Are the wheels coming off at Topman? From zero to hero, Topman is the poster boy of how brands, thanks to fashion and the sponsorship of fashion weeks, can go from uncool to cool in little over a decade, but, has their run of dominance on the men’s high-street come to an end?
Topman recently had a clear out of the top brass and creative. Gordon Richardson, who served as Topman's head designer for the past 17 years, has been pushed out along with many others within the Arcadia group. This is usually a sign of trying to stop the rot and starting something new.
Left - Will you be buying your tracksuit from Topman this season?
Taveta Investments, Arcadia’s parent company, doesn't break out individual figures for their brands, but financial figures released in June 2017 showed a 16 per cent drop in profits for the year to August 2016. Taveta Investments, indicated that annual profits plummeted to £211 million, while sales dropped 2.5 per cent to just over £2 billion. Taveta Investments, derived £1.7bn of revenue from the UK in 2016. That marked a fall from £2.2bn a year earlier, although up to £370m of that related to discontinued operations such as BHS, which was sold in 2015.
That’s a huge drop of £500 million or £130 million, if you take out BHS. That’s still a lot of clothes not sold.
So, what do we think has happened at Topman? Is it a case of these runs can’t go on forever and or is it something more serious?
One things for certain, it’s much more competitive than when Topman started out on its journey. Whether selling fashion or basics, there is much more choice, both offline and online.
Did they over expand? We know that Australia has struggled, with their franchise partner going into receivership recently, and the big push into America hasn’t really stuck as they don't seem to understand how fashionable us Brits are. American teens, in many cities, have nowhere to wear this kind of stuff.
Right - Has Topman peaked and how can they get their spark back?
Did it get too expensive? With labels like ‘Topman Design’ pushing the upper price points there is a perception that Topman was expensive, especially when compared to other high-street retailers. I’ve spoken to mums of teenage boys who say they leave Topman until last on a shopping trip as it’s usually the more expensive.
Topman’s buyers never committed to ‘Topman Design’. We had the shows, we had the collections, but when it hit the stores or online it was very bitty. They’d only make the trousers of a suit, for example, or items that didn’t really go with each other and the pricing was into three figures.
I think Topman has fallen into that gap of not being fashionable enough and not being cheap enough on basics and is falling into the void in the middle. They’ve lost the energy to ASOS, Boohoo and New Look.
I think there was a case of Topman believing their own hype too. You can’t afford to be arrogant in fashion and thinking you’re the coolest kid on the block, because things move fast and this will quickly bite you on the arse. The campaigns were a little too editorial and not relatable enough.
Fashions have changed too. Topman practically owned the skinny, three-piece suit and was selling volumes of a more expensive product. Now, the kids want sportswear and retro looking basics. It’s not the go-to place anymore. It’s lost its USP.
What are they doing? They’ve hired David Hagglund, known within fashion circles for founding a Stockholm-based creative agency which includes H&M and Hugo Boss as clients. He was also art director at Vogue Paris. David Hagglund is replacing Ms Phelan - Topshop head creative - and Mr Richardson in a 'newly created position' of creative director across both Topman and Topshop. Is combining Topman and Topshop a good idea? Or is this further cost cutting? It’s interesting they’ve given this important job to an Art Director type and it’ll be interesting to see whether Topman will get as much focus as Topshop. I doubt it.
The danger is, as they wobble they go safer, which is the wrong direction. Admittedly, Australia is having problems and America isn’t as fashionable as Europe, but young men want fashion and know it. Brands like ASOS and Boohoo are really pushing it, New Look has got a hell of a lot better and newness is the drug on the high-street.
Topman Design became a bit formulaic and they need to commit to it or scrap it. I think they’re going to find it hard to get that spark back. It’s very hard to do when you’ve lost it, but they’ve done it once before, so why not again.
There’s the juxtaposition between men’s basic and fashion led clothing. Basics are so competitive and difficult to make money from unless you’re doing huge volumes and buying basics from Topman is, well, a bit basic. Maybe they should leave that to Primark and Uniqlo and stick to making fashion.
I think they need to think more inclusive and not try to be too cool without losing the trends. Look what happened to American Apparel when they tried that achingly cool model. You need to be the coolest of the mainstream and, especially in Britain, have fun with it.
I think what we’ll see is, as leases run out, stores will close and they’ll be a renewed focus and growth of online. Topman needs to tighten up its collection and re-educate guys about what they do. As fashion cycles move, they need to aim for a new USP and focus on that. You can't be all things to all people today.
