the kind of edgy jobs that she was booking as a teenager.

Ashley Graham

Speaking of Ashley Graham: she's gorgeous, even if she's not so much a model to watch as a model we are already watching, and have been for a while. Ashley Graham is obviously highly photogenic, but she's also so beautiful in person that the first time I met her — at the flagship on 34th St., where I had gone to interview Crystal Renn — I was almost speechless. And I pretty much write about models and modeling for a living. Graham has lately been working up a storm: not only was her censored Lane Bryant ad a boon for her career, even before it had aired, she was already shooting for magazines including Glamour and American Vogue. (Well: American Vogue's annual "Shape" issue. Why not any of the other eleven issues, Vogue?) She is also the latest face of Levi's. Ashley Graham needs to be the face of more things, stat.

Marquita Pring hit my radar after her for Solve Sundsbo in V last year; she followed up last September with a trip down the catwalk for Jean-Paul Gaultier, and back-to-back Levi's campaigns. Pring is 20, and she's been modeling for several years. I think fashion needs to see more of her. Will she show up on the New York runways this season? If she does, you'll be the first to know.

I probably ought to disclose right off the bat that I've met Leah Kelley numerous times, and shared wine and conversation and at least one pretty terrific Mexican dinner with her. (Also she once lent me a copy of I Know This Much Is True, in the way that friends-of-friends sometimes loan one another books for extended periods, and I am afraid I have neglected so far to finish it.) But if there's one thing above all else that biases my opinion of Kelley's work — aside from her superlative trampolining — it's her beauty. And my attendant belief that this stunning blonde from Sacramento should be getting even more work than she already is. Kelley's modeled for designers including and Elena Miro, as well as clients like Nordstrom, Macy's, and . She this story of how she came to be "discovered":

"I was 19 and in my second year of college, working for a tow truck company in Sacramento (yes, I can unlock your car or change your tire) when I was discovered. It began while I was browsing the internet, and I saw a link through MySpace for the Ford Models online submission. I did not really think very much of it, and it took about a month for a reply. I actually almost deleted the response, because I used to get a lot of emails from auction lots relating to the automotive industry, and I misread the sender as Model Fords. I ignored the email for about four days."

Thank God she opened it. And now, will someone get this girl an editorial in Vogue Italia? Please?

There are plenty of other great plus-size models I would love to see get more work. In addition to those mentioned above, there's Lizzie Miller, Inga Eiriksdottir, Candace Huffine, Tara Lynn, and Amy Lemons. Fashion is far from perfect — and what the industry needs to do away with, more than anything, is the notion that making room for one token plus-size model at a time is acceptable proof of "inclusivity" — but it seems that some change is happening, albeit slowly.

Gird yourselves for the arrival of the youngest installment of the Kardashian Klan: Kendall and Kylie Jenner seem to have scored the new cover of Teen Vogue. Representative line:

Kendall and Kylie have 2.1 million and 1.3 million followers on Twitter, respectively, but they're not ones to flaunt their popularity.


It's a Monday and the Kardashians are ruining everything. Why not watch 30 seconds of David Beckham in his underwear? [] Does the new logo J.C. Penney is getting (as part of the chain's $800 million revamp) remind anyone else of the logo the Gap tried, and dumped? [] The awesome Jenny Slate is in the new Rachel Antonoff for Bass shoes lookbook. Look, everyone! It's Jenny Slate the comedian with shoes on. < / groan > [] Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone appear in the new Alexis Bittar ads. []
The jewelry designer just signed a deal for major new backing from the private-equity group TSG, in exchange for a 50% equity stake. Terms were not disclosed. [] Vogue Russia has a whole editorial featuring Marni for H&M clothes. [] Yeah, Anjelica Huston looks pretty bad-ass on the new cover of WSJ. []

Last month, Urban Outfitters drew popular — and threats of legal action from the Navajo Nation — for advertising such products as the "Navajo Flask" and the "Navajo Hipster Panty." The tribe owns a variety of trademarks on the term "Navajo," including one covering clothing — meaning that legally speaking, calling a non-Navajo-made product "Navajo" is as as calling a non-Chanel-made product "Chanel."

Presumably to avoid that potential liability, Urban Outfitters recently the names of all 21 of the products it had been calling "Navajo," including the panties, the flask, the "Navajo Feather Earrings" and the "Navajo Nations Crew Pullover." Those products are still available, they're just called the "Printed Flask" and the "Printed Hipster Panties." The problem, in the eyes of intellectual property law, wasn't the arguable appropriation of Native American patterns or designs, it was the unauthorized use of a registered trademark.

But fellow mass-market retailer Forever 21 doesn't seem to share Urban Outfitters' concern. While a search for "Navajo" on its website turns up no results, a little digging reveals at least a half-dozen items that have the Navajo trademark in the title. That includes the — that's right, not one but two international chains sold "Navajo" underwear for fall — the and the in the U.S. online store. (The tunic, along with a pair of "Navajo Drop Earrings," is currently out of stock, but you can see a Google cached page for now.)

In Forever 21's U.K. online store, meanwhile, you can find such items as the and the The ad copy for the necklace begins:

Complete your outfit with a little native flair!

Forever 21, do we have to get Daniella Pineda to it to you?

Although two of these items — the panties and the handbag — have product descriptions that call them "Navajo-inspired," they all have "Navajo" and not "Navajo-Inspired" in their names, and the rest of the descriptions use yet more specific language that arguably misuses the Navajo Nation's trademark. The necklace is said to be "Navajo beaded," and the tunic and the socks are said to have a "Navajo print." You'd obviously have to be fairly naïve — and unfamiliar with the retailer's reliance on California and foreign sweatshop labor — to believe that anything sold at Forever 21 was in fact made by Navajo people. And you'd have to be similarly naïve — and unfamiliar with the company's apparent distaste for paying licensing fees — to believe any of these "Navajo" products were authorized by the Navajo Nation under license to Forever 21. But the language used in the company's online catalogue is, at the very least, misleading. You can't call something "Navajo" when it's, well, just not. It's a trademark. And for Forever 21, that's a problem.


Forever 21 is being sued for copyright infringement by an up-and-coming designer — again. The folks behind a line called Feral Childe allege that the California-based creepy-Christian sweatshop emporium copied one of their textile prints. This is noteworthy because while under current law garments themselves — as in patterns, "cut," construction elements, and everything else that makes a dress unique — are not copyrightable intellectual property, graphic elements that might be featured on garments — as in prints — are. Forever 21 has been sued for copying more than 50 times by designers including Anna Sui and Diane von Furstenberg; the company has always settled out of court. One trade dress infringement claim by the now-defunct label Trovata in a lengthy trial, during which the court was treated to the spectacle of Forever 21 co-founder and creative director Jin Sook Chang claiming ignorance of her company's ownership structure, of who her company's other executives are, and even of her company annual sales. Trovata later settled out of court. Feral Childe's textile design is shown at top; Forever 21's is below. []
Feral Childe's designers Alice Wu and Moriah Carlson say their textile design, called "Teepees," is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Wu says it took her and Carlson "several months" to develop the print, "starting from sketchbook drawings and then refined and edited in countless email exchanges between us until we perfected the image. This type of markmaking reflects the very particular philosophy of drawing taught at the New York Studio School, where both of us studied...We have made the image very personal and particular to Feral Childe. There are hidden pictures of teepees and crowns and pennants in the drawing that aren't necessarily apparent at first glance. How could anyone else come up with that combination?" She continues, "Whoever at Forever 21 discovered our print and decided to co-opt it wasn't looking closely and probably just assumed this was just an abstract 'scratch print' and didn't notice our hidden pictures." []
Meanwhile, this morning Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, a Harvard law professor, and a spokesperson for the American Apparel & Footwear Association, an industry lobbying group, testified before Congress in support of the proposed Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Act. The IDPPA would extend limited copyright protection to clothing itself when a designer's work was deliberately copied by someone who had access to or was aware of the original, resulting in a copy that is "substantially identical" to the original. Council of Fashion Designers of America president Steven Kolb says the proposed law, which was developed with Senator Chuck Schumer, is necessary "because we see the vulnerability of designers, particularly young designers and small business owners and the consequences of their ideas, intellectual property and creativity being taken from them and how it impacts their ability to manufacture their collections and grow their businesses." Indeed, behemoths like Forever 21 have a preference for copying the work of younger and less-established designers, because they are less likely to be protected by a phalanx of scary litigators, like, say, Louis Vuitton and Chanel are. []
You can read Hernandez' congressional testimony along with all the witnesses' testimony here. []

Justin Bieber's perfume Someday has broken all sales records. In less than three weeks, it's rung up more than $3 million at Macy's. At this rate, it is on track to become the top-selling perfume of 2011. Previously, Beyoncé's Heat was considered the top-selling celebrity perfume at launch. Heat did $3 million in its first month. [] Taylor Swift Has Laryngitis, Also A Perfume. [] Jane Lynch and her wife are in a Vogue spread. [] Karen Elson and Raquel Zimmerman star in the fall Lanvin campaign, which was shot by Steven Meisel. [] Jefferey Campbell knocked off the Prada creeper-brogue hybrid. Point the first: this isn't even a very accurate copy. (Holly Shoes a version that included both that band of hemp and the treaded soles, neither of which Jeffery Campbell could apparently be bothered to get right.) Point the second: Still ugly. [] The Olsen twins' handbag line includes this backpack that costs $39,000. Barneys New York fashion director Amanda Brooks says the backpack is "super triple chic." She continued, "I think if you were every going to spend $39,000 on a bag, that's the bag you should buy because I think you'd wear it for a really long time." Simon Doonan, Barneys creative director, however says backpacks aren't for him. "I never was a backpack person. My gay sister was always working a backpack and it's a little too hearty for me." Two of the $39,000 backpacks have already been pre-ordered. [] Michele Lamy, the wife and muse of Rick Owens, has an unusual background. She studied law, worked as a stripper, protested in Paris in May 1968, and responds to questions about whether she has an interest in the occult by saying, "Belief is a way to express a memory of your genes." She has a couple gold-plated teeth and does her nails with a henna-like vegetable dye. (Women in Morocco and the Middle East do this, too, but with actual henna.) [] Here is a gallery of fashion photos of (mostly) models eating pasta. []

The top row of shirts is by Forever 21. The bottom row is by a small California-based label called Trovata. Welcome to a peek behind the curtain at secretive, cult-y, and very rapidly growing fast-fashion chain Forever 21.

It's always a bad sign when, on a store tour with a retailer's head of marketing, a reporter sees a pair of shoes on the shelf that look exactly like the pair she has on. Except the identi-shoes are a different brand, aren't real leather, and cost less than a quarter of what she paid for them. "You should buy another pair here," suggests the marketing exec when the reporter, BusinessWeek's Susan Berfield, points this out. (Marketing execs are so unflappable.)

Although Forever 21 cooperated with BusinessWeek's story, the company wouldn't allow Berfield to even set foot in its design and merchandising headquarters, which are housed in a building of their own on Forever 21's corporate campus, a building with its own security. "The windows are covered with blinds," writes Berfield. Her requests to go inside "were met with laughs by Forever 21's representatives."

"Their design is swathed in mystery," says Susan Scafidi, a professor of copyright law at Fordham University Law School and director of the Fashion Law Institute. "But it probably looks a bit like a crime scene, with the chalk outline of the garments they're copying."

Forever 21 is a $3 billion chain that counts 477 stores in 19 countries and around 35,000 employees; it has been expanding aggressively during the recession, opening enormous new stores in spaces abandoned by retreating retailers like Saks, Circuit City, and Mervyns. Forever 21 expects to open another 75 stores in 2011.

The company was founded and is still owned by Do Won and Jin Sook Chang, Korean immigrants to Los Angeles. Do Won Chang has said he got the idea when he was working at a gas station, and noticed that all the nice cars were owned by people in the rag trade; Jin Sook Chang says that she went to a mountain one morning to pray and God told her she should open a store and that she would be successful. Jin Sook is in charge of whatever it is goes on in that merchandise building. Her husband handles everything else. Their daughters, Linda and Esther Chang, both have high-powered positions within the company despite only being in their twenties, and are expected to take over eventually. Linda wears Forever 21, but mixes it with Chanel.

A lot of weird things stand out about the company culture. For one, there's the whole Evangelical Christian thing:

"Every decision that they made has been with thoughtful prayer," says Linda. Mr. and Mrs. Chang attend a daily 5:30 a.m. prayer meeting at the Ttokamsa Mission Church when they're in town; he also leads Bible study, and she's a deacon. "I think they get a lot of business ideas and insight during early morning prayer time," Pastor Ken Choe says in an e-mail. According to him, they've contributed millions of dollars to missions around the world and regularly go on missions themselves, including to Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. They've told their daughters that when they retire, they want to devote themselves fully to the church. "Mr. Chang said he would have been a missionary if this hadn't worked out," says Linda. "This supports that. This is part of their missionary vision."

Berfield reports that there are Bibles at the company's headquarters, and it's generally understood that in order to advance within the company, one should be "saved."

And then there are the lawsuits. Turns out that having a brand new selection of $19.80 rayon blazers and $23.80 pleather shoes delivered by the ton daily is not easily achieved without ending up on the wrong side of labor laws. Forever 21 used to manufacture most of its clothing in Southern California, using a variety of local suppliers. The reasons were simple: Until 2005, an international textile trade agreement offered some measure of protection to the U.S. apparel industry and made outsourcing more expensive, and domestic manufacture also allowed for shorter lead times and a nimbler response to customer demand.

But there are also labor laws in the U.S. And in 2001, Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Garment Worker Center sued the company on behalf of 19 workers who alleged they had not been paid legally required minimum wages and overtime. The lawsuit spawned a three-year-long boycott of the company and was the subject of an Emmy-winning documentary, Made in LA. Forever 21 eventually settled the suit (the terms are confidential). "It was a difficult time for them," Esther Chang says of her parents' reaction to the lawsuit.

Since then, the Changs have moved a lot of Forever 21's production to countries like China, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Still, Berfield finds one L.A. factory where workers earn 12 cents apiece to sew vests that retail for $13.80:

The California Broadway Trade Center sits on the edge of the garment district, across from the derelict Rialto Theater and just down the street from new lofts built in the old Union Bank. It's a nine-story building that houses at least 80 of these factories. At the loading dock, scraps of paper are taped to the wall, listing in Spanish the jobs available that day. The building looks uncared for, but not decrepit.

Some of the doors to these factories are open, making it possible to walk around unannounced. In one, on the top floor, with no company name on the door, about 30 people are sewing gray cotton vests for Forever 21 in a small, hot room. Many of them have stuffed scraps of fabric into their noses to block the particles of material floating in the air. They're just finishing up a one-week, 10,000-piece order for which the seamstresses earn about 12 cents apiece, according to Guadalupe Hernandez, a longtime garment worker in Los Angeles. If they sew 66 vests an hour, they'll earn minimum wage.

Oh, and there's also the whole ripping off other people's intellectual property thing. Forever 21 has confidentially settled more than 50 Forever 21 lawsuits with designers who have accused it of stealing their intellectual property. The only suit to make it to an open trial was Trovata's, at which Jin Sook Chang variously claimed on the witness stand that she didn't know what percentage of the company she and her husband owned, if there were any other shareholders, or even what her company's annual sales were. Trovata's lawyers, meanwhile, turned up evidence that the Changs, through various holding companies and investment vehicles, in fact owned or part-owned some of their biggest "independent" suppliers — the same suppliers Forever 21 attempts to publicly distance itself from whenever labor rights violations or copyright violations emerge from the production supply chain. Diane Von Furstenberg, Anna Sui — who once guests at her fashion show t-shirts that read "Forever WANTED: Don Cassidy and The Sundance Jin" that quoted Exodus 20:15, "Thou shalt not steal" — and Anthropologie are among the other designers who have won settlements from the company.

Forever 21 tends to avoid knocking off large and well-protected fashion companies, like Chanel or Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, both of which are notorious for aggressively policing their copyrights. Forever 21 knocks off smaller, less established labels — like Trovata, Alexander Wang, and Foley + Corinna, whose printed maxi dress is shown here next to its Forever 21 copy — because those brands are less likely to be able to mount a vigorous legal defense. Berfield also talks to a designer, Virginia Johnson, who saw a knock-off of one of her skirts for sale at Forever 21; when her lawyer contacted the company, "he learned that the company had a policy in place for just such scenarios. They would pay Johnson 10 percent of the $40,000 worth of skirts they said they had sold. When Johnson rejected that as too low, they offered $9,000, which she accepted. 'I was surprised how matter-of-fact they were,' she says." Forever 21 denies it has any such policy.

So: Forever 21's workers earn minimum wage — if they can sew an entire vest every 55 seconds. The Changs meanwhile buy their daughters Chanel and educated them at prep schools and Ivy League colleges. And if one of their dresses or tops turns out to have been someone else's idea first, well — the fat profits on all those vests make for lots of settlement money. Fast fashion, like a lot of things about the fashion industry, really isn't very pretty underneath.

Trovata/Forever 21 image from Trovata's lawsuit; Foley + Corinna/Forever 21 image

[Counterfeit Chic]

Analysts at MasterCard are projecting that this year, Americans will for the first time ever spend more than $20 billion on Black Friday — barring extreme weather or other acts of God. And while some retailers' plans to open on the holiday itself have drawn popular , customer feedback motivated at least one chain to cut its holiday hours this time around: Sears, which opened on Thanksgiving day in 2010, won't do so again this year. ("There was a sentiment from customers to keep Thanksgiving as a holiday," admitted a sheepish-sounding spokesperson.) But the overall trend is still for longer hours, hence why shopping on Thanksgiving, by the way, now has a name: Brown Thursday. Ewwwwwwwww. []
Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, by the numbers: total holiday retail sales are expected to top $873 billion this season. 195 million people will shop on Black Friday. Americans say they plan to spend, on average, $704 on holiday gifts this year. Doubtless they will all buy highly necessary things that their intended recipients will treasure forever. []

Shoe designer Camilla Skovgaard, known for her stark designs that suggest there are things more valuable than merely being considered "pretty," is profiled in the Wall Street Journal. "It's the easiest thing in the world to bring yet another delicate little patent peep-toe stiletto into the world," she says, "and I have to work consciously to not go there." Another place Camilla Skovgaard does not go? Kitten heels: "It just looks bloody wrong, in my opinion. And what's the point — if my heel is going to get stuck in the sidewalk anyway, it might as well get stuck properly. I don't like doing things half-way." Interestingly, after fashion school, Skovgaard applied for a job working as a designer in Dubai, serving some of the wealthiest families of the Middle East. She worked there for seven years. "I guess you could say I overdosed on it all — on lace and embroidery, flowery prints and Swarovski crystals, which came in the bucket-loads. I know that's when I developed my distaste for shiny things," she says. She returned to London and studied shoe-making for six years, earning another fashion degree and her master's. She started her own business in 2006; "I find doing business a quite creative process, and I've run a very tight ship. I started on a £35,000 business loan from a Danish bank — no investors, no cash sponsorships, none of that." Last year, her sales topped £3.2 million. [] O.G. socialite and confirmed snazzy dresser Iris Apfel is lending her name to a set of reading glasses. Eyebobs is coming out with the Iris, pictured, for January. Proceeds from the specs will go to the charity Lighthouse International. [] Meanwhile, Rihanna is already onto her second fragrance. It's called Rebelle, and she's not wearing any visible clothing in the ads, OMG. [] If you wanted to check out the Tom Ford collection that had some critics reeling — that is to say, the collection that Virginie Mouzat an "inventory for Kim Kardashian" and a re-tread of everything Ford did ten years ago at Yves Saint Laurent, mixed with a little Céline and Alaïa — photos of it are, at last, available online. []

After being targeted with criticism regarding its March issue and Beyoncé's African Queen photo shoot, L'Officiel has issued a statement:

L'OFFICIEL is very proud to present its March issue featuring Beyoncé in African-inspired dresses and jewellery by top designers, including Gucci, Azzedine Alaia, Fendi, Pucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Rodarte, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier and Lanvin. Designer Tina Knowles, who is also Beyoncé's mother, created a one of a kind couture piece. The designs are all reflective of the African influence on fashion this season. Miss Knowles poses with royal allure. A queen, a goddess, Beyoncé is a bombshell beauty with a divine voice. We're thrilled she's opening a season of celebrating the 90th anniversary of L'Officiel de la Mode. The series was conceived as using art and fashion in paying homage to African queens.

Beyoncé mentioned the artist Fela Kuti in the interview as one of her musical inspirations. It was later misquoted as the inspiration for the shoot. We would like to clarify that it is not the case.

As for the artistic makeup, the inspiration came from several African rituals during which paint is used on the face. We find the images beautiful and inspiring.

L'Officiel would like to thank Beyoncé for her outstanding contribution to this celebration of African influences in Fashion.

Good to know. After writing about her dark makeup and wondering if she was using blackness as a fashion accessory, I received some pretty hateful messages. One brave, anonymous soul wrote:

"I saw your comments on beyonces photos in the march issue of L'Officiel Paris and you could not sound any more arrogant and retarded. She is not 'using blackness as a fashion accessory.' It is a specific tribute to a specific inspirational person from history… Its no different from a while girl powdering her face to look like fucking marilyn monroe. You are starting a controversy for no reason at all… Shut the fuck up so racism can actually go away you dumb bitch."

Since we now know that Beyoncé was not, in fact, doing the shoot inspired by "an actual person in history," this argument is moot. But thank you, dear reader, for your eloquent and reasoned thoughts.

I still maintain that the dark face makeup is bothersome, and the explanation — that the inspiration came "from several African rituals during which paint is used on the face" — does not sit well with me. Here's why: No particular tribe or religion is mentioned. There are literally hundreds of ethnic groups on the continent of Africa, and face paint is used in many different ways. So if you're not specifically copying a particular people, religion or "ritual," then what you're really doing is just asserting that "face paint" is something "Africans" do. It's a very Western/Eurocentric way of thinking. Africa is a vast continent with many bustling cities. I've been to places like Tunis, Tangiers, Marrakesh, Gaborone and Johannesburg, and while I did see folks wearing jeans and t-shirts, I didn't see anyone wearing leopard skin and face paint. Of course some people, in some regions, on some occasions, do paint their faces. The use yellow and red; usually have white smears or a series of tiny white dots. It just seems as though Beyoncé and the folks behind the photo shoot painted her face to make her look more "African," using a narrow, uninformed definition of the word. It also seems probable that, as a fashion magazine, they most likely did it because it looks cool. And if that is the case, they should just say so. Beyoncé's gorgeous, talented and smart; she has the right to paint her face black and I have the right to think it's a terrible and offensive idea. And in the end, this misstep has given her — and the magazine — a heap of free publicity.

[Just Jared]
[Rolling Stone]
[Pop Eater]


One of the most uncomfortable truths about the fashion industry is that most models begin working when they are in their early teens or even tweens; they are children. In this editorial, Vogue Paris cuts right to the chase.

J. Crew creative director and president Jenna Lyons' much-photographed Brooklyn brownstone home — you've seen it in just about every shelter mag, ever — is now on the market for $3.75 million. Lyons and her husband separated this summer and are embroiled in a bitter divorce; meanwhile, Lyons has with another woman who works in fashion, jewelry executive Courtney Crangi. The house and custody of their son Beckett are said to be the two most contentious issues in Lyons' divorce. More glorious real estate porn at the link. []

Label Daryl K shot a model dressed in its clothes at Occupy Wall Street to advertise its sample sale. As New York puts it, "Nothing says 99 percent like a $325 camel wrap-coat." [] Donatella Versace is in New York, preparing for the fashion show that will launch the Versace for H&M collection. The show — Nicki Minaj and Prince are going to perform — is tonight, and the clothes hit stores on November 19. "Girls today love to dress up," says Versace. "They love the Medusa. You see it even if they just buy a belt or sunglasses. They want to look cool and sexy. They don't want to look ordinary." [] This year's Victoria's Secret show (also known as the reason Adriana Lima hasn't solid food in weeks) features 38 models — 15 of whom have never walked the show before — and 69 looks. It has a budget of $12 million. [] Angel Candice Swanepoel did a ski-bunny-themed spread for the new V. [] Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, as previously announced, won't be doing the VS show this year. She has more important things to do, like be on the cover of German Vogue. [] Swiss scientists have found a way to bond a nanometer-thin layer of gold to a polyester core. The resulting fiber can be woven into neckties. For the man who has everything, CHF 7,500, or $8,450. []In order to view comments on jezebel.com you need to enable JavaScript.
If you are using Firefox and NoScript addon, please mark jezebel.com as trusted.

Fashion insiders are expressing their shock at 's racist behavior. Despite an alleged three recent incidents in which the now ex-Dior designer hurled racist and anti-Semitic abuse at strangers, including one that was , all of which came to light without much digging and within 72 hours of his arrest last Thursday in Paris...you see, nobody knew there was this side to him. "I was so shocked when I heard the news that I didn't actually believe it until I watched that video online. Initially, I couldn't believe it because — and so many fashion people have said this — what he did is so contrary to everything we know about him," says one anonymous London fashion insider. A stylist offers, "I think everyone's known [Galliano's] been crazy forever, but to be honest, he's not the only one in the industry." Says a "veteran fashion writer," "The fashion industry can really create monsters — people live in these bubbles where they are fawned over and celebrated. Nobody ever says no. They get exactly what they want . . . They are completely out of touch with reality because they don't live in reality. I can see how [Galliano] has become this crazy, out-of-touch lunatic." []
Women's Wear Daily's Bridget Foley, who has been going to Galliano's shows since 1994, claims, "Never in all those years of seasonal check-ins has Galliano presented himself other than as a quiet, gentle soul. At times he seemed uncomfortable with the monotony of walking editors through his collections; at other times, agreeable and energized, possibly substance-enhanced. One sensed a bit of wickedness, but playful, never hateful or mean." []
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Paris police says that the inquiry into the two legal complaints made against Galliano is not yet finished, but said that she believes the legal process will be swift. Joan Burstein, the owner and founder of the London boutique Browns, who bought Galliano's entire graduate collection in 1984, says, "I am deeply saddened by the fact that John Galliano has been dismissed. I hope that I have the opportunity to see him face-to-face, as I have no comment to make until I am told the truth by him." And though most industry insiders are saying Galliano's racist rantings are out of character, Pat Field would seek to excuse them on the grounds that Galliano was "acting out a character." The stylist continues: "People in fashion don't recognize the farce in it. All of a sudden they don't know him. But it's OK when it's Mel Brooks' The Producers singing ‘Springtime for Hitler.'" Karl Lagerfeld takes a different tack. "I'm furious, if you want to know." Lagerfeld went on, "today, with the Internet, one has to be more careful than ever, especially if you are a publicly known person. You cannot go in the street and be drunk — there are things you cannot do. I'm furious with him because of the harm he did to LVMH and Bernard Arnault, who is a friend, and who supported him more than he supported any other designer in his group, because Dior is his favorite label. It's as if he had his child hurt." []
Yesterday, just hours after Dior announced it was , sources close to the designer confirmed to Suzy Menkes that he would be heading "immediately" to rehab. (There's nothing rehab won't fix, apparently.) And also that he had, to possibly fight his dismissal, retained the services of the same lawyer Kate Moss hired in the wake of her cocaine scandal, when several major brands temporarily dropped her as a face. []

The question of who will replace disgraced total-Nazi designer at has tongues wagging all over the industry. (But then again, when are fashion people ever not gossiping about something?) But two of the alleged front-runners are tight-lipped. Riccardo Tisci, when asked after his Givenchy show about the rumors that he is in line to become the next Dior creative director, would say only, "I felt this was a strong, positive season. And I'm happy at Givenchy." []
Haider Ackermann, another designer — one from outside the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy fold — said to be in the running for the Dior gig, said cryptically when asked if he'd go to another house, "Yes, you have to find the right person and look in the same direction; it's like a love affair. It has to be a coup de foudre on both sides. You know, sometimes you have a repertoire of your own, and sometimes you have something else to express and the code of another house may help. I don't know. We'll see." Ackermann said that he turned down the opportunity to take over Maison Martin Margiela in 2009, because "Martin is my hero, so it's a soul and souls are not replaceable. But yes there are places I would like to go and that I might go." []
Then there's this, from Style.com's Twitter feed: "Not to add to the Dior rumor mill, but people in Paris are asking, why has the Lanvin team been in tears all day?" Lanvin's Alber Elbaz is another name that's been widely touted as a Galliano successor. [@]
Meanwhile, Sidney Toledano, the C.E.O. of Dior, confirmed that LVMH is still backing the John Galliano signature label — for now. LVMH owns 92% of the John Galliano brand. It's common for major luxury companies to back the namesake lines of the designers who toil as creative directors of their flagship brands (see: LVMH investing in Marc Jacobs when Jacobs signed on as the creative director of Louis Vuitton) as a reward for loyal service — whether or not those namesake lines, which are often lower in profile than the flagship brands, actually make money. (The John Galliano brand is said to "barely break even.") Toledano attended the Galliano show in Paris on Sunday, and he said, "For the moment, the [Galliano] business continues. This is a business which has licenses and tomorrow we will show the collection in the showrooms as usual . . . I am here to prove that business goes on . . . and to support the teams." Not a ringing endorsement, exactly, but then again, this is an industry where maybe money resounds even more loudly than saying "I love Hitler." []
One of the models at the Galliano show had a small Star of David tattoo on her arm. []

Remember when Keira Knightley rode a beige Ducati motorcycle around the streets of Paris, a beige leather motorcycle suit, like the mother-of-the-bride version of Beatrix Kiddo? Well, now the Chanel perfume ad she was shooting is out. You can't actually see the bike. [] An old Jennifer Aniston photo shoot was recycled for a new cover of French Glamour. []

Holy eyebrows: Emmanuelle Alt put George Michael and Kate Moss on the latest cover of French Vogue. The singer seems like kind of a random choice, but then again as we from the video she made to mark Vogue's Web redesign, Alt is a George Michael superfan.

This being the awesome video in question. []

Tom Ford has taken the unprecedented step of publishing photographs of five of his spring show looks on the Internet. Where just anybody can see them! Someone . Ford's spring collection was described by the designer as embodying values of "chastity and perversity." Now flick through the slideshow and grade looks "Chaste!" or "Perverse!" to your little hearts' content. [] Diane Kruger had to get cut out of this Dior couture dress. "It was so big that it took me an hour to get into it and the only way for me to go to the bathroom was to take off the bodice," said the actress. "Once I finished dinner, I had to go to the bathroom and it became so tight that I couldn't breathe anymore. Josh had to come with me to the lady's room and cut me out of it." [] Here is a promo for the documentary that Albert Maysles is making about Iris Apfel. [] What, you'd expect a Cosmopolitan lingerie collection for J.C. Penney to look tasteful and restrained? [] This is Nicki Minaj's fragrance ad. [] And this is Jerry Hall's iconic 1995 fragrance ad for Thierry Mugler's Angel. Christophe de Latilade, Mugler's longtime creative director, recalls of the shoot:

"We shot this in White Sands, New Mexico. Apparently Jerry had been visiting her family in Texas at the time, so she told me, 'I will make my arrangements, just tell me where the hotel is.' The day of the shoot, a huge white stretch limo appeared with a chauffeur who looked like a pimp or something, all dressed in white with white crocodile boots. Jerry came out and had big Vuitton trunks filled with lingerie with her. She spent her evenings doing fittings with her own lingerie in an ugly little motel in Alamo Gordo. That was the sort of thing she did."


Beyoncé's red dress that she wore to meet the President at the little $40,000-a-plate fundraiser she hosted with her husband? Oscar de la Renta. []

Discount online retailer and investment-magnet Gilt Groupe says it is now worth $1 billion. That's a lot of designer flash sales! The company has 670 employees — and is looking to hire for 125 positions. Gilt intends to launch a full-price men's site this year. According to the C.E.O., "our online male sales are three to four times bigger than Saks and five times bigger than Bloomingdale's. The question is: Who should be worried?" Everyone in retail who is not Gilt Groupe should be worried, that's who. Or else they should be filling out an application. []
Other positive signs in the fashion job market? Recruiters are hitting up graduate fashion shows again. []

United Nude designed this carbon fiber and leather shoe to be worn in space. It comes flat-packed, like Ikea furniture, and you assemble it. []

The guy who makes the wings for the Victoria's Secret fashion show is working on a project with NASA, naturally. Designer Ted Southern has won a contract to make a better kind of astronaut glove. But more importantly, he says Gisele Bündchen is hell to work with. She is "really tough. She's always screaming, 'What the fuck is this?" "What the fuck is this" does not seem like a wholly inappropriate reaction to a Victoria's Secret get-up, actually. []

What's the thing to do when you're facing the possibility of bankruptcy on April 30, and lost $86.3 million in the last fiscal year? Why, start a denim line of $80 jeans! American Apparel, you never fail to surprise us. The jeans line — which is launching today with two styles for women, which the company intends to complement with men's in time for the back-to-school season, assuming American Apparel, you know, still exists then — has been in development for over a year. Why let a little thing like, oh, careening towards insolvency get in the way of a long-planned new product launch? [] Here is Freida Pinto's new L'Oréal lipstick ad. It's, like, in Russian. []

The backlash over Anna Wintour's political activities — the Vogue editor is a top-tier Obama "bundler," having raised more than $500,000 for his reelection campaign, and has personally donated over $96,000 to Democratic candidates since 2004 — is here. And it is very, very sexist. On his radio show, Glenn Beck attacked Wintour and the Web ad she recently filmed for the Obama campaign (the one where she invited supporters to donate for a chance to dine with the president at a fundraiser Wintour is co-hosting with Michelle Obama and Sarah Jessica Parker) by referring to everyone's favorite hit dramedy of 2006, The Devil Wears Prada. "She was the devil part," said the radio host. "She was the person who was actually in the movie treating her co-workers... like garbage, waiting on her every whim. She is what [Obama] says capitalists are like all the time. She is everything she says the Republicans are and she's an Obama supporter." He then put on an accent to mock Wintour's pronunciation of "Mee-chelle Obahhma," and her invitation from the video: "I'm saving the best seat for you. Actually, I'm lying. You're gonna get a crumbum seat because you're part of the people." For good measure, he added, "She's not from a foreign country, she's an American." Wintour is in fact "from a foreign country" — she was born and raised in the U.K. (though she is also a naturalized U.S. citizen).

