At a recent press day, previewing the new SS18 collection from the Swiss brand, Bally, I got thinking about how you can slip between the gap. Bally has followed the Gucci model of Wes Anderson statement pieces in bold colours and look-at-me graphics and slogans. But, Bally’s problem is, it isn’t Gucci, and just doesn’t have the attraction as a “name”- I actually like it more for this reason. Therefore they can’t charge the prices Gucci ask and sell in the volumes too. They also have another issue, well, it’s actually a good thing, they are offering a quality made product.
Left - Gucci Cruise 18
I’m going to call it out. Gucci isn’t good quality. I like Gucci’s ideas, I just don’t think it’s executed to reflect the prices they charge. I’m not naive, I know luxury goods have huge margins, but there’s margins and then there’s margins. No wonder Gucci’s profits are through the roof, they are making products that aren’t as good as they should be in that price category.
There’s enough Gucci out there, now, to hear of plenty of quality control issues: shoes than run in the rain, tiger patches on jeans repeatedly fixed, leather belts that feel like a free school belt. It’s not just Gucci doing this, but they’re the label flying high and drawing in the masses. They are also creating complicated product that requires time and a level of expertise to make it well and quickly shows its quality.
The article said “Balenciaga has stolen Gucci’s crown to become the hottest brand in fashion. According to the latest data analysed by BoF in partnership with search platform Lyst — which tracks 4.5 million data points per hour from over 65 million annual consumers, five million products and 12,000 brands — the Demna Gvasalia-designed brand climbed two places to top the hottest brand ranking in the third quarter of 2017.”
Right - Bally SS18
The feedback on Twitter, from many passionate people, was that they wanted Gucci and couldn’t understand this. It must be wrong. Clearly, Gucci is still in demand and they need to maximise this while they can, but this quality issue will speed up their “hot” lifecycle. People will question what they are paying for and many will feel cheated. The fashion crowd are already over Gucci.
A friend recently had a scarf, retailing, probably, for around £400, and it was so thin, it was clearly nowhere near the best quality scarf of that type. It’s almost laughable, and while people have “Brand Blindness” it’s okay, but you free-fall quickly after without quality. Quality makes people return to a brand.
And, this takes me back to Bally. Currently looking for a new owner, they need to decide whether to offer quality and an acceptable price or chase the higher margins, slash quality and see what happens. They’ll never be a Gucci, but they can clearly maximise sales, but increasing margins like many of its competitors. It'll be interesting to see who the new owner is and which direction they decide to take.
Oxford Street is the main artery linking west and central London. Everything goes through it: either sucked or pushed out the other side. You can spend hours on the bus thinking you’re on a magical mystery tour rather than a straight road bookended by two Primarks.
Well, “radical” plans are afoot, there are plans to pedestrian Oxford Street from December 2018. Admittedly, only half of it, at first, but this is going to be the retail equivalent of the smoking ban. You think it’s never going to happen, then, all of a sudden, it’s happening and everybody is on board and it’s the best thing that ever happened. The End!
Left - The "Posh" end gets the first pedestrianisation treatment in December 2018
No doubt this has been speeded up by the ridiculously poor air quality along Oxford Street and the need to separate people and vehicles due to terrorism, but this is really exciting, nonetheless.
The section of Europe’s busiest shopping street between Oxford Circus and Orchard Street - that’s the corner of Marble Arch M&S & Selfridges - would be the first to become "predominantly traffic-free". However, north and south routes across Oxford Street will be retained after businesses and locals raised concerns about gridlock on nearby side-streets.
The plans would also see cyclists being forced to dismount on the pedestrianised stretch. The plans are designed to address concerns about rising numbers of traffic collisions, pollution and overcrowding. The proposals for the traffic-free Western section include new seating areas and raising the existing street to pavement level to make it more accessible. An 800 metre-long work of public art, acting as a centrepiece along the entire length of the pedestrianised section, could be commissioned. There will also be new public spaces, cycle lanes, improved pedestrian crossings, wider pavements and extra taxi ranks across the wider West End.
