My first visit to this beautiful city’s fashion week; its new remit of hosting international talent, and nearly half of the shows dedicated to menswear, makes this a place to watch for nascent menswear brands. Here are TheChicGeek’s highlights:
Mans Concept & Menswear
One of Barcelona’s emerging menswear stars, Mans Concept & Menswear - it's a mouthful - is designer, Jaime Álvarez’s brand. Born in Seville, he studied fashion at IED Madrid and graduated in 2017. This was a journey to India featuring florals, exaggerated lapels and knitted tank tops. An Indian colour palette of fuschia, marigold yellow and green gave this a summery feel with the highlights being delicate leaf cutouts in soft tailoring.
Both Left - Mans Concept & Menswear took a trip to India
Invited Turkish designer, Benan, looked to religion as a leveller of people: once their shoes are taken off in the mosque everybody is equal. He launched his eponymous line in 2009 and won the 1st edition of Who’s on Next/Uomo contest the year after at Pitti Uomo. This collection featured long trench coats to the floor, even coming in reflective gold, thuggish looking bleached corduroy and knitted under-looking clothes. Tailoring was prominent with evening wear and overcoats and quilted jackets and trousers injected the AW19 protective element.
Right - Umit Benan
Javier Girón studied at the Instituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Barcelona and upon graduating he moved to Los Angeles to work alongside Jeremy Scott, Creative Director at Moschino. He returned to Barcelona in 2016, to establish his high-end menswear brand. This was a slick sportswear collection featuring collegiate lettering in a monochrome palette. It’s hard to get this kind of aesthetic to look high-end, but here it looked considered, stylish and well fabricated.
Left - Jnorig AW19
Pablo Erroz founded his ready-to-wear fashion brand for men and women in 2010. Entirely made in Spain, this was a collection with a touch of the Gallaghers with the 90s round coloured lensed glasses. Stripes and the Spanish leather work was there in a light, wearable collection with nautical ropes, florals and sequins.
Right - Liam or Noel?! All made in Spain, Pablo Erroz
Spain’s own youthful and unashamed take on Versace hyped fashion, the Rubén Galarreta brand launched in 2014. Featuring the perfect balance between haute couture and sportswear, the vibrant prints, transparent fabrics, hand-embroidered pieces and unique accessories aren’t for those who want to blend into the crowd. Elasticated side cut outs on trousers, the Chinese Lucky Cat waving motif and transparent underwear makes for a sexualised and provocative male for AW19. This is underwear as outerwear.
Left - Strapped in for AW19 - Rubén Galarreta
Disclosure - TheChicGeek travelled to Barcelona thanks to 080 Barcelona Fashion Week
It was while at Barcelona Fashion Week, looking over a German Influencer’s shoulder, that the digital world looked incredibly small. She was busy scrolling, liking and commenting on pictures on Instagram. All the images looked like fellow Influencers.
We’ve had all this talk of “engagement", and brouhaha about methods of promotion, see bots, but it dawned on me that this is an audience invested in their own engagement. It’s real, but then what is real in the virtual, social media world? What is the correct form of “engagement”?
Left - No Likey
It’s basically people engaging with themselves and why are we surprised that people who like their own self-image are doing it? People have created pods to allow groups of other people to know when they have posted and to mutually like and comment the posts, increasing engagement. It’s basically what you do with your friends, but more organised and business like. It’s fine if you’ve got the energy for it. I haven’t.
She needs to like and engage with other influencers, and vice versa, to keep the momentum up, but are the numbers outside these circles actually worthy of note? It’s really hard to know. It’s pretty much the same with magazine circulation figures.
It’s also like the Fyre Festival. How were the influencers to know that a festival, scheduled months in advance, was going to be a disaster? People promote things in good faith and hope people stick behind their promises and obligations. We can all look back in hindsight and wish to do things differently or not at all.
The “Instagram police” are busy telling people what they should and shouldn’t do, but people are manipulating things all of the time. Who made the rules for the game in the first place? It’s the nature of SEO, or even more old fashioned, people buying mailing lists. It’s businesses trying to promote themselves, which certainly isn’t new.
