Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hermès Revenue Jumps 10 Percent

PARIS, France — Hermès International SCA, the French maker of Birkin bags and silk scarves, reported first- quarter sales that beat estimates, led by demand in Japan.
Revenue jumped 10 percent to 943.5 million euros ($1.31 billion), Paris-based Hermès said today in a statement. Analysts predicted 921 million euros, according to the median of nine estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales excluding currency swings advanced 15 percent.
Sales on a constant-currency basis surged 22 percent in Japan, exceeding estimates, as Hermès raised prices and shoppers splurged in advance of a sales tax increase, the maker of $10,000 handbags said. An 18 percent revenue gain in the rest of Asia confirmed a positive trend, particularly in China, Hermes said. In Europe, where sales rose 7.9 percent, business remains sustained in a difficult economic environment, the company said.
“Hermès will continue its long-term strategy,” the luxury-goods producer said. “Above all, it is our company’s unwavering determination to continually reinvent itself in order to push the limits of excellence.”
Hermès is adding production facilities in France and opening more stores as the highest segment of the luxury industry resists a slowdown. Italian cashmere clothier Brunello Cucinelli said this month that he’s very confident about the top end of the market because super-wealthy consumers continue to seek exclusive products.
Profitability at Hermès is likely to shrink this year from a record in 2013, weighed down by the weakness of the Japanese yen, the company said in March. First-quarter sales advanced 13 percent last year at constant currencies.
Hermès rose 1 percent to 254.65 euros at the close in Paris yesterday. The stock has declined 3.4 percent this year, valuing the saddle-maker part owned by rival LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA at 26.9 billion euros.
LVMH reported its fastest fashion and leather-goods sales growth in two years when it published first-quarter revenue figures on April 10.

By Andrew Roberts; Editors: Celeste Perri, Tom Lavell.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Snobby Staff can Boost Luxury Retail Sales
Customers wait outside a Louis Vuitton store in Hong Kong. Photo: Winhorse, iStock.

When it comes to luxury brands, the ruder the sales staff the better the sales, according to new research from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.
The forthcoming Journal of Consumer Research study reveals that consumers who get the brush-off at a high-end retailer can become more willing to purchase and wear pricey togs.
“It appears that snobbiness might actually be a qualification worth considering for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci,” says Sauder Marketing Prof. Darren Dahl. “Our research indicates they can end up having a similar effect to an ‘in-group’ in high school that others aspire to join.”
For the study, participants imagined or had interactions with sales representatives – rude or not. They then rated their feelings about associated brands and their desire to own them. Participants who expressed an aspiration to be associated with high-end brands also reported an increased desire to own the luxury products after being treated poorly.
The effect only held true if the salesperson appeared to be an authentic representative of the brand. If they did not fit the part, the consumer was turned off. Further, researchers found that sales staff rudeness did not improve impressions of mass-market brands.
“Our study shows you’ve got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work,” says Dahl.
The researchers also found that improved impressions gained by rude treatment faded over time. Customers who expressed increased desire to purchase the products reported significantly diminished desire two weeks later.
Based on the study’s findings, Dahl suggests that, if consumers are being treated rudely, it’s best to leave the situation and return later, or avoid the interactions altogether by shopping online.

The study, Should the Devil Sell Prada? Retail Rejection Increases Aspiring Consumers’ Desire for the Brand, will appear in the October 2014 edition of the Journal of Consumer Research. It was co-authored by Assistant Prof. Morgan Ward of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.

THE PIED PIPER OF PARK AVENUE - Part 2: a Birkin Bag for the Salvation Army


8d23934v e1398695365116 PPPA, Part 2: a Birkin Bag for the Salvation Army 
In Episode 1 of The Pied Piper of Park Avenue, seniors from the most prestigious private schools in Manhattan walked out of school and filled a convoy of their parents’ SUVs with $6,000 of food and delivered it to a food bank in Harlem. Their parents were furious. The kids promised not to do it again. 

The next day, when the seniors of Manhattan’s elite private schools walked out after lunch, no one thought it was a flash mob. A Chapin senior had shared the plan with a junior she hoped to sleep with, and the junior decided to score some points by telling a teacher, and from there the news moved quickly. To the headmistress. To the lawyers.
Within hours, the heads of the elite schools and Hays Nolan, who was Henry Kravis’s lawyer and a member of the Brearley board, were on a conference call. What to do? Someone suggested making an announcement: “We know what you’re up to, and…” And what? Call their parents? And tell them what? The next bad idea: a lockdown, a prudent response to a “threat” that would never be confirmed. That was quickly rejected. Silence descended.
Over four decades Hays Nolan had seen many looming disasters, and his advice rarely varied: Don’t rush to respond. That’s what he suggested now. “The kids are putting on a show, and it’s a good one. But it has a half-life. This time, they’ll discover it doesn’t matter what they do, only who they are. TV and the Post will go after them as spoiled rich kids — and in the glare of the bright lights, they’ll fold.”
So school administrators busied themselves at their desks as their seniors streamed out after lunch and again made their way to 86th Street and Park Avenue. Again the marchers were exuberant, chanting “PEOPLE FIRST! PEOPLE COME FIRST!” and making videos for YouTube, flipping their photos onto Instagram and mugging for the TV crew.
This time the march was followed by a single SUV. A smaller food donation? Hardly. There were gasps — first from the TV crew, then from some of the marchers — when the kids started to pile their gifts in front of the Salvation Army store on Lenox Avenue.
A Birkin bag. A fur coat. Dresses that had been photographed at the Ballet Gala. Men’s suits. Shirts that would have been at home in Gatsby’s closet. Women’s shoes, several pairs flashing red Louboutin soles. Nikes that looked as if they’d never touched the pavement.
The women who worked at the Salvation Army knew what a Birkin bag was because they’d read on Page Six that Jay-Z had spent $350,000 on them for Beyonce one Christmas, but they’d imagined that bought enough Birkins to fill a closet. They had no idea what it would cost to buy the Birkin Capucine Togo Leather model with Gold Hardware that was sitting on the sidewalk. But the TV crew had an idea, and the cameras went close-up on the bag, which they quickly discovered belonged — correction: used to belong — to Lisa Brandt, wife of the CEO of Palomino Management.
Dinner chez Brandt was a simple coq au vin that night, but the real meal was sure to be Tina’s conversation with her father. David wanted to talk about the march. Tina wanted to turn her defense into an attack. Lisa, wanting neither, jumped in first.
“So I called, and told the Salvation Army about the misunderstanding…”
“It wasn’t a misunderstanding,” Tina snapped. “The Birkin was a gift.”
“A $20,000 gift.”
“No way.”
“That’s what it cost.”
“I had no idea.”
“And did you have any idea,” David Brandt said, struggling for the calm, even tone that has been so highly praised by business media, “that we could have had you arrested for theft?”
“Why didn’t you?”
Lisa made a second attempt at peacekeeping: “Don’t you think the embarrassment is punishment enough?”
Tina shrugged. Parental disapproval was new to her, but it got old fast.
“Punishment,” she said, and her tone was drenched in contempt, “is not a concept you guys have the least clue about.”
David and Lisa took this as criticism of their parenting, which had been passive in the extreme. Tina meant something else: unpunished Wall Street criminality, not excluding Palomino Management.
“Tell me, Dad — you own Apple, don’t you?”
“A big chunk. So what?”
“You know about what Apple does in Ireland?
“Yes. So what?”
“You think it’s okay that they register in Cork but they say the company isn’t a tax resident of Ireland — or anywhere?”
“It’s legal. So what?”
“So they’ve got about $100 billion tax-free dollars parked there while the people who make their stuff in China are jumping out of windows.”
“If corporate taxes were lower, they’d bring it back.”
“Corporate taxes are low, Dad, once the accountants dive in.”
“Low? Apple paid $6 billion in 2012.”
“And what about…”
“Wait a minute, Miss Holier-Than-the-Pope. You’ve got the 5s, the super-thin MacBook with retina display and an iPad Air — if you’re so outraged by Apple, why contribute to corporate crime?”
Tina was in no way interested in pledging allegiance to Samsung. So she deflected: “Compared to yours, my crimes are minor. Giving away maybe… oh…$30,000 of your stuff…”
David, burning: “Like that’s nothing.”
“I’ve heard you at parties.” Tina puffed herself up, waved an imaginary wine glass in imitation of her father talking to friends: ‘If you have less than $700 million…well, really, you just have no hedge against inflation.’”
That was when David shot out of his chair, hands trembling. When Tina cowered. When Lisa began to hyperventilate.
David left the table and went to his study. He called the headmistress of Brearley. “This is no prank,” he told her. “She won’t apologize. She’ll do it again, and she’ll call it income redistribution or economic justice or some other cute bullshit she picked up at your school. And I have no idea what to do about it. So you’d better get on the ball, Missy, and be quick about it.”

