Wednesday, 23 August 2017 22:14

ChicGeek Comment New H&M Brand Arket

Arket H&M Regent Street

When Banana Republic decided to chuck in the towel, leave the UK and move out of the H&M-owned, old Dickins & Jones flagship building on Regent Street, it made sense, to H&M anyway, to fill it with their own house brands, especially at a time when you could struggle to fill such a large, flagship space.

Left - Upstairs at Arket, Womenswear

The space has been split between Weekday, which already has stores across Europe, and Arket, which is brand new and this is the first one in the world.

The big question is: does the world need anymore H&M brands? It makes sense for the companies. Put your eggs in lots of baskets, aimed at lots of different sectors and consumers, and not only do you have all bases covered, you can weather the ups and downs of fickle consumers better: as one brand is going down, another one can be coming up.

What with COS, & Other Stories, Cheap Monday, Monki, as well at the main H&M brand, they are pushing out, much like the Spanish Zara owner Inditex, with many consumers unaware or past caring about who owns what. It’s the fashion equivalent of a one operator food court.

Arket H&M Regent Street Cafe

Anyway, let’s talk about Arket. They’ve gone London grey - Scandinavian pink perhaps?! -  with the shop fit. It looks a bit like a stage fit of a shop in “1984”. The top half is empty and looks like a cheap wardrobe carcass waiting for the doors. The floor is Valentino-type grey terrazzo and it is lacking, somewhat, in personality. This looked like the template for every future store and you wouldn't know where you were. Are brands still in that mind set of rolling out the same shopfit the world over? I thought we were done with all that.

Right - Café with a shop attached

The product is good. The knitwear feels substantial and of good quality. So good, in fact, I think you’ll have to buy it two sizes bigger just to get into it. The ground floor is split between men’s at the front and back, homeware in the middle and a café to the side at the back. Upstairs is womenswear and childrenswear. 

Arket H&M Regent Street

Branding is minimal and it’s all very plain and Scandi - can we ever get enough?! - The women’s has more colour and it does flow.

Arket likes a serial number on things. I think the target customer is the trendy mum, she wants clothes for her, her children, a café to sit down in and some little treats in homeware, plus she’ll be buying the menswear too, which is why there are Breton stripes - every woman loves a man in Breton stripes, don't they? 

Left - Using brands such as R.M. Williams & Tricker's to elevate the branding & clothes

When this rolls out to the big shopping centres all over the country, depending on how successful it is in London I guess, then she’ll in there with her stroller, smugly mocking the Cath Kidston nappy bags. (If she’s buying the clothes, she’s probably washing them too. I’d like to see how those knits fare).

As for the hubby, there’s nothing he won’t be happy with, there’s nothing not to like. 

Like Weekday, there is a sprinkling of other brands: they are using quality shoes like Tricker’s and R.M. Williams to elevate the clothes. The price points are £80 for a jumper and £45 for a pair of good quality long-johns, which to me feels more like a Swedish customer used to paying for quality and not a London or U.K. customer hooked and satisfied on cheap clothing.

There was a very nice Black Watch tartan mac, which won’t hang about for long, and, like all stores, you cherry pick the best pieces and ignore those that are over-priced or not special enough.

What Arket lacks in personality it makes up for in quality. This feels like a store for Millennial milfs and dilfs, which was perfectly illustrated by two dads proudly feeding their babies on the opening night, probably while their wives were busy shopping.

Published in Fashion
Monday, 14 August 2017 10:25

ChicGeek Comment The Man In The Dress

Chris Evans Son Boy In A Dress Gender Identity

I’ve just got back from Copenhagen, the final stop on the men’s fashion week and trade show circuit. CIFF is the main show with a mix of high-fashion, young designers and what can only be described as clothing, at best, in the halls at the back.

Left - What's not to love? Chris Evans' son, Eli, looking adorable

Ignoring that, the front lobby section had been curated with new brands, some from America, some from Sweden, the UK, and Beams from Japan, who as well as having their own eponymous brand, supports many others.

Because CIFF is so late in the men’s calendar it starts to merge with women’s, which is only just starting: so, it’s late for one and early for the other.

