There are two types of Britishness: urban London Britishness, which is too often clichéd and touristy, involving bowler hats, red telephone boxes and the like, and, then, there's the Britishness of the countryside, which comprises of green rolling hills, National Trust properties with colourful herbaceous borders all soundtracked by the theme of The Antiques Roadshow.
Left - The not-so-secret garden at the entrance of Burberry's pop-up Makers House
The British countryside is basically a giant garden dotted with the history of people aiming to perfect their little corner of it and that's why we all love to be tourists in it, regardless of where we are from.
And, it is this Britishness that Burberry has mined for its latest show and show space, which has been opened to the general public for a week afterwards and is called Makers House.
Right - Makers are gonna make. The day I went it was bookbinding
Located in the old Foyles book store on Charing Cross Road, on the edge of Soho, Burberry has teamed up with British craft collective, The New Craftsmen, showcasing their hand-working skills, making everything from tassels to keys to scissors. There are different people displaying different skills, on each day, creating theatre in the bottom of the space.
Just to be clear, these people didn’t produce anything for the new Burberry collection, but it’s an illustration of the type of skills involved. I guess Burberry needed huge volumes and a long lead time if they were able to be the first brand to fully deliver their new ‘See Now, Buy Now’ concept worldwide, all at the same time, both offline and online.
Left - One of the standout pieces of the menswear show
You can buy their products in a small shop here, but I think Burberry missed a trick by not including a few of their own products. Maybe a few of the classic pieces.
Right - A print taken from the V&A archive and used in the collection and on the show seating
Alongside them is a pop-up branch of Thomas’, the Burberry café from Regent Street, which has to be one of the best of the big brand versions of this type of thing, offering seasonal British fare all served on British made tables and chairs, and in this case, leading onto a garden of white busts and classical plaster casts contrasted with lush green planting that welcomes you at the entrance.
It’s like Daylesford Organic has comes to Soho, hostas and all, in this mix of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Nancy Lancaster’s decorating skills, (she was the owner of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler), and a celebration of the great and good of British history all lined up like a friendly who’s, who. I feel like we may have been given a glimpse of Christopher Bailey’s Yorkshire lifestyle. He has to spend all those millions somewhere after all. This is the fantasy perfection of British country living that we never seem to tire of and one which Burberry has used as inspiration before such as Charleston in Sussex or gardening at Sissinghurst.
Left - TheChicGeek on the poetry staircase doing his best Rapunzel impression!
Upstairs, where the catwalk show was, 83 mannequins show off the full collection of men’s and women’s wear, 250 pieces in total, where you can look at the details and touch the fabrics. Everything is available now, if you can afford it, and the collection was Bailey’s usual strong balance of wearability and fashion. Think artist-like relaxed shirts with ruffled collars and cuffs interplayed with brocade and cropped shearlings and slouchy trousers. I particularly like the orange/biscuit coloured shearling and 30s style printed pyjama shirts. The green carpet design was taken from a garden print from the V&A.
Right - The Tudors are back! Taking the ruff with the smooth
Burberry took a risk on the ‘See Now, Buy Now’ concept, but I think they’ve pulled it off. Unlike other brands, this show season, who have made it a token gesture to gain attention and PR, this is full on and took some organisation. I guess many items had to be comprised or changed to fulfil the tight delivery dates, but it doesn't show.
Left - Pieces of Michelangelo's David looking over his shoulder while a sculptor builds up his clay maquette
I like the way it’s been opened up to the public. You spend all that money on the show space, you may as well as justify it by making it customer facing, especially now they’re selling the items straight away. I can’t wait to see how they will top this in February.
Many other luxury brands will be watching this enviously and wondering whether they could or should do the same.
Right - Nancy Lancaster's bed from her house, Ditchley Park
In a post-brexit world I think Burberry should take this whole concept on a world tour. Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mumbai would relish this little outpost of Britishness, pots plants and all. We have to remember there’s a big world outside of London.