Jesse Kornbluth, editor of, recently completed a novel, Married Sex. He lives in Manhattan.



It looked like a flash mob.
Right after lunch on the first warm afternoon in April, seniors began streaming out of the city’s elite private schools. They came East from Spence and Nightingale and Sacred Heart, West from Chapin and Brearley. They met at 86th Street and Park Avenue. Then the Dalton crew arrived, and there were several hundred kids milling around.
They were the sons and daughters of the very rich in their final weeks of school. They’d just returned from Spring Break in St. Barts and Harbour Island and Palm Beach; in September, they’d be off to Duke and Brown and Harvard. They were tanned and buffed, glowing with good health and good fortune, and when they came together, they looked like a Ralph Lauren double-page foldout in Vogue.
The first sign that this might be something more than a flash mob was the arrival of a convoy. A Range Rover. A Suburban. A Denali. All black. These were the cars of the wives of three Wall Street titans who were, as it happened, friends having their monthly lunch at Swifty’s. Their kids knew their mothers would be drinking Sancerre until at least 2:30, plenty of time for them to borrow their chauffeurs for a grocery pickup at the D’Agostino on Madison Avenue.
They just hadn’t told the drivers that they’d be picking up $6,000 worth of canned food. Bought online. Paid by Platinum cards.
Yes, a huge purchase. But considering who the customers were, it was more like a rounding error. Real money would be more like Kate Nichols — daughter of Billy Nichols, head of equities at Morgan Stanley — getting a $2 million apartment as a pre-graduation present for getting through Spence.
The arrival of the SUVs seemed to be what Kate and her co-conspirators Tina Brandt (daughter of the CEO of Palomino Management) and Greg Lee (son of the #2 at Blackstone) were waiting for. Kate shouted something. Two drummers stepped forward and began to play a complicated, totally addictive military cadence. Kids started to clap, on and off the beat, and then Kate waved her arms, and off they went up Park Avenue.
At 98th Street, a girl produced a piccolo and played a soaring Caribbean melody that got an enthusiastic response from the women from the projects. The crowd swelled. There was some dancing. Off to the side, some kids were taking pictures and making videos and posting them on Instagram and YouTube.
The organizers had alerted the media, and a news truck was waiting for the marchers at 106th Street. Another arrived. And with that, the marchers began to chant.
The cameras got it all. And moved closer when the march arrived at the food bank on 125th Street. As kids began unloading cartons from the SUVs, Kate went inside, followed by TV crews.
“We could use some help,” she said to a woman at the first desk.
The woman looked out the window at the kids stacking cartons.
“Honey,” the woman replied, “you are the help.”
Which was the money quote in the coverage about the march on the 5 o’clock news.
But there was more. The TV crews had done short interviews with the leaders. And when they identified Kate and Tina and Greg, they didn’t fail to mention who their fathers were.
That night, three Wall Street executives made it home in time for dinner. And in those homes, the same conversation played out.
“What was that?”
“Budget cuts have slashed aid to food banks. People are hungry. So we fed them.”
“That’s not how you go about it.”
“What should we have done?”
“Your mother and I write checks to charity. Large checks.”
“I had no idea. I thought your reaction would be: ‘The poor will stop going hungry when they get off their asses and find work and buy their food.’”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m only pissed about the publicity.”
“Mom’s in Social Diary all the time.”
“For her causes. And only for her causes.”
These kids prudently didn’t express their less positive view of their mothers.
“So. What’s the learning here?”
“Just don’t do it again.”
“Of course not.”
Which was, Kate and Tina and Greg knew, a lie.

(to be continued, tomorrow)

Jesse Kornbluth, editor of, recently completed a novel, Married Sex. He lives in Manhattan.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Auction Houses Spurred By Luxury Handbag Market

The bargains start below US$150 and the most expensive go for more than USUS$100,000 (RM320,000): designer handbags are the latest craze taking global auction houses by storm and fetching record prices.
Texas-based Heritage Auctions, which calls itself the market leader in luxury accessories, holds its New York spring sale on Monday—and is more than upbeat about how well it’s going to go.
“I expect to break into the top 10, but I don’t believe any will break the world record,” its 26-year-old director of luxury accessories, Matthew Rubinger, told AFP.
Of the 800 lots going under the hammer, the most expensive is an Hermes “Birkin” in shiny black crocodile, complete with a padlock and diamond and white gold clasp, valued between US$80,000 and US$100,000.
The second costliest is another “Birkin” in crocodile red with violet trim, gold clasp and special horseshoe ornament prominently placed in the US$70,000 to US$90,000 price tag range.
In the luxury auction market, Hermes bags are by far the most prized, especially those named after British actress Jane Birkin and the “Kelly” line that channels the late Princess Grace of Monaco.
In the luxury accessories category, which Heritage created in 2010, Hermes is followed by Chanel and Louis Vuitton, ahead of Gucci, Prada and Celine, says Rubinger.
World record is US$203,150
In 2010, Heritage sold 200 lots for US$708,200, with gross sales reaching a staggering US$14.5 million in 2013, he said.
The auction house has sold eight of the 10 world records, including the reigning record of US$203,150 for a red crocodile “Birkin” measuring a mere 30 centimeters (12 inches) sold in Dallas, Texas, on December 6, 2011.
“This is such a new market,” said Rubinger. “That’s why it is so much fun.”
Buyers and sellers are often the same, with top clients concentrated in the United States, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Asia.
“What is interesting, for the most part—there is not that much variance in what people are looking for,” he said.
Heritage is not the only auction house to take advantage of the new boom. Bonhams in Los Angeles, Christie’s of London and Artcurial based in Paris all offer luxury accessories.
The competition does not worry Rubinger, who bought and sold his first handbag on the Internet for his mother when he was just 12 years old.
“As these players grow, it helps us,” he said. “The more and more people are in this industry, it’s expanding our market.”
The day after Heritage’s New York sale, Artcurial, which holds two of the 10 record sales, follows suit with a “Vintage Hermes” auction offering hundreds of handbags from the famous Parisian brand.
Among the most expensive is a 35 centimeter (14 inch) Birkin in matte brown crocodile valued at US$41,520 to US$48,440 and a 30 centimeter (12 inch) Birkin in black matte crocodile estimated at US$19,366 to US$22,133.
“Every sale rose on the last,” Rubinger said.
The market for the big bucks designer handbag is on the rise—so much so that even men are becoming keen.
“Husbands of clients I had for years are more interested now that the dollar figures have gotten higher, we are talking real money here,” he said.
“That’s a reason why men got more interested. You can make a really dumb purchase at US$50 and you can make a smart purchase at US$50,000,” he added.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Two Sides of Luxury

Aspirational brands rely on a high-low strategy. They price their main lines high for the super rich. But they hedge low on their entry-level diffusion lines. 

