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Brands urged to look beyond clothing for design inspiration

Designer Sir Paul Smith has called on fashion brands to “stop looking at clothes” and turn to other industries and products for design ideas.

Smith, whose eponymous company turned over £168.4m in the year to June 30, 2010, told the International Herald Tribune’s Heritage Luxury conference in London this week: “I do things that are associated with me, but not to do with clothing, like designing a bike. It’s important to have character and charisma… it gives you a youthful association.”

Smith said heritage brands sometimes struggled to appeal to younger consumers. Other luxury fashion businesses at the conference, including Burberry, warned against an over-reliance on heritage, and called for brands and retailers to combine references to their histories with innovation.

Burberry told the conference it would launch Burberry Bespoke in early 2011, an online platform that would allow customers to create their own version of Burberry’s staple trench coat using 12 million possible combinations of buttons, collar style, fabric and colour.

Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts said: “The global consumer needs to ‘feel’ a brand, needs an emotive experience - great product is a given.”

Christopher Bailey, chief creative officer at Burberry, said Burberry Bespoke “celebrates” the brand’s history but on an interactive, forward-thinking platform.

Also speaking at the conference, Lanvin artistic director Alber Elbaz said he had turned down previous offers of brand collaborations but saw working with fast-fashion chain H&M for autumn 10 as an opportunity to be “generous to the world”.

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