The first pedestrianised section will coincide with the launch of Elizabeth line services - and increased visitor numbers - through central London in December 2018.
Let’s be honest, the current Oxford Street isn’t a place you hang about in. You get in and get out. It’s not somewhere you can wax lyrical to tourists about either as it's slightly embarrassing and a busy mess. These plans can transform it from not only the busiest but the most attractive streets in the world. They need to have a contemporary concept and a "vision" - maybe ask Thomas Heatherwick? Or a competition to showcase the best of British architecture and design? - and really think differently rather than a simple repaving and adding extra benches. Let’s make this the centre of British fashion and style. Let’s celebrate our leadership in these areas. Fashion week outside Selfridges? Shopable shows on the retailers' doorsteps? The greenest street in the world? Cafés all along? Street theatres? Christmas markets? A street that comes alive after the shops close? This has so much potential and could be just over a year away. Exciting times.
Arguably the biggest fashion collaboration of the year, every year, H&M are masters of creating hype and buzz with whomever they choose to tie-up with. This year was the turn of British/Canadian designer, Erdem Moralioglu, just don’t ask me to say his full name, so they stuck to just “Erdem”, luckily, and they approached things differently.
Left - Short Sleeved Shirt - £69.99
Usually you don’t get to see the full collection with prices before the big reveal, and often the collection is a seen as a “greatest hits” type homage to the brand rather than bang-on-the-fashion of the season or what customers are currently buying.
H&M held a preview fashion show in L.A. a couple of weeks ago to selected press, they released images and prices of the full collection and they held a preview shopping evening for press and the public the evening before it hits stores, this week, at the glamourous and spookily beautiful Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden.
Erdem has never sold menswear before so it was a first, and his floral signature is definitely in vogue, ATM, thanks to Gucci. This collection is basically H&M’s nod to Gucci’s current aesthetic and hedges their bets with a public who may not know the Erdem name or care.
The queues for Freemasons' Hall was full of London’s fashion folk. Once inside it was a frenetic grab for items people came specifically to buy. There was no time for browsing.
Right - If you missed or couldn’t afford the Burberry Tudor ruffle neck white shirt, here’s Erdem’s version - £49.99
When you see designer, Christopher Kane, amongst the hubbub of rails and elbows, you feel it won’t take much for his name to be in the running for next year’s collab. (Which would be very good BTW).
After the initial buying panic, the coats and tailoring didn’t seem to be very popular. It was the silk and floral pieces that people wanted and they quickly disappeared. Silk pieces seem to be very much in demand right now - See my favourite from Pretty Green - here - and checking on H&M's UK website you can’t even view the Erdem, page.
This is the right collection at the right time. People are going to be bored of this Gucci look pretty soon, so they’ve timed this collaboration right. The florals aren’t particularly standout, so don’t scream "Erdem X HM". They’re not that memorable which will work in their favour and, let's be really honest, men can never have enough floral silk pyjama sets!
Read ChicGeek Comment Erdem X H&M Menswear here
Left - Pyjama Top - £79.99
News just in - Burberry president and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, who has been with the Burberry brand for 17 years, will stand down from its board in March 2018 and work with CEO Marco Gobbetti and team on a transition period until December 2018.
When Burberry’s renaissance began in the late 1990s, it was the perfect time to turn around a recognisable British name, dust it off and grow it into the new desire for luxury and branded products. We’d witnessed it at Gucci, under Tom Ford, and other languishing brands were thirsty for the same.
Burberry initially started with the Italian designer, Robert Menchetti. That didn’t last long and was soon replaced by an unknown designer, Christopher Bailey.
Left - Christopher Bailey who turned Burberry into the billion dollar business it is today
Initially, and this was pre-Google, so you can forgive me, I thought it was the same Chris Bailey who had started Jigsaw Menswear and the soon-to-be defunct Uth. A great designer and businessman, I thought it was a perfect fit.
I quickly realised they were different people and I bought a shirt from that first 2001/02 collection. Admittedly, it was in the Harrods sale and it was very expensive, if I remember, and I still have it. It was in a stretch, striped fabric, one I hadn’t seen before, with metal Burberry branded buttons and epaulettes. There was something beautiful yet innovative which became the signature of the new Burberry.