Aspirants dream about Birkin bags, but they'll settle for anything with an Hermès logo on it. So Hermès sells Birkins to wealthy socialites, and not-quite-Birkins to those who've seen them on TV.
In doing so, it captures all the marketplace demand for its brand name through price discrimination. Some luxury brands eschew aspirational customers altogether - you won't find a Tom Ford suit for less than a couple of grand.
High-end prices have gone off the deep end; as the Wall Street Journal reported, "in the past five years, the price of a Chanel quilted handbag has increased 70 per cent to $4,900. Cartier's Trinity gold bracelet now sells for $16,300, 48 per cent more than in 2009."
And luxury sales are slowing down. Consumption was an impressive $390 billion in 2013, a 7 per cent increase over 2012 - but a drop from 11 per cent growth rate in 2011.
Hermes Ostrich Birkin Bag. Photo / Wikipedia-Wen-Cheng Liu
Hermes Ostrich Birkin Bag. Photo / Wikipedia-Wen-Cheng Liu
The projected rate in 2015 is only 6 per cent. Time attributes the slowdown to a cooling market in China, where President Xi Jinping recently initiated a crackdown on bribery and corruption (major drivers of luxury purchases, especially among government officials).
China's lower-middle class and "mass affluent" class are giving way to its upper-middle - a curious trend that McKinsey Consulting explains as spending on experiences, like spas and weekend getaways.
In the coming years, China's famed obsession with red Bordeaux, Italian automobiles and Swiss watches will become the sole province of the country's superrich. Others will have to make due with midtier brands.
The pattern is roughly the same in the United States, as aspirational consumers give up on Gucci and turn to the more reasonably priced Michael Kors, Uniqlo and Topshop.
Those that sell to the aspirational range - Armani, Prada and LVMH - are seeing the big bottom fall out. They're being forced into a pickle. They can drop their diffusion pricing even lower, in a bid to win back the aspirational shoppers, but doing so might cheapen their brand image, sacrificing high-end customers in a fruitless quest to recapture the low end.
Or they can let the low-end go, which would mean drastically culling product lines, scaling back operations, and hoping to compete with the 0.1 per cent's growing taste for bespoke and artisanal goods.
Not everyone will be so nimble. BMW has overextended itself by playing more in various entry-level aspirational markets; even BMW enthusiasts are confused about how many market segments, models and diffusion lines the automaker sells.
Luxury brands will have to choose which dream they're selling. Or they'll pay a steep price for their indecision. We won't be able to afford some of them, and that's just as well - many of them can no longer afford us.

‘Bringing Home the Birkin’ - Chapter 1: Barcelona on the Brain

Barcelona on the Brain
I've always thought the use of a ringing phone to symbolize the onset of great personal change was a cheap plot device, and a gross oversimplification of the various factors that inspire human metamorphosis. However, now I know better: sometimes you really can trace it all back to a phone call.
In my particular case, that life-changing phone call came early one wintry Cape Cod day — early enough that my roommate, Kate, and I were still cheerfully ensconced in our morning routine of Peet's coffee, PJs, and Rosie O'Donnell. Neither the caller nor the subject matter was by any means unusual — it was the Boston — based agency that represented me, giving me my newest assignment. A weeklong hair and makeup job for IBM in Barcelona, it had the allure of an escape from the drab and drear of mid-March Provincetown. The call certainly felt routine at the time, but we don't always know our Rubicon when it rings ...
At least workwise, things weren't so shabby. I had a career that people who didn't know better might consider glamorous. As a beautician who specialized in commercial photography, I had spent most of the last decade trigger-happy with a can of hairspray and a powder puff. And somehow, along my merry way, I had also cofounded a company. Named Team, it was an agency that represented artists who worked, in one capacity or another, in the photography and advertising industries. The concept was both convenience and strength in numbers. Normally, an advertising exec needed to make about half a dozen phone calls to pull together a photo shoot. What my company did was turn those six calls into one. Makeup artists, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, location scouts, production managers, food stylists — we had it all under one roof. But good as it had been to me, my initial euphoria at being part of the fashion industry I had always worshipped as spectator was starting to wane. I had learned that celebrities were just people with name recognition, and photo shoots were as tedious as board meetings, once you had been to hundreds of them. Ten years of crafting updos and vanquishing shiny noses had driven me to uncharacteristic self-analysis. Was this really how I wanted to spend the rest of my life? Maybe not, but for now I knew one thing: I was going to Spain.
I loved traveling for work, eagerly snapping up what the industry called "go-away jobs." Nomadic by nature, I took the adage "home is where the heart is" literally — a hotel room morphed into home as long as I was in it (with the added bonuses of crisp sheets, fresh towels, and chocolates on my pillow). But lately I found myself becoming more jaded by my globe-trotting. Not because of the silly things you always heard those bridge-club biddies bemoaning in the airport — it wasn't lost luggage or the lack of a proper bagel that had me down. I didn't mind the calculus of currency conversion or the etymology of exotic entrées. No, it wasn't the inconvenience inherent to travel that was burning me out. It was boredom. I had increasingly noticed a sinister sameness about each of these foreign cities. Before my very eyes, every place was turning into every place else. I fervently hoped that Barcelona would prove to be the exception.
I sighed with disappointment and slumped against the hot vinyl seat of the taxi. Other than the flamenco music on the radio and the blinding glare of the Catalan sun, so far Barcelona felt about as foreign to me as Boston. Tacky billboards advertising electronics and cheap hotels flashed by my window at an alarming rate. Was there any place left in the world that didn't look like one giant strip mall? Maybe it was time for me to settle down. Maybe I needed the white picket fence and the Weber grill after all.
A mere five minutes later, my cynicism forgotten, I was as mesmerized by the view as a midwesterner crossing the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan. I didn't know which way to look. To my left loomed the impressive bulk of the 1992 Olympic Stadium, capped off by a towering white spire that was an unlikely mating of futuristic space station and computer-generated sculpture. To my right, the Mediterranean. I was dazzled not only by the turquoise shimmer of the sea but by the hundreds of boats lining the docks. Luxury cruise ships, privately owned yachts, behemoth tankers, modest sailboats — somehow, seeing one of the world's biggest ports was far more impressive than reading about it in Fodor's. Suddenly, I was as excited as a little kid on his first field trip.
But it wasn't until we left the highway and entered the city's perimeter that I truly fell under its spell. None of my extensive jet-setting had prepared me for Barcelona's unique urban landscape — palm trees edged the narrow streets, ornate buildings leaned companionably against each other, and laundry adorned nearly every balcony. The architecture spanned centuries of design — gothic intermingled with modernist, contemporary coalesced with classic. It could have been jarring to the senses, but as I would later learn, Barcelona had a way of turning the incongruous into the harmonious. It looked like the European city I had always dreamed of but, of late, had despaired of ever finding. I was captivated.
My eight-hour days of grooming models and painting faces put a dent in what little time I had to prowl the city. However, even with the constraints of the IBM gig cutting into my tourist time, I still sampled enough of the Barcelona lifestyle to grow ever more enamored. My first instincts about the city's physical charm had been wrong — it was far more spectacular than I originally supposed. With a population of nearly two million spread out over sixty square miles, Barcelona is segmented into dozens of neighborhoods, each possessed of its own particular charm. I was hard-pressed to find an undesirable location; the place was a real estate agent's wet dream.

