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19-09-2008
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Sarah Rutson
not sure whether it belongs here or in star style

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Ponystep talks business with Sarah Rutson, Fashion Director of Lane Crawford; THE shopping destination in the increasingly important market that is Hong Kong.

The tall girl in the skyscraper Louboutins is a writer (and fashion enthusiasts’) dream, responsible in the past for such pearls of wisdom as: "I am not into ‘lady versions' [of extreme heels]. Either do it or don't." One blogger has since swooned that when she opens her mouth, ‘spun gold comes out’, comparing her soundbites to being ‘right up there with reading Diana Vreeland's autobiography.’ Here she puts the bon mots back on their velvet hanger, and gives us the 411 (or 5’11”) on fashion from a retail and market perspective...

Dean Mayo Davies: How do you view Lane Crawford’s position in the international marketplace? Do you think you are in an enviable position, being a premium domestic brand in one of the world’s fastest growing economies? What kind of freedom does this give you?

Sarah Rutson: Firstly, Lane Crawford’s President, Jennifer Woo, gives a great deal of autonomy to her people. This has been a unique opportunity for me and others I work with to create a really unique brand mix, with exciting buys that cannot be seen anywhere else. We are lucky that Hong Kong has always had a very fashion forward customer that is far more nuanced and open-minded than many European or American customers - this has enabled us to always push the envelope and not play things typically safe.

DMD: Would you say there is a typical Lane Crawford customer?

SR: A typical customer is very knowledgeable about fashion, but is now wanting to make statements in their clothing and lifestyle, with a very individual take and a personal approach. They don’t want to be a cookie cutter in terms of looks and the way they style their chosen brands as if just off the catwalk. As such, we’ve seen a significant growth in our new generation designers; brands such as RM by Roland Mouret, Sacai, Haider Ackermann and Sharon Wauchob... DMD: What are labels are your bestsellers?

SR: ...Marni, Dries Van Noten, Lanvin, Givenchy. Miu Miu, Stella McCartney, The Row, Sacai and Toga. You can see the cross section of brands – designer to new generation to contemporary – they are.

DMD: What are you looking for in a collection? What would be the ‘ideal’?

SR: When looking for a new collection, it must have individuality and a signature look that can differentiate from other designers. There is no such thing as an ‘ideal’ as each brand should have something special to say that makes it stand apart and be unique. That is the beauty of being a multi-brand store; we have the ability to have different genres of designers for different tastes as well as multi-price points.

DMD: Which designers do you always wear personally?

SR: I wear Givenchy, Rick Owens, Azzedine Alaïa and Lanvin the most. They form the backbone of my wardrobe.

DMD: Do you think a piece of clothing change the way a person sees the world?

SR: I wear clothes that reflect how I feel on that particular day or to sometimes to help me feel a particular way. It’s how I feel personally, not how I want to feel about the world.

DMD: How would you describe your role (and what you do) to an outsider? And what would you say are the effects of your work?

SR: I consider myself a champion and communicator. I champion designers and customers and then communicate our fashion vision for the season to the buyers and others within the company, the customer and the press to make sure there is a consistent message of what we stand behind. I give creative presentations of what we should see, where fashion is going before we see it come down the runways, styles or trends I feel we should get behind and be ready to push forward - and also sometimes the trends I want to start for our customer. It’s all about preparing the teams with an open mind to see something new and also have a fresh perspective, it’s NOT about ‘let’s see what comes down the runway and then we try and make sense of it’. Being prepared, especially when you have large buying teams that are in different parts of the world, ensures that everyone is not working randomly on their own. It’s about giving a very strong focus and a clear directive of authority down to both the stores and our customers.

DMD: How do you feel about your (and the companies’) position on the international fashion stage?

SR: I know that we, as a company, are known for our forward and exciting vision, from other retailers and many well-respected fashion magazines. I know that our customer who shops overseas always comes back and says that our selection is far more exciting and our store environment is more invigorating! Earlier this year, we also won the International Retailer of the Year Award from the National Retail Federation, so we are certainly recognised as a respected authority within our industry.
DMD: Today, the boundary between art and fashion has blurred to its’ most extreme. Does this philosophy effect the ‘business’ of fashion, do you think, with repercussions in the retail of it too?

