Is the love affair over? Has Instagram peaked? I’m not basing this on any stats, as there aren’t any recent figures, but, like all things, instinctively, it feels like the audience are growing bored, the novelty is over, it all feels like hard work and many people are thinking what’s next or they want a break.

Left - Instagram - Are you feeling bored? Is the love affair over?

Instagram’s had a good run for its money, but I think people have a sense of deja vu looking at the perfect and saccharine images that are repeated daily. The same faces in the same places. I think the British, especially, are suspicious of too much perfection and the filtered view on life feels distant from the reality.

Over the last 3 years, Instagram became an obsession for many with the birth of ‘Influencers’ and brands piling in to be seen in the hands of these people who always look both ways, but never into the camera, when they cross the road. It’s hard to do anything different and people are becoming immune to any great images and simply overwhelmed with the swiping. They even look bored.

Let’s look at Instagram with fresh eyes for a minute. It’s not often you learn anything from it. It’s mostly immature, forgettable stuff - hot people, cute animals, holiday pictures, floors etc - and appeals to your younger, teenage self and that can be fun, for a time. When you think or feel like engaging, it’s only natural to really care about the people you know in really life.

I’ve been put into the ‘Influencer’ bracket, I’ll put my hands up, but my foundation has always been the written word and this blog. The idea is and always was to try to be a trend setter, opinion former and find out the latest and best things within the men’s style area and to be trusted and influential. (I don't think we've fully settled on a label or a term to describe what we do. The word 'Blogger' has also had a rough ride and wasn't embraced by many). I care and am passionate about this business and it isn’t a vehicle for my own vanity despite what my enlarged head might say!

Many men’s influencers were born from their girlfriends’ accounts and as such followed their lead on content and visual identity. Let’s be honest, how many afternoon tea reviews really appeal to anyone, let alone guys? The modern equivalent of a teenage crush or poster on the wall, the good-looking male influencer is not going to be cute for forever and doesn't really appeal beyond the superficial. These things have a shelf life and the Best Before Date has passed. They have to work out their USP or niche of expertise to have any longevity. I think men, especially, respect and are influenced by honest experience.

People are growing bored, posting less images and with engagement falling, this is the perfect storm to deflate this bubble. We are all influenced by many of things and by lots of people and the idea that these people have a magic key or insight is now over. It was all getting a bit 'Emperor's New Clothes' or was it the emperor getting paid to wear the new clothes?!

‘Influencer Marketing’ has a place in the arsenal of marketing, but celebrities lead the movement in this. There’s no reason for brands not to spend a slice of the marketing pie, but it became a central focus and I’m not sure it really warrants that importance and all the eggs going into this basket. Brands need to create good content and they can partner with people to do this: lots of different people. It doesn’t and won’t always result in stats telling you how much ROI - return on investment - you’ve had. It’s marketing afterall, everything is experimental and nothing is guaranteed.

As Instagram make it hard for people to grow their followers, it’s become a game of getting nowhere and a feeling of hopelessness and dropping out. It’s also hard to find anybody on there or break out of your friendship groups. I’m not entering the #Instafraud debate, but I think some people need to take a step back and realise that not everything revolves around Instagram.

Many of these Influencers don’t seem to have an opinion or express it on Instagram and this is why they’ve never really been into Twitter. Nobody is saying anything. Twitter requires a brain and thought process in order to say something and, this, unfortunately, makes it smaller in our figure obsessed world. Twitter is about news, opinion and conversation and doesn't appeal on a huge scale.

Also, what’s the ideal Instagram number of followers? 10,000? 25,000? 100,000? More, more, more!

As the men’s fashion business has been going through contraction - ChicGeek Comment here - the money available has deflated the Influencer bubble too. Brand people forget there is much more to the digital world than Instagram. We’re definitely seeing less sponsored posts and collaborations on there. While Instagram isn’t going anywhere, the days of thinking the sun revolves around it are over. It’ll take its place on the icons along with all the other accounts and move into the background. 

I think things are going to go back to written content held on blogs and websites that can be searched for and while social media is important and helps you create great original images, it’s very disposable and becoming more and more noisy as more features are added. I also think personality is going to become much more important in the digital world and this needs to be expressed in what you say, not just how you are seen. Instagram has become stressful keeping up, increasingly serious and as such has lost most of the fun.

It’s time to get clever, again.

Fashionistos, clear your diary! As we stand on the eve of the new SS18 men’s show season be part of the excitement of London Fashion Week Men’s - LFWM - thanks to St James’s. Join TheChicGeek on Saturday, June 10th, as Jermyn Street is transformed into an al fresco catwalk.