I would never condone buying followers, that’s plain wrong, on any platform, but getting software to do what you could do yourself is a clever use of time, isn’t it? I tried the follow/unfollow method a few years ago, when I was struggling to grow followers and asked a friend how they were growing their’s. I saw it like scheduling posts or using something automated. I stopped when I realised I really didn’t care enough. Others saw it as cheating. I’ve never denied it.
We’re all at the whims of giant corporations moving the digital goalposts all of the time. Whether it’s Google or Facebook or whoever, people are continually adapting and trying new things. It’s the nature of the business. It’s how they promote themselves and work things to their advantage. We’re all digital micro-plankton bobbing along on their electronic sea.
In the decade since I started TheChicGeek I’ve always valued words and opinion and that’s why Instagram never really worked for me. It did give me TheChicGeek character, though, which I’m grateful for. I pride myself on having a distinct point of view and opinion and it would be odd if I didn’t have an opinion on this subject. I feel like I owe some sort of explanation to the people and brands I’ve worked with over the years. This blog has always been my passion and focus and always will.
We’ll probably look back on this hysterical witch hunt in a few years and wonder why anybody really cared. Hopefully, all this negative energy will implode the whole darn thing. It’s time for something new anyway.
Read - You're Fyred! The Anti-Influencer Backlash has begun...
Fashion trends come and go, it’s in their nature, but, every so often, there is a trend which seems to carry on, continue to grow, get bigger and bigger, look unstoppable and you can’t judge when it’s going to run out of steam. One thing for certain is, they always will, but it’s just trying to pinpoint the moment when something peaks.
Left - Buy? Bye, Balenciaga?! - Zapatillas Triple S - € 725
The trend I'm referring to is the chunky, fugly trainer. The have proliferated so far down the fashion food chain that every designer, brand and retailer has brought out their own version, so, it was obvious to ask, when will this fugly trainer madness end?
This is a trend that started building three years ago, which, in fashion trend terms, is a long time. During that time we’ve seen them get bigger and badder, with the end result of people looking like they were wearing concrete blocks on their feet. I’m looking at you, the Triple S!
Learning when to call a trend in fashion takes experience, but, also, a lot of guess work. It takes instinct, an amount chutzpah and the early data to say when something is about to start its descent.
“It’s a “trend” that will see people paying £150 for a pair of shoes which they won’t be wearing in about 4 weeks time. I think many are over it already.” says Katie Owen, Founder, Sargasso & Grey, a British shoe company that create fashionable wide fitting shoes for women who have wide feet.
Right Tod’s - Shoeker No_Code_02 in High Tech Fabric - £450
I knew it was all over when I saw a chunky trainer from LK Bennett. Yes, the home of the home counties kitten heel has moved into the chunky trainer arena. A stylist friend had been to their #SS19 press day preview, before Christmas, and had taken an image of the shoe and put it on their Instagram Stories. Instantly images of Sam Cam in a Roland Mouret or Kate Middleton picking Prince George up from school flashed across my mind, and it was then that I knew it was over. Stabbing a stiletto into the heart of this youth driven trend, this is what kills trends; when the parents start to wear it.
Another case in point, Tod’s, long the bastion of the nobbly driving shoe, flew the fashion press over to Milan for the big reveal of a new product in October, 2018. It turned out all the fuss was over a new trainer/sneaker or “shoeker”, as they’re calling it. The Tod’s “No_Code”, they said, “represents the constantly evolving change we’re seeing in the design industry, a progressive more elastic world that has no boundaries. We are living in a world where we are constantly on the move, whether it’s a boardroom meeting or weekend coffee with friends, the way we dress needs to adapt with ease.”
While not exactly a chunky trainer, the Shoeker - this name is not going to catch on - showed the attention these middle aged brands are giving to casual footwear and trainers. It was unveiled as part of the Tod’s No_Code brand umbrella, designed by Korean designer Yong Bae Seok who before joining the world of footwear at Tod’s, worked in the automotive industry. This is a trainer or sneaker for dads, who want to spend £450 on a pair and wear it to work along with their Donegal tweed jackets and slim jeans.
