Friday, 16 August 2019 13:45

ChicGeek Comment Box Everything

Boxpark Croydon successMention Croydon and the first thing the majority of people say is ‘Boxpark’. That, and the fact the place is a bit run down, is all people seem to know about this outer South London suburb. The metal shipping container type concept of Boxpark has become the ‘up and coming’ stamp of hipster approval and many councils and developers see it as an opportunity to regenerate their town centres, drive footfall and appeal to a younger audience.

Since its launch in 2011, Boxpark has morphed from retail to food outlets, and, now, work places. Just announced, Boxpark has nationwide expansion plans alongside two brand new concepts; BoxOffice and BoxHall. They currently have 3 sites in Shoreditch, Croydon and Wembley. and there are plans to expand with a further ten new sites over the next five years. 

Left - Boxparks new concepts; BoxOffice & BoxHall

The new concept, BoxOffice, is a co-working space which will be incorporated into brand new Boxpark sites. The Boxpark and BoxOffice schemes will be a 50,000 - 150,000 sq ft. in size with developments featuring the Boxpark streetfood and bars set up on the ground floor and leisure operators such as virtual reality, cinemas, crazy golf and karaoke on the first floor and between two to four floors of co-working space above. Boxpark will work along alongside existing co-working companies on the launch and operation of the new BoxOffice concept. 

BoxHall is a new food hall concept. These smaller, 10,000-20,000 sq ft, food and beverage destinations will be based on existing sites within city centres across the UK, featuring between six and twelve street food vendors at each site. Boxpark’s turnover is reported to be currently in the region of £10 million a year.

Boxpark founder and CEO Roger Wade said, “I’m really excited to announce our plans for our brand new BoxOffice and BoxHall concepts. Boxpark has always been an innovator in the retail and leisure sector and these brand new formats demonstrate our investment in continuing to evolve both the brand and the sites we build and operate. These two major new innovations will help us secure a further 10 sites across the UK over the next five years.” 

They haven’t named the sites, but proposals were submitted to Brighton & Hove City Council to revive the crumbling Victorian arches on the seafront, and will incorporate a new premium hotel operator alongside a Boxpark.

Founder Roger Wade’s background is retail and he was the founder of footwear brand, Boxfresh. The pop-up Boxpark idea has been successful because it has mirrored Generation Rent. The temporary nature and its choice of more ‘edgy’ locations needs less investment and has less local competition. It’s the opposite of chainy, while still being a chain and situated at travel hotspots for a generation who aren’t learning to drive. Read ChicGeek Comment Neighbourhood Shops - here

Time Out Market London Waterloo

Councils are also encouraging them too. Croydon Council gave Boxpark a £3million loan, plus another £180,000 grant of public cash towards its launch party. Croydon Boxpark has 40 traders from around the world, both established and start-up, set in over 90 shipping containers. With Croydon as a further example, while the Boxpark seems to be thriving near the main East Croydon station with direct trains to London and Brighton, Westfield’s much feted shopping centre in the middle of the town seems to be wobbling and being pushed back further and further. Bricks and mortar is expensive and these easily converted containers are ripe for small start ups, offer more customer choice and can be moved easily if a location doesn't work.

Right - Time Out Market London opening at Waterloo Station in 2021

When Boxpark first opened in Shoreditch it was retail focussed with brands such as Calvin Klein Underwear and Nike. It quickly moved more into food when it realised young people wanted experience over stuff. The two further Boxparks were purely food focussed. Now, they’ve realised there is potential to develop further and make ‘Box’ the ‘Easy’ brand for younger generations.

Eating at these places is cheaper and cooler than eating in standard restaurants. It has spawned imitators such as Pop in Brixton and GRUB in Manchester while chains like Byron Burgers and Jamie’s Italian have all suffered. Shopping centres and town centres are seeing that these hipster concepts appeal to Millennials and Generation Z who want authenticity, and, while a similar idea, they feel like the antithesis of the traditional American mall type food courts.

Food is the fulcrum for all these developments, and it's the theatre of food that creates the buzz and energy missing from many modern retail locations. People need to eat, it brings people together and makes them leave the house. 

