At the end of a tumultuous year for traditional retail, and at the start of another, which doesn’t appear to offer much respite, there’s been a distinct trend in rebranding for both luxury and high-street brands. While you’d expect them to want to stand out, it seems as though they all want to blend into one another. This homogenisation is a case of an expensive “reblanding” exercise. Rebranding means creating a different identity for a brand, from its competitors, in the market, which, in fashion, is even more important especially when you're trying to flog luxury goods and the idea of difference and individuality. This feels like the opposite.
The recent rebland list is long: Belstaff, Celine, Calvin Klein, John Lewis, Burberry, Berluti and Balmain have all gone for simple and bolded logos without any of the details and distinct serifs. Playing it safe, what these new logos and fonts say is a lack of confidence and often change for change’s sake.
Left - The recent logo "reblands"
In August, Burberry unveiled its new logo. Replacing the Burberry Equestrian Knight logo with its bespoke Bodoni font, which had been used by the clothing company since 1901, the new logo is the work of celebrated British graphic designer, Peter Saville. It’s also worth noting he rebranded Calvin Klein with a similar font when Raf Simons took over and wanted to refresh.
"The new logotype is a complete step-change, an identity that taps into the heritage of the company in a way that suggests the twenty-first-century cultural coordinates of what Burberry could be," Saville exclusively told Dezeen. Somewhat cryptic and full of marketing speak, he describes what he and Riccardo Tisci, the new Burberry Creative Director, settled on as “modern utility,” adding, “It looks like it’s been there forever, but it’s still contemporary.”
Right - Hedi's masterstroke?!
Tisci said on Instagram ‘Peter is one of our generation’s greatest design geniuses. I’m so happy to have collaborated together to reimagine the new visual language for the house.’
Burberry are in the throes of changing everything way before the new Creative Director’s impact has been proven. As his first collection hits stores to a rather muted response by the fashion press, it’ll be interesting to see how it sells, especially the items with this new logo on.
Seb Law, Fashion Copywriter & Journalist, says, “I really hate that they’ve added’ ENGLAND’ to the Burberry logo after London. As if it’s London, Texas or something.”
It “Seems like an attempt to look ‘international’ and more premium, but also it’s now becoming an established way of a new designer starting at a different house to mark the start of their chapter. Does the general consumer care about this, or is it dive behaviour? Also rebrands cause plenty of chatter in fashion circles and build publicity – see Hedi’s previous rebrand of SLP. All press is good press, apparently.” says Law.
Hedi Slimane is a designer who likes to put his mark onto a brand and in September it was announced that the French house, Celine would be, controversially, losing its accent. Law and others have been defacing the brand’s posters by returning the accent to the first e.
“For me, it’s a matter of good use of language. As a copywriter and journalist (with a degree in French), diacritics aren’t just a pretty typographic tool to be played around with at the will of a designer, they’re an integral part of the word.” says Law. “‘Celine’ and ‘Céline’ are different words, pronounced differently (‘sell-een’ and ‘say-lean’, respectively). he says.
“It’s a continuation of the cult of personality over brand, in both cases. Causing a splash, in whatever way possible, seems to be the aim of the game. With Burberry, I’m disappointed that the logo doesn’t have a more uniquely British feeling, which the old one did IMO – I do love the interlocking TB print though.” says Law. “With Céline, it’s a classic case of Hedi doing whatever he wants. Brands should be aiming to exercise their unique personalities; this uniqueness is what attracts customers and maintains a brand’s personality. Homogenisation might attract sales, at least initially, and while change is obviously necessary, and often good, these two rebrand exercises feel like they’re a bit half-arsed. They’ve succeeded at building publicity, but is that what a logo redesign should do?” he says.
Left - The new logos are all very similar
On the high-street, John Lewis, in September, rebranded as John Lewis & Partners at a reported cost of £10m. Its first rebrand in 18 years and inspired by the company's 1960s "diamond pattern" motif, John Lewis managed to not only complicate its name but also lose its trademark dark green. Opting for safe black, it was yet another example of this reblanding trend.