The centre for London’s menswear for centuries, the St James’s area is steeped in history while still being one of the best contemporary men’s shopping areas in the world. Combine an afternoon of shopping with an inspirational see-now-buy-now catwalk show featuring some of the best British brands including Turnbull & Asser, John Smedley, Lock & Co and John Lobb as well as contemporary, newly arrived names including Paul & Shark, Jigsaw, Sunspel and Barbour International. 

The two shows are at 1.30pm and 3.00pm and the tickets are free. You just need to register - here  What are you waiting for? See you there!

Nearest Tube - Piccadilly Circus 

Left & Right - Previous St James's presentations featuring the men's retailers within this prestigious area of Mayfair

If you can’t make either of the shows visitors will be able to drop into the shops of St James’s for a variety of special in-store activities such as a shirt cutting demonstration from a Master Shirt Cutter at Harvie & Hudson and complementary wet shaves at world renowned perfumery Floris. Jermyn Street will also play host to some of London’s best street food retailers all offering a bespoke St James’s menu, making sure the day will be a feast for all the senses.

 

In an age of increasing competition and saturation, anonymity is the death of any brand. People like to know the person or people behind the things they are buying. Ultimately, at all price levels, we are buying somebody’s taste, so, call it nosy, if you will, but we want to know who is making the decisions.

At the recent Marks & Spencer menswear fashion show previewing their AW17 collection, and by chance, I met their Head of Design, Menswear, James Doidge. Impressed by his relaxed and honest approach, I wanted to find out more, so I sent him a few ChicGeek questions:

Left - Marks & Spencer, Head of Design, Menswear, James Doidge

CG: Where are you from originally?

JD: I’m from Aldridge, a small town in the Midlands

CG: How old are you?

JD: 39

CG: You studied at Central St Martin’s, what did you study & when?

JD: I studied Menswear on the BA course, at Central St Martin's from 1997-2000. Before that I completed a Foundation Course at Chelsea College of Art & Design

CG: You’ve previously worked at Paul Smith, Versace, Asprey & Calvin Klein, what was your favourite brand and why?

JD: Each brand was exciting to work for as they have their own strong aesthetic. Versace and Calvin Klein may seem quite opposite – gold baroque to minimalist, pure simplicity, however, a designer can help to evolve the brand and create a product that is relevant to their customer.

CG: You spent over 11 years at Calvin Klein, what was that like? What do you think about what Raf Simons is doing there now?

JD: When I started at CK, Calvin was still working there and it was great to understand how he worked – to learn from him and understand his founding principles. He taught the world how to advertise in a modern, aspirational way – how to make clothing desirable and sexy - even a pair of jeans or white T-shirt.

I love what Raf is doing and am really excited to see the next few collections and understand his complete vision, and I’ve been a lifelong fan of his own label.

Right - My favourite image from Marks & Spencer's forthcoming AW17 season

CG: How have you seen menswear change over your career?

JD: Menswear has become a much bigger market over the past few years and continues to grow. Men want to have fun with clothes and enjoy what they are wearing, they want to express themselves, in subtle ways, through the clothes they wear – no matter where they are shopping.

CG: Was it an adjustment going to M&S from Calvin Klein?

JD: Both are huge and very distinct brands, with their own heritage and handwriting. A big focus for me has always been fabric and quality, which is extremely important for both brands.

CG: What are the strengths of M&S menswear?

JD: The quality of the clothing is key when designing for M&S, we have a rigorous testing and trialling process.

We travel the world for seasonal style inspiration and edit those findings down into concise stories that deliver a broad choice of colour and fit that works for everyone.

CG: What made you want to take the job?

JD: I’ve always wanted to work at M&S, as it’s such an iconic British brand, so when the opportunity arose I moved back to London to take on the role. It's like the BBC of the clothing world, an incredible British institution – everyone in the UK has grown up with M&S and has a point of view of what it means to them. M&S has a unique place both on the High Street and in our customers’ lives.

CG:  What were the first things you did there?

JD: Visited the incredible archives in Leeds, which has a huge selection of clothes, packaging, advertising and photographs from the 133 year history of M&S.

CG:  What is your favourite piece from the new AW17 collection?

JD: The Limited green nylon parka. It’s such an iconic style.

CG: How does M&S compete in the 21st century?

JD: Firstly and most importantly, we listen to our customers - 18,000 per week (to be precise!), which informs how we design, create and displayed our collections. We create quality essentials that fit into our customers’ lifestyles and act as staples to shape our customers’ wardrobes.

Left - Limited Edition Parka Jacket - £129

CG: Are there any other men’s brands/designers/retailers you look to or admire?