I quickly became fan. Every collection had a strong theme and the pieces were well designed and had that all important desire factor. The brand got bigger, the shows became fancier and major events with Christopher Bailey overseeing every detail, from store fits to the music to the Testino campaigns.
Those Bill & Ben hats, the paisley collection and then there was the coats with the leather arms which are still yet to disappear off the British high-street.
Bailey is one of the greatest Creative Directors of our time. He’s up there with Tom Ford for a progressive and consistent luxury handwriting. Burberry’s growth and success is down to his balance of updating Britishness while respecting the past and knowing exactly what consumers want now.
While the average Burberry customer probably doesn’t know or care who Christopher Bailey is, for us fashion folk, we like to see the whites of the eyes of those designing and leading the brands we look at.
Seventeen years in fashion is a lifetime, especially today, and while “See Now, Buy Now” pushed him into a creative cul-de-sac, Bailey produced some great clothes and images.
I think he’ll probably take a break. Burberry has made him a very rich man. But, it is exciting what this talented man decides to do next. Perhaps he’ll join Angela Ahrendts at Apple, maybe a bigger fashion job such as Louis Vuitton, his own label or maybe something really radical like Amazon. Who knows?
See more Burberry related comment pieces:
Time to Ditch “See Now, Buy Now” here
Choose Your Rip-Off here
News in that Gucci is going “Fur Free” starting from SS18. President and chief executive, Marco Bizzarri, announced the move at a talk at the London College of Fashion, yesterday.
Mr Bizzarri said: “Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values, and we will continue to strive to do better for the environment and animals.” The brand will no longer use any type of animal fur including, coyote, mink, fox, rabbit or karakul - aborted lamb foetuses.
The fashion house’s remaining fur clothing will be sold in an auction with the money donated to the animal rights organisation "Humane Society International” and “LAV”, an organisation that initiates legal actions to assert animal rights.
Left - Gucci Intarsia Mink - £28,340 from Mytheresa
Gucci will also join the Fur-Free alliance. This is a group of international organisations that campaigns for animal welfare and encourages that alternatives to fur are used by the fashion industry.
I respect Gucci’s decision and being the world’s second largest luxury goods company this will make an impact. It will also influence people and other brands. Any company wishing to be more “sustainable” should be encouraged. (Just how sustainable a business selling US$ 4.3 billion (2016) worth of product is debatable BTW).
But, what I never understand is the double standards on animals. You either use animals or you don’t. Gucci will no doubt still be using snakes, alligators, crocodiles, goats, lizards, ostriches, the list goes on, to make accessorises and clothes.
I’ve seen this many times before. I’ve been at Ralph Lauren where they proclaim to be “fur free” yet I’m standing next to a large crocodile “Ricky” bag. If brands really want to minimise their footprint then they should go completely vegan. Department stores stating they don’t sell fur, yet you look into a felt hat and it’s made from rabbit.
The fur industry doesn’t have to be “cruel” in the same way the meat industry doesn’t. Skins such as sable are shot in the wild and don’t live in cruel conditions. Coyotes are shot as pests in North America. You regulate for welfare standards and promote compassion in farming and every animal regardless of the product should be respected and cared for.
The fur industry can be sustainable and faux-fur, usually made from synthetics, is also detrimental to the environment and doesn't negate the desire.
Net-a-Porter group recently announced it was going fur free too. Admittedly, due to the prices, fur is only bought in small quantities and by very wealthy people. It’s interesting that Italian companies - Yoox/Net-a-Porter and Gucci are going “Fur Free” as we know those Italians like their furs, so this is definitely a shift in attitudes.
These things usually go in two ways - fur trims start to sneak in and the thing gets quietly shelved or companies continue to be "environmentally friendly" and really try and do something about the wasteful fashion cycle that currently exists. Banning "fur" isn't really touching on the real environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Read ChicGeek Comment - The Real Reason Brands Are Dropping 'Fur'
Burberry has to be admired for trying “See Now, Buy Now” - the new way of showing clothes in-season and making them available straight away to buy after the catwalk show. While many brands have used the term or jumped on the bandwagon, they were truly the only global brand to do it on scale and fully commit.
