The Style File Daily Cheat Sheet

(wwd)Inflation Could Return To the World of Fashion

Life is getting more expensive in the fashion world, and consumers could get stuck with some of the bill. “The era of apparel deflation is now over,” said Richard Noll, chairman and chief executive officer of Hanesbrands Inc. Cotton prices are up more than 50 percent from a year ago, labor and transportation expenses are rising and factories that closed during the recession remain dark, keeping a cap on supply as demand perks up. To top it off, Chinese officials have become more willing to allow the yuan to appreciate against the dollar, which could make goods made in the country even more expensive. “You’re starting to see price increases come through the entire supply chain, not just from commodity costs, but also from a supply and demand imbalance,” Noll said. “There is no question that costs are working their way through the supply chain and you will see a broad-based increase, I think, in retail prices for apparel in 2011.” The industry is also working on tighter inventories and pushing suppliers for quicker turns. Noll said his company had spent $15 million more on air freight so far this year to bring in goods from Central America and Asia. “When you’re running with such short lead times, you need to speed it up and air freight is just a lot more expensive than ocean freight,” he said. In that vein, Columbia Sportswear Co. also said Thursday it had incurred increased costs to “expedite production and delivery of fall orders to customers.” Retailers and vendors would like nothing more than to pass the additional expense on to consumers. That will be a tall order given an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, a sharp downturn in consumer confidence over the past month and what Eric Wiseman, chairman and ceo of VF Corp., described as an apparent “pause” in the recovery.  Still there’s a growing sense that the pressures building in the supply chain will sooner or later make their way to the consumer. It could be a rude awakening after more than a decade of shrinking price tags. According to Commerce Department figures, apparel prices hit their high in 1992 and have fallen each year since with just two exceptions, including last year when prices inched up 0.6 percent. Even with the increase, apparel in 2009 cost a staggering 20.4 percent less than it did 17 years earlier. read more

(LA Times)Gift shops go glam: High-end hotels are collaborating with designers

Luxury hotel chains are upping the ante on their retail offerings by bringing in exclusive items and, in some cases, designing their own. In an era of global sameness, they have opted to offer unique, localized experiences. The Standard hotels (including the property in downtown Los Angeles) are collaborating for the second year with surf lifestyle brand Quiksilver, selling board shorts ($75), bikinis and sunglasses (both $88) in poolside vending machines. The Morgans Hotel Group has hosted a series of curated retail stores, the newest in West Hollywood at the Mondrian, where Los Angeles-based retailer Ron Robinson has opened a pop-up shop with handpicked merchandise such as exclusive Pamela Love T-shirts ($25), as well as Stephen Webster jewelry and Apothia beauty products. "As we get more design-oriented hotels, the idea will continue to percolate," said Bruce Baltin, a hotel industry analyst and senior vice president of Colliers PKF Consulting USA, a management consulting firm in Los Angeles that covers the hospitality industry. "It's a point of differentiation. And now that you have designers like Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani getting into the hotel business, they will pair that with retail opportunities as well." Historically, W Hotels have been innovators in hotel gift shops, with the first W store opening at the W Times Square in 2001. "From the beginning, the concept was designed to go beyond the basic idea of providing the same 400-thread-count sheets that are in the rooms," said Eva Ziegler, W's global brand leader (yes, that's her title; she's in charge of the chain's growth strategy). In the past, the resort chain has targeted Diane von Furstenberg to create a Fashion Emergency Kit (a black wrap dress and thong underwear) for its stores, and Michael Kors to design staff uniforms. But in February, Ziegler hired an expert, naming Amanda Ross, a stylist and designer consultant, to the newly created post of fashion director. So far, Ross has attended fashion weeks on the hotel's behalf, consulted on uniforms for new properties and helped select designers for the Global Glam collection of apparel created especially for the chain and sold in all 17 W Hotel stores. The store at the W Times Square feels like a trendy Robertson Boulevard boutique, with $80 Melissa brand jelly shoes, $275 jeweled caftans and gift books with such cheeky titles as "Is Your Dog Gay?" If there were exclusive products, they weren't obvious, but the merchandise is a far cry from garish costume jewelry and packages of dried fruit and nuts that one might associate with a hotel gift shop. read more

(wwd)Fast Retailing to Close Small Japanese Apparel Operation

"Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. said Thursday it plans to shutter five of its small women's apparel brands in a move to boost the efficiency of its other businesses. The corporate parent of Uniqlo said it has decided to discontinue the product lines as of early next year. The brands concerned, which include Zazie and Enraciné, are small lines targeting young Japanese women. Cabin, the division that manages the brands, will be merged into another Fast Retailing subsidiary: Link Theory Japan. Fast Retailing said the restructuring will generate 3 billion yen, or about $34 million, of extraordinary losses for the fiscal year ending August 31. A spokesman said those losses will "impact" the company's current profit target, which it already cut earlier this month on uneven sales of spring items. The company said just two weeks ago it was expecting its full-year net profit to rise 35.6 percent to 67.5 billion yen, or $774.82 million at current exchange. Fast Retailing said it had spent the last few years trying to make Cabin a significant part of its women's business but ultimately decided to liquidate the brands. "The current business climate in the women's wear retail industry continues to be unfavorable, due to the changing lifestyles and tastes of the young female consumers," the company said. Cabin's retail network consists of about 198 stores in Japan. Fast Retailing said it will examine Cabin's current store locations and may switch some of them over to other Fast Retailing brands. The spokesman specified that these spaces are unlikely to become Uniqlo stores due to their smaller size. read more

(NYT)Shoppers on a ‘Diet’ Tame the Urge to Buy

Imagine that horrible though all-too-familiar feeling: You are standing before a fully stuffed closet and yet have nothing to wear. Now, imagine something worse: Your closet contains only six items, and you are restricted to wearing only those six items for an entire month. Now, if you can bear it, imagine something unspeakable: No one notices. Nearly a month into what amounted to just such a self-inflicted fast of fashion, Stella Brennan, 31, an insurance sales executive from Kenosha, Wis., realized last week that not even her husband, Kelly, a machinist, had yet figured out that she had been wearing the same six items, over and over, since June 21. The sad punch line is that Mr. Brennan is the one who actually does the laundry in the family. During her experiment — something called a “shopping diet,” actually — which ended on Wednesday, Ms. Brennan made do with the following: a black blazer and pants from H & M; two button-down shirts, one black and one pink; a pair of Old Navy jeans; and one well-worn pink T-shirt. How she settled on those items was complicated by the fact that she has two young children, a golden retriever and three cats, and that she was starting a new job last month with an hourlong commute. She said she needed “six items that are animal-hair-, kid-, food- and wrinkle-resistant. I need these items to be professional, but also work for playing football with my son and tea parties.” She agonized the longest over the T-shirt — the button-down shirts and suit separates were for work, but the right T-shirt could be worn casually with jeans or dressed up with the blazer. Her revelation at the end of 31 days, after her husband still had not noticed, even when she wore her floral-printed pajamas to do yard work: “Obviously, I didn’t need all of these clothes.”  This self-imposed exercise in frugality was prompted by a Web challenge called Six Items or Less ( The premise was to go an entire month wearing only six items already found in your closet (not counting shoes, underwear or accessories). Nearly 100 people around the country, and in faraway places like Dubai and Bangalore, India, were also taking part in the regimen, with motives including a way to trim back on spending, an outright rejection of fashion, and a concern that the mass production and global transportation of increasingly cheap clothing was damaging the environment. read more