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Of Armani’s fur-free pledge and an $8,000 Dickens letter

A round-up of news from the world of fashion, auctions and luxury

Prada's CEO-in-waiting Lorenzo Bertelli at Prada's industrial headquarters' garden factory in Valvigna, Italy.
Prada's CEO-in-waiting Lorenzo Bertelli at Prada's industrial headquarters' garden factory in Valvigna, Italy. (REUTERS)

Luxury brands are increasingly realising that to stay in the game they will have to clean up their act. Under pressure from conscious shoppers and animal rights organisations, the Armani Group has announced it will stop using the super-soft angora wool, removed from live rabbits, starting from the 2022-23 autumn/winter season. Few weeks ago, luxury e-commerce platform Farfetch had said it would stop selling angora wool by April 2022. Three months ago, Saint Laurent owner Kering had said that all its brands were going fur-free starting from the fall 2022 collections.

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Prada, on the other hand, is seeing an opportunity in the second-hand fashion sector. And why not? The secondhand, or pre-loved, fashion world grew by 65% between 2017 and 2021 thanks to younger, conscious shoppers who want high-end goods at affordable prices. The sector is likely to reach 33 billion euros ($37.2 billion) in size this year. At the Reuters Next conference, Prada marketing chief and heir designate Lorenzo Bertelli said, “Second hand is a strategy we have been investigating for more than a year. I cannot disclose too much but for sure second hand is there. We will take it as an opportunity. It can be a partnership with a player or it can be something more in-house, or both of them, a sort of hybrid solution like for e-commerce.”

Hermes, meanwhile, will soon join one of Europe’s main equity benchmarks, the Euro Stoxx 50. A Bloomberg report says the inclusion, which will be effective as of 20 December, could further bolster the French luxury company’s visibility among investors. Like peer LVMH, Hermes—the maker of world-famous Kelly and Birkin handbags— has been enjoying earnings from festive sales and revenge shopping that accentuated during the pandemic.

Up for grabs

A villa in Rome, complete with a ceiling painted by Caravaggio, will be up for grabs after it was restored by its last occupants—a Texas-born princess and her late husband, a member of one of Rome’s aristocratic families. According to an AP report, Casino dell’Aurora, or Villa Ludovisi, is a “monumental property” built in 1570 and is “among the most prestigious architectural and landscape beauties of pre-unification Rome,” with three garages, the Caravaggio, two roof terraces and a “splendid garden with arboreal essences and tall trees, pedestrian paths, stairs and rest areas.” The villa, which has been in the Ludovisi family since the early 1600s, became the subject of an inheritance dispute after the death of prince Nicolo Boncompagni Ludovisi in 2018. A judge recently ordered the villa put up for auction, scheduled for 18 January. Its estimated value is 471 million euros ($533 million) and a starting bid set at 353 million euros ($400 million).

Another item soon to be up for auction is an 1858 convivial letter written by Charles Dickens while he was touring Britain giving readings of his story A Christmas Carol. A Reuters report says in the four-page handwritten note to his friend, the architect and member of parliament Joseph Paxton, he describes a dinner held in Dickens’ honour that Paxton was persuaded to stay away from over political concerns. The letter is expected to fetch 4,000-6,000 pounds ($5,300-$8,000) at Christie’s Valuable Books & Manuscripts sale on 15 December. Dickens writes that he had considered mentioning Paxton’s absence in his talk. “After a careful study of our blunder headed Whitten (a local businessman), I came to the conclusion that I had better not, for I saw that being uneasy, if he could only find a hole big enough to put his foot in, he would unquestionably do it.”

Thomas Venning, head of the books department at Christie’s London, said, “This is really a splendid letter, because it brings together Charles Dickens and one of the other great Victorian men of the age, Sir Joseph Paxton. He’s writing in rather kind of colourful terms to express his frustration about why things have gone wrong and paints rather a colourful picture of the local businessman who seems to have made a mess of the whole thing - a man called Whitten.”

Venning added that the letter gives “a flavour of Christmas, it gives a flavour of Dickens as in his public persona, and it gives that kind of flash of writing ability that you really want from Dickens—the kind of colour and enjoyment of a strange local incident.”

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