As another couturier passes away - Hubert de Givenchy - I wanted to write a piece I’ve been thinking about for a while. With only Lagerfeld and Valentino left, men who have touched or worked with the great couturiers of the 20th century, is it time to leave couture behind?
It feels like couture is out of touch with today. This isn’t about the vast sums of money it costs, even though that is a good point, it’s more about the creative rut that many couture houses have found themselves in.
Left - Hubert & Audrey
It used to be an area for experimentation and fantasy - remember Galliano’s Diorient Express at Dior and all the models dressed like Henry VIII or a Native American chiefs arriving by steam train? - rather than pretty clothes for people with more money than they know what to do with.
You only have to look at ‘Red Carpet’ dressing to see the state of couture. It’s dull. It’s boring. It’s safe. Of course, it’s beautifully made, but what exactly is couture adding to ‘fashion’?
The Oscars used to have a few fashion ‘moments’ worth staying up for, but it became a battlefield of money and sponsorship, but also, with a few rare exceptions, people more interested in their own vanity and safety off the worst dressed lists. Many of these people aren’t sophisticated enough to wear something challenging or directional.
Couture needs a starting point of anything goes. It should be about experimentation and wowing people with technical skills and craft. I know it needs a commercial element, but it’s never going to be a big seller. In its nature it needs to keep the numbers low, otherwise, what else are you paying for?
There are enough ‘dress-makers’ or newer brands like Ralph & Russo for the pretty dress crowd. Brands need to think what it brings to their image and whether it’s relevant going into the 21st century.
When Hedi Slimane was announced as the new Creative Director of Céline, it was also announced he would be doing couture. Really? A house that has never done couture before, does the world need anymore? This is more a case of massaging an ego than bringing anything new. It’ll just be a higher price point of the same things, like what he did at YSL.
Gucci is a brand which would be worth doing as couture because many of the ideas can’t be manufactured to the quality you’d expect of the design. Couture would take the pressure and lid off this and allow the designs to be as good as they should be.
I agree with keeping skills alive and I, wholeheartedly, believe in craft, but couture just doesn’t have the energy it once had. Couture should be a showplace of experimentation rather than a branding exercise to continually pump out the same thing.
I think couture is currently a reflection of the current lack of great designers. Sadly, without more McQueens coming along it will just be more variations of the same beautifully made things.
News on the grapevine New Look is close to going under. I don’t think this will mean that New Look will disappear, it’ll probably be pre-packed into a slimmer and more nimble retailer while shaking off its debt. It has 600 stores, which seems rather top heavy in this current retail environment.
Ironically, when it’s not cold enough many retailers blame the weather for not shifting clothes, and this week, the whole week, or even two, will be a write off, for the majority of retailers, particularly fashion, because people aren’t leaving the house or simply can’t get to the shops due to the snow and many items there won’t be suitable anyway. Two disruptive weeks could push a few more retailers over that administration edge.
Left - Expect to see more of these and for longer
I think we’re at a tipping point for physical retail, particularly larger shops with big overheads. These gaps are big and aren’t being filled. 102 of the 164 BHS stores that went out of business are still un-let nearly 2 years after its closure. Add in Toy R Us and the announced store closures from many retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Debenhams and you have a very gappy and unattractive grimace to the majority of shopping areas or high-streets.
This downward spiral simply speeds up the death of these areas: fewer shops, means fewer visitors and therefore fewer shops.
Any retailers who sell the same items as Amazon seem to be in trouble and fashion has to acknowledge that the ASOSs and Boohoos of this world have taken a massive chunk of spend and continue to do so.
Fashion retailers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to the internet. Even the best website in the world will still eat into physical stores. The bigger and better you make your online offering will only encourage people not to visit your stores. It’s a feeling of struggling to stand still, and, with many cases, going backwards.
I live in Croydon and there’s been talk of a big, new Westfield for a long time. The town centre is very dated and run down and needs the investment and also the ‘Westfield’ name to put it back on the map. But, Westfield has gone very quiet. They’ve kicked the development back to start in 2019, not really sure why, and having just been taken over by a French company it wouldn’t surprise me if they wanted to relook at any new developments.