Meanwhile, paleoconservative-with-a-Post-column John Podhoretz devoted his entire weekly rant to Wintour and her fancy-schmancy, "ridiculous," nose-in-the-air high-fashion turpitude. Podhoretz posted a still from the video, and called Wintour a "horror show" in the image caption. "The head-scratching political event of the weekend was the Obama campaign's release of a video starring that peerless political thinker and ideological visionary, Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour," he write

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The context of Lagerfeld’s original statement remains unclear, though based on his apology, it doesn’t seem to flatter Del Rey.

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Luxury retailer has transformed its 84-year-old Christmas catalog into an application for what's anticipated to be this year's hot electronics gift: Apple's .

By putting the 2010 Christmas Book into an iPad app, Neiman Marcus is keeping up with its customers, said Gerald Barnes, president of the Dallas-based company's catalog and online division.

That doesn't mean the printed catalog is dead. Neiman Marcus still plans to mail more than 1 million copies to customers, and the entire catalog is viewable on its website.

The Christmas Book has been online since 2006 and now almost all of the company's direct sales are made on its websites. Its Internet revenue increased 10.7 percent last year, while catalog sales fell 19.2 percent.

Last year, about 85 percent of Neiman's direct sales were online, up from 80 percent last year and 75 percent in 2008, according to the company's annual financial report.

Going mobile

One advantage of an iPad app is customers can browse the catalog from anywhere without an Internet connection once they download it, Barnes said.

Imbedded in the iPad app and the online catalog are videos showing fantasy gifts, such as this year's his-and-hers gift: a 48-by-12 houseboat with 7-foot ceilings and $250,000 price tag.

There's also video of this year's car ? a 2011 Neiman Marcus Edition Camaro convertible with a 6.2-liter V8 engine that sells for $75,000.

Other catalogs also soon will be accessible from the iPad app, Barnes said. "Catalogs continue to be a very important part of our advertising. This is how we get into our households."

Mailed catalogs are up slightly this year from just less than a million last year, Barnes said. Before the recession, the company mailed 2 million Christmas Books.

Price ranges

About half of the 450 items in this year's 163-page catalog are again priced below $250 ? showing the retailer's sensitivity to cost-conscious buyers.

After skipping the $1 million and up price tag last year, this year the famed book contains a gift costing $1.5 million: International artist Dale Chihuly will transform a swimming pool into an original, private work of art.

The least expensive item is a $15 silver-plated candlewick trimmer.

Neiman Marcus extends its reach with catalogs. About 40 percent of its online and catalog customers in the last two years have been from cities where it doesn't operate a store. And customers who shop both stores and online spend about four times more than single-channel customers.

Last year, Neiman Marcus circulated about 48 million catalogs, down 25 percent from the prior year, as shoppers shifted to the Internet. It also sends out daily e-mails to about 4.7 million customers, alerting them to new merchandise and special offers.

Even before online shopping took over, catalog represented only about 10 percent of annual catalog sales.

His and hers

British success story Burberry revealed today that it had hit a stumbling block as the luxury brand issued a profits warning.

In a surprise update, the group said it had been hit by a slowdown in spending across the world.

The darling of the fashion scene had once enjoyed sales growth in double digits, but today it reported that like-for-like sales ground to a halt in the 10 weeks to 8 September.

Chief financial officer Stacey Cartwright said: "In the last two weeks there has been a global slowdown. We have seen this across the board in Asia, the US, Europe and the UK."

Despite its issues, the brand is gearing up for where it will present its womenswear spring/summer show on Monday.

Cartwright said: "We have Fashion Week, and the tremendous new flagship on Regent Street that has just opened -- our largest in the world -- while our menswear-only Knightsbridge store will open in a few weeks. Traffic has been down globally but we will not change tack."

Burberry warned that profits for the full year of 2013 would be at the bottom end of market expectations at about pounds sterling 407 million. Retail sales, including from new stores, were up 6 percent.

The slowdown compares with strong first quarter trading where retail sales had grown by 14 percent.

Luca Solca, luxury brands expert at CA Chevreux, blamed Burberry's reliance on very high-end clothing rather than accessories such as handbags. He said: "Apparel -- on which Burberry is more dependent than other mega-brands -- is softer. In difficult times consumers prefer leather goods and hard luxury accessories as they are more visible and work better as status symbols."

Analyst Kate Calvert at Seymour Pierce downgraded the stock to hold and said: "This news will obviously hit sentiment towards Burberry. However, we still consider Burberry a strong long-term growth story."

The company has enjoyed a remarkable decade with its shares rising fivefold. Today the stock slid more than 18 percent, down 249p to 1125.5p, on the news.

However, Mike van Dulken at Accendo Markets said: "This morning's selling may be overdone, providing a short-term trading opportunity."


(c)2012 London Evening Standard

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Diamond baubles from Cartier glittering in one window, Louis Vuitton's signature leather bags beckoning from across the street and another storefront displaying ' silk scarves.

Within months this is the scene that will greet visitors to Miami's Design District, as the neighborhood begins its dramatic metamorphosis into the new hot spot for luxury shopping.

Cartier and have just opened their doors. Louis Vuitton will do so on Oct. 19. Hermes and Men are under construction. Right behind that will be Pucci. By the time and the holiday shopping season arrive, there should be 8 to 10 luxury brands lining the Design District's Northeast 40th Street corridor.

These openings are a sign of Miami's ascent as a fashion destination.

"For most luxury brands Miami is one of the top three markets in , along with New York and Los Angeles," said Valerie Chapoulaud-Floquet, president and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton North America. "The Miami market has grown quicker than the rest of North America."

For decades the Bal Harbour Shops offered the only option for luxury in Miami-Dade County. But no longer is having one store in the market enough for these luxury brands.

"Miami has been under retailed for luxury because of the strength of the local market and the strong growth of tourists coming to Miami," said Emmanuel Perrin, president and chief executive officer of Cartier North America. "This market can support several Cartier boutiques. It was just a question of time before the luxury market evolved. Everyone has been waiting for the right project to come along."

Louis Vuitton and Cartier both left Bal Harbour Shops last summer because the mall didn't have the space for them to expand. The retailers were also prohibited from opening a second store within 20 miles unless Bal Harbour's owners got a piece of the new store's revenue.

Now, Louis Vuitton already has opened another store at Mall and Cartier is assessing the market. It's all part of an unfolding game of musical chairs that ends the monopoly of Bal Harbour, which has controlled the luxury retail market since 1965.

By 2014, developer Craig Robins expects to have 40 to 50 luxury brands spread throughout the Design District, creating a new urban destination for fashionistas. Already committed to the area are about 30 tenants, including , Bulgari, Pucci, De Beers, Zegna, Tom Ford, Burberry and Marc by . They will join the district's original fashion tenants Christian Louboutin, and Martin Margiela.

"We're starting to build critical mass," Robins said. "We continue to find that more and more brands are interested in coming. This is an exciting moment for the Design District. People are going to feel the transition and the power of integrating fashion with art, design and food."

Many of the brands are giving up space at Bal Harbour, which the International Council of Shopping Center recently designated the top producing mall in the world. But they say they don't believe the move will have any negative impact on their business.

"We have made a seamless transition," said Vira V. Capeci, president of Celine. "Our clients have followed us to this exciting location."

Right now, Cartier's name sparkling against the backdrop of a bronze storefront may look a little out of place as the area undergoes a transition. But soon Louis Vuitton will make a dramatic statement across the street with a storefront covered by an original work of art from graffiti artist Marquis Lewis, known as RETNA.

There may be growing pains in this gentrifying neighborhood. Will consumers be willing to spend thousands of dollars on jewelry, handbags and clothes just a few blocks away from some of Miami's more impoverished neighborhoods?

At Cartier a security guard stands close by watching over an offering that includes a rare yellow diamond and a $310,000, diamond-encrusted panther pendant and necklace.

"I like the idea of an urban neighborhood where you have crackheads here and Cartier over there," said Denia Roth, a Miami resident who was lunching this week at Michael's Genuine in the Design District. "The diversity brings everyone together."

The retailers have more freedom to design the look of their stores and open bigger showrooms featuring a wider variety of offerings. Cartier's new store is three times larger than what it had at Bal Harbour.

And these stores are only the beginning. Cartier and Louis Vuitton are among several brands opening temporary locations, until they can design and build flagship stores. When these stores open in 2014, they're expected to be among the brands' largest stores in the U.S. outside of .

"We want to take our client experience to the next level and serve our clients in comfort," Perrin said.

Louis Vuitton felt it was important to get into the Design District early.

"We like to be part of building a story, it's part of our pioneering spirit," Chapoulaud-Floquet said. "We think we're going to be able to communicate with a very different clientele that is younger, more trendy and much more open to art and culture."

Although it's been a year since Louis Vuitton and others started leaving Bal Harbour, operating partner Matthew Whitman Lazenby says same store sales continue to grow -- up 16 percent for the first six months of the year compared to last year.

But Lazenby says his family has had a change of heart about allowing tenants to remain at Bal Harbour and still open a second location in Miami-Dade County.

"You can't deny there has been demand expressed by more than one tenant," Lazenby said. "Miami has reached the point in its evolution where more than one store can be sustained. We are adapting to the marketplace and trying to accommodate the needs of our tenants." ___


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designer Monica Pedersen can be seen regularly on programs such as "Bang for Your Buck," where she shows homeowners how to maximize their living space and beautify their homes. A well-seasoned traveler, Pedersen — who lives in the Midwest — sees the potential in taking trips to Wisconsin, as well as heading overseas for a longer vacation.

Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?

A: , Fla. It's a low-key town right next to and about 45 minutes from . It is my go-to spot when I really want to relax. Working on TV for me means being constantly surrounded by the noise of saws and drills. So a vacation with good weather, the comfort of a private home, a charged golf cart in the driveway and no pressure to look presentable is heaven!

Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A: Kohler, Wis., is definitely at the top of my list and is a place my husband and I go at least twice a year. The American Club (destinationkohler.com) is charming, the golf is spectacular and the food is mouthwatering. Another fun place to go in Wisconsin is the Osthoff Lake Resort (osthoff.com).

Q: What are your favorite hotels?

A: The Pelham Hotel (pelhamhotel.co.uk) in London has beautifully decorated rooms. The Ritz-Carlton (ritzcarlton.com/neworleans) in New Orleans is comfortable and in a great location. The Four Seasons (fourseasons.com/dublin) in Ireland treated my mom, who was very sick while we were there, like a queen. The Soho Grand Hotel (sohogrand.com) in New York for its location. The bar can be pretty fun as well.

Q: What are your favorite restaurants?

A: Il Cantinori (ilcantinori.com) is my favorite restaurant in New York. I love great Italian food! In Las Vegas, definitely the Wynn Hotel and the Bartolotta Ristorante (wynnlasvegas.com/#dining/bartolotta), which is incredible.

Q: When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A: Comfortable shoes, a variety of outerwear — like scarves, sweaters and my plaid Burberry rain poncho — BlackBerry, cheap pair of backup sunglasses, a good book and a small container of moisturizer.

Q: What are your five favorite cities?

A: San Francisco is so romantic. It's where my husband proposed to me. New York for its great energy. Napa Valley is sophisticated yet friendly and has great food and wine. I love the details in New Orleans' architecture. Charleston, S.C., is elegant and loaded with Southern charm.

Q: What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A: I talk to friends and do a ton of research online. A Web site I am working with, mastercardmarketplace.com, is a great resource for vacations.

Q: Where would you like to go that you've never visited before?

A: Buenos Aires, . I am heading there soon to shoot an episode of a show I work on called "Bang for Your Buck," and I cannot wait. I am also going to track down the balcony where Eva Peron sang "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and do my own version. I'm kidding!

For more from the reporter, visit ."I'M NOT saying I'll never be with a prostitute again. But it's hard. Parts of it are soulless and parts of it are nourishing. It's always a roll of the dice."

That's our always candid friend, , talking to Playboy magazine for July/August ("Massive Summer Double Issue" it says, directly above cover girl .)

Charlie is Charlie. Don't try to make sense of anything he says, because mostly it doesn't. And he knows it. Is it malarkey or the real deal or some wild combination of the two, which seems to be working for him. (His new show, "Anger Management" is doing well.)

Yet at least he admits to being unfair to his longtime "" co-star , in the heat of Sheen's firing. "I whaled on him unnecessarily ... he's a beautiful man and a fabulous dude and I miss him. I need to repair that relationship, and I will. I will reach out to do whatever is necessary."

As for the now-legendary tale of a suitcase full of cocaine being delivered to his house, in the midst of a wild party, Sheen insists it never happened. Nope. He was watching a Dave Chappell sketch on TV and laughed so hard it gave him a hernia. The hernia did not occur because of too much partying and illegal substances.

Look, that's his story and he's sticking to it. And even if he doesn't, it apparently won't make one bit of difference to the fans who support him.

WHICH LEADS us to the conundrum of . Tom doesn't smoke (anything) drink, or carouse with hookers. He has never assaulted a woman or been accused of such a thing. He takes care of himself, his popularity has not waned. He is still, according to Forbes magazine, the highest paid actor in the world. And yet, on the front pages of the newspapers, Tom is the devil, scaring poor so much that she has to have a ring of bodyguards surrounding her when she ventures out. What's Tom crime? He's a control freak who belongs to the mysterious and controversial Church of Scientology. OK, maybe that's not pleasant to live with, but the public seems to find his driven personality and religious/spiritual beliefs more unsavory than anything Charlie Sheen does.

I guess bad boys do, somehow, get more breaks.

As for Miss Holmes, she will be fine. She's made her point, with her bodyguard photos, and the bits of business that have slipped out; her fears for Suri, etc. Nobody is going to be kidnapped or forced to do anything they don't want to do. She's been clever. I suppose she's had to be.

Let's not forget, she knew exactly what she was getting into. It's not like Tom became a Scientologist during their marriage. There were plenty of warning signs. But Miss Holmes, apparently, was in love or lust or infatuated with his image and the attention he showered on her. And so it has come to this sorry state of affairs.

Tom? Another hit movie and people will probably go back to shrugging off his beliefs. Next time (if there is a next time) Tom should marry a nice, docile Scientology girl with whom he can share his religion.

I WAS chatting with a friend last week about how much Internet technology and computers, cellphones, iPads, etc., have taken over every part of our lives. Everything is controlled and connected it seems to one huge grid. What if everything blanked out one day, even for 24 hours? We've all become so dependant.

Well, just a day or two later, the had a story about a summer storm in Virginia that took out part of Amazon's "cloud" computing service, in which hundreds of companies store data. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, and Amazon responded pretty well, but this story gave me pause. The Times reported: "The ability to deal with failures has long been a feature of any computing system, but like much else in the cloud, there are no common standards to guide how much protection against disaster is enough."

We are so concerned about our borders on the ground. Perhaps we should spend more time with our heads in the clouds. That's where I think the real storm of apocalyptic nightmares stores its "data."

WELL, IT's beginning to look like all the fan-whining over is evaporating as "" continues to break records even before this all-important weekend. (But then these days, every weekend is "all important.") The film, which co-stars , has, as of yesterday, made more than $35 million in the United States. In Asia, the take was more than $50 million and climbing.

So he was too tall, too gawky, too British, not ? Well, whatever he is or isn't, Mr. Garfield is probably set for two more installments, and set for life financially, as well. That skin-tight Spidey suit is no fun to get into for hours on end. (And it's impossible to wear anything under it.) But in-between films, he'll be able to devote himself to more comfortable Prada, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein or Burberry. (He wears Burberry in a deep blue shade on the cover of Teen Vogue. He's paired with Miss Stone, who is supposed to be his real-life girlfriend. Well, at least until the film hits the $500 million mark.)

NOW THAT has come out, will on be as much smirky, giggling fun as it has been? Oh, you know -- Anderson's friend, comedienne , would come on and tease him relentlessly, implying, but never saying, what everybody knew.

They've got to cook up a new act.

(E-mail at .)

Shortly before Daniel Hernandez moved from L.A. to Mexico to write a book about its roiling capital, a friend gave him an order. "I don't want to see you back from Mexico City until it's physically altered you, until you are different," Hernandez was told.

The Western Hemisphere's largest metropolitan area, with about 22 million people, has its existential challenges: toxic air, epic traffic jams, "express" kidnappings. But it also can bestow transformative benefits on those willing to dive headfirst into its urban mosh pit.

Daniel Hernandez: An article in the April 28 Calendar section about author-journalist Daniel Hernandez identified Hernandez as a former Los Angeles Times staff writer. Hernandez is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer and a current staff blogger and news assistant in the Times' Mexico City bureau. —

During a recent L.A. visit, Hernandez spoke about how his adopted hometown since 2007 has altered him and how he hopes to alter others' perceptions of it with his just-published book, "Down & Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century" (Scribner).

"I think as a journalist Mexico City pushed my barometer of crazy in my life," said Hernandez, 30, a former Los Angeles Times and L.A. Weekly staff writer. "But of course sometimes it's overwhelming and you think you're going to pass out, you need a limonada. You need a run out of town."

Hernandez strives to capture that craziness with a combination of memoir, bildungsroman and an impressionistic essay-album of edgy young lives in a city that often feels perched on the precipice of chaos. Some reviewers have invoked Jack Kerouac and Bret Easton Ellis in characterizing Hernandez's first-person immersion in Mexico City's louche atmospherics. Matt Sledge of the Huffington Post wrote that "Hernandez's book tells the stories that we should know, if for no other reason than American culture is increasingly Mexican culture, as his journey makes clear."

That journey, of course, is the reverse of one that thousands of Mexicans attempt every year.

"The irony is not lost on me," writes Hernandez, who'll be appearing at this weekend's L.A. Times Festival of Books. "While millions of Mexicans are migrating northward, I go south. It is an act of rebellion. My parents, who left Tijuana and settled in San Diego in 1976, shake their heads in disapproval."

Growing up as a bilingual, bicultural U.S. citizen, Hernandez often heard horror stories about Mexico City's crime, smog and corruption. But rather than dissuade him, they aroused a desire to get to know this off-limits part of his cultural heritage.

What he found, upon arriving, was a cosmopolitan, multilayered city (pre-Columbian, colonial and modern) with a complex web of youth subcultures: emos, "anarco-punks," Condesa scenesters, rich trendy fresas from Polanco.

"I just kind of went deeper and deeper," Hernandez said. "I was adopting certain aspects of the subcultures. I realized I had to not judge anyone's music or their style or their fashions but [ask] why had they adopted it, and to pinpoint what I see as the contradictions."

, an English professor at Loyola Marymount University, said that countless young Mexican Americans have made the reverse-odyssey to their ancestral homeland over the decades, but few have written about it in long form with Hernandez's insightfulness. "Daniel is saying that the borders have to be crossed on all levels, including the self," said Martínez, author of "The Other Side: Notes From the New L.A., Mexico City, and Beyond."

The haunts Hernandez describes in "Down & Delirious" are far from the places most tourists see. He hangs out with graying Marxists at the weekly El Chopo open-air swap meet and parties till sunrise with coked-up chilango teens and twentysomethings in the bohemian Roma neighborhood. He canvases fashion shows, gets swept up in a surging mob at a soccer match and flees an Aztec temazcal (sweat lodge), "gasping for oxygen" and deeply skeptical of whether ancient rituals can act as curatives for the ills of modern life.

In surreal detail, he recounts pilgrimages to the worship halls of Mexico City's dueling spiritual icons: the beloved Virgin of Guadalupe, the country's church-sanctioned protector since she allegedly appeared to the peasant Juan Diego in 1531, and the fearsome, skeletal Santa Muerte, "Saint Death," the unofficial patron of prostitutes, crime lords and cab drivers working the graveyard shift.

Some episodes in "Down & Delirious" will ring familiar to readers of Hernandez's blog, , which has a following on both sides of the border, particularly among readers 30 and younger. (Disclosure: Hernandez and I have been casual acquaintances for many years.)

Just out of UC Berkeley, where he studied English literature, Hernandez first visited Mexico City in 2002 and stayed 10 weeks with relatives, an experience that "recalibrated" his life. Then in 2006, he was assigned by the L.A. Weekly to write a piece about Mexico's upcoming presidential election, which led to the contract for "Down & Delirious."

Laurie Ochoa, the former L.A. Weekly editor who , said that while "Down & Delirious" touches on Mexican politics and hot-button issues like immigration, its greater achievement is to personalize the phenomenon of second- and third-generation Mexican Americans reconnecting with their cultural roots. "Through his individual story, he's telling the stories of a lot of people," Ochoa said.

Although his book doesn't dwell on it, Hernandez writes with an awareness of the drug-war mayhem that has swept Mexico since late 2006 and of the toll that the country's economic and social afflictions have taken on its youth. One section deals with the curious persecution of Mexico's ambisexual "emo" youth, whose ambiguous identity aroused the wrath of other urban tribes.

Perhaps the book's most affecting chapter, "A Feathered Serpent in Burberry Shades," recounts Hernandez's adventures with his late friend, the designer and "semi-androgynous party boy" Quetzalcoatl Rangel Sanchez. "You're dealing with real histories here and real traumas and real violence and real loss," Hernandez said.

So how has his Mexico City sojourn physically changed him? Hernandez pointed to a pair of tattoos that he's acquired since living in Mexico: "La Libertad" (Spanish for "liberty") and another depicting a symbol for "speak," derived from a . "I'm a nerd, I'm a bookish Berkeley nerd," he said, "but living here has just flipped everything upside down for me."

For now, Hernandez's plan is to keep getting flipped in Mexico City and maybe inspire other young searchers — his target audience, he hopes — to do the same.

"I think it would make me most happy if it were a younger reader like that, a young reader interested in learning something about Mexico."

Dear Answer Angel: I'm a little embarrassed to ask this question. I've been using the same deodorant since I was in high school, and it has always "done the job." Now, many decades later, it isn't working. I was in a crowd the other day, and I started thinking someone near me had not taken a shower after a workout or something. And then I realized that I was the guilty party. The product I'm talking about is the "regular" red label Ban roll-on. When that changed to a green container, I stuck with the roll-on "regular" with a red label. But lately, I've been having not-so-good results. Did I change, or did the deodorant?

— Not So Fresh Anymore

Dear Not So Fresh: Your favorite Ban roll-on has changed. I asked the company and learned that it did make "relatively minor" changes in the formula. But that might not be the cause of your problem. It could be you. Ban research leader Erica Palmer says, "We are learning that as people age, they may need to switch products to compensate for physical changes in body chemistry." Palmer suggests you switch from roll-on to solid. Roll-on is gentler but "not as effective in controlling odor and wetness" as the solid, she says.

You didn't ask, but others have inquired how to remove the inevitable white deodorant streaks on your sweaters and shirts that you notice just as you're racing out the door. Easy and cheap: Rub the area with dry pantyhose (or knee-highs) or a dry Mr. Clean Eraser household cleaning pad.

Dear Angel: I have been struggling for years on my quest for a raincoat that's stylish and has a hood. All the stylish raincoats/trench coats I find lack a hood. I carry an umbrella with me on rainy days, but I would still like a hood to protect me from the humidity, not just the water. Are there any affordable waterproof, stylish raincoats/trench coats out there with a hood, or am I asking for too much?

— Mary B.

Dear Mary: In fashion (as in life), you can never ask for too much! The perfect coat — with a hood — is out there. But it will require some searching. I like to touch, feel and try on, so online shopping isn't my favorite. But it's the way to go when you're looking for something really specific, such as your perfect coat. An online search for "hooded trench coat" (or leopard rain boot or whatever esoterica is on your wish list) will turn up a ton of options. In your case, I found a high-end lemon sorbet-colored taffeta Burberry for (gulp) $1,295 () and a cute Marc New York in black jersey knit with a hidden hood, $255 at ). Also: Gallery makes cute, colorful coats with detachable hoods, including one in bright spring green for $118 at . Happy hunting.

Dear Answer Angel: Can you settle this dispute with my wife? We were in a restaurant, and the people at the next table were having a lively discussion about a movie we were about to see. We actually had just purchased the tickets — for a ridiculous $11 apiece, I might add. I asked them in a pleasant way if they'd change the subject because we were about to see the film and wanted to be surprised. They seemed OK with that. But my wife wasn't. She was mortified and says I was out of line. I say I was just protecting my investment.

— Spoiler Alert

Dear S.A.: I'm on your side. As long as you were nice about it, you're fine. And, because your dining neighbors did stop talking about the movie, they, too, must have been OK with your request. Whether the issue is free upgrades on your cell-phone contract, honoring an expired discount coupon or a change of topic at the adjacent table, I say it never hurts to ask — politely.

Dear Answer Angel: I found the perfect jacket at a consignment store. The sleeves had been altered by the previous owner and it fit me perfectly. It's clear that whoever consigned it is exactly my size. Is it possible to find more clothes from whoever my body double is? How?

— No more tailoring bills

Dear No More: Yes! Many consignment stores — such as the national chain Second Time Around () — have computer software that can track all the clothes in the store from that same seller. Even without a computer program, managers of consignment stores often know their sellers so well that if you ask (preferably keep tags and receipts with identifying numbers), they can locate all the clothes in their shop from that person.

Woof. Reacting to my advice to people complaining that their best friends' dogs leave them covered with hair, several e-mailers raved thusly: "Buy your friends a Furminator. Best dog comb ever.… It is amazing." (furminator.com)

Shop, drop, ask for help
Yearning for a friend (only better) to tell you what to choose, where to look, how to get good value? Relax, now you've got an angel on your shoulder. Send questions large and small to

Tattered, precious clothes: Can't bear to throw out your beat-up, beloved favorites? Those jeans? A baseball cap? A shredded sweater? Tell me your stories. Even send a photo! E-mail me atThe proprietor of Handbags in the City has a fashion sense that favors the classical, whether he's wearing a belted Burberry trench coat with a standup collar, lounging in a cashmere sweater or modeling a jacket lined with shearling.

And Sparky's owner, George Sakellaris, also in Burberry, doesn't look too shabby, either.

"He's a little old man, and he loves dressing up," says Sakellaris, co-owner of the store at 840 Aliceanna St., the shop where Sparky, a 13-year-old Brussels Griffon, can be found most days.

"Sparky has worn clothes ever since he was a baby; now he has two coats and about a dozen sweaters. Mostly, we dress him because he's short-haired and he gets really cold when he goes outside. If it's raining, he doesn't like to go out at all, but he minds it less if he's wearing a raincoat."

Despite the recession, Baltimore dog owners have been snatching up sweaters, coats, raingear and, yes, even booties this winter to help keep Fifi and Fido toasty and dry.

"You're talking about a passionate product for a passionate consumer, and passion overrides any economic downturn," says Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at the NPD Group, the New York-based market research organization.

"Even during the recession, where the consumer was cutting back, certain items became identified as necessary luxuries. Pet owners wanted to insulate their and cats against the recession in the same way that they wanted to isolate and protect their children."

For instance, Beth Crisman, who lives in Northwest Baltimore, can't afford designer duds for herself or her dog on what she earns as a practicing artist and part-time professor. (She teaches photography and art history at several area community colleges.)

But Crisman would no more go without sweaters in winter for Cody, her 3-year-old Boston terrier, than she would go without a coat for herself.

"Bostons don't do well with either extreme temperatures of hot or cold," she says, adding that she orders Cody's clothes either through online sites or catalogues, spending about $10 on average for a sweater.

"But he looks really cute, and he loves the attention he gets when we go for a walk. What dog wouldn't?"

Virginia Byrnes, co-owner of Dogma in Canton estimates that about 30 percent of her canine customers come into her shop wearing attire of some sort. Across town, Chris , co-owner of Pretentious Pooch in , estimates that canine apparel makes up between one-fifth and one-quarter of his winter sales.

Cohen said that boutique-style stores peaked in popularity about five years ago — or about the same time that such top labels as , and Coach decided to expand into the pet market.

Once the recession hit, many boutiques had to branch out into other dog and cat products, such as food and bowls, to remain in the black.

Baltimore is a city that places a high value on being down to earth, Woodside said, so frou-frou products that sell strongly in such cities as New York, Los Angeles or even Washington do less well here.

"People in Baltimore are definitely more practical," he says. "It became clear a year or so ago that we were either going to have to morph into selling other products or close the front door."

Still, there's practical, and then there's "practical." A sweater or coat may be a necessity for short-haired dogs such as chihauhaus, terriers or even Dobermans who walk outside when temperatures are in single digits.

And if that coat happens to be quilted, beige and made by Gucci (retail value, $280) or a striped Coach cashmere sweater ($148 and up), that doesn't make it less functional.

For instance, Cathy Brennan, an attorney who lives in Rodgers Forge in , enjoys dressing Dante, the surviving member of a pair of Boston terriers, in sweaters, a cape and bow ties.

After their two sons headed off to college, Bill and Carolyn Walter thought the time might be right to downsize. Coming from a large, single-family home in , they wanted something smaller with a strong community association to handle outdoor maintenance, and also in the same area of northern Baltimore County.

The house-hunting ended when the two came across a lovely villa for sale in the nearby community of Pebble Creek. Carolyn Walter knew instantly she wanted to move into the traditional home that connected to four others on the street, resembling a row of cottages with deeply pitched roofs and front dormers. The interior design, with meticulous attention paid to details such as two wood-burning fireplaces, wide molding and oak flooring, appealed to her taste for traditional furnishings.

In spite of herself, Carolyn Walter gushed over the great find.

"I told her, 'Don't say you love it so much when I'm trying to negotiate price,'" Bill Walter said, decidedly, but with a smile that indicated the outcome was inevitable.

The Walters, who would be the second owners of the house, paid $410,000 for a two-level, plus finished lower level, 4,000-square-foot home on approximately one-tenth of an acre.

While the home, built in 1994, was in very good condition, the Walters have made several improvements and upgrades since they moved in in 1998. During the past twelve years, the couple added new kitchen appliances, cabinets and granite countertops, hardwood flooring on the home's second level, and a deck. They had the master bathroom renovated.

The couple also added a decorator wall from the entrance to the kitchen. In keeping with the traditional aspects of the interior architecture, Carolyn Walter called upon a construction design company noted for its exquisite restoration, renovation and millwork, SouthFen Inc. to create the paneled wall over the original plain one. The raised panels, Colonial in style, are painted the same shade of eggshell found in the living and dining rooms, with the trim painted a deep shade of wheat. The sight of this angled wall, embellished with three brass sconces, upon entering the hall sets the formal tone for the rest of the home.

"We live in the kitchen and the family room that has two doors out to the deck," said Carolyn Walter.

These rooms, with walls painted a deep shade of Duron's Burberry Red, contrast in a casually elegant style with her vast collection of Delft pottery and porcelain prominently displayed in every room, on every shelf and wall and in every cabinet. From platters to large bowls, houses, urns, plates and even an umbrella stand, the delicately painted blue and white pieces perfectly accent every room's decor and wall color.

The formal elegance of the dining room is enhanced by a crystal chandelier that drops from the 23-foot ceiling. A mahogany suite of Chippendale-style furniture features a double pedestal table that will seat 12 and a china closet filled with a Royal Copenhagen service for eight.

The living room boasts one of the home's two wood-burning fireplaces, while cherry furniture and an entire wall of framed prints depicting various scenes of horse and hound hunts give the room a decidedly English country feel. The look is carried out in the second-floor hallway, where several services of silver sit atop mahogany side tables.

The second-floor bedrooms, especially the master, which is painted soft yellow, have a distinct, manor style achieved with artwork, artfully placed armchairs and benches, needlepoint pillows and rich fabrics on furniture and beds.

The finished lower level follows the same circular flow as the two above it. A library filled with hundreds of books segues to a sitting area before moving to a craft studio and finally, a separate office for Bill Walter.

The couple shares a laugh over the mention of their new home being almost as large as the one they left.

"Yes, but we're close to everything, and the community has strict covenants when it comes to exterior work," Carolyn Walter said.

"And it's maintenance-free. We lock the door and go!" her husband added.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it! Send an e-mail to .

Making the dream

Dream location: Bill and Carolyn Walter's villa home is located in Pebble Creek, a neighborhood development in Timonium. Though nestled in a wooden area, they are close to the amenities on the York Road corridor.

Dream design: The homes are painted a light khaki and cream color with wooden trim at windows and doors that feature arched transoms. Chunky stone chimneys, stone half-walls, double-car garages and sloping roofs with prominent gables contribute to the traditional design of each house in the row.

Dream element: A large, angular entrance hall presents onto a winding oak staircase that sweeps to the open hallway of the second level. The circular flow of the first floor leads to a rear kitchen and breakfast room. The layout is, Carolyn Walter says, "great for parties. Everyone is comfortable, [and] every room is used."

What is it about the British and great fashion?

