Thursday, June 30, 2011


Chanel's brilliant Fall campaign starring Freja Beja dressed up as a cat styled by Carine Roitfeld. 

The Lace Race

LAGOS, Nigeria—From her Gorgeous Look embroidery shop, Monica Adeola has a front-row seat on a new Nigerian consumer ready to dress up.
Her customers—stay-at-home moms, young professionals and laborers with newfound spending money—barter over the latest embroidered dresses, blouses and shirts, which are known here as "lace."

Lacing Up

Jane Hahn/Getty Images for The Wall Street Journal
A model prepares to show off Nigerian lace in a fashion show.
No longer reserved for the rich, lace today is on the backs of motorcycle-taxi passengers and nightclub goers, part of Africa's growing middle class. The African Development Bank estimates that the continent has around 300 million people with incomes in excess of their basic needs, up more than 60% from a decade ago.
"We're trying to rebrand lace," says Folake Folarin-Coker, a Nigerian fashion designer who helped stage a lace-themed fashion show here last month. "There is a huge middle-income market in Nigeria."
The Nigerian lace industry also opens a window on broader change in Africa as a whole: As the consumer class expands, so, too, has the underground, informal economy.
Mrs. Adeola for years has brought her lace into Nigeria through underground channels that the government largely ignores. Her store is next to an open-air market abuzz with vendors hawking blue jeans and soap-opera DVDs from shops, makeshift stalls and rickety wood tables.
Jane Hahn/Getty Images for the Wall Street Journal
A merchant folds lace at a stall in Lagos last month. Embroidered fabric, or 'lace,' is no longer reserved just for the wealthy.
Phone maker Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea and Spain-based retail chain Mango are among the foreign companies to set up shop in Africa in hopes of feeding off the spending power of consumers who earn their living from the informal economy.
While the informal sector, from street-side welders in Kenya to sign makers in Senegal, has created jobs and lifted incomes, it also has strained urban infrastructure. As many as 90% of African city dwellers work in the informal economy, untaxed and unaccounted for, according to the Geneva-based U.N. International Labour Organization.
Economists estimate that Nigeria's informal economy is at least as big as the country's roughly $200 billion formal one. But the country suffers from poor roads, chronic power outages and dirty drinking water. Enforcement efforts that would bolster government revenue have been erratic. Tax enforcement only recently began in Lagos but is essentially nonexistent elsewhere in the country.
An Austrian trade commissioner in Nigeria is credited with kick-starting the lace trade between the countries in the 1960s, after he noticed that Nigerians are particularly fond of dressing up on special occasions. The countries now conduct an estimated €26 million ($37 million) a year in lace trade, according to the Austrian Embassy in Nigeria.
[LACE]Nancy Saunders
Mrs. Adeola began selling lace in 1970 when she was on vacation in Europe and saw an in-flight magazine's ad for a Swiss lace maker. Describing herself as a restless housewife looking to make some money, she changed her travel plans to find lace to sell at home. Swiss lace was too expensive but before long, she was able to purchase lace in bulk from small family-owned businesses in Austria.
"I got some start-up money from my husband, who imported European beer…, and started selling wholesale from my house," Mrs. Adeola says. "Some women who bought lace from me bragged about how much they were making selling at shops, so I started looking for a shop." She now has two.
Until late last year, she smuggled in most of her lace to circumvent a Nigerian government ban on imported textiles. Mrs. Adeola says she does $200,000-$300,000 in sales annually and used to travel to Austria with stacks of U.S. dollars wrapped in her clothing. To get around the import ban, Mrs. Adeola says, she and other lace-seller traders paid bribes to Nigerian customs agents and other officials to get the product into Nigeria.
"We had to be careful," Mr. Adeola says. "The government said they were going to raid our shops and threatened us too much."
The government lifted the ban last November. But high tariffs mean importers bring lace to the continent through third countries and then smuggle it into Nigeria, usually by bribing customs agents.
"If you're now paying 5% of your costs to your guy at customs or at the port to get a shipment cleared, why would you want to pay 20% to the government?" says Rudi Boesch, an Austrian who operates one of two lace factories in Nigeria. He says that even with the import ban lifted, textiles will still cross the border illegally.
Nigerian customs say they are cracking down on graft and seizing more illegally imported goods. "We're not saying that corruption has been totally stamped out, but we're confronting the problem and we're getting there," says Wale Adeniyi, a spokesman at the Nigerian Customs Service. "It's a gradual process."
Beyond the occasional threat of a government crackdown, Mrs. Adeola also has to contend with the same pressures as any established business in a competitive market. As demand from the growing consumer class has increased, so has the interest of foreign manufacturers in tapping that market.
Relatively inexpensive Chinese fabrics have come to dominate the markets in Nigeria and elsewhere in West Africa. Lace exports from China to Nigeria reached $115 million in 2006 from less than $100,000 in 2000, according to the General Administration of Customs of China. The figure subsequently dipped but rebounded to $63 million last year and is expected to rise this year. China exported over $200 million in lace last year to Nigeria and its smaller neighbors Benin and Togo, with most of the product ending up in Nigeria, lace sellers say.
Chinese lace sells at about $45 for 15 yards, while Austrian lace costs between $250 and $1,000 per fifteen yards, though the Chinese fabric isn't as good, Nigerian traders say.
Austrian manufacturers say they are working hard to ensure that their slice of the Nigerian market isn't eroded by less-expensive goods from China, South Korea and Thailand. The Austrian manufacturers' association and the Austrian Embassy last month sponsored a fashion show here to court younger customers and are sponsoring a museum exhibit this month, on the history of the business.
As new rivals began selling less-expensive lace from Asia, Mrs. Adeola considered doing so as well but instead chose to establish her niche in the higher-end Austrian products. Her concern about government raids and lower-priced competition has given way to cautious optimism about a new crop of Nigerians eager to be seen wearing lace.
"Lace can never go out of fashion in Nigeria," she says.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend

Came across Michelle Hinebrook's stunning paintings of diamonds and gems galore - couldn't turn away from the meticulous, mind bending art . Check out more work from her here. Does this remind anyone of kaleidoscope toys from their childhoods besides myself?

Michelle Hinebrook received her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in painting and her BFA, with honors, from the College for Creative Studies. She has an established studio practice, active exhibition record and engagement within the art community. In addition to her studio practice, she frequently lectures and teaches studio courses at numerous institutions. Her work has been internationally exhibited, commissioned, collected, published and reviewed. She's exhibited works with 101 Exhibit Gallery, Florida; David Klein Gallery, Michigan; Islip Art Museum, New York; Helene Nyborg Contemporary, Denmark; Foley Gallery, New York; Marlborough Gallery, New York; and Cranbrook Museum of Art, Michigan.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Charlotte Gainsbourg x Balenciaga L'Essence Advertisement

Check out the behind-the-scenes video of musian, model and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg shooting the advertisement of Balenciaga's L'Essence.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Going Out In Slippers

Slippers are stepping out.
Male celebrities and a few fashion industry insiders are sporting an odd look for summer: Velvet slippers. Ray Smith tell us what inspired the trend.
Velvet evening slippers à la Hugh Hefner have caught on with some young celebrities, fashion editors, publicists and other early adopters of men's high fashion. But no one's saving them for intimate evenings at home by the fire. Instead, men are hitting the streets in hard-soled, heeled slippers, using them to add an insouciant flavor to shorts, cropped pants, jeans and full suits.
Evening slippers have been a dressy staple for years, sold by brands such as Stubbs & Wootton and Del Toro, as well as designer labels from Tom Ford to Ralph Lauren. Designer Christian Louboutin makes and wears studded velvet versions (yes, with red soles). But only in the past year have the companies seen a noticeable uptick in sales.
Stubbs & Wootton says sales of its velvet slippers have risen about 40% in the past year, in part due to demand from younger men. Del Toro says sales have doubled during that period. Glen Hoffs, director of men's fashion design at Brooks Brothers, says the retailer's velvet slippers, including a style with a "BB" monogram in gold bullion thread, have "been selling well" recently.
F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal
Stubbs & Wootton has updated the velvet evening slipper with details like a skulland-sabers crest.
F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal
A more traditional-looking version from Brooks Brothers features a monogram
Kanye West has been spotted wearing slippers with jeans at occasions such as the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards ceremony in New York earlier this month. The entertainer first slipped into them after noticing a young man shopping at Barneys New York in a pair last year. That young man, Cassius Marcellus Cornelius Clay, recommended that Mr. West go to Stubbs & Wootton—and eventually ended up working with Mr. West on his overall wardrobe, according to Mr. Clay and Stubbs & Wootton. "By the time I started working with him in September, he had a closet full" of slippers, says the 20-year-old Mr. Clay, a student at Yale University.
Mr. West, who raps about wearing slippers in the hit hip-hop song, "Start It Up," didn't respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Clay, who says he has lost count of how many pairs he owns, is attracted to the slippers' comfort. Besides, "shoes for men are all pretty similar, so the velvet slipper is nice for variety."
Slippers aren't a big leap from laceless slip-on shoes like espadrilles, a current trend for summer. At the spring 2012 men's fashion shows in Europe this week, many of the models and attendees have been walking around sockless, with pants hemmed or rolled up to show their ankles. The look calls for a slip-on shoe.
Evening slippers have left footprints in fashion before. Even before the era of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, men wore evening slippers indoors when dressing for dinner or relaxing or wore the look outside with formal clothing. Some prosperous men in resort areas such as Palm Beach wore slippers during the summer with chinos or shorts. Recently, the idea of giving upper-crust preppy items, such as bow ties, a modern spin has been a motif in men's fashion.
[SLIPPERS]Getty Images
Velvet slippers can add an insouciant flavor to jeans (on Kanye West), suits and shorts.
Stubbs & Wootton tried to make slippers more youthful and subversive by adding design details like skull-and-sabers crests—its top seller, says founder Percy Steinhart. The brand encourages men to wear slippers with casual clothes as well as formalwear. "We're informalizing them," he says.
But to some men, going outside in slippers means stepping on a slippery slope toward disarray. "You can wear them outdoors under certain circumstances, like going to a garden party, but just walking around outside in velvet slippers in the day is strange. It's inappropriate," says custom designer Alan Flusser, author of "Dressing the Man."
Don't tell that to Brendan Ordonez, a 27-year-old fashion publicist in New York who often wears his during the day with cutoff shorts and ripped concert T-shirts. "They are all I wear save for Vans or snow boots," he says. Their one downside: In a recent rainstorm, he says, "my favorite pair got completely destroyed."
Andrew Saffir, the founder of Cinema Society, which holds celebrity-studded movie screenings, has long worn velvet slippers with suits, jeans or white trousers and a sport coat. The 44-year-old is pleased that younger men are embracing slippers. "I love that they're not considered old WASP-y and stodgy," he says. - WSJ
Written by: Ray A. Smith