“Fashion is constantly trying to reinvent and occasionally we come across a novelty style that sticks. It then doesn’t matter if it’s flattering or a clever design, the hype takes over and makes it a sellout. The chunky trainer is a classic case of shoe marketing that we will look back at, and.. well, cringe, in all honesty,” says Paula O’Connor, Fashion Director. “You wouldn’t see Sarah Harris.. Jackie Kennedy , or (all hail ) Kate Moss in a pair, so leave we’ll alone .. “ she says.
When “Sneakers” is the first drop down on the shoes section on zegna.co.uk you know what the brand’s new priorities are. Another luxury “dad brand", the minute the kids see their parents in these, they’ll be ditching them faster than you can say “Jeremy Clarkson”.
When ASOS announced its shock slowing of growth before Christmas, one of the most interesting snippets of information from ASOS CEO, Nick Beighton, was that, in menswear, they had seen "a slowdown in sneaker brands, which has been quite dramatic”, he said.
It is well known the young male shoe buyer was becoming the biggest consumer of footwear - read more here - and it was trainers and sneakers he was buying. There could be many factors at work here, but undeniably the market is saturated and the trend has run its course. Trainers will continue to be a huge business, but it won’t be a “thing” anymore.
Left - Ermenegildo Zegna - Leather Cesare Sneakers - £540
Designer brands liked this trend because they could increase the prices for chunkier styles and nobody would complain that they were made from plastic and glue. The margins and volumes are huge.
There was interesting data from the NPD - the industry authority for the footwear market - on Q4 2018 footwear: "The 'democratization' of Adidas’s Yeezy franchise also led unexpected gains, with sales up more than 6X. Whether Yeezy can withstand the pressure of the expanded allocation remains to be seen.”
This is a classic case of over exposure and the generation gap killing a trend. The clock on your chunky trainers is counting down, so get stomping in them now.
It turns out Christian Dior liked English food. Clearly a charmer and a man who knows his audience, Dior had a strong relationship with London and the British royal family. Many of you probably saw snippets of this exhibition on people's Instagrams when it was in Paris last year. This is the same, but with an added room explaining his relationship with London. The Victoria & Albert museum did the same with Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty.
This giant Dior exhibition, the largest ever in the UK, charts the miraculous growth and influence of Christian Dior up to the present day.
The staging and room sets are stunning. The lighting and displays make everything look sumptuous. The only negative is, the space will quickly become congested, as there isn't much room to move, so I would recommend visiting this early or later in the day.
This is pure fashion escapism and is a visual feast, illustrating womenswear from the second half of the 20th century.
From the "New Look" of 1947 to Maria Grazia Chiuri's present incarnation of Dior, every Creative Director is covered.
John Galliano steals the show and illustrates how he took Dior couture to the maximum of its creative possibilities. It leaves you wanting a solo Galliano exhibition.
Everything in the exhibition is couture and handmade and there's a beautiful rainbow display showing all the accessories and costume jewellery.
Dior is one of the biggest brands in the world, today, and while this is a fantastic display, I didn't leave knowing anymore about the man himself. The exhibition is fairly light on information, but I guess the idea is for crowds to flow and for the museum to really pack in the numbers.
Dior sent the benchmark for mid-20th century femininity and it's fascinating how the brand continued to grow even though he died just over a decade after the company was established. Dior is one of the most coveted of French fashion houses and, while the last two creative directors haven't been particularly inspiring, it's interesting to see how that shape of 1947 continues to resonate.
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams - Until 14th July 2019 - £20
While you're at the V&A, you could visit the Mary Quant exhibition.
Whenever I see film of the Beatles, it’s the latter years and their last performance on the top of their offices on Savile Row that really inspires me sartorially.
Ringo in his red PVC coat, drumming away, is a sight for sore eyes. This colourful, playful and experimental period of menswear is back for those of us brave enough. I still dream after this Tom Ford psychedelic shirt - here
Available now, this “Prospect Road” print from Liberty of London dates from 1968, just one year before that final Beatles rooftop gig. It’s bold, but shows a confidence and a Lucy-In-The-Sky dreamlike quality.
