In a quiet industrial estate, off a nondescript North London suburban street, sits Albion Knitting Co. Not some relic from the 60s or 70s, that, somehow, managed to survive, but a new venture, with state-of-the-art machines, producing for some of fashion’s biggest names, all proudly made in glamourous Haringey.
Left - Welcome to Albion Knitting Co.
I was invited down by American brand, Peter Millar, to see where some, not all, of their knitwear is made. Producing between 5,000 to 10,000 garments, a year, for Peter Millar, the factory opened in 2014 and also produces knitwear for luxury brands such as Chloe, dunhill and Nicole Farhi.
Right - The feature staircase inside the North London factory
Left - The stairs on the staircase features old pieces of knitting hardware
Knitting, washing and finishing takes place here by the 20 strong workforce. An example of skills and production returning to the UK, from abroad, the whole environment is very open and features a stunning metal staircase with steps incorporating old pieces of knitting hardware.
Right - A final AW16 look from Peter Millar
If you haven’t heard of Peter Millar before, the Richemont-owned men’s brand is busy expanding into the UK. Known for golfwear and currently available at Harrods, they have aspirations to take a chunk of Zegna’s market in that stylish, but won’t scare-the-horses-type of mature menswear. Making in London is certainly a start. If the label says 'Made in England' then the Peter Millar garment would have been proudly made by Albion Knitting Co.
It was on my recent trip to the Pitti men's show in Florence where I got to fully appreciate the sturdy simplicity of the apron style shoe. The apron is the stitched curved detail on the top of the front of the shoe.
I think it gives them an almost Germanic feel and makes them handsome in their simplicity. Definitely a great alternative to a standard Derby or Oxford shoe and they look great on a thicker sole.
I particularly like this black pair from GH Bass.
Left - GH Bass - Monogram Apron Black Leather - £160
Below - Cheaney - Chiswick Derby - £330
Cecil Beaton was a true original. From the moment he arrived at Cambridge University in 1922 wearing an evening jacket, red shoes, black-and-white trousers and a large cravat, to his appearance nearly forty years later at Truman Capote’s 1970 Black and White Ball, Beaton expressed unmatched sartorial flamboyance and nonchalance. He held accounts with many Savile Row tailors, bought his hats from Herbert Johnson and Lock & Co and his shirts from Excello in New York. A testament to his stylistic significance, many elements of his wardrobe are today held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the V&A, London.
Below - Cecil Beaton & David Hockney in the conservatory at Reddish House, 1970
TheChicGeek says, "This book came at a perfect time as I was already Pinning images of Beaton and his conservatory on my ChicGeek Pinterest page - here - and wanted to know/see more. A confirmed snob, photographer Cecil Beaton is better known for his subjects then for the man himself. Benjamin Wild's does his best with, in what I can only imagine to be, a limited supply amount of information, physical items and photographs. These things just weren't documented as much in those days. You almost want to bring Beaton into the 21st century and gorge yourself on images. I'm sure he'd be one for the selfie, if only to double check himself.
Left - 'Rabbit' coat made by Beaton, 1937
One of the best segments of the book is his reaction to his portraits. Showing his level of vanity, he didn't even like David Hockney's drawings. I'm pretty sure that Francis Bacon would have been a wise investment, if he'd liked it!
The image of Beaton in his conservatory with David Hockney - above - is one of my all time favourite menswear images. It sums up the eccentric side of the English gentleman.
The book is a quick glimpse of one the 20th century's greatest social climbers and the taste level that allowed him to progress. Starting as one of the early 20th century's 'Bright Young Things' and living and working through a very exciting time in Britain, he seems the type of opinionated character worthy of reading their diary".
Thames & Hudson - £29.95
Right - Beaton, James Fox & Mick Jagger on set of film Performance, 1968
A moment. The objective of a fashion show is to convincingly transport the viewer, albeit for a few short minutes, to the place that illustrates everything you want to say about your collection. Recent Central St. Martins graduate, Grace Wales Bonner's journey started the second the African harp began to strum and out strode the models, with glistening faces, in looks that could only be described as somewhere between colonial Africa, the 1970s and modern streetwear.
Featured as part of the Topman sponsored MAN show, during LC:M, Wales Bonner's collection was a beaming dose of heat that brought to mind those sepia style, sunday best pictures of the British Empire. Somewhere in downtown Lagos, circa 1948, somebody was posing with a brass pot plant and portrait of the Queen.
The model's waxed faces made them appear preserved and other worldly, while the clothes were wide and slim in a way only the 1970s can do. Surprisingly fresh and contemporary, tracksuits were delicately decorated with jewels which spoke of her reference highlights and not an obvious note of wealth or bling. But, regardless of the references it looked cool, and that's ultimately what good fashion is.
