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
You can thank me after, but I just may have found the prom outfit to beat all other prom outfits!!!!! Be the king of the prom by taking inspiration from the king, Elvis himself, and Harry Styles with a combination of black and pink. A pink suit with a black shirt, no tie, says 'dressy cool' and is as timeless as rock itself.
The classic 50s colour combo of pink and black brings to mind Teddy Boys and rock 'n' roll. You want a black shirt with black buttons, plain. No contrasting. You can do black trousers if you don't want to buy the whole suit, but add white socks classic penny loafers and you'll be the beau of the ball!
Left - Harry Styles giving good Elvis in an bespoke Edward Sexton suit
Left - River Island - Pink Slim Fit Suit Jacket - £85
Left Below - River Island - Pink Slim Fit Suit Trousers - £40
Below - Hugo - Ebros Stretch Cotton Shirt - £100 from HarveyNichols.com
Left - ASOS - Super Skinny Suit In Mid Pink - £85
Left - Topman - Rose Pink Ultra Skinny Fit Suit - £130
Below - Ted Baker - Rosest Tailored Fit Shirt - £65 from John Lewis
Left - Opposuits - Mr Pink - £64.95
Below - The original, Elvis Presley
Left - Zara - Sartorial Suit Blazer - £99.99, Trousers - £49.99
Left - Zara - Basic Blazer - £39.99
Left - Actor Aidan Alexander at the Billboard Awards
Left - Marks & Spencer - Autograph - Pure Cotton Tailored Fit Shirt - £35
Left - Moss Bros - Moss Esq. - Regular Fit Black Single Cuff Non Iron Shirt - £25
Left - 1950s Cliff Richard
Below - New Look - Deep Pink Suit Jacket - £64.99, Deep Pink Suit Trousers - £29.99
Below - Be the king, this prom season
The sun comes out and it’s time to get excited about wafting around. These are perfect in a Jaipur temple kinda way. It's the ochre-brown colour and faded print that makes these wearable and more relaxed than the more formal type of patterned men's trousers we've seen over the last few years.
You could easily pull these over a pair of swim shorts after a day at the beach or pool. Just make sure your surroundings look as good.
Left & Below - Etro - Gazebo Tree-Print Linen Trousers - £305 from Matchesfashion.com
The week Marks & Spencer previewed their new AW17 menswear collection and instead of a traditional press day, which is usually a selection of clothes hanging on a rail or mannequins, they opted for a catwalk presentation.
Left - One of the models was Instagramming his six-pack on M&S's AW17 menswear catwalk show
They’ve done this previously, but, this time, it was a fun affair and they injected personality and humour into the proceedings. As well as a cross-section of ages of male models, there was a sausage dog, a little girl, a topless Instagram selfie taker, a musician, a guy wearing a tuxedo. You get the idea.
The idea was that it was men on the street and these were the characters in M&S clothes and the different type of guys they dress or can be dressed there..
There was one model carrying a coffee and even a guy holding one of those brown, square paper coffee shop bags. It was all very Sunday-mornings-avocado-on-toast, Bright-Lights, Big City and was aspirational enough.
The next day I woke up thinking about that coffee and paper bag and thought why weren’t they M&S branded? Why weren’t the models carrying M&S carrier bags? The answer is because they’re not cool enough. One of M&S’s checkerboard carrier bags says “egg & cress sandwich” rather than "modern, urban and fashion conscious guy".
And that’s the Brand Disconnect.
M&S needs to work backwards. It needs to think about making people feel good and want to carry a M&S bag and for it to be believable in a show like this. There is no reason why people aren’t happy to get their coffee and Danish from Marks & Spencer. There’s also no reason why they’re not happy to get the rest of their wardrobe from there either, but once it hits one of their green or white plastic bags it sucks the life out of the purchase. Any notion of special is gone.
And I think this is Marks & Spencer’s problem: it’s not the product, it’s the packaging. It’s just not cool or special enough. They have plenty of hot-food, coffee shop-type places and could easily make contemporary packaging for customers to take this away in. Or, even just simple brown bags with a printed logo. It’s not about disguising it’s M&S, it’s about updating and making people want to carry your brand. It's also not about money, well designed and contemporary packaging shouldn't cost much more.
They don’t have to go all hipster, but if they’re ever going to update and put back some retail magic they need to ask themselves why weren’t they happy for the models to be carrying current M&S packaging? Retail is detail after all.
Update Correction - Marks & Spencer's said "We are surprised about your branding comments, as we used both a branded coffee cup and a branded bag in our show (see pictures attached) and worked really hard to ensure we included lots of detail. Also, we have not offered the green carrier bags for over a year, in line with when the whole branding was re-designed in black and white".
I accept my mistake and it's good to see they used their own packaging. From where I was standing, at the show, the packaging looked plain and anonymous. I still think it shows how important bold branding and packaging is even in the most simple and everyday of purchases and how modern retailers want and need customers to be seen to happily carry their product.