TheChicGeek says, “I would wear with a dark suit and plain knitted tie.”
The biggest retail opening of 2018 was Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross. This former Victorian railway sidings for coal coming into London from the north has been transformed, thanks to Thomas Heatherwick, into a contemporary retail destination.
Left - Koibird in Marylebone
While the kissing roofs are elegant and memorable, the rest of the development is less inspiring. The brand list is the type concocted by an architect who is shopping like a design magazine rather than the realities of retail in 2019. It feels a bit 10 years ago and doesn’t acknowledge the recent Guccification of the world. We really doesn’t need anymore boring “designer” shops.
A case in point is the Paul Smith store. Housed in the former Bagley’s nightclub, you’d expect some sort of crazy ecstasy interior: testament to the many clubbers who wore Paul Smith on the dance floor. But, no. There’s even a white wall.
It’s 2019 and we’re in the “Age of Bonkers” when it comes to retail and if a shop doesn’t have you reaching for your phone to take a picture straight away then they’re clearly doing something wrong. Retail needs to wow, it needs to shock, it needs to entertain, otherwise you can get everything else online.
You need people to mouth “that’s cool” when they walk in or see something, especially when you’re trying to create a destination, as is the case here. This isn’t need: this is visitor attraction with the hope of souvenirs purchased. It’s that excitement and rush of shoppers' adrenaline that makes people glad they left the house. It’s not just about being conceptual, it’s about fun, wit and being relatable and current.
We often forget how experimental retail once was. From the Victorian pioneers of the department store to the independent boutiques of the 60s to the cool minimalism of the 90s and this was all pre-internet. Now, it’s more important than ever to give physical retail a fighting chance and bonkers it should be.
Examples include Koibird in Marylebone and Gentle Monster, the Korean eyewear brand, who opened their first UK store on Soho’s Argyll Street last year, both creating and refreshing interiors that stimulate and keep people coming back.
The Koibird store recently closed for two months while the interior was changed from their beach concept to their ski store. Founder, Belma Gaudio, established Koibird out of her frustrations of not being able to find clothes to match her holiday destinations. The new ski concept is another instagrammable interior featuring the colourfully rounded Koibird “K”. “Koibird is on a mission to inject some much needed playfulness into skiwear.” Gaudio told British Vogue when she recently unveiled it.
Right - Gentle Monster Argyll Street, Soho
Gentle Monster, a Korean sunglasses and optical glasses brand founded by Hankook Kim, was established in Seoul in 2011. “I wanted the products to look as if they were being exhibited.” said Kim in 2016. Today, they have over 40 stores worldwide and employ 6 people to design its eyewear compared to 60 people to design the store visuals. This shows the priority of their interiors within the company and the Seoul flagship is transformed every 25 days.
While these types of continual makeovers can be expensive, it can also be minimised with enough imagination. This is the traditional idea of changing windows becoming a fully immersive and experiential retail experience.
Fragrance is something physical and as such, Ostens, a new perfume brand by Laurent Delafon and Christopher Yu, has created a pop-up store in Marylebone, to showcase its debut. Open until the end of February, it is an abstract showcase of their new brand.
“We love Gentle Monster, we love spaces that drag you in , that speak to your curiosity. And this is the main idea behind Ostens: olfactive curiosity and discovery through the exploration of the ingredients.” says Delafon.
“So, we set up the space in 3 distinct areas, part of ‘journey’ taking you from the ingredient to the perfume: the Rose oil from Isparta, in the neon lit front room, magnified and presented like an objet d’art.” he says.
"All the rooms are appealing, they are fun, they are instagramable, and they are attracting people that wouldn’t necessarily been attracted by a ‘normal’ perfume shop.” says Delafon. “If you create spaces that are enjoyable, exciting and surprising places for your consumers to interact with the brand, you enhance their experience, and you make the whole purchasing act much more than simply about the product.” he says.
