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Carola Remer Stars in Ellen Von Unwerth’s B-Movie Fashion Short for Vs. Magazine

Carola Remer

Image: Vs. Magazine

Fashion photographer Ellen Von Unwerth filmed model Carola Remer for the short film "Red Handcuffs" for the biannual fashion publication, Vs. magazine. The film tells the blood and guts and pasties story of a pin-up girl who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd – or is she the one that's the wrong crowd?

Von Unwerth made one of the first major fashion films: "Wendybird" starred Kristen Dunst for New York designer Erin Fetherston's Fall 2006 collection (with music by Cocorosie, making it the ultimate fashion film, I can't believe the whole form didn't just die at inception).  

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H&M CEO Speaks Frankly About Overseas Factories and ‘Too Thin’ Models

Karl-Johan Persson, CEO

Karl-Johan Persson, CEO / by Mattias Bard for H&M

Following the tragic Bangladesh factory collapse last month, where the final death toll exceeds 1000, H&M's manufacturing practices have been under a lot of scrutiny. Although no H&M clothing was manufactured at Rana Plaza, the site of the accident, the Sweden-based retailer is currently "the largest purchaser of garments from Bangladesh." Together with the Gap (which also didn't supply garments from Rana Plaza), H&M was the target of a petition which racked up 900,000 signatures, demanding that the two companies commit to enforcing better labor conditions at overseas factories. (H&M has agreed to sign a legally-binding safety agreement; Gap and Wal-mart are currently drafting an alternate plan.)

H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson has just given an extensive and pretty interesting interview to the Metro World News in Stockholm, on a wide range of subjects including H&M's manufacturing policies and body diversity in modeling. 

On how ethical production fits into their bottom line:

We’d been able to get a bigger profit if we charged somewhat higher prices and lowered the quality, and if we hadn’t invested many million dollars in sustainability, but this is a way for us of giving back to the customer, and that increases demand.

As a little bit of a fact-check and to give H&M all the credit it's due: the company has taken major steps to invest in eco-friendly initiatives, including launching the Conscious Collection, which is constructed out of sustainable fabrics. And this year, the company joined Nike in publishing a comprehensive list of its suppliers (95%), making it one of the most transparent companies in the industry. 

On model body diversity:

We have a huge responsibility here. We’re a large company, many people see us, and we advertise a lot. I don’t think we’ve always been good. Some of the models we’ve had have been too skinny. That’s something we think a lot about and are working on. We want to show diversity in our advertising and not give people the impression that girls have to look a particular way. By and large, I think we’ve succeeded: we’ve many different kinds of models from different ethnic backgrounds. In our last campaign we had a somewhat more buxom model, and now we’re having Beyoncé, who’s a bit curvier as well. I believe that the models in our advertising should look sound and healthy. There are models who’re too thin or obviously underweight, but there are also those who’re just thin, and they’re the ones we should keep working with, as long as they look sound and healthy. We can get more disciplined, because sometimes there have been mistakes.

Have to eye-roll at Persson for patting himself on the back for taking such a huge risk by photographing megastar Beyonce for an H&M campaign, but the rest of his remarks are pretty impressive. Companies like H&M do have a huge responsibility and can do a lot of good if they're willing to think of their gigantico companies as institutions that sell stuff but also have an impact on the world around them, not just money-sucking vacuum cleaners. 

H&M was recently praised for running a beachwear campaign on the homepage of its website, which featured a plus-size model without fanfare. The company released no press release, included no lame side copy about being sexy at any size, just showed a *really gorgeous* girl with a body type that isn't common in fashion advertising. 

On who uses overseas factories that pay workers minimum wage (like, everyone):

"It’s a common misperception that cheap brands use certain manufacturers and expensive brands use others. We’re one of 30-40 companies buying from many of our suppliers. There are apparel companies that charge their customers low prices, medium prices, and high prices. The workers’ pay is the same regardless of which company is buying. If you look at an H&M top for SEK 99 and then look at one in a different chain that costs SEK 999, many people think, “These workers are much, much better paid.” But their pay is the same. What’s interesting is not the price of the clothing item but what the company does. Don’t trust everything you see and hear in the media, don’t look at the prices. Maybe I sound cocky, but I dare promise that no apparel company in the whole world does as much as H&M. I don’t think customers have that image."

