The Business of Fashion Podcast
Stephen Jones Says the Constant Quest for Perfection Often Kills Spontaneity

Stephen Jones Says the Constant Quest for Perfection Often Kills Spontaneity

July 22, 2020

Celebrated milliner Stephen Jones talks to BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks about how the pandemic has signalled an opportunity to reshape the fashion industry.

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — For Stephen Jones, a prolific hatter and one of the most lauded milliners in modern memory, “hats and dressing up are a sign of optimism in spite of everything.” In his storied career, which spans four decades, he has created visual masterpieces both under his namesake brand and as the artistic director of hats at Christian Dior.

“The purpose of fashion… is maybe to give people a dream,” Jones told BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast. “To give people the idea of more fun times, a better life… something which is solely for their pleasure,”

  • For Jones, who has created hats for high-profile clients from Princess Diana to Rihanna, forced isolation has provided an opportunity for reflection and “just being able to focus on one thing,” he told Blanks. “I’ve only ever done that in my first collection [and] that was 40 years ago. So in a funny way, I’ve been able to have the focus and the time to do something that I haven’t been able to in 40 years.”
  • “Fashion is that fabulous escapism that people yearn for,” Jones said, and when it comes crafting intricate designs, he avoids the “constant quest for perfection because perfection often kills spontaneity.”
  • As with many industry professionals across the globe, the pandemic and political unrest has signalled an opportunity for Jones to transform old practices and reshape the industry. “The one thing about fashion is it evolves,” he said. “If it doesn’t evolve it doesn’t make sense.”

 

Related Articles:

Stephen Jones and the Grammar of Hats

The BoF Podcast: Stephen Jones on the Craft of Millinery

 

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Amber Valletta Says, ‘I Don’t Want to Work in an Industry That Is the Same as Before’

Amber Valletta Says, ‘I Don’t Want to Work in an Industry That Is the Same as Before’

July 14, 2020

The supermodel, actress and environmental activist talks to BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks about why the fashion industry cannot return to ‘business as normal.’

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — “The uncertainty has forced us to get really present.... We have an amazing opportunity to restart and to begin again,” Amber Valletta told BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast. “It is an incredible opportunity to stop and really figure out where we want to go from here. We can redesign a future.”

 

The American supermodel and actress, who has graced the cover of American Vogue 13 times and starred in various television and film series, including Revenge, Legends and Hitch, shared her thoughts on why the pandemic and political unrest has signalled the need for an equitable supply chain and an overhaul of the fashion calendar to reflect the industry’s “new normal.” 

 

  • Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, many garment workers in countries like India and Bangladesh were left destitute as textile factories shuttered and retailers in the west cancelled orders. “Before the designers make this amazing piece, [garment workers] are the people who put in the blood, sweat and tears,” Valletta said. . “In the 21st century, we should have a supply chain that’s fair and equitable.” 
  • Affecting change may not be simple but it is definitely required, Valletta said. In order to thrive in a post-pandemic climate, the fashion industry at large needs “to be resilient… which means we have to really stop doing business as normal because normal is archaic now.” For Valletta, fashion is about change and innovation: “I don’t want to work in an industry that is the same as before,” she said. 
  • “Why aren’t we slowing down the calendar?,” Valletta asked, addressing the industry’s incessant output of clothes that has accelerated over the years. “I was blessed to live in the most spectacular time in fashion… the crews were smaller, everything… There was an intimacy and excitement that we don’t have today,” she said, reflecting on her modelling career. . “There was no [social media]... and there was anticipation of the next season… Everything coming at you was a discovery.”

 

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Farfetch’s José Neves Says Profitability Is Still Possible in 2021

Farfetch’s José Neves Says Profitability Is Still Possible in 2021

July 9, 2020

LONDON, United Kingdom —For Farfetch Founder and Chief Executive José Neves, the last six months have not only been about protecting his own business from the fallout of Covid-19, but also supporting the hundreds of boutiques around the world — from China, Japan and Korea to the Middle East and Europe — that sell their goods online through the luxury marketplace.

“We've been able to support the boutiques and the brands on the platform at crucial time where online is, for many, the main channel and for some... the only channel,” Neves told BoF Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast.

But as Neves explained, more challenges lie ahead for Farfetch and the global fashion industry at large.

