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Reassuringly expensive: top fashion labels bid to lure elite back

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Top designers are moving even more upmarket and hoicking their prices in an attempt to make up for losses during the pandemic, it has emerged. The strategy cashes in on a surging demand for luxury from the super-rich, many of whom have grown even wealthier during the pandemic.

The fashion industry broke out of quarantine in chic heels last week after a near 18-month absence from live shows. How much the industry has changed was revealed at Paris fashion week and, in a first by an African American designer, in New York. Apparent at both were new methods of functioning in a world changed economically and by racial justice demands.

For some, like Chanel, that has meant jacking up the price of handbags, first in May last year, citing the cost of raw materials, and again this month, with customers being asked to pay about 15% more. This comes after the company’s revenues declined 18% in 2020.

A recent Bernstein “untapped price increase reservoir” industry report identified Rolex, Dior, Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton as brands that had raised prices. The analysis found that the pricing of luxury bags had increased at twice the level of the broader consumer prices index over four decades. The most desirable brands had translated growth into increasing prices quickly in what Bernstein called an “unrealised pricing upside”.

Bernstein analyst Luca Solca said: “Most luxury brands increased prices during the pandemic in the attempt to cushion the impact of lower sales. Chanel has been particularly aggressive in this move. Very desirable brands have the ability to increase prices, if they so wish.”This, Solca added, “has the advantage of reducing the risk of overwhelming the market and putting perceived exclusivity in jeopardy.”

While that may be the hard-nosed luxury business rationale, one of the realities of the creative end is to act against decades of mass market luxury, with brands wanting to become more exclusive, rarefied and expensive enough to bear the additional costs of craftsmanship and sustainability.

Orsola de Castro, founder of Fashion Revolution, a fashion activism movement, said: “The luxury industry needs to go back to some kind of semblance of luxury, because it’s hardly been immune to the low-quality, high-quantity bug. There is so much wrong with luxury these days, but the main issue is lack of transparency,.

She added:“To imagine a luxury industry that really is luxurious, they need to reinvent their parameters, go back to the essence of what luxury is – craft, respect for human toil and skills, and beautiful materials. None of this can hurt people and nature, if we are to consider it a luxury product.” In other words, goodbye to the sale-price handbag, hello to full price or better.

Last week, Demna Gvasalia, the radical Georgian designer behind Balenciaga, which had its first couture show in 50 years, said his fashion would lean towards a dressier style, though “not in a red carpet way at all”. This, according to the Guardian, is in part a response to the industry’s urgent need “to regain control of the fashion narrative” that has been losing out to trends led by Nike and Netflix, adding that “the reopening of haute couture represents Balenciaga pulling rank over those pretenders”.

Kerby Jean-Raymond is head of the design label Pyer Moss
Designer Kerby Jean-Raymond is the first African American to be invited into the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the governing body of the couture system. Photograph: Megan Cencula/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

At the same time, a couture show in New York also offered an indication of how things are changing. Elaine Brown, former chairwoman of the Black Panther party, gave an uplifting address to an audience that included Tracee Ellis Ross, the actor and activist daughter of Diana Ross, and Bethann Hardison, the highly influential fashion activist, before a couture show by Kerby Jean-Raymond, head of the design label Pyer Moss, and the first African American to be invited into the official Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the governing body of the couture system.

The show, which was rescheduled for Saturdayafter the approaching front of Hurricane Elsa drenched the catwalk and audience, represents a symbolic redress for an industry that has come under fire for its lack of diversity.

Lauren Preston, a consultant, said that there had been improvements but “it won’t feel authentic and genuine until you see the change at the top. It feels temporary as of now, but we will see.”The designer Tatiana Franklin said: “Black designers like Kerby and Heron Preston are being incorporated. But it can also be cultural appropriation because they still steal from the black designers and then put them on a pedestal. It’s interesting to see this, and where the designs actually came from.”

Chi Ossé, newly elected progressive member for New York city council attending the show, said that fashion had the power to change perspectives. “I think all fashion is black because it comes from streetwear and that starts in the African American communities. For black fashion to be recognised, it has to be edgy and authentic, but we also need the resources the white designers have.”

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Chanel suit finds new fans in Gen Z channelling 90s nostalgia

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The Chanel suit, an outfit typically associated with ladies who lunch, has an unlikely new set of fans – Generation Z.

