In a post-Brexit world we’re going to have to make more than leather shoes and Scottish cashmere sweaters. UK Plc needs to turn our world class creativity into a German style industry: manufacturing in volume and of the highest quality.
From small acorns mighty English oaks grow, so, when I heard The Shackleton Company was manufacturing their parkas in the UK, I wanted to find out more and see what we are paying for. The majority of the world's down parkas are made in Italy, France, Canada or China, so a UK-made is rather special. I’ve dissected their new “Discovery Jacket” to show you all the different components and design details, so when the temperature drops we can keep the Union Flag flying high!
Entirely handmade in Cheshire. The majority of the materials are made in Britain with the odd exception, i.e. zips and zip pullers. The outer shell is Ventile, designed in the UK. The densely woven, 100% cotton uses the world's finest, long staple fibre. Ventile is not coated or laminated and the combination of the dense weave and swelling properties of the fibres, when wet, provides excellent weatherproofing. It's an entirely natural product - windproof, breathable, durable and quiet.
Filled with 100% of the finest, pure European goose down, it provides an unsurpassed warmth to weight ratio. It is a by-product of the food industry, in fact, a waste product, if not used for insulation. The highest quality of down, which The Shackleton Company uses, comes from the oldest, free-range birds. Each individual pocket of down is hand filled & stitched. No machinery is used.
The adjustable hood design enables the wearer to create a wrap-around tunnel to protect against extreme cold. The coyote fur hood trim is removable. Tested in Antarctica to minus 20 Degrees centigrade, the coyote is shot as part of a cull program to control popuations in Alaska. The Shackleton Company do not use any farmed or trapped coyote.
Large rubber zip pullers are designed with pimples on the reverse for ease of use with cold hands or whilst wearing gloves.
Four outer pockets - two chest (zipped) and two fleece-lined, hand-warmer pockets have press stud fastenings for quick access. Four large internal, zipped pockets - two close to body core for extra warmth for storing phone & batteries in extreme cold environments. Internal waist draw cord for a tighter fit - minimising cold air flow, providing extra insulation. Lower draw cord for a tighter fit and extra protection in stormy conditions.
Extendable storm wrist cuffs.
Internal patch - “I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize”. Poet, Robert Browning, quote, engraved on Shackleton’s gravestone in South Georgia.
Left & Above - The Shackleton Company - Discovery Jacket - £1575
We’ve all heard about the revival in vinyl over the last few years. The hipster’s music medium of choice, vinyl records are now everywhere from Sainsbury’s to Tesco. Well, the revival continues, but into our wardrobes this time.
Think shiny, think black, think vinyl. There’s something slightly pervy and sexual about it. It is one part Berlin of the 1920s - have you seen Babylon Berlin? it’s very good - one part grungy/graffiti New York of the 80s. It adds a frisson of excitement to your wardrobe and shows your daring side. A walking oil slick, team with coloured lensed sunglasses and flared jeans.
Left - ASOS - Oversized Vinyl Trench Coat - £70
Left - Calvin Klein SS18
Below - 66 North - £670 www.66north.com
Left - Balenciaga - Wobble Leather Jacket - £1795 from matches fashion.com
Left - Topshop - Vinyl Bucket Hat - £16
Below - Moncler - Mancora - £900
At a recent press day, previewing the new SS18 collection from the Swiss brand, Bally, I got thinking about how you can slip between the gap. Bally has followed the Gucci model of Wes Anderson statement pieces in bold colours and look-at-me graphics and slogans. But, Bally’s problem is, it isn’t Gucci, and just doesn’t have the attraction as a “name”- I actually like it more for this reason. Therefore they can’t charge the prices Gucci ask and sell in the volumes too. They also have another issue, well, it’s actually a good thing, they are offering a quality made product.
Left - Gucci Cruise 18
I’m going to call it out. Gucci isn’t good quality. I like Gucci’s ideas, I just don’t think it’s executed to reflect the prices they charge. I’m not naive, I know luxury goods have huge margins, but there’s margins and then there’s margins. No wonder Gucci’s profits are through the roof, they are making products that aren’t as good as they should be in that price category.
