The Biggest Fashion News Stories of 2019

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The death of a major fashion designer, a celebrity fashion line and the changing of the guard at the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

These are just some of the biggest fashion news stories that have made headlines this year. The year began with the sad news of legendary Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld passing away at the age of 85, then transitioned to a packed summer of news that ended with luxury retailer Barneys New York filing for bankruptcy.

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From the many changes at Calvin Klein, Marchesa and the Council of Fashion Designers of America to Rihanna’s Fenty fashion label, here are the biggest fashion news stories of 2019.

Karl Lagerfeld Dies at 85, February 2019

karl lagerfeld
karl lagerfeld

The fashion world was in mourning upon the news that Chanel fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld, died at the age of 85 on Feb. 19. Rumors of the designer falling ill began increasing after he was absent from Chanel’s spring 2019 couture show a few weeks prior.

Lagerfeld’s model muses, celebrities and other fashion designers took to social media to share their memories of the designer upon his death, including Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and Lily-Rose Depp, among others. Lagerfeld was honored at the following Chanel and Fendi fall 2019 ready-to-wear runway shows and a memorial was held in Paris in June, called “Karl For Ever.”

Lagerfeld’s career is one of the most respected — and longest — in the fashion world. The designer began his career assisting Pierre Balmain in 1954, later joining Chloé — the first of two designing stints at the brand — in 1963. He then joined Fendi in 1965 as head designer of its ready-to-wear and fur collections, launched his namesake Karl Lagerfeld label in 1984 and rejoined Chloé again in 1992 for five years after leaving nine years prior.

He joined Chanel in 1983, ushering in an era of fantastical fashion show sets, “It” girls and iconic designs that paid homage to Gabrielle Coco Chanel herself. His legacy is being continued at the designer house by his right-hand woman, Virginie Viard, who is the first female designer since Chanel to take helm of the brand.

Calvin Klein Exits Collections Business, March 2019

Just months after chief creative officer Raf Simons left the company and the 205W39NYC brand shuttered, Calvin Klein said it would be closing its collections and appointment businesses, meaning the brand would no longer be a fixture at New York Fashion Week or on the red carpet.

The PVH-owned company let go of 100 employees from its New York and Milan offices and president Michelle Kessler-Sanders left the company. Its New York flagship at 654 Madison Avenue also closed.

Although Simons and the brand had parted ways amicably, it was reported that the designer’s vision was too high-concept and didn’t relate to Calvin Klein’s DNA. PVH Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Emanuel Chirico stated that over the three years, the group invested between $60 million to $70 million in Simons’ 205W39NYC brand, but hadn’t seen a return on investment.

In June, Calvin Klein Inc. chief executive officer Steve Shiffman exited his role and was succeeded by Cheryl Abel-Hodges. She previously served as group president of Calvin Klein North America and The Underwear Group at PVH Corp.

Earlier in the month, PVH Corp. and G-III Apparel Group Ltd. signed a licensing agreement for G-III to design, produce and distribute Calvin Klein’s women’s jean collections in a five-year arrangement. The first collection is set to debut for the spring 2020 season.

Tom Ford Named Chairman of the CFDA, March 2019

Tom Ford is the latest fashion designer to be tapped as chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He succeeds Diane von Furstenberg, who served as president and then chairwoman of the CFDA from 2006.

One of Ford’s main focuses in the position is reinventing New York Fashion Week. He has unveiled a shorter schedule for the spring 2020 fashion week season, down to six official days. Talk also circulated around Ford’s appointment that the new home of NYFW would move to The Shed at Hudson Yards, but considering the backlash against Hudson Yards real estate developer, Stephen Ross, and designer brands already pulling their shows from the venue, the move looks unlikely.

Ford is the 11th person to hold the chairman title — which was previously called president —at the CFDA. Other than von Furstenberg, the role has been held by Stan Herman, Sydney Wragge, Normal Norell, Oscar de la Renta, Herbert Kasper, Bill Blass, Mary McFadden, Perry Ellis and Carolyne Roehm.