Most of the time we’re happy with what we are given and today, for guys, it feels like there is plenty of choice. But, every so often you fantasise a lottery win and think what you would have made for you.
Mine has always been a towelling blazer. I’ve always thought that this spongey, soft and stretchy material would make the ideal summer blazer. I, initially, thought in blue and maybe double-breasted to really go all-out dressy with the towelling. Anyway, that hasn’t happened, yet, but this from one from Orlebar Brown has.
In dark asphalt grey, this single breasted towelling blazer is perfect for the British summer climate. You could wear with shorts and T-shirts and I would keep the colour palette to black, white or grey.
Left & Below - Orlebar Brown - Edgar Cotton Terry-Towelling Blazer - £495 from MatchesFashion.com
‘Potential’ is an overly optimistic word in fashion and there are many more disappointments than successes. When you work in this business you always have your eyes and ears open, listening and watching on social media, traditional media and on the street to see who people like and what they are doing.
Left - The pink suit is by Edward Sexton, one of the most stylish tailors in London
Somebody who I think has a lot of potential, in the realms of being a male clotheshorse, is Harry Styles. Apart from the social media hysteria, I didn’t take much notice of him when he was in One Direction, but he feels like he has huge potential to trail-blaze in menswear. Even as a five he always stood out, albeit slightly.
Many of the things he wears are difficult or require believability and on most guys would look too try hard. Okay, so I may be reading too much into this, but, I remember Justin Timberlake leaving N-Sync, and he was on the cover of Arena Home Plus, the cover they had to reprint as it was too violent as Sept 11th had just happened, and I remember thinking "he was just another silly boyband member, he’s not cool enough for that magazine", but he quickly, thanks to that first album, graduated into an adult artist and so did his style. (Though his Tom Ford Suit & Tie section is still the best).
Back to Harry. Scream! He looks like a young Jagger, which is a plus. He’s sexy without it being about his body. It’s an intellectual form of sexy and the clothes correspond with this.
Below - Harry on Graham Norton. He's partial to dragons on a flared trouser
And this isn’t just because there is no competition. Ed Sheeran, anybody?! Harry Styles was recently interviewed by The Sun and he was asked a few things about his appearance.
He said “I always love being comfortable. You should wear what makes you feel comfortable.
"It’s a really good opportunity to have fun - it’s clothes, it’s not a big deal.”
“It’s a good time to express yourself and have fun with it.”
“It’s one of those things that you shouldn’t take seriously. If you want to wear a pair of yellow trousers you can wear a pair of yellow trousers.”
Exactly. It feels a very relaxed approach and something that isn’t laboured over. Obviously he has a stylist, somebody has to do the leg work, but it feels like he’s choosing from the rail. It’s quite a British thing to not look at others and just do your own thing, instinctively in-sync with what’s going on.
At the moment it’s a mix of Gucci, which definitely isn't for the wallflower, and Edward Sexton, one of the greatest British tailors, who has dressed the majority of the Beatles and Mick Jagger over the years, but we’re hoping for an evolution as fashion moves on. It’ll show his eye and style/taste level if he can change without losing any of the cool factor.
Harry, TheChicGeek is watching you.
Left - Harry in those acid yellow trousers
Put yellow and red together and you don't get orange, but Baywatch. This colour combo always says ‘Lifeguard’, even though on the new film, strangely, they’re using red and blue. Must be a copyright issue!
Anyway, make like Zac and Dwayne down on the beach and go for T-shirts and swim shorts in primary red and yellow. Take the hassle out of Hasselhoff and keep it simple. A strong yellow T-Shirt has always been a difficult one to blend into the wardrobe, but add a red swim short and you get a perfect combo.
Left - An oldie, but a goodie - Original Baywatch
Even if the film’s a load of rubbish, which it probably will be, you can’t get away from the attraction of the sea and surf. Forever and always, I'm always here!
Below - St. Moriz, the no.1 volume self tan brand in the UK, is making a big splash this summer by partnering with the new Baywatch movie which hit screens from 29th May
Left - Orlebar Brown - OB-V - Sunshine Tailored-Fit V-Neck T-Shirt - £65, BULLDOG - Raspberry Mid-Length Swim Shorts - £145
Left - Whistles - Crumple Everyday T-Shirt - £35
Below - Topman - Red Embroidery Swim Shorts - £16
Left - Orlebar Brown SS17
Left - ASOS - Longline Knitted T-Shirt With Curved Hem In Yellow - £18
Below - Thom Browne - Slim-Fit Short-Length Stripe-Trimmed Swim Shorts - £290 from MRPORTER
Below - Topman - Mustard Reality Print T-Shirt - £15
Left - River Island - Yellow Rolled Sleeve Pocket T-Shirt - £8
Left - Patagonia - Nine Trails Jersey T-Shirt - £35 from MRPORTER
Below - Speedo - Solid Leisure 16” Swim Shorts - £15]