Weekly Link Roundup

Another Unlikely Pandemic Shortage: Boba Tea (The New York Times): “… a surge of pent-up demand for products assembled abroad, coupled with a shortage of workers due to coronavirus cases or quarantine protocols, has caused a monthslong maritime pileup at ports in Los Angeles and San Francisco and left ships delivering goods from Asia — including tapioca — waiting out at sea … Boba suppliers in the San Francisco Bay Area who are running low on tapioca said their shipments of fully formed boba came from Taiwan, while supplies of cassava root, which is used to make tapioca, came from Thailand and islands in the Pacific Ocean … shipments had been backed up for several months, and … existing stockpile of tapioca was running dangerously low … [a sales representative] expected supply to return to close to normal by the summer.”

Does Kering Need a Major Acquisition? (The Business of Fashion): “Compared to early 2019 … sales were up 5.5 percent excluding currency shifts … the group’s recovery is still lagging far behind some of its biggest rivals: … LVMH reported fashion and leather goods sales had jumped 37 percent over 2019, while UBS analysts expect Hermès to report a 19 percent jump … But there are few deals that would appeal to the group. A brand needs to have sufficient scale to be worth Kering’s time and energy (sales of $1 billion seems to be the threshold). It also needs a clear brand platform, but not one that competes with any of the brands it already owns. Ideally, there would be no founders or hands-on family shareholders who would stay on to interfere with the group’s authority to appoint designers and chief executive officers following an acquisition. And they want all of that at a price that doesn’t exceed their standards for ‘financial discipline’ … Burberry, with no controlling shareholder, is always for sale … Salvatore Ferragamo was exploring a stake sale … and Giorgio Armani has said he would consider taking on a partner in the business. But those brands have both been resistant to previous turnaround efforts, making them uncertain picks … A famous founder might keep Prada from being a fit, too, should the family ever decide to sell.”

Really Though, What Jeans Are in Style Now? (Slate): “In previous years, denim trends always seemed to coalesce into a single, if expansive, theme. The broad thrust of it was legible even to those who didn’t read fashion blogs or frequent particularly stylish hangouts … The market is a lot murkier in 2021. In the years before we went into lockdown, the mandate for skinny jeans loosened up: People who cared about fashion or lived in fashion-forward locales had abandoned them, but skinny jeans were still commonplace. Now, no one is quite sure which jeans our legs will want once our arms have been jabbed. Slim-cut, baggy, straight-leg, flared, wide, barrel-leg, boot-cut, bell-bottomed, cuffed, frayed, asymmetrical, patchwork, distressed, low-rise, high-waisted, paper-bag-waisted, elastic-waisted, elastic-ankled—they’re all on the menu right now. But the fashion industry and its spectators thrive on the novelty and transience of trends, so denim writers have been straining to create infinitesimal distinctions between the allegedly cool and the allegedly uncool anyway.”

Cottagecore Was Just the Beginning (The Atlantic): “The Aesthetics Wiki is organized by suffix: ‘Wave’ has 17 main pages; ‘Goth’ has 14; ‘Core’ has 125. There are also 27 pages dedicated to the various subgenres of ‘academia,’ which can be dark, light, chaotic, romantic, pastel, or darkest, among other qualifiers … At this point, the word aesthetic is totally divorced from its academic origins … in broader internet parlance, it now means a collection of signifiers or, more precisely, a ‘vibe’ … Maybe unsurprisingly, at the moment, the most popular aesthetics are wildly different but united in an expression of deep nostalgia. Often, teens and 20-somethings are styling themselves in the image of past subcultures they may or may not ever have participated in … Online, figuring out who you are entails a constant search for ‘inspo,’ as well as an accurate assessment of one’s ideal look and attitude, which is habitually pursued by taking BuzzFeed quizzes, scrolling through feeds, compiling mood boards, and bookmarking color schemes.”

3D Printing Stocks Are Still Running on Hype (The Wall Street Journal): “3D printing companies saw renewed interest amid the pandemic from healthcare companies looking for help in producing medical supplies. The technology was able to help create nasal swabs, critical-care ventilators and face masks to bridge the gaps caused by supply shortages and delays from traditional manufacturersWhile the design potential of the technology is certainly alluring, it still remains to be seen whether the industry’s products are ready to go from prototyping objects to mass production. That becomes a problem when you consider that at least some of that change appears to be priced in. Most legacy publicly listed players are trading at significant premiums to where they started the year. 3D Systems, for example, now commands an 83% higher multiple on the basis of enterprise value to forward sales.”

There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing (The New York Times): “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021 … Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.”

Hermès Sales Bounce Back 44 Percent (The Business of Fashion): “Hermès’ first-quarter sales showed a sharp recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Revenues of €2.1 billion ($2.5 billion) jumped 44 percent year-on-year, and were up 33 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels in early 2019.”

The Rise of Ron DeSantis (The Atlantic): “DeSantis’s rise is partly a story about him. It’s partly a story about his critics. But perhaps above all, it’s a story about his state … The Florida governor has figured out that Republicans love a culture-war brawl, but that overdoing it can alienate a general-election electorate. His solution has been to provoke narrowly targeted fights over issues that matter a lot to highly engaged conservatives and liberals—but that will not mean much to anybody else come 2024.”

Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Prada Push Blockchain to Ensure Authenticity (Bloomberg): “The alliance of the world’s largest luxury-goods makers plans to make a blockchain-enabled solution available to all luxury brands to provide shoppers with assurance what they’re buying is authentic … Plus it will make the products traceable in a transparent way … This solution will enable consumers to know whether a product is counterfeit or not by providing an encrypted certificate of guarantee … The global trade in counterfeits will balloon to $991 billion by 2022, almost double the level of 2013.”

The Housing Market Is Crazier Than It’s Been Since 2006 (The Wall Street Journal): “The past year has been the hottest for sales activity in 14 years. Home values are rising in practically every corner of the U.S., and median sale prices in dozens of metro areas have posted double-digit percentage increases from a year ago … Supply, meanwhile, has never been tighter. New-home construction plummeted during the 2007-09 recession and remained low in the following years. Homeowners are also staying in their houses longer, in part because aging baby boomers are staying healthier later in life and choosing not to downsize. The number of homes for sale in March was roughly half of what it was a year ago … Still, there have been some recent indications that price growth could slow as more homes come on the market. Rising mortgage rates—which sit at the highest level since June and have been climbing steadily in recent weeks—could price some buyers out of the market later this year.”

U.S. Home Sales Are Surging. When Does the Music Stop? (The New York Times): “The median sale price of an existing home in the U.S. was $313,000 in February, up nearly 16 percent from a year earlier, when a 3 to 5 percent annual increase is considered healthy … What awaits at the end of this frenetic period is not likely to resemble the 2008 housing bubble, which brought on a drawn-out crash when it finally burst … Today’s supercharged market has been caused by pandemic forces that have challenged other assumptions about the market … Nationwide, housing inventory was at a record-low 1.03 million units at the end of February, down 29.5 percent from a year earlier, a record decline … As a result, homes sold in an average of 20 days, a record speed, when 60 days is typical … Unlike the last major housing crisis, in which sale prices plummeted and many buyers were stuck with risky, adjustable-rate financing, today the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage remains near record lows, lenders rely on stricter underwriting requirements, and homeowners have more liquidity.”

Low-Skill Workers Aren’t a Problem to Be Fixed (The Atlantic): “… entry-level jobs, jobs that do not require much education or a formal credential, jobs that do not require experienced workers, jobs without much opportunity for advancement, menial jobs, and … low-wage jobs [are lumped together]. But those are all very different things, with wildly different policy implications … The most gutting problem with these terms is that many ‘low-skill jobs’ held by ‘low-skill workers’ are anything but. Many of these are difficult, physically and emotionally taxing jobs that, in fact, require employees to develop extraordinary skills … A great deal of skill is necessary to wash a lunch rush’s worth of dishes. A great deal of skill is required to change the clothes of an immobilized senior who might not want to have her clothes changed, or to wrangle a class of toddlers, or to clean up an overgrown yard at breakneck pace, or to handle five tables of drunk guys who want their wings yesterday. The kind of patience and equanimity it takes to be a good care worker? Not a skill, apparently. The kind of fortitude it takes to be a fruit picker? Not a skill either … We understand jobs to be low-skill because of the kinds of people who hold those jobs; we see certain skills as valuable because of the kinds of people asked to use those skills; we ignore other skills because of the kinds of people asked to use those skills; and we shunt workers into “low-skill” jobs due to circumstances out of their control.”

Who Is Actually Livestream Shopping? (The Business of Fashion): “This year, Chinese consumers are expected to spend $300 billion on products featured in livestreaming video … Livestreaming has a long way to go before hitting those highs in the US. The market is expected to reach $11 billion this year … so far, many American consumers aren’t buying what livestream shopping sites and apps are selling … Some say they’re not interested in signing up for yet another shopping or social media platform. Others aren’t sold on tuning into a livestream to catch a deal, when discounts are available 24/7 elsewhere … Brands have had the most success when they introduce an exclusive element to their livestreams. That could be a promo code just for the people who tuned in, or the ability to shop a drop before anyone else.”

The Off-White Papers (The New York Times): “Since 2017, lawyers for Off-White have filed suit against nearly 1,500 entities in the United States federal court in Manhattan alone … A trademark is defined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as ‘a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.’ One job of a lawyer working for a fashion brand, then, is to prove that someone else’s use of a word, phrase or symbol is confusingly similar to the brand’s trademarked word, phrase or symbol — and that this was done knowingly by the seller ‘to cause confusion’ or ‘to deceive.’ This does not include the similar but nonidentical knockoffs of designer brands often found in fast-fashion stores.”

♥ Recently purchased: Maje Cotton Polo Top (also here), Sézane Christie Jacket, J. Crew Canvas Espadrille Flats, W Concept Athena Blouse, L’Agence Rebecca Long Cardigan (on sale here), and Nike Dry Crop Twist Training Top.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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