When New Look announced, at the beginning of this month, its menswear was going online only, it solidified what we already knew; high-street fashion is struggling, badly. It was only a few years ago, when the ‘dapper’ three-piece skinny suit was at its zenith and pocket squares were furnishing top pockets, that the good times were rolling and Britain’s high-street menswear retailers were expanding.
Left - Momager Kris Jenner loving an adidas tracksuit but with a Gucci bag or Fendi keyring
Back in 2016, New Look was busy rolling out menswear stores in university towns, appealing to those on a budget wanting fast fashion. New Look was fairly late to the menswear party, following in the footsteps of brands like Topman, River Island and Moss Bros, but it had lofty ambitions. They opened 22 menswear stores in places such as Shrewsbury, Exeter, Maidstone, Derby and Nottingham. They are all now closed, wth New Look saying in a recent statement, “New Look is removing menswear from its UK and Ireland stores but will continue to sell the range online and on third party platforms,” such as ASOS and Zalando.
So, what happened? Sportswear happened. Branded sportswear has been the main fashion story for the past few years. From trainers to tracksuits, sportswear is everywhere and on everybody.
Recent results from sportswear behemoth, JD Sports, illustrates its growth and dominance. JD Sports, which is now more than three times bigger than arch rival Sports Direct, almost-doubled revenue in its latest results for the 52 weeks to February 2, 2019. Revenue was up an incredible 49.2 percent to £4.7 billion for the period compared to the year before, with profit before tax increasing by 15.4 percent to £339.9 million pounds.
JD Sports’ results includes its acquisition of the Finish Line business in America. The brand was bought for around £400 million in June 2018, and saw JD Sports take ownership of Finish Line’s 600 stores in the US.
JD Sports executive chairman, Peter Cowgill, said in a statement: "We believe that our acquisition of the Finish Line business in the United States, the largest market for sport lifestyle footwear and apparel and the home to many of the global sportswear brands, will have positive consequences for our long-term brand engagement whilst significantly extending the group's global reach. We maintain our belief that Finish Line is capable of delivering improved levels of profitability.” JD Sports said it stayed clear of reactive discounting while offering a point of difference in the goods it sold.
This American dominance, particularly of the internet and social media channels, has helped grow this market. When American football is coming to Wembley and there’s even talk of baseball making inroads into this country, then you know the power of the American online world we now live in. When you see Kris Jenner wearing a full adidas tracksuit on multiple episodes of the Kardashians, instead of the luxury labels she used to be wearing, it really illustrates how far this trend has come and it’s global.
JD Sports is now in 10 countries in mainland Europe with its first store in Austria at Mariahilfer Strasse in Vienna opening in the next few months. The JD fascia saw a net increase of 39 stores in the period with new stores in all of the retailer’s existing territories as well as its first two stores in Finland. In Asia, JD Sports has opened its first stores in Singapore, Thailand and South Korea with its local partner Shoemarker Inc, and now has 16 JD stores, including 14 conversions of the multibrand Hot-T fascia which was acquired in the previous year.
New Look recently closed all of their stores in China, Belgium and Poland, 85 stores in the UK and, potentially, those in France and Portugal too. It has returned to profit after its underlying operating profit came in at £38.5 million to Dec 2018, compared to an underlying operating loss of £5.1 million for the same year-to-date period the year prior, but like-for-like sales are still falling, they’ve just slowed.
These woes aren't just restricted to New Look. The fall in the value of these high-street companies is illustrated by Arcadia recently buying a 25 per cent stake in retailers Topshop and Topman back from US investor Leonard Green for $1 or 76p. It was rumoured the US private equity firm bought the 25 per cent stake from Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia in 2012 for £350 million. That’s some devaluation.
Another British high-street brand suffering from the dominance of sportswear is Moss Bros. The menswear retailer recorded a £4.2 million loss for the 52-week period ending January 26, 2019, compared to a profit of £6.7 million the year prior. Revenues were down 2.1 per cent to £129 million and like-for-like sales dropped 4.3 per cent. Interestingly, full-year figures showed that like-for-like hire sales plummeted by 9.3 per cent. People aren’t even renting formalwear now?! Moss Bros chief executive, Brian Brick, said it was an “extremely challenging” year. “We suffered from a combination of a significant stock shortage and extremes of weather, alongside sporting distraction in the first half, which impacted footfall into our stores,” he said. That “sporting distraction” was the World Cup with people no doubt wearing yet more sportswear.