There’s enough Gucci out there, now, to hear of plenty of quality control issues: shoes than run in the rain, tiger patches on jeans repeatedly fixed, leather belts that feel like a free school belt. It’s not just Gucci doing this, but they’re the label flying high and drawing in the masses. They are also creating complicated product that requires time and a level of expertise to make it well and quickly shows its quality.
The article said “Balenciaga has stolen Gucci’s crown to become the hottest brand in fashion. According to the latest data analysed by BoF in partnership with search platform Lyst — which tracks 4.5 million data points per hour from over 65 million annual consumers, five million products and 12,000 brands — the Demna Gvasalia-designed brand climbed two places to top the hottest brand ranking in the third quarter of 2017.”
Right - Bally SS18
The feedback on Twitter, from many passionate people, was that they wanted Gucci and couldn’t understand this. It must be wrong. Clearly, Gucci is still in demand and they need to maximise this while they can, but this quality issue will speed up their “hot” lifecycle. People will question what they are paying for and many will feel cheated. The fashion crowd are already over Gucci.
A friend recently had a scarf, retailing, probably, for around £400, and it was so thin, it was clearly nowhere near the best quality scarf of that type. It’s almost laughable, and while people have “Brand Blindness” it’s okay, but you free-fall quickly after without quality. Quality makes people return to a brand.
And, this takes me back to Bally. Currently looking for a new owner, they need to decide whether to offer quality and an acceptable price or chase the higher margins, slash quality and see what happens. They’ll never be a Gucci, but they can clearly maximise sales, but increasing margins like many of its competitors. It'll be interesting to see who the new owner is and which direction they decide to take.
Oxford Street is the main artery linking west and central London. Everything goes through it: either sucked or pushed out the other side. You can spend hours on the bus thinking you’re on a magical mystery tour rather than a straight road bookended by two Primarks.
Well, “radical” plans are afoot, there are plans to pedestrian Oxford Street from December 2018. Admittedly, only half of it, at first, but this is going to be the retail equivalent of the smoking ban. You think it’s never going to happen, then, all of a sudden, it’s happening and everybody is on board and it’s the best thing that ever happened. The End!
Left - The "Posh" end gets the first pedestrianisation treatment in December 2018
No doubt this has been speeded up by the ridiculously poor air quality along Oxford Street and the need to separate people and vehicles due to terrorism, but this is really exciting, nonetheless.
The section of Europe’s busiest shopping street between Oxford Circus and Orchard Street - that’s the corner of Marble Arch M&S & Selfridges - would be the first to become "predominantly traffic-free". However, north and south routes across Oxford Street will be retained after businesses and locals raised concerns about gridlock on nearby side-streets.
The plans would also see cyclists being forced to dismount on the pedestrianised stretch. The plans are designed to address concerns about rising numbers of traffic collisions, pollution and overcrowding. The proposals for the traffic-free Western section include new seating areas and raising the existing street to pavement level to make it more accessible. An 800 metre-long work of public art, acting as a centrepiece along the entire length of the pedestrianised section, could be commissioned. There will also be new public spaces, cycle lanes, improved pedestrian crossings, wider pavements and extra taxi ranks across the wider West End.
The first pedestrianised section will coincide with the launch of Elizabeth line services - and increased visitor numbers - through central London in December 2018.
Let’s be honest, the current Oxford Street isn’t a place you hang about in. You get in and get out. It’s not somewhere you can wax lyrical to tourists about either as it's slightly embarrassing and a busy mess. These plans can transform it from not only the busiest but the most attractive streets in the world. They need to have a contemporary concept and a "vision" - maybe ask Thomas Heatherwick? Or a competition to showcase the best of British architecture and design? - and really think differently rather than a simple repaving and adding extra benches. Let’s make this the centre of British fashion and style. Let’s celebrate our leadership in these areas. Fashion week outside Selfridges? Shopable shows on the retailers' doorsteps? The greenest street in the world? Cafés all along? Street theatres? Christmas markets? A street that comes alive after the shops close? This has so much potential and could be just over a year away. Exciting times.
