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A year in fashion: the highs, lows, celebrity trends and power plays

Jing Zhang looks at the highs, lows, unforgettable outfits, celebrity trends and power plays of the past 12 months

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 9:55am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 9:56am

The year has flown by. In the fashion world, now more than ever, speed seems to be of upmost importance. Perhaps some designers and brands are taking note with all the new appointments this year - see Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquière, Alexander Wang and Jason Wu.

There were some unforgettable (no matter how hard you try) outfits imprinted into the public consciousness - namely those worn by Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, whose pretty but rather bland outfits continued to make headlines during and post pregnancy. Poor Kardashian was heavily criticised for her pregnancy fashions - culminating in that Givenchy floral number at the Met Ball Gala that covered her from fingers to toes.

The digital revolution has pushed the industry to be ever more global and democratic

Cyrus' twerking antics at the MTV Video Music Awards meant we'd never look at a nude rubber bikini, or the former Mickey Mouse Club star, in the same way again. It was a gift that kept on giving, with online fights, tweets, posts and countless "letters to my daughter" to keep us distracted from actual events in the real world that matter.

The digital revolution in fashion has pushed the industry to be ever more global and democratic, merging with the world of film and music. Rihanna, pop star and queen of social media, launched her fashion line with British high street chain River Island, as well as continuing to titillate with those risqué Instagram fashion posts. Actress Jennifer Lawrence landed a lucrative Christian Dior campaign contract and The Great Gatsby spawned a Jazz Age fashion trend and a thousand themed costume parties.

The debate about street-style celebrities and bloggers was thrown wide open by Suzy Menkes' article in T Magazine. The circus-like performance that takes place outside fashion week shows inspired editors, bloggers and the public to debate "How much is too much?" Handbags at dawn, indeed.

Euromonitor predicts China will overtake the United States as the world's biggest luxury market by 2017. No doubt fashion will account for a large segment, and in the coming year, with the consumer power bases still shifting East - all eyes will be on the transformation of China's luxury market.

President Xi Jinping's wife Peng Liyuan emerged as a serious force as her international debut made headlines. China's "first lady" sparked a frenzy of commentary on her rather elegant style, with many praising her taste for local labels such as Guangzhou-based brand Exception de Mixmind. Who knew a plain black handbag could yield so many column inches? Weibo exploded in support of her choice of discrete local brands over the preference for garish logos and Western brands that seems to have gripped China.

The country's logo mania and impending fatigue seems to have kept brands on their toes. The shifting preferences of the newly rich has sent some brands into a tailspin, as increasingly discerning clients and a more mature market demand greater levels of sophistication from their products. There has been a shift towards home-grown fashion in China, which is providing greater opportunities for local designers.

A mainland government crackdown on corruption, overzealous gift giving and the lavish lifestyles of officials resulted in significant drops in sales for many of the big European fashion/luxury labels such as Hermès.

Not all areas of fashion welcome China's growing powers - the whispering and slow panic setting in at Saville Row speak to a perceived Chinese takeover, with brands such as Gieves & Hawkes, Kilgour and Hardy Amies having been bought by the Fung Group.

Meanwhile, punk dominated fashion headlines this year. It featured heavily in Jean Paul Gaultier's first retrospective and was a major trend for autumn-winter 2013, as well as the theme of the big Met Costume Institute exhibition and Met Gala fundraiser. "Punk: Chaos to Couture" was an interesting show, but guests at the Gala generally confirmed that rich high-society types can't pull off punk all that well, especially not in pink.

Ex-Dior designer John Galliano again made headlines for his re-entry into fashion, working with American red carpet favourite Oscar de la Renta. Although, clearly, not all are ready to forgive and forget: Galliano's scheduled masterclass talk at Parsons The New School for Design was cancelled in the midst of controversy over an anti-Semitic rant.

Some brands hit major high notes, such as J. Crew's big international expansion into London. Valentino doubled its revenue in 2012-2013, while pulling off a stunning red-themed show in Shanghai.

Others headed for a fall. The once triumphant Juicy Couture lost its lustre since the founders left in 2010 and started dropping the label. But with its sale to Authentic Brands Group, Juicy Couture will shift to only being sold in Kohl's stores in the US; with plans to convert their current flagships to Kate Spade stores (ouch). Yoga label Lululemon also suffered badly this year - a major sour note in what was once a great success story. Bad PR handling and recalled batches of see-through pants sent their stocks tumbling by 20 per cent in 2013.

As ever, a year in fashion can be defined by its major power moves. It has been a busy year for designers - as old chapters close and new ones open, expectations are high for what changes the new year will bring.

  • Marc Jacobs left after 16 years at Louis Vuitton. He created the bag brand's first ready-to-wear label and pulled it into the heady heights of high fashion. After much speculation about his successor, it was finally confirmed that Ghesquière, formerly of Balenciaga, would take on the Louis Vuitton baton. An interesting transition by all accounts, not least because Ghesquière's new boss will be LVMH's Bernard Arnault, the luxury mogul rival to Francois Pinault, who owns Balenciaga under his Kering Group.
     
  • Alexander Wang's move to Balenciaga meanwhile, has translated well in fresh, commercial collections that are impeccably crafted. Reviews for the young American designer were mostly positive, but a few missed Ghesquière's darkness and depth.
     
  • Yves Saint Laurent's former creative director Stefano Pilati debuted his first collections for the Ermenegildo Zegna Group. CEO Gildo Zegna had previously said the brand did not need a big name designer, but from the reviews, it seems this family business can benefit from Pilati's expertise, especially with the Agnona women's label.
     
  • Those at the revived house of Schiaparelli have been busy. Legendary couturier Christian Lacroix showed his one-off special collaboration collection for the brand in July - a purely creative project and not for sale. Owner Diego Della Valle then tapped Swedish-Italian designer Marco Zanini to join the label as creative director in October.
     
  • Zanini officially joined Schiaparelli within days of his Paris fashion week swansong at Rochas - and what a beautiful collection that was. The French label was not without a designer for long, with another Italian, Allesandro Dell'Acqua, stepping in straight away.
     
  • The iconic Jil Sander, who turned 70, left her eponymous brand for the third time, citing personal reasons, after having rejoined in 2012.
     
  • Allesandra Facchinetti took the helm at Tod's, showing a gorgeous debut women's collection in September in Milan. She brings a sense of femininity to the much-loved Italian brand.
     
  • Stuart Vevers joined the massive, commercial American accessories label Coach after leaving Spanish luxury leather label Loewe. Taking his place at Loewe is the bright young British talent, J.W. Anderson, who worked on Versus with Donatella Versace and raised eyebrows by putting frilly little skirts on men.
     
  • Asian-American designer Wu moved to front the German fashion powerhouse Hugo Boss - another brand joining the craze for appointing recognisable faces. Don't expect the trend to subside - the power of celebrity in fashion certainly isn't waning.

jing.zhang@scmp.com

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