  • Neves described the platform’s performance as “very solid,” and expects to see an acceleration in its second quarter, with year over year growth of 25-30%. Part of this success can be attributed to the business shifting its focus to markets where consumer sentiment has started to recover, according to Neves.
  • But Farfetch is still losing money, and investors and market analysts have questioned the company's recent acquisition of New Guards Group (NGG). The acquisition may have bolstered profitability, but it took the business in an unexpected direction: actually owning the brands it sells on its platform. But Neves said he remains “confident” that Farfetch will achieve profitability by 2021 — a goal it outlined last year, and that the NGG business is a brand platform in its own right.
  • The luxury industry has been bracing for what has been called “the mother of all sales,” as retailers are forced to drastically discount their surplus of spring merchandise. Some observers have pointed to Farfetch as a regular culprit with respect to the industry's discounting addiction even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Neves says the discounting decisions are made by the brands and the retailers themselves, and that Farfetch is simply the platform they use to go to the market, but acknowledges that deep discounting is a systemic industry problem.
  • Neves believes the fashion industry will finally reckon with its wasteful and unsustainable business practices — and partially because it can also reduce costs. “I do think the industry had an oversupply problem, which is an environmental problem as well," he said. “Platforms have a responsibility to… incentivise customers to shop consciously. By doing that you create an incentive for brands to be more conscious or to be totally ethical and sustainable if they can.”

 

Related Articles:

A Cloudy Picture at Farfetch

Farfetch Signals Growing Ambitions in Resale

Why Farfetch's Free-Spending Ways Have Some Investors Concerned

 

Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here. To contact The Business of Fashion with comments, questions, or speaker ideas please e-mail podcast@businessoffashion.com.

 

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Giles Deacon on Carving Out His Own Fashion Calendar

Giles Deacon on Carving Out His Own Fashion Calendar

July 3, 2020
The designer speaks with BoF's Imran Amed about the importance of creative autonomy in a time of 'product for more product’s sake.'
 

LONDON, United Kingdom — Designer Giles Deacon’s list of clients is impressive, including Billie Porter, Sarah Jessica Parker and the New York City ballet, while his runway shows were once counted as one of the most exciting events at London Fashion Week. But a few years ago, he decided to leave all that behind, focusing on growing his private client business instead. In the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, Deacon spoke with BoF Founder and Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed about what it's been like to buck the system in a meaningful way.

  • After a few years working in the fashion industry, Deacon became disillusioned by the pace of production. “[It] was about designing more and more product for more product’s sake,” he said. So he decided to return to his art school days, focusing on craftsmanship and elaborate designs.
  • For Deacon, creative autonomy is crucial. If couture designers are to deliver spectacular garments, they need time and artistic independence. “The beauty of the bespoke is to be able to work with the client to give them that sense of service and exclusivity,” said Deacon, adding that his network of VIP customers has grown organically through word of mouth.
  • Lockdown hasn’t stopped Deacon from working over the past few months. "I have been doing sketching, consultations and FedExing patterns,” he said. “It’s gotten smaller, but things still move along.”
  • Looking to the future, Deacon said social distancing measures have prompted him to rethink his own practices. “I have become more conscious of my travelling… [Once lockdown restrictions are lifted, I may travel] less but possibly for longer.”

 

Related Articles:

Giles Deacon on the Inspiration and Couture Craft Behind Pippa Middleton's Wedding Dress

Why Fashion 'Seasons' Are Obsolete

A Proposal for Rewiring the Fashion System

 

Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here. To contact The Business of Fashion with comments, questions, or speaker ideas please e-mail podcast@businessoffashion.com.

 

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Rick Owens on Why Fashion Shows Aren’t Going Away

Rick Owens on Why Fashion Shows Aren’t Going Away

June 26, 2020
The American designer talks to BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks about the future of the industry, sustainability and runway shows.To subscribe to the BoF 
LONDON, United Kingdom —  “This is science’s moment...so my responsibility was to study as much as I could so when my turn to contribute came I would be ready,” Rick Owens told BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks in the latest episode of the BoF Podcast. “I’m concentrating on absorbing as much information, aesthetic information, that will serve me and nourish me in the future.”
The American designer, who has earned a cult following for his “’grungy glamorous” aesthetic, has been spending the pandemic studying the work of English architect Edward William Godwin, as well as listening to operas including “Elektra” and “Salome” by German composer Richard Strauss.
Owens shared his thoughts on why the pandemic and political unrest has accelerated the conversation around responsibility in the fashion industry.
  • “This period of resetting and enforced reflection has just recharged me,” Owens said. The designer revisited his past work and discussed how fashion is a powerful mode of communication. “When I think back on everything I’ve been doing I feel like I was able to do beautiful things but I was also able to talk about values that I believe in.” The outbreak of Covid-19 and the killing of George Floyd, which has led to protests across the globe, has brought conversations about fashion’s contributions to systemic racism to the surface.
  • Owens pointed out that the broader discussion around sustainability is forcing brands to reassess their businesses and consumers now more than ever are holding companies to account.
  • Even as lockdown measures begin to ease and designers pivot to live stream their shows, Owens underscored that runways are not obsolete. “Adorning oneself and communicating through the way you look, it’s an ancient ritual and it’s an important part of communication… [Fashion shows will] always be there in one way or another.”