Note - A friend just mentioned on Facebook about the 'Philip Green Effect' and people boycotting his brands due to his handling of the sale of BHS and the hole in the pension fund. This could definitely be having an effect on Topman as many people are aware that he is the owner.
We never think of the shirt on holiday until the evening. A T-shirt or vest is normally the first thing you think about when pairing with swim shorts or shorts and long sleeves just seem too much. But, taking our cue from the Beatles on holiday in Tenerife, it’s time to think about a slouchy shirt on the sand.
Left - Follow Paul & George's lead
Long and oversized, this shirt is worn loose and relaxed and especially suits the mood of being on the beach and stylishly covering up. I guess those pale boys from Liverpool weren’t used to the sun, had a limited beach wardrobe, and needed something to cover themselves up, yet it works.
Left - Marni SS18
Sun-bleached, it looks good over short-shorts and worn unbuttoned with the sleeves open. In fashion terms, this long cotton shirt is appearing everywhere and it’s only a matter of time before you get one.
Left - Appletrees - All Over The World Superfine Poplin White - €425 An independent Swedish brand with various lengths and styles of shirts
Left - ASOS Slim Shirt With Stretch In Super Longline - £22
Below - Raf Simons wearing one of his own designs
Left - More of the Beatles in Tenerife
The bum bag or fanny pack, call it what you will, has been on the cusp of style acceptance recently. Teetering on the brink, it finally came thru this season. YAS! Now, it feels right. It could be all the 90s sportswear or its practicality, but from designer to high-street to online we’re seeing the renaissance of this hands free solution.
Left - Jared Leto Guccifying his bum bag
It's perfect for festivals or when you want some extra security. You can wear it two ways: the classic around the waist or, like the kids, across the body.
Left - Louis Vuitton - Géronimos - £775
Below - Streetstyle cross body inspiration
Left - Weekday - Nylon Bumbag - £20 from ASOS
Left - Herschel - Khaki Orange Cross Body Bag - £45 from Topman
Far Left - Eastpak - Springer Bonded Blue - £22
Left - Jack Russell - £305
Below - Supreme X Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton AW17
If Instagram was to make a TV channel - which no doubt is probably on the expansion cards sometime in the future - it would look like Love Island: an endless stream of scantily clad hot people looking toned and buff in a semi-exotic holiday location.
It’s ticking all those visual social media boxes and the people don't really need to do or say anything. Which probably suits.
Love Island doesn't pretend to have an ‘real people’ like other reality shows, and therefore sticks to a young and more ‘filtered’ age group. It’s all the Vs: vain, vacuous and very addictive.
Left - One for the villa?! ASOS TALL Muscle Raglan T-Shirt - £14
You can chuck in shows such as Ex On The Beach and Ibiza Weekender too and you, basically, have a moving Instagram feed. These people are ‘mega stars’ on social media promoting protein powders and long-line, muscle-fit tees in the gaps between the yo-yoing opportunity of featuring in various forms of reality TV shows.
We’ve grown so used to swiping these types of pics that we can now deal with nightly, hourly viewings of people pretending to find L.O.V.E. when, in fact, the only thing the majority of people love is themselves and this attention we give only encourages it. #Brandme
What these shows show is the growing niche of Instagram and the things the audience on there wants to see. The power and endless fascination of looking at tanned, toned bodies in hotter climes pleases the braindead. It’s the visual equivalent of having a sun-bed.
And they’re influence cannot be underestimated within its targeted group. Move over Liz Hurley, as there have been reports of an explosion of sales of skinny white jeans thanks to the boys in the Love Island house. H&M, Topman and ASOS are all ‘reporting healthy sales’, well, according to The Daily Mail anyway.
And if you own a swim short brand, it's usually the only thing they're wearing, you want it on these guys.
It’s #BasicBitch TV and these are active consumers open to be influenced. This is the ‘skinny’ generation where too tight is not fitted enough. This is TV as fast and throwaway as the fashion.
It all looks so perfect and effortless, when in fact they’ve probably been working hard and eating ‘clean’ for months before the show. You can't 'cane it' like they do on Geordie Shore and maintain a six-pack. It increases the pressure, especially on the targeted young audience, to look like this and the stressful, bullying and competitive environment that crosses over to dating apps and their own social media.