This is very much worth remembering. Companies at every price point manufacture overseas, most often at factories that pay workers minimum wage. Armani is one of the few luxury brands that openly manufactures in China, but plenty of its peers (Prada, Louis Vuitton) work with Asian suppliers and factories on the sly. Same with smaller, mid-market contemporary lines that might seem like they're operating differently: for example, hip Paris-based brands Zadig & Voltaire or Maje "manufacture mainly in countries with low labor costs like Romania, Turkey, Thailand and China." H&M seems like a bad guy because it's so big and visible, because its production cycle and business model is based on customers treating clothing as if it were disposable (Elizabeth Cline's book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, has been in the news a lot lately), but its manufacturing practices are roughly equivalent to those of most other Western brands. 

Anyway, it's worth reading the full interview

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You Won’t Believe How Amazing Helena Bonham Carter Looks on the Cover of Vogue UK July 2013

Within twelve hours of stumbling across a grainy Instagrammed snapshot of British Vogue's July 2013 cover featuring Helena Bonham Carter photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, tFS Forum member vogue28 received a copy of the publication in the mail. In response to the Forums' immediate enthusiasm for the unconventional subject and seemingly impeccable styling and layout, vogue28 scanned it to the boards. It's stunningChanelcouture09 points out that the actress is wearing a dress from Ralph Lauren's Spring 2013 collection. Her feather hair thingy has not yet been identified. Check it out.

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Cara Delevingne Stars in Hedi Slimane’s Fall 2013 Campaign for Saint Laurent Paris (Forum Buzz)

Some days, it feels like we’ve morphed into the Cara Delevingne Spot, but in our defense, she is everywhere lately. As much as people love to love, hate, disparage and critique Hedi Slimane’s work for Saint Laurent, his campaigns for the brand have been undeniably captivating. It only makes sense that cool girl Cara would model his latest grunge-inspired collection. She’s the It girl of the moment and she’s got the broody glam vibe down pat.

Saint-Laurent-Fall-2013

Of course, forum members had a thing or two to say about the campaign – which also features Cole Smith, and was lensed by Slimane himself (as we’ve come to expect).

“Cara in a campaign is becoming like florals for spring. Hell, that girl is everywhere!” AnaO quipped.

“I’m loving it to be quite honest. There’s something appealing about these images,” Flashbang admitted. 

Cara-5 Cara-9

Kokobombon shared, “I like the melancholy vibe of it. And all the textures, from the model’s hair to the drapes… However, it looks way too ‘angsty teen’ for a high fashion label like Saint Laurent.”

Slimane strayed from his preferred black and white shooting style (just a little bit) for this campaign, incorporating some color images. I think that really works in this campaign’s favor. We’ve gotten so used to seeing things in monotone that even when muted, his color shots feel somewhat vibrant.

Cara-10 Cara-11

“Photos from Hedi with color!!!!! Praise the Lord!” miguelalmeida burst out, before getting philosophical. “Like the concept, seems like she's looking at the future, with the big window open for her to take over the sky, and with the window open comes a new breath of fresh hair (Hedi's creations for the house). That's how I feel about it! LOVE IT!”

Others felt that Cara was miscast and that another model would be a better fit for the campaign. But, Cara is as of-the-moment as it gets. She may have socialite roots, but she’s a model through and through. She wouldn’t have risen so quickly in the business if she didn’t have the chops. For me, this campaign is another win for the brand. Even if I continue to not really care for the clothes. 

Peep some more of the campaign images in the video below.

Images: ysl.com

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Fashion Websites That Really Ship to Canada

This week, new retailers have announced plans to ship to Canada: Urban Outfitters Europe, Demeter Fragrance and Sole Society (now offering a $9.95 flat rate). I'll spare you my rant on the barriers between US-Canada shopping, but the news from these retailers had me thinking of compiling a list of major brands who do give two hoots about their cross border customers.