When wholesaling multiple brands you’re as strong as the market. You can’t sell what isn’t available. Obvs. Often there is a demand from your customers with nobody fulfilling the supply.
I’ve spoken to buyers at large designer websites, in the past, who have said that many brands have forgotten about the basics and instead only offer key, statement pieces of the season. Tiger, anybody?!
Left - RAEY - AW17
They’ve picked up lesser known brands to fill these gaps - sometimes a guy just wants a plain white shirt without a snake on it - but, ultimately, they know what they need and often the only way to find it is to create your own “house” label.
Matchesfashion.com launched “Raey” a few years ago and, Mr Porter is launching a “Mr P” own label, today. Own labels used to be looked down upon as the lower/entry end of the retailer’s offering, but, now, they are offering something you can’t get from the other brands or give the retailers some consistency and reliability, whether that be black trousers, simple grey v-necks, or something more directional like Sta-press denim.
There’s obviously a demand. Since its inception, in 2015, Raey, matchesfashion.com's in-house brand, has seen 85% growth year-on-year with strong growth across knits and jersey, in particular. A standalone store opened in April 2017 in Notting Hill, in a former franchise store owned by matchesfashion.com.
According to the blurb, the creation of MR PORTER’s “MR P.” brand has been informed by seven years' of customer insight - more than 600,000 shoppers to date - and the invaluable feedback and shopping patterns they’ve observed since launching in February 2011.
The MR P. launch collection has 53 items across ready-to-wear, including 24 “Essential" styles, available year-round, and 29 seasonal styles within the debut capsule. The majority of the collection is made in Italy, with select items made in Portugal, and the denim in Japan. Pricing ranges from £55 for the core T-shirts, through to £875 for the capsule’s leather aviator jacket.
Right - MR P. - the new own label by MRPORTER
The chosen muse for this launch capsule is 20th-century British painter and portraitist Lucian Freud, during his prime in 1950s London.
“At MR PORTER, we are – first and foremost – product people. This passion for quality, uniqueness, style and versatility has been the backbone to developing our business for the past seven years. The launch of MR P. has therefore been quite organic for us; we felt there was a space in our mix of 400-plus brands for something that could present a unique take on wardrobe classics and also present regular capsules of more trend- and seasonal-driven pieces throughout the year. We like to think we have an unparalleled view of the male wardrobe, garnering the combined knowledge of our buyers and editors, and MR P. is ultimately the result of that: smart details, easy pieces and enduring style.” says Toby Bateman, Managing Director, MR PORTER.
The second limited-edition MR P. capsule will launch in February, followed by a third in April. MR P. will introduce shoes and accessories for AW18.
This is a case of these retailers trying to fill the gaps and offer pieces that are consistently available. As these businesses get bigger and bigger then can afford to offer more and also a point of difference that makes them a destination rather than just another retail site selling the same designers.
It’s also important to note that wholesale is so difficult, now, that many brands are moving away from it or closing altogether. Smaller brands can’t afford to tie all their money up in stock, which they won’t get money from until the end of the season or, could, at worst, be sent back to them. This cashflow problem is what has killed off many small brands and also deters many from the wholesale model.
Plus, many people are happy with affordable basics so look to designers for something different or recognisable which has driven designers to only offer these styles. Matchesfashion.com and MRPORTER are so big now they can offer these own-label collections. What they have to remember is, these “Essentials” are the workhorses of a man’s wardrobe and as such need to be good quality in order to satisfy the customer.
Left - Unbranded "Essentials" mixed with a few capsule pieces is part of the new MR P. ethos
Arguably the biggest fashion collaboration of the year, every year, H&M are masters of creating hype and buzz with whomever they choose to tie-up with. This year was the turn of British/Canadian designer, Erdem Moralioglu, just don’t ask me to say his full name, so they stuck to just “Erdem”, luckily, and they approached things differently.
Left - Short Sleeved Shirt - £69.99
Usually you don’t get to see the full collection with prices before the big reveal, and often the collection is a seen as a “greatest hits” type homage to the brand rather than bang-on-the-fashion of the season or what customers are currently buying.