Croydon is a risk. It isn’t White City. While it has good transport links, it also has many shopping centres close by. I’ve said to people buying into ‘up and coming’ Croydon, not to buy thinking a Westfield is definitely coming. John Lewis was always muted as an anchor tenant and they’ve said they don’t want to open anymore stores ATM. If it does happen, it will affect the Bromley, Kingston, Bluewater and even Brighton shopping centres. The pain will be felt somewhere.
So, what to do? These units are too big. Shops and shopping centres will have to contract. These spaces need redesigning and dividing. What we need is housing and leisure facilities. The future of physical retail will be ‘want’ and not ‘need’. It’ll will be about service and human interaction - Read TheChicGeek's Human Cookies. Online is unbeatable with need, and its dominance will speed up even more with automation and driverless delivery. But, we’ll still want to get out of the house, see what’s new, try and touch things. It’s just unfortunate that some of these larger retailers and their footprints are unsustainable.
Burberry announces Riccardo Tisci as Chief Creative Officer effective 12 March 2018.
Well, the cat is out of the bag and Christopher Bailey’s replacement isn’t Phoebe or Kim, but Riccardo. Something of a Creative Director curve ball, he was speculated to go to Versace, this is an exciting signing - how Premiership?! - because he could take Burberry in any direction.
Left - A sign of things to come? Tisci's Burberry Cromwellian warts 'n' all portrait
While it was all about luxury sportswear at Givenchy, during his 12 years there, his style was more American, masculine and darker in feeling, but it all started to look a bit done when Vetements arrived with its dress-down aesthetic. I think Givenchy wanted to make the brand more feminine and focussed on women’s accessorises. While he grew the ready-to-wear he seemed to neglect the beauty and accessory side.
Burberry is more slanted towards ready-to-wear, so this could be good, but I thought they wanted to grow their accessorises business?
So, Burberry opts for an Italian. Tisci’s studied and worked in Britain before, he used to be a branch manager of Monsoon, which I love, so he’ll have some idea on Britishness and also bring a fresh perspective to it. Out go the Rottweilers and sharks, and in come Corgis, Greyhounds and Beagles maybe?!
I think ‘See Now, Buy Now’, will be shelved and his first, proper full collection will be for SS19. It’ll be interesting to see whether he takes on everything like Bailey did. If the Creative Director does the stores, windows, campaigns, beauty, everything… you get a feel, faster, of how the brand is changing and its new direction. He'll give menswear as much focus as womenswear which is good.
Burberry has a big, new store opening in Knightsbridge, so it’ll be interesting to see if Tisci has time to have any input and make changes before that opens.
Burberry is Britain’s biggest luxury brand. It’s strongest market is arguably the Chinese, at home and abroad. Keeping these consumers happy, buying and increasing will be the main future goal of any Creative Director. But, if he can please the fashion crowd, and instil much needed excitement, then it’ll keep the business growing and the shareholders happy. I think his window to make this happen will be much smaller at Burberry than at Givenchy and they’ll want to see positive change and fast. Will an Italian do it better?!
See TheChicGeek's Ode To Christopher Bailey - here
There’s always a moment in popular culture when you can pinpoint something peaking. It’s usually in hindsight and when something goes from being cool and new to something ridiculed and stereotypical. Remember the hipster beard? This could be the moment for sportswear.
Left - The Meet Me At McDonald's Haircut
A Great Yarmouth school has banned a haircut called ‘Meet Me at McDonald’s’. The offending style features short sides with a floppy, curly mop of hair on top pushed forwards.
According to The Sun, it was inspired by a 13 years old grime artist called ‘Little T’ from Blackpool. It looks like a relative of the 80s Scouse perm and, obviously, complements the current fashion of retro looking sportswear. Add a scowl and a few sovereign rings and you’ve got a Vetements lookbook. I can already see Amazon producing these wigs for Halloween or fancy dress costumes. Just as 80s tracksuit wearing Scousers became comedy fodder in the 90s, this could be history repeating itself and what will turn the tide of this current trend.
After the recent fashion weeks, I’ve thought about how much momentum this sportswear trend, in fashion terms anyway, has left to run. Sometimes you need a replacement to push it off and other times people just get bored. I think it has until the end of the year, but we’re definitely at the beginning of the end. Denim will be back soon, no doubt, and as we see more and more examples of sportswear looking Sports Direct bad, see above, the cool will drain from sportswear faster than you can say “trackie bottoms”!