The standout show of LC:M, for me, Grace Wales Bonner, gave us a perfectly formed escape for a couple of minutes. I can't wait to see what she can give us with a full collection. Roll on SS17.
TheChicGeek is very excited to announce his London Collections: Men #LCM social media takeover of great British men’s brand, Jigsaw Menswear. Follow everything he gets up to during London’s Men’s Fashion Week, wearing Jigsaw Menswear throughout. Check out the stylish new collection here
Plus an extra special ChicGeek installation is taking place over the weekend in their flagship Duke Street Emporium in London’s Mayfair. Your eyes definitely aren’t deceiving you! Come down and check out what TheChicGeek is wearing from Jigsaw Menswear’s new SS16 collection plus get a #selfie with one of the many ChicGeeks.
Follow TheChicGeek during #LCM on Twitter & Instagram @thechicgeekcouk
There was a time when wallets were a simple choice of black or brown. These were the small leather goods, confined to our inside pockets, and, depending on how much of a frequent spender you were, weren't seen that often. Wallets are essentially for you, which is probably why Paul Smith's pin-up girls proved so popular.
I was given a floral Givenchy wallet last year and while it wouldn't have been something I would have initially chosen, it feels a bit like a one-off and is instantly recognisable as mine. So, this Japanese scene wallet from Thom Browne caught my eye. The polished effect pays homage to traditional Japanese lacquer work while the interior, with it's red, white and blue, is resolutely American. It is ridiculously expensive, but it is nice.
Thom Browne - Printed Polished-Leather Billfold Wallet - £510 (Mr Porter)
Another year, another crop of prestigious ChicGeek Awards. Fashion years are longer than dog years, crammed full of so much celebrity, business and unpredictability, it feels like a never-ending rollercoaster of stylish ups and downs.
And, what a stylish year 2015 was. This was the year the Apple Watch arrived, Gucci became cool again and the British high-street took over the world. Here’s what TheChicGeek rated for 2015:
Get involved #TheChicGeekAwards
Best Label of 2015 - GUCCI
Creative directors of fashion brands get replaced all the time. They come and go quicker than many football managers, but without as much drama! Historical Italian house, Gucci, was crying out for a fresh injection of ideas for a very long time, but it’s the speed and quality of the turnaround that has made it TheChicGeek’s Label of the Year.
Thanks to Alessandro Michele, the new Creative Director, it completed an 180 degree turnaround into the ultimate geek-chic look of fantasy dressing within one and a half seasons. Gone was the obviously sexual to something that is sophisticated, clever and interesting.
When you’re the world’s second largest luxury goods company and you decide to change this drastically, it has a huge global influence. I was just pleasantly surprised how radical and comprehensive it has been.
His first collection (AW15) of androgyny had many of us thinking "we’ve seen this before", but it’s the subsequent Cruise collections, campaigns and store refurbishments that has cemented this new look of vintage maximalism.
Gucci has become the buzziest label of late and looks set to continue its dominance. Unfortunately, high-street menswear isn’t copying it straight away, but expect to see details and influences in the coming few months. You can always add a simple grosgrain ribbon to your silk shirt!
A double GG belt buckle hasn’t been this cool since the 90s, but this one is in a more delicate font finished in vintage brass.
Gucci has added much needed excitement back into fashion, but there are so many ideas in each collection I’m scared there aren’t enough ideas to go around. Let’s just hope it doesn’t run out of steam anytime soon. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Best New Label of 2015 - DANIEL W. FLETCHER
Selling designer menswear is a difficult business. Men with deep enough pockets are traditionally conservative and those with the will often don’t have the way. So, any new designer menswear label that appears has to be admired.
A new menswear label that caught my eye was Daniel W. Fletcher. Originally from Chester, the brand was founded shortly after Daniel finished at Central Saint Martins, this year, after studying Fashion Design: Menswear, and his graduate collection was picked up by Opening Ceremony who will be the exclusive stockist of a capsule of 8 pieces from this first SS16 collection.
The collection - Peckham Pony Club - is a reaction to the gentrification and re-development of urban space in London. The writings of Ruth Glass and witnessing first hand the gentrification of London neighbourhoods inspired a collection which aims to capture the essence of the urban gentry which Glass defined.
Peckham, in South-East London, provided a backdrop for a collection which reflects the mix of cultures and styles as a result of socio-economic change, whilst highlighting the effects of regeneration schemes and the displacement of long term residents.
Featuring shaved mink collars, silk pyjama shirts and stretch leggings in a palette of baby blue, white and black, it has a retro-futurism quality with humorous touches with the ‘Peckham Pony Club’ branding. I’m wearing a look in a forthcoming OOTD and it sure beats all those Peckham hipsters in their Barbour jackets.