Even in his death, 's exhibit drew thousands upon thousands to this year. Effects of the royal wedding are dominating a number of fashion trends for women this season. Lace, fancy hats are still huge. Tartan patterns, tweed, fur accents are a must. Peter-pan collars are regularly sported by personality and British import Alexa Chung, And British songstresses such as Adele, Duffy, and Estelle are red carpet regulars. And let us not forget style icon .

The British are here to stay. And so are browns, grays, and nudes, which will all be big colors this season. Pop colors such as red and blue will also be everywhere.

Many of these trends don't come cheap. Yes, you could head to Burberry and dress like one of their mannequins, but what is the fun in that? Be authentic and go vintage for some of those classic looks that top designers are recreating right now. Plus, doesn't it sounds so much better when you can say that a piece of clothing is vintage?

About the shoot

b teamed with CoverGirl and Towson Town Center to conduct a regional model search for this Fall fashion spread. The models: Christie Beran, Natalie Hessler, Farrah Palmer, Michael McVearry and Ramar Robinson, were chosen from more than 100 hopefuls. CoverGirl makeup products were used exclusively for the shoot.

Styling: John-John Williams IVAssistant styling: Adee Lawal and Toria TurnerHair and Makeup: Leah Sarah Bassett, T.H.E. Artist Agency

Punters have donned their tin hats and are feeling defensive today.

Riskier stocks -- including most of the mining sector -- dived to the bottom of the index with Vedanta Resources and Anglo American falling hard.

Revelations of a mining scam in India pushed Goa to place a temporary ban on mining. The state is the country's second-biggest iron ore producer and the news has hit Vedanta Resources.

Vedanta's Indian arm Sesa Goa is currently merging with Sterlite Industries and both have been hit by the ban. Vedanta lost 45p to 957.75p but experts expect the ban to not impact the business in the long term.

Anglo American, down 83.5p to 1918.25p, which is facing legal action in the High Court from African gold miners who claim that health and safety conditions have caused their lung diseases, received a downgrade today. It denies liability. Analysts at cut its price target to 1750p from 1900p.

A cautious feeling swept the City ahead of a German court's ruling on its participation in the planned European bailout.

Defensive stocks were in favour with British American Tobacco leading the FTSE 100, up 47.5p to 3171.5p.

Hopes of progress in the eurozone were crushed as a hurdle emerged in the process to sign off the 's bond-buying scheme, causing European markets to stutter.

The FTSE 100 lost 19.63 points to 5773.57.

Software giant Sage fell 1.9p to 302.45p despite being given a buy rating yesterday by Galvan Research on rumours of M&A activity. Analysts said there was "the distinct possibility that Sage could be a target of German sector peer SAP".

At the bottom of the FTSE 100, luxury fashion group Burberry found itself down 249p to 1125.5p, after a profits warning. The 18 percent fall saw this year's share price rise disappear. Its highest point this year came in April when it hit 1586p. But the fall today prompted some traders to start bottom-fishing and buy the shares.

On Aim, drug discovery company Summit has signed a technology license agreement with US based and its shares gained 0.88p to a healthy 3.38p.

Sefton Resources, the US focused oil and gas group, reported that oil production increased in the first half but it recorded a loss for the period as costs increased. The California and Kansas-focused explorer saw its shares tumble 0.24p to 1.58p. Unlike many other oil and gas explorers, Kazakhstan-focused Zhaikmunai Group has announced it will pay a dividend but its shares lost 0.46p to 9.14p.

There was a bad smell in the air for environmental technology group Aerte. It needs more cash after an order of air disinfection products, that it manufactured and delivered in May, were cancelled by the Chinese buyer.

It found itself at the bottom of the AIM index, losing more than 41 percent, down 0.24p to 0.34p.

The board said it will be "difficult to recover payment for these devices in the medium term and it is no longer expecting to receive further orders from this distributor".


(c)2012 London Evening Standard

Visit the London Evening Standard at

Distributed by MCT Information Services

"HE'S QUITE ... blessed!" says Calamity Chang, a British burlesque star who appeared with actor/leading man/hunk in some of the many nude scenes in the movie "Shame."

Fassbender is the one made a sexy reference to at the -- in case you've been under a rock.

But the actor, of German and Irish extraction, has a real claim to fame. It is in being one of the hardest-working men in international films. He has completed a 20-month spell of work where he shot six movies.

I just saw him onscreen being kicked through a door by martial arts expert Gina Carano in the perfectly silly movie "Haywire." (This is the one your teenage male offspring are so crazy about.)

WAIT FOR it! The'70s super band is about to release its first new song in 20 years. In April, their first album since 1994 will be out. It's titled "A Twinkling Star to a Passing Angel."

"" -- the hit musical based on ABBA songs -- is still seen worldwide, still making money since it opened in 1999 in London's West End.

UGGIE, the dog from the award-winning silent film "The Artist," is being retired by its trainer, Omar Von Muller. He doesn't want to put 'Uggie' through anymore long hours. Von Muller says, "He's getting tired." But does this mean the adorable Uggie won't turn up at the ? Say it isn't so.

THEY SAY only seven people turned up for actor Nicol Williamson's burial the other day. The bad boy of English theater had not worked since 1997 and had turned down some great offers in his time.

His obit describes him as a hell-raiser; one of the patron saints of bad behavior, "almost deliberately badly behaved," prone to walking offstage in mid-performance, throwing things, an exhibitionist and the last of a breed.

One of Williamson's obits by Roger Lewis refers to the actor as being possibly influenced by and method acting. This led to the story of and in "Marathon Man." To look sweaty, Hoffman ran around a football field. He was panting when Oliver remarked, "Why don't you try acting, dear boy? It's far easier."

I SEE why movie stars like don't like to give interviews. He gave one to the recently in which he cited his "depression" in the 1990s when he was coping with 'the celebrity thing.'

Depression is serious stuff. But almost everybody suffers from it occasionally. Headlines reporting his remarks make it seem he is seriously "down." But Pitt seems very happy these days. He has Oscar nods, a stimulating relationship, lots of good charity efforts and six children.

IN THESE days when the 1 percent is being excoriated, guess what? Even though the global market is shaky and buying of luxury goods is a bit shaky, LVMH is still going strong. Sales of Louis Vuitton and Loewe handbags, Krug champagne and Hennessy cognac, Tag Heuer watches, and other spirits, leather, feather and fashionable goods, including Burberry, seem to be soaring.

MICHAEL JACKSON began his showbiz career as an adorable, phenomenally gifted child. He didn't need a lot of razzmatazz to showcase his pure voice and amazing dance technique, a technique that even the great would come to admire.

But as the years rolled on, Michael ramped up the sets, the style and the strangeness. Sometimes he appeared to get lost under the "stuff," when all he really needed was to sing and dance, period. But when people pay hundreds of dollars for concert tickets, they want spectacle as well as talent. Perhaps more of the former than the latter.

And spectacle is certainly the attraction of tribute show, titled -- with typical understatement -- "Immortal." The show features all the usual Cirque bells and whistles: acrobatics, LED screens, huge balloons, animatronic recreations of Michael, and, but of course, his real image and voice, as compelling as ever.

Apparently, although the show was a huge hit in Montreal and Las Vegas, raking in more than $100 million, some consider it tasteless, overblown, exploitive, especially as the Jackson family is involved. Well, they have to be involved. The Jacksons, in tandem with , control Michael's music and likeness. While Michael was alive, the Jackson family didn't seem to be thriving, nor did their golden goose.

But now Michael is the most successful dead celebrity ever. His estate has garnered a whopping $450 million since the pop icon's tragic death almost three years ago. Michael, who loved to break records and boast of his accomplishments, would be so happy to know he's still the King of Pop, so crowned by his friend . Michael's children, Prince, Paris and will never know a day of financial need. Nor will anybody else in the family.

"Immortal" has plans to move on to London and other spots in Europe. As one newspaper review stated, "It's like a Michael Jackson tour, without Michael." But that seems to be good enough for Michael's fans.

Oh, and these fans don't care if some condemn the show as "tacky, sentimental and visually overloaded."

It's as close to the old Michael Jackson experience as those who adored him can get. They love it.

(E-mail at , or write to her c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.)

Historically, travel hasn't been fashion-friendly. No matter how you pack, your clothes are destined for Wrinkleville. And that expensive bottle of perfume in your checked bag is likely to arrive broken or not at all.

But fret not. Designers and cosmetic companies have taken note, launching mini-sized, wrinkle-free or collapsible products that help travelers stay fashionable while jet-setting.

"So many designers and companies are conscious of travel-friendly fabrics and products," said Stephanie Bradshaw, a stylist based in Cockeysville. "And cosmetics have certainly come a long way — particularly in the past few years."

Wrinkle-free clothing has been downright hideous in the past. Not anymore. Designers such as Jude Connally and Desiqual offer colorful, trendy clothes that will hold up to the bumps of travel. And you don't have to go far to find them — local boutiques have stocked up with plenty of the fashionable threads.

At Trillium, a high-end boutique in Green Spring Station, some of the best-selling items are travel-friendly, said owner Sima Blue.

"Most of my customers travel a lot," Blue said. "They go back and forth to their second homes. They travel abroad. They want to look good when they travel."

Travel-friendly selections at Trillium include wrinkle-free raincoats by Mycra Pac, cashmere ruanas by Minnie Rose and wash-and-go T-shirts by Michael Stars.

"These clothes are great because they are great on the plane," Blue said. "They are easy to pack. And they don't take up a lot of room."

Frances Burress, owner of the boutique Caviar and Cobwebs, carries Desiqual, a popular line of clothing based in Spain that happens to be wrinkle-free.

"The colors are bold and beautiful," Burress said. "They are washable, and they hold up very well."

She said the line has a distinct European feel that allows wearers to stand out in a crowd.

"They are contemporary, and they fit people," said Burress, who added that the designer has lines for men, women and children. "Their styles are for folks from 8 to 80."

Octavia II, a boutique in Cross Keys, carries Jude Connally, an American line that touts its wash-and-wear clothing.

"You can just throw them in your bag and go," said owner Betsy Wendell, who was wearing one of the designer's dresses. "They don't wrinkle. I've slept in this dress. It looked just the same when I got out of bed. They are perfect for travel."

In the past, customers would scoff at the thought of wearing wrinkle-free clothing, Wendell said. Those times have changed.

"The clothes have gotten much better," she said. "These clothes work into everyone's busy lifestyle."

Cosmetics companies have also made changes to their products, mostly as a result of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Since the Transportation Security Administration limits the amount of liquid passengers can take in their carry-on luggage, a number of companies — including cosmetics giant MAC — have launched travel-size products that meet airline regulations.

Travalo is a fairly new product that allows travelers to transport smaller amounts of perfume on airplanes. Other companies are offering new features aimed at protecting a product's pricey contents. Burberry, the luxury clothing line that also has a line of cosmetics, now offers lipstick packaged in magnetized gunmetal tubes to prevent spillage during travel.

Stylist Bradshaw likes the new offerings for cosmetics and clothing. She said the latest advances have left travelers with no excuses to look sloppy when they are on vacation.

"It's just as easy to put on a pretty dress as it is to put on your juicy sweat suits," said Bradshaw, who added that the days of T-shirts, sneakers and khaki shorts are over. "Why not chose to be pretty? Pretty is fun. It also communicates to the rest of the world how you feel about yourself."

Miles of style

Cockeysville stylist Stephanie Bradshaw suggests packing these fashionable and practical items for a trip:

Scarf: "I always carry a scarf with me when I travel," Bradshaw says. "Sometime you get cold on the plane." When you arrive at your destination, scarves are perfect to dress up an outfit. "You can put a scarf on any outfit and look chic in two seconds," she adds.

Sensible shoes: Pack the more flexible shoes, and wear the bigger shoes on the plane, Bradshaw says. She also suggests that you put any sparkly shoes in a plastic bag so that the glitter doesn't get on your clothing.

Fashionable bag with a comfortable handle: "I would like to take something a little more chic," Bradshaw says. Pick a bag with a supple, durable leather handle, according to Bradshaw. "It won't dig into your skin," she says.

A good cosmetics bag: 's eco-friendly cosmetics bag works because it's a good size for fitting everything for a weekend getaway, says Bradshaw. "It's not too big and not too small. The fact that it is fabric means that it can squish down in your travel bag."

With the holiday shopping season already under way, many of the nation's leading retailers say they plan to avoid the kind of deep, across-the-board discounts that gave last year's season an air of desperation -- and crimped profits.

Instead, many are using more subtle, under-the-radar promotions to lure shoppers this year.

Several big chains, including and Limited Brands Inc.'s Express division, are cutting back on the number of blockbuster discount events that they've relied on in past years to pack their stores.

Even , whose buy-one-get-one-free deal helped spark a frenzy of similar activity among rivals last year, insists it's changing course.

"We think that particular promotion for our store has gotten a bit stale," said , a spokesman for the New York-based chain.

Wall Street likes the new discipline.

"The trend has been to rein in harmful promotions," said Todd Slater, an analyst with Lazard in New York. This year, he said, "retailers may be prepared to leave some pockets of business on the table, which is healthy."

Better outlook

Retailers can't afford to reprise last year's disappointing holiday season, when sales of apparel, toys, electronics and other gifts rose by a modest 2.2 percent, according to the National Retail Federation in Washington. Early warning signals abounded last year: Sales actually slowed heading into the holiday season, prompting many merchants to rev up the promotional machine in earnest.

John Morris, an analyst at Harris Nesbitt Gerard who has been tallying holiday discounts for several years, said the number and severity of markdowns increased 10 percent in 2002, on top of a 15 percent rise in 2001.

This year, thanks in part to a healthier economy, retail sales are accelerating as the holidays near. And despite the better outlook, stores generally have refused to stock up on extra inventory, which means they have the luxury of being more measured in their discounting strategies.

"It is going to be a less-promotional holiday selling season," Morris said.

Still, even while they are avoiding undignified 50 percent-off signs, some retailers are encouraging their best customers to come in early with special, targeted discounts.

"I think people are tired of the all-day sale," said JoAnn Brosi, general manager for the Galleria, a mall in California. "When they're on a mailing list and they're asked to be part of a small promotion, it makes them feel special."

Invitation-only sales

Sharon Chortek, a Dallas-based TV producer, has a stack of special pre-holiday promotions she's received in the mail over the past three weeks. Each come-on has a little different twist.

One, from -- a top-tier Texas mall anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and -- offers a $25 to $50 gift check to any number of Galleria specialty stores, including , Coach and Cartier.

To qualify, shoppers need to spend $200 at the mall. The promotion, which began Nov. 7, runs until supplies last -- a "big incentive to get there early," Chortek said.

Last week, Chortek was invited to the special three-hour sale at called Private Night, offering 25 percent to 40 percent off on such merchandise and products as Burberry, which rarely go on sale.

Things just keep getting sexier along Stevens Creek Boulevard.

To the north, diamonds and pearls shimmer at the newly expanded Tiffany & Co. inside a Westfield Valley Fair mall that's gone gaga for glitz.

To the south, 10-year-old Santana Row is bursting with new retail, residential and office projects. There's a new lingerie line at the beefed-up H&M opening this week, a hipper-than-thou Italian coffee joint coming soon, and a high-end rental complex called Misora -- which, for those of you not fluent in Japanese, means "beautiful sky."

With the dawning of Valley Fair's and Santana Row's "resort-style" rental apartments packed with status-hungry scenesters, the Stevens Creek corridor near Interstate 880 may well start calling itself the South Bay's Champs-Elysees. And its denizens and visitors are both fueling and feasting upon the region's ever brightening business climate.

"With the Silicon Valley economy coming around, especially in tech, you've now got 20-year-old entrepreneurs in flip-flops buying Cartier watches," said Valley Fair senior general manager Gavin Farnam, standing near the high-end jeweler, just one in a cavalcade of top-drawer stores settling into the mall's luxury lane. "And it's not just luxury items, but everything. We're at our highest sales level now in the history of the mall."

This bifurcated boom could cause whiplash for passing motorists. With dozens of projects under way at both

sites, a tale of two malls is unfolding to the sound of jackhammers and ringing cash registers.

"This retail expansion is another indicator of the jobs and wage growth helping Silicon Valley lead the rest of the nation out of the recession," said Steve Levy with the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto. "And for companies like Apple (AAPL) and (GOOG), employees are seeing their stock worth more, too, so it's kind of a perfect storm, at least within the tech world. People in the valley have more to spend, and that's spilling over into retail."

Santana Row seems to be firing on all pistons as it celebrates its 10-year anniversary next month. Despite initial criticism that the upscale retail-residential complex would suck the life out of downtown San Jose, and naysayers who questioned whether the European-style village concept would ever work, the project now claims design awards and traffic numbers that would make

any shopping mall green with envy.

"It took people a while to sort of get this place," said Collette Navarrette, spokeswoman for the mall's publicly traded owner, . "It was a whole new concept when it opened in 2002 with just 35 tenants and no office space. Ten years later, we have 100 merchants, 403 rental homes and 219 condos, as well as 115,000 square feet of office space."

As Santana Row's residential occupancy rates push 100 percent, Silicon Valley's boom is reflected in real time inside the erstwhile Borders on the faux village's faux main street. This week, the popular Swedish clothing retailer H&M formally moves a few hundred feet down the Row into the closed book store, tripling in size to 27,000 square feet and adding new lingerie, maternity and children's sections.

Lifestyle is the Row's middle name. And with a boutique hotel, spas, wine bars and enough luxury retail to satisfy the most discerning shopaholic, its owners are planning yet another phase of the expansion: They're planning to build a 220,000-square-foot office tower, then fill it with employees who can tap into the smorgasbord that surrounds them. Federal Realty's West Coast president, Jeff Berkes, said the tower is part of the economic evolution under way in the region.

"San Francisco and Silicon Valley are leading the United States through its economic recovery," Berkes said. "We started to see that first in 2009 in the performance of the Hotel Valencia and our restaurants, followed by the occupancy levels and rents we've been able to get for our apartments. Then we saw it in retail. And these are all signs of the confidence people have in the local economy."

While it pretties itself up with new paint, a beefed-up valet station, and even plusher seating in its common areas, Valley Fair is welcoming a roster of luxury stores to a mall that has seen double-digit sales growth every month this year. Along with Cartier, a new Burberry, TAG Heuer and Wolford are joining the family.

With business booming on both sides of the boulevard, the two malls say the synergy between them serves both well.

"Anytime you have retail nearby, it's competition," Farnam said. "But when you have that lifestyle component like you've got at Santana Row, with residential and offices, that brings more people to the area and helps all of us."

Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689. Follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc.

A Tale of Two Malls

Westfield Valley Fair

Spring merchandise has officially hit the stores, and one trend should be immediately noticeable: bright colors. They were everywhere on the spring-summer 2011 runways, including at the show, where candy colors managed to look minimal when shown with crisp white shirts or layered with sleek black coats, and at and Burberry, where various tones of shocking aqua and cobalt were paired for a cool (and somehow punchy) look. Color blocking, as seen on the runway, is another major trend.

Other designer and contemporary brands explored the color wheel as well. "For spring we bought a lot of color, from acid pinks to orange-red to cobalt blue to tangerine," says Jeannie Lee, owner of 3rd Street's Satine Boutique, which stocks lines from designers including , , and .

Retailer Hillary Rush, who owns her eponymous boutique, also on 3rd Street, has already starting seeing the color craze take effect with customers. " The oversized raglan shirt from Monrow has totally sold out in the hibiscus color," a coral-orange Rush says. "When a bright color like that sells out before the black or white, it's always a statement that people are wearing color that season."

On the other end of the spectrum, shoppers are likely to encounter lots of white. The natural, yet luxe look of an all-white ensemble (which also works in winter, but is a lot more practical in the warmer months) looked fresh in the runway collections of , and .

is also turning out a number of white items, from easy button-downs to wide leg trousers, all in shades of white and off-white and in stores this summer. And there's no shortage of white jeans, which are showing up in the spring and summer lines of J Brand, MIH and 7 for All Mankind.

Shoppers may also notice a '60s and '70s aesthetic dictating the shape of denim this season.

"Denim flares are really hot," says Caprice C. Willard, vice president-regional planning manager for Macys, where brands such as and Levi's have incorporated the style. Flared and wide-leg jeans are also big sellers on the boutique level; Satine's Lee says wide-leg jeans have been flying off the shelves.

On spring-summer 2011 runways such as 's, models wore wide-leg jeans with tucked-in white button-downs and chic wedge sandals. On the street we're bound to see a more relaxed version of the look, with women wearing bell bottom-style jeans with T-shirts and sandals or perhaps flared jeans with a tucked-in tank top and a blazer for evening.

The other denim trend for spring is a gamine, '60s crop. The pant leg ends at least 2 inches above the ankle. The jeans look great with ballet flats or a low-mid wedge sandal.

The '70s vibe also includes versions of the maxi-length skirt and dress. Floor-grazing styles were featured in the collections of and Jil Sander and are showing up in stores such as the Gap, and Club Monaco.

"The maxi-dress is really important this season and we are seeing a resurgence with it," Willard says. "The maxi length actually stays important in Southern California all year long."

Holiday travel is right around the corner, and you probably already dread some of the beauty pitfalls.

Try to breeze through airport security with regular-size beauty products and you may find yourself pulled to the side of the line, in your stocking feet, subjected to a close, personal relationship with the worker giving you a full-body scan with a security wand. Travel by ship, train or car, and loose makeup in your purse can cause a gooey, gunky mess. A lipstick top falls off, an eye shadow shatters and you are left not only with a soiled handbag but often with ruined cosmetics too.

But organization can turn holiday travel from frenzied to fabulous. A good makeup bag can help, and for everyday use, buy one that's easy to clean. During the holidays, many cosmetic companies include a makeup bag as a seasonal beauty promotion bonus, so whether you go with one of our selections below or receive one with a purchase, this is the time to find a better way to stow your toiletries.

Carry on

If you're traveling by air, the first question is whether to carry on or check your cosmetics. First, get acquainted with the Transportation Security Administration's 3-1-1 : liquids, aerosols and gels must be in containers no bigger than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) enclosed in a 1-quart clear plastic zip-top bag, with one bag allowed per person. (It's OK — and a good idea — to carry extra 1-quart plastic bags in your purse for emergencies).

There are many 3-1-1 carry-on kits, but make sure yours comes with bottles that close properly and are made so that the product can be squeezed out readily. The Container Store sells a 3-1-1 Travel Pack ($7.99) that includes a clear 1-quart bag; three wide-mouth, BPA-free 3-ounce bottles, a pump, a mister, one 2-ounce jar, a pill case and labels. They also sell tiny Nalgene leak-proof jars and bottles at about $1.50 each. Bring a sleep/eye mask for beauty sleep.

Check in

If you decide to check your beauty bounty in your luggage, make sure the tops on all liquid products close tightly to avoid shampoo or foundation spills all over your clothes. Squeeze out any excess air in plastic bottles. And double wrap your toiletry-makeup bag in something waterproof for extra protection. Tiny hotel toiletry amenities, perfume samples and store-bought beauty minis are terrific for short-trip travel.

Packable options include the Household Essentials Nylon Hanging Cosmetics-Bag, which folds to fit in a suitcase and is made of easy-clean PVC microfiber with a waterproof vinyl lining ($22.99, ). Baggallini, founded in 1995 by two veteran flight attendants, makes a water-resistant Ripstop Nylon Cosmetic Bag with a detachable bottom pocket for everyday use ($29, Baggallini.com). The hang-able Emilie Sloan Paige Glam Roll ($35, Emiliesloan.com) is a pretty choice made of waterproof fabric in a variety of patterns. It's also a good choice for home use if you're short on space.

On the case

Good train case options include Sephora Midnight or Metro Train Cases ($92, Sephora.com), Makeup Creation Pro Series Makeup Case ($99.95, Makeupcreations.com) and Bobbie Brown's über-chic Limited Edition Deluxe Travel Kit with a detachable makeup bag ($115, Bobbibrowncosmetics.com). Flight001.com has travel-friendly makeup bags and Pacsafe.com sells the StowSafe Toiletry Bag, which has a secret pocket, tamper-proof zippers and what it says is a TSA-certified padlock to secure expensive face creams and perfume ($39.99).

The bright side

A colorful makeup bag is easier to spot in the deep dark well otherwise known as the interior of your handbag, especially with today's extra-large purses. Sportsac and Stephanie Johnson bags allow you to mix and match designs and makeup bag sizes. Examples include the Stephanie Johnson Bollywood Pink Medium Flat Pouch ($26, Stephaniejohnson.com) and SJ Creations Sparkling Snakeskin Orange Pencil Case Cosmetic Bag ($11.99 Ulta.com). Marc Jacobs and Rebecca Minkoff have a few nice, bright cosmetic bags as well.


Whether your predilections lean toward watercolors, folk art or works by John Singer Sargent or Modigliani, some cosmetic cases prime the painterly mood. A few choices: Toss Designs Medallion Set of 3 Cosmetic Bags ($30, Tossdesigns.com); ProjectArt Peacocks Rounded Cosmetic Case — it comes with a matching mini-mirror ($48, Endless.com); and Painterly Clutch — Blue Motif by Stephanie Johnson ($32, Anthropologie.com).


The tried and true — not trendy — seduces you. You might go for the Haymarket Check Cosmetic Case in chocolate ($198, Us.burberry.com); Lantern Red Cole Haan Cosmetic Case ($68, Colehaan.com); or Kate Spade Foiled Again Large Black Pouch ($75, Katespade.com). MAC's signature Medium Softsac makeup bag is also a terrific, basic everyday option and is fully washable ($28, Maccosmetics.com).


When it comes to cleaning, these may not be the most practical makeup bags, but they add holiday sparkle or can double as a festive evening clutch. Try the Tory Burch Mirrored Crinkle Small Cosmetic Case with metallic foil finish ($95, Toryburch.com), or Madrid Greta Medium Cosmetic Bag ($38, Stephaniejohnson.com). Bottega Veneta offers the stylish but pricey leather Nero Intrecciato Nappa Cosmetic Case/Clutch ($900, Bottegaveneta.com). Less expensive metallic options include Sephora Havana and Silver makeup bags ($7 and $18, Sephora.com) and Spiegel.com's Relaxed Glamour Signature Cosmetic Bags starting at $5 with a $10 purchase.

It was who made me a foreign correspondent.

Before she turned up, my newspaper career had consisted of listening to Baltimore policemen reminisce about great hangings and covering bush-league statesmen deploring the state of the world.

I had also covered night rewrite: stickups, accidents, floods, fires, murders, from supper time to 2 in the morning. It wasn't a dead-end job, but neither was there a lot to look forward to except retirement after 40 years of good behavior.

When the queen assignment came, I was 27 years old. Like all young reporters — brilliant or hopelessly incompetent — I dreamed of the glamorous life of the foreign correspondent: prowling Vienna in a Burberry trench coat, speaking a dozen languages to dangerous women, narrowly escaping Sardinian bandits — the usual stuff that newspaper dreams are made of.

For this reason I did not say "No" when one of The Sun's more godlike editors invited me to an elegant restaurant for a gin-soaked lunch late in the autumn of 1952 and asked, as the third round of drinks approached, whether I would like to be the paper's next correspondent.

It was the most extraordinary question ever addressed to me, and I let it bounce round and round in my skull to make sure I had heard it correctly:

Would I like to be the next London correspondent? That was what he said. He was offering me the job of London correspondent!

Even under a heavy load of gin, it was possible to feel the earth move. Life was not going to be the same ever again.

His conversation shifted immediately into discussion of how to cover a coronation, a subject of negligible concern to me until that instant, when it became clear that the pending coronation of an English queen was the cause of my rise to glory.

The new queen was 27 years old. (I was, and still am, only eight months older.) I thought sending an innocent, ignorant youth to London suggested a management decision to match the tone of the coverage to the youthful spirit of the occasion.

On the strength of this probably absurd conjecture, I guessed that that the paper wanted more impertinence than it usually got from the London bureau. From the outset, I decided to produce stories more likely to entertain Baltimoreans than the usual London bureau articles about diplomacy and decline of the pound sterling.

Serious journalism need not be solemn. And so I came to London determined to keep the coverage unsolemn. It would include a look at pop-culture stars such as Danny LaRue, a female impersonator with a vast middle-class family following, and , an American pop singer who made audiences fill the London Palladium with screams of delight as he wept and wailed about a little white cloud that cried.

The Sun was also present for 's first London revival and for the heroic display in Edinburgh of the largest assortment of Scotch malt whisky ever assembled. Its correspondent checked out Manx cats at a convention on the Isle of Man and traveled to a frigid Scottish town on the Irish Sea to inspect a decaying estate inherited, along with a knighthood, by a Maryland farmer.

Movie stars, kings, sheiks, chiefs, war heroes, newspaper columnists and Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro the Elder appeared in the cables to Baltimore, along with Prince of Japan, the queen of Tonga and an embalmed whale that was attracting a big, paying audience to a London street corner.

Despite the heavy file of good-time coverage, the normal meat-and-potatoes diet of political and diplomatic stories did not much decline. There were frequent visits to the House of Commons, where was prime minister again, and I never missed one of Foreign Minister Anthony Eden's briefings for American correspondents, though everybody knew they were a waste of time.

I saw a consummate piece of Churchill's theatrical oratory at a party political conference in which he succeeded in persuading Conservatives that he was still capable of serving as prime minister in spite of a stroke suffered a few months earlier.

Reporting the actual ceremony of Elizabeth's coronation, which was the fundamental reason I had been sent from the rewrite desk to the north transept of , was perhaps the least interesting aspect of the assignment. Nowadays a coronation would be reported as just another television spectacle from London, where they do spectacle so well. Sending a print reporter to England would be absurd.

In 1953, with no satellites to bring the show instantly into American living rooms, the TV networks could only fly their pictures across the Atlantic for showing next day. It was almost surely the last time a print correspondent would struggle with words to give the public an inadequate impression of a show too gaudy for anything but television's best high-def cameras.

Russell Baker is a retired journalist whose books include "Growing Up," "The Good Times" and "Looking Back." He worked for The Sun from 1947 through 1954 as a local reporter, London correspondent and reporter.Part 2 in a series of occasional articles.

In the music video for hit single " the pop diva vamps across several nightmarish tableaux wearing a variety of barely there lingerie get-ups. The flashy clip caused a sensation when it debuted in November and has racked up 85 million views on . ¶ But perhaps its most striking aspect is the unabashed product placement -- conspicuous visual shout-outs to Nemiroff vodka, , Burberry and other brands. ¶ Back in the proverbial day -- say, the era, punk rock's '70s heyday, the slacker-era '90s -- a song was a song and a jingle was a jingle and rarely the twain did meet. But now, with CD sales in free fall and opportunities for radio or television airplay increasingly rare, the rules governing the interplay between and advertising are being rewritten.

It's no longer possible to "sell out" -- at least, not within a certain time-cherished understanding of the term. Rockers, rappers and up-and-coming pop titans of all stripes are licensing music and image as an integral part of brand-building, which largely has usurped selling music and concert tickets as many musicians' professional end goal.

Consider 's smash hit "Forever," which cracked the Top 10 in seven countries in 2008 (before his career-derailing assault on ) and went double platinum. At the start of the song's video, Brown is shown sliding a piece of gum into his mouth before heading out for a night on the town. On "Forever's" chorus, he croons: " 'Cause we only got one night / Double your pleasure, double your fun." Turns out the song was commissioned by Wrigley to promote -- you guessed it -- Doublemint gum. Three months after releasing the single, the chewing gum conglomerate aired its "reveal": a TV commercial version of "Forever" featuring Brown singing about gum and dancing with a pack of Doublemint.

The spot generated outcry among music purists, but marketers greeted the spots with awe. "When the reveal happened, some people got upset," recalled Steve Stoute, founder of the firm Translation Consultation & Brand Imaging. "But the number of spins went up and Doublemint went up in awareness."

Stoute, who was behind "Forever," also is responsible for 's "I'm Lovin' It" spots for as well as Beyoncé's endorsement deal for 's True Star perfume and the career game plan to treat "like a brand" in her own right.

"Using entertainment assets to introduce products is a platform that needed to get exploited," said Stoute, a former executive vice president of Interscope Records. "The lines needed to be blurred. When done correctly, there's consumer acceptance."

Stoute said his marketing company gets several calls a week from "major artists" in pursuit of their own "Forever." It's not selling out, he argues, if there's an authentic relationship between the music and the product being hawked. "Marketing isn't successful if the consumer feels he or she is being sold something," Stoute said.

Personal favorite products

's most recent CD, "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," was accompanied by a 34-page mini-magazine bearing the R&B diva's image and emblazoned with an Elle magazine logo. It's a co-production between Carey's label Island Def Jam Music Group and Elle that features such brands as Angel Champagne, Elizabeth Arden and the Bahamas Board of Tourism intermingled with lighter-than-air Mariah-based editorial featurettes: "VIP access to her sexy love life," "Fantasy: the five-time Grammy winner goes behind the scenes of her new drama."

Carey pointed out she is personally or commercially invested in everything advertised.

"Angel Champagne, I guess I'm part owner. The Bahamas, we have a house down there," Carey explained, between bites of caviar at the Polo Lounge. "It all has to do with things that are organic to me. And honestly? I'm a big kid. I thought it would be cute."

Island Def Jam is exploring similar branded CD booklet deals for artists including , Rihanna and .

It all makes rollicking 1967 concept album "The Who Sell Out" -- which featured faux commercials and cover art depicting band members shilling for deodorant and baked beans -- appear prescient. (In further irony, the Who's epochal 1965 single "My Generation" is currently featured in a commercial for Flo TV.)

