A recent wrap on the Evening Standard’s ES Magazine by fashion portal, Lyst, got me thinking about how fashion is currently being bought and marketed. Armed with streams of data on sales and searches, the company fine tunes its offering to predict what you want before you even know it yourself selling from different retailers and sites in one place.
Left - Recent advert for Lyst
The advert says things like - “This week on Lyst: New York men spending 25% more on rubber-soled sneakers than New York women on high heels”.
Is this kind of information really useful? While any additional information empowers buyers and retailers to think about what is selling and what to buy again, it has be remembered that fashion isn’t a logical beast.
You can’t solely predict and buy fashion on previous sales and best-sellers. It’s a bit like trying to please a search engine, how can people search for something they don’t even know they want yet or actually exists? It’s the digital equivalent of the chicken and the egg.
Right - Can algorithms predict fashion?
Annoyingly, as fashion becomes more saturated and speeds up, the number of major changes and ideas seems to be slowing. Is it these types of buying patterns and data information that is stalling fashion? Are retailers being too cautious in order to maintain sales and offer more guaranteed return on sales?
Algorithms will never be able to replace instinct. Fashion is about instinct, a gut feeling. It’s about influential people - be they celebrities, designers, best friends - asking themselves “what do I want now?” or “I want that!”.
This starts the wave of influence along the chain across brands, designers and people which then results in the trends and then, hopefully, end sales for the retailers.
As fashion becomes more competitive and saturated it will be those with the instinct to go in their own direction who will really standout.
Affordable men’s clothes have got so good, recently, that if you’ve got the eye and the inclination you can pick up some of the best menswear pieces for next to nothing.
Left - TheChicGeek previewing Boohoo's car coat at their press preview last spring
My case in point is Boohoo’s men’s AW15 car coat. Women have had this shape for a long time, now, and it works because it elongates the body, making you look slimmer and taller.
Fast fashion brands, like Boohoo, have to come up with so much new product these days that they are continually innovating themselves rather than looking to designer fashion solely for ideas. This was one of the best men's coat shapes, I've seen, of the season and at a bargain price of 30 whole English pounds!
Below - Available now - £30
Knightsbridge based department store, Harvey Nichols, has been busy excavating their basement. Long the home of their menswear offering, this cavernous yet claustrophobic space is, we are told, being completely made over ready for its unveiling in spring 2016.
Left - Harvey Nichols' new store in Birmingham which gives us the direction stylistically of the Knightsbridge store's new men's basement.
So, what’s new? I recently attended a presentation of theirs describing how the new spaces are going to look. Bye, bye shop-in-shops and branded concessions: long the bastion of mega-brands, physically claiming prime spots in-store to be replaced by easily changeable spaces and the mixing of brands.
I'd like to think of it as a more democratic form of shopping: allowing labels to speak to people solely on product alone without the pre-judgement of walking over to a branded section or the muscling out of smaller brands by placing them in the parts of the store these mega-brands don’t want.
The big brands won’t like this. They will sell less. There will now be an equal playing field between them and whichever new brands Harvey Nichols decide to stock. It also allows Harvey Nichols to drop brands faster, regardless of size, to keep pace with the speed of fashion and allowing new brands to bring excitement and interest into their physical store.
People are tired of seeing the same brands everywhere regardless of how expensive they are. It also allows a form of curation rather than simply a mini-mall of the same designer names which you can find the world over.
Harvey Nichols know they can’t compete with the likes of Harrods and Selfridges on menswear floor space, so, they are making theirs more flexible and less static. This is a very clever idea.
Right - More interiors from Harvey Nichols Birmingham. Let's hope London looks this good
In order to survive shops need to become destinations. They need to offer something you can’t find anywhere else: something new, fresh and inspiring. They also have to flow, both visibly and physically, and, ultimately, part time-poor people with their cash.
One of the more interesting ideas they have is putting all the same things together. So, white T-shirts, tuxedos etc., all at different price points, selected by Harvey Nichols, are together with the sales assistants explaining the differences between them all.
Fashion’s big names have long earnt their corners of the big stores, but they sell more and remain powerful because they have the best positions and are, therefore, stuck in a positive cycle which is very hard to break, making retail spaces look the same every time and everywhere. It all becomes quite predictable and menswear buyers and the retailers want something different and exciting while still retaining the spend.
Harvey Nichols is seeing this refresh as an opportunity to try something new. No doubt they’ll be some difficult discussions with brands, but I hope they hold their ground and give these ideas a chance to prove that the customer, now, buys into good product rather than brands. Menswear just got a level playing field!
Opening April 2016
Making it onto TheChicGeek's Hot List is a pair of made in England trainers. The majority of people would be surprised to learn that there are still manufacturers making trainers in this country.
Bolton to be precise. Norman Walsh make these classy looking trainers for Marks & Spencer's latest AW15 Best of British collection, where they support British manufacturing.
The first casual shoes within the range, they come in this handsome grey colour which look just as good with joggers as with more formal trousers.