Ahead of the start of NYFW spring 2020, Ford announced a number of changes to the CFDA. He appointed four new members to the board — designers Kerby Jean-Raymond, Maria Cornejo, Carly Cushnie and Virgil Abloh — and transitioned four existing board members to “non-voting emeritus status,” including Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman, Rag & Bone’s Marcus Wainwright and jewelry designers Mimi So and Kara Ross, who is the wife of Stephen Ross.

Ford also revealed he will be streamlining the CFDA’s yearlong calendar, condensing the numerous small events held throughout the year into two conferences, with one held in New York and the other held in Los Angeles. He will also be establishing an advisory board of nondesigner industry people.

Elizabeth and James Strikes Deal with Kohl’s, April 2019

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen struck a deal with Kohl’s Corps. in April to revive their Elizabeth & James contemporary brand, making Kohl’s the new, exclusive retailer for the label.

The brand, which the Olsen twins founded in addition to their luxury label, The Row, will be entering Kohl’s for the holiday season with its apparel, handbags and accessories collections aimed at a Millennial consumer. The brand’s Nirvana fragrances will remain at upscale retailers.

Elizabeth and James shipped its last collection in fall 2018, which was distributed to retailers including Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Net-a-porter.

The Olsen twins had taken back ownership of the Elizabeth and James label in 2015 from Los Angeles-based Jaya Apparel Group, which held the brand’s license since its launch in 2007. In 2016, industry sources claimed the brand’s apparel and accessories collections generated $40 million to $50 million in wholesale volume.

Rihanna Launches Fenty Fashion Label With LVMH, May 2019

While Rihanna has already proven her entrepreneurial chops with her beauty brand, Fenty Beauty, and her lingerie line, Savage x Fenty, the singer furthered her dominance of the fashion world with the launch of her fashion label, Fenty.

After WWD reported in January that the two were in talks, Rihanna and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton confirmed the partnership in May with the release of a spring 2019 collection. The partnership marks the first time LVMH has launched a fashion brand from scratch since the establishment of Christian Lacroix in 1987.

Inspired by Rihanna herself, the brand’s collection focuses on cinched waists, billowing sleeves, tailoring and corsetry details, including apparel, shoes, jewelry and eyewear. The brand is operating outside the traditional fashion show schedule, instead opting for the buy-now-wear-now model. Rihanna previewed the collection on the brand’s Instagram account, showing a video of a diverse group of models sporting the looks.

The collection was then debuted at a pop-up shop in Paris later in the month, and then another was hosted in New York City at The Webster in June.

Rihanna will not be showing a Fenty collection at NYFW spring 2020, rather she will be hosting her second annual Savage x Fenty lingerie fashion show, which can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

Keren Craig Exits Marchesa, June 2019

Sixteen years after cofounding Marchesa with Georgina Chapman, Keren Craig said she would be leaving her role at the company to pursue new creative ventures.

Craig’s departure follows a tumultuous 20 months for the brand after news broke of the sexual assault allegations against Chapman’s ex-husband, disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Following the allegations and charges against him, Marchesa suspended its runway shows, transitioning to hosting presentations without Craig and Chapman present.

Many celebrities stopped wearing Marchesa on the red carpet, although recently a few have started working with the brand again, including Scarlett Johansson at the Met Gala 2018, Chrissy Teigen and Lily Collins at this year’s Vanity Fair Oscars after party and Constance Wu at this year’s Met Gala, among others.

Along with the many allegations against Weinstein, actresses such as Felicity Huffman, Renée Zellweger and Kerry Washington claimed that the film producer pressured them into wearing Marchesa on the red carpet in order to boost the brand’s publicity.

While the Weinstein scandal brought on an onslaught of bad press, the brand experienced a lift in sales, according to Nany Aucone, owner of The Wedding Salon of Manhasset in Long Island, who claimed the increase was caused by “the positive side of defending the woman.”