 

Related Articles: 

Constructing Rick Owens' Creative Bubble

A Year Without Fashion Shows

The Depraved Kindness of Rick Owens

 

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Ibrahim Kamara on Photography as a Powerful Force for Change

Ibrahim Kamara on Photography as a Powerful Force for Change

June 23, 2020
The renowned stylist and fashion director talks to BoF’s Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks about his time creating under lockdown.
 
Quarantine hasn’t stopped stylist and art director Ibrahim Kamara from creating. Although he is unable to work on his usual fantastical fashion visuals, the time spent in his London home is nonetheless far from wasted. “I might not be able to achieve my dreams right now, but I can write them and make a note of them,” Kamara told BoF’s Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks in the latest episode of the BoF Podcast. Born in Sierra Leone, Kamara moved to London in his early teens. He has since worked with some of fashion’s biggest names, including Stella McCartney, Fenty and Hermès as well as British VogueLove and AnOther. During lockdown, Kamara and Blanks touched base to talk about photography as a force for change. 
  • Kamara’s ethereal aesthetic pays tribute both to his West African roots and to London, the city he has lived in for the past ten years. For Kamara, the beauty of his visuals exist in this intersection of cultures. “When I’m making work, I want people to stop and take in so much,” he said. “If an image doesn’t stop you, it doesn’t really do it’s job… That’s how I make photos, I want people to look at them twice.”
  • Kamara sees technology as a source of endless inspiration. It is through Instagram he met and befriended Kristin-Lee Moolman, one of Kamara’s longtime collaborators, with whom he has worked on countless projects. “It’s so good to find people who you think can bring something to your world,” he said. Social media has also upended fashion’s longstanding hierarchies, Kamara said, adding that people can now more easily collaborate on ambitious projects without the approval and support of established magazines. 
  • Looking to the future, Kamara hopes to inspire a new generation of young image-makers to find confidence in their ways of seeing and believe in their creative visions. Only by supporting, cultivating and promoting the next generation of creative talent can the fashion industry progress: “[I want to] push the industry [forward]… and make it a space where everyone can dream.”

 

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June Sarpong Says Fashion’s Gatekeepers Need to Start Thinking Differently About Diversity

June Sarpong Says Fashion’s Gatekeepers Need to Start Thinking Differently About Diversity

June 19, 2020

 June Sarpong shares her advice on how organisations can improve their diversity and inclusive representation, and effectively champion allyship.

 

Related Articles:
Fashion Media Called Out Over Workplace Racism
On Racism, Fashion Must Do More Than Speak Up
Op-Ed | Fashion Is Part of the Race Problem

 
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Anna Sui Says, ‘You Can Define an Era By the Clothes’

Anna Sui Says, ‘You Can Define an Era By the Clothes’

June 16, 2020
The American designer speaks to BoF’s Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks about how fashion mirrors politics.
LONDON, United Kingdom — The world has changed immeasurably since designer Anna Sui’s last fashion show took place in New York in February. Her next collection is likely to reflect this transformation. “Fashion is a mirror of the times — you can define an era by the clothes,” Sui told BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks. “What people are wearing mimics the politics of the times.”
Over the last few months, the world has grappled with a pandemic, a steep economic downturn and, more recently, widespread anti-racist protests. In this week’s special edition of the BoF podcast, Sui makes predictions on how these global events might impact the future of her industry.
 
  • People have spent much of the lockdowns at home in sweats and a T-shirt. Sui believes that people might go polar opposite once social distancing restrictions are relaxed. “Suddenly [people] are going to want to be seen,” Sui said, adding that eating at restaurants and drinking at bars will once become occasions for self-expression.
  • Handicrafts may see a resurgence as “people are now taking the time to relearn those skills,” Sui said. Tie dying, crocheting and knitting might well become popular creative outlets for the many people investing time in new hobbies — and this shift could be reflected in upcoming collections.
  • Sui hopes the pace of the industry will slow down and allow space for self-reflection. Looking back to the 1990s, “[There] wasn’t this frantic need to be working all the time, I remember enjoying the holidays,” Sui said. “Let’s hope that this gets back under control and that we learn how to balance out our lifestyles again.”

