Tuesday, 16 August 2016 13:22

Label To Know Helbers

chic geek menswear label to know helbersDoes 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!

menswear brand to know paul helbersYou 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.

Right - Helbers - Grey Slim-Fit Unstructured Cotton, Alpaca & Wool Blend Jersey Blazer - £1240

Available at MRPORTER.COM & matchesfashion.com

In this week's magazine vlog, TheChicGeek discusses Raf Simons' appointment at Calvin Klein, the recent report that flossing doesn't work, Unilever's 'Regenerate' enamel toothpaste & serum and 'Egyptian Magic' skin cream.

See the full video below

fred perry raf simons the chic geekRaf Simons’ long-term collaboration with Fred Perry has been one of the most successful, in brand and creativity terms, in menswear. Started in 2008 and, now, in its 14th collection, this tie-up was the perfect twist on Fred Perry without being dominated by a designer. 

Every season Raf Simons knew exactly how to had a new spin on the classic Fred Perry DNA without it being too themey or over designed. I still have a black knitted polo shirt from the first collection.

Now, he’s been made head of Calvin Klein - Read TheChicGeek’s thoughts here - I wonder if this collaboration will finish. He’s going to be a busy bee turning around that fashion juggernaut. 

I really like this polo shirt from the new collection. It’s one part retro Northern soul with the stripes, but clean enough to feel fresh and contemporary. You almost want the stripes to be lurex to give it that Gucci feel. This could be Raf’s last collection for Fred Perry, so get it while it lasts.

Left & Below - Raf Simons Rib Insert Pique Shirt - £95

fred perry raf simons polo top

raf simons calvin kleinWhen it was first touted, a few months ago, that designer, Raf Simons, was going to Calvin Klein I put it down to the usual fashion rumour mill working on overdrive. Why would somebody leave Christian Dior and its atelier and move to a brand built on discount underwear and cheap perfume? It didn’t make creative sense and it doesn't make business sense.

The days of buying back licenses, regaining control and taking a brand ‘upmarket’ with the help of a superstar designer are over, especially, if you have shareholders to please. Brands like Calvin Klein are built on volumes. If you want to hit the billions in sales in fashion it needs to be everywhere, quite literally: on the shelves of Boots and in the bargain bin at TK Maxx.

If Raf wants to do ‘real’ shows and make great fashion, that’s fine, but how that translates into the bread and butter product will be interesting. It may alienate its existing consumer while not replacing the sales in the difficult-to-please and fickle designer fashion market. 

It must be remembered that minimalism is a hard sell. Even Prada is struggling. Justifying the price of a designer white shirt is difficult, today, especially with the rise of the high-street and brands like Uniqlo. The landscape has changed.

Calvin Klein’s brand pillars and DNA was always the image and not the product. The product was the afterthought.

The brand, probably, hit its peak around the mid-nineties. The time of CK One which took the pretension out of perfume, by adding a screw top, and a fluid, unisex advertising campaign featuring Kate Moss. Nobody bought the clothes. You couldn’t, even if you wanted to. The grey concrete John Pawson shops, Christy Turlington, Marky Mark’s six-pack, spaghetti-strapped minimalism, which looked so fresh, streamlined and cool, at the time, was all about selling pants and Unilever produced fragrance. This was the chapter of fashion history featuring jersey dresses in taupe or dove grey and the rise of the American mega brands such as Ralph, Tommy and Donna. 

Calvin Klein was always the most forward and directional of all these brands and thus resonated further, especially in the UK. It was also the most visible with its Escape, Eternity and Obsession fragrance campaigns. This was the birth of ‘designer’ fashion and consumers wanted to buy into it at a price they could afford. It was a bit grungy, a bit street, yet still retained enough Americana to make it attractive. It was cool. 

When fashion companies get as big as Calvin Klein they become conglomerates. These beasts of a business are difficult for any singular individual to have much input into. They roll on regardless of what was shown on the catwalk in New York or Milan and the fashion crowd turn up and clap just because the fragrance advertising is paying their wages. 

I’m guessing Raf will want to work from Europe, probably Antwerp. He’ll probably show in Paris. (New York for the first season - *claps hands furiously*). The Americans will think he’s their great white hope, give him whatever he wants and haemorrhage money finding out that the tide went out on designer fashion. 

So, he didn’t have the creative freedom at Dior that he wanted, and it’s a shame they didn’t give him more scope to make the brand his own and see what he could do with the shops and advertising etc., but, Calvin Klein is completely on the other side of that ‘designer’ scale.

Calvin Klein isn’t in the same category of recent revivals like Gucci, Valentino or Saint Laurent. These brands have a great retail network of the best stores on the best streets in the world. When they do something it is replicated in hundreds of shops, the world over, in very little time. This creates fashion. This creates the energy the fashion industry needs and means it actually gets into people's hands and onto their bodies. Calvin Klein would start from near zero on this front, even if every major department store took it, and it would take years to get even one store in every major city of the world. 

Calvin Klein invented masstige before it was even a word. When Calvin Klein, himself,  left they should have followed the Coach/Michael Kors route when they saw the ‘accessible’ luxury market growing, over a decade ago. 

The fashion industry will do what it usually does, nod and smile while taking the money, but, whatever happens it’s going to be interesting. 

Men's style expert, The Chic Geek, talks about the latest health drink - tree (birch, maple & bamboo) water and the latest men's designer fragrances from Azzaro, Roberto Cavalli, Givenchy & Salvatore Ferragamo