This month Olivia Rodrigo, the 18-year-old singer of hits including Driver’s Licence and Good 4 U, chose a pink and black vintage version for a visit to the White House to meet the US president, Joe Biden. Global fashion search platform Lyst said that following the appearance, searches for vintage Chanel rose by 200%.

Chanel suits have also been worn by Simone Biles on the cover of WSJ magazine, and by the cast in the Gossip Girl reboot. Jennie from the band Blackpink, meanwhile, wears the luxury label so much that she is sometimes called “Human Chanel” by fans.

Scene from Gossip Girl
The reboot of Gossip Girl. Photograph: BBC/PA

Rodrigo’s choice was a nod to First Lady style – its most famous wearer being Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the 60s – but the 90s are the focus of this revival. The singer’s suit is from Chanel’s spring/summer 1995 collection.

The references being made by the suit’s new Gen Z fans are more likely to be a young Helena Christensen on the catwalk in a Chanel suit and bikini top, Hilary Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or Cher Horowitz from the 1995 film Clueless. Instagram account @chanel_archives is a popular source for Chanel catwalk images from this era, whose high-profile followers include Ariana Grande and Tavi Gevinson.

Clueless
90s inspiration: Cher and Dionne in 1995’s Clueless. Photograph: Alamy

Chanel is, of course, a luxury brand and therefore expensive. Vintage suits on sites like Farfetch have prices starting at about £2,000. Those without rock-star budgets get the look with Chanel-like pieces on Depop, the resale app that Rodrigo uses herself, for as little as £25.

Depop’s global curation lead, Viviana Attard, who studies trends for the company, pinpoints the style as part of the rise of preppy look. “[Rodrigo] visually expressed a vibe that’s been gaining more traction lately – we’ve seen an increase in interest in listings and searches for the typical preppy look, recently brought back into fashion with the Gossip Girl reboot.”

Lyst’s content editor, Morgane Le Caer, argues that the different associations of the Chanel suit – the fact that it can signal preppy, first ladies, the 90s and the 60s – is a concept that appeals. “Gen Z style is … about creating a very personal world – or mood – through the juxtaposition of visual elements,” she says.

Ryan McMahon, who runs @chanel_archives, says he particularly likes the “kitsch” collections that Karl Lagerfeld produced for Chanel between 1990 and 1997.

“I think we’re in a generation of nostalgia, and everyone seems to be obsessed with looking back in fashion and remembering a time when fashion wasn’t so serious. Chanel in the 90s is a perfect example of this,” he says.

“Hopefully from my account people are discovering ways to style the Chanel suit in a fun and fresh way that can be youthful, which a skirt suit isn’t always assumed to be.”

Both Le Caer and Attard argue that the sustainability factor of vintage is important – and Rodrigo represents her generation here too. “[She] is a huge secondhand and vintage fan and makes environmentally conscious decisions with her fashion choices,” says Attard. “It’s no surprise she chose to wear vintage for such a high-profile and momentous occasion like visiting the White House.”

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Brows beaten: 10 of the best brow gels

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Some people are blessed with naturally full, exquisitely shaped brows, the kind of luscious gift that keeps on giving – . If that’s you, come back next week. Everyone else, keep reading. Brows frame your face, but getting the right size, shape, colour and density demands skill. Too thin or thick, wrong shade or shape, and your face looks off kilter. Thankfully there is help. Professional threading is great for keeping brows tidy. If they are sparse, a brow tint will provide an illusion of fullness. Alas, it doesn’t last very long. For longevity, head to Daxita Vaghela, aka “The Lash Queen” who now also does microblading – the tattooing technique that adds hair strokes to your brow. It has a realistic finish and lasts up to 18 months. If you don’t fancy anything permanent (or have a low pain threshold) stick to products. Many swear by brow pencils, they are great for filling in gaps and creating sharp outlines, but for a natural finish, you need a steady hand and a light touch. An easier option for great volume and density is a brow gel. You simply brush the product on to your brows and you’re done. For a full but natural and glossy look, try the clear variation. For a bolder brow, try colour – the Anastasia Beverly Hills range is excellent. Brow gels are fail safe. Just don’t waste time trying to make them look identical. Remember, brows are siblings, not twins.

