Milestones and missteps
This year was all about engaging consumers in fresh and more personalised ways. While social media platforms such as Facebook remain the most popular channels (Burberry leads the pack with 9.5 million fans), specially directed films or videos became a hot trend. One of the most memorable was Lanvin's quirky autumn-winter campaign in which models Karen Elson and Raquel Zimmermann dance awkwardly to a Pitbull tune. Then there are the cool newcomers such as Moda Operandi, an online luxury fashion retailer that allows members to pre-order runway pieces before they hit stores. Getting your fashion fix has never been so fast.
The McQueen effect
The royal wedding was the first in a series of events that would further propel the brand into the international spotlight. Despite the tragic loss of its founder last year, McQueen experienced a renaissance thanks to Burton. The brand unveiled its first retrospective, Savage Beauty, at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which drew 661,509 visitors, making it the eighth-most-visited exhibition in the museum's history.
After dressing first lady Michelle Obama for the China state dinner, McQueen opened its first store in Beijing with a fabulous party in which its Paris autumn-winter show was restaged. As the icing on the cake, Burton bagged the Designer of the Year award at the British Fashion Awards last month. Without a doubt, Lee McQueen would have been proud.
Not one but three high-profile weddings were all about show-stopping fashion (and no, Kim Kardashian's does not count). Model and fashion royalty Kate Moss finally tied the knot with beau Jamie Hince at her Cotswolds home wearing a 1920s style bias-cut gown designed by John Galliano. She even secured a five-page spread in US Vogue, shot by pal Mario Testino.
Earlier, South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock bagged a genuine royal, Prince Albert of Monaco. She walked down the aisle wearing a custom, off-the-shoulder Armani Prive gown that channelled the elegance of the late Princess Grace.
Of course, the wedding that surpassed them all was that between Catherine Middleton and Prince William. For months the press speculated about which designer the Duchess of Cambridge would choose for her dress, but all was revealed when Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton was spotted at Middleton's London hotel on the eve of the big day in April. The long-sleeved silk-and-lace creation was elegant yet modern, further solidifying Kate's status as a fashion luminary.
Forget keeping up with the latest trends; who can keep up with the designers? John Galliano wasn't the only one who set tongues wagging. Brits Clare Waight Keller left Pringle for Chloe, and Kim Jones departed Alfred Dunhill for Louis Vuitton. Over in the French camp, Christophe Lemaire quit Lacoste for the coveted top job at Hermes, while Christophe Decarnin's no-show at Balmain's autumn-winter show was quickly followed by his resignation, said to be due to depression.
As the old guard abandoned their posts, new blood stepped in. If anything, this was the year for Asian designers to shine. Indian Manish Arora was picked to revive Paco Rabanne, Cacharel enlisted Chinese designers Ling Liu and Dawei Sun, and Opening Ceremony founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim debuted a cool new look for Kenzo. Italian-Japanese stylist Nicola Formichetti proved that he had talent beyond Lady Gaga when he took on the house of Thierry Mugler.
Move over Alexa Chung, the new girls are in town. While Pippa Middleton may have stolen the spotlight from her sister on her wedding day (she has a Facebook page devoted to her curvy behind), this year's style mavens include two actresses who bagged major campaigns - Dakota Fanning (the Marc Jacobs line) and Hailee Steinfield (Miu Miu) - and both had adverts banned in Britain. Lady Gaga should also watch her back - singer Nicki Minaj was recently seated next to Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour at New York Fashion Week. Surely a cover will follow in no time.
China may still be struggling to launch a successful luxury brand, but its models are taking the world by storm. At the couture shows in January, Givenchy's Tisci made history by using only Asian faces for his presentation, including Ming Xi, Fei Fei Sun, Liu Wen, Shu Pei Qin and China's first supermodel Du Juan. All the girls have landed major campaigns since then, including Liu, who was the first Asian model to walk in the Victoria's Secret show. Local retailer Lane Crawford jumped on the bandwagon with its autumn-winter campaign featuring only Chinese models, photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.
With the exception of Bernard Arnault's acquisition of Bulgari, this year was all about the fashion initial public offering. In an attempt to heighten its profile in Asia, Prada chose the Hong Kong Stock Market for its public offering, making it the second-largest Hong Kong listing according to Dealogic. Companies such as Samsonite, local jeweller Chow Tai Fook and Coach have followed suit. In other countries, such brands as Salvatore Ferragamo, Graff Diamonds and Michael Kors took the plunge. For Kors it paid off - he raised US$944 million, valuing his company at US$4 billion.
With so much uncertainty about the economy in Europe, this was the year that designers stepped off their pedestals and hit the masses with gusto. Valentino ex-designer Alessandra Fachinetti turned her back on high fashion and joined forces with Italian label Pinko to launch Uniqueness, a season-less collection that was available online immediately after it was shown on the runway.
Target's website crashed when its capsule collection with Italian brand Missoni debuted, and Donatella Versace struck gold with her line for H&M in November. Marni is coming up next year. Even Karl Lagerfeld got in on the act by designing a capsule collection for American department store Macy's before revealing that he would be unveiling a more 'affordable' line called Karl exclusively online through net-a-porter.com next month.
How the mighty have fallen. The fashion year started with a thud when a tired and emotional John Galliano, creative director at Christian Dior for 15 years, was caught on camera hurling anti-Semitic insults in a Paris cafe. Galliano was promptly fired and shipped off to rehab, leaving behind a trail of speculation as to who would fill the coveted vacancy. The list of candidates included the latest fashion darling, Haider Ackermann, and LVMH alums Riccardo Tisci and Phoebe Philo. Then Marc Jacobs looked to have it in the bag until negotiations fell through. At the time of going to press, Jil Sander designer Raf Simons was said to be close to sealing a deal.
Fab and drab
Best brand revamp: Kenzo (above) - it has been given a fresh and cool urban edge thanks to Opening Ceremony duo Humberto Leon and Carol Lim.
Fashion darling: Haider Ackermann - his spring-summer 2012 show moved editors to tears.
Fashion baddie: Milan Fashion Week - for impinging on London's schedule.
Hottest trend: colour-blocking - every designer had their own version.
Worst trend: fetish - because latex is never chic.
Best collection: McQueen SS11 - Sarah Burton's debut featured ice maidens that were classy and cool.
Bag of the year: Celine's Nano - six months on, there are still waiting lists.
Print of the year: Stella McCartney's citrus fruits - cosely followed by Givenchy's sexy panthers.
Busiest designer: Karl Lagerfeld (below) - for adding two new lines and then some to his already cramped roster.