One of the rails of clothes in the Beams section was a patterned dress with frills, and while, before, my instinct is a mental brake. A “this is women’s” thought springs into my head and then you about turn to find the closest rail of men’s for safety. This time it felt different. While not quite there yet myself, this dress could have been for men. It could have been unisex, it could be anything. And, that’s how I feel things are going, in fashion terms anyway.

Anything really does go. Men have got so experimental that if they want to wear a dress, they can wear a dress, and it’s just a person in a dress. Gender not defined. They’re not trying to be a woman. I don’t want to get into the minefield of gender politics, this is purely a fashion instinct, but it feels like we’re on the cusp of that change.

This reminds me of Chris Evans’ son pictured in his green lamé dress. Obviously a fan of David Walliams’ book, The Boy In The Dress, he went out dressed as only a fan would do.

What’s changed is people don't care. Well, the parents don’t. The kids never did. 

This little boy looking adorable in his dress is saying nothing more than he’s making an effort and fan-boy(girl)ing - whatever - to his favourite book. It’s just a great thing that he’s reading.

This is not about him wanting to be a girl, this is him wearing what he wanted to wear on this occasion. 

Okay, so some will take some convincing, but it feels like the door is open if you want to push through it. Are we brave enough?

Published in Fashion

luomo vogue closing time inc wallpaper death of magazines Jocks Nerds

News in that the most famous pure fashion men’s publication is to close. The Italian publication, L’Uomo Vogue’s last issue will appear in December. With a readership said to be 300,000, which is large within the men’s market, it seems a strange move by publisher Condé Nast, if this is the true figure.

Left - David Beckham shot by David Bailey. The Italian men's fashion magazine, L'Uomo Vogue is to close

I think what it signifies is not the change in consumers, but advertisers. This is all about advertisers changing their spend and while consumers have been disappearing in numbers since the beginning of the 21st century, the brands still felt confident about advertising in magazines and keeping them profitable. Until now.

L’Uomo Vogue’s closure is a reflection of the downsizing of Milan Men’s Fashion Week. What used to be busy with big name ‘superbrands' has seen many downsize to presentations or merge their men’s shows with their women’s, and thus showing later in the calendar. You’re not going to spend lots of money promoting something that is not a priority or is contracting.

These were the brands big enough to buy the back covers or a couple of pages just inside the front, and this was where the profit is or was for publishers.

Many luxury fashion companies, especially the Italian family run ones, have been slow to get with digital due to the fact many of those in charge didn’t understand it or want to understand it. They’re idea of luxury wasn’t the internet and they like too much control. 

As budgets have been cut and also the delayed investment in digital sapping funds, L’Uomo Vogue is an example of the swingeing cuts the men’s industry has been facing. Italy is a powerhouse of Italian brands and even they are ‘adjusting’ to the future. Armani has reduced the number of labels, Dolce & Gabbana shelved D&G, even the recent big money maker, Gucci, now show their men’s in with their women’s show.

Also said to be closing is the independently published, Jocks & Nerds. The UK quarterly title, established in 2010, known for it’s workwear and vintage aesthetic, is sending its final issue to bed. There’s never been a good time to be an independent publisher, but now is particularly tough. I think fashion moving towards something more sporty and less ‘heritage’ may have also been a factor.

In other news, Time Inc., publisher of Wallpaper*, is moving to E14. Yes, me neither! I had to Google it, even though I’ve lived in London my whole life. It’s Mudchute, yes, Mudchute. There’s nothing wrong with Mudchute on the Isle of Dogs, but talking to a PR the other day, they said their courier doesn't even go that far. Times are tough, but are they really that tough?

It feels like the change in media is speeding up and the majority of magazines and publishers seem to be down to the bare bones. There isn’t much left to cut back on, but it’s a surprise a title like L’Uomo Vogue has folded before others. Watch this space.

Published in Fashion

Love Island is Instragram TV

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

Published in Fashion
Sunday, 16 July 2017 10:17

ChicGeek Comment Erdem X H&M Menswear

With collaborations as common as the cold it’s become hard to generate the excitement that those previous big reveals had. Swedish mega-retailer, H&M, has just announced, much later than usual BTW, their collaboration with British-based, Canadian designer, Erdem.

This is a coup for Erdem, as, apart from amongst fashion circles, few know the label and hardly any men, as they don’t do menswear. Known for long Valentino like dresses in intricate florals, it ticks the box nicely for H&M to do something Gucci-like and is a switch up from the previous year’s Kenzo collection.