I think Love Island is the peak of guys looking like this, in fashion terms anyway. The body beautiful isn't going anywhere, but the tide has turned on tight and I think we’ll look back in a few years and wonder what on earth were they wearing. Read more Goodbye Fitted/Skinny here
The current obsession with the eighties shows no signs of abating and the Italian Memphis group of designers, from that period, have come to represent and define an era which was a riot of bold primary colours and clashing patterns. This is the age of MTV and Beetlejuice, a time when post-modernism was new and Timmy Mallett was a style icon. Okay, well, maybe not the last bit!
Fashion is taking inspiration from that time and the furniture has become increasingly collectible and expensive. The café, at the recent LFWM, had a few pieces to really cement its status.
This top from ASOS is pure Memphis, with its strong clashing colours and asymmetric design, and at £16 is far from those escalating 'modern classic' prices.
Left & Below - ASOS - £16
Above - Collection of 1980s Italian Memphis furniture
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
Put yellow and red together and you don't get orange, but Baywatch. This colour combo always says ‘Lifeguard’, even though on the new film, strangely, they’re using red and blue. Must be a copyright issue!
Anyway, make like Zac and Dwayne down on the beach and go for T-shirts and swim shorts in primary red and yellow. Take the hassle out of Hasselhoff and keep it simple. A strong yellow T-Shirt has always been a difficult one to blend into the wardrobe, but add a red swim short and you get a perfect combo.
Left - An oldie, but a goodie - Original Baywatch
Even if the film’s a load of rubbish, which it probably will be, you can’t get away from the attraction of the sea and surf. Forever and always, I'm always here!
Below - St. Moriz, the no.1 volume self tan brand in the UK, is making a big splash this summer by partnering with the new Baywatch movie which hit screens from 29th May
Left - Orlebar Brown - OB-V - Sunshine Tailored-Fit V-Neck T-Shirt - £65, BULLDOG - Raspberry Mid-Length Swim Shorts - £145
Left - Whistles - Crumple Everyday T-Shirt - £35
Below - Topman - Red Embroidery Swim Shorts - £16
Left - Orlebar Brown SS17
Left - ASOS - Longline Knitted T-Shirt With Curved Hem In Yellow - £18
Below - Thom Browne - Slim-Fit Short-Length Stripe-Trimmed Swim Shorts - £290 from MRPORTER
Below - Topman - Mustard Reality Print T-Shirt - £15
Left - River Island - Yellow Rolled Sleeve Pocket T-Shirt - £8
Left - Patagonia - Nine Trails Jersey T-Shirt - £35 from MRPORTER
Below - Speedo - Solid Leisure 16” Swim Shorts - £15]
Jeans are in flux. Okay, that is a bit dramatic, but upstaged by the style and comfort of tracksuit bottoms and the fact that many jeans styles have become way too tight and skinny, it’s time for a new direction.
The ‘Dad Jean’ is deliberately ill-fitting and unflattering and looks surprising fresh. Liberating and, so-bad-they’re-good type of thing, you need the most ill-fitting shape, in the worst wash you can find. You can thank me later!
Okay, these may take a while to get used to, but, ask yourself, how long did it take until you committed to your first pair of skinny jeans?
Think Kurt Cobain.
Left & Far Left - Topman - Blue Cropped Wide Leg Fit Jeans - £40
Weekday - Drift Loose Cropped Jeans Lagoon Blue Wash - £40 from ASOS
River Island - Light Blue Wash Cody Loose Fit Raw Edge Jeans - £45
Who knew Obama was the king of the dad jean?!
If you’re not overly familiar with the name ‘Miansai’, you’ve probably seen one of their most famous designs without knowing it. A coloured nautical cord bracelet with a metallic fish hook or anchor detailing was, a few years ago, as ubiquitous as Stan Smiths and skinny jeans.
It was one of the few jewellery designs and brands that managed to cut through to the mainstream while still being desirable for guys to wear on their wrists. It was a sweet spot of pricing and branding that made it something that wasn’t throwaway, yet was affordable enough to be worn carefree.
Left - Michael Saiger Founder & Creative Director of Miansai, TheChicGeek wears Harrington Jacket - Grenfell, Cardigan - Pretty Green X John Smedley, T-Shirt - Vintage Helmut Lang, Tracksuit Trousers - adidas from ASOS, Trainers - Diadora Made in Italy
I caught up with the founder, Michael Saiger, in London, to find out how he achieved something that is so difficult, today, and see what’s next for Miansai:
Originally from New York, Michael Andrew Saiger - it’s the MI-AN-SAI of his name that gives the brand its name, “All the domains were taken until I circled these parts of my name. Everybody thought it was asian, but it’s not”, he says, is dressed in a simple sweater and chinos and surrounded by the salon style hanging of the Berners Tavern restaurant.
