So finally, the unveiling of Harvey Nichols’ new 4th floor of contemporary fashion. First impressions were of a minimalist, London version of Colette. The store has pitched the new fashion floor as having a ‘concept store feel’ and it will be constantly evolving with new lines, products, exhibitions and installations. This I like. But I have to say, not much of this was in evidence on the first day. I have to give them props for opening on time however and I always try not to judge too harshly on first impressions as I think with anything, things generally take a while to fall into place.
Aside from the bright modernity of the space, the things that reminded me of Colette were the affordable gifty items – Assouline books, Opening Ceremony tote bags, Ambush lighters, iPods… not much that I haven’t seen before. There is an impressive selection of vintage Chanel bags, which you can also get at D & Me and Matches so nice as they were, I wasn’t knocked out. The promised vintage magazines don’t seem to be on view yet.
The long-awaited trainer wall boasts studded Converse by What Goes Around Comes Around, zebra-print ponyskin Keds by Opening Ceremony and the new Louboutin trainers. And clothing-wise there is representation from a wealth of ‘It Brit’ labels (Mary Katrantzou, Richard Nicoll, Markus Lupfer…) as well as cool hipster brands (Marc by Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, Acne, See by Chloe). Alongside these are the label-lover brands – D&G, Anglomania – while the ‘supermarket of luxury’ curated by Alber Elbaz looks to me to be a sweet but limited array of Lanvin knick knacks – Umbrellas! Fans! China figurines! Expensive pencils!
I’m not sure who it’s all aimed at. Earlier reports suggested that Harvey Nichols was hoping to entice a Peaches Geldof demographic but would a Peaches or Cory Kennedy wear D&G? Although there’s a hint of the cool, streety Colette vibe with the books and lighters and gifty things, the fashion still seems to me to be the same Harvey Nicks labels I have been seeing for the last few seasons. Overall, it’s not a bad start but it could do with some of the buzz of the Marc by Marc Jacobs store or the unexpected variety of Anthropologie. I would like to see more surprises round every corner … hopefully that’s to come.
More news on the Hermès front following my rant last week. (By the way, very strangely, the day after posting my moan about Hermès’ inefficient supply system, my elusive cravate foulard miraculously appeared in the Selfridges store. That Christian Blanckaert has totally been reading my blog.)
According to CPP-Luxury, the Hermès group will launch a new brand aimed at the Chinese market in 2010. The lower-priced brand called Shang Xia will be made using traditional Chinese materials and techniques to take advantage of the new Chinese luxury consumer. This chimes with research I have recently undertaken on the luxury market for the next decade. Heritage and authenticity is something that luxury brands will be focussing on, moving away from the noughties version of luxury that was more to do with brand names and status than the quality and craftsmanship of the goods. This is certainly a brand to watch as if it does well, others are sure to follow.
If you’re a fashion blogger or have any interest in the future of fashion blogs (which I’m guessing you are/do as otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this), you must read this compelling article by Nicola Copping in the FT about fashion bloggers and brands. One of the points it flags up is the attention bloggers are getting from brands keen to engage with them and how a blogger handles the seductive nature of being courted. Once a brand starts paying you attention, showering you with compliments and offering you freebies products for ‘review’, it can become increasingly hard to maintain your integrity. Brands and PR agencies are now hosting blogger meet-and-greets in order to build relationships with bloggers in a similar way to the PR-journalist relationship. But blogs aren’t magazines and bloggers don’t *have* to follow a code. However, in reality it’s very hard to be impartial about a brand or product if you have met and liked its representative, it makes you feel like a bit of a bitch if you have a negative viewpoint.
The answer I’ve found is to take a step back. Apart from anything else, if you find you’re spending all your time writing product reviews, it’s taking you away from the spontaneity of your original blog posts. And chances are, it’s the honesty and originality of the pre-PR-pitched posts that brought your blog to your readers’ attention in the first place. I’m stepping away from the competitions and product reviews unless it’s something I really like and concentrating on keeping things personal and honest. It’s better for the blog and less stress for me.
[Pic: FT.com, I’d love to see the thought bubble coming out of Susie Menkes and Michael Roberts’ heads!]