“Looking forward, in common with many UK retailers, we continue to anticipate an extremely challenging retail landscape, particularly within our physical stores, as a result of reduced footfall and rising costs.” he said.
This sportswear as a fashion trend is slowing, but sportswear is beyond a trend, now, and it’s a lifestyle and ease of dressing that is resonating around the world and to every age group. These once dominant British high-street stars are contracting and they are cutting off limbs (menswear) to save the vital organs. Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” He couldn't be more wrong.
Move over Fendi. Fila has reimagined their classic sports pieces in Schott NYC’s signature leather. Having invented the biker jacket in 1928, Schott NYC, now, joins forces with Fila’s motor-sporting legacies, this time centred around their reign with Ducati which saw the brand support many champions, such as James Toseland and Niel Hodgson.
TheChicGeek says, "This is Fila's signature shapes, and you know I've been a fan of Fila bringing back its back catalogue for a while, but in the softest lambskin. This is pimped sportswear and the prices aren't ridiculous. I'm tempted to get the full Settanta leather tracksuit".
Left - Irving - £550
Right - Pier - Leather Settanta Jacket - £500
Left - Luigi - Leather Settanta Jog Pant - £500
Fendi taste, River Island budget?! Worry no more, as the logo trend needn’t pass you buy just because your pockets aren’t deep enough. Fendi is probably the strongest of the logo brands, right now, and River Island has a clever rift on their own RI initials that look strikingly like those of the famous Rome fur house. Get involved.
Far Left & Left - River Island - Brown Slim Fit RI Monogram T-Shirt - £20
Below - Fendi - Logo-Print Raincoat - £1550 from matchesfashion.com
Take the escalators upstairs to the first floor in Harrods and a sign above the entrance to the women’s designer floor reads ‘Superbrands’. Inside, individual, luxury fashion brands are housed in marbled-lined shop-in-shops giving consumers the full brand experience.
How these ‘Superbrands’ are anointed I’m not sure - it could be sales or how much they wanted to contribute to the fixtures and fittings - but, what we were willing to accept maybe ten year’s ago feels out of step with how we feel about brands right now.
Left - North Face or Sit On My Face?
Selfridges opened a similar ‘Superbrands’ room during the noughties, but has since dropped the moniker.
We’re moving into an anti big brand age and being labelled a ‘Superbrand’ isn’t the compliment it once was.
“Superbrands…who are they? Self appointment does not make you a Superbrand. And really was it just an industry ‘thing’. Did consumers really know or care who the Superbrands were? Did consumers really buy into this??? I think probably not. It struck me as quite ‘self congratulatory,” says Jo Phillips, Creative Director, Cent Magazine.
Right - The Hey Reilly Fendi/Fila collab for AW18
“The newer generations want brands that are traceable, responsibly care for the environment with ingredients, content etc, that is traceable and kind to the earth. Some want to have one offs so they can be seen as elite, first adopters, trail blazers etc or there are those who want individual products so they look for independent brands, small runs etc so they don’t feel like clones. Sadly some want to wear brands head-to-toe, emblazoned with logos so we all know ..how much money they have??? But, its beginning to look a little tired, like those people that act like a sandwich advertising board for a brand..especially if they wear them head to toe…its all a bit tragic,” says Phillips.
First published in 1995, and now in its 19th edition, ‘The Superbrands Annual’ highlights brands from a wide range of sectors that have become the strongest and most iconic in their field. The brands are voted for by marketing experts, business professionals and thousands of British consumers. There are two separate surveys: Consumer Superbrands (the UK's strongest B2C brands) and Business Superbrands (the UK's strongest B2B brands).
“A Superbrand must fundamentally deliver a good quality product or service but they also must be famous, come to mind ahead of the competition and be emotively engaging and distinctive, for example have a personality or tone of voice that is unique (think Virgin Atlantic vs Delta), or have a purpose that people can identify with and buy into.” says Stephen Cheliotis, Chairman of Superbrands UK.