This will clearly be riding the Gucci maximalist wave, but I’m hoping it’s more Laura Ashley/Liberty of London/House of Hackney men’s than a straight copy of Gucci. The patterned silk pyjama set seen in the video - below - looks very Gucci, but let’s hope there’s some freshness in the other pieces.

Erdem’s full name is Erdem Moralioglu and he's never designed menswear before. Here’s what he said about designing men’s, “I found it a real joy,” says Erdem. “It’s really about looking at a wardrobe of pieces, and focusing on the exact design details. There has to be an easiness to menswear, and a sense of reality. I’m so happy with it, and I think so many women are going to love the men’s collection too.”

The ideas behind the collection sounds like an eccentric, British mixed bag of references. “The collection reinterprets some of the codes that have defined my work over the past decade”, shares the designer. “It’s also inspired by much of my youth, from the English films, 90’s TV shows and music videos I grew up watching to memories of the style that defined members of my family. Taking from these inspirations I imagined a group of characters and friends off to the English countryside for the weekend. There’s a real play in the collection between something decidedly dressed-up and equally effortless”, he says.

I think this collection will have a niche market and maybe they won’t make the volumes or have the number of stores stocking it like in previous years. But, I’m actually excited about this one as this feels to be catering for the lovers of fashion rather than labels. Hits stores November 2nd.

Published in Fashion
Tuesday, 11 July 2017 17:00

ChicGeek Comment Goodbye Fitted/Skinny

The death of skinny jeans and fitted clothes

Honey, I shrunk my wardrobe! One thing that struck me at the recent LFWM was how many guys were wearing clothes that were too small for them. Straining buttons on shirts and cardigans, and muffin tops above waistbands: we’re suppose to be the ones setting the examples and getting it right. 

Left - Bursting at the seams! The Incredible Hulk doing want many shirts are trying to do

Men's fashion week brings out guys’ Sunday Best and they make that extra effort to set out their sartorial stall and make a statement. Worryingly, with many of these items being 'fitted', they don’t leave much leeway if you put on a bit of weight, haven’t got the body fat of a cucumber anymore, or your washing machine takes your clothes down a size or two.

The problem with fitted clothes is there is no cushion: they have to fit perfectly. Get a size too small or something shrinks in the wash and it’s a very fine line between fitted and too tight. It’s started to look a bit immature, especially when you add skinny lapels and trousers. It’s all a bit ‘prom’.

The death of skinny jeans and fitted clothes

There’s no major rush to ditch skinny, but just don’t buy anymore. You’ll thank me. It’s going out the door with sleeve tattoos, neon-orange tans and arctic white teeth. This is a ChicGeek heads up.

Right - These need a warning sign. Do not buy these or anything that looks like these

The death of skinny has been coming for a while and we’ve had a few false starts, but it’s over. It’s time for loose, oversized and even ill-fitting. Who would have thunk it?!

The skinny look can be traced to various influences including Hedi Slimane’s original Dior Homme, Thom Browne’s shrunken asethetic and the trend for men to work out, look lean and show off their bodies. It’s been coming, growing and peaking over the last 20 years or so.

If you want new jeans, and you don’t want to go all out fashion 'Dad Jean' - see more here -  then go for a loose, straight leg. Admittedly, jeans aren't currently that fashionable: they've been replaced by tracksuit bottoms and casual trousers. But, jeans always make a return and when they do, they won't be skinny.

As for all those other fitted items, we’ve all grown used to that puffed out chest feeling and the pull of the fitted shirt and it made us feel good, especially the admiring glances from others. But, it just doesn’t feel very fresh or modern anymore. It also doesn't feel very mature and it’s time to grow up. From Towie to Ex On The Beach to Love Island, skinny is being associated with one type of guy. And, while usually attractive, their clothes puts them all on show and leaves little to the imagination. The new look will be something more modest, sophisticated, more comfortable and, maybe, even something you can bend down in! 

Published in Fashion

marcus jaye the chic geekI recently went to Berlin, for their fashion week, which is dominated by two trade shows, Seek and Premium. I know Berlin is the city of the young hipster wanker and far from the bourgeois idea of fashion. Always has been. But, watching a young guy in adidas trackie bottoms, an old tour T-shirt tucked in and a fake looking GG monogrammed Gucci hat, it’s pretty clear that fashion, ATM, is looking like ‘cool crap’.