Zara shipping to Canada

Zara shipping to Canada

Yes, we're used to getting a rough deal after custom fees and postal charges, but here are a few websites that are making our fashion splurges a little more attainable:

  1. Zara.com: Zara Canada's website is a new addition to the online shopping gamut, having only opened in March of this year. You can ship an order to any store for free pickup, or else $5 flat rate to your home.
  2. Quiksilver.com: Shipping from Quicksilver is entirely free, which surely will come in handy this summer as they offer some great bikinis!
  3. Shopbop.com: A fashion favourite, Shopbop astutely offers free international express shipping with the option of paying duty upfront or upon delivery.
  4. LOFT: Ann Taylor's younger, hipper, trendier sister… she's the website all the cool kids want to hang out with, who fortunately has begun shipping to more than 100 countries, including Canada through Borderfree. I have no experience using Borderfree — though many retailers are embracing the service — but it seems LOFT shipping will cost approx. $12.95 or $19.95 for Express when you spend $125 or more.
  5. America Eagle: AE doesn't generally offer free shipping to Canada — it usually costs $10, which isn't such a tragedy — however, they occasionally offer a free service through promotions, so keep your eyes peeled.
  6. eLuxe.ca: Luxury retailer eLuxe is in fact a Canadian based website — win! — which means that, not only can you take advantage of free shipping, but also no custom charges or extra taxes.
  7. ASOS.com: Undoubtedly the treasure trove of online shopping, ASOS offers flat rate international shipping to countless destinations. For Canadian delivery, a nine day service is entirely free and for an Express service it's $15. Just be mindful of those custom fees because they won't be calculated at checkout.
  8. The Outnet: A subsidiary of Net-A-Porter, The Outnet typically sells more discounted designer goods in the manner of Winners. There's a chance for big savings, but you may want to fill your basket to get the most from their $24.95 flat rate shipping cost.

So that's what I have so far, but do feel free to add your own dirty little shipping secrets in the comments section below. Do you know of any fabulous fashion sites that ship to Canada?

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Versace Wins Four-and-a-Half Year Case Against Counterfeiter

Donatella Versace

Image: Michael Carpenter/WENN.com

After four-and-a-half years of crying money, Italian fashion house Versace has won a legal victory against Griffith Suisse Luxury Group, which is the misleading name of a Philippines- and Australia-based company which sold knock-off versions of the label on eBay. 

Counterfeit designer goods have been a huge problem for the online auction giant. Tiffany & Co. sued the company after the jeweler determined that 83% of its listed products were in fact counterfeited. In 2010, eBay won a dismissal of the case.

Another high profile legal tangle: in 2008, a French court ordered the retailer to pay luxury group LVMH $61 million in damages — but the decision was overturned in 2012. 

Pursuing legal action against eBay hasn't proven to be the most effective route for companies seeking to protect their trademark in online sales. eBay currently has a policy against counterfeiting, promising customers a full refund in case they inadvertently buy a knock-off. The retailer has also been hosting an anti-counterfeit online campaign, You Can't Fake Fashion, in partnership with the CFDA since 2011. 

Versace's recent lawsuit and victory show the fashion industry taking a different approach to reducing online sales of designer fakes. Instead of holding eBay responsible for listed knock-offs, the Italian brand took action against the actual counterfeiting group. And won! 

But the lengthy litigation seems like a testament to how inhospitable the legal climate can often be to companies hoping to protect themselves against even the most blatant forms of trademark infringement. For Versace, the process took almost five years and who knows how many millions of dollars. 

[Update, July 15th, 2013: Griffith-Suisse Luxury Group has contacted me with a statement refuting the above report and claiming they were the ones to initiate a lawsuit. 

From Griffith-Suisse: 

"It was Griffith Suisse Luxury Group who first initiated the lawsuit against Versace and eBay in 2008. Versace was alleged to have abused its VERO rights by instructing eBay to take down multiple of Griffith-Suisse Luxury Group’s listings even though they were evidently all authentic.  eBay took the listings down without the required NOIC (Notice of Claimed Infringement), clearly abetting the luxury brand’s attempt to control the market by removing goods without evidence or basis.  As a matter of fact, eBay has not been able to produce a single properly filled out NOIC document for any luxury items de-listed on Griffith-Suisse Luxury Group’s eBay account.  It is obvious that eBay has been making biased decisions in favor of the luxury brands at the detriment of it’s own sellers [sic]."

The company sent me a copy of the complaint filed with the Santa Clara County Court, urging me to verify it with the courts in California. The document is dated October 2011. 

Versace's four-and-a-half year legal battle and subsequent victory was initially reported by WWD, and then broadly covered by many other media outlets. 

I reached out to Versace for a comment on the victory back in May. Separately I also wrote to Susan Scafidi, a copyright lawyer who specializes in fashion law, for more context on whether this was, as some were claiming, a "landmark decision." I haven't heard back.]

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