Thom Browne may be the perfect pick for chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), US fashion’s top trade organisation. He’s an entrepreneur who managed to build a design-led business attractive enough to be acquired by a major European fashion group (Zegna, in 2018).
From imaginative runways and sporting collaborations to a left-of-centre take on celebrity dressing, Browne has earned himself a respectable position in popular culture. He has insider cachet as well as sales revenue of about $230 million in 2021, prompting some to wonder whether he could be the next Ralph Lauren. There are few, if any, other American fashion labels started in the past two decades that so successfully unite creative legitimacy and commercial heft.
In this sense, Browne is a symbol of the dream the CFDA has been marketing to its members for the past 15 years: that America is a place where modern fashion brands can be built. Want to be the next Michael Kors, Tory Burch or Ralph Lauren? Through its programmes and networking opportunities, the CFDA can help make you a star.
The truth is, there are limits to what the CFDA can do. Over the years, those limits have become increasingly frustrating to designers, even as the trade group has made efforts to help paying members with everything from supply chain to financial management to marketing.
Browne also came up at a time when America’s fashion landscape was very different: he launched his line at Barneys New York at the height of the retailer’s power. He’s also closely connected with American Vogue and Anna Wintour, who is enmeshed with the CFDA through several joint initiatives.
But while the formula that Wintour and the CFDA co-developed for building young American labels worked for Browne, it wasn’t always effective for others. Browne is going to be under plenty of pressure — especially as a cis, white male in today’s political climate — from members to show that he sees them: whether that’s by responding to emails, taking meetings or pushing CFDA executives to fund and build out more robust support programmes. (In 2021, the CFDA reported about $35 million in assets, roughly flat from a year earlier. But its revenue for education and development was just $1.3 million last year, down from $7 million in 2020, when both individuals and companies alike ramped up giving at the onset of the pandemic.)
Therein lies Browne’s opportunity. When Diane von Furstenberg stepped down as CFDA chair and unofficial den mother to a generation of talents, there was a lot of talk about how hard it was to find a prominent American designer to take the role. (Burch and Kors were said to have declined.) Tom Ford, who is said to have accepted the position with reluctance, may have accomplished more if the pandemic hadn’t hit six months into his tenure.
Browne could connect more closely with young members in the way Von Furstenberg did, while pressing the organisation to boost tangible business support they offer members. You’re never going to make everyone happy, but he certainly has a chance.
THE NEWS IN BRIEF
FASHION, BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY
LVMH beats estimates, blames tourist shopping for slowing US growth. LVMH’s third quarter revenues rose 20 percent on an organic basis to €19.8 billion ($19.3 billion). The group’s fashion and leather goods division grew 22 percent, reflecting enduring demand for luxury goods in the face of high inflation and slower macro-economic growth.
London Frieze Week sees shows from McQueen, Raf Simons. The annual art fair has served as something of a second London Fashion Week, as the original event was scaled back due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Alexander McQueen, Raf Simons and Roksanda all staged shows, while other labels like Moncler hosted events.
French luxury groups to highlight sector’s resilience as demand holds up for now. The sector has sailed above stock market turbulence, lockdowns in China and soaring inflation in recent months, buoyed by its wealthy customer base even as retailers of cheaper clothing and accessories warn of weakening demand.
Uniqlo owner sees profit topping projections on sales climb. Operating profit for the year ending August 2023 is forecast to reach ¥350 billion ($2.4 billion), ahead of the ¥332 billion average projected by analysts, the clothing retailer said in a statement Thursday. Net sales are seen at ¥2.65 trillion, compared with analysts’ prediction for ¥2.48 trillion.
US retailers looking past China for suppliers see costs jump 30 percent. Several years of supply-chain instability are pushing more US retail companies to shift some production from China to North America. About 70 percent of the 1,610 executives surveyed by engineering company ABB in June said they plan to bring at least part of their operations closer to home.
Post pandemic, fashion continues to backslide on labour rights. A crackdown on trade unions and increase in labour abuses is becoming a worrying new norm in fashion’s supply chain, according to a report published Tuesday by The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.
Regulators issue guidance on controversial Higg tool. The Norwegian Consumer Authority (NCA) and Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) have jointly authored an 11-page document outlining how the Sustainable Apparel Coalition should improve the underlying data, claims and presentation of its Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) tool to avoid misleading consumers.
Sephora is returning to the UK this week. Sephora-owned Feelunique’s site will be transitioned to Sephora UK, at sephora.co.uk, on Oct. 17. A Sephora store will open in London in March 2023 at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.
Former Sephora stores reopen in Russia under new ownership, Ile de Beauté Brand. Some of LVMH retail beauty brand Sephora’s stores reopened in Russia on Monday as Ile de Beauté, the Russian firm said, the latest rebranding in the country’s retail space as firms exit the country over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
Marisa Meltzer is writing Glossier tell-all book. “Glossy” is set to be released in Summer 2023, will unpack the rise of the brand, and its enduring impact on beauty, business and culture.
Yoox Net-a-Porter names Alison Loehnis as interim CEO. Following the announcement of Richemont’s deal to spin off YNAP in a joint venture with Farfetch, Loehnis will take up the role of interim chief executive of the loss-making e-commerce group on Oct. 31.
MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY
Sneaker reseller Goat set to acquire streetwear site Grailed. Grailed, a peer-to-peer fashion site, will continue to operate under its own brand and will integrate Goat’s operations infrastructure, including shipping and payments. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Compiled by Joan Kennedy.