It’s fortunate they chose McDonald’s, and not KFC, as there probably wouldn’t be anybody there.
Forget snakes, it’s now sunscreen on a plane. I wanted to write this to get my head around what was new and fully understand it.
New research from the Journal of American Medical Association Dermatology has determined that the harmful rays plane passengers are exposed to can put them at higher risk of skin cancer. For pilots especially, wearing sunscreen is of paramount importance. One hour at 30,000 feet could expose pilots to the same amount of UV radiation as a 20-minute tanning bed session would. And, while a passenger certainly faces less exposure than pilots it’s still important to heed the same advice – especially if you’re sitting in the window seat.
Houston dermatologist Dr. Esta Kronberg says when you're on a plane you should always wear sunscreen to protect you from dangerous rays that you probably won't even notice. "The UVB is what causes burning and you know it and you feel it and you tan and the glass blocks the UVB but the more penetrating rays are the UVA and they do more damage," said Kronberg.
“As you are much closer to the ozone layer the sun’s rays are much more harmful,” Matt Gass, a spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), told Telegraph Travel.
“UVA can penetrate window glass and penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB. UVA protection in a sunscreen will help protect the skin against photo-ageing (skin ageing caused by ultraviolet rays, e.g. wrinkles caused by the sun) and potentially also skin cancer,” according to BAD.
TheChicGeek says, "This is more reason than ever to buy a moisturiser with a high SPF and to wear it all the time. To be able to take into a plane cabin it will need to be 100ml and under. Look for products with a high, broad spectrum protection for UVA and UVB.
Simply apply a marble-sized amount to your face, as well as any other exposed areas such as your neck, chest, hands, forearms, and ears at least one hour before you fly. It’s also important to re-apply the product every two hours, especially on long-haul flights and if close to the window.
It's not often you think about reapplying sunscreen during a flight, but this is definitely something to do during a long-haul flight and to cover up the rest of your body using clothes or blankets."
Here are a few ChicGeek reviewed products containing SPF here
More ChicGeek reviewed sun protection products here
Fashion doesn’t happen in isolation. Large corporations can influence fashion and push their aesthetic through with the help of wads of cash. This, sometimes, makes the companies bigger and more money and so the cycle continues. But, a shift can often beach the whale and sportswear has thrown the preppy baby out with the bath water. Apologises.
I’ve written about the troubles with preppy before, Read more here, usually focussing on Ralph Lauren as the flag bearer, quite literally, of the look and its reluctance to change or evolve to suit the current taste in comfort and dress down.
Left - Brooks Brothers' 200th Anniversary Show at Pitti Uomo 93
That was a while ago, and with people soon to get bored of looking like a charity shop reject or a retro sportsperson, it’s inevitable that it will return.
So, we move to Florence for the 93rd edition of Pitti Uomo. Brooks Brothers is one of the chosen brands to show and they are celebrating their 200th year. Which, for any retailer, let alone an American one, is something to be very proud of.
Under the painted ceiling of the Palazzo Vecchio, a deep presidential blue curtain pulled back to reveal an orchestra playing ‘Empire State Of Mind’. So far, so good. Out came the models in various guises of preppy, yet it had been styled to mute their greatest hits. Cable knits over jackets and suit jackets tucked into trousers, it looked like a collection embarrassed to brushed with the preppy magic.
Brooks Brothers can lay claim to dressing presidents and charting the evolution of American style over the last 200 years. This should have been preppy so good that you’d bounce out of the show and be googling ‘John F Kennedy Jnr’ before you hit the cobbles of Florence’s Piazza della Signoria.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. This should have been a celebration of America’s 20th century power and the handsome, dashing evolution of that dressed style into preppy and the history of American fashion.
Brands like Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren need to push in order to return to fashion favour. There’s no point in sitting back and waiting for the tide to come back in on your style. Push preppy, push suiting, push people looking like they give a shit. There was was no fight here.
Preppy isn’t fully dead, it just needs to be really good. There are new American brands like Rowing Blazers, and British brand, Drake’s, is a perfect example. They manage to make preppy feel artistic, creative and beautiful. It’s the colours, the prints and the detail that makes you want to explore the fun and exaggerated side of preppy and, shock horror, put a tie on! Maybe.