Earlier in June, the brand also introduced a new Marchesa Daywear collection. The brand is still set to present its spring 2020 collection during New York Fashion Week, by appointment.

Stella McCartney Partners With LVMH, July 2019

Splitting amicably with Kering in 2018, Stella McCartney unveiled a new partnership with France’s other luxury giant, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Full details on the partnership are expected to be revealed this month.

Through the partnership, McCartney will continue as creative director and ambassador of the brand and holds majority ownership.

She is also bringing her sustainability mission to LVMH as a whole, assuming an additional role of special adviser on sustainability to chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault, and the executive committee members.

McCartney has long been an advocate of running a sustainable and eco-friendly brand. Her women’s resort 2020 collection was called “Force of Nature,” featuring pieces made from sustainable viscose and regenerated cashmere, among other materials, and her men’s spring 2020 collection was called “Eco Weirdo,” a presentation that had models protesting for the environment.

She is the second female-run fashion house to join LVMH this year, following Rihanna establishing her Fenty fashion label with the luxury giant in May.

The designer’s latest project was collaborating with Taylor Swift on a line of fashion and accessories for the release of the singer’s latest studio album, “Lover,” in August. The collection includes rainbow and tie-dye t-shirts, sweaters, hats and bags created with eco-friendly materials.

Barneys New York Files for Bankruptcy, August 2019

After months of scrambling to find financing, Barneys New York filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 6, listing assets between $100 million to $500 million. This marks the second time the retailer has filed for bankruptcy in its 96-year history.

The luxury retailer revealed it has over 5,000 creditors, including Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen’s The Row for $3.7 million, Celine Inc. for $2.7 million, Yves Saint Laurent America Inc. for $2.2 million and Balenciaga America Inc. for $2.1 million, among others. The retailer said it has sales of about $800 million, 2,300 employees and roughly $200 million in funded debt obligations. Barneys had been searching for a new investor or a way to restructure prior to the bankruptcy filing.

Barneys won final approval for its full $217 million deal on Sept. 4 along with a newly increased $40 million consignment facility to pay for inventory. As of Sept. 30, the retailer had five letter of intent from companies interested in buying parts or all of the business, according to industry sources. The group of buyers included trade show veteran, Sam Ben-Avraham and Authentic Brands Group and it’s been reported that Nordstrom Inc. and Neiman Marcus parent company, Ares, are staying close to the process, but haven’t submitted letters of interest.

Barneys finally found its new owner on Nov. 1 in ABG, which bought the historic retailer for $271 million. ABG has plans to keep Barneys’ Madison Avenue flagship open for the next year, converting the space into a smaller scale, experiential pop-up shop. It will also bring the Barneys name over exclusively to Saks Fifth Avenue as its new retail partner.

Along with the bankruptcy deal, Barneys began its liquidation sale with products currently a meager 5 of 10 percent off. It’s been reported that the retailer’s most loyal customers will have first access to another sale, before becoming available to the general public at an undisclosed date.

Demna Gvasalia Leaves Vetements, September 2019

After fueling streetwear’s popularity among the masses with Vetements, designer Demna Gvasalia announced in September that he’d be stepping down from the brand.

“I started Vetements because I was bored of fashion and against all odds fashion did change once and forever since Vetements appeared and it also opened a new door for so many,” he told WWD. “So I feel that I have accomplished my mission of a conceptualist and design innovator at this exceptional brand and Vetements has matured into a company that can evolve its creative heritage into a new chapter on its own.”

During his five years at the brand, Gvasalia brought in a fresh take on nostalgia, championing the logos of international courier DHL and Juicy Couture. His tenure is marked with a number of memorable pieces, including the lighter-heel boots, his $300 DHL logo t-shirt and his reworked, second-hand denim.

