Thursday, 27 February 2020 15:04

ChicGeek Comment Parka Vortex

mild winter effect on parka coat sales nobis Robin YatesWhen you are happily sat outside in the sunshine at Berlin Fashion Week eating your lunch in the second week of January your instincts tell you this winter has been exceptionally mild. Last month the global temperature was warmer than any previous January on record, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Temperatures in Europe were 0.2C higher than the previous warmest January for the continent – recorded in 2007, and it has been 3.1C warmer than the average January in the period 1981-2010. 

Norway recorded its hottest January day since records began, with a reading of 19C – more than 25C above the monthly average – measured in the village of Sunndalsora, which is around 250 miles north of Oslo. Temperatures were also much above average over most of the USA and Canada.

Left - Nobis

If you are a coat brand, and, in particular arctic parkas, this is bad news. The arctic parka market has seen huge expansion over the past few years and brands piling in on the success of brands such as Moncler and Canada Goose. The last few years’ winter weather has helped with the 'Beast from the East' and America’s extremely cold polar vortex making these type of coats feel like an essential. These businesses have grown big selling £1000 coats in the 100,000s, but things have become more competitive - possibly unsustainable? - and if the weather is mild consumers will forgo an expensive purchase until they really need it. So how has the mild weather been affecting this important seasonal market?

Martin Brooks, Co-Founder & CEO, Shackleton, says,”Yes, the mild winter has affected sales. Last year, we had a very cold March, by that time many brands were out of stock.

“It’s nuts that most outerwear brands go on sale from Black Friday  - months before it gets cold. It's like putting swim gear on sale in May.” he says. “North America has been strong for Shackleton, especially Chicago where it's been 'Chiberia' (25 below) a few times this year.”

Ian Holdcroft, COO & Co-Founder, Shackleton, adds “We’re on target to double our revenue to financial year ending end of March. We are a small business but growing rapidly.

“Interestingly our sales of high ticket items (the most expensive jackets) have increased, we suspect in the main (& talking to our customers has reinforced this), that they see our product as investment and less affected by near term weather. They also like that we’re now non fur and make in UK and Europe. Admittedly we do see spikes in orders when the temperature drops below 7 degrees.” he says.

Robin Yates, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Nobis says, “Experiencing winter arrive later, season after season, the traditional buying cycle of the consumer has become less predictable. Weather trends, however, see winter conditions accelerating in January and February, and sales in our industry are beginning to reflect this shift from a timeline perspective.

mild winter effect on parka coat sales shackleton london ian holdcroft“At Nobis, our collections are built and designed for global movement and unpredictable weather. Relevant in mild and inclement weather scenarios, our products offer functionality across a broad range of seasonality.” he says.

Right - Shackleton

Are these brands changing their product mix to be less reliant on classic fur hooded parka?

“It's rained every week in the UK from 1st October to now. Not many people have decent rainware in their closet... this is a huge opportunity to bust a space between outdoor shell jackets (urgh) and fusty raincoats.” says Brooks.
“Our best seller (in outerwear) this winter has been our pilot jacket which is shorter than a traditional parka.” says Holdcroft. “We designed this with helicopter pilots operating in the Alps so the jacket has a lot of features (such as full vent zips up the side) which make it much more flexible in terms of temperature, heat regulation and usability. There has also been an increase in demand for the lighter weight jackets and layering pieces - the Fortuna gilet has proved very popular.

“The last few winters have experienced colder weather towards the end of the season in Feb and March. However this is when consumers are used to seeing sales of winter ranges and retailers stocking up for Spring Summer. We are planning lighter weight outerwear pieces and will be introducing rain/wet weather into the range for next Autumn Winter. We are definitely planning for a general warming of the climate (& milder, wetter northern hemisphere winters) but there will always be somewhere cold on the planet.” says Holdcroft.