Burberry Makers House Open Until 27th September 2016, 1 Manette Street, London, W1D 4AT
How many of these great British figures can you name?
Since its inception, e-commerce has been a difficult nut to crack. When it was growing fast and taking market share, from offline, it was easy to justify spending vast sums laying the foundations for something that you will reap the benefit of later on.
Today, the luxury market is contracting, so trying to grow, whether offline or online, is particular hard, at this moment in time, especially when you're not in control of the choice of products.
Luxury fashion was slow to get fully behind e-commerce and only now are the brands giving it the attention and respect it deserves. The reasons for the change being companies like Net-a-porter and matchesfashion.com having pioneered this area and shown the riches to be made and also being able to communicate with a future consumer and grow a direct database.
Publishing house, Condé Nast, has just launched its e-commerce offering in the form of style.com This has been coming for the past couple of years and has been put back and put back and then, it surprised me, two weeks ago, by appearing on my Twitter timeline. A reported £75 million has been spent - The Times - and with over 100 employees - The FT - this is a big commitment.
There’s always room for something different/good or both, in any form of retail and the idea to combine trusted editorial with shopping is a good one, especially in a tastemaker environment like this. It makes sense.
Unfortunately, the launch site looks nothing different from a luxury site from 10 years ago. The choice is limited and being run on affiliates - which means they earn a commission on each sale - all the items are distributed from various sellers at different costs in different locations. It’s going to be a nightmare for Condé Nast to deal with returns. They want the money, but don’t want to get their hands dirty. Don't we all?!
The biggest surprise is, where is all the editorial? People have tried shoppable magazines before, they don’t work. That’s fine. But, use the budget and teams of Vogue and GQ and give me the best of the season’s images and shoots and if there’s only one shoppable product, then so be it. It’s the magic that people buy into. It’s the world that these magazines live in.
It feels as though the editors aren’t playing ball and have washed their hands of it. It probably doesn't help that style.com is based in Camden and the magazines are over in Hanover Square.
After the delayed launch, the launch now feels rushed. I think they would have been better off keeping style.com as it was - runway reports and party pictures - to keep the traffic up and instead, now, they have to cannibalise digital advertising, which is hard to generate money from at the best of times, in order to push shoppers over to the site from the magazines' individual websites.
It launched with free shipping on orders over £350, very generous! Now, it’s free shipping and returns on all orders. Clearly taking some feedback. (Mr Porter had the same issue when it launched). It has only launched in the UK, atm, and there is nothing on there you can’t get anywhere else. It's interesting too that Condé Nast invested in FarFetch.com, another high-fashion portal, and is, now, technically a competitor. Maybe the two will merge?
I think style.com is too little, too late. They’ll spend the next 18 months finding out that this business model is particularly hard to make money from, while blowing millions and millions of pounds. They'll be lucky is they ever make a profit. This could be the Ocado of fashion! In hindsight, it would have been better to have had a chat with Natalie Massenet about 15 years ago.
This major exhibition at the V&A will explore the era-defining significance and impact of the late 1960s upon life today. From global civil rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, consumerism, computing, communality to neoliberalist politics, the world we live in has been vitally influenced by five revolutionary years 1966 – 70. You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 70 will investigate the upheaval, the explosive sense of freedom, and the legal changes that took place resulting in a fundamental shift in the mindset of the Western world.
Left - Examples of 60s fashion including this striped suit by Mr Fish
TheChicGeek says, “What a trip! We can never get enough of the sixties; a decade we look back at so fondly and one that defined modern Britain and revitalised London. The Victoria & Albert Museum certainly know where the money is these days: the baby-boomers who have all the time and leisure can reminisce here and let the memories come flooding back, or not depending on how hard they went for it during that decade.
Right - The moves like Jagger! Ossie Clark's velvet jumpsuit for Mick Jagger
Tuning in and dropping out was for the wealthy, but we won’t let that spoil a good story. What makes this exhibition is the headphones and the soundtrack. Much like the Bowie exhibition before it, it allows you to be fully immersed and get lost in the sights and sounds of the decade.