In an age when these brands should really be trying to expressive confidence in themselves, these boring logos show a striving for safety and an anti-criticism blandness. It’s hard to be critical and negative about something so simple, yet they aren’t memorable or standing out. These aren't utility companies. Fashion’s current love of the sans-serif is definitely missing something.
The seeds of denim’s comeback are being sown. Thanks to Raf Simons’ Calvin Klein and his new uptight form of denim, we have a new way to see and wear it.
Left - Wrangler AW18
Bin those skinny jeans and buy yourself a denim shirt with contrasting front pockets, a roll neck and a denim jacket. This is 1970s cowboy in mid-winter.
Right - Calvin Klein AW18
The new AW18 campaign from Wrangler perfectly illustrates this. Brokeback at the top of the mountain, you could say, this all-American, retro look is all about layering relaxed shapes. Denim or corduroy jackets over jeans, check shirts and lightweight roll necks give this cowboy a romantic and wild edge. Think more North Carolina than North Acton.
Just don’t look like it’s your first time at the rodeo!
Left - Calvin Klein SS18
Below - Wrangler AW18
Get more inspiration in the video below. The video reminds me of the 1980s cult in Netflix's Wild Wild Country - here
Once the preserve of bank robbers and Mexican wrestlers, the balaclava is AW18's biggest headwear - or should that be facewear? - trend. Seen on the catwalks of Calvin Klein and Gucci, the balaclava is a literal disguise from the cold weather.
Left - Calvin Klein 205W39NYC AW18
Right - Calvin Klein 205W39NYC - Striped Wool Knit Balaclava £232 from luisaviaroma.com
The name comes from their use at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War, referring to the town near Sevastopol in the Crimea. British troops wore them to keep warm.
The designer brands have produced their own versions, as seen in their latest ad. campaigns, but you could easily pick a cheaper one up on Ebay or find somebody's grandmother to knit you one. Go bright and fun. You don't want to scare anybody.
An item of clothing that only shows your eyes? Now, what would Boris Johnson say?!
Left - Calvin Klein 205W39NYC AW18 catwalk
Below - Knitting Patten
Right - Gucci - Mirrored GG Jacquard Wool Balaclava - £175
Left - Mexican wrestler inspiration
Above - Gucci AW18 advertising campaign
Tom Ford is a clever man. Starting with two of the highest margins categories in fashion - eyewear & beauty - he founded his eponymous company. Fast forward 13 years and he’s developed money-maker after money-maker. Suits, followed by trainers and then jeans, all added to his ballooning business.
Left - Tom Ford debuted his new underwear range during his February AW18 catwalk show in New York
The last big fashion category untouched by the Texan’s magic was underwear. But, no more.
What debuted in his show in February catwalk show in New York was a bit underwhelming. Think Yeezy uncooked sausage coloured trunks; a world away from the sexy, see-through briefs Ford produced when at the helm of Gucci. Calvin Klein could still sleep easy at night, or so I thought. But, looking at the news from British GQ, it looks like they’re more standard tighty-whities, albeit with a velvet waistband. They’re also cheaper than I thought at £55. (I know, it's still a lot for a pair of white pants).
For a man who famously dresses commando, the big question is, will be practise what he preaches?
Below - Briefs by Tom Ford - £55
Being British, there is no escaping football, and in turn, footballers. On the back pages, the front pages and every page in-between, these spoilt young men are entertainment, both on and off the field.
The new book ‘Saturday Night Fever Pitch’ by Simon Doonan - The Magic and Madness of Football Style - is a celebration of the beautiful game through the lens of fashion.
Left - Cover of Saturday Night Fever Pitch. More disco balls than 'Golden Balls'!