Scott Lipps, owner and founder of the New York modeling agency One Management, recalls a time not long ago when indie rock acts would sooner pack in their skinny jeans than appear in fashion ads. But now, Lipps has augmented the success of his agency (which represents such A-list glamazons as and ) with its offshoot One (M), dedicated to help place rock and pop stars in precisely such commercial environments. Among them: Alison Mosshart of the Kills and Dave Gahan of , who were featured in ads for the fashion line J. Lindeberg, and the New York pop-rock band the Virgins, who were photographed for a Tommy Hilfiger campaign.

"People's views on endorsements, doing magazine stuff -- any way to reach fans -- it's all changed. It's not taboo anymore," Lipps said.

Lipps, formerly drummer for '80s rock group Black Cherry, remains attentive to the alliance of brand and band. "I'm never going to ask a very cool band to do business with a brand that they would never associate with," said Lipps. "It's about finding that right fit."

After the rock quartet OK Go broke into mainstream consciousness with the homemade video for its 2006 single " (featuring the band members performing a synchronized routine on exercise treadmills), they were bombarded with offers to re-create the sequence for TV commercials. The group developed what frontman Damian Kulash calls OK Go's "hell-no criterion": "If it's a product we feel is demeaning or that cannibalizes the meaning or artistry of our song," he explained.

Still, the band has remained receptive to overtures from corporate America. Last year, the musicians appeared in print ads and billboards for Banana Republic -- its spring fashion line campaign that also included such artists as , Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba and Sara Bareilles -- attired in natty suits, playing their instruments. "The recording industry has so entirely bottomed out, advertising is one of the only distribution methods that still works," Kulash said after returning from Japan, where he did a photo shoot for the fashion brand Uniqlo. "The music side has a deep ambivalence. It's a pretty major paradigm shift that requires a rethinking of how we see what we do."

He added: "I wish we never had to get in bed with that stuff. It doesn't feel particularly good to wear the marketing hat. But our record label isn't paying to put up billboards across the country."

It's become fashionable

Fashion designer John Varvatos faced a similar reluctance when he approached about appearing in print ads and billboards for his streetwise clothing line in 2005. But after convincing the alt-country singer-songwriter that there would be "nothing fakey about him appearing in the clothes," Varvatos went on to land , members of Velvet Revolver and , Perry Ferrell of and 's for subsequent ads.

Varvatos said attitudes toward commodifying stardom have changed.

"I was besieged by people wanting to hook up with us," Varvatos said. "There are a lot of people coming after us now. It's almost the opposite problem now. We have to filter out."

The designer was quick to dispel the notion, however, that the performers in his ads were selling out their images in return for some hefty payday. "We don't pay the artists much of anything," Varvatos added. "They've got to really want to do this."

Katie Vogel certainly has no regrets over her decision to star in Sprite's online series "Green Eyed World," a digital marketing push that aired last year. The series used YouTube clips, social networking interfaces and the promotion of soda to help the London native launch her career; she brandishes a Sprite-green guitar in the clips and at times people around her are seen quenching their thirst with a certain lemon-lime-flavored refreshment. Asked if she was concerned that the association with the brand might limit her career prospects, Vogel, who now goes by the professional moniker Katie V., insisted there were no downsides.

"My music, it's being heard," Vogel said. "Even if one person says, 'She's the Sprite singer,' they've heard my music. So I'm happy either way."

The following is compiled from police reports from the Towson and Cockeysville precincts. Our policy is to include descriptions when there is enough information to make identification possible.


Sunnylake Place, between 9 p.m. Dec. 23 and 10 a.m. Dec. 24. Coins stolen from laundry room machines.

Bridgelake Circle, unit block, between 2:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and 1 p.m. Dec. 23; and also between 7:30 a.m. and 4:50 p.m. Dec. 23. Coins stolen from two laundry room machines. Coin slots destroyed.

York Road, 13800 block, at 10:33 a.m. Dec. 23. Two men entered PNC Bank branch, threatened with a gun and took cash. They left in gray Chevrolet Suburban.

Northpark Drive, unit block, between 7 p.m. Dec. 21 and 8 a.m. Dec. 22. Two laptops stolen from Pollard & Associates. Rear window pried open.

York Road, 1600 block, between 3 p.m. Dec. 16 and 11 a.m. Dec. 19. Cookies and cheese stolen from office. Door opened by reaching through mail slot.

Valley Lake Place, unit block, between 12:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 19. Several items moved around but nothing missing.

Cranbrook Hills Place, 10400 block, between 3 p.m. Dec. 13 and 3:20 p.m. Dec. 17. Coins stolen from laundry room machines.

York Road, 1200 block, between 5:30 p.m. Dec. 23 and 9:20 a.m. Dec. 24, two offices broken into. Cash stolen from office of Dr. Jun Park, DDS. Front door pried open. Cash stolen from Dr. Michael Sherlock. Entry through boiler room wall.


Blair Hill Lane, 6300 block, between 6 p.m. Dec. 20 and 2:15 a.m. Dec. 21. Glass in side rear door and office door destroyed in building. Unclear whether anything was stolen.

Overbrook Road, 400 block, 2:54 p.m. Dec. 20. Two men stole two UPS packages containing two Playstation 3 games, two cookie presses, a camera and a camera bag. Men left in teal Dodge Intrepid with temporary tags.

Hopkins Road, 400 block, between 9 a.m. Dec. 17 and 6:15 a.m. Dec 20. Two copper rain spouts stolen from house.

East Joppa Road, 1400 block, between 5 p.m. Dec. 15 and 8:21 a.m. Dec. 19. Two air conditioning units stolen from behind building.

Southerly Road, 900 block, between Dec. 7 and 5 p.m. Dec. 21. Cell phone, tools and loose change stolen from apartment.

Southerly Road, 900 block between Nov. 23 and Dec. 8. Safe containing money, topaz earrings, a Burberry watch, Bulgari sunglasses, and Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses stolen from apartment. No sign of forced entry.

Hampton Lane, 500 block, at 12:21 a.m. Dec. 17. Anonymous called said somebody was stealing rain gutters from Towson United Methodist Church. Police caught and arrested Timothy Poole, 20, from . He had ripped off 75 feet of copper downspouts.

Valewood Court, 1100 block, between 6:30 p.m. Dec. 21 and noon Dec. 22. Christmas wreath stolen from front door.

If you have information about any of these crimes, call the Towson Precinct at 410-887-2361.

If you shop at the at , you've probably noticed the plastic hanging up in the shoe department and the smell of paint lingering in the air at times.

They're all signs of major remodeling taking place at the department store.

When the upgrades are completed in September the store will get an extended kids and intimates section and new brands in the shoe department, among other enhancements.

The store is one of the better performing in the Macy's chain and has been identified by the corporate office as an "extreme growth" location, said Macy's divisional vice president Mike Trafford.

Hence, all the extra TLC the department store is getting.

The retailer is also trying to keep up with recent enhancements at Towson Town Center, including the addition of a luxury wing with stores such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Tiffany's, Trafford said.

The improvements will include new carpeting in 75 percent of the store andoverhauled fitting rooms. Brighter lighting will be added to the cosmetics section, which is also the core of the store.

Children's will move from the second floor to the lower level where it will have more space and more of a selection. The intimates section will also be expanded.

Macy's will also offer more brands as part of the overall enhancement, although Trafford said the store is still working out the details. He'll let us know more in September, he said.

So, the renovations may make shopping a little awkward for now. But be patient because Macy's promises a better shopping experience in the fall.

Trafford said there are no immediate plans for upgrades at any of the others Macy's in the region.

Say "so long" to short skirts and hello (again) to the 1970s. Get ready to banish black from your wardrobe and get creative with color.

Now that the spring runway shows are over in New York, Milan and Paris, it's up to department store fashion directors and boutique owners to package the big ideas. Chanel's garden party, Balenciaga's punk brigade and Marc Jacobs' 1970s show were all memorable on the runways, but will they make it to store racks?

Here, retailers offer their takeaways from the season, and ideas about how the trends might trickle down to you.

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director,

Big idea: The vintage effect, fueled by the major YSL retrospective exhibition that just closed in August in Paris. On the runway, designers nodded to Saint Laurent's rich peasant look, Orientalism and "le smoking" [his signature tuxedo].

Must haves: Fluid, sheer fabrics and longer hemlines (just above the ankle or to the floor) as we saw at Lanvin, and wide-leg trousers and a white pantsuit with Bianca Jagger swagger. The tuxedo jacket, it's not just evening wear anymore. For accessories, it's all about flat sandals because as a woman begins to add longer hemlines to her wardrobe, flat sandals work best with the new proportion.

I'm also loving what I'm calling the "Helmut language" [a reference to Helmut Lang's utilitarian designs from the early 1990s], and the idea of adding a sporty attitude to dressed-up clothing using color-blocking, buckles, straps or parachute fabrics.

Will punk take to the streets? Not now. We just cycled through a moment when the 1980s were really influential, along with strong shoulders, so punk doesn't look new to me. But where it ends up, we'll have to watch the runways to find out.

Colleen Sherin, fashion market director, Saks Fifth Avenue

Big idea: The color story. Bold, bright, vibrant color worked into color-blocked effects and combining colors in unexpected ways.

Must haves: A longer-length skirt or dress as seen at and Proenza Schouler in New York, D&G and Fendi in Milan and Chanel in Paris. Open-weave knitwear in natural white, ivory or beige crochet, macramé, mesh or fishnet, as seen at Rag & Bone, Alexander Wang, for Tse, Alberta Ferretti and Celine. And a crisp poplin shirt. We saw it with slouchy wide-leg trousers and skirts for a pared-down look. We also saw it as a play on masculine and feminine at Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and Celine. A trench coat looks great with a longer hemline peeking out. I love the sheer organza ones at Phillip Lim and Christian Cota, and the matte python trench at Emilio Pucci.

In terms of accessories, fringe is everywhere — on handbags, jewelry and scarves. A shoulder or flap bag is key because it fits into the 1970s trend, as does a pair of platform wedges.

Will punk take to the streets? Not in a big way. We've done that trend recently with leathers and studs and grommets, and not enough time has passed to go back. But it may be something we will touch on in our contemporary department.

Stephanie Solomon, fashion director,

Big idea: Color and print. And this is a serious shift because we've been in love with black for so long.

Must haves: A dress or skirt with a hemline hovering around the knees or below. In New York, Alexander Wang, Diane von Furstenberg, Derek Lam, Marc Jacobs, and Rebecca Taylor all had great longer lengths. In Milan, we saw it at Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Jil Sander and Roberto Cavalli. Sometimes these longer skirts have asymmetrical hems or slits, which we saw at Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin and Stella McCartney.

It sounds like a myth that hemlines matter, but they do because when you go longer, you have to change your shoes and you have to change your coat. You need flat, wedge or platform sandals. And the long trench coat is chicest with this length. I'm also liking boyfriend jackets over longer skirts.

Will punk take to the streets? In a way. You have to have the rock 'n' roll element, otherwise it would get too boring. I would take a studded leather jacket, something that looks worn and torn and ragged from Burberry Prorsum or Givenchy, and put it over a really frothy feminine dress like we saw at Dior. That dichotomy looks right. Or you can be a punk one day and a virgin the next!

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Another sign of how dependent the world is on China is that nearly one third of luxury shoppers in London are Chinese tourists.

Chinese tourists account for 30 percent of the luxury goods market in England, CBRE tells the . They are followed by Russians, Arabs and Japanese, with British making up only 15 percent of the market.

You may noticed the same trend if you go shopping in New York.

While austerity-stricken Brits can't afford Gucci and Burberry, Chinese has been flooded with money. Shopping abroad Chinese can avoid the high taxes on luxury goods imposed by Beijing.

High-end stores have started hiring Mandarin speakers to handle the new market, according to the Mail.

Don't Miss:

If you're wondering why would pay $1 billion for (a company that has no revenue) even though Facebook already has a popular photo-sharing app, the answer is that it's all about advertising revenue.

We chatted with Simon Mansell, CEO of , a company that sells and manages advertising on Facebook. He gave us these insights into how Facebook might make money from its money-losing deal:

1. People can follow and Like brands on Instagram the same way they do on Facebook. Instagram is one of the few social media where people voluntarily subscribe to brands such as . Brand Pages are enormously important to Facebook, as they're the bedrock and entry-level offering for most advertisers. Adweek adds:

About a dozen brands, including , are already integrating their Instagram accounts with their Facebook pages through a product released by social media marketing company Vitrue last month. The so-called "tab module" allows brands to import their stream of Instagram pictures directly into their photo-friendly Facebook Timelines.

2. It allows Facebook to copy . for its promoted tweets, which appear in users' tweet streams even if they don't subscribe to those brands. Instagram will allow Facebook to insert promoted or sponsored posts into Instagram users' photo streams. "Currently, if people you follow on Instagram like stuff you are not following you would NOT see that they liked this," Mansell says. Facebook could change that so that anything you like appears to your followers that it came from the original source—the advertiser, in this case. If Facebook allowed promoted photos, "people wouldn't think it was weird as they would have started seeing stuff from brands they are not following already."

3. It keeps people addicted to photos on Facebook, and Facebook makes money by selling ads next to users' photo albums. A huge part of Facebook's stickiness revolves around photos. Who wants to leave the site that contains years' worth of family snaps? Instagram was proving so popular that it threatened that photo storage stickiness. Mansell believes this is why Facebook paid $1 billion to acquire the company even though it has no revenue: "Even if it's just 100th of a threat, and they [Facebook] pay 100th of their value, then it kind of makes sense."

4. It hurts Twitter and with a single blow. Instagram currently uses the Foursquare's API—the sign-in thingy, in non-nerd-speak—for access and location. Mansell believes Facebook will switch that to Facebook's API. That immediately renders Foursquare less relevant. With Facebook/Instagram users continuing to post Instagram pics on Twitter, the new company will now throw off a stream of data about how far its photos reach inside the Twitter environment. That's data Facebook didn't previously have on the micro-blog company. "This gives them more info on whether they're losing market share to Twitter, that's my theory."

5. It helps Facebook gain local advertisers. "The Instagram/Facebook API creates a lot of location data linked to the identity information Facebook holds, and thus creates new opportunities on the site for advertisers on Facebook to target against. This could be especially interesting for local businesses for example," Mansell says. "They can get more cupcake companies and local retailers advertising on Facebook, and that will be a huge market."

See Also:

Singer Adele is in talks to design a plus-sized collection for luxury brand Burberry, according to a .

She was reportedly approached by creative director Christopher Bailey about designing a line for "voluptuous" customers, wrote reporter Sarah Karmali.

As far as we can tell, she would be the brand's first plus-sized spokesmodel.

Luxury fashion houses have notoriously eschewed plus-sized customers, even as the global population gets bigger.

Burberry's past spokesmodels have included lithe actresses and models like Emma , Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Agyness Deyn.

But despite the fashion world's obsession with skinny young people, the people who can afford to buy Burberry and other luxury brands are older—and probably bigger—than the women they're hiring to advertise the brand.

Burberry has fallen on tough times recently, on macroeconomic uncertainty.

It's possible that catering to a major segment of the population will provide Burberry with the boost it desperately needs.

Will other luxury brands follow suit? Time will tell.



Slimy Slinky Winfield aka Slinky Sunbeam left Adele... for a Burberry model.

After the world wondered who the wretched fellow was who broke the beloved Adele's heart so badly that she later won six Grammy awards singing about it, has uncovered the now notorious man who "could have had it all."

Meet Slinky, the singer/actor who hails from a faded seaside resort town in England and is described by friends as a "popular guy, the life and soul of the party."

"He’s a seriously good-looking guy. He has a great body and likes to wear vests to show it off," a source (Slinky?) close to Adele told the NYP. "And he has this crazy hair which reminds me of Jimi Hendrix—it’s really wild and untamed."

Slinky and Adele initially met through mutual art world friends in London and bonded over their shared love of music, although his "material is more underground and kind of art-school trendy.”

And as hard as we tried to get over the fact that Slinky apparently has a penchant for wearing vests with nothing underneath, it's this video below that has us seriously questioning Adele's taste in men.

But just how serious the relationship was seems to be up for debate.

“They never lived together, and I can’t really recall Slinky ever describing Adele as his girlfriend,” admits the source.

Adds a music industry insider, "I’m not saying she made it up, but there’s a strong suspicion that she’s gilding the lily.”

Meanwhile, as Slinky remains under the radar, some hilarious genius has created a parody account under the name, @AdelesExBF.

The @AdelesExBF handle already has over 4,000 followers and has tweeted gems such as: "One time a black pen exploded in Adele's mouth and she actively did nothing about it," "Adele would print out old transcripts of 'Caroline in the City' and make me watch as she performed every role," and "Adele used to microwave single pieces of bologna because she liked it 'dry.'"

One of the most interesting parts about Raj Rajaratnam's trial at the U.S District courthouse in downtown Manhattan -- ostensibly Clusterstock's second home for the next six weeks -- are the people who won't admit why they're there.

People who are attempting to go unnoticed; people who say: "I'm just an observer" or "just thought I'd take a look" or "just watching."

I met my first Observer in line this morning, waiting to be escorted to the courtroom. He was a slim man wearing a felt grey coat, a checked scarf, glasses and he was reading a New Yorker. Watchless and Blackberry-less, I asked for the time and if there was a special area for press.

Yes, press were already being assembled upstairs, but only those with credentials. My NYPD press credentials still en route (we applied yesterday), I was doomed to wait in the "Raj Rajartnam overflow" line.

I asked the man if he was credential-less press too. He was not. "I'm just an observer," he said, and went back to reading his magazine.

"Just an observer?" I prodded.

"I'm a lawyer." Pause. "I'm part of a group of lawyers for another party... I represent another party that's in the mix."

In the mix = Raj's trial obviously involves a ton of other defendants, and the wider Galleon probe, even more. This man obviously represented one such person. Or people.

He went on.

"There are a lot of people... companies... here."

Ah. Of course. Characters from companies like Intel to Google to Hilton Hotels (whose stocks were traded based on alleged insider information) to hedge funds including Galleon and Spherix (who's employees are implicated) to corporate behemoths like Goldman Sachs and McKinsey (who's current and former partners may be called to testify), all have an interest in watching this trial with a hawk-eye.

Suddenly the courthouse took on a sinister spirit -- I felt like there were coated, hatted individuals roaming the halls on every floor, looking for clues and intelligence to take back to more featureless faces at corporate headquarters across Manhattan. Obviously, I've watched too many movies... Or maybe I've just seen to many commercials for the new Matt Damon movie. Either way, I told myself to start thinking about Rajartnam's cherub-like face and contented demeanor before I totally lost my cool.

Later on, as I was leaving the courtroom, three men in black coats walked out ahead of me. One of the men, with blonde slicked back hair, pressed the button for the elevator, and turned around and said something along the lines of -- what a blast -- drenched of course, in sarcasm.

"I'm waiting for the all the questions about Wall Street," I said as we stepped into the elevator.

"Wall Street? Which questions?" the man said.

"Yeah, there's a part of the questionnaire where they ask jurors if they're biased against Wall Street, and if they think bankers are greedy, and if they think they're dishonest... I cover Wall Street, so I think that will be interesting."

The man nodded slowly, and said "yeah, it should be interesting."

On the ground floor, we headed toward security to collect our confiscated electronics and I asked what they were doing here. A man with black, thinning hair -- taller than the other two -- in a Burberry-like tartan scarf said, "just watching."

"No you're not," I said. "No-one comes here just to watch. And there's three of you. You didn't just drop by."

"If you don't mind, can I ask who you report for?"

"Business Insider. Now will you tell me who you work for."

The man smiled and repeated his earlier refrain about just-being-here-to-take-a-look.

We walked through the revolving doors out onto Pearl Street.

"Look," I said. "I know there are a ton of lawyers here for other defendants; people watching for companies. At least tell me which company you work for, off the record."

He smiled and put on a black beanie, and said, "You'll know who we are, soon enough." And then the trio walked west, phones out and ear-poised, along Pearl Street.

Skyrocketing social networking andmobile usagehas led many to speculate on the key business model for mobile-social services.

The most common answer is local commerce.But, checking in is not becoming a mainstream activity (see chart) and local couponing experiments aren't working so well.

In a from, we analyze how another potential solution, social discovery, could become the future for mobile social-apps.

Here's how it could work:

In full, our:

Skyrocketing social networking andmobile usagehas led many to speculate on the key business model for mobile-social services.

The most common answer is local commerce.But, checking in is not becoming a mainstream activity (see chart) and local couponing experiments aren't working so well.

In a on Mobile and Social from, we analyze how another potential solution, social discovery, could become the future for mobile social-apps.

Here's how it could work:

In full, our:


Pre-social media, the biggest benefit of building online stores for large brands like Nine West, Burberry or La Perla has been the ability to listen to customers.

The direct link on the home page, whether it’s info@, assistance@ or customerservice@, has opened an easy-to-use communications tool between brand and customer that had not existed prior to the old school suggestion box.

When launching NineWest.com in 1998, we immediately started getting emails from customers when we moved sandals off the site in September. They were being moved off the selling floor in the Northeastern United States, so why not on the website, which was being managed out of New York?

Well, we had customers from Texas, California and Florida who had their eyes on sandals on the site, and when we moved the inventory to make room for boots, those customers were very vocal. That was my first lesson in online merchandising- you need to keep in mind customers from varying locales.

While working at Burberry in 2004, one day we had increased traffic to a trench coat on Burberry.com from a Sony URL. It turns out a rap artist under the label blogged about buying the coat for his girlfriend with a direct link to the product page. Not only did he drive traffic to the page, but we also sold out of the coat. Lesson here is never underestimate the power of influence.

While managing the e-commerce of LaPerla.com, another lesson learned was to pay attention to cultural influences. In 2009, while reviewing daily analytics and seeing a spike in traffic but flat conversions, when I checked the most popular key words and site referrers on Google Analytics, I noticed traffic and words related to “james bond” or “james bond swimsuit.”

It turns out that three years after the theatrical release of “Casino Royale,” Turner was celebrating James Bond week and was running the trailer of Daniel Craig coming out of the water, wearing his La Perla swim trunks and looking like a demigod. Unfortunately, we couldn’t convert the traffic since we had sold out of the trunks three years prior, and it had also been discontinued. Our team managed to order 20 remaining swim trunks from Bologna in a different style, received the product five weeks later and put them live on the site, where they promptly sold out. It is still unknown to me how many of those swim trunks we could have sold. Lesson learned- you cannot predict demand and supply. Or can you?

StyleTrek is my vision for where e-commerce is headed: very social and where the influence of many and the few matter. I wanted to utilize the power of viral marketing and social media to promote unknown designers and help them sell their products online, to provide a way for designers to get input from their customers and for customers to be involved in supporting designers, either through posting encouraging and uplifting comments or participating in the creative process. I wanted to apply all my lessons learned to support emerging designers and create a forum where style experts and novices alike can have a say in which designers we feature and what products we sell on StyleTrek.

Engagement with customers is often unpredictable. For established brands that have invested 50-plus years building a customer base on carefully articulated messaging sometimes based on artful illusion, social media can be intimidating. For emerging designers, social media is an opportunity to be heard, promoted and compared along with more established brands. At StyleTrek we do not fear engagement, we relish in it.

Within a short timeframe, we were able to find 25 talented designers from five continents through crowd sourcing. As StyleTrek continues to evolve, we look forward to mining data so we may determine not only which designers our customers want the most, but also which trends are passing or here to stay, which colors, patterns, skirt lengths are most desirable. The evolution of e-commerce has come a long way, and StyleTrek plans to be a large part of this movement.--CP

Editor’s Note: StyleTrek CEO Cecilia Pagkalinawan will be a featured speaker at “MESA Presents: Social Commerce” on Tuesday, March 15 in NYC.

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Here’s a sneak preview of the Burberry Autumn Winter 2011 ad campaign shot by Mario Testino. The winter collection for men and women is ever so British, and ever so Burberry. We are quite in love with the military wintery looks and colours. Do you have a favorite? Share your thoughts in comments below…

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Even companies at the top of the retail food chain are suffering. Luxury brand Burberry is cutting up to 540 jobs (roughly 9% of its workforce) in Great Britain and Spain, despite a 30% rise in revenue at the end of 2008. The fashion label hopes that the cuts will save as much as $50 million a year.

: Burberry's decision to cut staff reflects broader troubles among makers of luxury goods, which had hoped to be safe from the hardship elsewhere because of their affluent clientele. But while some, such as Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, owner of glamorous brands such as Cartier and Chloé, have reported sales declines or laid off temporary staff, Burberry is the first to announce cuts to its permanent workers.

Analysts say they expect more cuts to come at other luxury-goods companies. "In the same way that we see a trickle-down effect, in retail, we also see a trickle-up effect," said Bryan Roberts, global research director at consultancy Planet Retail in London. "High-end players are less vulnerable to the downturn, but that doesn't mean they are not affected."

See Also:

Burberry just warned that its Q2 earnings would come in at the low end of analysts' expectations.

The stock is getting slammed.

In a , the luxury goods maker said that sales had decelerated:

Against strong comparatives last year, retail sales growth at constant exchange rates was 6% in the 10 weeks to 8 September 2012. Of this, new space contributed 6% while comparable store sales were unchanged year-on-year, with a deceleration in recent weeks. Ahead of the key retail trading period in the second half, Burberry currently expects adjusted profit before tax for the twelve months to 31 March 2013 to be around the lower end of market expectations.

Angela Ahrendts, Chief Executive Officer, commented:

"As we stated in July, the external environment is becoming more challenging. In this context, second quarter retail sales growth has slowed against historically high comparatives. Given this background, we are tightly managing discretionary costs and taking appropriate actions to protect short term profitability, while continuing to execute on our proven five key strategies.”

Here’s the Burberry Eyewear Summer 2012 collection for men and women. The new collection features timeless aviator eyewear styles for men and women, reflecting the effortless attitude of the English brand. Burberry Eyewear is available from , Burberry stores and selected retailers worldwide from April 2012.

Also, Burberry presents British musicians One Night Only, Life in Film, The Daydream Club and Marika Hackman. Curated by Burberry Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey, the campaign, shot in London, celebrates emerging British talent. The campaign features Burberry’s iconic eyewear styles and encapsulates the spirit and energy of the brand, music and the British summer.

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, lead by creative director Christopher Bailey, showed its Burberry Prorsum Spring/Summer 2013 collection in Milan earlier today. Guests included British musicians Roo Panes, George Craig and Rob Pryor and British actress Michelle Dockery as well as Nicolas Vaporidis, Giorgia Surina, Elyas M’Barek, Eros Galbiati and Alex Uhlmann. Burberry ad campaign models Seb Brice, Johnny George and Charlie France walked the runway.

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Burberry Prorsum’s Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012 collection hits the runway in London today, and you can watch it live on . The Burberry show starts at 4PM London time, Monday 20 February, 2012. Once it begins, you can watch the Burberry Prorsum Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012 live stream video directly below – . Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey is also around the collection, demonstrating (yet again) the that just won the brand International Retailer of the Year honors.

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Shot in London, here’s the first look at the Burberry Spring/Summer 2012 ad campaign, featuring new British models Eddie Redmayne and Cara Delevingne. According to Burberry, “The cast reflects different facets and attitudes of the Burberry guy and girl. The campaign reinforces the brand’s heritage in protection from the weather, showcasing outerwear including trench coats and parka.” Photos © Copyright Burberry/Testino

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The purveyor of overpriced plaid saw it's stock sink to lows not seen since it's IPO, as it warned of sluggish demand. Burberry's CEO, Angela Ahrendts says, "After 30 years in the industry, I have never been more concerned about the market environment." But it doesn't haver her feeling pessimistic, quite the opposite: "I have never been more optimistic about the prospects for our company."

What's got her feeling so great? The new line of goods, of course, which includes a $187 denim handbag for the poors, and more stuff with the famous plaid pattern on it, as well as a new shipping method--no more through the air, it's on the sea. How luxurious!

: Burberry Group Plc fell the most in London trading since going public in 2002 after predicting profit in the lower half of analysts' estimates and slower store openings as the global economic slump saps luxury-goods demand.

Burberry slid as much as 18 percent, wiping about 160 million pounds ($240 million) off its market value. Pretax earnings may be at the ``mid to lower'' end of analysts' projections in the current fiscal year, and its average selling space will increase less than 10 percent next year, said the London-based company, which reported higher first-half profit as well.

The clothier also said sales to department stores and other third-party distributors may drop in the current half after predicting no change previously. Demand for luxury goods is slowing as shrinking economies and market turmoil cause even the wealthiest shoppers to cut back, weighing on sales and profits at companies from Bulgari SpA to PPR SA.

Bummer for some, but this doesn't affect us. The only time we wear Burberry is to swim:

L2, a company that conducts research on digital business innovation, has released a study on the most web-savvy designers. Burberry, which this week reported a 30-percent revenue rise for the first half of the financial year mainly due to a boom in the Chinese market, came out on top — “proof that digital investments translate to shareholder value,” according to L2.

Judging from its analysis, it is safe to say that those brands that connected the dots between social media and e-commerce fared best in the ranking. Cultivating something extra, like Burberry’s music division for instance, resulted in one of the top spots.

Released this week, the report’s top ten also include Kate Spade thanks to the highest social media score, Gucci with its shoppable video content and recent Tumblr launch, and Tory Burch whose Facebook store leads the “fashion F-commerce (r)evolution.”

“From live streams to runway shows to an arms race on social media platforms,
brands are seeking the halo of innovation that comes from inspired online programming. However, most fashion brands still approach digital as a series of pet projects rather than presenting a coherent multi-platform strategy. Although 94 percent of brands in the Index have a presence on Facebook, one in five still lacks e-commerce capability,” said Scott Galloway of L2.

Hugo Boss’s interactive YouTube channel, Louis Vuitton’s Amble travel app (and a leading performance on Foursquare), as well as Donna Karan’s social media personality DKNY PR Girl (who’s up for a Mashable award from the tech website) also resulted in high scores in the ranking.

The full study can be found .

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Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts faces pushback from one of the UK's biggest lobbyist groups, which advised shareholders to take a hard line next week, when the luxury goods company holds its annual meeting.

that last year Ahrendts took a $9.2 million share payment, about six times her base salary, which Pirc found "excessive."

Granted, the company is doing well: its stock rose 237% over two years. In May, the London-based company announced plans to double spending on new stores and renovation around the world -- especially in China, where business is up 30%.

"The luxury market has turned around," Ahrendts in a recent interview. "It's up double digits around the world."

For the first time in history, rich people are actually getting poorer, and luxury retailers are freaking out about it.

The average income for the top 5 percent of people fell from $358,700 in 2006 to$313,298 in 2010,Pam Danziger, president of luxury research firm Unity Marketing said in a report. That means that swanky retailers are furiously vying for customers' discretionary income.

We saw this trend , whose shares slid 20 percent after the retailer reported sales were down. CEOAngela Ahrendts blamed the trend on the "external environment."

Danziger explained why declining incomes are hitting the luxury retailer especially hard:

"Because these same consumers are significantly invested in their high-end lifestyle with income committed to a wide-range of fixed expenses to maintain that lifestyle, it's in discretionary spending where they are going to take their cuts. So that translates into less money to spend each month for clothes, shoes and handbags, jewelry and home decorative accessories. These folks have plenty of all that stuff already, so it is the easiest, most painless way to adjust one's budget when there is less money coming in each month."

The days of "shop 'til you drop" for the wealthy are long gone, Danziger said. This means that luxury retailers are working hard to figure out how to catch consumers' attention.

We checked out some luxury retailers for signs of the trend:

To get the consumer's attention, even the luxury retailers are working harder than ever.


If you’re a big fan of China trademark squatting, or rather stories about the issue, check this out. have done a bit of digging and come up with some good examples of China trademark squatters who have registered famous UK brands:

Investors in UK companies from Mulberry to Burberry owe much of their recent new found wealth to China’s love of prestige marques. But the country’s love of a name has taken a fresh twist.

An investigation by the The Daily Telegraph has found that it’s not just handbags that the Chinese are snapping up. It’s the names of the brands themselves.

In a revelation that will shock many UK business leaders, it has emerged that High Street names are being registered by Chinese individuals in their droves.

Nice article, although if any UK business leaders are shocked at this information, they probably shouldn’t be leading anyone about anything. This is a well-known story that international business types should already know about.

Some nice quotes in there by China Law Blog’s Dan Harris. I think some additional context might have been helpful to explain this one, however:

Chinese courts look dimly on Western companies who complain their brand has been registered by another party in “bad faith”.

This is one of those “it depends” situations. If you go to court (or, more likely, the Trademark Review and Administrative Board) with sufficient evidence, then TRAB will, eventually, be happy to rule on your trademark cancellation action. It might take a couple years, though, which might be a non-starter for a lot of folks. That’s why Dan suggests that a re-branding might be necessary. However, for brand owners like Hermes and Chivas, the problem was lack of evidence that they were well-known in China at the time the mark was registered by the squatter.

Anyway, good stuff. Go read it.

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China posted yet another quarter of stellar economic growth in the first quarter of 2011, with its gross domestic product (GDP) growing 9.7%. However, analysts are worried about some of the side effects that have accompanied that growth- namely soaring inflation and the emergence of speculative bubbles.

Inflation in China hit a 32-month high in March, and the country's real estate market is beyond scorching.

Policymakers in Beijing insist they have the situation under control, and they've been trying to rein in liquidity and curb speculation to prove it. That's why China's economy, accustomed to double-digit growth, is only expected to grow 8% to 9% this year.

Of course, while China may be experiencing some acute growing pains, its economy regressed the least in the wake of the global financial crisis - and it will continue to operate as the engine of global economic growth going forward, even if the United States relapses into recession.