Excerpted from Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello Copyright 2008 by Michael Tonello. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Illustration by Hiroshi Tanabe, the New York Times.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Wrapped Handles: So Ugly, So Tacky

Who do we have to blame for this nightmare trend?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Follow-up to Hermes Belt ....

...from a few days ago (on this blog).

I was asked "What would happen if a customer was at Hermes buying three pairs of trousers, each a different color,  would they not sell the customer three belts?"

And, "Does this belt rationing also pertain to shoes? Is there an annual shoe limit?" 

Something to ponder on this Easter Sunday...

Excuse me...

(hat tip Ward)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spotted on Facebook: Birkin Wedding Registry

People are asking where we are registering for our engagement party and wedding.
We registered at:
✅Gift Cards
✅Range Rover
✅Hermes Birkin


Friday, April 18, 2014

Are Hermes Belts the New Birkin? Hermes Playing Games...

This just in. 

Received this email moments ago and thought you'd all get a chuckle out of it:

"A customer of ours ordered two belts on The next day she ordered a third one
Then she got a call from Hermes informing her that she can only buy 2 belts per year."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bethenny Frankel Making Sure Everyone Sees the Hermes Logo

Victoria Beckham Turns 40 With Diamonds - But No New Birkin - Pity

40th birthday is no Posh affair

She’s been a pop wannabe, one fifth of the biggest girl band of all time, queen Wag, washed-up solo star, actress, model, author, humanitarian and, now, respected fashion designer.
She’s also managed to marry the fittest footballer ever, have four gorgeous children and go to war with Naomi Campbell, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Jordan and Rebecca Loos.
Phew, that’s a lot to cram into 40 years.
And how will Mrs Beckham be celebrating her milestone birthday tomorrow? Diamonds? Dom Pérignon? A magnificent ball for 1,000 of her closest A-list chums? After all, this is the woman who sat on a golden throne for her wedding and has a Hermes Birkin collection worth £1.5 million.
Well, it seems the artist formerly known as Posh Spice has finally realised that less is more: she’s opted for a simple dinner party with her parents, hubby and a few select friends. There will be no other Spice Girls, no other Wags, just her nearest and dearest. OK, OK, that does include Eva Longoria, Simon Fuller and Gordon and Tanya Ramsay, and Becks is said to buying her a £50,000 diamond bracelet, but that’s still pretty modest by VB’s standards.
Victoria Caroline Adams decided she wanted to be famous after watching the musical, Fame. Soon after, she enrolled in a performing arts school and became a fully-fledged all-singing, all-dancing theatre brat, auditioning for everything from the lead role for the 1995 box office bomb, Tank Girl to an advert in The Stage for ‘street smart, extrovert, ambitious girls able to sing and dance’. It would be the audition to change her life: before you could say “zig-a-zig-ah”, she was a Spice Girl.
Music, movies, merchandise, heck, pretty much world domination, followed and she will forever be remembered as pouting, Gucci-clad, bob-haired Posh Spice. She never spoke, she never sang, she never smiled but she did do a weird wink-and-point thing. Classic stuff.
It’s a world away from her image now: the uber-successful and respected fashion designer whose clothes are all about understatement and elegance.
Ah ‘understatement and elegance’, two words that were clearly not in her vocabulary for the 2006 World Cup.
This was the dawn of the Wag and it was all about fake boobs, fake hair, massive sunglasses and tiny hotpants. With Cheryl Cole on her arm, VB tottered around in six-inch heels and Roberto Cavalli’s finest £10,000 trashy dresses with breasts pushed up to her chin and hair down to her backside. Your average circus clown had more subtly and sophistication.
But still, I have to confess, Gaudy Spice is my personal favourite incarnation of Mrs B. She was a lot more interesting back when she wasn’t perfect. These days, she’s obviously learned from her years in the public eye and is thoroughly in control. And who can blame her? After all, she’s expertly navigated many a storm during her time in the spotlight: David’s alleged affair with Rebecca Loos, a backlash over her musical ability, a flop of a solo career, the world’s obsession with her weight, four pregnancies and the scrutiny they bring and countless other tales of backstabbing, bitchfights and bickering.
Is she miserable? Is she materialistic? Is she a bad wife? Does she have an eating disorder? Has she had plastic surgery? These are all questions she’s had land at her Jimmy Choo-ed feet countless times over the years – and she’s always dealt with them with grace and a smile. Well, more of a smirk than a smile but you get the drift.
After years of never quite fitting in, she’s now finally found her niche at the age of 40 – heading up her own eponymous fashion empire, where dresses go for two grand and everyone from Cameron Diaz to Anna Wintour are fans.
She’s also found a voice on Twitter, where she gives her seven million followers an insight into her A-list life, keen sense of style and actually quite fun personality. She’s even been known to post pictures of herself smiling and playfully jumping up and down on a bed. Shocking, I know. But forget Posh Spice, forget Designer Spice, forget Solo Spice, her most successful role is that of wife and mother.
She and David never look happier than when they are at each other’s side surrounded by Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and little Harper. For all that they’ve been through, they seem a genuinely happy and loving family – and what better birthday present is there than that?
Well, that £50,000 bracelet sounds nice . . .


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Whole Foods "Kermès Birkin" Fetches $1,600

