Fashion journalist Patty Huntington, on her blog Frockwriter, has disclosed email exchanges to attest to her report about Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s wife Rosmah Mansor’s expenses on exclusive designer label clothing in Sydney, Australia.
For the first time today, Huntington, in a lengthy write-up on her blog, annotated every detail on what transpired between her and designer Carl Kapp as well as his publicist, Little Hero, before the matter was picked up by The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) on Jan 21.
Huntington (right) said that she was pitched the story on Jan 16 by Little Hero’s staff member Holly Beer, who sent an email to the blogger on Rosmah’s purchase of 61 items from the Carl Kapp Shop.
Following up the matter, Huntington verified the premier’s visit during New Year’s eve by contacting the Malaysian High Commission and The Darling hotel, which is part of The Star casino complex in Sydney, after which she spoke to Kapp, who spoke on the 61 items purchased.
After the issue hit the local media last week, Kapp, in a statement to Malaysiakini, said the prime minister’s wife and her entourage, including Islamic Fashion Festival chairperson Raja Rezza Shah, had visited his shop and had made various separate purchases.
“In a nutshell, Kapp now claims that Rosmah Mansor came to his store not to make a large personal order of clothes for herself, but in some kind of philanthropic capacity as patron of the IFF.
“Any spending was spread evenly across the various members of her entourage, which included the head of the IFF. Who happens to be a man. Kapp – who only makes women’s wear – is now saying that he is definitely not being flown to Kuala Lumpur next month at Rosmah Mansor’s expense for a second round of fittings or any other nebulous purpose connected to the alleged purchase of his clothes by any number of visiting dignitaries.
“Adding, words to the effect, that he is in and out of Malaysia so many times throughout the year on business, Kuala Lumpur is practically his second home. And finally, Kapp implies that he has absolutely no idea how the highly sensitive information about this distinguished visit got out,” said Huntington.
The South African-born designer was responding to queries following a report that estimated Rosmah could have spent up to A$100,000 (RM323,000) at his store.
Coming to Rosmah’s defence
Raja Rezza came to Rosmah’s defence yesterday, saying that the 61 pieces purchased at Kapp’s boutique in Paddington in Sydney, were actually “stock” for his shop in London.
Huntington, however, contested Kapp’s assertion that the purchases were made by a “sizeable group”, backing this up by stating that neither Little Hero, in three emails, nor Kapp, in a 15-minute interview, had stated that any purchases or orders were made by anyone other than Rosmah.
“In fact both Little Hero and Kapp explicitly said that the orders were for Rosmah. Rosmah is not one of Kapp’s standard sizes, he told me. Kapp added that he makes to a size 14 off the rack, but to 18-20 in made to measure – which accounts for 50 percent of his business, he said.
“Additionally, all of the garments for Rosmah were in need of special customisation such as extended hemlines or long sleeves, with at least one dress due to be converted into a coat.
“Kapp said he took the client’s measurements, so as to be able to tailor the garments to her needs. He told me on the record, ‘It started out at the shop, but there was so much that she wanted, so I suggested that I prepare a presentation… She followed me into the studio and started pointing at fabrics’,” said Huntington.
The orders were processed and Kapp was paid upfront, said Huntington, stressing that neither Beer nor Kapp had made any mention of IFF or the London boutique in their press statements.
She also cornered Little Hero, who claimed that the reports had given the impression that Kapp’s establishment “is indiscreet, willing to divulge personal and private information about clients”.
Reproducing the emails related to the purchases, dated Jan 16 onwards, Huntington pointed out that it was nowhere stated that the material was off-the-record nor was there a privacy disclaimer at the end of the emails.
“I do not make a habit of publishing anyone’s emails, but am willing to make an exception in this case as I feel there is a genuine effort here to mislead the public,” she stressed.
‘He didn’t think anyone would do the math’
She also beat down Kapp’s bid to free himself of blame, saying that the latter and the publicist “volunteered, on the record – unsolicited – the unit size of the order. Sixty-one pieces. And apparently didn’t think anyone would do the math”.
“I write about fashion from a business perspective for a variety of publications, including US fashion trade paper WWD. I am frequently required to include industry-sourced information and sales estimates in stories.
“On Jan16, I asked Little Hero for Kapp’s off-the-rack price range. In a third email that day, they informed me: A$295 for a silk T-shirt, A$330 for a boob tube, with short dresses starting at A$795 and reaching A$1,100, A$2,420 and A$2,970 for the longer styles.
“Overlooking for a moment the obvious facts that Rosmah did not order any short dresses, short-sleeved T-shirts or strapless boob tubes and that the entire order was made-to-measure, if the order was indeed 61 units, as claimed by Little Hero and Kapp, the absolute cheapest it could possibly have been was A$17,995 (A$295 x 61).
“And the absolute priciest: A$181,170 (A$2,970 x 61). Average it out and you don’t get much change out of A$100,000 – which is what I reported the order ‘could be approaching’,” said Huntington.
Passing the buck back to Kapp, she asked if the purpose was to be discreet, why mention the size of the order to Frockwriter and SMH.
“If (Little Hero director, Rae) Begley and Kapp had any concerns about the information in the story, it’s curious that neither sought an immediate clarification. They did not.
“On the contrary, Kapp sent me an SMS at 18.35 that day (Jan 17) saying ‘Thanks for the brilliant write-up!’,” said Huntington.