“Mid to lighter weight product ranges are seeing an increase in traction due to the versatility and functional aspect.” says Yates. “Dependent on the time of the season, these transitional pieces can be worn as a base layer or a final outer layer.” he says.

Is the arctic parka market saturated and over supplied and have brands that have become big on the back of this cold weather staple got an unsustainable business model?

mild winter effect on parka coat sales nobis Robin Yates

“Each brand caters to very different audiences – we believe and invest in the product experience.” says Yates. “We bring our consumers greater quality, function, style and value from their Nobis branded jacket and continue to provide them with access to information previously clouded in industry nomenclature. Thus, allowing the consumer to truly make an informed outerwear purchase decision, regardless of the brand they end up selecting.”

Left - Nobis

“There are a lot of brands now making parkas and the parka has become a category in it’s own right. We need to be different and innovative though to stand out.” says Holdcroft. “Our Endurance parka sells very well because it’s so light and packable and is the best performer on the market from a weight to warmth ratio perspective. It’s much easier to travel with than heavier weight parkas from other brands. So, we find people are buying into the flexibility of the jacket and the performance without compromising style. That being said, as we extend the range we will be introducing more and more products that are not parkas.” he says. “We won’t be able to build an international brand on the parka,”.

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Thursday, 27 February 2020 10:25

Exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk

kyoto to catwalk kimono victoria albert museum exhibitionThe Japanese word "kimono", literally means a "thing to wear”. It’s almost like an order, and, oh, what a beautiful one. This exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum charts the kimono from the 1660s to the present day. From its early influence on shapes and fabrics, its absorption of ideas from the rest of the world when Japan opened up in the 1850s, up until contemporary fashion taking it as a starting point.

kyoto to catwalk kimono victoria albert museum exhibitionThe exhibition's highlights are anything by Galliano at Dior - always - some stunning art deco Cartier jewellery and make-up cases, Freddie Mercury’s lounging around kimono, Madonna’s Nothing Really Matters video garb and Bjork’s collaboration with Alexander McQueen.

There is some menswear, though the kimono is very unisex, from Thom Browne (right), Duro Olowu, T. Michael and Yohji Yamamoto.

The kimono is the original silk robe and you only have to look at designers like Dries Van Noten or Edward Crutchley to see its influence today and the tradition being carried on.

kyoto to catwalk kimono victoria albert museum exhibitionThe kimono is one of fashion’s closest things to a walking work of art and this exhibition is a worthy tribute to it.

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk runs from 29 February – 21 June 2020 - £16

#KyotoToCatwalk

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kyoto to catwalk kimono victoria albert museum exhibition

menswear product of the week dries van noten ssense green ruffle shirtTrust Dries Van Noten to always give a refreshing theme each and every season. He really is a favourite of the fashion crowd for his beautiful and reliable collections. This season is all about flowers and chintzy florals. Florals for spring? Groundbreaking!

I was particularly taken by this bright green ruffled shirt. Nothing says 'dressy' like a ruffle, but you can wear this during the day, under a jacket, or jazz it up for a summer night out. 

Left - Dries Van Noten - Green & Yellow Floral Ruffle Shirt - £565 from SSense

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menswear product of the week dries van noten ssense green ruffle shirt

Coronavirus covid 19 effect on luxury brands fendi maskWhen China sneezes, the world catches a cold. So, when China caught the new coronavirus, or COVID-19 virus, there was going to be major economic repercussions. With the world’s second largest economy on virtual lockdown, its effect on both domestic and international sales for fashion companies will be seismic.

While there is no way to predict how long it will take to runs its course, companies have already started to make tentative statements about how it is affecting their bottom line. Those companies heavily reliant on the Chinese market and high spending Chinese tourists will be particularly affected and be crossing their fingers that this is over quickly.