These mini-food halls are seeing a boon ATM. ‘Market Hall’ opened at Victoria Station and Fulham with a third opening, the flagship, ‘Market Hall West End’, opening late 2019 in the old BHS building off Oxford Street and will become the largest food hall in the UK. Covering 37,500 sq ft over three floors, with over 800 covers, "this impressive space will feature twelve independent food vendors made up of crowd favourites in Fulham and Victoria as well as some new faces, four bars, a children’s play area, three dedicated events spaces and TV recording studio including a demo kitchen". Market Hall founder, Simon Anderson, told the Big Hospitality website in April 2019, “We are concentrating our attention for the next year and a half within the M25 as we know the London audience well. When we go further afield we’ll go to the north first as half our management team is based in Yorkshire and has a good understanding of that marketplace. Within the next few years we hope to have three or four more sites in London and three or four out of London.”

These modern food halls are like an internet portal or host. The umbrella brand hosts numerous smaller and unknown brands offering more choice and novelty while charging a fee and not getting their hands too dirty. Shopping centre owner intu asked Market Hall to open at their Lakeside centre in Thurrock this Spring. I wrote this last year, ChicGeek Comment Returning Malls To Markets

Eataly Liverpool Street Food Halls Bishopsgate

'The Hall’  “brings together dynamic and independent food traders from across the south east and use the big-city energy, theatre and excitement of street-food to create a compelling dining experience for intu Lakeside’s 20 million annual footfall” says the blurb.

The Hall at intu Lakeside is 14,500 sq ft and includes seven kitchens, a coffee shop, pop-up areas for food trucks, two bars and seating for 680 people.

Other examples include the Time Out Market London, opening at Waterloo station in 2021  - Read more ChicGeek Comment Investors Letting The Train Take The Strain and Eataly, opening on Broadgate, next to Liverpool Street station, in 2020.

Left - Eataly opening on Broadgate in 2020

This global Italian food “marketplaces” operator, which combines retail and restaurant concessions, already has locations in New York City, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, as well as in Japan and Brazil. It promises a selection of “the best Italian products, restaurants, bars, quick services, exciting on-site production laboratories, and a cooking school.” 

The Boxpark brand is the leader in this area of pop-up food malls and developers and towns are seeing this as a worthy replacement for the contraction in retail demand. The new BoxOffice and BoxHall concepts seem like logically growth of a popular brand.

Umbrella brands like Boxpark also know councils and shopping centre owners will offer financial incentives for them to bring these currently cool concepts to their locations. The only difficulty I see is expecting an unlimited supply of authentic, ambitious and quality start-ups to fill them. These concepts are only as strong as their groups of operators and it will be a fine balance of supporting them while profiting from them.

fashion menswear OAS towelling shirt palm trees

I saw these this time last year at the Revolver Trade Show in Copenhagen, and I made a desired mental note to watch out for them. I clearly forgot… So again, I saw the same shirts just last week, at the same fair, and they still look just as good. It turns out they’re a best seller having already sold out in Liberty.

These thick towelling summer shirts are almost a shacket and perfect for straight out of the water. The OAS brand is named after the Swedish founder, Oliver Adam Sebastian, and was born as a result of his numerous trips to the family’s summer house in Barcelona.

These are currently sold out, but Oliver informs me they’re going to be delivered in October and you can register on the website to be notified.

It looks like we’re already planning summer 2020 or a maybe perfect excuse for a winter sun break?

Left - OAS - Banana Leaf Terry Shirt - €99.90

Below - OAS - Palmy Terry Shirt - €99.90

fashion menswear OAS towelling shirt palm trees 

 

Mike Ashley pacman Jack Wills british high street house of fraserYou’re joking, not another one!! - said in a Bristolian accent - when news came in that Sports Direct’s, Mike Ashley had snapped up Jack Wills. Yet another brand to be gobbled up by the Pac-Man of the British high street.

