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The girl from Nefyn town

NEWS  by Parris Bambery/March 31, 2009/10.46

You could thank Whoopi Goldberg’s appearance in Sister Act for the early inspiration behind Welsh singer Aimee Ann Duffy’s rise to fame. With over 5·5 million copies of her début album Rockferry being sold worldwide, Duffy hails from the small North Wales town of Nefyn where she started singing in local bands, later appearing on a Welsh Pop Idol-like television show. The doe-eyed blonde beauty has been described as a soul-siren, and compared to the likes of Dusty Springfield and Lulu.
   So for those Duffy admirers out there, you’ll be glad to know she has brought her distinctive, lounging voice to New Zealand with three shows throughout the country starting with a performance tonight at Vector Arena in Auckland, Wellington on April 1 at the TSB Bank Arena, and in Christchurch on April 2 at the Christchurch Town Hall.

Naomi Campbell leads the catwalk at Mai Mumbai

NEWS  by Lucire staff//1.25

Naomi Campbell at Mai Mumbai

Supermodel Naomi Campbell proved to be a hit at Lakme Fashion Week. Mai Mumbai, the benefit for the victims of the Mumbai terrorist attacks last November previewed earlier in Lucire, featured numerous celebrities: Rahul Khanna, in Narendra Kumar, compered. Campbell started off the show wearing Vikram Phadnis, followed by hotelier Vikram Chatwal in a Arjun Khanna Jodhpur jacket.
   Other celebrities on the catwalk were Arjun and Meher Rampal, Gregory David Roberts, Princess Françoise, Rahul Bose, Farhan Akhtar, Kunal Kapoor, Milind Soman, Feroze Gurjal and Ujwala Raut.

Court dress exhibition begins tomorrow at Versailles

NEWS  by Lucire staff/March 30, 2009/11.36

Photo copyright Jean-Baptiste Leroux

Costume pays court to the Palace of Versailles for an exhibition entitled Court Pomp and Royal Ceremony, to be held from March 31 to June 28, 2009. This exhibition is dedicated to court dress and to the influence of French fashion in European courts, featuring some 200 exhibits.
   Most of the exhibits come from the collections of the major European museums: the Victoria & Albert in London, the Hermitage in St Petersburg, the Royal Armoury in Stockholm, the Green Vault in Dresden and Rosenborg Castle in Denmark, which are lending some of their exhibits for the first time. A collection of jewels, accessories and original paintings will accompany the procession of magnificent costumes.
   Fashion house Chanel is sponsoring the exhibition.

Grace Kelly portrait to be auctioned May 9

NEWS  by Lucire staff//11.22

Peter Engels and Grace Kelly portrait

The late HSH Princess Grace would have turned 80 this year had she not been tragically killed in a car crash in the 1980s. Painter Peter Engels’ portrait of the Princess, Vintage, will be auctioned on May 9 at 3 p.m. by Sotheby’s at the Casino de Monaco, in the presence of her son, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco.
   Last year, Engels’ 200 by 100 cm portrait of Nelson Mandela, painted with a pallet knife and revealed prior to Mandela’s 90th birthday, was auctioned with proceeds going to the former president’s Aids charity, 46664 (named for his cell number during South Africa’s apartheid years). Both Engels and his Mandela painting appeared on the screen at Times Square in New York.
   This time, proceeds from the auction will go to the Lions’ Club of Monaco, for handicapped children.
   Engels says, ‘I pay homage to one of the most elegant women of all time. She was a fascinating woman. She remains an icon 25 years after her death, and continues to fascinate us.’

