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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.