French beauty company, L’Occitane, opened their huge - the largest in the world - new flagship store on London’s Regent Street last night. This isn’t just another standard branch, it’s spacious, has a luxurious yet homely finish and even has a Pierre Hermé macaroon counter to boot. It feels like a cross between an airport lounge and a store. It’s definitely somewhere you could happily spend time in.
Left - Upstairs at L'Occitane Regent Street February 2018
Anyway, chatting away, somebody mentioned their boyfriend had come into the store previously and was looking for hand cream. The sales assistant said it was upstairs. As he went upstairs another sales assistant came over and said, “You’re looking for hand cream?”.
Mind reading is a skill that modern retail needs. Clearly, the sales assistant, downstairs, had radioed ahead. Not only is this great service, it’s also a form of human cookies - the chain of information your internet journey/history leaves behind allowing brands to track your movements and also recommend appropriate stuff.
It’s not magic, it’s just clever data, and I, for one, don’t mind having things recommended for me or being reminded I looked at something previously. You can clear your history every now and again if it becomes annoying.
What this shows is a linked up journey in a physical store. The customer is looking for something and rather being lost somewhere on the journey or not finding what they want, the sales links became strong and would obviously have more conversion in sales with the added bonus of wowing the customer and making them feel they had received great service.
Right - The flower filled ceiling installation from above inside the new L'Occitane Regent Street store
This is what physical stores need in order to compete with online: sales assistants quickly talking to each other, directing the consumer and having that want to please and fulfil expectation.
I understand many stores are too busy, some of the time, for this type of individual attention, but many luxury brands can offer this type of service if the sale assistants are motivated. It’s about a personal, human touch, which in the future we will miss from online shopping and something that can become a physical store USP.
‘Human Cookies’, as a concept, would definitely put new meaning into a physical store’s customer journey.
I’ve spoken of ‘Fashion Saturation’ before - here’s an article I wrote in 2016 - but, now, it’s official.
According to Weight Watchers, Britons hoard £10billion worth of clothes we never wear: 588 million unworn garments are languishing in the nation's wardrobes with women hoarding 365million and men 223million.
Of the 2,000 people polled – 1,000 men and 1,000 women – 25 per cent said they plan to wear their outfits again once they lose the extra pounds they have gained since buying the items.
Okay, I know it’s Weight Watchers, and they obviously see a motivator for people to lose weight is to get into all these unworn clothes, but it’s also a signifier of the wastage and glut of clothes we have in our wardrobes.
Left - Take a leaf out of Joey's book? Maybe this will be a trend to wear as much as possible to get those unworn percentages down
Men reported wearing just 53 per cent of their clothes, with the 47 per cent of unworn items worth £5.1billion. The most commonly unworn garments were T-shirts, jeans and jackets.
One in ten respondents claimed they did not throw out unworn clothes because they were waiting for them to ‘come back into fashion’. That’ll be those bootcut jeans then!
Overall, the £10billion figure breaks down to £200 of unworn clothes per adult in the UK.
People are drowning in stuff. This is why retailers aimed at more mature customers are suffering. The Debenhams, Marks & Spencer’s and House of Frasers of the world.
People have wardrobes full of unworn clothes and adding to this pile is turning many off the idea of relentless consumption.
Retailers aimed at the younger market are doing better - Boohoo, ASOS - as these consumers are still hungry for items and also their mindset is: wear, enjoy, dispose.
The irony is the less space we have, as homes become smaller, we’re using our precious space to store clothes we’ll never wear. Okay, I understand you can’t wear 100% of your wardrobe 100% of the time, but that 47% could easily be reduced to around 15-20%. Things for special occasions or have sentimental value you’ll keep.
Just look at your wardrobe, there’s not enough days in the year to wear the amount we have.
We need to unlearn this idea of ownership and also close the loop on reusing and recycling clothes. We need processes that make clothes’ fibres easily reduced back to their raw state and then reused and those which don’t fit this process, we limit their use. We can’t simply keeping adding to the unworn pile.
Value and price are related, obviously. A high price can offer great value, and vice versa, but many designer brands are very far from this. See more here - Greedy Margins & Brand Blindness
We’re in an age where the arrogance of brands has caused many to push their prices up while lowering their quality. It’s not good enough. So, it was a nice surprise to go into the new Fiorucci store on London’s Brewer Street and see quality product at reasonable prices.