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Prada Is Making Fashion In China

Prada SpA is busy in China these days. It's not just listing its shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange Friday and opening stores across the mainland. It is also increasingly manufacturing its high-end fashion there.
About 20% of Prada's collections—which range from bags and shoes to clothes for men and women—are made in China. The Milan-based company manufactures outside Italy in other cheaper countries such as Vietnam, Turkey and Romania, according to the IPO prospectus. In addition to the main Prada label, the company also owns Miu Miu, Church's and Car Shoe.
European Pressphoto Agency
About 20% of Prada's collections are made in China. Above, a Prada shop in Hong Kong last month.
"Sooner or later, it will happen to everyone because [Chinese manufacturing] is so good," Prada designer Miuccia Prada said in an interview. She added that the Chinese are particularly good with shoes.
European luxury fashion labels such as Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton have built their reputations on goods crafted at home in France and Italy. Manufacturing skills there in part justify the high prices.
The temptation to move some production abroad is growing, however. The financial crisis put pressure on the industry's operating margins. British label Burberry PLC, for instance, came under fire for closing a factory at home and moving production to Asia.
And production capacity in Europe is limited. Hermès is constantly recruiting new workers in France who undergo a two-year training program. Vuitton is opening its 12th production site in France this month, but it had to close some stores early in the day last year because it was running low on stock.
But there's more than just the bottom line at stake. In Prada's home country, "Made in Italy" has become a political issue. Santo Versace, an owner of the Versace fashion house and an Italian senator, last year lobbied for a "Made in Italy" law that called for an elaborate labeling system to make a clothing item's origin more transparent. The law is awaiting approval from the European Commission.
To be labeled "Made in Italy," only a majority of the cost of an item's production must take place within the country's borders. Manufacturing in China could also backfire with the customers that brands like Prada are trying to appeal to in Asia. "Chinese consumers are ready to pay higher prices for luxury brands, but they want products not to be manufactured in China," says luxury-goods consultant Armando Branchini.
Prada's "Made in China" items aren't priced any differently than products made in Italy. A pair of woven wedge shoes were recently available for $455, the same price as Italian-made sandals.
Last year, Prada provoked debate about manufacturing abroad by announcing it would make small collections in India, Peru, Japan and Scotland. Woven ballet flats from India, Scottish tartans and alpaca sweaters sought to challenge the idea that the best products came from Italy.
Yet it was an anecdotal experiment compared with the rest of Prada's manufacturing outside Italy. Prada owns 10 factories in Italy and one in the UK, primarily for Church's shoes. Yet 80% of its goods are made by a network of 480 external manufacturers, according to documents issued for Prada's stock market debut. About 20% of the external manufacturers are located abroad.
Prada sneakers are made in Vietnam, which has developed specialized know-how in athletic shoes. Many Miu Miu bags bear a "Made in Turkey" label. Clothing such as shirts and dresses often comes from nearby countries like Romania.
Prada, which raised 16.7 billion Hong Kong dollars (US$2.15 billion) from its initial public offering last Friday, fell 2.9% in "gray-market" trading Thursday amid general market weakness.
Hong Kong-based trading firm PhillipMart's gray-market session, open to both retail and institutional investors, runs from 4:30 to 6 p.m. local time the day before a company's shares start trading on the stock exchange. Prada closed at HK$38.35 (US$4.92), below its IPO price of HK$39.50, according to PhillipMart, which said HK$9.7 million in shares changed hands. - WSJ
Written by: Christina Passariello