In fact, China's GDP will rise from $11.2 trillion in 2011 to $19 trillion in 2016, while the U.S. economy will increase from $15.2 trillion to $18.8 trillion, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). That means in five years China will have supplanted the United States as the world's No. 1 economy.

China's share of the global economy will ascend from 14% to 18% in that time, while the United States' share will descend to 17.7%.

A Guide to China's Economy
The rise of China's economy - now the world's second largest - has been meteoric. But the time has come for the country to evolve from a source of cheap labor and manufacturing to a fully developed economic power with a consumer class that's capable of sustaining domestic growth.

China already has made some remarkable progress in rebalancing its economy. The country's trade surplus is narrowing and wages are on the rise.

The central government is targeting an increase in minimum wages of 13% a year through 2015. Additionally, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao aims to increase per capita household income by 7% a year in real terms during that period. He's also pledged to improve the social security and healthcare systems to help low-income households and to raise the personal income tax threshold - all in an effort to give the country's 1.3 billion people more spending power.

"We will ensure that people's income increases keep pace with economic growth and people's salary growth keeps pace with the productivity rise," Wen said last month in an online chat with the Chinese public.

China's 31 provinces boosted minimum wages by an average of 24% last year, according to Yin Weimin, China's minister of human resources and social security. Meanwhile, the average monthly income for migrant workers rose 13% to $256.89 (1,690 yuan).

Six provinces have already raised minimum wages this year, with labor shortages and government mandates likely to compel the remaining 25 to follow suit.

Rising wages have directly translated to an increase in retail sales, which rose 16.3% to $657.29 billion (4.2922 trillion yuan) in the first quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Sales in March rose 17.4% from a year earlier, and edged up 1.34% from February.

"China is trying to rebalance its economy to become more consumer oriented. Wages are rising. People are earning more and will shop more, and that's good news for Chinese retailers," Andrew Sullivan, Director of Institutional Sales Trading at OSK Securities in Hong Kong, .

Shockingly, the country that for so long has been infamous for its thriftiness

As of December 2010, sales of luxury goods in China rose to $10.7 billion, or 30% of total global sales, up from $9.4 billion in 2009, according to the World Luxury Association (WLA).

Luxury brands like Coach Inc.(NYSE: COH), LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton SA (PINK: LVMHF), Burberry Group PLC (PINK: BURBY), and Hermes International SCA (PINK: HESAF) have all benefited from China's splurging.

Coach last week reported a better-than-expected 18% increase in fiscal third-quarter profit, thanks largely to China. China revenue currently totals about $185 million and continues to increase by double-digit percentages, the company said.

Rolls Royce saw its China sales rise 600% last year, putting it above Britain as the company's second-biggest customer behind the United States.

China's luxury car sales are expected to rise to more than 909,900 units this year, up from about 727,200 last year, according to forecasts by IHS Automotive. And that number could climb to 1.6 million by 2015.

China is already the world's largest auto market, with 18 million units sold last year. That figure is expected to grow to 23 million by 2015.

As further testament to China's newfound consumer wealth, the GroupM Knowledge-Hurun Wealth Report 2011 showed the number of millionaires on the mainland is up 9.7% from a year ago. And the country has 115 billionaires according to Forbes magazine's 2011 list -- second only to the United States.

Indeed, China's domestic consumption has shown the rapid growth that has become the country's trademark. But more importantly, it's advanced the central government's goal of a more balanced economy by helping to reduce the nation's disproportionate trade surplus.

China in March posted its first trade deficit - about $1 billion - since 2004.

Strong demand for imported consumer goods and higher prices for commodities drove the value of China's imports to $152 billion in March. The value of China's imports hit a record high of more than $400 billion in the first three months of the year.

Last year, China ran a trade surplus of about $15.25 billion a month. However, 2010 also was the second consecutive year in which the trade surplus shrank, falling 6.4% from 2009 to $183.1 billion.

The State Information Center forecast China's imports to rise 20% in 2011, while exports will increase by 16%. That would trim the trade surplus by 13.2%.

China wants to double its imports by 2015, reducing the trade surplus to zero and emancipating itself from an export-reliant economy.

Potential Setbacks to China's Economy
Of course, China's rapid transformation has not gone off without a hitch. Inflation remains uncomfortably high, and there are fears of a growing bubble in the nation's red-hot property market.

The most recent consumer price index showed inflation rising at 5.4% in March, the fastest pace in three years.

China's inflation rate will likely rise above 5.5% in June, a team of economists at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said in a report yesterday (Wednesday). However, that's likely to be the peak as Chinese policymakers are working overtime to stifle inflation at the expense of growth.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) has raised the benchmark interest rate four times- an increase of 100 basis points - and the reserve requirement seven times since October.

"Stabilizing prices and managing inflation expectations are critical," the PBOC said in a first-quarter monetary policy report published yesterday.

Still, China's economy is overheating because capital is flowing into the mainland faster than it is flowing out. China's foreign exchange reserves, having increased by $197 billion in the first three months of the year, now exceed $3 trillion.

Indeed, huge trade surpluses and the large-scale purchases of U.S. Treasuries - which China makes to suppress the yuan's value - have resulted in a 17-fold increase in the country's reserves over the past decade.

For every dollar that goes into China's reserves, the country prints 6.5 yuan.

Furthermore, lending and money supply in the country continue to grow faster than expected.

China's top four state-owned banks dispersed $40.1 billion (260.6 billion yuan) in new loans in April, slightly higher than the $37.3 billion (242 billion yuan) issued in March, according to local financial news provider Caixin. This is despite the fact that China's biggest banks are required to keep 20% of their deposits on hand as reserves.

"What China calls ‘total social financing' - conventional bank loans and most other external sources of finance - was still 38% of GDP in the first quarter of 2011, almost as high as in 2009 when China implemented a credit-centric stimulus program," UBS AG (NYSE: UBS) economist . "The credit intensity of growth, or the amount of new credit generated for each unit of GDP growth, has risen from 1-1.3 before 2009 to 4.3 in 2011."

Many of the new loans are going into China's property market, which is accelerating at a dangerous pace.

The value of homes sold in the first quarter increased to $132 billion (860.7 billion yuan), the Statistics Bureau said last month, driving overall property transactions 27% higher to $157 billion (1.02 trillion yuan).

The total value of homes sold in March alone rose to $63.7 billion (414 billion yuan), which is close to the total of the first two months of this year combined. New home construction rose 20% in the first quarter to 310.2 million square meters (3.34 billion square feet), the statistics bureau said.

Overall investment in China's real estate rose 34% to $136.4 billion (885 billion yuan) in the first quarter, according to the government data.

Startlingly, these figures suggest that Beijing's attempts to cool the property market so far have been ineffective.

"While these growth rates are below ones seen in early 2010, they remain high relative to what developers are reporting and what the policy tightening would have suggested," Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) analysts said in a report. "We see this as a sign that the tightening probably has not yet been fully implemented at the local level."

A rising number of institutions are growing concerned about China's real estate market.

Even China Citic Bank Corp. Ltd. (OTC: CHCJY), the seventh-largest Chinese lender by assets, said yesterday that the country's property market has become too risky and it plans to cut lending to the sector.

"Citic Bank relatively clearly sees that real estate risk this year is severe," Shi Yuan, the general manager of the bank's risk management section, said on a quarterly teleconference. "We especially are paying attention to risks in the funding chain for developers. We believe as tightening continuously gets stronger, the true real estate risks will appear."

Still, it's important to remember that while bubbles may be forming - especially in the property market - the overall trend of China's growth is positive.

"Yes there are probably pockets of bubbles in China and in the real estate market, but against that backdrop you have 500 million people expected to move into Chinese cities by 2020. That means the number of people expected to move into cities is almost double the population of the United States," said Money Morning Chief Investment Strategest Keith Fitz-Gerald. "So in the context of China's explosive growth, what we're looking at are some moderate setbacks over an extended period of high growth."

China Investment Plays
Indeed, China is a growth story too compelling to pass up. However, investors should focus on parts of the Chinese economy more stable than the real estate sector.

That means playing trends like consumption.

The Claymore/Alpha Shares China Small Cap ETF (NYSE: HAO) has a large percentage of its holdings in consumer-focused firms. Consumer staples and consumer discretionary sectors represent 9.3% and 15.8%, respectively, of the fund's holdings.

You might also consider large U.S. multinationals that have a sizeable footprint in China. These companies continue to benefit from China's fast-growing consumer class and are less susceptible to potential setbacks.

McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD) and Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) are two food operators

Additionally, the revamped General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) has a very strong presence in China. GM is expected to retake the crown for most global auto sales from Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE ADR: TM), which has been devastated by the recent disasters in Japan.

The company intends to introduce more than 60 new or upgraded models for the Chinese market and aims to double sales to around 5 million units by 2015.

There's also China Yuchai International Ltd. (NYSE: CYD), which manufactures and sells diesel engines - most of which are distributed in China.

As mentioned earlier, luxury sales in China continue to rise as well. That stands to benefit luxury brands like Coach Inc. (NYSE: COH), Burberry Group PLC (PINK: BURBY), and Compagnie Finciere Richemont (PINK: CFRUY).

Finally, Money Morning's Fitz-Gerald likes the Morgan Stanley China A Shares Fund (NYSE: CAF).

"I particularly like CAF because small business ventures in China have the most to gain and most of those companies are traded only in China A shares," said Fitz-Gerald. "And CAF is the only fund that gives U.S. investors ‘direct access' to the A-shares."

A recent portfolio allocation of the fund showed 28% of its holdings were in consumer goods and services, 26% were in financials and 18% were in basic materials.

CAF also holds shares in companies that make auto components and beverages, among other products, and has numerous stocks in the metals and mining sectors.

This originally appeared at .

American magazine editors, prepare to be jealous of Angelica Cheung.

The EIC of Chinese Vogue has a great problem: too much advertising.

"I have to sit down at a desk to flip through it," she the Guardian. "It is going to get very difficult to read. It's too heavy. Maybe it will have to be two magazines in future."

China has a huge population of millionaires -- almost a million -- and their taste for expensive products is almost exponentially increasing.

According to the Guardian article, Burberry is building almost 40 more stores in the next five years, and the country will become the world's biggest luxury market in four years.

All this leads to massive profit for a magazine industry that has seen advertising spending jump from $166m to $450m in a decade.

Publishers are taking note. Conde in 2009, GQ in October of that year. Hearst also is in China where Harper's Bazaar .

Soon, Cheung might have some new colleagues with whom to "commiserate."


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In a new note, explains that one of their big investing themes is hot brands in emerging markets.

The company identified these 20 stocks as being best to capitalized.

They're based on a an Emerging Consumer Servey. Each stock has the characteristic of becoming more popular among higher income groups, suggesting big opportunities as people get wealthier.

AP/Eugene Hoshiko

was quick to lower price targets today on eight luxury good conglomerates following the close of Paris fashion week.

, fears that a slowing Chinese consumer will cut back put pressure on the mostly French firms. AnalystFrancesca DiPasquantonio noted that markets remain focused on 2012 uncertainty as opposed to current healthy returns.

PPR, the owner of Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and Puma saw the deepest cut. DiPasquantonio lowered the $14 billion firm's target price by 17% to€120., holder of iconic brands like Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Tag Heuer, had its target price cut 8%.

Smaller brands Salvatore Ferragamo and Burberry took haircuts of 12% and 14%, respectively. Deutsche Bank maintained mostly buy and hold ratings on the sector, expecting segment growth of 6% to outpace global GDP growth of 3% next year.Hermes remained the only company on the list with a sell rating, trading 40% above target.

Harry Potter has been doing well for all-grown up Emma Watson.

Emma, a 19-year-old college student in Rhode Island, was doled out $30 million in 2009, more than any other actress in Hollywood.

She was also the youngest person on the list, which included Cameron Diaz and Sarah Jessica Parker, according to .

She got $15 million paychecks for both Parts 1 and 2 of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.'

Watson also has lucrative advertising contracts with fashion companies like Burberry.

Even though she was the top-paid actress on the list, she was No. 14 on the full list.

The top ten are:

1. Michael Bay, producer-director ($125 million)

2. Steven Spielberg, producer-director ($85 million)

3. Roland Emmerich, producer-director ($70 million)

4. James Cameron, producer-director ($50 million)

5. Todd Phillips, director ($44 million)

6. Daniel Radcliffe, actor ($41 million)

7. Ben Stiller, actor ($40 million)

8. Tom Hanks, actor ($36 million)

9. J. J. Abrams, producer-director ($36 million)

10. Jerry Bruckheimer, producer ($35.5 million)

Forexpros – European stocks closed mixed Tuesday, on slowing German and Chinese industrial output amid Greek debt talk concerns
After the close of European trade, the EURO STOXX 50 gained 0.25%, France's CAC 40 advanced 0.18%, while Germany's DAX slipped 0.16%. Meanwhile, in the U.K. the FTSE 100 dropped 0.03%.

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papdemos is gathering the nation’s leaders to reach consensus on the fiscal cuts required for another European Union led bailout package.

Greek policy makers have already agreed on cuts equal to 1.5% of the island nation’s gross domestic product. However, they are yet to agree on how to recapitalize banks, reduce wages and ensure the survival of pension funds.

Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology stated that the nation’s industrial output will likely slow this quarter due to the euro zone debt crisis and worldwide economic cooling.

Adding to the Chinese bearish projection, the International Monetary Fund stated that China’s economic expansion may be cut in half by the euro zone’s debt crisis.

This Chinese crisis would warrant significant fiscal stimulus from the nation’s government. The IMF went on to state that China’s growth would drop as much as four percentage points from the fund’s current projection for an expansion of 8.2% in 2012.

German industrial output surprisingly declined the most in three years in December. Production gave back 2.9% from November where is stagnated.

Carmakers fell on the negative economic forecasts with BMW slipping 2.7% and Renault giving back 1.3%.

The world’s largest watch maker, Swatch fell 4.2% after missing operating profit projections.

Luxury company shares followed Swatch lower with Burberry dropping 2.2%, Christian Dior fell 3.2% and Hermes gave back 3.1%.

In bullish news, Banco Comercial surged 21% after stating it will sell new shares and draw state funds to boost its capital levels. This is despite the bank posting a full year loss of EUR786.2 million.

In the U.S., stocks are higher with the Dow up 0.20%, the S&P 500 gaining 0.17% and the Nasdaq advancing 0.14%.

Investors are awaiting Australian consumer sentiment, New Zealand employment, Canadian housing starts, as well as U.S. crude oil inventories on Wednesday.

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Remember long, long ago, when you frequently heard complaints about Europeans coming to New York, treating it as a weak-dollar playground. Right in front of our eyes, they were plundering our homegrown luxury goods, and supposedly even Europeans with a secretary's salary could afford to buy a second home in Manhattan. You might have even met some of these interlopers at cocktail parties, where they could be heard bashing US foreign policy, while bragging that they only return home when the need some free dental work. Once we heard a tale of a high-end real-estate brokerage that listed all of their properties in euros, but that could have been purely apocryphal.

Here's what the New York Times wrote :

Jonathan Fletcher, who works in information technology, and Aine Marshall, a dentist, came to Manhattan from London to buy a $1 million investment property. Mr. Fletcher, who is considering buying in the financial district, where he believes there is opportunity for appreciation, plans to put down his deposit money first and wait for the dollar to weaken more before paying for the entire apartment. Even if he does not buy an apartment, the savings from shopping in the United States covered the cost of the trip, he said. They spent a total of $8,000 on clothes, a camera and a $5,000 drum set that would have cost about double back home.

Foreign buyers often purchase quickly because they largely view these apartments as investments like a bond or a stock. Dorothy Somekh, a Halstead broker, said that in an afternoon a Belgian couple she represented bought a $1.7 million two-bedroom condo at the Sheffield in Midtown to rent out for about $7,500 a month. After the couple signed the contract, they headed to Abercrombie & Fitch to shop for clothes for their daughters.

Barf, right?

Anyway, er, good news(?), that's all coming to an end.

: Sales of apartments by foreign investors are down by at least 50 percent year to date. Industry leaders say that a number of foreigners that bought downtown are being forced to sell residences as a result of the world financial crisis. According to Melissa Cohn, president of Manhattan Mortgage, mortgage financing for foreign investors is very difficult. Commercial banks which previously provided financing to foreign investors are pulling back. Earlier this year, she said she was able to secure financing from at least ten active lenders, but today that number is down to three or four.

Technically, this doesn't mean that we'll hear fewer foreign accents the next time stop in the Apple store or the Burberry store, but... well, that's exactly what it means. When the sting of reduced commerce, lower-tax revenue and declining home values, we imagine there will be more than a few people who will regret cursing the Euro influx.

But don't lose hope. The New York Times in 1984(!) offers this hopeful note: .

. At such stores as Hemispheres, the chic men's and women's clothing store at 1 Boulevard Emile Augier in the fashionable 16th Arrondissement, the clothes can seem like bargains. Where else, for example, can you find four-ply cashmere sweaters for $177?

Of all the stores in Paris, Hemispheres offers the most satisfyingly proper but unstuffy selection of men's clothes, such as classic English suede zip-front jackets for $330. For women, there are the tailored women's clothes of Peggy Roche, one of the best-kept secrets of Paris fashion. Her navy knit suits, spare, dry and dignified, sell for $300.

Forex Pros – European stock markets were broadly higher on Thursday, as shares in the financial and raw material sectors led gains, while U.S. futures indexes pointed to a higher open on Wall Street. <br /><br />During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 rose 0.22%, France&rsquo;s CAC 40 gained 0.35%, while Germany's DAX 30 edged 0.18% higher.<br />&nbsp; <br />The Financial Times reported earlier that European Financial Stability Facility Chief Executive Officer Klaus Regling said China was &ldquo;clearly interested&rdquo; in buying Portuguese bailout bonds when the EFSF sells them in June.<br /><br />Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings said that the exposure of German banks to Greece was manageable, boosting lenders across the region.<br /><br />Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank saw shares jump 2.35% and 1.2% respectively. Shares in Spanish banking giant Banco Santander advanced 1.9%, while Europe&rsquo;s largest financial group BNP Paribas added 1.4%.<br /><br />Shares in Swiss dental implant maker Nobel Biocare soared 7.35% after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock two notches to &lsquo;overweight&rsquo; from &lsquo;underweight&rsquo;.<br /><br />French tire maker Michelin saw shares gain 1.3% after JP Morgan upgraded the company, saying a 20% drop in natural rubber prices makes tire producers the best medium-term prospects in the automotive sector.&nbsp; <br /><br />In London, the commodity-heavy FTSE 100 rose 0.4% as commodity producers led gains after Deutsche Bank upgraded the raw material sector, saying it expected stocks in the sector to deliver a 20% return on equity this year. <br /><br />Shares in BHP Billiton climbed 1.1%, while copper producer Xstrata gained 1.3% after Deutsche Bank named them as its top choices in the sector. <br /><br />On the downside, luxury retailer Burberry saw shares drop 2.5% after it reported full-year earnings that were broadly in line with market expectations. <br /><br />The company said annual earnings rose 39% to GBP297.9 million however the company failed to upgrade its earnings outlook for the current fiscal year, disappointing investors.<br /><br />The outlook for U.S. equity markets, meanwhile, was upbeat. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a gain of 0.3%, S&amp;P 500 futures indicated a rise of 0.32%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.15%.&nbsp; <br /><br />Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish revised government data on first quarter economic growth as well as a weekly report on initial jobless claims.<br /><br />

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Forexpros – Forexpros - European stocks retreated in Friday trade, dragged down by inflation concerns and the dimming prospects for a quantitative easing from the European Central Bank.
At the end of Friday’s European session, the STOXX 50 Index lost 1.48% to 2,179.66, France’s CAC 40 fell 1.50% to 2,981.96, Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 1.32% to 5,128.48, and Germany’s DAX declined 2.44% to close at 5,502.02.
In Thursday trade, U.S. and European stock markets got a lift from a German parliamentary vote approving an expansion of the USD600 billion European Financial Stability Facility.
But the release Friday of an unexpected drop in German retail sales sent European shares lower late in the day’s session.
Germany’s Federal Statistics Office reported that retail sales fell by a seasonally adjusted 2.9% in August, down from a 0.3% gain the previous month. Market forecasts for retail sales in Europe’s largest economy were for a 0.5% decline.
Additionally, the European Union’s Statistics Office reported that euro-zone inflation jumped by 3% in September, up for 2.5% in August, the largest year on year increase since October of 2008.
The rise in prices quashed hopes that the European Central Bank would be lowering interest rates any time soon, complicating the ECB’s options for addressing the region’s debt concerns.
Among top losers in the session were banks and financial issues, as Europe’s sovereign debt crisis weighed heavy on investor sentiment. In Paris, Societe General SA slumped 5.1%, while Deutsche Bank AG sank 4.9%.
The French and German indexes closed out the quarter ending September 30, down 25%.
Figures showing a contraction in China’s manufacturing sector, the third monthly drop in a row, took a toll on retailers in the region, as dealers anticipated a drop in sales for luxury goods.
Burberry Group PLC fell 2.2% in London, with PPR SA, parent company of Gucci, sank by 6.1%. LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton SA dropped 3.4% in Paris.
Meanwhile in late afternoon trade on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.78% to 11,067.29, the Nasdaq Composite Index gave up 1.18% to 2,451.47 and the S&P 500 was lower by 1.04% at 1,148.37.
Europe’s Markit Economics was due to release its Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index for the euro-zone on Monday.

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Forexpros – European stock markets fell sharply on Monday, on reports Greece will not be able to meet deficit targets this year, leading the country closer to a potential default.

During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 fell 2.44%, France’s CAC 40 dropped 2.55%, while Germany’s DAX 30 posted a 2.63% decline.

European equities were hit after Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou announced on Sunday that the country would not meet deficit targets this year. A draft of the 2012 budget approved by the cabinet on Sunday showed a deficit of 8.5% of gross domestic product for 2011, falling short of a target of 7.6%.

Inspectors from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank held discussions in Athens over the weekend and will soon decide whether the country is eligible to receive further financial assistance.

Shares in the financial sector led losses, with France's BNP Paribas plummeting 5.67% and Societe Generale tumbling 5.44%, while Germany's Deutsche bank fell 2.74%.

Belgium's Dexia also saw shares plunge 8.78%, amid media reports that French and Belgian officials are set to meet to discuss a rescue package for the bank, due to its heavy exposure to Greek debt.

Peripheral lenders also contributed to the fall, with Italy's Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo dropping 2.80% and 3.36% respectively, while Spain's Banco Santander fell 2.47%.

In London, the FTSE 100 shed 2.18% as U.K. lenders shadowed losses posted by their counterparts across the Continent.

Barclays saw shares tumble 4.67% and Royal bank of Scotland posted a 4.04% drop, while shares in Lloyds Banking fell 2.94%.

Copper producers Xstrata and Kazakhmys also saw shares decline 2.75% and 2.90% respectively, as copper tumbled to a 14-month low, while mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton dropped 2.81% and 2.26%.

The luxury-goods sector also came under pressure, extending the previous week's losses linked to concerns over China's growth. Shares in Burberry's tumbled 4.94%.

Elsewhere, U.S. equity markets pointed to a lower open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a drop of 0.53%, S&P 500 futures signaled a fall of 0.52%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.76% decline.

Later in the day, the U.S. Institute of Supply Management was to publish data on manufacturing activity.

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Forex Pros – European stock markets were mixed on Tuesday, as shares in the financial sector led losses amid persistent fears over the euro zone’s debt crisis, while U.S. futures indexes pointed to a higher open on Wall Street.

During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 slumped 0.25%, France’s CAC 40 dropped 0.5%, while Germany's DAX 30 edged 0.08% lower.

Fears that Portugal was close to seeking outside help to resolve its debt problems continued to weigh on shares in the banking sector. Spain’s largest lender Banco Santander saw shares fall 1.1%, Societe Generale dropped 2.3%, while Unicredit shares were down 1.3%.

Also Wednesday, Deutsche Bank saw shares drop 1.95% after the Wall Street Journal reported that the lender would seek a shareholder approval to raise as much as EUR18 billion in fresh capital.

However, shares in Commerzbank climbed 2.3% after it announced plans to repay nearly EUR14.3 billion of state-aid by June.

Meanwhile, shares in France’s largest utility provider Electricite de France dropped 3.5%, while GDF Suez slumped 1.45% after French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the government would freeze a planned hike in natural gas prices in July.

In London, the FTSE 100 added 0.3%, as shares in retail giant Marks & Spencer jumped 5.1% after it said that fourth quarter sales in its U.K. stores rose by 0.1%, defying expectations for a 2.5% drop.

The upbeat data boosted other shares in the retail sector. Clothing retailer Next saw shares climb 2.9%, while shares in Burberry added 1.7%.

Meanwhile, shares in miners performed strongly after gold prices rose to a record high. Randgold Resources saw shares climb 1.9%, African Barrick Gold added 1.35%, while shares in silver producer Fresnillo jumped 1.75% after silver prices rose to a 31-year high.

The outlook for U.S. equity markets, meanwhile, was upbeat. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a gain of 0.18%, S&P 500 futures indicated a rise of 0.19%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.25%.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to release a report on crude oil inventories, while the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Dennis Lockhart was to speak at a public engagement.

ForexPros.com - Forex Pros offers a diverse set of professional tools for Forex, Futures and CFDs. These include real-time data streams, technical and fundamental analysis by in-house experts, and a widely used economic calendar and .

Forex Pros – pros &ndash; European stock markets were mixed on Wednesday, as upbeat economic data from China eased fears over an abrupt slowdown in the world&rsquo;s second largest economy, while lingering concerns over the euro zone&rsquo;s debt crisis limited gains.&nbsp; <br /><br />During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 eased down 0.1%, France&rsquo;s CAC 40 dipped 0.2%, while Germany&rsquo;s DAX 30 edged 0.2% higher. <br /><br />Official data released earlier showed that Chinese gross domestic product expanded by 9.5% in the second quarter, broadly in line with expectations. A separate report showed that industrial production rose by 15.1% in June, the most since May 2010, outstripping expectations for a 13.7% increase.<br /><br />European exporters with high exposure to China, such as automakers performed strongly. Shares in Volkswagen climbed 1.7%, BMW shares rose 2.2%, while Peugeot saw shares gain 1.3%.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br />Meanwhile, Ireland joined Portugal and Greece as the third euro-zone member state to have its credit rating reduced to junk status, following a downgrade by ratings agency Moody&rsquo;s on Tuesday.<br /><br />Shares in the financial sector were mixed. Bank of Ireland saw shares tumble 4%, Deutsche Bank dropped 1%, while Italian lenders Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit gained 3.3% and 2.5% respectively after Italian lawmakers pledged to speed up efforts to approve an austerity package.<br /><br />Europe&rsquo;s largest semiconductor-equipment maker ASML Holdings sank 4.8% after it said it expected orders to pull back sharply in the third quarter as customers become more hesitant to place big orders.<br /><br />In London, the commodity-heavy FTSE 100 rose 0.2% as raw material producers gained after oil and metal prices advanced and as fears over a slowdown in demand from China eased.&nbsp; <br /><br />Mining giant BHP Billiton saw shares jump 1.6%, silver producer Fresnillo rallied 6%, while shares of oil major British Petroleum added 0.9%.<br /><br />Fashion retailer Burberry saw shares advance 2.6% after reporting a 26% jump in second quarter revenue, as sales grew across all regions and categories.<br /><br />The outlook for U.S. equity markets was upbeat. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a gain of 0.55%, S&amp;P 500 futures rose 0.65%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated an increase of 0.75%.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br />Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish official data on import prices and crude oil inventories, as well as a report on the federal budget balance. <br /><br />In addition, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is to give prepared testimony on monetary policy before lawmakers in Washington.<br /><br />

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Forex Pros – European stock markets plunged on Tuesday, as mounting fears over Japan's escalating nuclear crisis sparked a global selloff in equities, while U.S. futures indexes pointed to a sharply lower open on Wall Street.

During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 dropped 3.46%, France’s CAC 40 tumbled 3.33%, while Germany's DAX plunged 4.83%.

Earlier in the day, Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned that radiation levels had become “significantly” higher around the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant, following another explosion, this time at the stricken plant’s No. 4 reactor.

Shares in the world’s largest maker of nuclear reactors Areva plunged 9.5% amid concerns damage to Japanese nuclear power plants would hurt demand for reactor fuel. The stock has lost nearly 18.5% this week.

Utility providers linked to nuclear energy also performed poorly, as Germany’s largest renewable energy provider RWE AG saw shares tumble 5.7%. Rival E.ON plummeted 6.1% after the Deutsche Presse reported that the German environment ministry wanted to temporarily shut E.ON’s Isar 1 nuclear reactor in Bavaria.

Meanwhile, shares in luxury goods retailers were broadly lower amid concerns over the long-term sales impact of the massive earthquake in Japan, which accounts for nearly 11% of global luxury sales.

Shares in LVMH dropped 6.4%, rival Hermes slumped 5.8%, while Burberry saw shares plunge 6.7%.

In London, the commodity-heavy FTSE 100 sank 2.4% as commodity prices retreated amid increased risk aversion.

Shares in silver producer Fresnillo tumbled 7.1%, copper producer Xstrata dropped 4.05%, while oil giant British Petroleum saw shares slump 4.1%.

The outlook for U.S. equity markets, meanwhile, was sharply lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a drop of 2.39%, S&P 500 futures indicated a loss 2.82%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures pointed to a decline of 2.85%.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish official data on manufacturing activity in the New York region, as well as government reports on import prices and the balance of domestic and foreign investment.

In addition, the Federal Reserve was to hold its policy setting meeting before announcing its federal funds rate.

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We couldn't bring ourselves to actually attend the second round of Fashion Meets Finance. Last year's party was still too fresh in our minds. Fortunately, somebody made the New York Press's ace party reporter Matt Harvey go to the thing. He survived and came back with this news: models still want bottles paid for by bankers.

Broke bankers and struggling models mobbed the rooftop of the Empire Hotel last night for the latest installment of Fashion Meets Finance. A tipsy brunette on crutches was trying to put her Burberry coat on so she could leave, but guys wearing suits sans ties kept jostling her as they moved past. Struggling to anchor herself with the crutches she told me her deal. “I was running to work to get there on time when I fell. It’s not funny!” As the tiny metaphor hobbled away, a bushy-haired suit eyed my black notebook and smiled. “How many numbers you get tonight?” With an obscene bro-wink he added, “I’m just chilling because I’m engaged.”---

The party was billed as a return to the halcyon excesses of 2007, and enough unemployed finance types fished the necessary change from their couch to pony up for a bottle of Absolut. Liz, a 20-something fashionista in a low-cut black cocktail dress, eyed them skeptically and said, “just look at all the douches in those seats. They’re all so broke.” A line-up of seven models was in the DJ booth nodding to anemic dance music. One of them, Sabrina Roberts, a six-foot Afro-Chinese stunner wearing a tiny creme-brulee-colored dress—told me she wasn’t giving up on finance dudes. “One, they’re more interesting; and two, can you imagine if everyone was in fashion?” I asked her if she had ever thought of dating so-called normal people. She twirled around, took a sip from her champagne flute and asked happily, “How do normal people pay for champagne?”

Did any readers attend this thing? We'd love to hear more about it. Email jcarney@alleyinsider.com

A social media study of FTSE 100 companies from The Group confirms what we found in a last November: firms remain wary of but are exploring the options available to them, especially Twitter.


The Group, which has been monitoring corporate use of social media in the UK for just over a year, finds 45 percent now have corporate Twitter accounts, up by 50 percent on a year ago. :

Twitter is easy to set up, easy to use and, some well-documented failures apart, a fairly foolproof way for companies to connect with various people online. Which explains why, of all the social media channels we’ve been monitoring, Twitter use is in the rudest health.

As you can see from the chart, Facebook and blogs are used far less, however. The low uptake of Facebook is probably down to the cost and effort required to do it right, says The Group.

YouTube is more popular, being employed by two fifths of UK blue chips. Of the social media channels reviewed by the consultant, however, YouTube is the ‘least well used’. More from The Group:

There are some exceptions – Aviva and Burberry have both put thought into their YouTube channels. The majority, however, seem content to add the odd video to the (frankly awful) channel template without much thought as to how their content will be consumed.

For , it helps to broaden your sample and look to continental Europe. Here, companies like SAP and BASF are showing others how to do it with .


Investors pulled $15 billion out of the BRICs in 2011 as the European sovereign debt crisis escalated and the world economy decelerated.

In China, all the chatter was about its problems, its property bubble, and its risk of a hard landing.

Naturally, investors are anxious about pouring their money into emerging markets. And China, once an emerging market darling, is seeing bearish sentiment on the rise.

Speaking at the Peter Chiappinelli, portfolio strategist at Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. (GMO) said Wall Street has sold GDP growth as "the road to riches," but argued that there was no correlation between GDP growth and stock market returns. Chiappinelli spoke of a three tier short on China:

"We've applied a more surgical approach to how we wanted to construct a short. We call it a three tier short. Three themes all tied to infrastructure and real estate.

Tier 1 would be those names that are directly tied to China real estate, China development, China banks, China cement manufacturers, with an obvious link to China real estate.

Tier 2 we would describe perhaps as less obvious, think Australian mining.

Tier 3 even less obvious back to your global comment, everything is tied together. You can play a China short through European luxury goods, through , through Burberry, those kinds of names, vast majority of incremental growth is coming from mainland China. And we think they are very very exposed right now to a potentially dangerous situation. So it's more of a China theme that goes well beyond China's borders."