Left - The recent AW17 Burberry Show in Clerkenwell
Other brands have done capsules, collaborations and the like, but on a much smaller scale. Some are still doing it, while others have dropped it already, but, it’s Burberry who we’ve been watching to see whether it works or not.
Burberry has done a great job at the logistics. The job of getting things in place: to drop the minute the catwalk has finished, unveiling online and in their network of retail stores and wholesale partners.
They’ve experimented with it and while they’ve proved they can get things in the right places at the right time, unfortunately, it doesn't make for great clothes.
We are on the third collection now and they are no way as accomplished as the previous out of season shows. They still have the same Creative Director - Christopher Bailey - who I rate very highly, but it just shows that this way of working, restricted by manufacturing timetables, limits the ideas and collections.
With “See Now, Buy Now” you’re alway working backwards. What can we make in time? Can our manufacturers make that, in the quantities we need, in time? No? Then, next idea.
What can we do? doesn't make for the most positive start to any collection. It’s too restrictive. It just makes for clothes that are basics with little details tacked on. The latest collection, shown a couple of days ago, illustrated this, literally. Chinos with doodles on or a let’s stick a silver/crystal thing on a quilted sweat shirt to jazz it up a bit. It’s not starting from a strong design base. You’re always working backwards.
Fashion collections often come together a few days before a show. Stylists or designers often ask for little pieces or accessorises to help form looks which have a clear voice and message and is what many trends rely upon. They worry about making them afterwards. This isn’t possible with see now, buy now, as it has be all signed off and produced months in advance. Burberry has over 500 shops in 50 countries. That’s a lot of product. Admittedly, the catwalk makes up a small percentage of the business, but it still has to be in the windows etc.
These clothes are also being made upfront. Many brands use a show to gage demand and then order accordingly. You either have a lot of wastage or you’re very conservative in your ordering of the more difficult and interesting pieces. This leads to boring stores and products.
Right - Burberry - White T-Shirt With Crystal Brooch - £495 - See Now, Buy Now isn't making for the best clothes says TheChicGeek, do you agree?
It’s time to ditch see now buy now. Burberry are good at deciding to drop things when they don't work. They tried to go it alone with their beauty offering, but realised things are too tough out there on your own and have now gone in with beauty giant, Coty.
If it’s any consolation, they can be confident to know that if they couldn’t make it work, then nobody could make it work and can be very proud of themselves for trying something that many thought too difficult and didn't even entertain.
Like all new ideas, some are more successful than others. This is one to put down to experience and it's time to let Christopher Bailey do what he does best.
As Christopher Bailey says goodbye to Burberry, read TheChicGeek's Ode To Christopher Bailey - here
A "rip-off" is defined as a fraud or swindle, especially something that is grossly overpriced or an inferior imitation of something. Sound familiar? The two meanings have become somewhat intertwined in the crazy world of modern luxury fashion.
Okay, let’s talk about that cap. Vilified, objectified and chastised, the Burberry check cap has been waiting for its reintroduction since we saw the preview of the Gosha Rubchinskiy SS18 Burberry capsule in St. Petersburg where he’s produced a capsule collection based around the famous beige “Horseferry” check.
Burberry once wanted to distance itself from its famous check, using it instead for discrete linings and the like. But, now it’s back and they’re are trying to champion or own the new chav-chic look dominating fashion. Worryingly, the vast majority of people have missed the Burberry in between - which was rather good.
Left - Burberry - Vintage Check Baseball Cap - £195
Burberry are playing catch up and I put that down to “See Now, Buy Now”, but that’s a whole other #ChicGeekComment.
Anyway, the cap got me thinking. The cap is kinda cool, but not the real one. It’s cool to have the copy, the naff pastiche, the nod to, the rip-off, because ultimately you’re getting ripped off with both.