“The idea is to change the whole set-up of the store every two months. Like an art gallery would change its exhibitions. We intend to move Ostens to a central location, where the store will be more of a white box in which we will be able to rotate sculptures, videos installations, theatre sets, interactive displays..To parody Magritte…’this is not a perfume shop’!” says Delafon.
Left - New fragrance brand, Ostens, launching with a bonkers pop-up shop in Marylebone
Retailers are fighting for people’s time. You need something to grab people’s attention, make them stop and have a desire to enter and explore. Half the battle is getting your product in front of people, then at least you have a chance of a sale.
The home page on Koibird’s website reads “Never Boring…” and this is exactly how physical retail needs to think.
All fashion roads lead to Paris. While the Paris landscape is fractured with many smaller trade shows and showrooms competing for people’s time, it’s also the place where orders are written and retailers and people finally commit to the season. Word on the street was brands were deciding to forgo Florence’s Pitti Uomo for showrooms in Paris to justify the time and expense of doing the men’s fashion week circuit.
Left - Outside one of the Paris trade shows, Tranoi
Here are the trends and brands to know from Paris for AW19:
British fabrics are having a huge renaissance, none more so than for the AW19 season. E. Tautz has reworked the traditional black and white tweed into a vortex design that is both contemporary and respects the qualities and attraction of this type of fabric. Charles Jeffrey Loverboy turned up the dial on tartan with bold blue and red. This is a designer making the transition from the conceptual to beautifully cut and made pieces.
Right - E.Tautz tweed
Left - Charles Jeffrey Loverboy tartan
People are beginning to yearn for dressing up again. Tired of sportswear and the grunge aesthetic, this is a new idea of wearing something more dressed at anytime of the day. British designer, Bianca Saunders, captured this perfectly with extra ruched shirts a dark palette.
Left - Bianca Saunders AW19
Following on from Mary Katrantzou’s chesterfield sofa coats and Anya Hindmarch’s chubby hearts, it’s the men’s turn for something to take the cushion in a world full of sharp edges. This is from Virgil Abloh’s second collection for Louis Vuitton which was inspired by Michael Jackson. Overinflated much?!
Left - Louis Vuitton AW19
Heat bonded pockets and steel poppers are some of the details on menswear to make it perform and look high-tech. Mammunt Delta X is a new label, it debuts this SS19, from Swiss heritage mountaineering company Mammut. Using their 150 years of outdoor expertise, it is offering something younger and more urban to satisfy the insatiable thirst for element protecting products.
Left - Mammunt Delta X AW19
Jupe by Jackie has become come something of a cult label known for its hand embroidery. Established in 2010 by Dutch fashion designer Jackie Villevoye, Jupe by Jackie uses master embroiderers from the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh to work her designs onto items of clothing. J-B-J is a new, younger brand, from Jackie’s son, offering the signature embroidery on T-shirts and more casual pieces.
Left - J-B-J yeti, all hand embroidered
Made from plastic waste, Norden is a new outer label made entirely of single use plastic. Their “U-Trust” verification program provides customers with comprehensive certification designed for a high level of transparency. The Fiber Print technology validates the authenticity of the products, with complete analysis of all fabrications to support the certifications. All of the garments are free of fur, feathers, leather and all other animal by-products. There’s even an internal water bottle!
From Left - Norden - All made from plastic waste and include a water bottle
Part of London’s Fashion East show during LFWM, Dublin designer and recent MA Westminster graduate, Robyn Lynch, referenced old football supporter footage from the Irish television channel RTE in her first collection. This tone-on-tone, normcore collection took the best of Ireland and injected sports and technical details. This sleeveless Aran sweater with side adjusters is a perfect example of this.
From Left - Fashion East debut collection from Irish designer, Robyn Lynch
Finding stylish American basics is much harder than you think. Those grey army sweats which make any man look like Steve McQueen are very subtle to get right. Knickerbocker says it is a “factory born brand” and is transparent about its manufacturers which are mostly in Portugal, but do include the USA.
The standout item is the sailor-like hooded grey sweatshirt to wear On The Town a la Frank Sinatra!