Left - Fendi - FF Silk Face Mask - £170 from Luisa Via Roma 

While it is hard to predict the length of the outbreak and its impact, we can look back at the last major virus outbreak, SARS, which originated in China in 2002. It's thought that this strain of the coronavirus usually only found in small mammals mutated, enabling it to infect humans in the same way as COVID-19 has. By the end of the nine-month long SARS outbreak, the virus had spread to several other Asian countries as well as the UK and Canada, killing 775 and infecting more than 8,000 people.

The current stats for COVID-19 are 71,499 confirmed cases and 1,776 deaths, that’s a 1 in 40 death rate compared to over 1 in 10 for SARS. In terms of stats it looks less serious, with many people being carriers and displaying no symptoms. The under reporting of Chinese authorities has been questioned and how they are trying to minimise the severity of the outbreak, but they seem to be taking swift action to prevent contagion. 

The world in 2020 is very different from 2002. The Chinese are travelling much more and have become some of the world’s highest spending tourists. In 2005, there were 95,000 Chinese visitors to the UK, in 2018 that number had reached 391,000 and was continuing to grow. Chinese tourists make up the largest share of visitors to the UK (32%) and they have one of the highest average spends of any national group. In 2018, the latest set of statistics, the average spend of a Chinese tourist in the UK amounted to £1,373. They were only surpassed by visitors from Qatar and UAE.

In London’s West End, accounting for a quarter of all non-EU tax-free spend in 2018, on average, Chinese customers spent £1,630 per shopping trip, making them 59% more valuable than other international shoppers.

Hong Kong-based airline, Cathay Pacific, has already cut 90% of its capacity into mainland China and announced that overall capacity would be slashed by 30% as a result of falling demand related to the outbreak. British Airways announced that it would temporarily suspend its flights to mainland China, following the UK Foreign Office’s advice against all but essential travel to the country.

The most visited country in Europe was France with 2.2 million Chinese nationals visiting in 2018. Paris was already having to contend with transport strikes and gilet jaunes protests and now one of its most valuable visitors is staying away. The same could be said about Hong Kong; months of riots now followed by COVID-19 will have taken its toll on this important luxury retail location. The majority of the world’s major cities will be affected by the lack of Chinese tourists.

For British luxury giant, Burberry, Chinese consumers account for 40 per cent of revenues worldwide. Burberry Group plc released a statement at the beginning of February saying, “The outbreak of the coronavirus in Mainland China is having a material negative effect on luxury demand. While we cannot currently predict how long this situation will last, we remain confident in our strategy.” said Marco Gobbetti, Chief Executive Officer.

Currently 24 of Burberry’s 64 stores in Mainland China are closed with remaining stores operating with reduced hours and seeing significant footfall declines. This is impacting retail sales in both Mainland China and Hong Kong “The spending patterns of Chinese customers in Europe and other tourist destinations have been less impacted to date but given widening travel restrictions, we anticipate these to worsen over the coming weeks.” the statement said. Burberry was planning to hold a fashion show in Shanghai in March but that has been put on indefinite hold, while Chanel has cancelled its May Métiers d’Art show scheduled for Beijing. 

Coronavirus covid 19 effect on luxury brands off white mask

Estée Lauder gave a recent update to the markets saying it it expects adjusted earnings of $5.60 to $5.70 per share in 2020, down from a previous estimate of $5.85 to $5.93 citing the coronavirus. Fabrizo Freda, Estee Lauder president and chief executive, said: “The global situation will also affect our financial results in the near term, so we are updating our fiscal year outlook. We will be ready to return to our growth momentum as the global coronavirus is resolved.”

Other brands who have focussed on growth in China will feel the effects. Luxury outerwear brand, Moncler, warned that footfall at its stores in China had plunged 80% since the coronavirus outbreak and it earns 43% of its total revenues from Asia. Michael Kors and Versace owner Capri Holdings saying it would take a $100m hit from coronavirus in China, where it was forced to close more than 150 stores.