Best High Street of 2015 - NEW LOOK
After a few false starts, this was the year New Look’s menswear finally made it into the pantheon of men’s British high-street retailers. Menswear became a new focus of their business with 4 standalone men’s stores opening across the UK and another 20 are planned for the new year.
The collections became more trend lead and sophisticated with some of the best suede pieces I’d seen this season regardless of price point.
New Look menswear grew up without losing its youthful side and became a bonafide menswear player in what must be the most competitive affordable menswear market in the world.
As if we weren’t spoilt enough with affordable menswear retailers, in 2015 New Look became another great place to find well-fitted, affordable and fashionable menswear.
Best Grooming Product 2015 - GILLETTE FUSION PROGLIDE FLEXBALL RAZOR
Razor brands often herald something ‘new’ with great fanfare when in fact it’s the same old tired concept in a new colour way or they’ve added more blades. Revolutionary.
Gillette, this year, really did come up with something new and it works.
It’s a simple concept really - a sprung ball that can move up, down and sideways following the different contours of the face.
The FlexBall is a little bit like the Dyson of the shaving world allowing for ease of movement and a close, safer shave.
When the hipsters rediscover shaving again they’ll be pleased to know it’s got a lot easier and more comfortable since they last did it thanks to this.
Best Grooming Brand 2015 - KIEHL’S
American grooming brand, Kiehl’s, seemed to have the most innovation this year. Admittedly, a lot of it was unisex, but it still introduced me to facial oils and leave on overnight masks.
Kiehl’s has cornered the market in that pharmacy stroke skincare brand with attractive stores and simple yet recognisable packaging. They’ve expanded yet still managed to keep it cult.
I also particularly liked the Peter Max psychedelic makeover they gave their packaging for Christmas 2015.
Most Stylish Man 2015 - HARRY STYLES
Harry gets an A for effort. A stylist can take a star to water, but they certainly can’t make them drink. Harry took a tall glass of water, this year, with his floral suits from Gucci and silk pyjama shirts from Daniel W. Fletcher (above).
He’s owning that Saint Laurent/Gucci rocker look that is one part timeless and one part contemporary. It’s a tough ask being the new Mick Jagger, but it needs to come easy especially when it comes to the clothes.
He’s been cleverly distancing himself from the rest of One Direction and using his wardrobe and hair to do this. While not every outfit hits the mark, it’s the experimentation and interest that he gets TheChicGeek recognition for.
Best Fragrance 2015 - DUNHILL ICON
This was an early release in the year. dunhill ICON opens with top notes of Italian bergamot and neroli absolute intertwine with a black pepper, fusing the mid notes of cardamom lavender de Provence.
The dunhill brand was given a refresh by new designer John Ray and this was the first fragrance to complement that. The advertising for this matched the advertising for the main brand. The bottle perfectly reflected dunhill’s art-deco heritage while the fragrance was mainstream yet sophisticated and wearable.
It sits up there with Mont Blanc Legend. A modern classic.
Most Stylish Film 2015 - CRIMSON PEAK
Director Guillermo Del Toro’s spooky, gothic thriller Crimson Peak gets TheChicGeek award because of its attention to detail. While the beginning American section is a little bit Titanic, the rest is a visual feast in high-Victorian gothic.
Costume designer, Kate Hawley, fills the film with late Victorian menswear and while it does take a back-seat to the women’s costumes, it adds to the many layers of this visual feast of incest and gory mass murders.
Best Menswear Collaboration 2015 - MONCLER A
Menswear is suffering from something that I can only describe as ‘Collaboration Fatigue’, right now, so this year wasn’t as perky as it once was in the world of collaborations.
One that caught my eye was Moncler A. A Wes Anderson like exaggeration of logos and colours, Moncler A is tie-up with AMI, founded in 2011 by Parisian menswear designer Alexandre Mattiussi.
Playing with the tricolour palette - red, white and blue - of Moncler, Moncler A was a tasteful and handsome take on Moncler’s outerwear classics.
Special ChicGeek Award 2015 - CILLA BLACK
What’s Cilla Black doing on TheChicGeek Awards, you may ask, but she was instrumental in one of the most exciting periods of British menswear.
Savile Row tailor Tommy Nutter and master cutter Edward Sexton teamed up and opened ‘Nutters’ on Savile Row in 1969, and was financially backed by British pop singer Cilla Black and Beatles’ executive Peter Brown.
She introduced the label to her long-standing friends, the Beatles, three of them are wearing Tommy Nutter on the cover of Abbey Road and others within her pop-star circle.
This was and still is the most influential of 1960s tailors and gave rise to the Peacock Revolution and the huge lapelled and flared suits of the 1970s.
Her friendship and financial support of Tommy Nutter left us with one of the most exciting episodes of 20th century menswear. I bet she has left one of the best vintage collections of Tommy Nutter.