Accessories rake in about 60 per cent of a designer's revenue, making next month's fair in Basel, Switzerland particularly important.
The little things leave the biggest impression
Next month is the annual watch fair in Basel, Switzerland, and I'm curious to see if the trend for thinner, more slender, stealth-wealth styles - which threatened to eclipse sports watches last year - has been nurtured or nuked. Last week the UK department store Selfridges reported a 30 per cent rise in the sort of big, flashy sports styles that yuppies wore in the 1980s. Shop assistants were apparently taking orders over the phone for pricey models such as the Rolex Daytona - which would set you back £6,400 (Dh37,510) and which is Selfridges' best-selling watch for the second year running - and Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak - their second-best seller, from £9,950 (Dh58, 600) - like Chinese takeaways.
Bankers and big earners want a lot of watch for their money, ideally packed with gadgets and dials that give you the time simultaneously in Monte Carlo and Beverly Hills. The bottom has fallen out of the luxury car market, but watches seem to be hanging in there - just. But I guess time is on their side. Possibly because no clothing manufacturer can afford him anymore, the fashion photographer David LaChapelle was commissioned by the luxury German brand Maybach shoot its latest campaign, which features scantily clad women wearing the sort of supersized styles favoured by natty dressers such as Jay-Z, Kanye West and P-Diddy.
The latter just bought his son a Dh1.3 million Maybach for his 16th birthday. And you just know what it must look like, right? It's certainly nothing like the style being worn by the fashion cognoscenti. Have you seen the latest plastic Timex 80 Indiglos? They may look like they fell out of a Christmas cracker, but are in fact available only in the most exclusive concept stores around the world. I know what you are thinking. Why do fashion types obsess over such trivia? Why must there always be a next big thing? And as we know, usually this is not big but little - at least in size, not price. But you see, it's the little things that keep the industry ticking over (excuse the pun).
Accessories rake in around 60 per cent of a designer's revenue. Luxury conglomerates such as LVMH and Gucci Group rely on sales of perfumes and lipsticks (which can be sold at four to 10 times more than the cost of their manufacture), as well as shoes, bags, fashion watches and sunglasses, to justify forking out thousands for catwalk shows that hardly reap the same dividend. Now, because designer shoes and bags are beyond the financial reach of most women, even the big boys have to think outside the box.
This year, the biggest rival to Panerai's Pam 00104 - a watch that consistently boasts the longest waiting list globally (one year) - along with this season's must-have Chanel clogs, is of course the iPad. Possibly one of the reasons I'm obsessing over the little things this season is because I haven't quite rustled up the enthusiasm (or cash) to buy one of the so-called key spring clothing pieces.
The new harem jogger pant hybrid boiler suits, for instance, leave me cold. On the other hand, I'm crazy for small-with-maximum-impact accessories that are flourishing in the recession. I was compelled to buy a pair of Jackson Pollock-esque splattered Converse trainers by WGACA (What Goes Around Comes Around, the trendy New York vintage store), in the newly redesigned fourth floor fashion destination at Harvey Nichols in London.
This is being billed as the first-ever fashion supermarket. It's really more a bizarre bazaar packed with irresistible novelty buys the likes of which you have never seen before (not even online). There's a wall of specially commissioned girls-only trainers (including styles by Christian Louboutin and Lanvin) and suitcases created by the industry darling Erdem. Nothing is cheap, but many things, however frivolous, have a function (Sponge Bob SquarePants motorcycle helmet, anyone?).
It started with Louboutin's Barbie and Lanvin's snow globes. Where will it end? I was, however, relieved to see that the items drawing the largest crowd at the Harvey Nichols launch were not the collectable china figurines by Albert Elbaz but Alexander Wang's cat's-eye sunglasses. The big fashion accessory is not quite over yet. These supersized pastel creations look like the sort of sunglasses the serenely beautiful Betty Draper from Mad Men might wear. Just like the TV show, everyone is talking about them.