Monday, 17 December 2018 13:12

ChicGeek Comment November Pain

ASOS profits down black fridayThe darling of British online retail, ASOS, today, issued a statement saying it saw “significant deterioration” in trading in the run-up to Christmas. Blaming the weather and a high level of discounting and promotional activity across the market, it said it lead it to increase its own special offers, which typically eat into profit margins. 

November 2018 is set to go down as one of the worst retail months in recent memory. Mike Ashley, the Sports Direct boss, was recently quoted as saying, “November was the worst on record, unbelievably bad”. He said “No one could have budgeted for that. Retailers just cannot take that kind of November. It will literally smash them to pieces.”

Left - ASOS' HQ - Black cats for Black Friday?

While ASOS only saw a slowing in sales growth - it now expects sales growth of 15% for the year to August 2019, down from 20% to 25% - it also shows the chill running through the entire retail sector.

A perfect storm of lower footfall, Black Friday discounts, Brexit shaking consumer confidence and a highly competitive market in general, is making things very dicey for the retail sector. Retailer, Stuart Rose, formerly of Marks & Spencer, told ITV News, “I sense this is a very slow Christmas … You have the uncertainty of Brexit, people are uncertain about what the future is going to look like next year. [Consumers] have their hands in their pockets. Car sales? Down. House sales? Down. Big ticket sales? Down. I suspect there will be some uncomfortable trading statements in the early part of January.”

Even the juggernaut of Primark is reporting a slowdown. It has warned of “challenging” trading conditions. John Bason, the finance director of Primark’s parent Associated British Foods (ABF), said “I think it is a call on quite mild weather during November and I think it’s affected footfall.” This is important to Primark because it doesn’t sell online. Bason told Reuters that while sales at stores open more than one year were “just positive” in September and October, they had turned negative in November. 

On a brighter note, overall consumer spending rose 3.3% year on year in November, but it was the lowest growth since March, despite the boost from Black Friday, according to Barclaycard. Clothing spending contracted by 2.9%, the biggest fall since October 2017, while spending on household appliances was down by 14%.

One thing interesting to note is ASOS mentioning its slowdown in Europe. It said trading conditions across Germany and France, which account for 60% of the retailer’s EU sales, have become significantly more challenging, which means this is a wider problem than Brexit. ASOS said “The current backdrop of economic uncertainty across many of our major markets together with a weakening in consumer confidence has led to the weakest growth in online clothing sales in recent years. We have recalibrated our expectations for the current year accordingly.”

Primark Birmingham profits down black friday

So, let’s look at this weather. According to the Met Office, “November began with relatively cold quiet weather, but from the 3rd to 14th it was mild with a predominance of southerly winds. It was cold with easterly winds from the 19th to 26th, with frequent rain or showers for the east and south-west. It turned very mild, wet and windy in all parts of the country from the 27th onwards. The provisional UK mean temperature was 7.3 °C.” This up and down weather isn’t particularly unusual for November and we had two decent cold spells to help shift more seasonal, colder weather stock. The weather is always an easy excuse for retailers reporting bad figures.

Right - Primark is opening its largest store in the world in Birmingham this month

Black Friday, though, is wiping out profit margins for retailers with consumers expecting huge discounts and it’s stopping people from hitting the high-street. UK retail endured the biggest drop in footfall for the month of November since 2009. It also marked the 12th consecutive month of footfall decline. Discounts were made for online; no pushing and shoving to then leave disappointed. If they’ve got it, it’s in the basket, and you probably don’t buy anything else while you’re there unlike if you’d gone to the high-street or a shopping centre.

Laura Ashley just announced it was closing a further 40 stores and, last week, Bonmarché issued a profit warning and Blue Inc fell into administration.

Many retailers will be praying for a good Christmas, but to make up these sales in the three weeks to Christmas will be tough, especially with so many factors working against them. Primark and ASOS are strong retailers and will weather this storm, but many will not. To continue the weather metaphors, this could be the hardest frost to hit the retail sector in many years and anybody small or not hardy enough will be dead before the winter is out.

