No Longer Just Toys for Boys

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The Maserati Birdcage concept car

Big engines, swish interiors and plenty of speed. That?s what more and more women are looking for in a luxury vehicle, according to a few reports out this week. In the adrenaline-fuelled world of sports cars and grand saloons, automakers are beginning to take the female market more seriously by designing more compact (and often affordable) models and also by marketing specifically to women through dedicated campaigns.

Only last week,Luxury Dailyhighlighted the placement of recent ads by Cadillac in women?s fashion and celebrity magazines such as W and Vanity Fair, noting that the ad for theCTS-V coupe ?appeared immediately ahead of ads from Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Christian Dior.?

In particular, the surge in sales of so-called ?entry level? models like the Rolls-Royce Ghost are being attributed in part to a rise in women buyers. It?s whatThe Daily Mailsays is responsible for the ?boom? at the British auto brand.The Economistoffered an interesting statistic ? that ?one in ten Ghosts are sold to women, who have hitherto steered clear of the brand.?

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The Rolls-Royce Ghost, exterior and interior

You don?t need to read between the lines in aBloombergfeature on the same trend in China. Authors pointed out that while a third of China?s millionaires are women, ?they buy a disproportionately large share of high-performance sports cars in the world?s fastest-growing major economy. Fiat SpA said the "percentage of women buying its Maseratis in China is triple that of Europe, while the percentage buying its Ferraris is double the global average.?

?Rolls-Royce is a male brand. And women like that.?

Rolls-Royce?sCEO, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, toldThe Daily Mailthat what seems to be driving many women to purchase such cars is in fact their inherent ?masculinity?. "Women love their Ghosts,? he said. ?But they are not buying a car for women. Rolls-Royce is a male brand. And women like that. It?s a nice masculine car.?

It?s also a sentiment echoed by several of the Chinese women interviewed byBloomberg. Although women?s attitudes there are perhaps more pronounced than in cultures where women have had powerful careers for much longer, their mood is still rather telling.

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Porsche Boxster Spyder

?Fast cars have always been a man?s world. Women buying such cars are just seeking an equal standing with our male counterparts,? offered one. Another explained, ?nowadays, women do a lot of men?s jobs. We work very hard and need something to reward ourselves?. It?s a big, big toy.?

Sounds mighty familiar, after all.

Milan Menswear: What the Critics Are Saying

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Umit Benan, fall/winter 2011, Milan Fashion Week

The fall/winter menswear season kicked off in Milan over the weekend, bringing with it some rather interesting insider observations for the luxury industry to decipher.

Style.com?sTim Banks proclaimed newcomerUmit Benan?quite possibly the most inspired interpretation of menswear?all week.? The German-born Turkish designer who worked in New York before moving on to Milan made a subtly subversive collection out of a Wall Street villain muse thanks to such tailored luxury classics as the houndstooth jacket and the three-piece suit.

?Umit Benan: the most inspired interpretation of menswear all week.?

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Alexander McQueen fall/winter 2011 collection

Banks alsohad praisefor Sarah Burton?s militaristic collection for Alexander McQueen, not least of which was ?her mentor?s eye for precision?. On that note, while in Florence at the Pitti Uomo trade show, aBritish Voguereporter scooped an exclusive interview with Gareth Pugh over the erroneous rumours that first swirled around his possible appointment to McQueen shortly after the designer?s unfortunate death.

Another fan-in-the-making of upstart Umit Benan seems to be Suzy Menkes ofThe International Herald Tribunewho said she found his collection intriguing (but was less impressed with many of the big Italian names). Gucci, she noted, was admirable and ?nice? with its alpaca sweaters and furrowed beaver coats but ?not a knock-out? while Prada failed to ?reset the fashion compass [as usual].?

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Gucci fall/winter 2011 show

WWDgave high marks for Giorgio Armani?s luxurious take on texture ? tactile weaves, velvet and several fabrics with both glossy and matte finishes. The iconic rag trade journal also predicted a good reception for the Marc Jacobs collection. Meanwhile,The New York Times?s T Magazinekept tally of other key critics? comments in a ?scorecard? style report which found Bottega Veneta and Jil Sander among the clear leaders in terms of buzz.

Another highly anticipated show ? and indeed one of the few remaining to show as this goes to press ? is the debut of Mugler by Nicola Formichetti (the provocative stylist appointed by Thierry Mugler?s owner
s to revive the men?s collection). Until the verdict is out, a preview has been made available byV Man.

Elsewhere, Jimmy Choo founder and chief creative officer Tamara Mellon suggested toThe Telegraphthat the brand?s newly unveiled range of men?s shoes will be somehow suitable for both the artist and the investment banker.

Could the fashion industry?s new positive obsession with bankers suggest that some of us are finally close to putting ?crisis-speak? behind us?