Raf 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
When 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
The final straw was seeing a fox making off with my old pair of leather Birkenstocks and running down the garden. Clearly, the leather was the attraction, but I knew it was time for a new pair.
Birkenstock has introduced colour to their classic Arizona sandal by using EVA plastic: a rubberised plastic with a soft, comfortable finish.
This deep blue pair will look just as good, with or without socks, running down to the shops or off to the gym. The plastic makes this classic sandal feel more contemporary and younger, and, being plastic they’re a great price, can get wet and will definitely be of no interest to the local fox community.
Left & Below - Birkenstock Arizona Sandals - £27 from ASOS
One of the most successful British luxury labels of the last few years, Anya Hindmarch, has just introduced a men’s collection.
"Men started wearing our product so the menswear line really launched itself,” says Anya Hindmarch.
This bag, in the ‘Walton’ shape, is a men’s style from the Anya Hindmarch Bespoke collection and is, now, available, in this bold red, with her humorous Men at Work symbol.
A symbol usually associated with hold-ups, Men at Work seems apt on a formal briefcase, making it light-hearted and showing you have a sense of humour, even in the most serious of meetings.
Now, where do I get a Geek at Work version from?!
Left & Below - Anya Hindmarch - Men’s Men at Work Walton Briefcase - £1495
The Chic Geek talks about his week in men's style including his lack of love for Vetements & Yeezy, Anya Hindmarch's new men's range, the Fossil Q Founder Smartwatch, UTC00 accessories & That So layered sun protection.
While we like our homegrown style icons in Britain, it would be hard not to appreciate and acknowledge the legacy Elvis Presley has ingrained on our male style psyche. Albeit in a karaoke, stage-costume type of way, like all great musicians he could carry off even the most OTT of outfits due to his talent and stage presence.
Left - Book cover. That famous quiff
Zoey Goto’s new book on Elvis, Elvis Style: From Zoot Suits to Jumpsuits celebrates the style-world of Elvis Presley - ‘the man who singlehandedly changed the way that America, and much of the world beyond, dressed’.
Elvis Style includes over 175 photos, many of which show rarely seen before Elvis-worn garments, interiors and cars from the King’s extensive private collection.
Zoey says “I first became interested in Presley around 15 years ago, when I was flicking though a magazine and came across a photo of Elvis - who was, and still is, the most visually stunning person I had ever seen. From that point onwards I was hooked. I speedily booked a ticket to Memphis to visit Elvis' hometown and shortly after wrote an academic paper on Graceland's interiors, which later gave rise to the idea of my Elvis Style: From Zoot Suits to Jumpsuits book.
Right - Elvis melting in his black leather jumpsuit
“I was really surprised to see how little had been written about Elvis from a fashion & design perspective, as he has had such a huge cultural influence. I think there are very few icons who have had, and continue to have, such a direct influence on our aesthetic world. When I'm walking down the street in London, I am always clocking Elvis' influence on the way men style themselves - from quiffs and rockabilly revival, to the way we use cultural appropriation in our dress,” she says.
Left - Elvis' gold suit, once owned by Elton John
Right - Elvis influence? The western neck tie Gucci pre-fall 2016
TheChicGeek says, “‘Elvis would rather shop than eat’. Who knew! Elvis encapsulates the pinnacle of American culture, the 1950s, and then later the showy, kitsch and glamour of old Vegas. This book covers not just his clothes, but hair, food, cars, houses and even planes. Elvis is basically America of the 20th century manifested into a strikingly beautiful man. The time when bigger was best in American culture and over indulgence was encouraged, which, ultimately, lead to his tragic and early downfall. People of a certain age remember Elvis, for us younger ones this book gives an entertaining and informative refresh into what made him so special. With a simple flick of the collar one can instantly recognise the influence he had on menswear.”
Right - Elvis' tiger suit (1970s)
Below - Elvis influence? Gucci spring 2016
www.elvisstylebook.com / #ElvisStyleBook