1. Hourglass Arch Brow Volumising Fibre Gel £27, spacenk.com

2. Benefit Gimme Brow + Volumising Eyebrow Gel £22.50, benefitcosmetics.com

3. Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel £23, cultbeauty.co.uk

4. L’Oréal Paris Unbelievabrow Long Wear Top Coat £10.99, boots.com

5. Chantecaille Full Brow Perfecting Gel £34, libertylondon.com

6. Too Faced Brow Wig £18, toofaced.co.uk

7. Charlotte Tilbury Brow Fix Sculpting Gel £19, charlottetilbury.com

8. BareMinerals Strength & Length Serum-Infused Brow Gel £18, bareminerals.co.uk

9. UOMA Beauty Brow Fro Volumising Brow Gel £23.50, beautybay.com

10. Kevyn Aucoin True Feather Brow Gel £22, lookfantastic.com

Follow Funmi on Twitter @FunmiFetto

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Let the Games begin! Tokyo 2020 kicks off with manga-inspired opening ceremony

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After a one-year delay, several scandals, and with the spectre of the COVID-19 pandemic hanging over it, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games finally kicked off on Friday.

Athletes from around the world not only stepped foot in the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony but also into the world of Japanese comics and graphic novels.

An orchestral medley of songs from iconic Japanese video games served as the soundtrack for the parade of countries at the ceremony.

The first song played on Friday was “Roto’s Theme” from the Dragon Quest series. Dragon Quest was enormously influential as the first console role-playing game, launching a genre. The parade also included the main Final Fantasy theme and “Victory Fanfare,” the song that plays when a player wins an encounter.

Another well-known song that was featured was “Star Light Zone,” from the original Sonic the Hedgehog. In addition to appearing in the original game, a remixed version appeared in the DS version of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

Additionally, the placards for the country names for the parade of athletes used manga speech bubbles, and the costumes for the placard bearers and assistants had manga touches in their design.

No spectators for the 11,090 athletes

This kick-off marks more than just the beginning of two weeks of sporting feats, it is also the end of a long and tiring marathon for the Japanese organisers who have been waiting for this moment since 8 September 2013 and the designation of Tokyo as the host city of the 2020 Olympic Games.

But the 11,090 athletes making up the 206 delegations — which for the first time include as many women as men — ventured out to parade in front of a near-empty stadium.

In the grandstand of the venue, which can normally accommodate 68,000 spectators, stood Japanese emperor Naruhito, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, French President Emmanuel Macron and US First Lady Jill Biden.

These dignitaries and a few thousand other privileged guests will witness the lighting of the cauldron by the flame alighted on 12 March 2020 in Olympia, which traditionally marks the start of the Games.

But in a surprise move, after months of polls indicating hostility to the Games, Tokyo residents gathered in their hundreds around the Olympic Stadium before the ceremony.

They watched the Blue Impulse air patrol fly over the Japanese capital and sketch Olympic rings in the sky. They then posed next to the Olympic rings, carved on the stadium’s forecourt: “I’m delighted that the Games are starting, it’s a source of pride for me,” one Tokyo resident explained.

Tests, masks and a ban on families

To reassure the Japanese public, most of whom would have preferred another postponement or the outright cancellation of the Olympic fortnight, Japanese authorities took drastic measures: daily tests for athletes, compulsory masks for all, gatherings limited to the strict minimum in the Olympic Village, a ban on foreign athletes’ relatives and families coming to Japan and, last but not least, the almost total absence of spectators, something never seen before in the history of the Olympics.

Still, anti-Olympics protesters marched from Harajuku to Sendagaya ahead of the Olympic Games opening ceremony, criticizing the Japanese government for what some say is prioritising the Olympics over the nation’s health.

About 23% of the population of more than 120 million has been fully vaccinated, a number that has picked up since May but is still far short of where Japan’s government had hoped to be before the Olympics.

Japan has weathered the pandemic better than many other countries, logging about 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths since the pandemic began. But infections have been surging, with Tokyo hitting a six-month high of 1,979 daily cases on Thursday.

The organisers of the event also have had to deal with several scandals including the resignation of the president of the organising committee, Yoshiro Mori, last February for sexist remarks, or that of the artistic director of the opening ceremony on Thursday for a bad joke about the Holocaust made more than twenty years ago.

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