Instagram sketches turn regular dad into modern-day Warhol

Instagram sketches turn regular dad into modern-day Warhol

Every morning, Donald Robertson boards the 8:30 a.m. Metro-North train from Larchmont to work at Estée Lauder in Midtown.
The bespectacled father of five — who is a creative director for special projects at the cosmetics giant — brainstorms ad campaigns, develops products and sits in an office.
But before he has even reached his desk to start his day, the unassuming 52-year-old has already done a full day’s work — in his basement studio, where he paints, sketches and gaffer-tapes quirky, colorful works of art inspired by the world of fashion.
He’s prolific, too. He wakes up at 4 a.m., and by the time he leaves the house, he’s already dashed off a handful of zeitgest-y pop pieces.
“People say I am reminiscent of Andy Warhol because he started as an illustrator and then transitioned into art. I am kind of in that position now. Andy’s output was maybe monthly. I like putting out three or four things a day,” says Robertson, who also doodles intricate sketches during meetings like most people sketch circles.
With no place to share his art, he used to dole it out to lucky friends or co-workers. But in November 2012, his assistant signed him up on Instagram under the handle “DonaldDrawbertson,” and the photo-sharing platform has launched him from beauty industry darling to internationally selling artist.
His followers have swelled to 24,000 — many of whom are major fashion taste-makers. Fans were constantly asking to buy his work, so in December he began selling his pieces on the Trendabl app. Prints start at $250 and paintings can fetch up to $2,200. He has sold paintings in Italy, England and Brazil.
No medium or style icon is off limits.
Robertson will sketch Vogue editor Anna Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington with a giraffe of his creation named Mitford; paint a cardboard box to look like Louis Vuitton luggage; use a piece of toast to make Pharrell’s famous hat; or draw amazing likenesses of Karl Lagerfeld on toilet paper.
“My main influence is a cross between Wes Anderson and Damien Hirst. Because the thing about both of them is everything they do feels really hands-on. You can see their hands in their work,” says Robertson.
“Warhol felt very computer-y and silk screen-y and almost a little bit colder.”
The Toronto native has always blazed his own trail. In 1982, he was asked to leave the Ontario School of Art because his instructors thought he was too commercial.
“I went to art school for, like, ten minutes, and I got asked to leave,” he says.
He went to Paris for a year trying to get work as an illustrator but returned to Toronto and helped launch MAC cosmetics there.
While he never finished school, he came to New York in 1989 and toiled for many years at Condé Nast, where he was a creative director at Glamour and Cargo magazines, before heading to Estée Lauder to work with Aerin Lauder, and then to Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.
But his new-found Instagram fame still blows his mind: “This is a 100 percent unexpected thing,” he says. “I’m just some schmoe-y guy who lives in surburbia.”
Meanwhile, the recognition has led to some unexpected collaborations.
British designer Giles Deacon, who found Robertson on Instagram, used his lip-prints for his latest collection; “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke wore one of the pieces on the cover of the April issue of InStyle UK.
He recently designed wallpaper for Warby Parker founder Neil Blumenthal and his wife Rachel featuring pandas spinning on stationary bikes. J.Crew’s children’s line Crewcuts picked up the print, and will use it for next season’s collection.
“Thanks to Instagram, there is no one I am not working with that I wanted to work with. And that is global. The reach of this app is insane. That’s why it’s so fun. [Magazine editor] Carine Roitfeld ‘regrammed’ me the other day. And then [J.Crew creative director] Jenna Lyons did,” he adds.
Robertson, who describes his work as “happy and high-end,” embraces the immediacy of the platform.
“You get to react in real time,” he says. “It used to be that you did a painting, but you’d have to save it for your next art show. We live in an ADD culture, so I want constant flow.”
Robertson, who is planning a gallery show in New York this June, doesn’t plan on quitting his day job any time soon. In fact, it fuels output — and his mad-scientist mind.
“John [Demsey, Group President at Estée Lauder] knows I have attention issues, so he bops me around. This is the perfect job for me,” says Robertson of his 9-to-5 gig, where he works on numerous brands.
“The magic in what I am doing is that it’s not all day long. I just have this little window where I can pull this stuff off. Plus, when you are working with these different brands and different people, you get a gazillion different ideas.”

 After seeing an Instagram friend post, “It’s not easy being green,” Robertson was inspired. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, Kermit.’ And I had orange gaffer tape that reminds me of Hermès, so I said, ‘I’m going to do Kermès.’ I didn’t come up with the line ‘Kermès’ — an Instagram user came up with it.” It’s now a recurring motif. This Kermès “Birkin” bag is made from a Whole Foods shopping bag repurposed with gaffer tape; a woman in California recently purchased one for $1,600.

"It's literally Zappos boxes, milk cartons and anything else that would go in the garbage," says Robertson, who transformed his recycling bin into a "Louis Vuitton" luggage set that graces a table in his home. "It is turning garbage into prestige products." Since garbage isn't his wife's favorite medium, it will likely go up for sale.

Wintour is another popular motif for Robertson because of her iconic appearance. “I really like people that lock into a look,” says Robertson. “She is like the ultimate brand, herself.”
In one piece, he crafted the Vogue editrix’s head from a walnut and created her signature bob with gaffer tape — then used it as a stopper for a Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle.
In a sketch, Wintour appears with the giraffe Mitford, which Robertson re-imagines as her employee: “He’s always been Anna’s temp because she needs someone who isn’t going to talk [or] make a movie. [I thought], ‘She should get a giraffe. They are silent.’

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Johnny Weir & Victor Voronov Reconcile - It's All About the Birkin Baby

Johnny Weir's husband agrees to reconcile but ONLY if skater pledges to publicly apologize for nasty divorce mudslinging 

Victor Voronov has reportedly agreed move back in with Weir only if he signs papers pledging he'll tell the world he's sorry for the high profile digs  
The agreement stipulates that Weir's mother must also butt out of the couple's personal finances 
Weir filed for divorce from Victor Voronov - his husband of two years - in February, while in Sochi commenting on the Olympics 
Voronov accused Weir of cheating using gay dating app Grindr and of biting him during a fight


Monday, April 14, 2014

Carole Bayer Sager and the Infamous Hermes Blue Roi Croc Birkin bag

If that handbag could talk, oh the story it could tell! 

But alas it can, there are actually three chapters in Bringing Home the Birkin about that very bag she's holding in her hand.

Forget Apple, General Motors, Exxon, Eli Lilly....Invest in Birkin Bags!

Many consider collecting a male-dominated hobby, with men dominating categories like stamps, cars and baseball cards. But a surge in luxury accessory sales in the secondary market, handbags in particular, have reinforced female dominance in accumulating items like Hermès handbags that can sell for five figures.
The Hermès Birkin bag, a line of bags made by the French luxury retailer and inspired by British actress Jane Birkin, has played a major part in attracting bona-fide collectors.
"Until very recently, people with lots of bags didn't self-identify as collectors. They were shoppers, buyers or 'fans of Chanel,'" said Matt Rubinger, director of luxury accessories for Heritage Auctions. "They weren't creating a collection with a lasting value or investment in mind. As we've hosted these auctions and people see how strong the market is, that has shifted."
Heritage Auctions recognized the growing popularity of the market and brought on Rubinger three and half years ago to launch the luxury accessories category.
Rubinger said that of Heritage's 35 categories, such as sports collectibles, they are all dominated by a male customer base, except for luxury accessories.

Because Hermès can have waiting lists that can span years for Birkin bags, handcrafted in France, the secondary market exploded with the prevalence of online retailers.
Websites Ruelala and Gilt host semi-regular sales for luxury handbags, but none are quite as expensive as Birkin bags.
On Monday, Heritage Auctions is hosting in Beverly Hills a "Fine Jewelry and Luxury Accessories Auction" that includes 68 Birkins out of 275 bags. The most sought-after item is a crocodile Birkin bag that was custom made with an indigo interior. It's estimated to be worth $60,000 to $70,000.

Crocodile Birkin bags can retail for $60,000 in Hermès stores; leather Birkin bags for about $10,000.
Why the big price tag? Rubinger doesn't deny that these bags are "not the norm" for most American households. Buyers with means are paying for both the brand and the quality, Rubinger explains.
"One craftsman sits in factory in southern France and starts with the first stitch, from start to finish. You pay for that craftsmanship," he said. "If they can't get enough of a certain material that meets their standards, they discontinue it."

Hermès did not respond to a request for comment.

What has enforced luxury handbags as a collectibles category was that many pieces, such as the Birkin, were not only holding in value through time, but rising.
"In the luxury space, if you buy a new luxury car, you are not thinking of lasting value," Rubinger said. "If you buy a Range Rover, you aren't planning to sell it for more than you bought it."
Luxury handbag collectors, on the other hand, can.
"If you really pay attention to what you're doing, you're not going to lose money, and in the best case scenario you can make money on this bag that you enjoyed," he said.