Michael’s attention to detail can be seen by his perfectly manicured beard and not a hair out of place on his head. “I put my handprint on everything I do. I’m OCD, I’m obsessive”, he says.
How did he get started and where did his eye come from? “My mum has an antique store, she’s an interior decorator and I grew up around estate sales my whole life. So, then when I went to the University of Miami and I started making some bracelets. This was 2007,” says Michael.
“I was looking for a bracelet and there was nothing out there. So, I started making bracelets for myself and then I would take these World War II pendants and medallions that I would find at estate sales and make them into necklaces. All my friends really loved it and wanted them.
“I took them to the concept store, Base, in Miami. They were like, ‘oh yeah, we love this stuff’. This was right before I went on holiday for the summer, and when I went back after, they said they’d sold out in like a week or two,”
Right - This bracelet design has done the difficult thing of being common while still looking fresh and has become something of a men's classic - Miansai - Anchor Cord Silver-Plated Wrap Bracelet - £55 from MRPORTER
The company started officially in 2008 and, then, the product that catapulted Miansai onto the wrists of men worldwide was born. “I took all that money and bought various machines, equipment, everything, so, then me and one of my best friends had a 300 sq ft work studio and we started making everything and selling to some of the best boutiques around the US.
“After that and I graduated - the degree was in marketing - we were bursting out, so we found a 10,000 sq ft warehouse, and built it out and set up our whole manufacturing operation. Then, I started taking our nautical rope and, at the time, nobody used nautical rope for anything unless you went to a summer camp and had a little tie-on bracelet.
“We launched in 2009, in Barney’s & Bergdorf’s ,and then GQ featured one of our rope bracelets. I started using the rope in 2008, but the hook and anchor came in 2009. I didn't want to launch it until I knew I had manufacturing, as I knew it would be very popular. I didn't want to come out with a product and not be able to deliver it.
“We were the first to do anything like this with price points between $55 to $500. It had to be for a 15 year old, it had to be for a 70 year old, it had to be for a 20 year old: anyone and everyone.
Asked how many he thinks he’s sold of his signature product, we quickly discredit the hundreds of thousands and move into the millions. Next came his own retail outlets. “In 2012, we started a mobile retail unit, an old vintage airstream. In 2013, we opened a store in New York, Soho, and we've just opened another store in Venice Beach in LA".
Michael understands the future of retail and that traditional bricks and mortar US retail is suffering. “Retailers are hurting, especially in the US, with everybody shopping online. We have our food delivered, we, literally, don't got to the store, at all. The industry is changing”.
How do you see your stores then? “It’s more about experiential retail. I built our two stores to be galleries. I didn’t want jewellery fixtures, I designed furniture to house jewellery. It feels like a furniture store inside. That’s the future of retail,”.
Left - Miansai - Harbour Rucksack Tobacco Leather - £506.35 This was the bag Michael was carrying in London. He says the bags are made in the same factories as Prada, using the same leather as Louis Vuitton
He cites Aesop as a brand he admires. He’s coy about naming anybody that touches on his accessorises world, but he’s clearly an admire of good design.
He knows that he needs to go to where the consumers are, so he’s launching 5 more mobile units of classically restored Airstreams, Piaggio's and a Fiat at various locations such as JFK, LAX, Soho House Malibu and Newport, Rhode Island. He says it’s all about, “High traffic in an authentic way without selling out,”.
The brand has just expanded into leather bags and fine jewellery. “We launched leather bags: Italian leather, all cut and sewn in Turkey. We use some of the same factories as Prada and the some of the same leather as Louis Vuitton. I always collected bags from my estate sale days and knew what I wanted in a bag”.
As for the fine jewellery. It’s not currently available in the UK, but how does that fit in? “It’s marketed to women, but anyone can wear it,” he says, “For first 5 year’s of the brand, I never said whether it was men’s or women’s,". Is it made by your? "We do make some of the solid gold jewellery ourselves and some of the fine jewellery with the Pavé diamonds, we also work with a very high end factory in Thailand”.
Right - Arduin Cuff Bracelet, 14K Gold/Pave - £2978.54
What advice can he give to men with regards to wearing jewellery? “Keep it simple. Keep it to two pieces, unless you have a thin bracelet. For me, personally, I never wear more that two bracelets and a watch”.