GM’s next step should be brand rationality

NEWS  by Jack Yan//11.06

Photo by[Cross-posted] has become the casualty of the American ’s finger-pointing with his resignation today, his hand forced by the Obama administration.
   The press has centred on this rather than explore the union’s role in the industry’s difficulties. For those of us old enough to remember it, it all smacks a bit of the days of ’s effective in the 1970s.
   If we look at , perhaps part of Wagoner’s behaviour deserved to be lampooned: catching a private jet to Washington to ask for a bailout wasn’t a good look. And it’s true that did push trucks, but then, so did every one of the American . Even Toyota joined the Big Three in a lawsuit when California tried to impose fuel economy standards. Everyone’s been complicit in selling large trucks, even the American media’s Japanese-brand heroes.
   It is unfair to gloss over some of the good that Wagoner did, when they should be mentioned.
   GM’s Adam Opel AG unit has put out some good cars of late, and last year took the Car of the Year award in Europe with its . Buick sells well in . GM has moved toward a more integrated R&D structure than its rivals at Ford, managing to adopt a model using centres of excellence for engineering platforms—so that the next Opel Corsa will have huge Korean input, and the Chevrolet Camaro was engineered in Australia. The could be a world-beater and GM has been willing to be braver with its R&D processes.
   There’s a lot that GM can build on—but maybe someone other than Wagoner should put the next stage into action.
   That is, if that person knows what the next stage is.
   It’s in the home market where GM, as Ford, as Chrysler, has been making mistakes. If I could see the need for fuel-efficient cars at the turn of the century for the US market, then there’s no way the Whiz Kids at these companies couldn’t. They were fooled by their own excess.
   The real problems are reflected in how unmanageable GM has become over the years with its subsidiaries and . It has let fail without new models—it pales in comparison to the plethora of models Volvo has managed to develop under Ford. Legacy costs with the unions are another problem, which deserves another blog post altogether.
   There has been talk over the years about trimming the GM brand portfolio, but I wonder if this is a wise thing.
   This is no longer the era when we live by counting beans, but by how brands resonate—and consequently how well they can sell. The problem is not so much that GM has so many brands, but that they have become confusing for customers.
   British Leyland—once the world’s second largest car manufacturer, and now a mere unit of the Red Chinese government—shows what can happen when brands are trimmed.
   There, the loss of brands such as Triumph meant that the streamlined Austin Rover Group in the 1980s could not compete in the sports saloon and sports car sectors. As people become more greatly segmented, what a company can’t afford to do is lose its brands.
   Triumph died with a lot of goodwill still out there—which is why BMW, which acquired the name through taking over Rover in the 1990s, is too scared to ever let the name go. It knows that Triumph occupies the same market it does.
   I warned about the demise of the low-cost Plymouth line when DaimlerChrysler killed that—and I bet Chrysler now wishes it still had it to field captive imports or smaller models now for entry-level buyers.
   The trick is to find a way for the brands to resonate with consumers once more, and no one seems to want to talk about that.
   GM knows that to kill a brand it would have massive payouts to make to dealers and lose certain segments of the market to competitors. It would also lose economies of scale, and its cost per unit would rise greatly over the next decade.
   The other problem with killing brands is the consumer mindset.
   A couple of years ago I talked about brand rationality as the new decade began—not rationalization. People only want so many brands in their minds and those brands should only offer so many products. It looks like it’s time to explore these very ideas.
    knows this. While in Japan, a country with a very different buyer behaviour to western markets, it offers subcompacts such as Vitz, Ist, Passo, Porte, Raum, bB and Rush, it knows that to export such a wide range would be commercial suicide elsewhere.
   It would rather sell more of a certain model, such as the Yaris, while leaving others to be sold under different brand names such as Daihatsu and Scion.
   â€™s greatest success in markets like New Zealand came when people understood the range of Escort–Cortina–Falcon; and even GM itself experienced sales’ growth when it was able to bring some logic to its range there with Barina–Astra–Vectra–Commodore. Toyota took the mantle when it was able to organize Starlet–Corolla–Corona in the 1980s. And BMW has been doing it for decades with 3–5–7.
   In the , it makes some sense to field Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac, Saturn and Saab; less so Hummer and GMC, which never made much sense during my lifetime.
   In each of these brands, there is a way to find an ideal selection of models that the consumer can understand.
   GM has already made some headway with this by effectively turning Saturn and Pontiac into import brands, fielding offerings from other parts of its empire that appeal to their buyers’ attitudes toward them. There’s no reason this cannot continue: Opel can engineer for Saturn, Holden for Pontiac. It has always amazed me that cars like the Corsa D are not sold Stateside. The Brazilian Chevrolet Vectra—Astra H sedan in Europe—could have been a decent Saturn.
   Saturn could have the current models plus Corsa, Meriva B and Zafira; Pontiac might survive on a future rear-wheel-drive mid-sized car and the VE Commodore.
   Chevrolet, the all-American brand, has adorned Korean- and Japanese-designed models over the years. It’s the core line that should field a full range, but do three of each type: three passenger car lines, three SUVs and three minivans. Of course, it should keep iconic hero models such as Corvette and Camaro.
   Cadillac has become better organized than most with its tiered range. It just needs to improve its quality. It certainly has more cachet than Lincoln.
   That leaves Buick and Saab. GM has done its level best to kill Saab. While it should remain it really should be considered alongside Saturn. If Saturn fields smaller import models, perhaps the Saab name could be used for larger ones. The problem is that competitive, newer models are still some time away. Stateside, GM might not have much choice but to rebadge the Opel Insignia with the Saab name and see if this attractive new model can find buyers, as a stopgap. Its large US-only SUV fills a gap in the market-place as a performance model with some of Saab’s cachet.
   Buick, meant to plug the gap between Chevrolet and Cadillac, still needs to do that, and its latest Lacrosse and Lucerne models are competitive for now. Some think that Buick should be China-only—just as Holden is Australasia-only and Vauxhall is UK-only—but we run the danger of losing the premium segment that neither Chevrolet nor Cadillac can sell to.
   Cost-wise Buick could continue with smaller models and have a twin spawned off the Holden Commodore platform. Already Buick in China sells the Holden Statesman as the Park Avenue, a far more advanced car than anything sold Stateside with that name. While it may offend Buick loyalists, Chinese exports could sell Stateside—especially if the choice is killing off the brand versus sustaining it. The quality of models such as the Park Avenue is considered high, and a tiered range of Regal–Lacrosse–Park Avenue (or more accurately their successors) could work in the US in the 2010s, just as it does in China today.
   The key is to make sure GM cars get sold in as many markets as possible, as sensibly as possible. It’s just that few have taken a look at GM , preferring to base their solutions on what they can chop among the US range. And since GM’s failures have been in part down to its inability to put its international models on sale, it seems foolish to not consider models that the company has already spent billions on elsewhere. It’s do or die time, and it’s stupid to put the blinkers on just because a vehicle was —Not Invented Here—in the US.

