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2018 fashion recap: most important news of the year

By Marjorie van Elven



2018 was certainly an eventful year for the fashion industry: high-profile mergers and acquisitions, big retail players struggling to keep afloat, fashion designers buying back their brands... It’s time to look back at the most important developments of the year.


Hollywood actresses protested against sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination in the movie industry by wearing black dresses at the 2018 Golden Globes. French luxury conglomerate Kering announced it would sell its stake in Puma. Kim Jones left the role of Menswear Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton, while Hedi Slimane was announced as Celine’s new Creative Director.


Fashion designer Carolina Herrera retired from her namesake label. French label Jacquemus ventured into menswear for the first time, unveiling its debut collection at Paris Fashion Week. The UK government required companies to publish a gender pay gap report, forcing Marks & Spencer to reveal it pays women 12.3 percent less than men.


Amazon’s chairman Jeff Bezos dethroned Bill Gates as the world’s richest person. Stella McCartney bought her label back from Kering. Riccardo Tisci was announced by Burberry as its new Creative Director.

Meanwhile, Eyewear powerhouse Luxottica merged with lens maker Essilor to become the world’s largest eyewear company. In the United States, department store chain Nordstrom rejected a takeover by the Nordstrom family.

Asos embraced diversity by featuring a broad range of models on its website, but a government-enforced report revealed a the company’s gender pay gap is above the UK average.

Kim Jones took over at Dior Homme, while Off-White’s Virgil Abloh succeeded him at Louis Vuitton. Expectations were high for Abloh’s debut collection, as he was likely to bring more streetwear to the French fashion house.


John Galliano joined the list of luxury brands going fur-free. Spanish apparel group Cortefiel changed its name to Tendam. Both LVMH and Farfetch launched startup accelerators. Companies operating websites in the European Union had to comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by the end of May, but less than one month before the deadline, several retailers still weren’t ready.


All eyes were on Meghan Markle’s sartorial choices ahead of her wedding with Prince Harry. She chose Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller to design her wedding dress and Stella McCartney to create her reception gown. The latter received so many compliments McCartney decided to launch the dress commercially as part of a debut bridal line months later. Despite of Markle’s promotion of British fashion, UK retail is going through its toughest spot since 2013.

The month of May was also shaken by a video exposé from PETA depicting animal abuse in angora goat farms in South Africa, the world’s biggest mohair producer. This led a series of fashion brands, including H&M, Zara and Topshop, to to ban mohair from their collections.

With “Heavenly Bodies” as this year’s theme, MET Gala invited celebrities and fashionistas to explore the relationship between fashion and religion. One of the surprises on this year’s red carpet was the presence of fast fashion retailer H&M, which designed four custom-made looks. MET’s accompanying exhibition was an astounding success, having been visited by over 1.3 million people between May and September.

May was also the month of acquisitions, with Delta Galil acquiring Eminence; Fosun buying a majority stake in Wolford; Walmart buying Flipkart; Richemont acquiring Yoox Net-a-Porter; and Macy’s acquiring Story New York. Meanwhile, LVMH invested in fashion search engine Lyst and French label Carven filed for bankruptcy.


American fashion designer Kate Spade took her own life after years battling against depression. UK Parliament hosted a debate about fur. Belgian designer Dries van Noten sold his eponymous label to Spanish conglomerate Puig, raising the question whether it is possible for designers to survive independently, without the backing of a large corporation. Meanwhile, Italian fund FSI acquired 41 percent of Missoni’s shares.

Off-White’s suitcase collection in partnership with luxury luggage brand Rimowa became the new “it bag”. The brand led by Virgil Abloh also announced an upcoming collection with Ikea in June.

Speaking of successful collabs, Boohoo’s line with heiress turned reality TV star Paris Hilton flew off the (virtual) shelves. American brand Fashion Nova, an Instagram darling which turned out to be the most googled fashion brand of the year in the United States, unveiled its first menswear collection.

Also in June, Bottega Veneta parted ways with Creative Director Tomas Maier after 17 years and roped in 32-year-old Daniel Lee to succeed him. Guess co-founder Paul Marciano quit after supermodel Kate Upton accused him of groping her years ago.


Burberry came under fire for destroying unsold products in order to avoid markdowns. Dior relaunched its “Saddle Bag” after almost two decades. Puma and Dolce & Gabbana fought in court over fur sandals only a handful of people actually bought. Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com announced plans to launch in Europe following a 550 million investment from Google. Ivanka Trump ended her label after major retailers parted ways with her due to her father’s actions as president of the United States.


VF Corporation announced the spinoff of its denim brands Wrangler and Lee. Former employees sued Nike for gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Farfetch filed for IPO. Burberry unveiled a new logo and monogram under Riccardo Tisci. Helsinki Fashion Week pledged to ban leather. Italian label Ermenegildo Zegna acquired Thom Browne while Charlesbank bought footwear company Rockport out of bankruptcy. Italian hat maker Borsalino, made famous by Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca”, also found new owners.