His subversive take on fashion also drew an A-list celebrity following. Gvasalia counted Kanye West, Kim Kardashian (and their daughter, North), Jared Leto and Celine Dion as fans. Dion, for one, famously wore the Vetements “I Love Paris Hilton” t-shirt at Paris Fashion Week, pairing it with the brand’s Heart of the Ocean necklace, a replica of the iconic necklace seen in “Titanic,” which included Dion’s classic hit “My Heart Will Go On” on the film’s soundtrack.

Gvasalia still remains as the creative director of Balenciaga, showing his spring 2020 collection at Paris Fashion Week.

Forever 21 Files For Bankruptcy, September 2019

Fast-fashion retailer, Forever 21, joined the lengthy roster of fashion brands and retailers that filed for bankruptcy this year.

The retailer filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 29, announcing it would be closing roughly 178 doors in the U.S. along with most of its international locations in Asia and Europe. Forever 21 has also closed all Riley Rose outposts, the retailer’s standalone beauty concept.

The bankruptcy comes after a tumultuous time for the retailer. Earlier in the month, singer Ariana Grande sued Forever 21 for $10 million, claiming the retailer misused her name and image in an ad campaign. The retailer is also ensnarled in an ongoing infringement case with Adidas, which claims the retailer is misusing its “Three-Stripes” trademark in many of its styles.

As of Oct. 1, Forever 21 requested access to $60 million of its proposed debtor-in-possession financing package at a Delaware bankruptcy court to help the company stay in operation.

Gigi Hadid Stops Catwalk Crasher at Chanel Runway Show, October 2019

Chanel’s spring 2020 runway show had an unexpected visitor this season, as a seemingly random spectator stormed onto the catwalk as models were taking their finale walk.

The spectator in question was French comedian and YouTube personality, Marie Benoliel — better known as Marie S’Infiltre — who walked onto the catwalk in a matching houndstooth set and a flat-topped hat.

With security guards slow to react, model Gigi Hadid took it upon herself to escort out the crasher, placing a stern hand on Benoliel’s shoulder as she ushered her off-stage.

The Chanel show wasn’t the first time Benoliel crashed a runway show. Earlier in the week she infiltrated the runway at the Etam show, wearing silvery lingerie and a sleeping mask.

Chanel later released a statement on Benoliel after the show, stating: “This person is a comedian known for this type of prank. She had crashed another runway recently. Her presence on the catwalk was not planned. Security guards simply led her to the exit at the end of the show.”

Zac Posen Shutters Business, November 2019

News of Zac Posen shuttering his business rocked the fashion world in November, with the beloved designer describing the closure to WWD as “horrible,” “pretty intense” and “surreal.” Posen, who founded his design house in 2001, stated that the brand was in a sale process, but ran out of time to get funding as of Nov. 1.

Posen’s spring 2020 collection, which was photographed by Steven Sebring in a 360-degree photo studio and modeled by Winnie Harlow, will not be shipped to retailers and his staff of about 60 employees were let go.

The former “Project Runway” judge was a go-to red carpet designer, with famous fans ranging from Hollywood to the First Lady and even British royalty. His portfolio of statement-making dresses includes the light-up ball gown created for Claire Danes at the 2016 Met Gala and a blush-toned, draped dress worn by Princess Eugenie at her royal wedding reception last year.

“We have dressed everybody, from the biggest stars to emerging talents to royalty,” he said “I feel really fortunate to have made clothes they responded to.”

Aside from his namesake line, Posen serves as the women’s creative director for Brooks Brothers, a post he expects to continue. He also oversees licensee collections and recently designed uniforms for Delta employees.

LVMH Acquires Tiffany & Co., November 2019

Tiffany & Co
Tiffany & Co

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton made history in 2019 with its largest transaction ever: acquiring Tiffany & Co. for $16.2 billion.

The deal doubled the size of the conglomerate’s watches and jewelry division, giving it a stronger position to compete with rival Compagnie Financière Richemont, which owns Cartier.

With the deal, LVMH has plans to build out specific product pillars and focus on the Asian consumer. The conglomerate is drawing experience from its ownership of Bulgari, which it acquired in 2011 for $5.2 billion.

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