SR: As long as it is handled sensitively, we have found it works really well in the right proportion. There is sometimes a danger of trying too hard and forgetting it is always about the clothes and the customer – it’s about getting the balance right.

DMD: A friend recently said to me that in our current society, ‘shopping is the new art’. Do you think there’s an acute truth in this? And how will the current unstable economic climate we’re experiencing at the moment effect stores such as yourselves? Will this cause a shift in your operation of any sort?

SR: I think that statement might have been made because of the global democracy that seems to have happened to high designer fashion over the last six years especially. It had become the new art form to the masses. There will always be different levels for customers and where some get hit by the economic crisis, others are not. We’re lucky that we have the best selection of designer and contemporary lines and prices that will reflect both the needs of the consumer who is struggling and those that are not as badly hit.

DMD: Do you think buyers have more power than curators these days?

SR: You see the more-immediate effects of your work in the streets after all as well as you can communication your thoughts and ideas to more people. It will always be the customer that is the curator, the buyer only hopes they can display a vision and specific taste for them.

DMD: You’ve been responsible for some captivating projects such as the Collective: Synergy in Fashion project exhibition which coincided with the Beijing Olympics - designers such as Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, Maison Martin Margiela, and Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent created looks inspired by competitions such as archery, badminton and track-and-field. How important are projects such as these today? And how forthcoming are designers to get involved? In terms of the exposure generated, projects such as these seem as valuable as any catwalk show...

SR: The company is constantly looking at interesting and innovative projects that will not only excite but also inspire our customers. With 2008 as the year of Beijing Olympics, we felt this was the perfect opportunity to show how fashion can be part of it, inviting a mix of top designers to create a unique sports-themed outfit to celebrate this momentous event in China. They were all eager to collaborate with us as well as be a part of the charity element of the program (all of the outfits are being auctioned until November 15th, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting “Special Relief Funds for Children affected by the Sichuan Earthquake,” a cause established by UNICEF under its ‘Driving Dreams’ project).

DMD: Finally, can we talk about Lane Crawford’s autumn/winter ad campaign? Even that is an event; it was shot by Inez and Vinoodh, and styled by Joe McKenna...

SR: The campaign is called ‘the iNNOVATORs’, and it was captured by renowned photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, with Joe McKenna styling. It’s an assemblage of progressive thinkers that are leaving their distinctive marks in the world of fashion, art, film and music. We were inspired by their individuality, and wanting to help our customers learn to express their own creativity and style too. The gifted and talented cast includes: actress China Chow, who has inherited flawless style and paves her way as today’s fashion icon; Terence Koh, the provocative and controversial artist hailing from New York; actor Song Ning, with an unfailing energy to express himself in different art-forms; Emma Pei, a successful model in Europe who interprets fashion using her exquisite chameleon-like ability; photographer Victoria Tang, an ultimate blend of the East and West; actress Zhang Jing Chu whose acting skills have inspired the masses; and, award-winning music producer Zhang Yadong, who has touched and exhilarated through his musical talents.

DMD

www.lanecrawford.com
ponystep.com

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19-09-2008
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Also a regular on the Sartorialist and other blogs:



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19-09-2008
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19-09-2008
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sartorialist

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19-09-2008
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style

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19-09-2008
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Sarah The one and only!

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19-09-2008
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I love Sarah Rutson

An excerpt from The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/m...ionplayers.xml
Quote:
Move Over Anna Wintour
Sarah Rutson
Fashion director, Lane Crawford, China

Chinese designer fashion may carry with it connotations of giant logos and counterfeit handbags, but Sarah Rutson, the fashion director of Lane Crawford, the Far East group of designer emporiums, aims to take her Chinese customers down a more subtle route. When its Beijing branch opened in October - with a party attended by designers such as Christian Louboutin - Rutson saw to it that niche labels such as the American designer Rick Owens and Acne Jeans from Sweden were given as much of a push as more established brands. 'We're not going to treat the mainland Chinese like a poor cousin,' she says.