Left - Jack Wills was just gobbled by the high street Pac-Man, Mike Ashley

The preppy retailer had been on the block after private equity owner, BlueGem Capital, lost interest. Things were obviously worse than was thought with Jack Wills being put into administration and immediately sold pre-pack to Sports Direct for £12.75 million. The deal includes all 100 UK and Ireland stores and stock, as well as a distribution centre, but not the international business.

This is just another brand in a long list of troubled retailers snapped up by Ashley in his buying spree over the last few years. While many of these retailers have been snapped up for bargain prices, inspired by his Sports Direct marketing no doubt, they were in trouble for a reason, and, there’s only so many brands you can give the attention and TLC they need to nurse them back to health.

Ashley has also been distracted with his failed bid for Debenhams and his shareholding being wiped out, and in his recent, disastrously handled, release of Sports Direct’s latest set of results he started to lament his purchase of House of Fraser. He’s realised that House of Fraser is a serious money pit. So, why does he want even more? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Every time a brand gets into trouble, Ashley is named as a potential suitor and it’s almost becoming a joke. It’s as though he’s some magic man that knows something we don’t and while we’ve been waiting, with some scepticism, on some of the ‘Harrods of the high street’ rhetoric to be followed through on, he needs to hurry up before it all becomes too late to repair.

Social media has become a running commentary of people saying how bad their local House of Fraser has become and how it is slowing turning into another branch of Sports Direct with its Lonsdale pants and Slazenger joggers.

Maybe a sign of intention, he paid £95 million - more than for the entire chain - for the freehold of the original House of Fraser in Glasgow promising to turn it into the ‘Harrods of the north’. (Harrods must be loving all this free publicity btw). There are plans to create a mini, higher end chain of stores - around 7, including Glasgow - within the House of Fraser group, called ‘Frasers’ with the remaining stores stocking more mainstream options.

Ashley said in the recent set of results, “On a scale out of 5, with 1 being very bad and 5 being very good, House of Fraser is a 1, albeit we are trying very hard to turn the business around this will not be quick and it will not be easy. Even though we do believe there could be a bright future for House of Fraser, and indeed have publicised our Frasers vision which we are very excited about, if we had the gift of hindsight we might have made a different decision in August 2018.

“We have continued to look under the bonnet as we integrate the business, we have found that the problems are nothing short of terminal in nature,” he said. “We are continuing to review the longer-term portfolio and would expect the number of retained stores to reduce in the next 12 months.”

He needs to start with the Glasgow store, which is already one of its premium branches, and show the industry and consumers what the plans for the roll out are.

As well as House of Fraser and Evans Cycles, he added online retailer, sofa.com, this year, and then said the overall retail industry is in “dire straits”.

Mike Ashley pacman Jack Wills british high street house of fraserIf this wasn’t a big enough headache, the Belgian tax authorities has just sent a payment demand for a whopping £605 million. Sports Direct has entered into a mediation process and the demand relates to the tax treatment of goods being moved intra-group throughout the EU via Belgium. Even if reduced, it’s likely to be a huge bill regardless.

As for the core Sports Direct business, profits slipped by 4.7% to £264.7 million according to the latest financial figures. The company said it will not be issuing any profit guidance for next year, but some guidance may be issued with the company’s half-year results.

They also said, “We remain very focused on delivering our elevated proposition. We will see some great milestones achieved in the year ahead, with the Flannels flagship store opening and we will commence the work to shape the Frasers Glasgow store into what we believe will be a fantastic shopping experience for our customers and showcase our intentions for the remaining portfolio of stores.”

Flannels is the bright spark within the group and the most believable part when it talks of ‘elevation’. Selling premium brands such as Valentino and Gucci and expanding rapidly, it would fit into this vision. As part of the Premium Lifestyle division, which also includes Cruise and van Mildert stores, it has grown from sales of £60.4m in FY17 to £173.9 in FY19.

Right - Inside the 'Harrods of the north' - Glasgow House of Fraser

The company told Drapers, Flannels had an ambition to open 15 to 20 stores per year until it reaches its target of 100. There are currently 43 shops with new openings in Chester, Newcastle, Watford, Sutton and York as well as the huge and much anticipated Oxford Street branch.
Sports Direct Group’s head of elevation Mike Murray said, “We are focusing on key cities that haven’t had exposure to luxury or a well-executed luxury environment. Our stores aren’t the typical size of 2,500 sq ft or 3,000 sq ft. We are focusing on big destination stores so it is worth people’s while coming.”