Things have changed since 1995 and while many brands once wanted to make it onto the Superbrands list, it feels like the energy for consumers is turning towards start-ups and young, dynamic brands rather than something larger and established. People have become suspicious of big companies and this form of back slapping feels somewhat arrogant.
“While the fundamentals of what makes a strong reputation and what drives a positive perception have not in my view fundamentally changed, much of the context of marketing and buying has shifted substantially. For example, the channels or tools used to communicate with consumers has changed and there are now many more options, the consumers’ demands have has also rightly risen. With increased competition, not only has the bar been raised, but brands are increasingly called to account for poor delivery, for example through social media.” says Cheliotis.
“In many ways, brands are still, besides people, the most important asset a company has. A strong reputation in the market is essential to success. In this country we often focus too much on short-term success and short-term metrics, but really focussing on creating a distinctive brand with a clear purpose, point of view, personality and proposition should be a fundamental board consideration.” says Cheliotis.
As part of this change in thinking we’re seeing smaller brands or artists hijacking or playing around with established brands’ logos and slogans. These comical or clever playing with words have made many people think about brands’ messages and what they really mean. It’s part of our age of #fakenews, growing suspicion and rage against the establishment.
Left - OIBOY - £28
Since graduating from the Royal College of Art, Reilly has carved a unique position in the world of illustration and graphic art by playing with what is real or not in brand terms. His recent Hey Reilly AW18 collaboration with Fendi sees a play with the sportswear brand Fila. Both brands merge into a cool and playful outcome. It takes a level of confidence for brands to accept and give these tweaks their blessing. Other designers or artists such as Philip Normal, Proper Mag and OiBoy are all offering a British sense of humour on other people’s branding.
Based in South London, and founded by George Langham, OIBOY recently made its debut at Selfridges. “We all like to categorise everything into boxes, it makes us comfortable, but what makes a model super? "She's a ‘Supermodel’ not just a regular model”. Maybe adding 'super' to a brand or a model allows them to demand higher fees or prices because they are now super?! It's all bullshit really, BUT without these unaffordable (to the masses) 'superbrands', there wouldn't be brands like OIBOY, which is seen as affordable and accessible.” says Langham.
Is this about a lack of respect for brands who have spent many years and millions of pounds establishing themselves.
“I’m not sure it’s a lack of respect from our side of things, we see what we do as something lighthearted and harmless fun. What seems to be happening is privileged kids glamorising the working class, even glamourising poverty in some cases, you can see this with the trend of every fashion shoot being on a council estate or pie 'n' mash shop or wherever, it's like going on a safari for them, seeing how the ‘others’ live…” he says.
Left - OIBOY - £28
“Well ,we used to take any brand that rang a chord with us and British culture/humour, hoping that the brand(s) would see the funny side of what we had done, at the same time, realise it’s guerilla advertising, we never look to discredit nor try to pass ourselves off as them, yet lately we’ve had some issues from 2 ‘superbrands’... the first one which is an American preppy brand who were fairly nice to us and asked us to kindly remove items from sale off of our site, the other, which is a French tennis brand, they tried taking us to the cleaners, so I guess to answer your question; we now can’t mess with clothing (super)brands, so we best stick to beverage companies from now on.” says Langham.
"It's just another marketing spin, why is Mark Ronson a 'super' producer not just a 'producer'? I like the idea of some super hero character producer coming in to save the day, but not really a super brand.” he says.
This reaction is about brands not taking themselves too seriously and being able to laugh at themselves. Many larger brands have built themselves a straight jacket of branding and guidelines and aren’t flexible enough to respond to the new consumer’s desires. This is about having a personality and being confident enough to join in the joke. They had this trouble when social media first appeared and they needed to have a singular voice.
Superbrands is a dated concept and as such illustrates the change in the way we view established brands. Today, you don’t want to be seen as being too successful. You want to be part of the struggle and that’s also why many big brands are starting smaller brands all the time. Just look at H&M and its growing stable.
