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19/01/2018

How royal-to-be Meghan Markle can boost a fashion brand’s fortunes

How royal-to-be Meghan Markle can boost a fashion brand’s fortunes

Meghan Markle's romantic relationship with Prince Harry has raised her profile to stratospheric heights and, like many a royal fiancée before her, her wardrobe choices are closely watched. Dubbed "the Meghan effect," what Markle wears to a public appearance can have a major impact on a brand's profile and its sales. The duchess-to-be has been a long-time supporter of Canadian fashion, most visibly through her work as an ambassador for Montreal-based women's clothier Reitmans. While that relationship came to an end last April, Markle has continued to sport Canadian clothing and accessories, most recently donning a coat by Toronto-based Smythe to visit a British radio station on Jan. 9.

With the immediacy of social media, many fashion labels are recognizing that it's important to have nimble digital and e-commerce strategies in place to capitalize on the moment when a celebrity's outfit choice becomes big news. In most cases – including when a brand has a close, or even commercial, relationship with an A-lister – a company learns that he or she has worn one of its pieces at the same time as the rest of us – when it is tagged on Instagram or Twitter.

In the case of Sentaler, a Canadian outerwear brand that has been worn by Markle and her future sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, the surprise endorsement has been a gift.

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17/01/2018

Power dressing: why fashion has never been so important

Power dressing: why fashion has never been so important

The Oscars are six weeks away, and already my red-carpet predictions for this season have been proved wrong. When the Weinstein scandal broke last autumn, I assumed that red-carpet pageantry would be sidelined in the new world order. In 2018, surely no one would care what actors were wearing?

I could hardly have been more wrong. Last weekend’s Golden Globes may go down in history for the emergence of a new presidential candidate, but the black dress code that symbolised feminist solidarity against sexual harassment will be a significant footnote. The importance of the dress code was reflected by the fact that it was faithfully followed by almost everyone, potential presidential candidates included. At one of the most political award ceremonies in memory, clothes mattered more than ever.

Fashion has never been so important – and yet you can forget all about hemlines, which have never mattered less. It is 61 years since Carmel Snow’s post-show compliment to a young Dior – “Dear Christian, your dresses have such a new look” – was distilled into a soundbite that, framing fashion as news, carved out column inches accordingly. From those column inches, fashion has evolved into a TV channel on which we watch the whole world. The colour of the season matters less than a protest vote in black. Thousand-pound handbags get less play than home-knitted pussy hats. Politics, ideology and identity are narrated through clothes. We watch Kim Jong-un swapping his Mao suit for western-style tailoring, and Meghan Markle wooing middle England with an M&S jumper. Daniel Day-Lewis has chosen to play a couturier in what he pledges is his last on-screen role, while costume designers such as Michele Clapton (Game of Thrones, The Crown) are feted as thought leaders in modern television. Pep Guardiola’s current accessory of choice, a yellow ribbon pronouncing support for Catalan independence, may have been overshadowed at Anfield on Sunday by a spectacular game of football, but we are more sensitive than ever before to the messages of clothing. H&M, now facing worldwide outrage over a “Coolest monkey in the jungle” sweatshirt photographed on a black child model, can vouch for that.

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15/01/2018

How Oxfam became the rising star of UK's online fashion industry

How Oxfam became the rising star of UK's online fashion industry

It’s one of fashion’s best kept secrets, a website where you can buy luxury brands such as Burberry, Prada and Miu Miu as well as the best of the high street for a steal.

Sales were up 33% at Christmas as shoppers bagged vintage and designer clothes for the party season but the company is not listed on the stock exchange like the web giant Asos and there is no chance of it ever being taken over. And if you look closely some of the clothes might seem familiar.

In fact they might actually be your clothes – because Oxfam has emerged as an unlikely rising star of the UK’s fast-growing online fashion scene as it casts an increasingly canny eye over the branded cast-offs and vintage styles dumped in bin bags on its shops’ doorsteps every day.

It is a big secret but when people hear about our website they are really intrigued,” says Oxfam trading director Andrew Horton who wants to double the size of the web operation to reach 10% of retail sales over the next three years.

The website is run out of a cavernous warehouse in Batley, West Yorkshire. The building is home to Wastesaver, the charity’s sorting and recycling centre, where every week 50 paid staff sift though 80 tonnes of clothing delivered to its door.

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