Right - Off-White - Logo Print Face Mask - £65 from Farfetch

Kering makes 34% of its sales in Asia Pacific, excluding Japan. Kering’s chief executive officer, François-Henri Pinault, said - on the 12th February - the group - Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta - had experienced a strong drop in sales over the past 10 days. Many of the group’s stores in China are closed or running reduced hours. The company said it will halt advertising spend and postpone new openings in China in the near-term in a bid to limit the damage caused by the virus. Pinault said that planned product launches might also be reconsidered and is also shifting inventory to other regions to make sure stocks don't pile up in China. Without giving an estimate for any impact from the virus on earnings, he said online shopping was not really making up for the decline in store footfall. "The warehouses are shut. People can place orders but there are no deliveries," he said.

While being strong in China and in the Chinese market has been a boon for many years, this outbreak shows the danger of having all your eggs in the Chinese basket. Once a high growth area, this is a double whammy for brands; you have the domestic market closed and the free spending tourists are no longer shopping. 

China’s growth was already slowing, but it was just about to come out of the trade wars with America. Even if this outbreak is over in a relatively short window of time, it’s the momentum it has lost that will take the longest time to get back. Getting those Chinese tourists to rebook their flights and travel plans, brands reworking expansion plans and product and consumers getting that feel good factor to spend will take months to correct. Many brands are downplaying the current impact to protect their share price. Hopefully, the epidemic will be over shortly, but the repercussions of COVID-19 will be felt by the fashion industry well into 2020.

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Is it worth renting your clothes MY WARDROBE HQEverybody loves a side hustle. Look at your wardrobe and there is probably hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds worth of merchandise not earning its keep. It’s just hanging there, not being worn or potentially earning you money. Enter the peer-to-peer rental scheme.

It’s tempting. Under the guise of being better for the environment, women are hiring out their wardrobes for a fee. The companies facilitating this are earning a commission from each hire. The business model makes sense. There’s no initial outlay and money tied up in stock for the businesses and much like other service companies - Uber, Airbnb, eBay -  the majority of work is done by the individuals, while they cream off the commission. Sounds easy.

Left - MYWARDROBE HQ - CHANEL - Perfume Bottle Clutch - FROM £147 / DAY (RRP £15,000)

But, is this nascent industry working for lenders - those hiring their clothes out - and is it sustainable enough for this sector to scale? This business is only as good as its lenders and the product they can offer at a price which is attractive to others. Companies, such as HURR Collective and MY WARDROBE HQ, need to keep these individuals engaged, encouraged and make it as seamless as possible, while being low enough to keep people hiring frequently.

The current MY WARDROBE HQ mail-outs are enticing with £325 Rixo dresses for £8, or Simone Rocha fur stoles for £23 a day. At these prices, renting finally makes sense for many. It says customers can shop womenswear clothing and accessories from the wardrobes of Arizona Muse, Poppy and Chloe Delevingne, Olivia Buckingham, Roxie Nafousi, Caroline Fleming, amongst other fashion stylists and influencers. Victoria Prew

Founded in 2018 by Sacha Newall and Tina Lake, MY WARDROBE HQ is now chaired by Jane Shepherdson, of Topshop & Whistles fame and has just opened a pop-up in London department store Liberty until 31st March 2020. 

HURR Collective, founded in 2017, too has launched its first in-store wardrobe rental pop-up at Selfridges, London for six months. Available to rent for either four or eight days, the stock will rotate on a weekly basis and there will be specially curated London Fashion Week, Valentines Day and Holiday edits.

The value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at £30 billion with an estimated £140 million of clothing going to landfill annually in the UK alone. The fashion rental industry is projected to reach $1.96 billion by 2023.

Sarah Angus, Content Director, MY WARDROBE HQ, say, “Customers can choose a rental term that suits their occasion; 4, 7, 10 or 14 days, and we can extend this further if they require. We have customers that rent for each and all of these terms - the 10 day particularly suits holidays/vacations, while the 4 day rental is perfect for interviews and events such as LFW.” 

