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”.
We’ve all fallen in love with arctic parkas over the last few years and their popularity sees no sign of waning especially when the temperatures really drop. I wanted to introduce ParaJumpers, an American sportswear brand based in the Italian province of Treviso.
Left - Parajumpers - Harris - £942
A meeting with a serving member of the 210th Rescue Squadron in a bar in Anchorage, Alaska provided inspiration for designer Massimo Rossetti to create Parajumpers.
The men of the 210th Rescue Squadron are highly trained for extreme rescues and recoveries in the wildest, most remote and hostile corner of the globe. They are the PJs or Parajumpers. They are better trained than any other military corps.
The result is an extremely innovative outerwear collection, designed to be functional with highly technological components.
Left - Parajumpers Logo
The jackets are made of hardwearing nylon and come with a removable feather-padded lining and a fur-trimmed hood. The collar fastens with a hook used in parachuting. On the front is a large, zippable multi-cargo pocket containing a further three pockets designed for carrying accessories, such as iPods, GPS devices, mobile phones, etc.
The inspiration behind this season's AW15 collection comes from various sources: the extreme, cold landscapes of Canada and Alaska, traditional English woollen garments and Japanese metallic and technological trends.
Left - Parajumpers - Musher - £1158
The Parajumpers motto is “that others may live”.
A cross between a jacket and a shirt, the shacket is that useful menswear transition piece for when you need something more than a sweater, but not a fully blown coat.
A ChicGeek must-have piece of the season, this suede shacket, in a rich blue, has just arrived at New Look. At under £90 and in real suede this is something of a bargain and a sophisticated addition to any man's wardrobe.
TheChicGeek says, "Team it with a roll-neck for a cold day or leave open as a luxury overshirt".
Left & Below New Look - Navy Suede Shacket - £89.99 See TheChicGeek wearing it here