1982 will be different as Ashes to Ashes’ next series begins

NEWS  by Jack Yan/March 28, 2009/6.09

Ashes to Ashes series twoWe’ve been patiently waiting for news of Ashes to Ashes’ second series for quite some time. This time last year, we had already talked about the series, the ’80s and the decade’s influence on fashion.
   Last week was the first time we had heard much about the next Ashes to Ashes, aside from a tabloid article in the Mirror saying how Philip Glenister, playing DCI Gene Hunt, would quit at the end of the second series. When I asked the Manchester Evening News’s Ian Wylie, a man better schooled in matters relating to the Gene Hunt world than most journalists, the response was (and I am not quoting him here) that it was cobblers.
   Or, more accurately, that it was a non-story that did not correspond to his conversations with Mr Glenister. Wylie repeats it in a blog post for the News here.
   I can sympathize. We’ve waited so long for any news that the best the British media could come up with for a while was an article that contradicted itself anyway. Finally, there was an event last week where stars Glenister, Keeley Hawes, Dean Andrews and Monserrat Lombard launched the new series, and on Thursday, the embargo was lifted for the official news from the BBC.
   We knew some of the details anyway: the retro, time-travelling cop show is now set in 1982, not 1981, in the era of the Falklands War. The show is ‘darker’, with an ongoing theme about police corruption and mistrust.
   And some ideas that might seem a little familiar to followers of the American remake of Life on Mars appear: Alex Drake (Hawes) runs into someone who also seems to be trapped in 1982, and she, like Sam Tyler before her in the original Life on Mars (2006–7), hears voices from the future.
   But for readers of this publication, the important thing is that Piers Wenger, Head of Drama for BBC Wales, promises ‘outrageous fashions’ for the New Year.
   While gloomier economic news usually brings with it retro styles, we wonder if that will be the case this time round.
   The 1980s have been an ongoing theme in fashion since the beginning of the century, so much so that the decade has finally become as passé as it was in 1990.
   In other words, while the first series of Ashes to Ashes didn’t really surprise fashion-watchers, the second just might—because they’ll be less connected to what designers have been churning out on the catwalks. We’ve seen a few shoulder pads but it’s going to be a couple of seasons of big skirts, in our view—not quite what we’d associate with the ’80s. Leg warmers—once not too out of place as they came back mid-decade—have been banished as we close the 2000s. But we bet they’ll feature in Ashes to Ashes.
   The Mirror reports that Hawes claims, ‘In one episode I get to wear a shirt with a giant pussy bow covered in anchors, tight jeans with red stripes down the side and anchor earrings.’
   It just doesn’t sound like where we are today. But the mystery will, according to Wylie, have us glued, and there’s plenty of mistrust in the authorities in our present day which will see us finding some affinity with Alex Drake and her crew.

Think Thin

NEWS  by Lucire staff/March 26, 2009/13.29

Pirelli is not a name normally associated with watches—tyres and calendars come to mind—but the Italian company has used its connections with fashion to stretch its brand. The P-Zero Thin Time watch continues this journey for Pirelli, with a 42 mm case, and it is water resistant to 10 ATM or 100 m. The watch weighs 25 per cent less than the previous model. The watch face is available in red–blue or red–black. And the most distinctive element is the rubber watchband with an imprint of a Pirelli tyre. (There is also a model with a fuchsia bracelet, white dial and silver case.)
Pirelli P-Zero Thin Time featured in Lucire

Objects of Desire at Tamsin Cooper

NEWS  by Lucire staff/March 25, 2009/8.39

Available from early April, Tamsin Cooper’s autumn–winter 2009 collection, Objects of Desire, includes pendant necklaces, winter wraps and Victorian-styled brooches. Colours, according to Cooper’s company, include ‘garnet red, inky sapphire blue, dark amethyst and dramatic jet black,’ along with hot pink, mandarin and peacock blue.
   When the economic climate isn’t the rosiest, there seems to be a greater emphasis on retro and vintage styles, and Cooper seems to have hit that perfectly. We like the velvet evening purse and handbag.
   They will be available at 100 retailers in New Zealand or online at
Tamsin Cooper autumn–winter 2009, featured in Lucire
Tamsin Cooper Floral Scroll handbag, MSRP NZ$321.
Tamsin Cooper autumn–winter 2009, featured in Lucire
Tamsin Cooper Victorian Scroll brooch, MSRP NZ$19·95 each.

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