Published in Fashion
Monday, 26 November 2018 22:29

ChicGeek Comment Designs on Gen-Z

Generation z fashion collection ASOS COLLUSIONMove over Millennials, sadly, it’s not all about you anymore. Generation Z is primed to take centre stage and retailers and brands are asking this constantly ‘on’ generation exactly what they want. 

Generation Z are those born between 1995 and 2010, which means that the oldest are about 23 and are entering the workforce. Their spending power is increasing, their influence growing and they are a generation who doesn’t know life before the internet and mobile phones.

Younger focussed fashion and sports brands want to know what these young people want and what better way to do that than getting them to design the clothes themselves.

Left - ASOS's new Generation Z designed COLLUSION label

This new trend in Generation Z designers is mirroring the multifaceted desires and identities of this group of people.

Online behemoth, ASOS, recently launched its ‘COLLUSION’ brand. The entire brand is shaped and ‘focused' by Gen-Z with a line-up of 6 collaborators. The brand is exclusive to ASOS and can be found on COLLUSION.com which links through to the main ASOS site. The blurb says it “is built for a new generation united in their pursuit for inclusivity and representation. The 200-piece, animal-free collection is designed to fit seamlessly into the wardrobes of those who helped shape it”.

It goes on, “From the cut of a jacket, to the way that it is marketed, photographed, styled and sold, this collection is the result of extensive research into the values that this generation sees as non- negotiable”.

Generation z fashion collection ASOS COLLUSION

The brand speaks as a collective. Categorisation by gender is unnecessary, COLLUSION is ranged as one collection – for everyone. The brand’s website allows for navigation by product category, style or mood, rather than by men’s or women’s. The debut collection and the regular drops beyond it will be available up to a size 6XL. Price points for launch range from £5 for jersey basics to £70 for statement outerwear.

The initial six collaborators were selected by COLLUSION's cultural social team who find tastemakers and talent. The six were chosen from a wide pool of young creatives and all come from different backgrounds, areas, and professions. Students, stylists, activists, image-makers, authors and YouTubers. 

It says, “COLLUSION is a manifestation of what this first contingent of six want the future of the fashion industry to look and feel like. Working in collaboration with a team of standalone designers and creatives assembled by ASOS, each industry experts in affordable fashion, the six are consumers of, consultants to, and architects of this brand. Their brief: to realise an authentic, vibrant wardrobe which speaks directly to themselves and their Gen-Z peers”.

Chidera Eggerue, 23, blogger and author, says, “I joined Collusion because I wanted to be part of something that created the change that I want to see,”. Chidera is known to her followers as The Slumflower.

Right - Brands giving the next generation what they want by getting them to design it - ASOS COLLUSION

The collection is animal-free and has been recognised a number of times in PETA’s vegan fashion awards, first launched in 2013, celebrating the most desirable cruelty-free clothing and accessories on the market. 

So, what’s been the reaction? The brand says, “COLLUSION has been applauded both on social media and in the press for its unwavering commitment to diversity and body positivity. Publications such as Vogue, i-D, Dazed and Grazia have featured the brand and commended the daring approach for a big backed brand towards gender neutrality and its direct involvement with Gen-Z”. 

I’m not sure this generation even read these publications anymore, but, it’s commercial success will be judged with how many follow up collections there are.

This burgeoning woke generation has also come to the attention of sports brand, Champion. They’ve just launched a capsule line of T-shirts inspired by the power of words and how the negative labels used to describe young people can influence and determine their identity and behaviour. 

Partnering with the London-based charity ‘London Youth’, which represents 400 community youth projects across the city,  and called ‘Champion London Youth’, the T-shirts are each inspired by the personal stories of five young people who have faced stereotyping and have overcome this with the help of their youth clubs and organisations.

Local authority youth service budgets across London in 2017/18 are £39 million lower than in 2011/12. This represents an average cut of £1.5 million or 44% per local authority. During that period, 81 youth centres were closed and there were 800 fewer youth workers.