So, what’s next for Miansai? “I definitely want to stay in the accessories realm, I don't want to go into ready-to-wear. We have a very good niche and I’d like to stay there”.
Michael currently has 55 employees, he doesn’t disclose his turnover, but if he’s shifting £60 bracelets by the million, then it’s going to be pretty high. He obviously knows his market and exactly how to expose his brand without it feeling like it is everywear, devaluing it and worst of all, millennials I'm looking at you here, boredom kicks in.
To sell millions of the same bracelet yet retain its desirability is a skill many retailers or brands would love to know. I don’t think it’ll be long before we see a converted vintage van - how about a Morris Traveller? That’s very British - at Wilderness or one of those more monied festivals emblazoned with ‘Miansai’ on the side.
The results are in and the great British high-street has polarised. On the one side is the tired and cumbersome old guard with its offering still stuck in the past, trying to shift their stock through promotions and discounts and then the younger, faster, cheaper and ultimately, more fun retailers who are reporting record sales and profits, both on and offline.
From Left - ASOS, Boohoo
Boohoo just reported a doubling in annual profit, driven by growth in new customers, and said revenue should rise by about 50 percent in 2017-18 as it benefits from recent acquisitions. Revenue rose 51 percent to £294.6 million as Boohoo increased its active customer base to 5.2 million, up 29 percent, while international growth, particularly in the United States, exceeded management expectations.
ASOS The online fashion retailer said pre-tax profits rose 14 percent to £27.3m in the six months to 28 February, while revenue increased 37 percent to £911.5 million. ASOS has again upgraded its sales guidance for the full year, pencilling in growth in the 30-35 per cent range, up from 25-30 per cent.
This is growth, most brands, at this particularly point in time, can only dream about.
The pioneer of ridiculously cheap clothes, Primark, said total sales jumped 11 percent in the six months to 4 March. Sales at Primark, which has 329 stores globally, jumped by 21pc to £3.2bn on the back of new shops.
The UK also delivered an improved performance with a 2 percent lift in like-for-like sales, which meant the discount chain stole market share from suffering high street rivals.
Even sales of clothing at Sainsbury’s and Argos outperformed the market with growth of more than 4 percent in the year to 11 March, the supermarket reported.
What’s going on? This isn’t purely price driven. While it’s a factor, they’re making product that people want and the bigger they get and more product they make, the more people they can please. Lots and often seems to be the mantra to keep the novelty of fashion ticking over.
Too many old brands do these big annual ‘collections’, but people just want lots of individual items and fast. These fast brands do look to designers and trends, but they seem to play and experiment themselves. They acknowledge what is going on, but come up with their own things too. It's a buy it or it's gone attitude.
While Next and Marks & Spencer’s languish, I think a lot of men are trading down, happy with the product and choice. I’ve never seen so many fun things for guys. ASOS and Boohoo are producing the kind of menswear once reserved for girls and the boys seem to be loving it. Ombre fringed sweaters, lace shirts and sequinned leggings are just a few of the crazy things that are coming out of these retailers, and while they wont sell in the thousands, it keeps the cool guys coming back for more.
The young guy, today, has the confidence to have fun with how he looks and he doesn’t want to invest big money in fun or one-off items that are part of a look, or something he feels he’s taking a risk on. The fact is it’s the cheapness that makes it more fun and less pressure to look like anything in particular. It also is a way of showing off, this only cost me…
I’m going to call it the ‘Harry Styles Effect’ - trying something different yet being cool enough to carry it off. Okay, he’s wearing Gucci dragons, but you get the idea.
Only a few guys can get away with it, but it receives admiration from the rest of their peer group. It’s basically about looking like a ‘cool dick’ and when you turn up in a white, see-through lace shirt and your friends ask you what you’re wearing, you secretly know they think you’re cool and it’s the buzz you get from trying something different or new. They then look to see where you've bought your items and, while maybe not getting the same things, it creates a halo for the brand.
It’s about having a sense of humour and this is why the British are so good at style: we can laugh at ourselves, while still looking cool. We can be experimental while not worrying too much about convention or others. It’s what makes us leaders and, also, why some of our retailers are so good at this too and internationally.
Another reason is young men aren’t so hung up on logos and branding anymore. They also don't have the money to spend and want something fresh and often, if only for their Instagram account. They want to go out and wear new clothes and with limited disposable incomes they have to buy cheaper. It’s FUN with a capital F and in a world that seems to be harder and harder to get by in, it’s an outlet of escapism for the young guy.
My only message is enough ‘super skinny’.