‘I love nothing more than to contemplate Andy Carroll’s man bun. Where others see reasons for mockery – a swishy sarong, a bleached mohawk, a camo-painted Bentley – I see mysterious self-disclosure, creativity, swagger and style. This is the lens through which I view the world of footie. I am, therefore, less ‘Fever Pitch’ and more ‘Saturday Night Fever Pitch’.
Who knew that Simon Doonan, Creative Ambassador for Barneys New York, would be such a football fan? But, then I suppose it’s all part our new understanding and inclusive society!
Footballers combined with fashion is like watching a car crash: you can’t take your eyes off a bad one. But, they have the income to make even the most expensive things disposable - unfortunately, the terrible tattoos are relatively permanent.
What they do influences, for better or worse. Just look at the recent furore regarding the gun tattoo England player Raheem Sterling had on his leg. These guys are young, the world is at their feet, quite literally, and they have hundreds of thousands of pounds in their pockets. They won’t get it right every time. Would you?
Right - Still the king of 20th century footballer style - George Best
This book looks back at footballers and their shopping habits from before the maximum wage cap was lifted and through the decades up until the present day. A couple of things are missing from the book - Freddie Ljungberg in his Calvin Kleins and that terrible cross-eyed sculpture of Ronaldo’s head!
There are plenty of LOLS at the Wags, managers, cars and hair styles. It would have been good to see a best and worst dressed list, but I suppose it’s all subjective and changes through time.
David Beckham and George Best are the pillars in the book, but it’s worth picking up just to see Victoria Beckham in her 2006 Baden Baden Wag phase of perma-tan and pneumatic tits. Though she’s changed, many women will be taking this look to the grave.
It’s interesting to read that Paul Smith helped George Best with his fashion boutiques in the 1970s and even helped decorate that modern house he had built. The bath was so big George never used it because it took so long to fill.
This is a fun romp through the silliness of footballers and how they spend their money. Some of the headings are a bit cheesy and tabloidy, but that’s, I guess, part of the fun. I don’t think the title is as humorous as Doonan thinks because football and fashion doesn’t need any help in upping the campery.
Left - Mike Summerbee of Man City with the precursor of the car CD player, 1967
This would be a good gift for any guy interested in contemporary culture, not just football or fashion. Now, where would Dolce & Gabbana and ripped jeans be without all those footballers?!
Saturday Night Fever Pitch: The Magic and Madness of Football Style, by Simon Doonan, published by Laurence King - £19.99
Like men's style books? Read TheChicGeek review of House of Nutter by Lance Richardson
We’ve all heard about the revival in vinyl over the last few years. The hipster’s music medium of choice, vinyl records are now everywhere from Sainsbury’s to Tesco. Well, the revival continues, but into our wardrobes this time.
Think shiny, think black, think vinyl. There’s something slightly pervy and sexual about it. It is one part Berlin of the 1920s - have you seen Babylon Berlin? it’s very good - one part grungy/graffiti New York of the 80s. It adds a frisson of excitement to your wardrobe and shows your daring side. A walking oil slick, team with coloured lensed sunglasses and flared jeans.
Left - ASOS - Oversized Vinyl Trench Coat - £70
Left - Calvin Klein SS18
Below - 66 North - £670 www.66north.com
Left - Balenciaga - Wobble Leather Jacket - £1795 from matches fashion.com
Left - Topshop - Vinyl Bucket Hat - £16
Below - Moncler - Mancora - £900
The label of the season, Calvin Klein Collection, has been renamed CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC. I’ve tried Googling it, but I don't know what it means either.
Anyway, these new red trousers struck a cord. Continuing the Wes Anderson take on fashion, the bold red and contrasting purple Tuxedo stripe continues the trend in these types of sports-influenced trousers. They continue to look fresh and cool especially with this unusual purple contrast.
Left & Below - CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC - Grosgrain-Trimmed Wool-Twill Trousers -£620 from MRPORTER.COM
A new twist on Calvin Klein’s Obsession, the Obsessed For Men fragrance is an oriental woody amber with ‘a compelling heart of black vanilla sophisticatedly structured with dark, dimensional woods, providing the tension between a feminine melodiousness and masculine strength. Ambrox elegantly cuts through all, lending a sleek and contemporaneous edge’.