Don't Miss:

Many companies were disappointed when Google+ rolled out and banned the creation of accounts specifically for businesses and brands. Fortunately, today, , for them to start connecting with customers and followers.

For an example of what a Google+ Page looks like, check out the one for the :

You'll notice that you can +1 the page, see how many followers they have, add them to your circles, and confirm that the page is verified. You can share the page on your own stream. Check out all the differences here on the Google+ support page. (Bonus: are having a hangout at 4PM PST today!)

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like just anyone can create a Google+ page. This is what I found, when I tried to click on the "Create a Google+ page" button:

But you can see what Google+ is trying to encourage in the background. You can define whether your page is for a local business or place, whether it's a product or brand, and whether it's a company or institution. You can also further categorize it in "Arts, Entertainment, or Sports" or "Other". There's a message encouraging you to host hangouts, and create circles, and ask people to +1 you. You can get more advice from the . According to , he's been assured that .

There's also Direct Connect, which simplifies searching for brands and businesses in Google search. Just go to , and type in the [+] symbol, along with the brand you're looking for. For example, when you search for "+Google", you'll be automatically taken to the . Currently this option only works for a few pages, but more is coming.

In addition to the brand page, there are also a bunch more Google pages you can follow along with, including , , and . You can check them all out .

Here are the non-Google brand pages that are now up and running:

Have you spotted any more great brand pages? (By the way, the . How do you think the page will stack up?)

Via on .

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1) Luxurybrands have started out carefully.The article shows a great example of how Burberry back in 2009 created a, but moved cautiously, first with professional photographers then opening it up to the public (and even then maintaining some editorial control).

What does this mean to you (the local business owner):You too can start out slowly. Forget what the daily deal sales person is telling you. There is so much competition in the daily deal space, you don't have to give away steep margins and creative control to participate. You should choose a vendor that uses professional photography (more cost to them) and will let you approve how the promotion is written. You should also ask the daily deal site to segment their mailing list and give you visibility into what kind of consumer is getting your email offerbeforethey send it. You should absolutely negotiate on margin and limit the number of offers you sell so you can test results.

2) They've worked hard to maintain the sense of exclusivity.This article gives you a great example of Oscar de la Renta buildingwith the concept of a backstage pass to make consumers feel special.

What does this mean to you:You don't need to call your promotion a deal. Think of this more as crafting a unique experience for your favorite customers. Many of the daily deal sites now have things like travel escapes, tastings, adventures, tour like bundles so they will have opportunities to package up unique local experiences. Work with your sales person to explore ways you can work creatively with other merchants in town to package a showcase of your business that feels more in line with your brand. Look at,, andas brands doing a good job of this.

3)They are reaching bigger audiences.Derek Lam knew eBay could help his brand reach millions of new consumers, but these customers wouldn't all be right for his high-end products. So he was careful about which products he promoted on eBay, but he didn't ignore this audience.

What does this mean to you:Don't avoid the promotion power of daily deal email lists. They can be the most effective way to put your business in front of millions of local consumers. The key is use select inventory. Control and limit your offering so that you showcase your business.

This economy has made it feel like we only buy what is on sale, but that's not true. Consumers will always buy things that make them feel unique and special. Daily deal sites can get local businesses closer to thousands of local consumers without discounting what makes themspecial. The next generation of these products must deliver on that promise.

This is not the student.

Joe Mihalic graduated from Harvard Business School with his MBA—and $95,000 in student loans—in 2009. After two years of loan payments, Mihalic resolved to pay them off in 10 months.

He started a blog, No More Harvard Debt (), to chronicle his experiment in cutting costs and earning more money. In March, he paid the last of hisseveral months ahead of schedule.


U.S. Newsrecently spoke with Mihalic about his creative cost-cutting strategies. Excerpts:

When and why did you decide to get more aggressive about paying off your student loans?

In August 2011, I logged into my student loan accounts and the total came up to somewhere just shy of $91,000. This was after almost two years of paying down the loan at $1,057 every month. I had put over $22,000 into these loans that started out at $101,000. The principle was still at $90,000 because most of thewas going towards interest for the first couple of years. I looked at that total and it blew me away. I realized that I wasn't really happy with that trajectory of those loans. I felt like I was trapped. Emotionally, I felt it would just be better to be debt-free.

In aclass that I took at Harvard, the professor said that debt was good. They're being held accountable to make a monthly payment to their debtors every fiscal quarter, so it keeps them focused and on track. I agree with that. The question is, "What's the right level of debt for an individual?" I thought that awas plenty of debt for an individual. This student loan debt was a little onerous for me. The pressure was too high.

Do you think it was worth taking on that much debt to get your MBA?

I do. I met a lot of really smart, talented, ambitious people who I probably wouldn't have met otherwise. I made great friends. The case method taught me to think in a whole new way. It made me a better decision-maker. Because of that, I was a more effective employee. I really don't think that it was that much debt when you consider that my salary doubled, as well as the fact that I was able to pay most of it down in seven months.

What steps did you take to cut expenses and boost your income?

I threw security and common investment wisdom to the wind and I used my life savings to kill a $25,000 loan to start my debt snowball. I stopped contributing to my 401(k), but I still have about $45,000 in my 401(k) that I didn't touch. I also had a $12,000 IRA from my old job. It started out as a 401(k), but I rolled it into an IRA and used it to pay down my loans. I took a hit on it, of course, when I did the early withdraw so it turned into $8,000.


Certainly, if I had a qualified financial officer, they wouldn't say, "Withdrawing your IRA is the right thing to do," because you'll realize some loss. My situation does not apply to everyone, but it was my choice. Emotionally, I'm in a way better state now than I was this time last year.

I gave up my privacy and got two roommates on . I also started a landscaping business, which was mildly successful. I also sold my motorcycle for $2,000, and I sold my bicycle for about $1,000. Then I sold some miscellaneous stuff on Craigslist: an , motorcycle accessories, bicycle accessories, even an old pair of Burberry reading glasses that I had sitting around from grad school.

I saved 74 percent of my income. At the beginning of the challenge, I was making $103,000, which is really only $70,000 after taxes.

I didn't go home for Christmas or to friends' bachelor parties or weddings. I didn't go on any dinner dates or to the movies. I'd hike around the park. I'd get bagels and coffee, random things that didn't cost a lot of money.

How did people react in your life to this sudden lifestyle change?

It takes a certain type of girl to go on a hiking date instead of a dinner date, but that's kind of the girl I'm looking for. As far as my life, I still have a great time. I hang out with friends a lot but I bring a flask to bars, which some of them thought was a good idea.

For the most part, my friends were pretty frugal. I think I just may have subconsciously chosen frugal friends. Yes, most of them have houses and they do travel, but they don't really throw their money around unwisely. So, when they saw me tighten my belt a little bit they were like, "Yes. We get it. That's cool." They didn't go out of their way to do really flashy things and exclude me. I appreciated that.


Do you think that the accountability of blogging played a role in helping you reach your goal?

I'm pretty intrinsically motivated to begin with, but I knew that I would be held accountable at the end of every month with my progress report. "Here's how much I made, here's how much I spent, here's why." Just knowing that at the end of the month I would have to admit to my sins, so to speak, made me think twice about buying things and doing certain things.

For example, when I quit my pedi-cabbing gig, it was very humbling to report that on the blog. It made me approach future revenuewith a lot more caution. There are so many pedi-cab drivers in downtown Austin just driving around without anybody in their trailers. I should have seen that and made the connection. I was just excited to be a pedi-cab driver. I thought it would be really fun. I didn't really do the due diligence. I had to admit on my blog that I failed in pedi-cabbing. It was kind of humiliating.

Now that you've paid off your, will you continue some of your cost-cutting measures or go back to the lifestyle you had before?

The roommates signed their lease until the end of June, so they're entitled to stay there until the end. After that, I'm thinking of renting the house out and getting a studio closer to the city, because the house is really too big for me.

Spending is pretty similar to when I was paying off the debt. I haven't gone on a dinner date yet. I'm still driving my 12-year-old Honda. I'm still packing a lunch every day. My friends and I are still hitting up the BYOB place before we go downtown. I bought a couple of shirts for the first time in a year.

I need to build back up mycushion to get six to eight months of living expenses in the bank just in case anything happens. Then I'll have the option to spend more. Right now, I just got used to the lifestyle I was living.

People who win the lottery, their level of happiness actually returns to the baseline even though they have so much money. People who lose all their money, there will still be some dark days, but they'll rebound. I got used to that lifestyle. So, I haven't been in a rush to go spend crazy amounts of money or do anything really wild.

Ethan Miller/Getty

Quintessentially British label Paul Smith is attempting to crack China once again, with a flagship store in Shanghai and 24 new boutiques in the pipeline.

Sir Paul Smith has cited the opening of his first as one the proudest moments of his career, and his foray in the Far East is set to continue as he takes on China next.

His brand will set up a 5,000 sq-ft store in Shanghai - where European fashion houses Christian Dior, Gucci and Jean-Paul Gaultier have recently staged catwalk shows - in December and add 24 shops in China over the next five years, according to .

China’s clothing market is predicted to more than triple to 1.3 trillion yuan (£128.3 billion) by 2020 from 400 billion yuan (£39.4 billion) in 2010 as rising incomes fuel demand, Boston Consulting Group Inc found.

“This is the right time to join the race,” said Balbina Wong, chief executive officer for ImagineX Group, Paul Smith’s Greater China distributor. “Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated and brand-conscious. China’s overall GDP may slow, but the middle-class is growing.”

It is the second time the London Fashion Week label is attempting to crack China. The brand retreated from the country with large losses five years ago, with Smith telling the Financial Times that the Chinese market was “extremely dangerous” due to its high rents and because the majority of the population only sought “clothes to cover their bodies”.

Paul Smith will be taking on earlier entrants Michael Kors and Burberry alongside fellow newcomers, Italian brands Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo.


How many of these are ads?

The future of mobile advertising is display. To clarify: it's not in iAds or other software from OS makers and carriers. Tapping on those teeny-tiny "x"s in pop-ups requires an annoying amount of precision, and users generally ignore the ad content. The versus the enormous time spent on mobile is real, and it exists partially because of these unappealing little ads.

Instead, the company proving that display advertising works for mobile is Instagram, the photo-sharing app that . Instagram's 27 million users not only look at mobile ads -- they rate them, share them, comment on them, and perhaps even like the brands using them a little bit better.

Just don't call them ads. Instead, call them pictures, and if you're a brand, make sure they're interesting or beautiful to look at. See for example Burberry's hazy, over-exposed "behind-the-scenes" shots of models and fashion shoots. They're appealing in a way that glossy magazine pictures aren't, because they're not the commoditized images that consumers might expect. Instead, they're a hip, attractive, insider-y collage. And they probably make consumers think of the Burberry brand more favorably.

You can hear more about smart mobile marketing and ad tactics at the , taking place June 14 in New York, hosted by . are now on sale. The covers everything from in-app experiences and stealth ads like those on Instagram, to content integration, traditional display, and geo-local targeting.

You'll hear from including:

They'll dive into the , such as:

, and join the discussion on June 14 for a day of intense industry insight and valuable networking. Meanwhile, you can follow @BI_Events on for discounts and updates. See you in June!

() - Inc, the world's largest home improvement chain, will close all seven of its big box stores and cut 850 jobs in China as the retailer changes its focus in the Chinese market to online and specialty stores and becomes the latest retailer to feel the chill from China's slowing economy.

Earlier this week, British fashion house Burberry Group Plcwarned a slowdown in China could hit earnings. The profit warning came as recent Chinese data signaled a further slowing of the world's second-largest economy.

Chinese home appliance retail chain operators such as Suning Appliance Co Ltdand GOME Electrical Appliances Holding Ltd, who are seen by some as China's answer to Co Inc, are also slowing their expansion to focus on raising efficiencies at existing stores and refining their e-commerce operations.

China's retail sales growth in all consumer goods categories slowed to 13.2 percent year-on-year in August to 1.67 trillion yuan ($263.84 billion) from 18.1 percent in December, official data showed.

Home Depot will retain two recently opened specialty stores in Tianjin and is "developing relationships with several of China's leading e-commerce websites," it said in a statement late on Thursday.

"China is a do-it-for-me market, not a do-it-yourself market, so we have to adjust," Home Depot spokeswoman Paula Drake told Reuters late on Thursday.

The company made its first foray into the rapidly-growing Chinese market in late 2006 through its acquisition of a 12-store Chinese chain called The Home Way.

However, it has struggled to expand ever since as it was a relatively late entrant into the market behind other international chains such as Britain's Kingfisher Plcwhich ventured into the world's most populous country in the late 1990s. http://r.reuters.com/far62t

The company expects to incur a $160 million charge in the third quarter as a result of the closures, but said this will not affect its full-year earnings forecast.

Home Depot said it will continue to employ about 170 associates in China working in the sourcing offices in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Shares of the Atlanta-based company closed up 2 percent at $58.30 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

Last week, Suning Appliance announced the launch of a network of super stores to offset slow growth in its core business in China. The super stores will sell home appliances, general merchandise, books, and daily necessities, a move that put it in direct competition with local operators such as Sun Art Retailand Wumart Stores, as well as foreign giants like Walmartand Carrefour.

($1 = 6.3296 Chinese yuan)

(Additional reporting by Tej Sapru in Bangalore; Editing by Matt Driskill)

A baby may be the ultimate accessory, but for women who love designer brands, it can also be an awkward wardrobe fit.

Okay, we're half kidding--but fortunately for those women, high-end designers such as , Lanvin, Versace, and have all recently launched or plan to launch clothing lines for kids.

Upscale children's lines started entering the scene about three years ago, but made a surge this season with Fendi showing its collection at its Fifth Avenue store in New York City and Gucci hiring Jennifer Lopez and her twins for its advertising campaign.

The prices for many pieces, which children will likely only wear for one season, border on ridiculous. For example, a Gucci's , designed for girls ages 2 to 8, costs $595 dollars.

But as the luxury market makes a slow comeback, the wealthy are willing splurge these items, said the Doneger Group's Creative Director Jamie Ross.

We spoke to her this week about designer baby fashion became such a trend; here's what she had to say.

When did we start seeing designer children's clothes become a trend?

About three years ago, we started to see designer clothes for children enter the market. But the past year, we've seen it enter a good mainstream consciousness. These moms who wear the brands themselves and place their identity in them, and want their children to have matching aesthetics.

Why is expanding to children's wear smart for designers?

The fact that they are building costumers base that young, helps them build customers for life. If a child associates themselves early on with a brand, they have a guaranteed customer later on.

So what are the trends in children's designer fashion?

It's a take away from the grown-up clothes. Especially Gucci, Lanvin, and I'm sure Versace are all taking trends from their adult lines.

Is it cost-effective for designers to create children's lines?

Yes, absolutely. The fact that Fendi had their show at the Fifth Avenue store just generated so much hype for the line and I would say people were more excited for the Lanvin kids line than the woman's. Just generating the buzz helps the designer.

As the luxury market made a small comeback in the past few years, is this how people are spending their money?

For the infant clothes, we're seeing them mostly gifted. The doting grandparents are a large part of the people spending on these lines.

So if the mother of the child is clad from head to toe, is there an etiquette about what type of clothing to buy the child as a gift?

If it's a known fact that a mom leans in the direction of designer, it's probably best to step up to the plate and buy the designer clothes. If you even think how far diaper bags have come, women don't just carry a basic bag anymore.

What designer children's line do you like the most right now?

Looking ahead, Fendi looks good. It's a direct interpretation of their woman's line. The clothes are kid friendly, the prints and colors are just right. They are pushing the envelope forward. The clothes are user-friendly, some of the kids clothes (from other designers) almost look too precious to use. Fendi has utility safari fabrics, others look more washed and comfortable. They have fashion pastels for boys. It looks great, because sometimes compared to the girls, the boys lines can be boring.

Children are the ones wearing these clothes, so do you think it comes with a level of understanding that the clothes will get dirty?

If you're a mom and spending on this, you're prepared to have a good dry cleaner as well.


When Bill McComb took the helm of in 2007, he laid out an ambitious plan for kate spade new york, Lucky Brand and Juicy Couture: Build each of these marquee labels into a global lifestyle brand.

Four years later, while in July, we see signs that McComb’s vision is paying off—kate spade’s sales are up 64% compared to 2010, and Lucky posted a 13% increase. And McComb says it’s only a matter of months before Juicy starts jumping too. Liz Claiborne Inc.’s CEO talked to The High Low about these diverse brands—and the shared strategy that has put all three on the path to double-digit growth.

The High Low: So direct to consumer sales grew by 77% this quarter. How did you unlock the potential of this 18-year-old brand?

Bill McComb: The first step was to bring in our brilliant creative director, Deborah Lloyd—who’d had hugely successful runs at Burberry and Banana Republic—and pair her with Craig Leavitt as CEO. Because kate spade was the last brand acquired under my predecessor, the business wasn’t yet caught up in the corporate structure of the parent company — which was built around sales channels, not brands and, frankly, was beginning to unravel. So I allowed kate spade to remain an independent, yet fully integrated operating company; we kept it highly entrepreneurial, and we kept it small.

THL: How did this new team rethink the brand?

WLM: Deborah had a clear road map for kate spade new york in terms of its “handwriting”—its visual and product expression—and a big part of the plan was to introduce apparel, which was a risky venture and not one that many handbag companies had done successfully. In April of 2009 we were looking forward to an exciting apparel launch in the fall, but our stores were still little white handbag museums—very plain and simple—and our traffic was plummeting. So I gave Craig, Deborah and their head of marketing, Kyle Andrew, a challenge to remake the small 5th Avenue store [in New York City] with a minimal capital expenditure—and by minimal I mean $25,000 to $30,000. We would use that store as a lab, and if the concept was successful we would scale it.

THL: What was riding on this experiment?

WLM: It’s always darkest before the dawn, and April 2009 was 3 a.m. for kate spade. Within six weeks, the team executed a colorful, energetic store format, which immediately drove major increases in traffic. Each store now is designed to look like the kate spade customer’s idealized apartment, which meant we defied some laws of modern retail. We actually put walls up and chopped the store up to make it feel like rooms in a home. The fall came, the new product launched, and it all worked together—centered on a crystal clear target audience definition, a that’s written up on a big wall behind the cash registers in every store.

THL: You refreshed too, but in a different way—which strategies carried through and which ones did you have to tweak?

WLM: The recipe is the same: the right leadership, great product, and—without major capitalization—new visual merchandising to bring the stores to life. Lucky has always had a clear look and feel, but the stores were poorly edited, which left the brand too wide and uncommitted. Creative director Patrick Wade and CEO Dave DeMattei, who took over in 2009, put a laser focus on denim and the denim lifestyle, but with modern handwriting, not just the ’70s peace vibe or ’80s rock-and-roll. The stores now are much more consumer-friendly: it’s easier to find and navigate sizes and styles; it’s easier to see the array of washes relative to sizes and styles. Second-quarter sales were up 22% compared to 2010.

THL: is the trendiest of these three brands—why was it third in line for renovation?

WLM: The founders left the business only at the end of 2009, and there was a state of suspension, creatively, before I was able to bring in LeAnn Nealz as President and Chief Creative Officer. She’s been at , Calvin Klein, Theory, and she came to us from American Eagle—she really understands the women’s contemporary space, she understands the LA girl, and she has an amazing vision of where Juicy needs to go. What Juicy is really about is Southern California casual luxury—a certain Laurel Canyon, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles look and feel—that is timeless. And it’s a look that transcends global tastes even better than traditional American preppy.

THL: So what’s the new Juicy going to look like?

WLM: You’ll see a “re-couturing” of the stores this fall—different properties and elements than what we brought to kate spade, but the same lift and renewal: new art packages, new merchandising systems and, starting with spring 2012, fantastic new product. LeAnn has said that she’s going to be celebrating the “couture” more in Juicy Couture. It’s still a casual California lifestyle brand, but the quality is up, and the attention to detail on fit is tremendous. The aesthetic has a whole new beat of relevance—and the reflects that.

THL: How big can these brands be?

WLM: Any of them could join the ranks of Coach, Guess and Ralph Lauren, the very enviable monobrand companies, because I’m recruiting people that are uniquely passionate about the brand they are building—tenured apparel-retail veterans who run their business with a high degree of entrepreneurship and flair. There’s an affinity between each team and the product, the lifestyle, the positioning. And what that unlocks is the high double-digit growth we’re already seeing in some of these brands—I believe that globally, each of these brands has the potential to do $1 billion and more in sales.

This originally appeared at .

Earlier this summer, Moët Hennessy won a for its digital magazine, , which it launched in early 2010.

The French fashion house -- and the world's largest luxury company, run by billionaire -- says its content is editorially independent, and calls the site an "information reference." It's reminscent of French or Italian , with multimedia (e.g., the short film "" was popular in fashion circles).

No matter how it's packaged, it's a marketing win for , and follows a new wave of advertising for luxury brands (in 2009, Burberry launched a similar site, the ).

reports that:

Many luxury-goods companies, for example, have built editorial teams to “socialize” their brands: they are transforming the customer relationship by producing blogs, digital magazines, and other content that can dramatically intensify both the frequency and depth of interactions.

on the trend earlier this year, and spoke with Miki Berardelli, chief marketing officer for Tory Burch, about how luxury advertising is changing:

“We’re publishing content in an authentic way, and if it’s increasing our brand awareness, then it could be defined as advertising. It’s a new way of communicating with consumers. It’s taking an editorial approach to telling your brand story, and the social media space just lends itself so beautifully to that combination.”

Sites like NOWNESS , but those lines have been blurred since the inception of (1892) -- just a few decades after was born (1854).

Social networks have changed the way we work—and live.

For example, 18 percent of consumers use social networking sites before even getting out of bed, according to a May 2011 Ericsson ConsumerLab study.

They have also changed the way we travel, morphing business trips from a mundane experience into a data-rich opportunity to make new connections and discover or strengthen relationships.

"The simplest way to think about it is that you used to fly into a city, and unless you knew someone who was there, there's no chance that you ever got in touch with anyone," notes , the -based head of location-based marketing at , an integrated global communications company.

"We all tend to hover around in these bigger metropolitan areas and we're closer to so many people we know than we think we are, but we just don't know it. So social media kind of tightens up that six degrees of separation, and it also makes for serendipity."

But how do you keep it professional and make the most out of your next trip by utilizing social media? Here's what the experts advise.

How Social Media Has Changed Business Travel: Before You Leave

Before you ever book your trip, social networks allow you to research, interact, and enhance the experience.

From a research perspective, some hotels have started to offer room specials exclusively for fans of their page. Morever, travelers can see reviews of properties from trusted colleagues, friends and strangers to make sure it's the right spot long before arriving.

Lastly, you can figure out where your connections and contacts are staying if they'll be in town at the same time to simplify that process later on (travel-organizing app TripIt makes this easier with its integration into ).

Travelers can also use Facebook, and LinkedIn to communicate with existing contacts to figure out details about where to stay and what to do while traveling—including whom else might be in town. You'd be shocked sometimes at where old connections that you haven't seen in years might be living or have lived, allowing you to solicit opinions or schedule meetings with folks you never envisioned.

"A lot of hotels are adopting this that if they become more social-media friendly, people will start staying there," Strout says.

"Before I leave, I can figure out if someone I know will be there and then triangulate that data to connect for dinner. You have micro-control of it too, because you can broadcast out what you like or keep things private."

Social Networks and Mobile Apps to Use Before You Travel:

• Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn: Let your contacts know you're planning a trip to see what fellow connections are going to be in town so you can schedule meetings—formal or informal—and determine places to go and things to do in your down-time. Follow hotels or airlines on the networks to get exclusive discounts not available elsewhere.

• book your travel wherever you choose, and forward your itinerary to . The free organizational service does the rest of the work, allowing you to access the data anywhere and also telling you if any connections are in the same area.

• still a relatively new service, GTrot (short for globe-trotting) connects users with Facebook friends who live where you're visiting, have visited there previously or are there at the same tim as you. With one click, you can notify those friends of your plans and solicit input or suggestions.

• , , or : whatever your car rental needs are, there is a way to access the best deals here. Autoslash and allow you to input dates and times of arrival and departure and then scours the Web for the best deal. With Autoslash, if you book a rental and a better deal comes across the site, it automatically rebooks you at the lower rate. is a well-known service that allows you to rent a car for hours, days or longer, often cheaper than car rental companies and with nicer vehicles (but including a membership fee).

• part of the rising trend of social car sharing and luxury car services, this is changing the way we get around in town. , the winner of last month in , allows car owners to safely rent out their unused car to trusted drivers when they need it most.

Cyndi Lauper said it best when she stated that “girls just wanna have fun.” No matter what city you place a group of girls, they will inevitably find something fun to do and is no exception. Often described as a young and diverse city; it has a fascinating vibe that is ready to be explored and the perfect destination for a girls getaway.

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar: What better way to enjoy the night than to chat over a few drinks and a warm meal? Purple Cafe & Wine Bar may sound like a simple place to visit, but it is the Mecca for savory dishes and fine . Full of flavorful dishes like Lobster Macaroni and Cheese or Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, it's worth every calorie. A superb wine list is a fantastic invitation to let loose and order the bubbly. Catch up on the latest gossip and feel like a local at the same time at this chic wine bar.

Twist: Since girls just want to have fun, why not look for some boys that want to as well. Even if you are taken, it is fun to flirt at Twist; an upscale bar and lounge. It was recently rewarded for having the best liquor selection with a roster of 150 choices. If you don't fall in love with a cute local, you'll fall in love with their happy hour with no drink priced over $10. This bar can easily feel laid back at first, but as the night progresses it is the perfect spot for a girls night out to enjoy the local scene.

Seattle Premium Outlets: What would a weekend be without shopping? Seattle Premium Outlet features all the faves like Coach, Burberry and Calvin Klein. Beware of where you can save even more money; which means you might even have to bring an extra bag with you!

Salish Spa and Lodge: Live luxuriously at the Salish Spa and Lodge. Only 30 minutes from Seattle, it's close to the fun hustle and bustle of the city, yet close enough to nature. Most rooms have fantastic views of Snoqualmie Falls and other scenic landscapes. Or make a day trip out of it for the full spa experience. Just reading the spa menu is relaxing enough, with choices like the Green Tea & Northwest Seaweed Salt Glow or the Cascade Escape: The Ultimate Salish Spa Experience. Treat yourself from head to toe and enter Seattle like a new woman; a $500 treat that brings the serenity of the mountains right into your very pores.

Girls Night Out Classic Yacht Cruise: A great way to end your girl’s weekend is toasting to good times on an exclusive Ladies Night at Sea yacht cruise. Seattle is known for its dazzling waterfront, shining with city lights and skyline. range from harbor tours to cruising out to Lakes and Islands in the Seattle area.

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Global luxury brands usually boast about the superior shopping experience they offer. Their sales staff is supposed to be thoroughly familiar with the products on display and understand the needs of the customer.

However, this level of professionalism is sadly lacking in India. At the recently concluded CII-ET Dialogue on Luxury in Delhi, Yashovardhan Saboo, CEO, Ethos Boutiques - a retail chain of Swiss watches in India - blamed deeply ingrained social and economic prejudices for the not happy-to-help attitude. Even regular buyers of luxury brands complain that sales staff tends to judge buyers by their appearance. "If a woman wearing a sari walks into a Jimmy Choo store, the attendants will not see her as a serious customer. On the other hand, anyone in a dress and stilettos is paid much more attention," says Ragini Jaiswal, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur.

Fashion consultant Harmeet Bajaj, who counts her shopping experiences at Max Mara and Marni among the best, says that selling luxury brands is a fine art. "Store attendants have to talk to the customer, understand her background and style. They should never force any product on you. In stores abroad, the attendants know their regular customers and give them personalised care. And if you are new to the brand, they are trained to assess you in a matter of minutes and guide you around. Such inter-personal skills are missing in India."

When Burberry launched in India in 2008, customers were promised personalised shopping, a USP of the brand. However, when Priyanka Bhattacharya, a freelance beauty writer from Bangalore, walked into a Burberry store in Delhi, she didn't find the staff very forthcoming. "In India if you walk into any luxury store all that the staff tells you is the price of products because that is not mentioned. That does not make the service exclusive. They rarely offer you any style tips - what kind of bag will work for you? Will a short dress suit a short frame? They are not trained to assist shoppers."

Luxury Stores Not Up-to-Date

Luxury shoppers also find that the stores are not stocked with the latest collections. This is reported to be especially true for beauty and make-up brands. Even though the autumn-winter collections are out elsewhere in the world, in India you will continue to find lipstick from the last season. It's also been observed that luxury apparel brands prefer to keep more pret-a-porter, or ready-to-wear, collections in Indian stores rather than haute couture lines.

The recent CII-A T Kearney India Luxury Review 2011 has also taken note of this gulf between customer expectations and supply. Customers, it reports, seem to be saying, "have money, will buy, but please treat me well". The Review further states: "High quality talent continues to be limited. With the entry of new brands and footprint expansion by most companies, luxury players are facing high attrition rates resulting in increasing personnel costs."

The way out, feel experts, are intensive training programmes for luxury retail professionals. "Right now there's very little investment in retail training. We need to introduce long-term training programmes instead of organising sporadic workshops. It will also help to offer retail professionals opportunities to work abroad," says Saboo.

Anil Chopra, former CEO Lakme Lever Pvt Ltd, cites the example of the aviation industry to emphasise the importance of right training modules. "On any given flight the same set of crew is servicing passengers in the A class, business and economy class. How do they manage this? It is possible because there are good schools and institutes training them. This can be replicated in luxury retail industry."

This originally appeared on .

This story was originally published by.

With the removal of the cap on foreign ownership in single-brand retail, global luxury brands are expected to ramp up their presence in the domestic market.

"In one stroke, India may have opened the floodgates," said Sanjay Kapoor, managing director of Genesis Luxury, the joint venture partner of Burberry in India, which also represents other luxury brands like Canali, Jimmy Choo and Bottega Veneta.

Most luxury brands operate through the franchise or licensing route, while some like Louis Vuitton and Burberry have joint ventures in which they own 51 percent shareholding. Many such brands which have silent partners in India may now want to buy out their Indian partners. "A lot of brands were concerned about holding only 51 percent in India. Now, there is a better chance of them coming into India," said Dinaz Madhukar, vice-president at DLF Emporio, in an report.

India to Become a Preferred Market

Tikka Shatrujit Singh, chief representative in Asia for French luxury firm , the parent company of Louis Vuitton and many other luxury brands globally, said the appetite to invest in India is bound to grow now. "This was the last frontier to be opened. It will make India a preferred market," he said.

With the rapid rise in high net worth individuals, Indian luxury market is estimated to triple to $14.7 billion by 2015, from $4.76 billion in 2009. In a recent report, Swiss wealth manager forecast that the number of HNIs in India, with assets of $1 million or more, would more than double to 403,000 by 2015.

"We expect investments in India from luxury and fashion companies to benefit from this decision and the process of development of infrastructures will improve and boost the growth of luxury industry in India," said Michele Norsa, CEO of Ferragamo Group.

Luxury Plans for the Country

"We are waiting for the fine print. If the conditions are favourable, we will look at scaling up our stake from 51 percent to 100 percent in our Indian subsidiary," Damien Vernet, general manager, Middle East & India at Louis Vuitton, said. Louis Vuitton has a 51:49 joint venture in India, with four stores. In contrast, it has 36 stores in China.

"I expect people sitting on the fence to now make a beeline (for India). After China, India is the next big market for luxury brands. India is expected to be the next China," said Abhay Gupta, executive director of Blues Clothing Company, which has franchise deals with luxury brands like Versace, John Smedley, Cadini and others in India. Just a couple of months ago, , who runs the fashion and leather goods unit at LVMH said the 51 percent cap was holding back foreign investments.

This originally appeared on .

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Kim Kardashian On Instagram.

No, there's no dashboard or back-end metrics. And no sales team to support advertisers--yet. But Instagram, the popular photo-sharing service that , is Mecca for brand advertisers.


It's a place where display advertising actually works. Yep, that's right: people want to look at your ads.

Just don't call them ads. Instead, call them images, and make sure they're (actually, truly) interesting or beautiful to look at. One smart angle is the "behind-the-scenes" approach taken by brands such as General Electric, , and Burberry. As a consumer, I don't know much about GE's engineering division, and I might not profess to care. But amazing, color-saturated photos of engines and repairs, which turn my into a portable gallery of industrial-flavored art? Yes, please. CEO has suggested Instagram may be the , and he now has the resources of --expected to IPO at $75-100 billion later this month -- to back him up in developing it.

So how can you use Instagram and other social platforms smartly? You can find out more at , Business Insider's one-day conference diving deep into the best practices in social-media marketing, sales, branding and engagement.

The Summit takes place June 7 in Chicago. You can .

Brand marketers from Walmart, , , Gatorade, and more Fortune 500 companies will convene to share strategies, alongside emerging private companies and leading investors. Speakers include:

They'll share industry insight on topics including:

See the and for additional information, and @BI_Events on for updates and discounts. We'd love to in June!

is the app that every mobile developer dreams of building.

Since launching last October, the for has gone completely viral, with more than 13 million downloads. It is now adding a million new users every couple of weeks, including celebrity users like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Its runaway success has propelled cofounder and CEO into sudden fame in the tech world, landing him on lists like Fortune's .

And yet, Instagram has never spent a dime on marketing, and the company is still tiny, with only 7 employees working out of a space in San Francisco's South Park neighborhood.