Generation z fashion collection champion London Youth T shirt

Gill Goodby, Head of Communications at London Youth, says “We combined with The Corner agency to produce a film to challenge the perceptions of young people and every newspaper headline having ‘youth’ and ‘violence’ in the title wasn’t representative. The T-shirts with Champion came from that film,” she says.

Subira Damali, 23, from Lewisham is one of the chosen designers of the T-shirts, and describes how she became involved, “I’m part of Lewisham Youth Theatre. They send me acting opportunities and I applied to be on the film”. 

Left - Subira Damali & her daughter

A young mum, she was interviewed for the film and wrote a few words that people used negatively to describe her. “Then somebody said, ‘This is going to be on a T-Shirt’. It’s about breaking down stereotypes and designing clothes helps confidence, leadership and is therapeutic,” she says.

Renowned designer Tim Head transformed the experiences of these young people into limited edition designs, which will be available for sale in Champion’s Soho store and at Urban Outfitters. Champion will be donating all profits to London Youth to help fund the charity’s arts, sports development, youth social action, employability and outdoor learning programmes.

If they design it, then, hopefully, they’ll buy it. Or, so the thinking goes. Asking the next generation what they want seems almost too simple in its concept. But, this generation is very individual and it wants to be seen that way.

This feels like the natural progression of personalisation and customisation and a step to the future where we’ll all be able to share a hand in designing what we want.

Today, retailers and brands are up to the size and speed of being able to tailor collections for certain generational groups or be reactive to their wants and desires. It makes business sense, but will it be this straightforward? 

This is a generation of confident young individuals who know what they want and want their clothes to reflective their disparate identities. Brands will just have to try as hard as they can to keep up. 

Published in Fashion
Monday, 12 November 2018 11:15

Best Dressed ChicGeek Jeff Goldblum

AW18 menswear trends Jeff Goldblum best dressed evening wear zebra animal printsSometimes in danger of believing his own hype, Jeff Goldblum, is a cool customer. On a recent Graham Norton Show, Goldblum totally nailed this year’s evening look. A snakeskin jacket was teamed with a lurex shirt and tie combo and striking zebra socks and matching shoes. 

Left - Jeff on Graham's sofa showing the zebra shoes and matching socks

What, on paper, shouldn’t work, totally does and shows it’s all about the sparkle and animal prints, this party season. This is confident evening wear and shows everybody at the office party what a lounge lizard you are. 

Get the look below:

AW18 menswear trends Jeff Goldblum best dressed evening wear zebra animal prints

Right - Smart evening wear with character 

AW18 menswear trends Jeff Goldblum best dressed evening wear zebra animal prints River Island

 

 

 

Left - River Island - Black Snakeskin Print Skinny Fit Blazer - £85

 

 

 

AW18 menswear trends Jeff Goldblum best dressed evening wear zebra animal prints Saint LaurentLeft - Saint Laurent - Damier Lurex Shirt - £685

AW18 menswear trends Jeff Goldblum best dressed evening wear zebra animal prints Moss BrossLeft - Moss London - Black & Silver Knitted Tie - £20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AW18 menswear trends Jeff Goldblum best dressed evening wear zebra animal printsLeft - Dr Martens Core Fusion Zebra Creepers In Black - £112 from ASOS

AW18 menswear trends Jeff Goldblum best dressed evening wear zebra animal prints Saint LaurentLeft - Saint Laurent - Men’s Deck 20 Loafers In Black Suede And Black And White Zebra-look Calfskin - £795

 

 

 

 

 

 

AW18 menswear trends Jeff Goldblum best dressed evening wear zebra animal printsSplash or Cash? The Snakeskin Shirt 

ASOS men's lurex socks ChristmasFinishing touches - See more Menswear Trend Eveningwear Lurex Socks

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Fashion
Friday, 19 October 2018 12:02

Menswear Trend Eveningwear Lurex Socks

Gucci lurex socks ChristmasWhen party season hits - it won’t be long - we often forget about our dancing feet. For something simple and fashionable opt for a dose of sparkle in the sock department. Lurex or ‘Glitter’ socks add a Michael Jackson element to your shoe and look great particularly with slip on loafers and cropped trousers. Gucci pioneered the look with their logo lurex socks and while there are a few styles for men, the majority are women’s, so just buy the largest size and they’ll stretch.