TheChicGeek says, “The original Obsession was the one major Calvin Klein fragrance that passed me by. Eternity - love, Escape - love, CK One - love. I’m not really sure why I skipped Obsession. I think it felt more feminine, ATM, due to the image of Kate Moss lying on a sofa. The images are a 90s classic and it was the start of Kate Moss’ relationship with the brand.
This new fragrance uses the same shaped bottle of the original while in a super-clean, clear finish.
I’m being pernickety, but i think they should have called it ‘Obsess’ rather than ‘Obsessed’. Obsessed is too pop culture a word, today, like ‘everything’ and ‘love’. It’s chuck away and immature.
They say this is Raf Simons’ first fragrance under his direction and it feels more a tinkering than a fully formed idea. The pictures of Kate are timeless in the truest sense of the word. Sent on holiday in 1993 with her then boyfriend, photographer, Mario Sorrenti, there was no make-up, hair or stylist. A simple setup, where the relationship made for exceptional results and a campaign that still resonates today.
As for the juice, it’s fruity, fresh and feminine. The fresh grapefruit gives it a sticky top while the deep vanilla gives a gourmand finish. It sits in that modern fragrance formation where there is as much top as bottom and it leaves you just wanting something a little bit deeper and more sophisticated."
Above - Calvin Klein - Obsessed For Men - 125ml - £57
Below - The original archive of unused Obsession images has been reworked for the new fragrance
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.
Let’s make something clear, Marc Jacobs is a great designer, yet his business is struggling. Why is this? Business of Fashion said, on Tuesday, the label announced its decision to shutter its men’s business, ending a license agreement with Staff International, after the delivery of the Autumn/Winter 2017 season.
Okay, Marc Jacobs menswear had disappeared recently and, to be honest, it never really have any identity and this is ultimately Marc Jacobs’ problem.
Left - Marc Jacobs going out with a Bang, now discontinued
One of the biggest designers in the world and he has difficulty establishing his own brand. Karl Lagerfeld has always been the same, but that’s a whole other ChicGeek comment.
I knew something was wrong when I went to a Coty fragrance launch, last year, and asked how the Marc Jacobs Bang fragrance was doing. They said they’d discontinued it. I was surprised because, firstly, the bottle was great and the black peppery fragrance was very wearable and commerical. Maybe it was those naked ads, starring the man himself, that tipped it over the edge!
Marc Jacobs has done a lot of things: he put Grunge on the catwalk, but unfortunately you’ll never make money from grunge, he pioneered Louis Vuitton’s ready-to-wear and introduced many great collaborations, such as Stephen Sprouse, those leopard print-type scarves were everywhere, but he’s never really owned anything. You can’t point to something and say “that’s very Marc Jacobs” which is when a brand or designer because part of the visual language and, ultimately, means longevity and heritage.
In the early 00s it was all about the Stam handbags, which were expensive, then Marc by Marc Jacobs came along and everything was really cheap. He seemed to miss the middle, sweet spot that Michael Kors has come to dominate. He was either really expensive or pocket-money cheap and that confused the brand. You never felt like spending money on Marc Jacobs.
The fashion probably wasn't expensive looking enough for the clientele who buy designer clothes the world over and when the only shop left on the street in New York that you pioneered is a book shop - BookMarc - great name BTW - it seems as though this is a signifier of how tough things are to make money from ready-to-wear even when your name is established.
The bad news is it’s only going to get more difficult in the next few years in American fashion. Calvin Klein is hoping for a resurgence thanks to Raf Simons, Donna Karan has new owners, that will no doubt start investing heavily and Ralph Lauren is bound to hit bottom soon. They’re all chasing the same customers and competition is difficult in a saturated market. Marc Jacobs needs to decide where is wants to sit within the fashion market and aim for that. Or, hope check shirts make a major comeback!