We caught up with Systrom last week before Thanksgiving to ask him how he did it and what's next for the company.

Here's what we learned:

Here's a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited:

: How's life? How's business? You guys are up above 13 million users now right?

Kevin Systrom: It's funny that you say that because you really can swap "life" and "business" in the same sentence. Life's great. We're growing like a weed, both in people joining the company and also in usage. We have over 13 million people now on the app. It's been a crazy year. It's unlike any social network trajectory in the first 12 months and we're really excited to see where it goes.

BI: Why do you think the app took off so quickly?

KS:We took a very basic action that everyone does in the world, taking a photo, and we put some meaning behind it, some reason behind it. The reason is suddenly all your friends can see that photo immediately, in an instant. But also we make the photo more beautiful. It doesn't take very much to convince people to do what they do every day anyway and then do it through you're product. Really we're just taking people and shifting them from taking photos anyway to taking them on Instagram.

But then, because of the encouragement through making photos beautiful, people are taking way more photos than they would have otherwise because there's a reason to share them.

BI: But what advice would you give somebody to get that initial notice and get that spike in usage?

KS: It's interesting because I've started to work more closely with startups trying to do exactly this, and a lot of people think it's a marketing game. But really, if you build a quality app you will naturally rise through the ranks. I don't know how many apps are in the App Store, but everyone knows a fraction of a percent are really well done, quality, thought out apps. There are a lot of apps that are fun to use, they're utility apps, they're fine. But there are a fraction of apps that are in the cream of the crop. You just need to be in the cream of the crop to get noticed.

I think far too many people focus on how many emails can I send the user to get them to come back at the end of the week. If you build something beautiful and useful they will come back. And sure, you should also do those things, but I don't remember the last email I got from saying "hey, you haven't been back to our site in a while."

There are gimmicks, paying for downloads and stuff. But we've never spent a dime on marketing. Great products sell themselves.

BI: What does your average user look like? Do you have a few "whales" who are taking tons of photos and then a bunch more casual users, sort of like with games?

KS: You can split it up into personas. There are definitely people who don't take any photos but like photos and comment on photos. Like people who joined for Justin Bieber -- a lot of them are there for one reason, and the reason is Justin. At the same time, there are people who subscribe to thousands of people and not only like and comment on their photos but take beautiful photos as well.

BI: You only have 7 employees, right?

KS: We're going to be 9 pretty soon.

BI: What are you hiring for?

KS: Right now we're hiring engineers and designers. That's what we're focused on. We've had a tremendous amount of luck in the last six months finding people that we really love to work with, and the team we've built is unparalleled for what we're doing.

BI: What's the kind of person you're looking for? Fresh out of college? Lots of experience in mobile?

KS: Actually I really value passion for the product above experience. Right now, most of the people are within a few years, three to six years out of college. But that's not necessarily true going forward. A lot of people coming aboard are a little more senior than that, and I'm totally cool with that. We just want to build a company that focuses on the love of Instagram.

BI: It doesn't seem like you need to hire any marketing people.

KS: It's funny, I was talking to somebody about getting a job as a growth strategist at a company and I started thinking to myself that's the opposite of what we need right now. We need somebody [who can tell us] how do you deal with growth. At the same time, even though we're growing at our peak over one user per second, we still need three or four times that to make us happy. That'll require things like Web, things like Android, a concerted play on those areas.

BI: What is the next platform?

KS: The next mobile platform is definitely going to be Android and we've got some cool stuff coming, that's all I can say.

BI: Are you going to target only the most recent version?

KS: You mean like versus others? We're going to try to be compatible with all modern phones. I don't know enough, so I can't comment to specifics, I'm not the guy who knows a lot about Android. But in our discussions, there's always a tension between just supporting the latest or supporting a bunch of different ones. We're going to try and support as many as we can.

BI: There was an , a developer told Rafe Needleman that it's sometimes better to support limited platforms because you get more marketing support.

KS: The stronger point is not that will give you preferential treatment, because I don't think they do if you're not on Android, it's not that at all. The stronger point is the focus that comes from being on a single platform. We were able to iterate much more quickly than -- I don't think anybody even names any of our competitors anymore. One of the reasons why is we were able to focus on Android and really focus on the experience on the Apple platform. There will always be folks coming up with interesting innovative stuff, I'd never write anybody off, but focusing on iPhone really helped us take that market.

BI: So you guys see yourselves as a platform, right? I hear that from a lot of startups these days -- everybody wants to be a platform.

KS: I don't think platform means you support other people, necessarily. A platform is the base from which something big happens. In our case we're an entertainment platform in the sense that there are people signing up like , Burberry, folks like Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. And why? Because it's their channel to control their entertainment to their fans. Whether you're a brand, whether you're a big artist, or whether you're me, just a photographer, it's a platform upon which to broadcast. What we're seeing is people spending more and more time on these things [picks up his iPhone] and this is where we're consuming entertainment. Instagram is definitely becoming a new entertainment source for people day after day.

And right now we're still images, right? Imagine what happens when in the future, this really becomes an entertainment platform. I don't want to say this is an entertainment platform in the way TV is a platform because we're not going to go producing content. That being said, you could see where professional producers do produce content, do produce photos of behind the scenes things -- Audi produces gorgeous photos of all their cars and I'm sitting there and flicking through it and I'm addicted. That's very much like people sitting down on a Friday night to watch their favorite show. It's just a different platform, meaning it's a different medium, and they're consuming different kinds of content. But they're engaged, they just sit there and they open it up every 10 minutes. That's the kind of behavior that unlocks the potential of a big advertising business.

BI: So that's the opportunity -- sponsorships, affiliates, advertising, something like that. Not subscriptions?

KS: I haven't thought very specifically what form it takes, I've thought very generally about the direction we're moving. I don't think you should ever start a business and move in a direction where you can't see it becoming a business. Those thoughts have crossed my mind, can people buy things from the app, or sponsored things in your feed or whatever. I don't think we've landed on any one, but the good news is we add a million people every two weeks, that's a big number. When you have a big part of someone's time, there's a big opportunity, especially as dollars shift off these traditional entertainment mediums and onto online.

Search ads is a very specific implementation of advertising. The question is, is there an opportunity beyond group buying, search advertising, to make a whole lot of revenue on the iPhone, on Android. I believe the answer is yes, that's what we're going after.

BI: When do you have to turn the corner and show revenue? You're showing such fast growth I'm sure you could raise more money whenever you need it, and you have less than 10 people so that's a slow burn rate, but when do you start looking at the business side?

KS: It was a concern from day one. I don't think it's healthy to ignore it. I look at our numbers every day and I see how much we're spending, and I understand that goes up exponentially as you get bigger. So it's on the top of my mind. It's a good problem to have. I'm not sure there's a specific time we need to turn on the faucet. It's a progressive process.

We're trying to figure out a lot of things before that. How do we build a team such that we can support partners? How do we build the technology so that every weekend we're not stuck in the office trying to fix things from going out.

BI: What do you think of native apps for mobile phones vs HTML5 apps? I talk to some people who think HTML5 is the way to build one app that works on multiple platforms.

KS: I don't buy it, mostly because we started off as HTML5.

What I don't buy is just your statement. I totally buy HTML5. It's great for some companies. For instance, I think it's awesome for bigger brands who are not technology companies to invest in HTML5. It's much more accessible, the refresh cycle's much smaller, it's just better for the organization to spend their time doing what you do well. If you're a larger brand, having the flexibility to do HTML5 is also great.

But to do what we do, there's no reason why we should do it in HTML5....We were HTML5 when we were . But there were so many stumbling blocks getting it out to consumers, the second we went native it was the best decision we ever made. I think that's true, for folks to have a strong consumer experience that needs to be completely polished. I don't buy the cross-platform thing.

BI: What about writing in HTML5 and then wrapping it for each different platform?

KS: Why would you do that? You might as well learn Objective C. I think the big stumbling block is a lot of developers are worried that they don't know this other language so let's build it in HTML and JavaScript. But it turns out if you spend a couple of days learning Objective C, you can get really far. The experience is great, too.

BI: You mentioned a Web platform, what's up with that?

KS: I don't think there's any reason people shouldn't be able to consume photos on the Web. We just focused on mobile first.

BI: You also hinted at moving beyond photos into video?

KS: I've been mentioning this a lot lately because I don't want people getting stuck with the idea that Instagram is a photo-sharing company. Instagram is a media company. I think we're about visual media. I explain ourselves as a disruptive entertainment platform that enables communication through visual media. I don't think it's just photos. There's a reason we don't allow you to upload photos on the Web as albums. It's not about taking all these photos off your DSLR putting them into an album and sharing them with your family. It's not about that. It's about what are you up to right now out in the real world, how can you share that with everyone. It's about what's happening out in the world. It's about can I consume media from folks like Taylor Swift. That's really interesting to people. What's not interesting to me is becoming a photo storage platform.

BI: has that locked up.

has it, . We're not in the business of making mugs with photos on them. That's not our thing. So the reason I describe is it pushes people's boundaries of what Instagram is. Video is definitely somewhere in our future.

BI: Video requires a lot more resources.

KS: Everything does. So does Web. We get six million visits a day to our Web site. Imagine us launching a Web site [for sharing], how much more infrastructure would we need? All of these things are commitments. We have to see where they make sense in our lifecycle?

BI: So do you want to stay independent as a company?

KS: You mean versus selling? I'm excited about what we're doing, I love what I do every day I come in to work and get to work with my team, that's what I want to do as long as possible.

BI: Are you a photographer?

KS: It's funny, I was a photographer before I was a programmer. But in high school I basically got them to waive a bunch of science requirements so I could take more computer science. I got to college and decided I didn't want to concentrate on computer science for some random reason. But I've always done photography, in the darkroom, and I've always really been into digital photography. If you go on to , you'll see a photo that looks like an Instagram photo, from about 2007. I've always been into taking my photos, cropping them square, putting them through a filter in Photoshop. We just reverse engineered how to do filters, now we opened it up to the masses....

I've done all our filters except for a few. We worked with , one of our users, who did a fantastic job on Amaro, Rise, and Hudson. He did the first three on the list and they're awesome, I use them 24/7. But we're definitely itching to get new ones out there. We talked about doing limited Christmas holiday ones, or whatever, but we're not Seasons or anything like that yet.


Pressing the like button on a company's Facebook page can have a much more wide-ranging impact than you might have guessed. A new study finds a possible correlation in the relationship between the financialperformance of public companies and their consumer following or fan count on Facebook.

What the researchers found was that the more popular the company was on Facebook, the better its stock price seemed to do.

"The results suggest that changes in fan count trends could signal changes in consumer brand company stock prices, creating the potential for new applications of metrics as economic indicators," the researchers said.

There is an association between a company's and how active its Facebook users are and its stock price, Pace University researcher Arthur O' Connor told BusinessNewsDaily.

"I am not saying because these are the most popular brands that have the greatest following of consumers on Facebook that that causes stock prices to go up," he said. "The study suggests a relationship between the popularity or greater numbers of people thinking and posting comments or sharing experiences about brands and the economic performance of the brand."

O'Connor, in association with social media analytic service , which ranks and tracks social media followers, took the 30 most popular brands on Facebook and broke them into two groups. The first group included companies that sell smaller ticket impulse-based purchases and included Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Burberry, , Puma, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, McDonalds, Oreo (), Pepsi, , Taco , , , Whole Foods and . The second group included 11 companies that offered larger ticket purchases including , , , , , Blackberry (RIM), , , Harley-Davidson, JetBlue and Southwest airlines.

"Fan counts for the most popular brands associated with small ticket and/or impulse purchases were found to have stronger correlation with their respective stock prices than those for the most popular brands associated with larger-ticket items and/or more complex buying processes," the researchers wrote.

O'Connor believes his research has implications for how brands .

"The most notable thing is that people need to start to understand that social media really does have some relationship with the conformity of behavior," said O'Connor, an information technology management consultant enrolled in the executive doctoral program at Pace University. "If everyone is thinking about and talking about your brand, that may mean something in terms of your stock price or corporate performance."

With more than 800 million active Facebook users, the significance of these findings can signal a change in the way companies look at social media and its ability to serve as an indicator and even predictor of economic performance. O'Connor said he believes companies will have to be careful how they wield their newfound social media power.

"Popularity is a two-edged sword," said O'Connor. "The more people look at you and think about you (especially) if you do well and do right by your customers, it can be a tremendous benefit. However, if you don’t do those things, it can work against you in a big way. The one thing you can take away from it is that social media is becoming a more respected and established communication channel with customers, investors and the general public. It is something to take just as serious as shareholder communications, marketing communication or other more established communications."

This originally appeared on .

SHANGHAI () - Louis Vuitton is courting China's wealthy with one-of-a-kind shoes and bags it is branding as unique works of art to reclaim its exclusive cachet in the luxury market.

The French luxury brand, a unit of , is set to open its largest China store in Shanghai on Saturday, complete with a gilded spiral staircase and an invitation-only private floor where big spenders can get their hair done while dreaming up designs for custom bags.

"The made-to-order concept is the ultimate luxury," Louis Vuitton Chief Executive told Reuters during a tour of the store, which the company calls a "maison".

"It's the same with art. If you are interested in art, the ultimate is to commission an artist rather than buy a piece that is already done," Carcelle said.

Louis Vuitton routinely ranks among the most admired brands in surveys of Chinese consumers. But ultra-luxury names such as Hermes are making inroads, and some top-tier consumers now look down on Louis Vuitton as too common.

The company hopes to cement its exclusive luxury status with the new Shanghai store, which boasts steel sculptures and carries a wide array of goods ranging from chic coats and hats to brightly colored bags made from python or alligator skin.

It also sells carrying cases for tiles used to play the Chinese game mahjong and made-to-order trunks for tea sets.

China is the world's third biggest market for personal luxury goods, worth at least 160 billion yuan ($25 billion). In the next three years, it is expected to leapfrog over Japan and the United States to take the top spot, with the luxury segment expanding to 180 billion yuan ($28 billion).


The Louis Vuitton maison, one of 16 similar boutiques in the world, is located in Shanghai's address for luxury goods: the swanky Plaza 66 mall, where rival brands such as Chanel and Prada also have stores.

Spanning four levels and with more than 100 staff, the store is currently the only one in China that offers custom bags and shoes. The company declined to say how much it spent on the boutique.

"Being in this made-to-order market needs sophisticated customers who know what they are talking about and own several bags, if not dozens of bags," Carcelle said.

"That's why the haute maroquinerie and made-to-order-shoes... are important to demonstrate in China," he said, using the French word for luxury leather crafts.

"As long as we didn't have this space to show them to our clients, in a world that is changing fast, we were missing our weapons," he said.

Louis Vuitton's timing, however, may be less than ideal.

Luxury spending is softening in China as the economy weakens. Economic growth slowed to its lowest level in three years last quarter. Britain's Burberry said last week its sales had been hit by the slowdown in China.

Carcelle declined to comment on the state of the Chinese economy or its impact on luxury spending, but said he sees more "maisons" opening up in the capital Beijing and Hangzhou, a thriving trade hub in eastern China.

He said Chinese consumers had rapidly matured into luxury connoisseurs, and the company needed to cater to both first-time buyers and sophisticated shoppers.

"Maybe in the West, this trend took 20 years but here it takes 5 years from the first purchase to the willingness to have more sophisticated products and services," Carcelle said.

($1 = 6.3729 Chinese yuan)

(Editing by Emily Kaiser and Miral Fahmy)

- A curated list of the good things in life
- Contributors from Forbes, TechCrunch, Condé Nast Traveler, Mashable and Luxist
- Advertising managed by Halogen Media Group, with initial advertisers including BMW, Coach and Burberry
- Upcoming functionality will include community reviews, luxury ranking and on-the-go recommendations with the Pursuitist iPhone App

Pursuitist, the premiere luxury lifestyle blog, has officially launched at

While in beta, the Pursuitist editors have diligently curated a rich list of the good things in life to share with affluent readers. With categories that include Arts, Auto, Epicurean, Family, Green, House, Style, Tech and Travel, the Pursuitist aspires to be the “Huffington Post for Luxury.”

Coinciding with the launch, a few of the new contributors sharing their favorite luxuries include Carrie Coolidge (Luxist, Forbes), Paul Carr (Techcrunch, The Guardian), Gretchen Kelly (New York Post), Erica Swallow (Mashable, CosmoGirl.com), Shandana Durrani (Condé Nast Traveler, Glamour) and Leila Cohan-Miccio (Saveur).

International contributors include Holly Boyle in London and Vilte S. Holstad in Paris, capturing the excitement and pulse of fashion, art and life in these vibrant cities.

“Pursuitist is luxury redefined. It’s about finding and sharing the good things in life. To inspire, educate and be relevant. Pursuitists are ahead of the curve and authentic,” said Christopher Parr, CEO and Publisher of Pursuitist. Parr is an award-winning 10-year luxury online marketing veteran, a frequent speaker at luxury and interactive marketing conferences and a pioneer in web publishing. In 1996, Michael Wolff’s NetGuide named Parr’s inaugural online magazine as “The Best Site of the Year” at MacWorld.

The Pursuitist is also a targeted advertising platform for luxury brands to connect with affluent readers. While in beta, advertisers on the site have included Burberry, BMW, Coach, Broadmoor Hotel, Chase Bank, Audemars Piguet, Cosmopolitan Hotel and Effen Vodka. Halogen Media Group, with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, manages advertising for the site.

“Bringing on world class content producers exemplifies Pursuitist’s understanding of influencer media and the importance of providing brand advertisers with an environment where they can interact with consumers alongside relevant content. We’re thrilled to bring branded content from the world’s best brands to Pursuitist and its loyal readers,” said Greg Shove, CEO of Halogen Media Group.

Luxury fashion brands featured on the site include Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermès, Gucci, Versace, Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Dior, Fendi and Roberto Cavalli. The editors have also highlighted amazing luxury destinations, including Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Disneyworld’s Grand Floridian, InterContinental Resorts, Conrad Hotels, The Plaza and the Waldorf Astoria. Bentley, BMW, Lexus, Bugatti, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Audi, Lamborghini, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz are a few of the luxury auto brands that have been spotlighted on the blog.

Upcoming functionality to the site will include community reviews, luxury ranking, flash sales, Facebook integration and on-the-go recommendations with the Pursuitist iPhone App.

On the web at:

Read below Christopher Parr’s interview with Luxury Daily, regarding working with BMW, Marc Jacobs and Jimmy Choo:

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Luxury companies are complacently selling to their established customers while ignoring the next generation of millennials.

This attitude could jeopardize future business because millennials are "skeptical" about luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Burberry, according to a report by

So far, luxury brands have taken the easy way out and marketed to their reliable customers.

"Luxury marketers face a challenge repositioning their brands for this next generation of highly-educated, soon to be affluent young people," Danziger says."Luxury brands will have to adapt to meet this next generation of luxury consumers in the marketplace."

Reaching the younger generation is challenging because research shows that young people think that luxury brands are overpriced and aren't worth the expense.

While millennials aren't making up much of the market now, Danziger predicts that by 2020 many will be affluent and buying more expensive goods.

Marketing to younger people should be luxury brands' top priority, according to Danziger:

"Understanding the aspirations of Millennials for a luxury lifestyle is critical for luxury brands, including what money, status, and success means to them. They will need to both innovate with new products, services, marketing strategies and branding concepts, as well as let go of old ideas that will prove ineffective, even counterproductive, for marketing to this new generation."


Joshua Linam of IGN’s Askmen.com has named the “.” Christopher Parr, Pursuitist CEO & EIC, is included on this great list, which also includes Luis Fernandez, Timo Weiland, Michael Macko, James Andrew and Ryan Cook. The bloggers, designers and luxury marketing gurus showcased on the list share their favorite fashion brands and style advice. Parr, our very own EIC, shares his go-to style staples — which includes J.Crew, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Belstaff, TAG Heuer, Cole Haan — adding “When traveling, I grab my Belstaff jacket and go with a Barbour bag tossed over my shoulder — it’s stocked with my iPad 2, a few Cuban cigars and Johnnie Walker Black flask.”

Christopher Parr might be described as the renaissance man of luxury fashion. An award-winning luxury marketer, writer, web-publishing pioneer, and go-to speaker at luxury and interactive marketing conferences, the man stays busy. Presently CEO and chief editor at Pursuitist, Parr launched the site as a curated list of all the good things in life. He recruits contributors from Forbes, TechCrunch, Glamour, Saveur, and more, to share their favorite luxury items and adventures. –

For over 15 years, Parr has consulted with brands on , online & buzz marketing to online engagement – and has been a pioneer in web publishing, content creation, iPad app development, blogs and viral videos. In 1996, Michael Wolff’s NetGuide named Parr’s inaugural online magazine as “The Best Site of the Year” at MacWorld.

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Christopher Parr is an industry leader with over 15 years of experience in digital marketing. He is an award-winning veteran, writer, a frequent speaker at luxury and interactive marketing conferences and a pioneer in web publishing. He launched as a curated list of the good things in life, with guest contributors from Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch, Glamour, Saveur and more sharing their favorite luxuries. Askmen.com recently named him “,” his family is featured in , , and Milton Pedraza, CEO, Luxury Institute, calls him “One of the top expert practitioners in global luxury in marketing with a particular expertise in marketing, selling and engaging customers in the digital world. He is one of those professionals who executes brilliantly. He is innovative while looking out for the return on investment…”

In 1996, Michael Wolff’s NetGuide named ‘s inaugural online magazine as “The Best Site of the Year” at MacWorld. He holds a MFA from Brandeis and a BA from Viterbo.

Here’s a Q&A with as he shares his digital strategy behind creating an authentic luxury platform to engage affluent readers and connect with luxury brands. It’s a new age of blogging and editorial intersecting with digital luxury marketing and social media to create online buzz for the world’s best luxury brands.

Can you talk a little bit about where you got the idea to start Pursuitist.com?

The idea of Pursuitist.com was to create a travel, style and leisure destination for affluent consumers. For readers pursuing amazing fashion brands, hotels, restaurants, gadgets, experiences, and autos – Pursuitist is a destination site that curates the good things in life. We’ve brought in world-class content producers — remarkable writers sharing remarkable experiences.

How has the experience of the site differed from what you expected it would become?

It’s been a blast. As I tell my writers — write about remarkable people, products and experiences. We aspire to go beyond the bling – Pursuitist is luxury redefined. We focus on the artisans that make amazing handcrafted products – from a designer at Louis Vuitton to a 2nd generation organic winemaker in Napa. We pursue to tell the story and go behind the scenes. We officially launched in July. While in beta, the Pursuitist editors have diligently curated a rich list of the good things in life to share with affluent readers. Coinciding with the launch, a few of the new contributors sharing their favorite luxuries include remarkable writers.

How does the site plan to attract affluent individuals?

To build awareness, we’re launching a 360-degree advertising campaign. To attract and keep the right readers, our strategy includes word-of-month, PR, campaigns with Facebook, Twitter, banner ads on other affluent websites, and email marketing. Facebook integration is also a major tactic – the sharing, liking, and commenting is exclusively powered by Facebook to help us go viral and obtain more likeminded readers.

What is your relationship to the brands you write about?

As we’re able to serve up a targeted audience, luxury brands love our platform. We’re also very selective of the advertisers that appear on our site. Pursuitist is truly a targeted online destination for luxury advertisers to connect and engage with affluent consumers. Advertisers have included Burberry, Coach, Intel, BMW, Chase Bank, Audemars Piguet, Broadmoor Hotel and Cosmopolitan Hotel. The Pursuitist is a great place to be seen – as our readers are affluent (65% with an annual income of $75k and up) and influencers.

How do you keep your content authentic?

There’s a shortage of online destinations for affluent consumers seeking authentic experiences. Plenty of cold bling sites exist, focusing on editorial content with ultra premium and inaccessible luxuries. That’s the void, and why Pursuitist was created — there’s not another site like us. Pursuitist is one destination site with 9 targeted sections (Arts, Auto, Epicurean, Family, Green, House, Style, Tech and Travel) – best described as an online mashup of The Huffington Post and Conde Nast.Our editorial is also different — from our travel journals to our features on amazing artisans and clever destinations. With friendlier and accessible narratives – our readers tell us they feel like insiders, along for the ride.

In general, what kind of lift can this kind of content offer brands? Is this something they should focus on getting more of?

We’ve also worked quite closely with other luxury brands to organically integrate and feature their products – from Four Seasons, Hermes, Patron, Gucci, Prada, Robert Mondavi Wine, Ralph Lauren, Lobel Steaks of New York, to Chanel. As we only focus on premier brands and destinations, we are selective of the brands we feature. It’s a terrific halo effect – to be “Pursuitist Recommended.”

Do most brands react to what you write? How do they respond to your content?

They love it. The brands, from Marc Jacobs, Land Rover to Viking Range prefer to re-tweet and link to our editorial on their social media channels. (See an example of Marc Jacobs leveraging Pursuitist’s editorial .)

Also read, Luxury Daily News:

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Luxury brands including Louis Vuitton and Burberry are having difficulty expanding in China because there isn't enough prime real estate to go around.

According to a, four out of the five fastest-growing real estate markets are in China. But luxury retailers have trouble finding commercial space that's up to their standards and won't settle for the more up-and-coming neighborhoods.

Still, China will continue to dominate development, according to the report: eight out of the 10 fastest-growing markets are there. Even though luxury retailers are puzzling over how to expand, middle-class shopping malls are popping up everywhere.

- A curated list of the good things in life
- Contributors from Forbes, TechCrunch, Condé Nast Traveler, Mashable and Luxist
- Advertising managed by Halogen Media Group, with initial advertisers including BMW, Coach and Burberry
- Upcoming functionality will include community reviews, luxury ranking and on-the-go recommendations with the Pursuitist iPhone App

Pursuitist, the premiere luxury lifestyle blog, has officially launched at

While in beta, the Pursuitist editors have diligently curated a rich list of the good things in life to share with affluent readers. With categories that include Arts, Auto, Epicurean, Family, Green, House, Style, Tech and Travel, the Pursuitist aspires to be the “Huffington Post for Luxury.”

Coinciding with the launch, a few of the new contributors sharing their favorite luxuries include Carrie Coolidge (Luxist, Forbes), Paul Carr (Techcrunch, The Guardian), Gretchen Kelly (New York Post), Erica Swallow (Mashable, CosmoGirl.com), Shandana Durrani (Condé Nast Traveler, Glamour) and Leila Cohan-Miccio (Saveur).

International contributors include Holly Boyle in London and Vilte S. Holstad in Paris, capturing the excitement and pulse of fashion, art and life in these vibrant cities.

“Pursuitist is luxury redefined. It’s about finding and sharing the good things in life. To inspire, educate and be relevant. Pursuitists are ahead of the curve and authentic,” said Christopher Parr, CEO and Publisher of Pursuitist. Parr is an award-winning 10-year luxury online marketing veteran, a frequent speaker at luxury and interactive marketing conferences and a pioneer in web publishing. In 1996, Michael Wolff’s NetGuide named Parr’s inaugural online magazine as “The Best Site of the Year” at MacWorld.

The Pursuitist is also a targeted advertising platform for luxury brands to connect with affluent readers. While in beta, advertisers on the site have included Burberry, BMW, Coach, Broadmoor Hotel, Chase Bank, Audemars Piguet, Cosmopolitan Hotel and Effen Vodka. Halogen Media Group, with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, manages advertising for the site.

“Bringing on world class content producers exemplifies Pursuitist’s understanding of influencer media and the importance of providing brand advertisers with an environment where they can interact with consumers alongside relevant content. We’re thrilled to bring branded content from the world’s best brands to Pursuitist and its loyal readers,” said Greg Shove, CEO of Halogen Media Group.

Luxury fashion brands featured on the site include Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermès, Gucci, Versace, Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Dior, Fendi and Roberto Cavalli. The editors have also highlighted amazing luxury destinations, including Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Disneyworld’s Grand Floridian, InterContinental Resorts, Conrad Hotels, The Plaza and the Waldorf Astoria. Bentley, BMW, Lexus, Bugatti, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Audi, Lamborghini, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz are a few of the luxury auto brands that have been spotlighted on the blog.

Upcoming functionality to the site will include community reviews, luxury ranking, flash sales, Facebook integration and on-the-go recommendations with the Pursuitist iPhone App.

On the web at:

Read below Christopher Parr’s interview with Luxury Daily, regarding working with BMW, Marc Jacobs and Jimmy Choo:

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flagship store in Herald is getting a $400 million facelift, scheduled for completion in 2015.

The overhaul of the landmark department store, which was built in 1902, will add some 100,000 square feet of space and give the shopping mecca a sleek new look, .

Some parts of the renovation have already been completed. Macy's recently debuted its revamped shoe section, dubbed "The World's Largest Shoe Floor," which includes a cafe space that serves coffee, Moet & Chandon champagne, and hand-made chocolates from Vosges Haut Chocolate.

And the store plans to debut its new main floor in time for the upcoming holiday season. It will feature a trio of luxury shops from Burberry, Longchamps, and Gucci that will be "second only in scale to each brand's own flagship location," according to Macy's.

Macy's shared a few photos of its new shoe department and a rendering of the new main floor with us.

Here's what the luxury shops will look like when they're completed in December 2012

Courtesy of Macy's

Macy's new shoe department opened earlier this month on the second floor

Courtesy of Macy's

The department offers 280,000 pairs of shoes, according to the AP.

Courtesy of Macy's

The new department is sleek and white, and designers are given top billing.

Courtesy of Macy's

In 2006, the Wisconsin State Journal interviewed Madison web designer, writer, online marketing and social media professional of about web design and marketing for Madison, Wisconsin businesses. Wisconsin State Journal published the interview in the articles: , and . He recently rediscovered the original Q&A with the Wisconsin State Journal reporter — and is publishing the original interview, in its entirety, as a perspective on the short history of successful online marketing and strategy.

Q. Why should a Madison business have a website?

A website is a spoke on the communications and branding wheel. It helps to convey a message, along side of TV, print, mobile, point-of-purchase and enewsletters. An effective company utilizes all of these mediums to their advantage. Consumers have many options, so you can’t just rely on TV or the web to get your message out. Some consumers use the web to perform research, some use magazines. A website helps to complete the picture and capture your audience.

However, a website is the most engaging medium. TV and print are passive. The consumer can only watch or turn the page. A business can’t tell the whole story with a print ad. Print is great for grabbing attention, but you need to learn more. With a website, on the other hand, consumers can delve further. It’s interactive; they control where to go, what they want to learn.

Q. What kinds of businesses need what kinds of websites? Are there specific types of sites that fit specific types of Madison businesses?

A. All businesses, large or small, need a website; from a Fortune 100 company, to a coffee house, to a local artist. For a local company, like a restaurant or coffee house, present hours of operation, directions and the menu. And add interactive components, like the ability to create online reservations or sign up for e-coupons. Everyone is busy, so tell the story of why people should go out of their way to visit your store. And personalize it; incorporate humanistic touches to your site. Computers and most websites are cold, you can’t connect. Add in a greeting from the owner or include a picture of the staff. Make it real.

In creating an effective website, content is king. Perhaps a coffee house could have a blog; write about new blends or recommendations, stories at the coffee house, feature the baristas.

My wife, Alison Relyea-Parr, is a children’s book illustration – she has a website at

She no longer needs to be based in New York. Publishers search and find her, which is a reversal on the selection process — when artists would take their portfolios door to door to the publishing houses. The editors find her, and browse her work, at their leisure.

So from blogs, websites to creating a profile for your business on Facebook, use the web to network with your customers online. The ability to connect to prospects, and nurture your current customer, is key.

Q. If you had to categorize different kinds of Madison business websites out there, how would you categorize them?

A. There are 100 different web strategies for 100 different Madison companies. Look at your objectives and business plan. What fits, what doesn’t? If you don’t need to go overboard, don’t do it. Some companies create an informational site to educate consumers and capture leads, so they can remarket to them via email or brochures. E-commerce is the way to go with companies offering tangible goods – in creating a national customer base.

Q. What are some common mistakes Madison businesses make when they’re trying to get on the web? What do people tend to do wrong when they’re developing a web presence and selecting a Madison web designer?

A. There can be many mistakes in creating a website. Speed is an issue, creating a slow site will make your customers quickly click away. Many print designers create all graphic sites that uniformly fail; while they can design fantastic brochures, the web is a totally different medium. Spend time on usability and how people access information. It’s the flow of information, hold the hand of your customer and guide them through your website. Don’t make it a mystery.

Know your audience. Create a site for the customer, not what someone in your company or an agency “thinks” the site should say or do. Also, consider the new visitor — look at your site with this fresh perspective — and explain who you are and what you offer at a brief glance.

Get the facts. You may go with a Madison web designer or developer because you admire one of the sites they created — but the web designer who created the site is no longer there or it was outsourced. Perhaps they just host the site — and someone else designed it. Ask who’s working on your project; find out skills and experience; call their clients and ask if they delivered as promised.

The other mistake is being tied to a proprietary technology which drives your website. You end up getting married to a vendor that will milk the relationship for all it’s worth. Ask for a site that can be completely handed off to your internal staff or to another web firm, if need be. Go open source. Consider WordPress.

Q. What is something that all Madison businesses should do with their web presence that not a lot do?

Ideally, use your business to add value to my life. Make it worth my time – and be creative about it. Even local companies can get into the game. Great examples include Milios and Klinke Cleaners. At milios.com, customers can order their sandwiches online, for pickup or delivery. Over at klinkecleaners.com, customers can download coupons and can be alerted via email when their garments are ready for pickup.

Q. If you don’t have an e-commerce section to your website (and you’d like one) – how do you know you’re ready to start it up? And, how do you make that happen?