Last year, Heritage Auctions launched weekly online auctions for luxury bags that start on Tuesday and last for seven days. About 75 designer bags start at $1 with no reserve.
PHOTO: Hermes Birkin Bag

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Flashback: Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

Book review: "Bringing Home the Birkin," by Michael Tonello

May 5, 2008
So are you familiar already with what's known as the Birkin bag? It's the product of Hermès, one of those European "designer boutiques" that exists for no other reason than to severely overcharge rich people with self-esteem issues; you know, one of those places that sells hundred-dollar handkerchiefs, $500 t-shirts and the like, eagerly bought up by the wealthy and idle so that they can prove to strangers that they too can afford to waste $500 on a t-shirt. (Yeah, I don't get it either.) But of all the ridiculously overpriced merchandise that Hermès sells, perhaps none is more infamous than their Birkin handbags; named after a famous French singer and habitual Hermès customer, these bags cost a minimum of $10,000 new from the store, and depending on the type can run you upwards of $75,000 or more. And human nature being what it is, of course, it's nearly impossible to get one's hands on an actual Birkin, with there being an infamous two-year waiting list at most stores to even be given the opportunity to blow that kind of money; needless to say, the self-imposed scarcity drives all these upper-class women with self-esteem issues crazy, with some of them willing to go to almost any lengths and pay any price to get ahold of one of them themselves.
And thus enters witty gay entrepreneur and Huffington Post columnist Michael Tonello, whose new memoir Bringing Home the Birkin is a doozy of a book; it's the purportedly true story of how Tonello managed to get his hands on literally hundreds of Birkins himself over just a few years' time, always done legally and with Hermès employees fully aware of his existence, making himself a fortune in the process by reselling them on eBay for insane markups. And I'm telling you, this is exactly what you want a personal memoir to be -- funny, thrilling, chock-full of great cocktail-party stories told with the flair of a natural raconteur, following an overall storyline as tight as any fictional project, one whose ending is not necessarily something you can guess beforehand. It's one of those books I just absolutely love coming across as part of maintaining CCLaP -- one of those books I would never naturally pick up myself, but that turned out to be a real delight, one that makes me happy and glad to be in a position to recommend to others.
So how did Tonello do it? Well, for starters, it helps if you don't buy into the hype of brand-obsession yourself; although a longtime collector of fine clothing (usually in the service of his former day job, providing hair and makeup services to various east-coast media shoots), Tonello admits that he doesn't share the religious devotion to certain designers like his clients do, and finds it emotionally easy to give up ownership of high-ticket items. In fact, that's what brought Birkins to his attention in the first place; after impulsively moving to Barcelona in the early 2000s, then having his prearranged job fall apart once arriving, Tonello found himself selling off big portions of his back wardrobe to the various designer consignment stores around the city, amazed that certain decade-old scarves of his would still be snatched up at nearly the original price by certain crazed collectors. This led him to eBay (of course), where he found that he could actually make a profit off of certain items depending on what they were; this then led to certain customers emailing him with "wish lists," certain old and new boutique items that Tonello would keep a specific eye out for while traipsing across Europe in his travels. And this, of course, is what led him to Birkins for the first time, and for developing the same kind of obsession over their fake scarcity as so many of us do when first hearing about them.
Because that's the smart thing about Tonello, and why he became so good at being a Birkin broker; he realized quite early on that this so-called exclusivity is simply a shell game on the part of Hermès, and that if you could just break their code it shouldn't be hard to buy a Birkin anytime you want, simply by walking into a store and asking for one. This led Tonello to trying out different things at the various Hermès stores he visited across Europe, trial-and-error style until he was able to notice certain things working over and over; and then this realization inspired the expansion of Tonello's globetrotting shopping sprees, to the point of finding himself traveling to places like South America and Russia on a regular basis, just to hit up the stores that rich old white women usually don't make it to. And when all is said and done, really, the winning equation to getting a Birkin turns out to not be that complicated at all...
1) Dress the part -- never walk in a store wearing less than a quarter-million dollars in clothes and jewelry.
2) Identify which of the half-dozen "Hermès employee types" you're dealing with when you walk in, then cater to their weaknesses. (So if it's a "Grandmother" type, act like the pleasant courteous son they never had; if it's an "Incurable Romantic," act like they have a chance of having sex with you later that night.)
3) Blow a thousand dollars first, buying other stupid crap. Or if you're in New York, blow five thousand dollars. Mention items by their specific names, to prove you're a long-time educated collector.
4) When they're ringing you up, off-handedly ask, "Oh, and would you happen to have any Birkins in the back as well?"
5) Ka-ching!
But of course, I'm simplifying the situation for humorous effect; as Tonello actually demonstrates here quite well, the real secret to becoming a Birkin regular is more complicated and ephemeral than that, a strange mishmash of sucking up, buying into the hype, and sincere friendships, a legitimate community of high-end haute-couture lovers that you must somehow ingratiate yourself into, if you want any chance of making an actual career out of something like this. And indeed, this is one of the big strengths of Bringing Home the Birkin, and what separates it from the endless similar chick-lit crap that HarperCollins desperately, desperately wants you to think of when thinking of this book (and seriously, HarperCollins marketing department, if you mention Sex in the City one more time in your promotional material I might just vomit all over myself); because Tonello shines a light here through the foggy haze of all that, and shows how the entire haute-couture culture is an endless house of cards that ultimately relies on peer pressure and catering to people's fears in order to work. It makes it a weightier book than the ones it will undoubtedly get compared to by others, a stronger tale that doesn't have to rely so much on you being an obsessive fashion-lover yourself in order to enjoy.
Now, that said, oh man does Tonello tell some great stories on the way to this disillusionment -- of flying into Rio just to visit a Hermès store, of attending star-studded European fashion events, of racking up half a million on a credit card in a single weekend. In fact, that might be the most enjoyable thing of all about Bringing Home the Birkin, is that Tonello is simply a natural storyteller and gifted raconteur; take for example what is easily the best story of the entire book, his uneasy relationship with a skeevy chickenhawk gay hustler he accidentally meets one night, who has various Hermès employees "eating out of the palm of his hand" and so can therefore get his hands on certain items that Tonello can't. Needless to say, things quickly devolve between the two, with Tonello eventually having to hatch a wacky noiresque scheme to steal back a $25,000 Birkin the hustler stole from him in the first place; there's not much funnier of a mental image in this whole manuscript, to tell you the truth, than that of Tonello sneaking around the streets of Paris with a group of headphoned goons in sunglasses, wondering if his hotel room is "safe" and asking himself just what he's gotten himself into, when first thinking it would be fun to sell a bunch of overpriced purses to a group of rich housewives.
This is what I mean by how wonderful this book is; it at once gives us all the great anecdotal stories that come with the highest end of the fashion industry, while still pointing out all the depressing realities that such an industry produces, all the various hangers-on in a community like that who swirl around the small amount of rich, beautiful and famous in the center. That after all has become the biggest problem with America's entertainment industry as well, that there is simply so much money being generated from it in so many different ways that it's become an almost unstoppable monster; it's no longer just about the actors and directors and producers in the middle of it, but all their yoga instructors and dog psychiatrists and personal shoppers, all the gossip columnists and publicists and people who get paid to convince celebrities to use certain products in public. That's what makes Bringing Home the Birkin so fascinating, because ultimately that's what Tonello's story is about as well -- not the fashion designers themselves, but those who game the fashion system in order to skim a profit off its top, the endless retail employees and eBay resellers and party crashers and blog owners and the rest, all of them taking their own little cuts from the massive amounts of money being exchanged in the middle of it all.
It's a fascinating book that tells a fascinating story, not the best-written thing I've read this year but certainly far from the worst, one of those fabled books about fashion that even non-fashion-lovers can enjoy. It gets a big recommendation from me, and I imagine will also be one of the winners of CCLaP's annual "Guilty Pleasure Award" at the end of the year.
Out of 10: 9.2