The new House of Frasers or ‘Frasers’ could just be an enlarged version of this, but there are only so many £800 designer hoodies they’ll be able to sell and will need incorporate more experiential services and novelties. The House of Fraser brand has been damaged and will take a lot of time and money if it’s to compete with the regional Selfridges and Harvey Nichols of the world.

The prediction is the entire brand will be binned and disappear along with the majority of the stores and the new Frasers brand will live on in a handful of larger cities. But, this is still going to take a lot of money.

The Sports Direct Group currently operates 367 stores in England, 37 in Scotland, 28 in Wales and 17 in Northern Ireland, along with 35 other fascias including USC. This represents a net reduction of 9 stores over the period as a result of 13 openings and 22 closures. Despite the net reduction in stores the total sales area has increased to approx. 5.6m sq. ft. so it is very exposed to the current state of the high-street.

Lord Stuart Rose has warned Mike Ashley over his ambitions for a retail ‘oligopoly’, saying, “My view in retail is to stay nimble, lean and mean. You need to be able to turn on a sixpence,” he said.

This shopaholic nature of brand buying and lack of investment in what he already owns is a confusing and dangerous combination. He needs to slim everything down, keep what’s working and be ruthless. (That last bit shouldn’t be a problem). 

We’re all hoping Ashley’s game plan, whatever it is, is successful because he now owns a huge slice of the British high street. FYI - Spud-U-Like is still available… #harrodsofthehighstreet

Read more ChicGeek expert comment - here

Thursday, 01 August 2019 16:20

Splash or Cash? The Toggle Trouser

Menswear drawstring trouser toggle hot pinkTrust Korea to give us this OTT type of toggle trouser. Drawstrings for days in hot pink thanks to 99%IS- and its designer Bajowoo’s experience of designing merchandise and outfits for underground punk and rock bands in Tokyo, Seoul and Europe.

For cash, Jaded London, has a similar pair at a fraction of the price with strings attached - pun intended. Soz.

Left -  99%IS- - Gobchang Stretch-Shell Drawstring Trousers - £855

Below - Jaded London - Black Nylon Ruched Toggle Detail Jogger - £73

Menswear drawstring trouser toggle hot pink

Barcelona top menswear brands Mans Concept Menswear Jamie AlvarezGood menswear is all about timing. Knowing exactly where we are right now and where we’re going next is paramount to design sophisticated product which resonates. It’s intuitive and is the sign of a great designer. 

Left - Mans Concept Menswear's Jaime Alvarez

Hitting the mark and making menswear waves is 25 years old Barcelona Fashion Week star, Jaime Alvarez. His label ‘Mans Concept Menswear’ has quickly become the hot ticket of Barcelona, winning Best Emerging Designer multiple times, and offers a combination of dressy yet cool menswear which wouldn’t look out of place on Harry Styles or any red carpet.

"Everyone believes that MANS comes from man, but, it actually comes from my grandpa’s german surname ‘Demans’,” says Alvarez. “My grandpa is the person I admire the most, he made me appreciate a good suit and taught me how important it is in men’s dressing.

“I covert finely constructed clothes made from good fabrics that last a lifetime.” he says. “But, I look for more relaxed tailoring for everyday life.”

Barcelona top menswear brands Mans Concept Menswear Jamie AlvarezAlvarez founded Mans Concept Menswear in 2018 straight after graduating from the Istituto Europeo Di Design (IED Madrid) in 2017. 

“I've always had the idea of creating my own brand.” he says. “Everything started two years into my final project where I presented twelve looks under my brand concept.” he says. “I’d found an enormous gap in menswear between the classic tailor’s suit to an extravagant design that I personally believe no one would wear on the daily life, so I believed that there would be a place for MANS.”

Right - Mans Concept Menswear SS20

Huma Humayun, Fashion & Features Editor, Schön! magazine says, “The brand is definitely one to watch. Jaime is not only the most exciting young designer at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week, but holds his own amongst much more experienced and established brands.”

