When Banana Republic decided to chuck in the towel, leave the UK and move out of the H&M-owned, old Dickins & Jones flagship building on Regent Street, it made sense, to H&M anyway, to fill it with their own house brands, especially at a time when you could struggle to fill such a large, flagship space.
Left - Upstairs at Arket, Womenswear
The space has been split between Weekday, which already has stores across Europe, and Arket, which is brand new and this is the first one in the world.
The big question is: does the world need anymore H&M brands? It makes sense for the companies. Put your eggs in lots of baskets, aimed at lots of different sectors and consumers, and not only do you have all bases covered, you can weather the ups and downs of fickle consumers better: as one brand is going down, another one can be coming up.
What with COS, & Other Stories, Cheap Monday, Monki, as well at the main H&M brand, they are pushing out, much like the Spanish Zara owner Inditex, with many consumers unaware or past caring about who owns what. It’s the fashion equivalent of a one operator food court.
Anyway, let’s talk about Arket. They’ve gone London grey - Scandinavian pink perhaps?! - with the shop fit. It looks a bit like a stage fit of a shop in “1984”. The top half is empty and looks like a cheap wardrobe carcass waiting for the doors. The floor is Valentino-type grey terrazzo and it is lacking, somewhat, in personality. This looked like the template for every future store and you wouldn't know where you were. Are brands still in that mind set of rolling out the same shopfit the world over? I thought we were done with all that.
Right - Café with a shop attached
The product is good. The knitwear feels substantial and of good quality. So good, in fact, I think you’ll have to buy it two sizes bigger just to get into it. The ground floor is split between men’s at the front and back, homeware in the middle and a café to the side at the back. Upstairs is womenswear and childrenswear.
Branding is minimal and it’s all very plain and Scandi - can we ever get enough?! - The women’s has more colour and it does flow.
Arket likes a serial number on things. I think the target customer is the trendy mum, she wants clothes for her, her children, a café to sit down in and some little treats in homeware, plus she’ll be buying the menswear too, which is why there are Breton stripes - every woman loves a man in Breton stripes, don't they?
Left - Using brands such as R.M. Williams & Tricker's to elevate the branding & clothes
When this rolls out to the big shopping centres all over the country, depending on how successful it is in London I guess, then she’ll in there with her stroller, smugly mocking the Cath Kidston nappy bags. (If she’s buying the clothes, she’s probably washing them too. I’d like to see how those knits fare).
As for the hubby, there’s nothing he won’t be happy with, there’s nothing not to like.
Like Weekday, there is a sprinkling of other brands: they are using quality shoes like Tricker’s and R.M. Williams to elevate the clothes. The price points are £80 for a jumper and £45 for a pair of good quality long-johns, which to me feels more like a Swedish customer used to paying for quality and not a London or U.K. customer hooked and satisfied on cheap clothing.
There was a very nice Black Watch tartan mac, which won’t hang about for long, and, like all stores, you cherry pick the best pieces and ignore those that are over-priced or not special enough.
What Arket lacks in personality it makes up for in quality. This feels like a store for Millennial milfs and dilfs, which was perfectly illustrated by two dads proudly feeding their babies on the opening night, probably while their wives were busy shopping.
Maybe somewhat lost in translation, ‘Relax Baby Be Cool’ is a fashion label from and made in Estonia.
This shirt, from them, is covered in Sidomukti batik motifs, characteristically bamboo, usually in a combination of black and blue. The design symbolises the inner and outer tranquility of the wearer and was mostly used in traditional ceremonies or official events in the area of Magetan in Indonesia.
The orange piping to highlight the placket is a nice touch, while the black adds a dressy formality which would look good with a pair of black trousers. Roll the sleeves to make it feel more relaxed as this is more than a holiday shirt.
Left & Below - Relax Baby Be Cool - Men’s Long Sleeve Button Up - £110
We never think of the shirt on holiday until the evening. A T-shirt or vest is normally the first thing you think about when pairing with swim shorts or shorts and long sleeves just seem too much. But, taking our cue from the Beatles on holiday in Tenerife, it’s time to think about a slouchy shirt on the sand.
Left - Follow Paul & George's lead
Long and oversized, this shirt is worn loose and relaxed and especially suits the mood of being on the beach and stylishly covering up. I guess those pale boys from Liverpool weren’t used to the sun, had a limited beach wardrobe, and needed something to cover themselves up, yet it works.
Left - Marni SS18
Sun-bleached, it looks good over short-shorts and worn unbuttoned with the sleeves open. In fashion terms, this long cotton shirt is appearing everywhere and it’s only a matter of time before you get one.
Left - Appletrees - All Over The World Superfine Poplin White - €425 An independent Swedish brand with various lengths and styles of shirts
Left - ASOS Slim Shirt With Stretch In Super Longline - £22
Below - Raf Simons wearing one of his own designs
Left - More of the Beatles in Tenerife
I’ve just got back from Copenhagen, the final stop on the men’s fashion week and trade show circuit. CIFF is the main show with a mix of high-fashion, young designers and what can only be described as clothing, at best, in the halls at the back.
Left - What's not to love? Chris Evans' son, Eli, looking adorable
Ignoring that, the front lobby section had been curated with new brands, some from America, some from Sweden, the UK, and Beams from Japan, who as well as having their own eponymous brand, supports many others.