Left - Two of the Beatles suits from the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover
There’s nothing here that is particularly new, but it’s so well put together it’s a bit like watching a favourite film: you know what is going to happen but you still love it. From Carnaby Street to Vietnam to Black Power to Woodstock and finally Lennon’s Imagine, the exhibition looks at the idea of challenging the establishment and looking for alternative ways of thinking and living, many of which still resonate today.
Right - The Woodstock area features fake grass, bean bags and costumes and footage from the 1960s most famous festivals
There is plenty of menswear here too. From Mr Fish to Ossie Clark’s jumpsuit for Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix’s festival costumes.
I can’t recommend this exhibition enough. I think it was the longest time I’ve ever spent in a V&A exhibition. There is so much to look at and read, plus the headphones really allow you to zone out and tune in!”
Left - The jacket John Lennon wore in the Imagine video
Prada was once one of the coolest brands. Twice a year, I’d eagerly await each Milan show for that sophisticated yet intellectual take on beautiful men’s clothes. They’d always be something new and clever, which sometimes took a couple of months to sink in, and defined this intelligent type of dressing.
Unfortunately, not everything lasts and this has disappeared from the label which hasn’t been updating as quickly as they used to. It’s like Miuccia has left the building, but then maybe that’s what happens when you become a fashion billionaire?
Anyway, they’ve realised that in order to slow their drop in sales they need to get online and they’ve just gone on to MRPORTER.COM. This cardigan is a standout for all it’s ‘children’s-tv-presenter-rainbow-realness’. It’s something a crazed aunt would knit for you as a child and something that would quickly become your favourite and return to year-after-year. It's hand-knitted in Italy from Shetland wool and is basically a smile in a cardigan.
Left & Below - Prada - Intarsia Shetland Wool Cardigan - £1130
“Doc, doc, doc, doc, Dr. Geek, Won’t you help me, Dr. Geek?!”
This is your opportunity to meet TheChicGeek at Aveda’s pop-up Grooming Station in Fitzrovia, London and discuss any style dilemmas you may have while receiving a complementary haircut from Aveda’s wizards of hair.
Whether you are thinking about a new season wardrobe shift, are stuck in a style rut and need some inspiration, or have a special occasion coming up and are at a loss for what to wear - book in for a free, 30 minute style consultation with Dr Chic Geek at Aveda’s Grooming Station for men, 6 Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia.
Dr Chic Geek is on-hand to host bespoke styling consultations for men, introducing wardrobe staple ideas, featuring a curated rail from House of Fraser menswear brands, new colour palettes to consider for the autumn, as well as hair, skin and fragrance regime and product advice, with hero brands including: Aveda Men, Clinique For Men, Lab Series and Aramis and Designer Fragrances.
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Does menswear really need yet another luxury label? It does if it can offer something different that caters to wealthy men by making their lives easier, increasing comfort and looking smart while not being too difficult or ‘fashiony’ to wear. So, no challenge there then?!
Left - Helbers AW16 Luxury menswear staples with sports detailing and modern fabric mixes
Many traditional luxury menswear brands have fallen into that trap of trying to draw attention to themselves, the brand and the product and it risks alienating its core group and those who can really afford it. Just look at the new Brioni or Zegna’s, now, defunct Couture line. They are all chasing the same customers and these men are picky and know exactly what they want.
Well, I’m introducing, Helbers, a new label of luxury menswear staples from Dutch designer, Paul Helbers. When I first saw this, in the Spring, it was the attention to detail and quality which you could instantly see, and that was just the branded hangers!
You may have heard of Helbers before from his time in charge of Louis Vuitton’s men’s under Marc Jacobs from 2006 to 2011. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, he has also worked at Maison Margiela.
AW16 is his first collection and I would describe it as Jil Sander meets Neil Barrett. Made in Italy, mostly near Venice, it is a small selection of classic and pure menswear pieces with athletic elements and fabric mixes. It is pricey, but I think this is a brand designed to complement the wearer rather than dominate.