Left - Gucci lurex logo socks - Chintz optional!

Pantherella lurex socks ChristmasLeft - Pantherella - Sparkle Sock - Soft-Touch Lurex Cotton/Cashmere Blend Men's Luxury Socks (Over The Calf) - £20.50

Below - Gucci - Lurex Interlocking G Socks - £100

Gucci lurex socks Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left - Ignore the high-heels - Leg Avenue Xmas Lurex Glitter/Shiny Ankle Pop Socks/Anklets - £9.25 from eBay.co.ukebay lurex socks Christmas

ASOS men's lurex socks ChristmasLeft - ASOS DESIGN - Sports Style Socks in Glitter - £4

Below - ASOS DESIGN party socks in glitter zebra design - £4

ASOS men's lurex socks Christmas

Need some more sparkle in your life? - Read Menswear Trends Daytime Sequins

Need more inspiration? See Best Dressed Chic Geek Jeff Goldblum rocking party season

Published in Fashion
Monday, 24 September 2018 11:21

Menswear Trend Daytime Sequins

Men's sequins sequinned menswear GucciIt’s time to shine! You’ve probably noticed menswear getting bigger, brighter and sparklier, recently. It can probably be pinpointed to social media - how much black do you ever see over there? - but menswear has never been more experimental - I wrote about it here - High Street Peacocks

Left - Gucci - Sequin Bomber Jacket - £4040 from Farfetch

Well, it’s time to get the sequins on and not in the traditional night time/office Chrimbo party type way. This is sequins everyday, down the shops and out for coffee.

Men's sequins sequinned menswear GucciThe most versatile shapes are the bomber jackets, which give you a Michael Jackson quality, and festival type T-shirts or shirts, which look great as the nights before longer and our days need some magic and sparkle. Don't be scared, shine bright like a diamond!

Left - ASOS DESIGN - Skater Trousers In Silver Sequins With Red Side Taping - £40

Below - ASOS DESIGN Festival Oversized Sequin Chevron Stripe Shirt In Silver - £40

Men's sequins sequinned menswear ASOS


Men's sequins sequinned menswear Valentino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left - Valentino - Sequinned Bomber Jacket - £6250 from Farfetch

Men's sequins sequinned menswear boots Christian LouboutinLeft - Christian Louboutin - Huston Sequin-Embellished Ankle Boots - £995 from matchesfashion.com

Below - Jaded - Black, Green & Red Sequin T-Shirt - £50 from Topman

Men's sequins sequinned menswear Topman Jaded London T Shirt

Men's sequins sequinned menswear River Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left -River Island - Men’s Jaded Red Sequin Bomber Jacket - £130

Want sparkly feet? Read more here

Need more inspiration? See Best Dressed Chic Geek Jeff Goldblum rocking party season

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Fashion

The rise of the high street peacocks Topman

Menswear is often viewed in isolation. Many designers or brands who produce both men’s and women’s clothes often keep them apart when showing them to the press. The times they are together, the menswear often looks conservative and dowdy compared to its feminine counterpart.

Left - Topman AW18

So, it was with some excitement, when I attended the newly merged Topman/Topshop AW18 preview a few months ago, that the menswear was louder than the women’s. Looking across the room I thought I'd stepped to the wrong side. And, let’s be honest, Topshop womenswear isn’t exactly for shy wallflowers. 

The rise of the high street peacocks RiverIsland

To me this signified the new confidence in high-street menswear and menswear in general. Topman has had a rocky patch of late and could have easily played safe and opted for simple basics and proven product. But, no, this was like a wardrobe for Harry Styles’ global world tour! A new Global Design Director, overseeing both Topman and Topshop, Anthony Cuthbertson, had arrived from Just Cavalli.

It’s as though Gucci has pushed the door open for this type of exhibitionist menswear and the British high-street has, literally, kicked it open. I don’t think menswear has been this colourful and bold since Tommy Nutter was a leading figure.