Left - Tired of shopping? Have a lie down
I’d been meaning to take a look since it opened in September. Now owned by Janie and Stephen Schaffer, who had founded the high street chain Knickerbox together in 1986, Fiorucci was one of the coolest fashion names of the 1970s. This is the first store in its rebirth.
Right - The spiral staircase up to the 1st floor in the Fiorucci store on London's Brewer Street
Founded by Elio Fiorucci in 1967, after being inspired by London’s Carnaby Street and King’s Road, the first Fiorucci store opened in Milan’s Galleria Passarella. More stores followed. In 1974, a second location in Milan, a year later in London. Then, in 1976, East 59th Street in New York. The Manhattan store becomes known as “the daytime Studio 54”. It laid down the blueprints for the concept store as we know it today.
Until recently it was just a name check in Sister Sledge’s “He’s The Greatest Dancer” song. But with Halston gone, Gucci overloaded, it’s, now, all about Fiorucci.
We’ve seen many brands from the 1970s try, and, generally, fail to make a comeback. Ossie Clark never quite made it and Biba stuttered and became an in-house brand at House of Fraser. Many brands make the mistake of trying to carbon copy what was then rather than taking the best bits and thinking about a contemporary shop or experience.
The new owners of Fiorruci have done this really well. The shop has that disco, playground feeling yet still feels sophisticated and the product all seemed to be Made in Italy of decent weighted fabric and excellently priced - £80 for a T-shirt and £140 for a sweatshirt.
Left & Right - More images of the first Fiorucci store as part of the brand's rebirth
While £80 is a lot for a T-shirt to many, when you compare it to £250 for a Gucci one that is so thin you can see your hand through it, it seems great value. I’m not sure who is doing their manufacturing, but it looked like the reason why you buy Italian-made clothes.
At these prices it’s something you can get involved and have fun with. Young consumers will be able to afford it or at least save up to it. They are positioning the brand for the long term, looking for repeat custom and offering their consumers something decent for their money. I know if I see a guy in a Fiorucci T-shirt I’ll want to go over and speak to him. It’s cool.
Go check it out next time you’re in Soho.
Walking into Topman’s Oxford Circus flagship, a couple of weeks ago, there was a collection of bought-in brands such as Nicce, Le Coq Sportif and Champion, in an area on the first floor. All familiar, all offering the current taste for branded clothing.
Left - Vision Streetwear - Scarf £30
There was a large section for a brand I hadn’t heard of called “Vision”. All Balenciaga-type logo tops and branded football scarves, the product was good and definitely where we are right now and what guys want to buy.
I always like retailers to surprise me and give me things I hadn’t heard of before. I just thought it was a street/sportswear brand that was yet to jump onto my radar.
I went to the Topman SS18 press day, the following week, and there was a special area for “Vision” and, then, the penny dropped: this must be an in-house brand.
It’s clever. It allows brands to do something different, have a clean creative sheet and for it to be detached from the parent brand. It can also, unlike the main brand, be disposed of the minute it starts to wobble. Easy come, easy go.
People are much more open to fresh brands and this is the future for high-street retail. Secretive in-house brands, that look like they’ve been created by a young, dynamic group of creatives rather than be tainted by the connotations of the parent brand. TK Maxx have been doing it for years.
And this takes me to HIIT. A new sportswear focussed brand under Burton’s umbrella. I’m much more likely to get excited about HIIT - it looks really good BTW - than “Burton Sportswear” for example. It also allows the people who work there to push it and be very current without a buyer in the background wailing “It’s not very Burton, is it?”.
Right - HIIT Available at Burton in January 2018
It also allows it to be stocked by third parties such as Zalando and ASOS. It stands on its own right and when its life cycle is over it can be shelved and a replacement or alternative waiting in the wings.
I’m calling these “Russian Doll Brands”: brands within brands offering a new niche and more fashion forward or specialised clothing.
What these do is represent the shortening lives of brand and how they can easily come and go and also, it’s a step away from “collaborations” which many consumers and brands have grown tired of.
Correction - Vision is owned by Authentic Brands Group, a brand development, marketing and entertainment company, which owns a global portfolio of lifestyle, sports, and celebrity and entertainment brands. It is exclusive to Topman in the UK and US, but not in Japan.