Sweatsuits and Yoga Pants Are Selling Like Crazy. What Happens When Lockdowns End?
A Proposal for Rewiring the Fashion System
Why Fashion 'Seasons' Are Obsolete 

 

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Graydon Carter Says, ‘There Is More Good Journalism Being Produced Now Than There Was 25 Years Ago’

Graydon Carter Says, ‘There Is More Good Journalism Being Produced Now Than There Was 25 Years Ago’

June 12, 2020
LONDON, United Kingdom —  “Magazines bring the world to you more than newspapers do and more than books do,” Graydon Carter, former editor of Vanity Fairand creator of email newsletter Air Mail, told BoF Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed in the latest episode of the BoF Podcast. “They bring the cultural nuances of what’s going on now to your door. They [tell] you about a world outside of the small town that you’re living in.”Carter’s journalism career spans over four decades, during which he was a staff writer at Time and Life, co-founded Spy magazine in 1986 and served as the editor of The New York Observer. His “third act,” the digital weekly newsletter Air Mail, employs a team of remotely working individuals from across the globe.Carter shared his thoughts on the state of the publishing industry in this time of upheaval.
 
 
  • An upended global economy is not uncharted territory for magazines. During the Great Recession, publications were hit hard as brands cut their advertising budgets to retain cash, Carter said. More than a decade later, magazines are faced with these same challenges, and for Carter, although there remains “a certain romance for magazines” the print industry “is going to have its issues and I think the strong magazines will survive and thrive and the weak ones will go away. That is a natural process in any industry.” The winners that emerge from this crisis will be the publications that form a connection with their readers. “You have to be the first or second favourite magazine of your reader… if you’re the fifth favourite magazine of a reader, they could probably do without you,” he said.
  • During his time running Vanity Fair, Carter spearheaded several newsmaking issues, including the 2015 “Call Me Caitlyn” cover, revealing Caitlyn Jenner for the first time as a woman and the “Africa Issue” that was designed to amplify the region and came with 20 special covers fronted by the likes of Muhammad Ali, Dr Maya Angelou and Barack Obama. However, his leadership was not without controversy. In a recent Netflix documentary, “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” allegations resurfaced that Carter removed information about the sexual abuse of Annie and Maria Farmer from an article about the disgraced billionaire written by Vicky Ward in 2003. In response to the claims, Carter said: “The legal and fact-checking elements of Vanity Fair, which was quite extensive,... is your line of defence and my head of fact-checking, my legal review editor and the lawyer for the company said we simply do not have what we needed to print this and it came in late,” he said. “In this case, they said we did not have the information we needed to publish that little bit of information in the story... I feel great pain and sorrow for the women he took advantage of, it’s an appalling situation.”
  • As the publishing industry pivots to adapt to a new normal, relying on digital tools like Zoom, cutting back the number of issues and reassessing the diversity of their organisations, Carter believes there are opportunities to be capitalised on. “I think there is more good journalism being produced now than there was 25 years ago… The fact is, now… you can start your own thing, you can do it on your kitchen table.” In a sea of start-ups it can be difficult to stand out, but “it’s just about being good at doing something that somebody else doesn’t do… You can make a name doing anything as long as it’s done well.”

 

Related Articles: 
Graydon Carter to Step Down as Vanity Fair Editor After 25 Years
Fashion Magazines Hit as Luxury Ad Spend Dwindles
For Fashion Magazines, It's Crunch Time

 

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Scott Galloway on Breaking Up Big Luxury | Inside Fashion

Scott Galloway on Breaking Up Big Luxury | Inside Fashion

May 29, 2020

The bestselling author and business professor offers his insight into the challenging market and M&A landscape that industry players of all sizes have to navigate.

Scott Galloway is no stranger to expressing views as provocative as they are incisive. The author, business school professor and serial entrepreneur has a lot to say about the state of the market in the era of Covid-19, but his observations and predictions are also, crucially, grounded in wider social, political and economic arguments — whether that’s the now-untenable position of American exceptionalism, the burden of student debt or the failings of intergenerational wealth distribution. Speaking in conversation with Imran Amed, Galloway shares his thoughts on the state of the luxury sector, importance of e-commerce and the indomitable power of Amazon, a company he describes as “firing on all 12,000 cylinders” yet still can’t crack the fashion market. Here are some of the key takeaways:
 
  • “The class of IPOs that will come to the markets in the next 3-6 months will boom,” said Galloway. “I think the markets are going to accelerate but people conflate the markets with the economic health of america. The markets are nothing more than an indication of how the top decile of Europe and America are doing.” 
  • Amazon’s tricky relationship with fashion and luxury is hard to reconcile. “Amazon partners with an industry the way a virus partners with a host,” he said, which explains why luxury brands have traditionally kept the e-commerce giant at arm’s length. Even with the remarkable acceleration of e-commerce in the past eight weeks, however, Amazon’s algorithmically driven retail model does not allow for the forward-looking trend cycle on which the fashion industry operates.
  • Luxury is a relatively well-positioned industry. “The majority of sectors in the world would pray for luxury’s problems right now,” he said, but much like big tech companies, conglomerates in the luxury space create “an unhealthy environment where too few players are allowed to [accrue] too much power... if you wanted to oxygenate the economy around luxury you would go ahead and break them up.”
 
 
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