Right - Versace taste, lemonade budget?! AW18 River Island

And, it’s not just Topman. It’s River Island, ASOS, boohoo and many others who are reacting to an experimental male consumer who isn’t constrained by gender or the feeling of conforming.

Victoria Hunt, Senior Designer, River Island, says, “Menswear trends have been bolder of late, so there’s been a natural progression towards more adventurous clothing; not just at River Island, but across the entire industry. Catwalks are pushing the limits and this trickles down to make standout fashion more readily available."

“The trend for loud prints and statement pieces seems to be a natural fit for our men’s consumer, so we’ve really embraced it. We are also consciously driving the brand to be more cohesive across all of our departments, although our menswear, womenswear and kidswear customers are all different our collections should be instantly recognisable as River Island.” says Hunt.

Shane Chin, Menswear Design Manager, boohooMAN, says,“At boohooMAN we listen and learn from our customer and grow our collections to suit our guy. It’s a really exciting time for boohooMAN and we’re lucky to have a broad customer base that isn’t afraid to go after new trends and styles.”

The rise of the high street peacocks Topman sequinned tracksuit

“Ideas have been taken mainly from street style and considering how our guy will ultimately wear and style the garments we design. I think the resurgence of Gucci has put a real focus on bringing the fun side back to fashion and by mixing this with the current focus on streetwear, we’ve been able to push the boundaries further in the collections.” says Chin

Street style, influencers and social media seems to be playing a massive part of this growth in experimentation. One is feeding the other and so the cycle continues. These are items made for Instagram and the frenzy to standout on the platform. These are the type of clothes that make better pictures.

Left - Sequin trackies? Topman AW18 Like sequins? See TheChicGeek's picks here

“We gather ideas from all areas as inspiration for our designs: street style, editorials, art and travel to name a few. There are a lot of the big fashion houses pushing bold florals and baroques, but we’re seeing this a lot on the street too. We are always on the look out for new and exciting fashion.” says Hunt.

“Social media has given rise to this in a big way, trends are able to gain momentum so much faster now. Look at the bumbag/cross body bag – who could have predicted that was going to be so huge?” she says.

Designer fashion has become so expensive and, with the younger generation having less money or earning less, these retailers and brands are allowing guys to look as baroque as a Versace model for pocket money prices. I think the affordable prices are encouraging men to be more experimental knowing they haven’t committed as much when it doesn’t cost a month’s rent.

“Menswear is adapting to the growth of social media and the way that style inspo. is so readily available. There’s a real buzz around menswear and it’s exciting to see menswear have more of a focus at fashion weeks around the world, each season. I think the range of brands showing menswear and womenswear in the same shows has also had an effect on people being more inspired by menswear and menswear styling.” says Chin.

It’s interesting that something that was seen as a step back for menswear - the merging of designer catwalk collections - has actually made menswear step up to mirror the womenswear in its distinctive and look-at-me aesthetic and raise its awareness.

Hunt says, “The growth of menswear in general has made high end fashion so much more accessible and relevant to the customer. All over the world, menswear fashion weeks gets so much coverage on social media that men are seeing celebrities and influencers in more experimental trends and dressings and that’s something that they aspire to. 

“Just yesterday I was at graduate fashion week and the amount of students choosing to study menswear has grown hugely over the past few years, so there is definitely more to come. It’s also a rebellion in part to the button-down sartorial looks of a few years back. Now, guys want to break and bend the rules, throwing prints, sportswear, tailoring and streetwear together effortlessly.” she says.

It would be silly to suggest that this guy was the majority of men, but it's growing and it’s a younger male consumer who will influence his social circle both on and off-line. 

The rise of the high street peacocks RiverIsland“It’s a really wide demographic – from the well-groomed Ibiza guy that likes to wear a matching twin set by the pool, to the fashionista that clashes three different prints in to one look!” says Hunt.

“The market continues to grow at more than double the rate of womenswear, so it’s not going to slow down any time soon. Men will continue to experiment and it will be exciting to see what’s next – gender is no longer a static thing, so guys don’t feel that they have to conform in the same way. We can be whoever we’d like to be and clothing is a great way of expressing that.” she says.