JD: I love Tokyo Hands, in Tokyo, it has the best stationary selection in the world and things that you could only find in Japan, and Virgil Normal in Los Angeles has a great mix of brands.

CG: Where do you find your inspiration?

JD: As part of our inspiration at M&S, we visit various global cities to understand the different markets and trends to see how, globally, people’s lives are changing and evolving – what they are wearing, eating, experiencing and watching all contribute to our research process. We usually visit Tokyo, Seoul, NY and LA. Also Stockholm, Munich, Cape Town, Sydney and Rio are also fascinating cities for inspiration.

CG:  Where do you see M&S menswear in 5 years’ time?

JD: Still as the UK’s number 1 retailer.

CG:  What book are you currently reading?

JD: Eduardo Paolozzi by Hal Foster. He’s one of my favourite British artists who produced amazing work from the 50s through to the 90s

Right - Marks & Spencer - Autograph - Navy Leather Trainers - £39.50

CG: The last film you watched?

JD: The Genius and The Opera Singer – an amazing documentary about a mother/daughter relationship that also features a chihuahua called Angelina Jolie!

CG: The last piece of menswear you bought?

JD: Autograph navy trainers - here

CG: Favourite city, and why?

JD: London, it has the perfect mix – people, culture, museums, music, art, restaurants, parks and great shops.

 

 

 

One of the success stories of the British high-street over the last decade, Superdry, knows how to do summer. Known for their statement T-shirts and relaxed cargo shorts, this is carefree menswear to blow out those partying cobwebs.

This summer Superdry are all over holiday vibes, but forget the beach- we all know the real fun starts when the night kicks in. Running down side streets to unplanned parties and night swimming, those warm holiday nights are the best.

The men’s collection features tropical prints, graphic tees, vests and swim shorts, alongside flip-flops and sliders in a variety of colours. Follow the story here

Where will your holiday nights take you? #TheNightIsYoung

Left, Right & Below - Get holiday ready & own the whole night in Superdry Holiday SS17

See the full video below

 

The first ever UK exhibition on the Spanish fashion designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga, and his continuing influence on modern fashion opens at the V&A. The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian, Spain and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris. 

Left - The man himself, Cristóbal Balenciaga

TheChicGeek says, “While I love the V&A’s Fashion Gallery, the big exhibition space, where Pink Floyd currently is, is usually larger and something to get more excited about. But, this exhibition feels less cramped than previous exhibitions in the space - see Underwear here - and upstairs has a nice, spacious flow.

Balenciaga, as a designer, was serious. Those black voluminous gowns seem to sum up his lack of fun. He feels strict in that Spanish Catholic way, manifesting itself in his designs using lace and the Spanish Mantilla. You don’t get much feel for the man or his personality, but I think that’s how he liked it. He only gave one interview in his life, and that was just before he died.

Left - Known for his elegant volumes, Balenciaga was one of the great couturiers of the 20th century

The name disappeared into the history books when he closed his house and only came back into common culture with its revival around 20 year's ago when Gucci’s parent company, Kering, bought it alongside Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen.

Downstairs is a collection of pieces, mostly coats and dresses, from his most prolific period the 1960s. These are sculptural clothes for pictures and striking as they are, when they become practical, to enter the real world, particularly the commissions by the rich Americans, they look dated and frumpy. His volumes work on their own, but on people they add bulk and often swallow the wearer. These aren't easy wearing pieces.

Some of his pieces aren’t practical either. The wearer couldn’t sit down or go to the toilet in 'Envelope' dress, for example, but this doesn't detract from its beauty.

This was the golden age of 20th century of couture and while he produced ready-to-wear with his 'Eisa' range, his heart was in his exacting standards and the fine fabrics he used. 

Left - The 'Envelope' dress, 1967, a design you couldn't sit down or go to the toilet in

Balenciaga is more a collection of one-off greatest hits than themed seasons in the vain of Saint Laurent. These weren’t particularly well documented, even though they were huge, between 150 to 200 looks, as the press weren’t allowed into his shows, so the main imagery is striking black and white shoots in the magazines at the time which have entered in the common psyche of 20th century fashion images.

Upstairs is a large display with a varied selection of designers, both old and new, paying homage to the volumes that Balenciaga pioneered. There are a couple of men’s pieces by JW Anderson and Rory Parnell-Mooney to illustrate that his influence isn’t restricted solely to womenswear.

Left - JW Anderson paying homage to Balenciaga with his tulip trousers

There are a couple of pieces from the new Balenciaga, under Demna Gvasalia, who is producing great things and referencing the house while making it feel contemporary. Unfortunately, there isn't a blue Ikea bag in sight!

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion until 18th February 2018. Admission £12