“Lenders make 60% of every rental or sale. Our business model includes a resale element also which has seen renters rent something, love it, and then buy it for the difference.” she says. "Our unique business model means that we manage everything for the lender; people nowadays are time poor and don’t have the time to manage things like this, but they’re conscious of the damage fashion is doing to the planet and want to do good (and also earn some cash for it). We manage the whole service from intake, photography, storage, cleaning, delivery and returns. The lenders in return receive a monthly pay cheque, minus our commission.” she says.

“We have approximately 150 lenders and this is an almost even split between individuals and brands. We have seen such huge support for the managed service that we are offering and have some big name brands joining our platform this week which we can’t wait to share!” says Angus. “We are really discerning with the items that are available on our platform and as such screen and select individuals to ensure the items are of the best condition to rent and buy. We photograph, clean and manage all the items you see on the platform so that customers can view, rent and buy the items in a premium environment.” she says.

“We price items to rent at 10% of RRP and to sell at 30% of RRP. Some items such as Chanel and Gucci retain their value so we always confer with the lender and decide a suitable price.” says Angus. “Brands in particular are tapping into this and we have seen huge uptake with brand partners, including Coach, Mulberry, Diane von Furstenberg, Temperley, Needle & Thread, Vivienne Westwood, Perfect Moment, Beulah, Chinti and Parker, all signed to MY WARDROBE HQ.”

Is it worth renting your clothes fashion rental Hurr Collective

“Our target customer is ABC1, 28-35; she recognises the damage fashion is having on the planet and wants access to items that ensure a ‘Cinderella’ moment. These are wow pieces that would cost a lot to buy but can be experienced at a fraction of the cost.” she says.

“Rental is the future!” says Angus. “Consumers care less about ownership and want to experience rather than own material things; just look at Uber, Netflix, Spotify and Airbnb, all of whom own no stock. Designers are reducing their collections or ceasing completely - Jean Paul Gaultier famously just showed his last collection and actually up-cycled his couture collection to make a stand against the damage fashion is having on the planet. 

Why buy the copycat version on the high street when you can rent it from the designer that inspired it, for the same price?” she says.

“On the HURR platform you can rent for 7, 14, 21 and 28 days. This week we launched in Selfridges where you can rent for 4 days, exclusive to the pop-up.” says Victoria Prew, CEO & Co-Founder, HURR Collective.

On the HURR Collective platform the lender makes 85% of each rental, while HURR take a 15% commission. For example, you can rent a £170 Ganni dress for £32 for 7 days.

Right - Don't lose it! The infamous Jacquemus handbag from HURR Collective

“We use data-driven insights and customer spending behavioural data to suggest prices that balance both affordability to the renter and profitability to the lender. This results in a pricing model which makes it 'worthwhile' to both parties.” says Prew. “We take a tech-first approach to pricing, by consistently analysing our pricing algorithms to optimise and balance the number of rentals, and rental income.” she says.

“The number one reason for signing up to HURR is sustainability. Our user base is largely millennial and is deeply passionate and informed about sustainable fashion and the circular economy.” says Prew. “HURR is set to scale throughout the UK this year, with international expansion on the horizon. As we don't hold stock there's no limit on the number of users, their location or the number of items that can be listed.” she says.

People wearing/sharing their clothes more has to be good for the environment if it means people are buying less, but, while these look like retail sites, with the feeling of full options, these rental websites are restricted by sizing and the volume of the items stocked. They need to keep both parties happy, particularly those individuals renting their prized pieces.

Kate, 36,  from London, recently decided to rent via these rental platforms, “I have quite a few designer items that I’ve bought over the years which I rarely wear, I didn’t want to sell any of them but it seemed a waste to just have them hung in a wardrobe … plus its a great way to earn a bit of extra money ;)” she says. “I googled clothing rental sites some time ago and HURR and MY WARDROBE HQ looked the best ones. 