Because CIFF is so late in the men’s calendar it starts to merge with women’s, which is only just starting: so, it’s late for one and early for the other.
One of the rails of clothes in the Beams section was a patterned dress with frills, and while, before, my instinct is a mental brake. A “this is women’s” thought springs into my head and then you about turn to find the closest rail of men’s for safety. This time it felt different. While not quite there yet myself, this dress could have been for men. It could have been unisex, it could be anything. And, that’s how I feel things are going, in fashion terms anyway.
Anything really does go. Men have got so experimental that if they want to wear a dress, they can wear a dress, and it’s just a person in a dress. Gender not defined. They’re not trying to be a woman. I don’t want to get into the minefield of gender politics, this is purely a fashion instinct, but it feels like we’re on the cusp of that change.
This reminds me of Chris Evans’ son pictured in his green lamé dress. Obviously a fan of David Walliams’ book, The Boy In The Dress, he went out dressed as only a fan would do.
What’s changed is people don't care. Well, the parents don’t. The kids never did.
This little boy looking adorable in his dress is saying nothing more than he’s making an effort and fan-boy(girl)ing - whatever - to his favourite book. It’s just a great thing that he’s reading.
This is not about him wanting to be a girl, this is him wearing what he wanted to wear on this occasion.
Okay, so some will take some convincing, but it feels like the door is open if you want to push through it. Are we brave enough?
News in that the most famous pure fashion men’s publication is to close. The Italian publication, L’Uomo Vogue’s last issue will appear in December. With a readership said to be 300,000, which is large within the men’s market, it seems a strange move by publisher Condé Nast, if this is the true figure.
Left - David Beckham shot by David Bailey. The Italian men's fashion magazine, L'Uomo Vogue is to close
I think what it signifies is not the change in consumers, but advertisers. This is all about advertisers changing their spend and while consumers have been disappearing in numbers since the beginning of the 21st century, the brands still felt confident about advertising in magazines and keeping them profitable. Until now.
L’Uomo Vogue’s closure is a reflection of the downsizing of Milan Men’s Fashion Week. What used to be busy with big name ‘superbrands' has seen many downsize to presentations or merge their men’s shows with their women’s, and thus showing later in the calendar. You’re not going to spend lots of money promoting something that is not a priority or is contracting.
These were the brands big enough to buy the back covers or a couple of pages just inside the front, and this was where the profit is or was for publishers.
Many luxury fashion companies, especially the Italian family run ones, have been slow to get with digital due to the fact many of those in charge didn’t understand it or want to understand it. They’re idea of luxury wasn’t the internet and they like too much control.
As budgets have been cut and also the delayed investment in digital sapping funds, L’Uomo Vogue is an example of the swingeing cuts the men’s industry has been facing. Italy is a powerhouse of Italian brands and even they are ‘adjusting’ to the future. Armani has reduced the number of labels, Dolce & Gabbana shelved D&G, even the recent big money maker, Gucci, now show their men’s in with their women’s show.
Also said to be closing is the independently published, Jocks & Nerds. The UK quarterly title, established in 2010, known for it’s workwear and vintage aesthetic, is sending its final issue to bed. There’s never been a good time to be an independent publisher, but now is particularly tough. I think fashion moving towards something more sporty and less ‘heritage’ may have also been a factor.
In other news, Time Inc., publisher of Wallpaper*, is moving to E14. Yes, me neither! I had to Google it, even though I’ve lived in London my whole life. It’s Mudchute, yes, Mudchute. There’s nothing wrong with Mudchute on the Isle of Dogs, but talking to a PR the other day, they said their courier doesn't even go that far. Times are tough, but are they really that tough?
It feels like the change in media is speeding up and the majority of magazines and publishers seem to be down to the bare bones. There isn’t much left to cut back on, but it’s a surprise a title like L’Uomo Vogue has folded before others. Watch this space.
So many brands are simply remaking their archive, and why not, when it looks this good. We all know how I feel about Fila Vintage, but I first noticed this Fred Perry number at Pitti Uomo in January and then Berlin after. At first, I thought it was a display of vintage, but it's even better when you realise you can buy it. It’s part of their ‘Reissues’ collection and is designed to look like two layered knitwear pieces. The pageboy haircut is optional!
Left & Below - Fred Perry - Reissues Layered Turtle Neck Jumper - £145
The bum bag or fanny pack, call it what you will, has been on the cusp of style acceptance recently. Teetering on the brink, it finally came thru this season. YAS! Now, it feels right. It could be all the 90s sportswear or its practicality, but from designer to high-street to online we’re seeing the renaissance of this hands free solution.
Left - Jared Leto Guccifying his bum bag
It's perfect for festivals or when you want some extra security. You can wear it two ways: the classic around the waist or, like the kids, across the body.
Left - Louis Vuitton - Géronimos - £775
Below - Streetstyle cross body inspiration
Left - Weekday - Nylon Bumbag - £20 from ASOS
Left - Herschel - Khaki Orange Cross Body Bag - £45 from Topman
Far Left - Eastpak - Springer Bonded Blue - £22
Left - Jack Russell - £305
Below - Supreme X Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton AW17