H&M held a preview fashion show in L.A. a couple of weeks ago to selected press, they released images and prices of the full collection and they held a preview shopping evening for press and the public the evening before it hits stores, this week, at the glamourous and spookily beautiful Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden.
Erdem has never sold menswear before so it was a first, and his floral signature is definitely in vogue, ATM, thanks to Gucci. This collection is basically H&M’s nod to Gucci’s current aesthetic and hedges their bets with a public who may not know the Erdem name or care.
The queues for Freemasons' Hall was full of London’s fashion folk. Once inside it was a frenetic grab for items people came specifically to buy. There was no time for browsing.
Right - If you missed or couldn’t afford the Burberry Tudor ruffle neck white shirt, here’s Erdem’s version - £49.99
When you see designer, Christopher Kane, amongst the hubbub of rails and elbows, you feel it won’t take much for his name to be in the running for next year’s collab. (Which would be very good BTW).
After the initial buying panic, the coats and tailoring didn’t seem to be very popular. It was the silk and floral pieces that people wanted and they quickly disappeared. Silk pieces seem to be very much in demand right now - See my favourite from Pretty Green - here - and checking on H&M's UK website you can’t even view the Erdem, page.
This is the right collection at the right time. People are going to be bored of this Gucci look pretty soon, so they’ve timed this collaboration right. The florals aren’t particularly standout, so don’t scream "Erdem X HM". They’re not that memorable which will work in their favour and, let's be really honest, men can never have enough floral silk pyjama sets!
Read ChicGeek Comment Erdem X H&M Menswear here
Left - Pyjama Top - £79.99
News just in - Burberry president and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, who has been with the Burberry brand for 17 years, will stand down from its board in March 2018 and work with CEO Marco Gobbetti and team on a transition period until December 2018.
When Burberry’s renaissance began in the late 1990s, it was the perfect time to turn around a recognisable British name, dust it off and grow it into the new desire for luxury and branded products. We’d witnessed it at Gucci, under Tom Ford, and other languishing brands were thirsty for the same.
Burberry initially started with the Italian designer, Robert Menchetti. That didn’t last long and was soon replaced by an unknown designer, Christopher Bailey.
Left - Christopher Bailey who turned Burberry into the billion dollar business it is today
Initially, and this was pre-Google, so you can forgive me, I thought it was the same Chris Bailey who had started Jigsaw Menswear and the soon-to-be defunct Uth. A great designer and businessman, I thought it was a perfect fit.
I quickly realised they were different people and I bought a shirt from that first 2001/02 collection. Admittedly, it was in the Harrods sale and it was very expensive, if I remember, and I still have it. It was in a stretch, striped fabric, one I hadn’t seen before, with metal Burberry branded buttons and epaulettes. There was something beautiful yet innovative which became the signature of the new Burberry.
I quickly became fan. Every collection had a strong theme and the pieces were well designed and had that all important desire factor. The brand got bigger, the shows became fancier and major events with Christopher Bailey overseeing every detail, from store fits to the music to the Testino campaigns.
Those Bill & Ben hats, the paisley collection and then there was the coats with the leather arms which are still yet to disappear off the British high-street.
Bailey is one of the greatest Creative Directors of our time. He’s up there with Tom Ford for a progressive and consistent luxury handwriting. Burberry’s growth and success is down to his balance of updating Britishness while respecting the past and knowing exactly what consumers want now.
While the average Burberry customer probably doesn’t know or care who Christopher Bailey is, for us fashion folk, we like to see the whites of the eyes of those designing and leading the brands we look at.
Seventeen years in fashion is a lifetime, especially today, and while “See Now, Buy Now” pushed him into a creative cul-de-sac, Bailey produced some great clothes and images.
I think he’ll probably take a break. Burberry has made him a very rich man. But, it is exciting what this talented man decides to do next. Perhaps he’ll join Angela Ahrendts at Apple, maybe a bigger fashion job such as Louis Vuitton, his own label or maybe something really radical like Amazon. Who knows?
See more Burberry related comment pieces:
Time to Ditch “See Now, Buy Now” here
Choose Your Rip-Off here