Five years after the Rana Plaza disaster, Bangladesh finally raised the minimum wage for garment workers. Nike went through another media storm after making an ousted NFL player the face of its advertising campaign. Speaking of controversy, Burberry took a step back and pledged to stop destroying unsold goods. The British label also promised to ban fur, as did London Fashion Week the same month.

But the biggest news of September was definitely the acquisition of Versace by Michael Kors Holdings,which changed its name to Capri Holdings Limited to better reflect its new status as a luxury conglomerate -- the company purchased footwear label Jimmy Choo in 2017.

Meanwhile, Alibaba’s Jack Ma announced his retirementby 2019, Madewell entered the menswear market and L Brands shut down Henri Bledel.

Hedi Slimane was met with criticism when he unveiled his debut collection for Celine (after changing the company’s name to Celine, without an accent on the first E, and adopting a minimalist logo). Fashionistas the world over accused him of being a one trick pony, pointing out the resemblance of his new pieces to his past work at Saint Laurent. Fans of Celine’s former Creative Director, Phoebe Philo, even gathered in Paris to celebrate the label’s previous designs and the search for old Celine items skyrockets on second-hand websites in the subsequent months.


After being heavily criticized for its low wages, Amazon decided to raise its minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour in the United States. The online giant also ventured into brick and mortar retail by launching a pop-up store in London. More stores across Europe popped up for the holiday season.

British investment firm Lion Capital LLP sold Hema to a Dutch investor 11 years after acquiring it from another Dutch investor. The company announced plans to expand even more in Europe and beyond.

Speaking of expansion, American personal styling service Stitch Fix announced its entrance in the UK market in 2019. Walmart acquired intimates label Bare Necessities while Icicle Group bought Carven out of bankruptcy. However, the Chinese apparel company found it best to part ways with the label’s Creative Director, Serge Ruffieux.

Speaking of Creative Directors, Jean-charles de Castelbajac took this role at United Colors of Benetton, for which 2018 wasn’t the best of years. Lacoste, the French label best known for its crocodile logo, also announced its first female Creative Director in History, Louise Trotter. After a collaborative capsule collection, Timberland roped in British designer Christopher Raeburn.

In the UK, Sports Direct acquired department store chain House of Fraser for 95 million pounds, and a series of store closings ensued. Debenhams isn’t doing much better: it decided to close over 50 stores in October, following a record annual loss of 492 million pounds. Meanwhile, Arcadia Group went through another kind of crisis: its chairman, Philip Green, was accused of sexual and racial harassment against employees, leading Topshop to fall in consumers’ opinion according to a survey.

It’s not only in the UK that department stores are struggling. US chain Sears, once the largest retailer in the world, also went officially bankrupt in October.

In Myanmar, female garment workers protesting for a living wage were violently attacked.


Proenza Schouler’s founders bought the company back from Castanea Partners. H&M closed down affordable denim brand Cheap Monday. Esprit announced a major rebranding strategy. Kering halted its seven-year e-commerce deal with Yoox Net-a-Porter, following the company’s acquisition by Kering’s competitor Richemont in May. Dolce & Gabbana was forced to cancel a fashion show in China due to a public outcry about an advertising campaign and racist marks supposedly made by Stefano Gabbana on Instagram. The designer claimed his account was hacked.


Ted Baker’s CEO took a leave of absence following a petition against “forced hugging” launched by employees of the company. London-based Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy was accused of equally appalling behavior, with screenshots of supposed inappropriate messages to a minor leaking on the Internet. Meanwhile, Prada was accused of racism and insensitivity due to an animal charm made to look like a monkey with large lips. Consumers said the piece looked very similar to blackface imagery.

Stan Smith scored lifelong deal with Adidas, while Chanel joined the ever-growing list of brands banning fur. Similarly to Burberry and Celine, Balmain launched a new, minimalist logo.

Farfetch acquired streetwear marketplace Stadium Goods. Rumors take the fashion world by storm about Raf Simons leaving Calvin Klein, following an earnings call in which the PVH CEO Emanuel Chirico said he was disappointed because the investments made on the label did not deliver the results he expected. L Brands (Victoria’s Secret) announced the sale of intimates brand La Senza to an affiliate of Regent LP, a global private equity firm, while VF finally announced the name of its separate jeanswear business: Kontoor Brands.

Laura Ashley, which went two times into administration in just three years, announced the closure of 40 stores in the UK. Speaking of stores closing, French retailers struggled in December as “yellow vest” protesters forced them to shut their doors for several weekends in a row. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Accord came to a standstill.

Fashion giants such as H&M, Inditex and Burberry sign UN Charter to fight climate change.

Homepage image: courtesy of Nike; Courtesy of Michael Kors; Fashion Nova Facebook; Pixabay; Victoria Beckham Facebook; Yves Saint Laurent Facebook. Nicole Kidman - Hubert Boesl / DPA; Hedi Slimane - courtesy of LVMH; Carolina Herrera AW18/ Catwalkpictures; GDPR - Pixabay; Royal wedding - Andrew Matthews / POOL / AFP; Kate Spade website; Burberry Facebook; Wrangler by Peter Max; Courtesy of Michael Kors; Amazon newsroom; Diet Prada Instagram screenshot; Adidas.com

Recap 2018