With the rip-off you’re in on the joke, proud of the made in China label and almost taking the chav-factor to the max. Buying it from a stall on Oxford Street and not a store on Bond Street is truly in the spirit in which the item was intended. You’re playing with it, subverting it and not blinding paying nearly £200 for a cap. #ripoff
The same could be said for the new Dune London “Gucci” loafers. The Gucci loafer really is a classic in the pantheon of fashion, but obviously has been everywhere recently due to Gucci’s huge success. Getting a real pair just feels a bit lacking in imagination.
It’s not even about the money. The Dune rip-off makes you part of the current fashion, but it’s more laissez-faire and carefree and makes you a member of fashion’s great unwashed rather than inspiring to own a piece of footwear inspired by the British aristocracy’s love of horses.
Are those Gucci? No, they’re Dune. There’s something confident about being okay about wearing a rip-off. Just think about all the money you're saving too.
Right - Dune London - Pinocchio - Classic Snaffle Loafer Shoe - £100
As Christopher Bailey says goodbye to Burberry, read TheChicGeek's Ode To Christopher Bailey - here
Guys, listen up. As you’re probably wearing trainers or sneakers, right now, you’ll probably want to know the direction your next pair is coming from. Think of the worst pair you can imagine, double it and then sprinkle on another cup of ugly and you’re there.
Left - Vetements X Reebok Instapump Fury Canvas Trainers - £610 from matchesfashion.com
Gone are those minimal, sleek cup-soles, that have, let’s be honest, had a good run for their money, to be replaced by the fugliest fuckers to hit the pavement.
Right - Raf Simons X Adidas Ozweego III Low-Top Trainers - £285
This is all part of our addiction to bad 90s style and everything of dubious taste. You better start planning the rest of the outfit!
Below Right - Eytys - Angel Low-Top Chunky-Sole Leather Trainers - £265
Below - Nike Air More Uptempo Triple Black - £140
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.
In the modern Orwellian landscape it often feels like it’s a battle of the overly confident male egos. From Trump to Putin to Kim Jong-un, puffing your chest out and beating it hard has become an everyday occurrence. I thought - hoped - we’d left this in the last century, but it feels like we’re reliving the worst of the 20th century, every day.
There’s nothing wrong with being and feeling confident. It’s what gets you ahead, or so we are told. But, a delusional sense of entitlement and pride often ends with many cases of cutting your nose off to spite your face.
Last night, Zegna launched a new collection of premium fragrances. Titled #ElementsofMan, it contains 5 new fragrances named “Talent”, “Integrity”, “Passion”, “Wisdom” and "Strength".
Left - Wisdom, anybody?
While I can see the overall idea, it doesn’t feel very contemporary. Where’s “Vulnerability” & “Sensitivity”?
It feels like the Donald Trump collection of fragrances, which is ironic because Trump’s first fragrance, "Donald Trump, The Fragrance” was produced in partnership with Estée Lauder, who also produce the fragrances for Zegna. Launched in 2004, he also had others, now discontinued, called “Success” and “Empire”.
He’d probably wear all five of these, layered á la Jo Malone, yet he’ll think it was his original idea. More is more when you’re reeking of “Strength” & “Wisdom”, don't you think? No room for "Arrogance"?
It feels like an idea dreamt up between Lauder HQ in “Never Sleeps” New York and Zegna HQ in “Macho” Milan with little thought for the rest of the world. Successful men do wear Zegna’s clothes, you need a certain depth of pocket to be able to afford it, but let’s leave the 80s arrogance to Gordon Gekko.
Right - The full Zegna #Elementsofman line-up
“Talent”, for example, in isolation just seems a little strange. My British modesty and cynicism couldn’t wear a fragrance called “Integrity” without a little smirk.
Zegna is a premium menswear brand and they manufacture the most beautiful Italian clothes and fabrics worn by some of the world's most successful men. I think men today are more complex than these allow. These, at £180 for 50ml, are a premium fragrance offering, it just feels a shame that they’ve handicapped them with their names before you’ve even opened the bottle.