Many Superbrands have lost sight of its product and got wrapped up in the brand too much. They need to disrupt themselves. I think we’ll see many of these brands falter unless they give more attention to the final product and particularly its quality and longevity.
Right - Proper Mag Mug - £8
I wrote about ‘Russian Doll Brands’ - here
Male Daisy Dukes
Putting the duke into Daisy Duke, okay, so they're usually denim, but these shorts are seriously short.
Top Left - Prada, Dior Homme, Fendi, Hermès
From Left - SS World Corp, Maison Margiela, Jacquemus, Prada
More Bad Denim
Is there any other type of denim these days? It keeps on getting worse and it ain't going away.
Above - Prada, Alyx, Balmain, CMMN SWDN, Off-White
Left - Valentino, Versace
Burnt neck? Don’t worry the summer roll-neck's got you. These were made for a British summer.
Left - Both - Prada
Brown Art Suit
I just love this. Simples.
Left - Dries van Noten
Verner Panton was the inspiration at Dries (left) and this carried over to Prada and Raf.
Left - Prada, Raf Simons
If you've seen more untucking than Rupaul's Drag Race, it's now time to let those French cuffs hangout. Goodbye cufflinks!
Below Both - Alexander McQueen
Caping was once massive eyeroll at fashion week, but, now, you can put your shoulders in!
From Left - Alexander McQueen, CMMN SWDN, Maison Margiela
The Scarf With Coat Attached
Trust Raf Simons do give us something we didn't know we needed. It won't blow away!
Below - Raf Simons, Raf Simons
How many green coats do you own? Exactly. Nothing welcomes spring like the Green Man. May Day alert!
Left - Dries van Noten, Raf Simons, Comme des Garcons
Left - Dunhill, Dolce & Gabbana, Thom Browne, Versace
Yellow hasn't mellowed, in fashion terms, it's just got brighter.
From Left - Raf Simons, Dior Homme, Ermenegildo Zegna
Left - Hermès, Thom Browne, Jacquemus, Versace
Don't be a dummy, get a bucket hat with the baby ties.
From Left - Ami, Fendi, Stella McCartney
The Longer DB
This season saw the beginnings of something more grown-up and less novelty. It starts with the double-breasted, longer jacket.
Above From Left - Ami, Dior Homme, CMMN SWDN, Dunhill, Versace
Below - Left - Kenzo, Louis Vuitton, Paul Smith, Stella McCartney, Thom Browne
We've had latex and leather trousers, now, it's time for the shiny, plastic looking shirt.
From Left - CMMN SWDN, Wooyoungmi, Dior Homme
Half & Half
Yin & Yang your look. It's as clear as night and day.
From Left - Maison Margiela, Alexander McQueen
You won't find this in any army surplus shop, but it makes you want to get in the big outdoors.
Below From Left - DSquared2, Neil Barrett
Just say 'Auntie Donatella knitted it for me, daarling!'.
From Left - Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Versace
Milan gave us handbags, more shiny coats and reasons to look like a tourist. Here goes AW18:
Ooooo, look at you! Bags have been getting smaller, so we may as well call a spade a spade.
From Left - Fendi, Palm Angels, Prada
The future is wipe clean and the quicker you get your head around this, the better.
From Left - Gucci, Fendi, Prada, Versace
Below - Both Moschino
Like a walking 70s airline logo.
Below - Both Fendi
This could be one of my favourite trends of the season. Not blurred lines, but distorted ones.
Above From Left - Fendi, Ermanno Scervino, Marni, Moschino
The new caping.
Left - Gucci
Nothing wrong with looking like a tourist in AW18. The worst the better. Just don't look up!
Below - Fendi, Prada, Prada
Any blanket looking design cut into a coat or simply just thrown over your shoulders.
From Left - Fendi, Gucci, No.21, Marni
Below - Marni
What did Oscar say about resisting temptation? Dress like you haven't.
Below From Left - Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Dolce & Gabbana
This is part normcore, part 80s, part 90s, part...
Fear & Loathing lenses. I wore these all last Summer and they ain't going anywhere.