Humayun was on the judging panel when Mans Concept Menswear won Best Emerging Designer for the third time at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week in February, 2019. “It was simply the strongest collection, both in terms of originality and, I believe, commercial viability.” she says. “Perhaps it was not as 'commercial' in the traditional sense as some of the other collections in that category, but to compete on an international stage, one must also bring something fresh to the table.” says Humayun.

Proudly Spanish, Mans Concept Menswear is made entirely made in Spain in a little atelier in Madrid, except the shirts, that are made in Seville, Alvarez’s home town. There are four people in his team and seven more working at the ateliers.

Based around tailoring, Alvarez, is trying to push the boundaries of masculinity yet with very beautiful clothes. “Masculinity is an attitude whether you wear an ostrich feather shirt or an anthracite grey blazer. We decontextualise fabrics that from the beginning are for women and use in menswear pieces without losing the virility and masculinity.” he says.

Barcelona top menswear brands Mans ConceptFor his AW19 collection Alvarez took to India for inspiration and, his latest collection, SS20, it was all about a night in Vienna. 

“I get my inspiration from many different places; from guys I see on the street in my hometown in Sevilla, La Luisana. There I design the majority of the collections, but it's curious because it’s far from Andalusian folklore, but there are pieces with a southern see through inspiration.” says Alvarez. “I take a lot of inspiration from fabrics, normally, I investigate fabrics and from there, the sketches.” he says.

Alvarez doesn’t garner much inspiration from the current menswear market and looks to the old masters. “I’m tired of sportswear, etc.” he says.  “I love to have references from artistic tendencies and iconic dressmakers as Cristobal Balenciaga. His skill with fabrics and patterns still have me fascinated.”

Just shown at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week in June 2019, his latest collection ‘A Night In Vienna’ was a confection of brooding tailoring with sheer pieces and elegant satin sashes.

“With this collection we were looking for a maturity on the patterns as well as in the couture through the details compared to our other collections.” says Alvarez. “This time, the MANS man travels to Vienna to be captivated and nourish himself on the romanticism that involves not just the art and the culture in the Austrian capital, but in the minimalistic and solemn way of opera and music conservatories.

Left - Mans Concept Menswear AW19

“This collection is more focused on details; lined blazers in white poplin instead of the classic lined tailoring. The flaps are full of eyelets, trousers topped with mini satin flaps and waterfall fringing.” he says.

“It's a collection that maybe does not flash on the runway, but a closer look and there are surprises. On the colour palette it’s much more sober and defined, when compared to the last collection where I made a more crazy colour study, with colour touches of burgundies, sunset oranges, and pinks."

Barcelona top menswear brands Mans Concept Menswear Jamie AlvarezAlvarez is referring to his AW19 collection, which is just about to hit his website, and was inspired by India and featured florals, exaggerated lapels and knitted tank tops. A vibrant Indian colour palette of fuschia, marigold yellow and green gave this a collection a summery feel with the highlights being delicate leaf cutouts in soft tailoring.

Humayun, says, “The (SS20) collection clearly demonstrated Jaime's progression as a designer. It was sophisticated both in terms of ideas and technique. It was much more restrained than the previous collection, in terms of the palette, but still had shots of bold colour. I think Jaime has really mastered how to introduce colour into his collections and it's one of his main strengths - that and his attention to detail. I also loved the accessories.

“It's not easy to achieve an impact on the catwalk AND produce wearable garments, but I feel the brand does this very successfully. It's tailoring with a high fashion edge, for a man who wants to stand out without being overly flamboyant." she says.
“It will be exciting to see what Jaime does next season. Although he's developed a strong signature, each collection is very distinct.” says Humayun.

Any young and gifted designer will reach a stage in their career where they have to think about the next step. Do you stay a big fish in a small pond, or take the leap? “This was our last show at 080 Barcelona Fashion and we are looking for new platforms to present the new collection.” says Alvarez. British Fashion Council, are you listening?!

Right - Mans Concept Menswear SS20 at 080 Barcelona Fashion in June, 2019

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