Rutson (who prefers not to reveal her age) is a Brit who's lived in Hong Kong for the past 15 years, and has been a noticeable figure on the fashion circuit - in her uniform of Lanvin and Azzedine Alaïa dresses and sky-high Louboutin heels - buying for Lane Crawford's four Hong Kong stores. But she says that the purchasing power of mainland China's new elite (according to a survey by the management consultants Bain & Company, China already buys 12 per cent of the world's luxury goods, and that figure is set to grow) has opened her eyes to the more voracious consumer. 'For our customers in Hong Kong the process of shopping is a slow one, it's an emotional thing. But in mainland China a customer will go straight in and pay in cash for a £3,000 dress in under eight minutes.'

While China is still a nominally socialist state, over the past three decades its government has allowed foreign investment and privately owned businesses to flourish, and it's now on track to become the world's third-largest economy this year.

Rutson says that her Beijing customers' tastes can run from Alexander McQueen dresses through pieces from Dries van Noten to House of Holland slogan T-shirts from London, of which she says the store sells 'hundreds and hundreds'.

Her eye-catching initiatives in Lane Crawford's sleek Beijing shop - such as installing an Alexander McQueen couture gown in the lobby, and beaming coverage of Paris and Milan shows on to giant screens - have made Rutson something of a celebrity. 'I get jumped on in the store and on the street,' she admits. Her influence on the Beijing fashion scene also extends beyond Lane Crawford. Last year she placed a promising young Chinese designer with Givenchy's haute couture atelier in Paris. 'The world is opening up to the Chinese - they're travelling more, they have more access to the internet, they're buying international magazines. Our customer is so switched on,' says Rutson. 'I've been in retail for 25 years, and I've never experienced such a consumer hunger or necessity to buy.'

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19-09-2008
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From style.com Blogs April 2008
Quote:
Spring Buys
The buyer: Sarah Rutson, fashion director, Lane Crawford, Hong Kong

What did you invest in heavily for spring? We heavily invested and increased the buys on Dries Van Noten, Lanvin (above), Stella McCartney. These designer brands are the most heavily demanded this season—they're on every woman's want list. Azzedine Alaïa in RTW and accessories continues its sell-out status with every new delivery. Trends we really got behind were floral prints and diaphanous fabrics and every dress style you can imagine. I also felt very strongly about bringing in the single-breasted sleek men's style jacket—I felt it added more of an edge and attitude to the strong sense of femininty this season. The best sellers are coming from Rag & Bone and Helmut Lang. We have waiting lists for the gladiator shoes by Givenchy. The moon dress by Roland Mouret, the short ruffled plissé jacket by Burberry Prorsum in pale gray, and I would say every exit of Lanvin is oversubscribed and pre-sold. In the contemporary area, Elizabeth and James and very dark denim wide-leg jeans by J. Brand are doing well. I'm also slightly cropping our skinny denim to a 7/8th length, which makes it look newer. I feel it's important that I start something new rather than always waiting for a designer or trend to do it. Having our own point of view makes us different from everyone else. Individuality and a unique voice are to me what new luxury is about.

What are your customers asking for when they come in? Customers want color, color, color and really want to make a new statement. Sharon Wauhrob and Haider Ackermann continue to increase each season in customer demand and recognition.


Last edited by Cicciolina; 30-09-2008 at 07:24 PM.
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20-09-2008
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hmm, that's interesting. The idea of a designer store pushing a look or creating one that they find 'fresh' in the vein of a designer instead of just buying things they like from a designer or that they feel their customer would like....

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20-09-2008
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thanks for the articles Cicciolina

I really think she's doing a great job at LC!

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20-09-2008
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So her job involved designing the store layout/decoration?

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20-09-2008
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^ not so sure about that. I think she's just doing the buying...but fashion director sounds posher than buyer

Still, I think she's doing a wonderful job by pushing new names as well. I mean, ok, the Chinese might be willing and able to buy high fashion but still, she needs to make sure LC carries the right stuff.

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20-09-2008
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Did she style the campaign? It has many different people like actors, models etc....

[my scan]

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20-09-2008
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^ Joe McKenna styled it ..Sarah must have been involved to some extent though..I guess..

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20-09-2008
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fascinating woman! when i go back to China i will ask after her- i think she's really doing a great job, shaping the industry over there!

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