It's Palm Sunday - Which Means Summer is Just Around the Corner

We All Know The Best Things at Hermes Don't Come in These Flat Boxes!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dodgers' Yasiel Puig should wear $14,100 Hermes baseball glove just to irritate people

The most expensive baseball glove that's not an antique probably is this $14,100 model manufactured by Hermes of Paris. It's said to be made of "gold swift calfskin" and required 25 hours to make by hand. It's a companion piece to Hermes' ash wood baseball bat — a relative bargain at $1,925. Yeah, it comes from futbol country in France, but the company has been around about as long as baseball itself (1837), so there's no reason to doubt they make major-league worthy stuff.
(How they arrived at a $14,100 price point — who knows? And the bat should cost $1,927 because of Babe Ruth, but hey, marketing should be flexible.)
Gloves usually cost anywhere from $19.99 to $499 for the top-of-the line stuff they use in the major leagues. What is the market for a $14,100 baseball glove, though? Richie Rich himself? Donald Trump sitting in the front row at Yankee Stadium looking for a foul ball? Mel Schmegmer's kid from "Benchwarmers" need a glove?
Ah... Yasiel Puig wearing a $14,100 glove in a game for the Los Angeles Dodgers would irritate so many people, it's not even worth counting. Magic Johnson, spend some of your own cash on this must-have impulse buy. The "gold swift calfskin" material probably would, in addition, feel good on Puig's injured left thumb. While they're at it, the Dodgers should see if there's a scepter, crown and cape on sale so they can completely fit Puig for his triumphant return to action.
Puig is still young and raw, and he needs to keep working on his game, but the overreaction to him coming out dressed like Jerry Lawler wearing a glove that costs as much as some people's cars is too much fun to pass up. And this is probably the only way any of us plebs will ever see the Hermes glove up close.
- - - - - - -
David Brown edits Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports

Friday, April 11, 2014

From the Archives - Uma Thurman with Stunning Hermes Croc Kelly Bag


The causes of World War II are manifold — German humiliation at the Treaty of Versailles; Hitler’s megalomania; the invasion of Poland — but my theory is that the Nazis wanted to be able to stay at the Paris Ritz.
It was more than a hotel. It was a paradise of gilded salons, polished mirrors and immaculate  brass and mahogany fittings. ‘The champagne flowed,’ says Tilar J. Mazzeo. ‘Bellhops in caps whisked away fur stoles and chauffeurs waited on street corners.’
The Ritz had 450 employees, ‘from bartenders and chambermaids to waiters and oyster-buyers’. It had opened in 1898 and was notable for such newfangled innovations as built-in wardrobes, private bathrooms and flushing lavatories.
It is scandalous more than it is admirable, however, that at the Ritz it was business as usual during the Occupation. High-ranking German officers and their Axis counterparts appeared in white-tie in the dining room each evening, having first checked in their pistols at a kiosk near the Place Vendome entrance.
‘Champagne cocktails and white linen table cloths’ carried on being in evidence. ‘Everything was as it had always been, waiters in tails, the food, the wine.’
There were even fashion shows in the ballroom. (Long-serving manager Claude Auzello shot himself in despair — not during the war, however, but in 1969, after gentlemen clad in ‘velour lounge pants and outlandish blazers started appearing in the dining room’.)
Meanwhile, the rest of Paris suffered ‘devastating food shortages and malnutrition. Beyond the doors of the Hotel Ritz, France was spiralling into a brutal chaos’.
In June 1940, when the Germans were on the outskirts of the city, 70 per cent of the population fled southwards, ‘hauling their possessions and their infirm relatives behind them’.
There was a mass round-up of the Jews, who were held in the Velodrome d’Hiver. Passers-by could hear ‘the screams of those who had gone mad or were trying to commit suicide’.
Similarly, through the windows of the Gestapo HQ, screams of pain and terror issued all day and  late at night as the Nazis conducted their interrogations.
The swastika flew above the Eiffel Tower and the other luxurious hotels ‘vanished behind shutters’, but at the Ritz, the suites were full. The hotel was ostensibly spared because Marie-Louise, the German-speaking widow of the founder, Cesar Ritz, was Swiss. The Ritz was designated neutral territory, ‘a Switzerland in Paris’.
But it was really protected because it became the residence of Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. His quarters took up an entire floor and consisted of three bedrooms, maids’ rooms, several opulent salons and a huge reinforced marble bathroom, capable of sustaining his bulk.
Carriages parked outside the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1904
Carriages parked outside the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1904

I’d always suspected there was a kitsch element to Nazism (the flags, the uniforms, the rallies, the grandiosity), but Goering suggests outright camp.
His closets at the Ritz were filled with lavender trousers, silk kimonos, gowns trimmed with ermine and mink, jewelled sandals, emerald brooches and diamond earrings. ‘He wore make-up and doused himself with exotic perfume.’
There were crystal bowls brimming with morphine tablets, to which he was addicted. (I wonder who was the most demanding guest in the hotel’s history: Goering or Elizabeth Taylor?)
Somewhat cynically, the Nazis pretended they were ‘guests of the French people’, and having obtained a 90 per cent reduction in the hotel tariff, sent their bills to the puppet government in Vichy.
Mazzeo tries to say that, behind the facade of the Ritz, there was a Resistance network operating in the kitchen and bars. One of the maids, Blanche, left the lights on to give the Allied aircraft ‘a perfect way to orientate themselves in the skies’.
But this strand of her book isn’t very strong, particularly as Mazzeo is generally more concerned to remind us, quite rightly, that the real Resistance movement in France was very small, collaboration was widespread and to believe otherwise ‘is a collective French national fantasy’. Hear, hear.
A long-term resident of the Ritz, for example, was Coco Chanel, who was more than ‘willing to play dirty’ over the Jewish question. Having sold a majority stake of her perfume business to Jewish business partners in the Twenties, she took advantage of the war and her German contacts to grab it all back.
Hitler - who ordered ¿the merciless round-up of conspirators and all their relatives¿
Hitler - who ordered ¿the merciless round-up of conspirators and all their relatives¿

After the Liberation she moved to Lausanne, living with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, who in Paris had spied for the Third Reich. ‘The files in the French Justice Department on Coco Chanel have disappeared,’ we are told.
Mazzeo also tells us that the Jewish deportation orders were signed by a Frenchman, Pierre Laval, and that ‘not one German soldier was mobilised for the entire operation’ — the French police and French authorities did the deeds themselves, even sending Jewish children to be murdered.
This all makes it not very funny to hear that Coco Chanel would make her way to the air raid shelters at the Ritz preceded by a servant carrying her gas mask on a satin cushion.
Needless to say, the shelters were well equipped with fur rugs and silk Hermes sleeping bags.
According to Mazzeo, the plot to assassinate Hitler, Operation Valkyrie, was hatched at the Ritz.
Owing to miscommunications between Paris and Berlin, General Carl-Heinrich von Stulpnagel and Colonel Caesar von Hofacker, chiefs of staff for the military government of Paris, believed for a giddy hour or two that the assassination had succeeded.
Hitler, of course, ordered ‘the merciless round-up of conspirators and all their relatives’. The traitors were hanged from meat hooks and strung up with piano wire. Five thousand people were arrested.
Retribution did not end there. As the Allies advanced across northern France, Hitler demanded the destruction of Paris. The city had to be left ‘a field of ruins’. General Dietrich von Choltitz, however, ‘had long since concluded that the German leader was insane’.
Hermann Goering with his baton taking the salute at the march past of Airforce men in front of the air ministry in Berlin
Hermann Goering with his baton taking the salute at the march past of Airforce men in front of the air ministry in Berlin

