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?
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?
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
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.