Pioneered here, but spreading: it’s about found, second-hand, vintage, charity and everything that is the opposite about looking expensive and ‘designery’.

Left 'Pensive Crap' at Seek in Berlin - Cap - J Crew, Sunglasses - Vintage Gucci, Top - Umbro

It’s been coming a while, and it’s something the fashion industry struggles with, because making something shiny and new is what they are used to. Plus, why buy something brand new when you want it to look old?

pony trainers SS18It’s about mass produced old items looking old. This isn’t the Gucci idea of decadent vintage. That’s over.

I know Italian brands have been doing ‘pre-distressed’ for donkey’s, and it’s always looked a bit crap. Ripped jeans, anybody? But, it was interesting to see brands, such as Pony and Valsport, doing options of trainers looking like you’ve been wearing them for months.

Right - Pony distressed for SS18 

Even if you buy something new, you style it in a way which looks old and not cared about. Maybe that’s why we’re seeing collaborations such as Louis Vuitton and Supreme in order for these brands to look less expensive, even though the prices say something else.

Some brands only know how to do new and this is leading to people raiding wardrobes and rediscovering things they used to wear or asking parents for their old sportswear. Hoping they've hoarded it.

Menswear is really experimenting in this area and the worry of looking bad is over, as that’s really the point. It’s about looking like an America tourist from 1985 or a post-Soviet Russian, aping western brands, circa 1994.

Could be a hard sell, or no sell at all, and this certainly won’t help the struggling fashion industry.

Below - Valsport SS18 worn look, Never too old for Vetements SS18

Valsport trainers pre distressed worn in

vetements ss18 Umbro

Published in Fashion
Friday, 30 June 2017 13:43

ChicGeek Comment Pound Wars Poker Face

I think we all know how competitive it is at the lower end of the clothing market. But, it was an e-mail, a few weeks ago, from Marks & Spencer that really summed up where we are. It was announcing their new range of men’s ‘Quick Dry Swim Shorts’, all pretty standard for this time of year, but it was the price that caught my eye. A bargain £10! This is cheaper than Topman, cheaper than River Island and even New Look. It’s certainly cheap for M&S and, then, you realise all the retailers are busy racing to the bottom.

What this means is, in order for those companies to make money, they need to shift a hell of a lot of product. British retailers are currently playing a game of poker, holding their hand i.e. keeping prices low, waiting for their competitors to fold. 

Left - Pep&Co at Poundland SS17

But, if this game wasn’t tough enough, new competition is entering the market which will only increase pressure on those margins and unsustainable volumes.

For example, Poundland has entered the clothing market. Their in-house brand, Pep&Co, launched into stores in March this year.

They've already opened over 50 Poundland shop-in-shops with another 50 or so planned for the second half of 2017.  The chain, which was bought by the South African group Steinhoff International, expects to put Pep&Co clothing outlets in up to 200 of its 850 stores over the longer term. 

Pep&Co was founded by Andy Bond, who once ran Asda’s George clothing label, with backing from the South African tycoon and Steinhoff shareholder Christo Wiese.

The first shop opened in Kettering, Northamptonshire, in July 2015 and the chain opened its first 50 stores in less than two months.

They sell a full range of menswear, with 90% of the range under £10. Example lines are denim from £5 and 100% cotton fashion Tees from £3.

If people are wearing Poundland, it means they aren’t wearing another brand. This isn’t about sneering at this end of the market, it’s about wondering who will go out of business first. It's unsustainable.

The market is saturated and these business models only work if you can order huge volumes and shift it fast.

This is new competition for all the supermarket brands plus Peacocks and Primark and traditional high-street retailers like M&S and Debenhams are more keenly pricing their offering. Add discount brands such as TK Maxx and the neverending discounts and sales and you have an environment that is harder to make profit in.

Consumers are being squeezed with higher inflation and low wages and are generally satisfied with cheaper clothes. They can't or don't want to pay more.

Then add the internet, with Boohoo offering bargain fashion-led clothing and websites such as EverythingFivePounds, where everything is, literally, five pounds, and you have the perfect storm to implode some of the giants of the British high-street. Arcadia, the owner of Topman, is already seeing revenues fall and Topman is looking increasingly expensive against the competition.