Though dynamite was placed under bridges and in the foundations of Notre Dame, Choltitz deliberately delayed carrying out the order until the Allies obliged him to surrender.
But it was a close-run thing. The Allies weren’t particularly keen on liberating Paris, as the city would require ‘vast quantities of food and fuel, supplies that were still needed desperately on the front lines of battle’. Paris was a luxury that war couldn’t afford.
Ernest Hemingway begged to differ. He was determined his entrance to the city ‘would make a good story’ and yearned to be the one who personally liberated the Ritz from the Germans, as he put it.
He was driven in a Jeep to the Place Vendome, stopping only a dozen or so times on the way for refreshments.
‘We’re the Americans,’ he said to the maitre d’, ordering a round of 73 dry Martinis. ‘We’re going to live just like in the good old days.’
‘Of course, Mr Hemingway,’ came the unperturbed response. ‘But be so kind as to leave your weapon at the door.’

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hermes Belts - Not For the Faint of Heart

Top: $8,500.

Bottom: $18,300.

I wonder If She Knows It's a Fake?!

(and if so, who she thinks she's kidding?)

Hermes Workshops = Bootcamp for Designer

Bags with logos too last century for Paris craftsman

There's something missing from the handbags that adorn the shelves of Serge Amoruso's Paris boutique. It's certainly not the hefty price tag or the top quality craftmanship.
What you won't find, however, is that universal badge of 1990s consumerism -- a logo.
Amoruso's message is clear. Exclusivity is what his customers -- many of them from China and Japan -- now want, and they don't mind paying for it.
Amid a feeling that some brands have become so popular they have lost their cachet, those with deep pockets are now looking to craftsmen like Amoruso to restore a sense of mystique to their purchases.
For Amoruso's customers the purchasing experience begins not with a queue in the rain around a department store but with a one-to-one meeting.
Together they shape the bag, selecting everything from the style and the type of leather down to details like the clasp and the fabric for the lining.
Amoruso, who also makes a range of other luxury leather items such as wallets and cigarette holders, goes to Japan at least twice a year where he does half of all his business.
With his two apprentices, he makes around 100 bags a year with an average price of about 2,500 euros ($3,400).
"Every piece is a story and my clients are looking for that," he said.
"One Japanese client came to me for an iPad case. He ended up asking me for a suitcase," he said.
"It took eight months to produce this item in buffalo leather... It cost the client dear but he knew that I was going to surpass all his expectations."
Chinese clients often ask him to engrave the bag with a lucky number.
- 'Marketing, not quality' -
Amoruso's passion for leather goes back to his childhood when he first experimented with a leather skirt that belonged to his mother and later realised that "with this material... you can do anything".
After school and a spell of specialist training he went straight to Hermes where he spent seven years.
"I had access to fabulous materials. I discovered a universe, taste, elegance," he said.
Over the years, nearly all the luxury houses have asked him to create pieces for them.
But he has always declined, insisting that he is "not a sub-contractor" and preferring instead to stamp his signature on each piece -- albeit not in the form of a logo.
In particular, Amoruso is known for his skill with exotic stingray leather. "We were always told we could not do a stingray bag so I worked to get there and succeeded," he said.
But he is keen to stress that he is not interested in technical mastery for its own sake, but only if it is deployed "in the service of beauty".
Everything must be about "the emotion which emanates from the object", he said.
And for the discerning customer, everything is possible at his workshop in eastern Paris where there are no machines and everything is done by hand.
But logos will remain absent from his work.
"We'd come to believe that luxury was to have a bag with a logo. But that was only marketing, not quality," he said.

Bags with logos too last century for Paris craftsman


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Heritage Auctions April 28 Event Full of Hermes Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Judith Leiber, Gucci, Dior

Two of Hermes' most rare creations are set to be auctioned in New York this month.
The 43cm Himalaya in emerald alligator, red ostrich, violet suede and black calf box leather dates back to 1982, Heritage Auctions reveals, and boasts the house's iconic Kelly belt closure positioned asymmetrically at one side.
The current bid is at $15,000, but with the sale not taking place until April 28, the final figure looks set to far exceed that.

Valued handbag: This extremely rare Hermes bag in alligator and ostrich with the house's Himalayan moniker has fetched a starting bid of $15,000 and will be auctioned off by Heritage on April 28

Collectibles: A rare matte white Himalayan Nilo crocodile Brikin bag (left $42,500), a limited edition Noisette Gulliver leather Quelle Idole Kelly doll bag (middle, $2,000) and an Extraordinary Collection shiny black Nilo crocodile Birkin bag with 18 karat white gold hardware and diamonds (right, $40,000)

Also a highlight of the auction, is the Hermès 25cm white Himalayan crocodile Birkin with palladium hardware. According to the auction house, this design is rare not only for its 'mini' size, but because it is one of the most difficult bags to produce.
Inspired by the snowy mountaintops of the Himalayas, achieving the gradient coloring is an especially challenging process. The current bid sits at $42,500, indicating strong demand for the 'serious collector's piece'.
The Luxury Accessories Signature Auction is considered one of the most important of the season. The sale will also include pieces by Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Judith Leiber, Gucci and Christian Dior - though the two aforementioned Hermès pieces are expected to attract particular attention.
'Hermès is known for its whimsical spirit in the atelier,' said Matt Rubinger, Director of Luxury Accessories at Heritage Auctions. 

Priciest pick: An Hermes special order Horseshoe shiny braise and ultra violet Nilo crocodile Birkin bag with gold hardware. Starting bid: $50,000

Coveted: This Hermes Extraordinary Collection Birkin bag has a starting bid of $40,000, one of the highest yet

'The essence of that fancy is embodied perfectly in these two bags, so unlike one another, but also both so quintessentially and undeniably Hermès.'
Mr Rubinger explained that the two bags were created over three decades apart, and are likely to attract different buyers.
'The Himalayan Birkin is for the Birkin aficionado, while the Sac Himalaya — like the Yin to the Birkin's Yang — is for the deep Hermès collector with a flair for the unusual. However you look at it, these two Hermès bags represent two of the most important, most valuable bags on the market.'

In demand: An Hermes Vache naturelle and Vibrato leather sellier Kelly bag with palladium hardware (left, $3,750) and an Hermes shiny poudre alligator sellier Kelly bag with gold hardware in a rare color (right, $7,500)

Fashion history: This Gucci clutch was designed by Tom Ford during his time at Gucci in the Nineties

The auction also includes a creation by Tom Ford for Gucci, a Chanel pewter leather medium double-flap bag and Hermes scarves starting at just $1.
Experts believe many of the items on sale have the potential to break world price records.
Previews of the auction are scheduled for both Dallas, April 11-12, and for Beverly Hills, April 17-19, with the sale itself to take place in New York on April 28.

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