E-commerce can be a blessing and curse. If you begin receiving orders, you need to have the infrastructure in place to handle customer service, order status, product availability and delivery. Everyone wants their stuff fast – you need to meet or exceed their expectations.

If you’re a larger company, turn to a web consulting firm to implement an e-commerce solution. Ideally, find a company that’s done this numerous times. They should provide a turn-key solution. Always select a web design and development firm with a track record; otherwise, they’ll stumble and delay the process – which will probably cost you more in the long run.

For smaller Madison businesses, or a one-person business, you can also create an inexpensive e-commerce solution offered from Amazon, Yahoo or Ebay. Their “stores” offer low overhead, wide distribution – and you don’t need to be on the Geek Squad to set it up.

, CEO of , is an award-winning writer and online marketing strategist. Since 1995, the Madison, Wisconsin-based internet pioneer and marketer has launched numerous successful web projects, viral videos and online marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. In addition to creating blogging and buzz marketing platforms, services include . In 1996, Michael Wolff’s NetGuide named ‘s inaugural online magazine as “The Best Site of the Year” at MacWorld. He holds a MFA from Brandeis and a BA from Viterbo. Visit to learn more.

“Does a great job of generating an experience…”
- Douglas Coupland (author of Generation X)

“Delightfully rich and original…”
- Roger Black (author of Web Sites That Work)

“Christopher Parr – one of the Top 20 Most Influential People in Madison…”
- Madison Magazine

Luxury Daily News:

Askmen.com names Christopher Parr “…”


Wisconsin State Journal:

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Last year, British retailer Marks & Spencer convinced to leave Victoria Secret and promote its new Brazilian-cut underwear.

The line has been so successful, reports the , that it saved new CEO Marc Bolland from a battle over his pay package, which includes a 250% bonus on his £950,000 base salary.

There was talk of a shareholder's revolt at the company's annual meeting at Festival Hall on London's South Bank this week, but since lingerie sales jumped by 3.2%, analysts say he was protected against the pushback.

, a UK lobby group that recently encouraged shareholders to revolt at , was behind the potential revolt.

The that it wasn't only the underwear sales that appeased shareholders; it was the meeting itself. Guests at Festival Hall were greeted with vanilla ice cream and wine, and a presentation by model Twiggy. The company's chairman also introduced a new edition to the lingerie line.

At the previous , there were shareholder revolts over CEO pay packages.

If the top luxury brands collided with McDonald’s, you’d get a mashup similar to the below. The concepts are created by Access, a design agency from the mind of The Cool Hunter’s Bill Tikos. Imagine a high-fashion makeover of McDonald’s — and you’d have, ta-da, McFancy… Who wouldn’t want a Burberry Burger, Gucci Fries, Paul Smith Sundae, or D&G water….?

“Waiters in tuxedos, silver service, private dining areas, and packaging co-created with the fashion brands that present at Fashion Week — Burberry burgers, Chanel fries on black packaging, Paul Smith Sundaes…A bit of fun among the serious business of fashion. A bite of comfort food among all the elaborate cocktail fare, Private dining rooms, a raised catwalk that winds around the perimeter of the space, and with a central bar area providing a dramatic focal point. The ceiling is constructed from stretched fabric, ribbed to provide articulation and define zones. The form of the ceiling is accentuated through the use of LED lighting.” –

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Hermes in Mumbai.

By Boby Kurian & Reeba Zachariah

Ever noticed how the staffers at a luxury store look as premium as the products they sell? Maybe that's because they've been powdered and puffed, pampered and indulged enough to ensure they never leave. At Aditya Birla's luxury fashion chain, The Collective, for instance, they are the million-dollar employees - the ones who bring in annual sales worth $1 million. And keeping them in high spirits can only result in more moolah.

Gone are the days of the over-eager 'salesman' with his oily smile and sweaty handshake. The new store executive is sharp and suave, and effortlessly showcases the product he's selling. Marquee global brands are lavishing attention on picking, training and retaining high-class staff only for the close ties they strike with the upper crest of India's spending class.

So while some brands offer their employees a retention bonus to stay put, others such as , Ermenegildo Zegna and Dior have gone a step ahead and reinvented the look and feel of their store to attract well-groomed and qualified staff that has now taken on the role of brand custodian and fashion consultant.

Why Employees Are Pampered
Consultancy firm McKinsey estimates that over nine million Indian households are a target for luxury brands, and about 40 per cent of them - some of whom don't mind spending a few lakh rupees on a single store visits - are between Mumbai and Delhi. Not surprisingly, picking the right staff is top priority-luxury brands are focusing on making experienced hires from aviation and hospitality backgrounds while many more CEOs are descending on fashion institutes and finishing schools for campus recruitment. "There's a new store culture attracting staff from good middle-class families," says Tommy Hilfiger CEO Sailesh Chaturvedi. "We make it a point to listen to them and provide them direct access to the top brass. They drive the shopping experience that is crucial to branding these days."

It pays to be an executive at a high-end store. The store manager of a luxury retailer in Mumbai's Palladium Mall takes home more than Rs. 20 lakh per year, while store staff is paid between Rs. 4 lakh and 6 lakh annually. Retired models and India-returned NRI housewives take up jobs as consultants at some stores, much like students from pedigree institutions and working models in Europe and the Far East take up commission-based work at Gucci or Prada stores on weekends.

"These people look at life and a career differently," says Shital Mehta, who heads The Collective. "They're not terribly excited about becoming mere store managers; it's interacting with the well-heeled that draws them." And working at a luxury store is a definite step-up in the food chain for any executive. "It connects me with the wealthy," says Navin Sonawanneya, 30, assistant store manager at Tod's which is known for its shoes and bags. "You develop a bond with them, they value your suggestions, and on occasion they call you home."

Some brands go so far as to prepare a career road map as part of their employee retention strategy. Diesel, for instance, puts every store employee on a professional enhancement programme. "There are store staffers who have gone on to become visual merchandisers, buyers and designing talents," says Darshan Mehta, CEO, Reliance Brands, which operates a JV with Diesel.

Burberry's country head, Nalini Gupta, argues that India's retail story has become a serious career option as several luxury and high-street retailers like Hermes and upscale men's clothier Tom enter the country, braving economic uncertainties. "A talent pool for selling luxury brands has now started to build up in India," says N S Rajan, partner, Ernst & Young, "and business school grads are adding to the intelligence quotient of their sales personnel".

This originally appeared at .

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Perhaps it’s the “Pinterest Effect” – the social media network that is all about the visual side of life, but more and more brands, especially the big boys on the brand block, arejoining – the mobile only app that, as per “allows users to take a photo, apply a digitalfilterto it, and then share it with other Instagram users they are connected to on thesocial networkas well as on a variety ofsocial networkingservices.”

Originally available only to owners and now available to users as well, Instagram has seen a remarkable growth in the first seven months of 2012 – going from 15 million users in early 2012 to 80 million in July – an increase of over 400% in just seven months. Now I was hardly a math major in school but that’s some pretty impressive numbers I would say.

Apparently big brands are taking notice as according to a study conducted by, 40% of the brands listed inTop 100 have set up shop on Instagram.

Now obviously the penetration rate for Instagram among the big brands is light years behind the big dogs -Facebook(which happens to own Instagram) and but you have to remember that Instagram is still a young company and is, as previously mentioned, available only via a mobile platform. It’s for those reasons Simply Measured referred to Instagram’s growth as “very impressive” and I would surely agree.

And I would surely agree and recommend that all brand managers and brand marketers, who are not currently active on Instagram on behalf of their brands, get active in a hurry.

The “Good Reason” Part Of My Title

Back in MayI wrote.The rationale behind my statement was for the simple fact that Pinterest was extremely popular among women, AKA the people who make the majority of household purchase decisions.

And Instagram – while not yet possessing the same gaudy numbers as Pinterest when it comes to the number of female users or the amount of trust women place in it, does have a user base that is nearly 70% female according to data from.

According to Simply Measured, the leaders in the Instgram clubhouse right now are luxury brands with Burberry, and Gucci among the brands with highest number of followers. From the chart below you'll also see that andStarbuckshave the highest number of followers overall among brands but upon further review you can see that brands such as Audi and are doing a better job in terms of engagement as witnessed by the number of “likes” and comments in relation to their overall number of followers.

In Closing

Obviously if you’re a brand manager or brand marketer you need to stop what you are doing and set up an Instagram account right away for the future of the free world depends on it.

Ok, maybe not the entire free world and perhaps I am being a bit melodramatic but the fact remains that consumers – more and more of them, are using Instagram, just as they are, Twitter,Google+ and Pinterest. And if you’re not including Instagram as part of your social media strategies which should be part of your overall, you are missing out on a golden opportunity to move that needle.

From the conclusion of the Simply Measured study:”For brands that continue to hold out and watch as their competition is engaging users and measuring results, 80 million potential customers are being ignored.”

Put that in your marketing hat and smoke it – 80 million (and growing) potential customers being ignored.


Named one of the(#41) by Social Technology Review and aby Kred,is a freelance copywriter/blogger currently looking for full-time work. He has worked on some of the biggest brands in the world and has over 20 years experience in advertising and marketing. He lives in Philly and can be reached via,,or his.

Readers of New York Magazine's fashion blog The Cut are in for a treat when they check in on the site Monday morning.

That's when the the company plans to reveal its all new version of the blog—a standalone website that will move outside its current editorial milieu of style and gossip to take on a wide range of topics that interest women, from sex and relationships to health and media. And it's putting a whole new emphasis on photos.

"Our goal was to create a mash-up between a high-end fashion magazine and a blog," said , editor-in-chief of New York Magazine.

From what we saw, The Cut's new format could give traditional print glossies a run for their money. Images on the site appear at a super-high resolution and slideshows will feature a zoom function, meaning readers can get up close and personal with a sexy pair of shoes or a makeup smudge on a runway model's face.

The site also invested heavily in its image inventory, creating 100 new celebrity Look Books (in the style of the ) and hiring freelance street photographers around the world to capture the looks of the moment.

Maureen O'Connor, formerly of Gawker, will helm the new site's features section, Love & War, which she said would experiment with "first-person confessionals" alongside commentary and longer pieces. Another new feature we're eagerly awaiting is "Celeberotica," in which a romance novelist is asked to reimagine tabloid stories.

Altogether, there are now 11 editorial staffers on the website, including seven new hires. The new Cut will also make heavy use of outside contributors, Moss said.

The launch comes as women's sites in general—Buzzfeed's , The Grindstone—are on the rise. Moss said that by expanding outside the sphere of fashion, the website hoped to capture a wider audience.

It's also a boon for advertisers. Fashion is the largest single advertising category for New York Magazine, up 34 percent from last year, and digital now accounts for 40 percent of its ad revenue, said publisher Larry Burstein. Five advertisers, including Bottega Veneta, Burberry, and Cartier, have signed on for the site's launch, for campaigns that he said would "replicate print ads."

While the site doesn't have any specific e-commerce plans in place for the launch, that could come next, Burstein said. And it makes sense, considering that another section of the site, Goods, will feature a range of click-to-buy products, from bargain finds to looks straight from the runway.

We were big fans of The Cut before, and are excited to see what the new version brings.

Here's a preview of the new homepage, TheCut.com. Click to enlarge.

One of the first people to go to trial for criminal acts during the London riots is a 31 year old primary school teacher named Alexis Bailey, reports . He plead guilty to burglary with the intent to steal. He's out on bail, but has been given a curfew.

London Magistrates and their staff have been working around the clock to deal with large numbers of individuals arrested during the riots. But they don't always have the power to sentence them.

Chair of magistrates Melvyn Marks told the court many of the cases had aggravating features, occurring "in the middle of a very violent riot", which meant magistrates had insufficient sentencing powers.

"Because of the nature of this offense and because of the circumstances, we have taken the view that there are too many aggravating features on this case and our powers of punishment are not enough."

Naturally, most of the crimes that the court has been related to looting -- robbing a , stealing Burberry shirts, two men went to trial for pushing around a shopping cart full of power tools that they had "found".

Here's a video of Bailey leaving Wood Green Crown Court, where most of the sentencing is being done. He's covering his face with a newspaper, but you can see it clearly around second 7.

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Warning: This video (below) is gross.

Bet she is wishing she had all those high-powered handlers around her now to prevent this embarrassment.

Even Fox News is covering this.

Oh, and check out the Burberry scarf she's wearing in the video (below). Fancy, fancy!

: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin officially pardoned a turkey for Thanksgiving at a farm in Wasilla, Alaska on Thursday, then conducted a television interview as another bird was clearly seen being slaughtered in the background.

As the former Republican vice presidential nominee spoke with a KTUU-TV reporter about returning to work in Alaska, just a few feet behind her a Triple D Farms worker is seen feeding a turkey into a grinder, periodically turning around to watch the on-going interview.

Palin, who called the pardoning experience "neat" was reportedly told by the station videographer what was going on behind her, but allowed the interview to continue.

Pardoning a turkey is tradition for governors in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, following a White House custom that began in 1947.

Within the last couple of years GQ’s multi-winning designer-of-the-year Paul Smith has opened shops in and , hoping to finally crack that American market. Each of these buildings reflects an architectural through-line back to Paul Smith himself: colorful, drawing influences from sport, history, art, pop-culture or modern architecture. Paul Smith the brand continues to open stand-alone shops throughout the world, including this past month with a new 3-story flagship in Seoul, South Korea, featuring Paul Smith’s personal art collection on its walls.

British designer Paul Smith is not a household name in America; not yet. Where the French have always had a reputation for women’s fashion, it is the Brits, well, London’s Savile Row specifically, that has the well-earned reputation for turning out men in bespoke suits, fitting the country’s elite and sophisticated and, yes, the wealthy in clothes that definitely make the man.

But, truth be told, these companies churning out high-end men’s fashion haven’t been “British” in the strictest sense for decades; they can be, and are often, owned by multinational corporations headquartered in France, Italy or Japan. The designers, and their sense of style, most assuredly rock a British idiom that push past typical Savile Row boundaries, leaving the shores of England as fast as any Virgin airlines jet can whisk them away.

The globalization of British men’s and women’s fashion is certainly alive and well from Asia through to America, with the likes of British (and award-winning) designers like Christopher Bailey (), John Galliano (), and recently departed influencing the way men and woman are dressing.

Bringing us back to the iconic British designer Paul Smith, who is arguably the most successful designer in British history. Knighted by the Queen in 2000, Paul Smith’s fashion strengths have always played to a man’s sensibility: well-made clothing with just a touch of unique style as seen in his signature multicolored stripes. Sir Paul’s fashion house, still independently owned, supposedly has revenues now past $600 million from 48 different countries, including 12 different men’s and women’s lines, licensing and limited edition deals with Evian water, cameras, Cross pens, Barneys New York, luggage, furniture, skis, and the list and revenues go on (and on).

In his book Paul Smith: you can find inspiration in everything (2003), Sir Paul says that we should seek to be childlike, not childish; and that the key to staying inspired is to see and to think about the world horizontally, where we can find inspiration from all of the things around us (not other designers). As Paul Smith expansion continues around the globe, his personal inspiration is sure to follow.

Diamonds, Burberry, Rolex, Lacoste - yes, they may have more sales and inventory problems than 2003, but they are surviving. What can the small business owner learn from these individuals?...

When in doubt, they're buying the most expensive

Entrepreneurs, upon going into business frequently make the mistake of lowering the cost of their product or service due to the perception that this is the only way to gain new business. They think that paying the "no profit dues" is the sole means to get in the door.

As a small business, pricing your product or service correctly is nothing short of critical.

When it comes to deciphering what you should charge for a given product or service, I've compiled three of the most crucial pricing tips to help your start-up sustain growth, successfully maintain the company's existing client base, as well feel that you are being compensated adequately for your expertise:

If You Want A Nice Diamond, Go To Tiffany's

When clients call into a potential vendor, they typically have no idea about the product or service that they are inquiring about. If they did, more likely than not they wouldn't be outsourcing the job.

Therefore, many clients judge the quality of a product or a service based on its price. After all, the higher the price tag, the better it is likely to be.

Although logic would say that the aforementioned statement proves to be entirely false, it is what your potential clients are thinking when you answer that RFP with an astonishingly low price.

Another reason why you should shy away from being the price competitor at first is that the firms that are ultimately going to use you and that are going to become your clients are not going to want to deal with future price raises and are much less likely to be successfully sold on a parallel product or service that you're offering.

Cheap Clients Don't Like Price Increases

Don't go into the game thinking that the price increase that is going to strategically be implemented in a few months won't lose you clients.

Any client, especially the bargain hunter is going to be livid when you convey the news that they had the introductory offer that has now expired. Either be prepared to be known as the cheapest and form your business plan accordingly or begin in the price tier that you believe you have the best chance of competing in.

If you don't want to be the cheapest, there are a few highly persuasive ways in which you can implement that will result both in you getting the fee that you deserve and will also result in the client feeling that he or she got a fair price.

Cushioning The Blow - Higher Price 1st

I like to refer to this tactic as cushioning the blow because upon giving a quote, you always want to give two different options or packages. The first or more expensive package can even be a dummy product.

Whether the package is real doesn't matter because the buyer is going to often opt for the second mentioned or cheaper package your firm offers to its clients.

Essentially, what you are doing is easing the blow regarding your costs and mitigating the chances of the potential client leaving to further price shop by stating and describing the more costly package first.

This way, the regular package that you are seeking you sell them on seems very reasonable and logical to purchase.

The Non-Exist ant CFO

Just as you can soften the blow by quoting the higher price first, you can also soften your own image in your client's eyes by relying on a third party to play the bad guy when it comes to pricing.

If your "CFO" has set a certain price minimum, or if you have otherwise number-based "rules" to follow, it is harder for a client to argue the price.

Since numbers are what they are, and do not depend on your positive feelings for one client or another, setting up a third party bad cop (you could be the CFO of your start-up, but they don't know that) takes the potential for taking it personally out of the equation.


Models walk in the finale for Burberry's Mens Fall-Winter 2012/13 runway, at the start of Milan Fashion Week.

Burberry, the British luxury firm known for its iconic check pattern and trench coat, saw revenue surge 21% to £574 million, or $883 million, for the three months ending December 31.

Top line results were bolstered by 13% comparable sales growth, as London, Paris, Beijing and Las Vegas flagships performed above the company's financial plan.

"Our investment in flagship markets and digital technology has enabled our global teams to continue to drive customer engagement, enhance retail disciplines and improve operational effectiveness, further strengthening brand momentum," CEO Angela Ahrendts said.

Burberry saw lift from the launch of its news women's fragrance line, Burberry Body, as well as the opening of six mainline stores, including one in São Paulo.

However results were again driven by its core outerwear and large leather goods product, accounting for close to half of retail sales. The company said its fastest growing categories were knitwear, men’s accessories and tailoring, perfume and watches.

Burberry showed its men's fall 2012 collection in Milan this weekend to critical review. Following on past success, the company will allow customers to pre-order goods seen on the runway directly after the show, an uncommon practice amongst luxury players.

Ahrendts' firm has benefitted from this strong online format, which includes the ability to tap demand at its height after a show, and through social media pushes like ArtoftheTrench.com.

"Looking ahead, we remain focused on executing our proven core strategies to achieve long-term sustainable growth, while staying mindful of the challenging macro environment," she said.

Burberry will announce full year results on May 23


Retail sales are expected to climb 3.4% in 2012 to $2.53 trillion, cooling from growth of nearly 5% last year, the .

The NRF attributes the slowing gains to a stalled employment picture and slow job creation.

“Our 2012 forecast is a vote of confidence in the retail industry and our ability to succeed even in a challenging economy,"NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. "Retailers have played a key role in driving growth, but to continue this momentum we need Washington to act on proposals that will spur job creation and unleash the power of the private sector.”

Retailers had mostly finished 2011 on a positive note, with , the owner of brands like T.J. Maxx and Home Goods, posting comparable sale gains of 8%. Others saw similar improvements: , up 7%, (including its high-end Bloomingdale's brand) up 6.2%, and up 8.7%.

But the industry started off the new year on unstable footing. While luxury players like , other big firms have issued profit warnings. New York & Company, the mid-sized apparel company that has struggled with profitability over the past several quarters, said last week it expected gross margins to erode further.

Over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend, big-box stores including announced near fire sales. Discounts reached up to 80% at the Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, chain, with ruffle dresses priced at $13.60, from $60.

If the 3.4% growth estimates hold, the sector would outpace economic expansion in the U.S., with economists now forecasting growth slightly above 2%.

According to local report, Shanda is investing over RMB 2 billion (US$ 309 million) in ecommerce site with two other undisclosed participants. Founded by Ge Binbin, the former head of Goldcool Games, Pinju is set to debut in this Oct. Ge said that Shanda accounts for 40% of the total sum, or US$ 1.23 million.

Pinju is still under beta testing, the latest comer to the highly crowded and fierce competing Chinese ecommerce market is featuring all kinds of goods ranging from cosmetics, clothes, maternity and baby products, electric appliance, home supplies, health products, 3C products to luxurious brands including Hermes, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Armani, Gucci and so on. It seems Pinju is positioned to be an online general store.

It’s known to all that majority of Chinese online shopping sites(except for 360buy, the Chinese B2C giant announced its departure with Alipay because of high commission fee) partner with, using the latter’s online payment solution, whereas Pinju will feature, the online payment offering by shanda. That makes sense, just likerefers its customers to, Tencent’s approach to online payment.

Shanda has long been rumored to keep an eye on the lucrative and promising Chinese ecommerce waterfront, according to the Beijing-based market research firm iResearch, the market size will passes RMB 10 trillion (US$ 154.6 billion) by 2013, how can one miss out on a chunk from this.

Sina has launched a luxury B2C site called Sina Shepin (????) at the URL .

Sina Shepin has different categories such as handbags, apparel, watch and jewelry, covering over 50 brands includes LV?Balenciaga?Gucci?Dior?Burberry. Sina asserts that all products sold on the site are genuine, quality products.

Sina’s entry into online luxury follows a number of other Chinese internet giants, including Netease (NASDAQ: NTES) and Tencent (0700.HK). Netease launched its luxury shopping platform, , in July 2010. Tencent invested in B2C jewelry site  in July 2011.

Research agency Analysys International finds that luxury e-commerce sales reached RMB 3.45 billion in Q2 2011. Annual sales are expected to reach RMB 16 billion by the end of 2011.

Original Chinese Source: 

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Burberry is officially the world’s most popular luxury brand online, having amassed more than 10 million Facebook fans on the social networking site. The London-based fashion house has embraced social media and digital marketing, and they’ve been rewarded as their revenue has increased 29%. Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, : “Burberry has delivered a strong first half, reflecting our continued investment in innovative design, digital marketing and retail strategies.”

“Ten million Facebook fans! Thank you so much for all your incredible support,” Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s Chief Creative Officer, posted on the Burberry Facebook page (with multiple images and a YouTube video, ).

10 million Facebook fans is a major achievement for Burberry as they take leadership on the social media platform — this is almost more than Dior (5,920,960 fans) and Gucci (5,811,295) combined. Chanel is also at 5 million fans, followed by luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana.

Burberry is regarded as one of the most forward-thinking luxury brands in the world. The New York University think-tank LuxuryLab “the World’s most Digitally Competent Luxury Brand” in October.

“From live streams to runway shows to an arms race on social media platforms, brands are seeking the halo of innovation that comes from inspired online programming,” Scott Galloway, professor and co-founder of LuxuryLab, . “However, most fashion brands still approach digital as a series of pet projects rather than presenting a coherent multi-platform strategy. Although 94 per cent of brands in the Index have a presence on Facebook, one in five still lacks e-commerce capability.”

“Almost 100 percent of brands cite Facebook as a source of upstream traffic,” Galloway in August, 2011. “[Burberry] is getting more traffic from Facebook than Google. It’s the largest source of traffic to its site. Brands are transitioning from spending money on Google into Facebook programs. All of this [Facebook] traffic and investment is leading towards commerce.”

What can you learn from Burberry?

Luxury brands need to be focused and targeted online. On Facebook, they’re unique clubs that discerning fans want to join, the opposite of a Walmart for the masses that offers everything for everyone. The attraction, and connection, to a luxury brand is all about affiliation to a unique experience – it is a dream, a desire and something to aspire to. If you’re a Mercedes-Benz owner, you want to make a connection with that brand on social media channels and share your affiliation. You want to mingle with like-minded friends, share stories and reminisce.

Luxury brands need to be on the cutting edge, as the affluent consumer is demanding – and always up on the latest technology, from amazing apps to the latest Apple iPhone. Luxury brands need to create killer content for these devices and social media platforms – from inspiring videos, cool apps, to exclusive content that offers an insider’s look into the brands. Louis Vuitton has numerous travel apps for the iPhone, with city guides for cities like Paris and New York, featuring Sophia Coppola and Rachel Weisz sharing their favorite restaurants and shops.

Pull back the curtain and allow customers to have an emotional affinity with the brand. Karl Lagerfeld brilliantly unveils videos on the Chanel Facebook page — previewing first with teaser images and videos – and then full-length videos. A luxury brand that basically recycles a TV spot or a magazine ad will ultimately fail at social media and engagement with their fans.

Affluent consumers are active and vocal. Never passive. They’re in the know, they’re insiders, they love to be engaged and share their favorite fashions, autos and destinations. It’s all about social, and sharing their favorite things with their friends. As a luxury brand, you need to engage your affluent consumers. Invite them in, inspire them – and in-turn, convert them into brand-advocates.

Christopher Parr is an industry leader with over 15 years of experience in digital marketing. He is an award-winning veteran, writer, a frequent speaker at luxury and interactive marketing conferences and a pioneer in web publishing. He launched as a curated list of the good things in life, with guest contributors from Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch, Glamour, Saveur and more sharing their favorite luxuries. Askmen.com recently named him “,” his family is featured in , and .

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Burberry is officially the world’s most popular luxury brand online, having amassed more than 10 million Facebook fans on the social networking site. The London-based fashion house has embraced social media and digital marketing, and they’ve been rewarded as their revenue has increased 29%. Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, : “Burberry has delivered a strong first half, reflecting our continued investment in innovative design, digital marketing and retail strategies.”

“Ten million Facebook fans! Thank you so much for all your incredible support,” Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s Chief Creative Officer, posted on the Burberry Facebook page (with multiple images and a YouTube video, ).

10 million Facebook fans is a major achievement for Burberry as they take leadership on the social media platform — this is almost more than Dior (5,920,960 fans) and Gucci (5,811,295) combined. Chanel is also at 5 million fans, followed by luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana.

Burberry is regarded as one of the most forward-thinking luxury brands in the world. The New York University think-tank LuxuryLab “the World’s most Digitally Competent Luxury Brand” in October.

“From live streams to runway shows to an arms race on social media platforms, brands are seeking the halo of innovation that comes from inspired online programming,” Scott Galloway, professor and co-founder of LuxuryLab, . “However, most fashion brands still approach digital as a series of pet projects rather than presenting a coherent multi-platform strategy. Although 94 per cent of brands in the Index have a presence on Facebook, one in five still lacks e-commerce capability.”

“Almost 100 percent of brands cite Facebook as a source of upstream traffic,” Galloway in August, 2011. “[Burberry] is getting more traffic from Facebook than Google. It’s the largest source of traffic to its site. Brands are transitioning from spending money on Google into Facebook programs. All of this [Facebook] traffic and investment is leading towards commerce.”

What can you learn from Burberry?

Luxury brands need to be focused and targeted online. On Facebook, they’re unique clubs that discerning fans want to join, the opposite of a Walmart for the masses that offers everything for everyone. The attraction, and connection, to a luxury brand is all about affiliation to a unique experience – it is a dream, a desire and something to aspire to. If you’re a Mercedes-Benz owner, you want to make a connection with that brand on social media channels and share your affiliation. You want to mingle with like-minded friends, share stories and reminisce.

Luxury brands need to be on the cutting edge, as the affluent consumer is demanding – and always up on the latest technology, from amazing apps to the latest Apple iPhone. Luxury brands need to create killer content for these devices and social media platforms – from inspiring videos, cool apps, to exclusive content that offers an insider’s look into the brands. Louis Vuitton has numerous travel apps for the iPhone, with city guides for cities like Paris and New York, featuring Sophia Coppola and Rachel Weisz sharing their favorite restaurants and shops.

Pull back the curtain and allow customers to have an emotional affinity with the brand. Karl Lagerfeld brilliantly unveils videos on the Chanel Facebook page — previewing first with teaser images and videos – and then full-length videos. A luxury brand that basically recycles a TV spot or a magazine ad will ultimately fail at social media and engagement with their fans.

Affluent consumers are active and vocal. Never passive. They’re in the know, they’re insiders, they love to be engaged and share their favorite fashions, autos and destinations. It’s all about social, and sharing their favorite things with their friends. As a luxury brand, you need to engage your affluent consumers. Invite them in, inspire them – and in-turn, convert them into brand-advocates.

Christopher Parr is an industry leader with over 15 years of experience in digital marketing. He is an award-winning veteran, writer, a frequent speaker at luxury and interactive marketing conferences and a pioneer in web publishing. He launched as a curated list of the good things in life, with guest contributors from Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch, Glamour, Saveur and more sharing their favorite luxuries. Askmen.com recently named him “,” his family is featured in , and .

Read more posts on

Louis Vuitton is by far the most valuable luxury brand in the world, worth $23.577 billion—a 2 percent increase from last year's value—according to a new survey from brand consulting firm Interbrand.

It was a good year for the luxury conglomerate. The company improved its digital experience and launched several apps, entered the fragrance market for the first time, and remained a blockbuster brand in China.

It even got Michael Phelps to star in a .

In addition to Louis Vuitton, seven other luxury brands made it onto of the world's most valuable brands. Most experienced major growth, and there were two newcomers to the list.

Interbrand takes into account brands' financial performance, role in influencing customer choice, and ability to command premium prices.

BRAND2012 RANK2011 RANK2012 BRAND VALUE ($millions)% CHANGELouis Vuitton1718$23,5772%Gucci3839$9,4468%Hermès6366$6,18215%Cartier6870$5,49515% & Co.7073$5,15915%Burberry8295$4,34216%Prada84N/A$4,271NEWRalph Lauren91N/A$4,038



It seems increasingly difficult to find a Hollywood star these days that is equal parts screen icon and fashion muse. There aren’t many Katherine Hepburns or Joan Crawfords running around L.A., which is why the Neiman Marcus Art of Fashion campaign featuring none other than Drew Barrymore is such a breath of fresh air. Rebellious teenager no more, Barrymore is photographed by Norma Jean Ray in the most coveted looks of the season, from Chanel to Valentino.

Models like Daria Werbowy and Josephine Skriver are ethereal and gamine beauties to be sure, but there’s something to be said for using a household name in a luxury fashion shoot. Audiences grew up with the Barrymore dynasty and Drew herself has been in the public eye since E.T. Through her film and T.V appearances, people feel as though they know Ms. Barrymore and her quirky personality in a way that few top models are known.

Shot over the course of 16 hours, Barrymore donned fur-trimmed Burberry Prorsum, stunning Lanvin, tribal-inspired Etro and a show-stopping emerald green Emilio Pucci cut-out gown. The shoot had the potential to be lifeless, but Barrymore’s presence and the artistic feel of the photographs give the clothing- and the overall campaign- a warm, approachable look that almost comes off as more vignette than photo shoot. And it’s a storyline you’ll want to keep following.

For more information regarding the Art of Fashion and the looks featured in the campaign, visit .

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Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth on how the Church of allegedly controls Tom Cruise's life and relationships.

We scored a copy of Vanity Fair at a nearby newsstand (the issue is currently only available in NYC) and read Orth's story.

Here are some of her most interesting claims:

The Vanity Fair issue with the full story is scheduled to hit newsstands nationwide on Monday.


I'm greeted by a charging springer spaniel, wet from the morning's rain, tennis ball in mouth -- a dog whose sprightly mug I've seen before inFadermagazine and on the Urban Outfitters blog. Lancey, named for Delancey Street in's Lower East Side, is a wily hound. The dog put a drool-covered tennis ball on the back of my chair on the sly and got my chinos a little wet in the crotch with the same. A good dog.

You don't typically see a dog with that much room to play in New York, but Michael Williams works out of a relatively massive showroom filled with clothing, shoes and accessories belonging to clients of his PR firm, Paul + Williams, and decorated with pieces of Americana he's picked up while digging around flea markets.

Michael is wet, too, from the rainy walk between his apartment next to the World Trade Center site to his office in the Soho Building on Greene Street. It's a nice building on a block of expensive retail shops like Louis Vuitton and Adriano Goldschmied. The place looks pretty much how I expected from reading his blog,(ACL): A well-kept hybrid of men's clothing boutique, factory floor and antique barn. The floppy-eared spaniel is almost too much.

Williams is what you'd call a lifestyle blogger, part of a growing contingent of guys who write about gear, fashion, food, and so on, just like what you'd find in a traditional men's magazine except that instead of a whole editorial staff, it's just one or a few people writing through a more personal lens about a niche, focused topic. Zeitgeisty stuff, mostly things you can buy. Lifestyle.

Michael Williams on his hit blog, A Continuous Lean

The blog should be hyper-focused, niche

Talking to successful bloggers, guys who can or could live off of the revenue theirgenerate (directly or indirectly), I whittled down three maxims that can help us understand this whole blog thing: What it is, where it's going, and how to be successful at it -- the wholetelosof the thing.

Maxim No. 1:The blog should be hyper-focused, niche. ACL was born of Williams' interest in America