In this game of pound wars poker, who will run out of chips and fold first?

Left - Louis Vuitton? No, Everythingfivepounds - £5

Published in Fashion

Topman Design Lennon Gallagher LFWMWe’re on the eve of London Fashion Week Men’s and, while celebrating its 5th year, the biannual event is having to deal with the changing menswear landscape. Brands are cutting expenditure, many are merging men’s with women’s, budgets are under pressure and London Fashion Week needs to be justified more than ever.

Left - The new face of Topman AW17, Lennon Gallagher giving good brows

The closed, industry facing idea of fashion weeks is over and it’s all about photo opportunities and customer facing events. It’s about promotion, harnessing the buzz and trying to get some direct return on the costly investment.

Perfectly illustrating this is Topman Design. One of the originals on the London men’s schedule and  the first to really elevate high-street to a catwalk proposition, Topman Design has decided to shelve the show and instead have a presentation for its new SS18 collection that will be thrown open to the general public over the weekend. Arcadia, the parent of Topman, has seen sales falling and this puts pressure on making these type of events perform.

A ‘multi-media event’ called ‘Transition’, the Topman Design installation is curated by a series of collaborators.. Each collaborator will ‘own’ a space and create an installation showcasing their interpretation of this attitude with each room having a completely different and fresh perspective to create a unique journey through the space. 

The event takes place at the Old Truman Brewery and open to the public on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th June between 10am and 6pm. To gain access to the event simply download the DICE app on the App Store and Google Play or at DICE.fm.

Collaborators featured include photographer and filmmaker Nick Offord, musicians ‘The Rhythm Method’, poet and writer Max Wallis, architect and filmmaker Ben Cullen Williams and  photographer and creative director Campbell Addy who will be working alongside illustrator King Owusu. In addition the space housing the installation will be designed by young British architect Benni Allan of estudio b.

The space will also feature a pop-up shop selling exclusive apparel featuring prints and graphics taken from and inspired by the Topman Design archive as well as exclusive pieces from the collaborators exhibiting.

Opening the fashion week up to the city makes it an event and creates the momentum that continues to keep these things going. We need to see more of this and not simply 'See Now, Buy Now'. I was thinking when they pedestrianise Oxford Street, it could become the location for fashion week. Clear marquees could hold shows and outside screens could showcase collections to the general public increasing interest and firmly keeping British fashion as the centre of creativity and the city. 

Increasing the public's interest in fashion and fashion week and taking it out of its bubble should be the main objective this LFWM.

 

Published in Fashion
Wednesday, 07 June 2017 12:00

ChicGeek Comment The Luxury Brand Thaw

Luxury Brands Marketing Chic Geek Comment

Last night I took part in the #MayfairCollective panel discussion talking about all things menswear in the lead up to London Fashion Week Men’s LFWM. Teo van den Broeke. Style Director, Esquire magazine, was a fellow panelist and said something interesting about how, on his recent trip to Milan, the luxury brands there told him they wanted to appear ‘warmer’ to consumers.

This is welcome news and also timely as their stand-offish approach is alienating consumers and becoming increasing sterile. They realise they've found themselves stuck in a luxury cul-de-sac with sales slowing and boredom setting in.

There was a time when the brands controlled the consumer. The consumer was supposed to be grateful that they were allowed into the luxury shop, buy the luxury goods and walk out with a luxury bag. Thank you, thank you, thank you...

Things have changed and the power is, now, in the hands of the consumer. The market is saturated, there’s more competition than ever and people are being short-changed with the quality of many of these ‘luxury’ goods.

Brand warmth comes from personality, inclusivity and a friendliness, which many brands, without a strong central figure, will find it difficult to find. It’s about tone of voice, retail environment and brand messaging.

This is a big shift for these companies and will take time. I think they need to think small to go big. People like to buy from people they know or feel like they know. They need to think about the cities and neighbourhoods they are in. They brands can have an overall message, but they need to tailor it for the specific consumers and locations.

They have stopped with the identikit shop fits, but it going to take instinct, trust and a more organic feeling of change, which these very rigid luxury brands will worry about. Addicted to control, it’s something they need to wrestle away from themselves otherwise it they will, eventually, suffocate their businesses or be replaced by those who do.

Published in Fashion