“It was quite soon after HURR launched, I requested to register as a lender, uploaded a couple of pieces and didn’t think much more of it.” she says. “One of the girls from HURR got in touch with me a few weeks later and said they were setting up a pop-up shop and wanted some pieces they could hold in the store. I sent over the items I wanted to rent and then they helped me upload everything on to the website”, she says.

“Both websites are super easy to upload. The HURR team uploaded most of the items for me (I think they offer a service for this, I’m not sure if MY WARDROBE HQ does) so it was really convenient and the photos/descriptions are perfect as they know what renters are looking for.” says Kate.

“The items HURR are holding for the pop-up - customers try on and rent in store - HURR handle all of this I just get a confirmation and payment. They also look after cleaning.” she says. “The pieces not held in the pop-up - the renter will put in a request on the website, sometimes there is some chat via message about size / fit etc. Once I’ve accepted the request (you can choose not to lend the item). she says. “I arrange postage/delivery. When the rental period has ended the renter posts/delivers back the item and I arrange for the item to be cleaned. I think its best I handle cleaning - I can ensure its cleaned exactly as it should be.”

“If the item doesn’t fit, the renter has 24hrs to process a fit return, once returned they receive a refund minus shipping/cleaning.” she says. “HURR has been great, always on hand to help with any tech issues or questions. It’s great that they hold some of the pieces in the pop-up as I think its more likely they will be rented (especially now they have a pop up in Selfridges) - plus I don’t have to deal with the logistics of renting.” she says. “MY WARDROBE HQ - I’ve loaded pieces but none of my pieces have been rented yet so I’m not sure how smooth it runs.” she says.

Is it worth renting your clothes MY WARDROBE HQ

“Positives - I get to make some money from items just sat in my wardrobe. I’m also keen to do my part in making the fashion industry more sustainable and I think this is one small step towards creating some change.” says Kate. “Negatives - - if something gets damaged and can’t be replaced / fixed  - The HURR team advise not to rent items that have sentimental value and if you’re not comfortable renting something once a request comes in you don’t have to, so fingers crossed nothing will go wrong.”

Left - MY WARDROBE HQ - The Vampire's Wife - Velvet Tea Dress - FROM £18 / DAY (RRP £995)

“Renting with HURR has been no hassle, especially while they are holding the clothes for the pop-up and I don’t I need to do anything.” says Kate. “I’ve made enough to buy a new pair of shoes.” she says. “The pieces I have listed for rental are designer dresses/statement/party pieces. A Dolce & Gabbana sequin dress got a lot of interest over the Christmas period. I only rent clothes - not shoes or bags.” she says.

The daily rates are slightly misleading because you can’t rent anything for a single day. Both companies have a minimum of 4 days. The designer rental market, up until now, has been quite expensive and for special occasions. Too expensive and you may as well buy the item, too cheap and you can’t provide the service or convince the lenders to offer their precious items. For example, Scottish manufacturer, Begg & Co., was offering to rent a scarf for £160 for 2 weeks, last autumn. Surely, you’d buy it outright if you could afford £160 to rent a scarf? It's no longer an option on their website.

Renting is about Instagrammable, look-at-me pieces. These business models are restricted by only usually having one item, in one size, so it could be difficult to scale the business. It also needs to have a lot of ‘must-have’, desirable items to keep up the demand.

MY WARDROBE HQ’s marketing offers a £1300 Victoria Beckham dress for £22 a day, which will surely get people thinking differently about the rental market. Is there enough incentive and motivation for the lenders, we’ll have to see, but with brands joining the mix, this could be the answer for these growing companies. The designer brands will probably want to keep it on the down low to avoid it eating into retail sales, or put the 'sustainable' spin on it, but it could be a good way of making money from last season’s stock.

Will you carry on lending? “For sure”. says Kate. 

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