Left & Below - Marks & Spencer - Best of British - Trainer - Grey - £99
Go bold, that’s TheChicGeek’s 2015 message for eyewear. Make a style statement in thickly rimmed retro style spectacles, this season. Perfect for the current vintage inspired looks, as seen on the catwalks for SS16, and the huge trend for facial hair and fuller hairstyles.
Left - Gucci Menswear SS16
TheChicGeek has complied a scrapbook of his 5 favourite spectacles, available right now from SmartBuyGlasses, and a few special spectacle wearing style icons to give you some inspiration.
Left - Smart Buy Spectacles - Zack
Left - Gucci Menswear SS16
TheChicGeek says, "Think about your favourite TV stars of the 1970s in their oversized frames. The best shapes to go for are the aviator/pilot or thick square or rectangular frames".
Below - Yves Saint Laurent doing his best 1970s safari look, Gucci Menswear SS16
Left - Yves Saint Laurent Spectacles
TheChicGeek says, "Fashion has entered a very fantastical moment full of dress up, patterns and prints. The types of spectacles help finish these eclectic looks".
Left - Elton John
Below - Cazal Spectacles
Left - Gucci Menswear SS16
Left - Yves Saint Laurent
Below - Gucci Spectacles
TheChicGeek says, "Be bold. Oversized frames ooze confidence. They are also fun. Think Elton, Yves and the new look from Gucci".
Far Left - An older Yves
Left - Gucci Menswear SS15
Below - Tom Ford Spectacles
Left - Young Yves
TheChicGeek says, "Spectacle frames reflect your personality. Standout and look confident".
Below - More 70s Yves & Elton
This article is brought to you in association with SmartBuyGlasses
So, news just in, the global market for luxury goods is heading for its weakest year since 2009. Sales will rise by as little as 1 percent to 253 billion euros ($280 billion) in 2015, according to Bain & Co., which in May forecast growth of 2 percent to 4 percent. The projection, on a basis that excludes currency swings, would be the weakest gain since sales fell 11 percent in the year after Lehman Brothers’ collapse.
Left - All the gear and no idea - The 'luxury' customer, Footballer Balotelli
What does this really mean? Is it the wobbles in China or are people becoming bored of ‘luxury’? Whatever 'luxury' means today. The type of products these companies have been producing plus the never ending escalation in prices has taken its customer for granted. The higher the price, the shorter the shelf life, it seems, for product which just continues to get more and more expensive. Some of the entry prices for these brands are frankly ridiculous.
Brands think they can make more money by producing more product, but in fact it just puts people off. (See ChicGeek Comment - Exclusive Not Excluding)
It has also produced a customer, which while a high-spender, isn’t necessarily the look others aspire to. In other words fashion victims.
So, where is style now? The term ‘style’ is as subjective and has as many incarnations as people. But it does shift. While luxury brands have been busy peddling their wares to the international tourist, the style set has been discovering the high-street: the low-cost disposable side of fashion.
It is simplistic, but the only way I can describe style, now, is the best item from the worst shop.
It’s about being clever: the opposite to obvious. Labels and logos have become less important and it’s about how the individual looks in the clothes. The silly prices has just speeded up this process and because the designers aren’t coming up with anything really new, people are happy to get their things from lower priced retailers.
Look at it as the stylish show off by buying and finding great things in less obvious places. The high-street and lower priced retailers have mastered the fit and who really cares that much about the quality of the material when it will be gone before that becomes an issue.
I predict these luxury retailers to start producing lower entry priced product and become less reliant on these few, higher-spending shoppers. The Russians have disappeared, the Chinese aren’t being as frivolous and those oil rich nations in Africa aren’t making as much from every barrel. It's time for luxury brands to get real.
The Vintage Fashion Bible is written by the vintage fashion experts and Red or Dead founders, Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway. It is the only complete chronological look at 20th century fashion for men and women, as well as a practical guide to buying, styling and restoring vintage clothing.
Left - The Vintage Fashion Bible - £25
The book looks at the development of fashion from the 1920s to the 1990s, using clothing catalogues, film posters, magazine articles and other contemporary advertising to create a fully authentic feel for each decade and to show through original visuals how fashion evolved.
TheChicGeek says, “You can’t really be passionate about fashion without having a love of vintage. It’s all part of the education of knowing your references and styles and discovering when particular things were new or a reinterpretation of something older.
One of the best vintage events I ever attended was Vintage at Goodwood in 2010. Not be confused with the Revival, it was the Hemingway’s first foray and the establishment of their vintage events brand which has appeared all over the country since then. It was the attention to detail that really made it standout, especially with the very hard to impress vintage crowd.
The same branding and feel has been used in this book as it takes a realistic, if slightly simplistic, look at the 20th century and it’s numerous styles for both men and women. It’s a fun look at the main styles and looks of the differing eras with tips and information from experts.
The Hemingways certainly know their kipper ties from their fishtail skirts as Red or Dead was a very vintage inspired fashion label, pioneering that 70s retro look which was popular throughout the 1990s. There is plenty here to stimulate, but probably not enough depth for a vintage aficionado. I always like to see what people predict to be future vintage, I did the same in my book. Only time will tell”.