Below Both - Dolce & Gabbana
The Crystal Maze Jumpsuit
The all-in-one becomes a style adventure as the jumpsuit, finally, makes into men's wardrobes. Think of it as a cost saver, as you get a top and bottom in one.
From Left - Rochas, Prada, Prada, Lanvin,
Below - From Left - Ralph Lauren, Facetasm, Ami, Cerruti1881
The shirt is back! -you heard it here first - so that also means the collar is too. Wear it messy and open.
From Left - Prada, Marni, Wooyoungmi, Valentino
This trend followed on from London - here
Left - Prada
The Soviet Shoulder
Forget the Cold War, it's all about the cold shoulder for SS18. Think big and high. More hunched than hench!
From Left - Prada, Thom Browne, Rick Owens, Paul Smith
Below Left - Balenciaga, Wooyoungmi, Dries van Noten
Return of the Tie
We've seen the shirt - above - is back, so it only seems fitting that the neck tie makes a reappearance.
From Left - Marni, Marni, Kenzo, SSS World Corp
From Below - Paul Smith, Wooyoungmi, Fendi, Antonio Marras
The less it matches the better.
Left - Marni, Sacai
They make you taller & thinner? Where do I sign?!
Left - Marni, Balmain, Etudes, Haider Ackermann
Below Left - Paul Smith, Cerruti 1881, Ami
Long & loose. Just don't call it 'long-line'!
From Left - Thom Browne, Alexander McQueen, Dries van Noten, Officine Generale
Florals on Mephedrone!
Below - Kenzo, Ami, DSquared2
Long Short Sleeves
It's all part of the larger-than-life, oversized trend of trying to make your polo shirt sleeves touch your wrists.
From Left - Balenciaga, Balenciaga, DSquared2, MSGM, Neil Barrett
Italians do it better. This seems to be the theme coming out of Milan fashion week where the Italians have taken the bull by the horns and produced some of the best menswear we’ve seen from them in a long time. You may as well go down in style!
Here are TheChicGeek’s trend highlights:
Think avocado and prawn cocktail sauce.
From Left - Gucci, Bally, Gucci
The seventies got a refresh and contemporary update. Chevrons were the order of the day.
From Far Left - Neil Barrett, Fendi, Dsquared2, Neil Barrett
(See TheChicGeek meet Neil Barrett just before this collection - here)
Knowing Fendi this is probably made from kittens. Get the robe out of the spa and take it to the street.
More bleach. It's one way of cleaning your clothes. (See how London did it - here)
From Left - Gucci, Dsquared2, MSGM, Bally
The most stylish men are always prepared. Now get over prepared!
From Left - Moncler Gamme Bleu, Ferragamo, Prada, Ferragamo
Nobody dresses up anymore, said no one, ever. It's time to get imaginative and experiment with new shapes including ruffles and tails.
From Left - Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci
Jazz, great! From literal at Dolce to art-deco Marcel waves at Fendi. I thought I'd throw a painting from the era by British artist Duncan Grant for additional inspiration.
From Left - Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Missoni, Fendi, Ralph Lauren
Rediscover your waist. Suck it in and stick a letter on it.
Left - Bally
Nobody does narcissism like the Italians!
Below - Giorgio Armani
The eyes have it at Fendi menswear for SS16. Those pesky bugs have multiplied and become a coloured abstract on jackets and accessories. Team with turned up chinos and chunky boots as we transition into spring.
The other print is a kind of computerised camouflage which works just as well on its own or clashed here with those famous Fendi bugs.
Left & Below - All Fendi SS16
Shot by Robin Forster on #OlympusPEN
More images & video below
They're watching you! Looking as inconspicuous as TheChicGeek can, TheChicGeek is feeling a little bit surrounded by Fendi's bug eyes.
From bags to phone covers to watches, Fendi's, now signature, bug eyes are the style talisman protecting him from any fashion mistakes!
As for the look, this ultra warm corduroy trench coat, lined in shearling, is the ultimate in 1970s style menswear. Teamed with jumbo wale corduroy trousers and handsome loafers, TheChicGeek is certainly safe from the elements too.
Credits - All AW15 Fendi
Shot by Robin Forster on #OlympusPEN
More images below