Right - The sequins keep coming - River Island AW18

Chin says, “I think people’s attitudes towards menswear are changing. Even in the last decade, and in my career to date, menswear trends and styles are becoming more adventurous each year. The lines are blurring and fashion is no longer a womenswear focused arena.”

Affordable menswear has never been produced in such volume and with such experimentation. Sequins, fringing, patches, badges, louder and louder patterns and prints, make this like a sweet shop for modern day Marc Bolans. This feels like a really exciting time for high-street menswear and the British are leading the charge. Where we lead, others will follow, and it’ll be interesting to see where this type of outlandish menswear can go.

Published in Fashion
Monday, 16 July 2018 10:36

Trend Mr Matchy-Matchy Co-Ord Sets

Trend matchy matchy co-ord sets River Island Jaded London

I remember a few years ago, at a River Island press day where they were previewing their new summer collection, I spied a patterned short sleeved shirt and matching shorts in the same fabric. It was the first time I had seen a holiday suit like this and it looked fun and fresh.

Left - River Island - Jaded Red Tropical Short Sleeve Shirt - £45, Shorts - £35

Trend matchy matchy co-ord sets Topman Jaded LondonI remember badgering them to let me know when it was released and it turned out the matching shorts never went into production. Damn. They did, thankfully, send me the sample, FYI. WIN!

Anyway, men’s holiday wardrobes have come a long way and, now, matchy-matchy ‘Co-Ord’ shirts and short combos sets are everywhere. 

They’re a little bit like holiday pyjamas you can wear out and show a fun and confident side. Holidays are a time to experiment and these suits are a comfortable no-brainer. Get involved.

Left - Topman - Jaded Baroque Shirt & Shorts Co-Ord Set - £75

 

Trend matchy matchy co-ord sets Boohoo Jaded LondonLeft - Boohoo - Top - £15, Shorts - £12

Trend matchy matchy co-ord sets ASOS DESIGNLeft - ASOS DESIGN - Retro Sports Print Co-Ord - £34

Trend matchy matchy co-ord sets silver sequins Jaded London

Left - Jaded London - Sliver Sequin Shorts - £50, Shirt - £60

Published in Fashion
Tuesday, 26 June 2018 13:15

ChicGeek Comment The Chinese Way

Retail Market The Cheapest of the best

They say the Chinese only buy the cheapest or the best. It’s simplistic, but it is the direction all retail markets seem to be headed in. The British market has been evolving into this for a while, now, and those stuck or stranded in the middle are suffering or dying.

The middle has been squeezed or forced to choose their direction of travel as we all race to the bottom or top.

The cheapest often requires huge volumes and multinationals and the best requires a perception of quality, luxury and good service.

As a brand or retailer, you have two questions to ask yourself, today: are we the cheapest? This can be split into different categories depending on where the brand sits and, are we the best? This is more complex and can mean many different things and is subjective. If you can’t say yes to both or either, they you need to start making some serious changes.

Imagine a Venn diagram: two circles, one the cheapest, one the best and price running up and the down the side axis. Any brand coming into the area where the two circles overlap is in a safer and strong position. Those within one of the circles has a focus, while those floating somewhere out of either need to work out which one they want to be in, and fast.

Let’s look at the cheapest option. This is why Sainsbury’s is getting into bed with Asda. The larger scale promises savings of around 10% to the consumer, and will help them compete with Booker/Tesco and the German food retailers, Aldi and Lidl. It’s an example of mid-market retailers needing to pair up or die.

In fashion, New Look revenue to the year 24th March 2018 was down -7.3% to £1,347.8m. New Look has not only announced store closures, but it’s also just said in its recent financial report and turnaround plan, that ‘Pricing (will be) lowered to offer significantly better value with 80% of product to retail under £20’.

Eighty percent of product under £20 will really put the brand toe-to-toe with Primark and, I think, it’s the right move for them. You have to go down fighting, but they’ll going to have to shift more product at these cheaper prices. Before, New Look wasn’t the cheapest, and it wasn’t the best in terms of being the most fashionable or desirable fast-fashion retailer. It used to be one of the cheapest, but then Primark came along.

It tried to be more fashionable, but at a time Boohoo, ASOS were growing and offering high fashionability at ridiculously low prices.

New Look says it wants to 'return to (a) value-led fast fashion and wardrobe basics offer with full price focus’. The margins will be so small they’ll need all the full price they can get.

H&M, long one of the darlings of fast retail, has seen its shares down nearly 20% this year and the company has said it will need to slash prices to reduce inventories, damaging profit margins. It has an $4.3 Billion in unsold stock and needs to be careful that its size won’t be its downfall. 

It also explains its focus on different, ‘best’ sister brands like Arket and COS. H&M isn’t in the same position as New Look, yet, but they need to make sure it’s still seen as one of the best in terms of affordable fashionability and also offering value. 

Marks & Spencer is another one trying this new best and cheapest approach. The clothes have arguably got much cheaper and the food is still perceived as the best, but it’s this balance that is hard to achieve within the same brand, especially knowing what consumers come to you for.

House of Fraser’s recent announcement to close 31 stores is a reflection of the growth of John Lewis both offline and online. John Lewis has continued to open in towns, in or near those House of Frasers, and House of Fraser isn’t cheaper or better. It probably explains the closure of the huge Birmingham store as John Lewis opened a shiny new shop at the railway station just a couple of years ago.

House of Fraser will need to pair up with somebody (maybe Debenhams?) or disappear altogether. Sports Direct, Mike Ashley, has shares in both and will no doubt be pushing for it and then they really can compete on price and dominate their local markets.

So, who is getting it right? Zara, for the best in fashionability and speed and John Lewis in customer service and being ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’. But, like a game of musical chairs, it’s changing all the time.

As for the ‘best’, this is what many luxury brands rely upon. This could be quality, use of materials, origin etc. Many ‘luxury’ brands have lost control of these in the race for large quantities and bigger margins. They have to be careful because a few poorly made, overpriced products will ruin the perception of any brand.

But, you can also find the cheapest within this market. For example, Johnstons of Elgin, one of the best Scottish producers of scarves and blankets. It makes for everybody from Hermès to Burberry. While a scarf from them is not cheap, say £100, it’s far cheaper than one with a designer name on. They are also the best at what they do and the reason why these brands use them.

Or, a brand like Paul Smith. When looking at a multi brand website like Mr Porter, it feels like one of the most affordable brands on there. I think its recent troubles has seen it get more competitive and tread that fine line between affordable and exclusivity. They are also the best at colour. 

Or, you could can look at the total top, at the most expensive and exclusive. This is the pinnacle of the market and to be true to both would only be made in very limited numbers. This is chasing a very small number of big-fish consumers and, as such, it limits  the size of the business. But, this can also to used to sell ranges of cheaper products, such as perfume or sunglasses, but even these categories are harder, now that people aren’t so hung up on brands.

This simplistic approach to the market cuts through some of the wood to see the trees in a highly competitive and changing retail landscape. So, the next time you look at your own brand or somebody else’s, you know which two questions to ask.

Published in Fashion
Tuesday, 12 June 2018 21:32

LFWM Spring 2019 HighLights Day 3

LFWM London Fashion Week Men's Menswear Arket Suit

STEFAN COOKELFWM London Fashion Week Men's Menswear Pretty Green Stripey Suit

Part of the Topman sponsored ‘MAN’ show, Stefan Cooke, in his second outing here, went from his super-tight, Gaultier style AW18 season to something, while still fitted, that played with hype-colour tartans, half ruffs on the necks and small mirrors dotted randomly across the pieces. Winner of the H&M designer prize in 2017, Cooke, from the UK, is a designer to continue watching.

BETHANY WILLIAMS

Part of the BFC showrooms and also with a presentation at Charing Cross Library, Bethany Williams took inspiration from all those books and book binding and managed to thread real, physical paperbacks into her SS19 collection. Working with The Quaker Mobile Library, which lend books to people with no fixed address, her collection showed the hand-ons, painstaking craft element to fashion.

ALEX MULLINS

Mullins is on a roll. His AW18 collection was one of the best of the season and, this, the new SS19, had plenty of ideas to keep you wanting more. Standouts include rock shaped portfolio bags and asymmetric slashed shirts showing just a glimpse of the shoulder. 2019, the year of the male shoulder, maybe?!

Day - What Did TheChicGeek wear? Credits - Suit - Arket, T-Shirt - Oiboy, Cap - Arc'Teryx, Sunglasses - Illesteva

BERTHOLD

If expensive looking black bin bags are your thing, then Berthold could be the place to look. I’m just joking, but the fascination with anything black and shiny seems to be taking hold within menswear and Raimund Berthold is running with it. He showed plenty for AW18 and, now, this was the summer version. Think parachute light black coats and matching accessorises in a sport-luxe - there, I said it! - collection for those who like fashion as uniform.

MARTINE ROSE

Martine Rose took us to Norf London, St Leonards Square in NW5 to be exact, which looked perfect for street parties and carnivals. This was working class Victorian square with no fancy greenery in the middle, no even Albert Square sized. 

The catwalk was the road and the neighbours looked on, perched on their front garden walls or down quizzically from an upstairs window while doing the tea-time washing up.

This was the show of the week for a designer that waited for fashion to come to them. Now, with her own label and working on Balenciaga’s menswear, Rose has become a chief exponent of fashion’s obsession with bad taste. 

There was plenty here, but it’s done in a way that’s still desirable. How much it has left to run is anybody’s guess, but I don’t think the retailers are getting bored. I saw a new ‘hybrid’ - because we all love one of those -  a half-jean, half-trackie trouser - rodeo at the front, scally at the back! 

Rose’s 90s ‘Geezer’ was going out, out; clear plastic trousers, squared-toed snakeskin chain loafers with no backs and Motorcross trousers with loud taping will definitely get you noticed.  This was ‘Out-On-The-Tann’ man, probably down to his local boozer, looking to impress and living it up with gold chains, tucked in shirts and smart-ish shoes. I still want in.

Evening - What Did TheChicGeek wear? Credits - Suit - Pretty Green, Shirt - ASOS, Sunglasses - Kaleos, Shoes - Vintage Alexander McQueen

See LFWM Day 1 - here

See LFWM Day 2 - here

Published in Fashion

LFWM London Fashion Week Men's Iceberg Basic Rights

Okay, so nobody buys anything, but London is the city of ideas. It's the city of newness and also the historical home of menswear. It's the benchmark, it's the tradition and it's the craziness. 

London Fashion Week Men's starts tonight.

ICEBERG: To describe British designer, James Long’s Iceberg collection as ‘commercial’ is to acknowledge the shift in fashion. Post-Gucci, anything bright, standout and clashing is commercial.

This had Long’s signature play with knitwear, but with Italian manufacturing polish. You can picture each and everyone of these clothes hanging on a rail in a store tomorrow.

The fascination with cartoon characters was there, there was a mash-up between F1 and Snoopy, and while the sportswear fashion cycle is finishing (soon!), there are plenty of takers for comfort still.

Iceberg, as a brand, hasn’t been over exposed in the logo/branding segment yet so much to play with. Lots of full look colour and, with a big name like 'Iceberg', it's not a brand to disappear into the background in.

ASOS - ASOS showed a teaser SS19 collection inspired by cult classics such as Blade Runner, Tron and Total Recall. Think shine, see-through and bold colours. 

TOPMAN - While no clothes, it was a return to Soho of old with a party at the Phoenix Artist Club. You can picture Francis Bacon down here throwing a few drunken obscenities at the bar staff. I still have a lot of affection for Topman and I'm excited about their new AW18 collection. 

What did TheChicGeek wear? Credits - Shirt - Paolo Pecora, Linen Trousers - Basic Rights, Shoes - Dune, Sunglasses - Kaleos

See LFWM Day 2 - here

Published in Fashion
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