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.
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’.
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!
Established in 2012, Lqd is a proudly Australian brand and a collection of superb and effective skincare solutions ‘designed specifically by men for mankind’. The Lqd range is targeted towards men who care about their appearance, with products that address common skincare concerns, such as dryness, redness, breakouts, and ageing. Lqd understands men’s skin, and has built a loyal following across the fitness-focused community— it is not merely women’s skincare, repacked and marketed to men.
Left - Fresh from Australia Lqd - Liquid - Skincare
Melbourne-based founders and life partners Anthony McDonough and Chris Glebatsas are the living, breathing embodiment of the brand, impressive physical ambassadors who both embrace a holistic lifestyle philosophy built around three pillars: Diet, Training and Skincare.
McDonough originally trained as an organic chemist, and applies a no-nonsense practicality to Lqd’s innovative product line-up. “If you’re anything like me, you’re active.” he says, “and when you train hard, you shower often, so you need products to remove the sweat and grime of life that aren’t too harsh, with the ability to replenish the balance of oils in your skin. I searched the world to find products that lived up to this and after 20 years of not finding what I needed, I created Lqd to fill that void.”
TheChicGeek says, “LQD - Liquid - Skin Care launched with great fanfare during the recent London Men’s Fashion Week - LFWM. Fresh from Australia and said to be the biggest selling grooming brand in Sephora - that’s a big deal - I was interested to see what it had in store.
On first glance, on the branding and packaging, I thought this was in the ‘affordable’ category, but with Face Wash at £30 and Moisturiser at £45, this is ‘prestige or premium.
I tried the Face Wash, Eye product, ‘Calm’ moisturiser and ‘Hydrate’ moisturiser. They also have a Blemish product, Shave and a Face Scrub.
Overall, these products are good and feel like quality. The face wash is a nice, thick consistency yet light and gentle. I presumed the ‘calm’ moisturiser was for after shaving and is a decent everyday moisturiser. I couldn’t tell any difference between the two moisturisers and was disappointed from an Australian company there wasn't any UV protection.
Left - The Eye product looking a little bit like a bottle of poppers?!
The negative I have is the branding and packaging. It doesn't look prestige and the logo feels a bit 90s sex education show - remember Margi Clarke?! - the Blemish and Eye products even look like bottles of poppers. I feel it needs more maturity.
It’s also a shame it doesn't feel more Australian especially considering the modern, outdoors/gym focussed start to this brand and something which Australia does well.”
Available exclusively at Harrods and directly from www.Lqd.co.uk
The current obsession with the eighties shows no signs of abating and the Italian Memphis group of designers, from that period, have come to represent and define an era which was a riot of bold primary colours and clashing patterns. This is the age of MTV and Beetlejuice, a time when post-modernism was new and Timmy Mallett was a style icon. Okay, well, maybe not the last bit!
Fashion is taking inspiration from that time and the furniture has become increasingly collectible and expensive. The café, at the recent LFWM, had a few pieces to really cement its status.
This top from ASOS is pure Memphis, with its strong clashing colours and asymmetric design, and at £16 is far from those escalating 'modern classic' prices.
Left & Below - ASOS - £16
Above - Collection of 1980s Italian Memphis furniture
Big Coloured Bags
If you're a man carry man-sized stuff around, you need a man-sized bag, obvs. Matching it with your hair is up to you.
From Far Left - Tourne de Transmission, Berthold
LOVE & PEACE
Who was it that once sang, ‘All you need is love’? Well, whomever it was, London needs a bit of a cuddle right now.
Below - Oliver Spencer, Bodybound
Just as orange has become a menswear staple colour, it's now time for primary yellow.
From Far Left - Kiko Kostadinov, Berthold
Androgynous ‘Non Binary’ Club Kids
Men’s and women’s fashion collections are merging so they may as well make it all androgynous, unisex and non-binary. They’ll save a fortune!
Anything goes? Yep! Read more here
From Far Left - Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Art School
Alf Garnett becomes the style icon for SS18.
From Below Left - Per Götesson, Nicholas Daley, Bodybound, Katie Eary
Networking, fashionably so.
Far Left - Miharayasuhiro, Blood Brother
Selvedge tape continues to proclaim you allegiance.
Below - Bobby Abley, Christopher Raeburn
Striped Rowing Jackets
From Below Left - Topman Design, Songzio, Hackett, Kent & Curwen, Kent & Curwen
Border control. Who needs the eye scanner when you can wear this?
Left - Bobby Abley
The first rule of fashion week - always end your show on a high.
Below - Bobby Abley, Liam Hodges
Fashion gets streamlined. Bike optional.
From Far Left - Martine Rose, Daniel W Fletcher, Wan Hung
Fashion loves a few pointless dangly bits.
From Below - Tourne de Transmission, D.GNAK
Who knew big zips could be so slimming?
Both - Miharayasuhiro
It seems there’s competition for Charles Jeffrey’s party crown. The young designer who gave us a gritty and sweaty club night presentation at the ICA and, last season, giant monsters running around the catwalk followed by a wave of dancers, isn’t the only one offering us a new interpretation of the London ‘Club Kid’.
At this afternoon’s MAN show, ‘Art School’ made its dramatic debut with a small collection that was big on personality and, despite really pushing the androgyny and drag of menswear, was a believable treat. Entitled ‘Queer Couture’, designers Eden Loweth & Tom Barratt, say it is ‘rooted in a cast who are emblems of trans defiance’ and ‘the unfolding narrative of a non binary paradise to be indulged in’.
Translated that means boys as girls and clothes moulded and designed around the wearer and not the usual conformist approach. Slutty Swarovski covered hooded mini dresses in scarlet red mixed with biased cut dresses and splits to the gusset. The only way of spotting the girls from the boys was to look at their legs.
Left & Right - Charles Jeffrey's 'Loverboy'
While exhibitionist, it felt real and believable. It could simply be the models’ conviction, but it felt more than that.
Charles Jeffrey’s first standalone ‘Loverboy’ show was an ‘orgy’ of ‘clothes made of dreams’. Labelled ‘Queer hedonism’, this time, it was a theatrical display that included a crocheted daisy thong and Elizabethan finery. Jeffrey has become a poster boy for this polysexual energy of the city’s young and while it’s caught their’s and our imagination, I can’t help but think it’s a shame there isn’t a bigger scene for all this go with. I’m thinking music and clubs, because, as we all know, this has been in decline for most of this century. Of course, there are pockets, especially in East London, but you feel like you need a New Romantic moment that resonates into wider society.
And, this brings me back to Jeffrey’s collection. While fun and entertaining, it felt more like costume and the clothes dictating the wearer. While the tailoring is there, Vivienne Westwood’s shadow was ever present, especially with the styling and Blackadder type Elizabeth I wigs.
It feels like he needs to go back to the club and think less about the show and spectacle of fashion week. There was too much going on and didn't feel as raw and as fresh as previous shows.
Left & Right - Art School
But one thing is for sure, London’s young is sandwich between high rents, student loans and low pay and need this. This is the generation where, while they have the freedom, they feel handicapped by the older generation and in a cultural landscaped that is being squeezed.
This is fashion that inspires the creative. It's time for a night of a escapism.
Flaming June made her appearance as Jermyn Street was transformed into a blazing celebration of men’s style. The festival spirit took over the Mayfair thoroughfare as the usual hum of traffic was replaced by the buzz of a catwalk space and a handpicked selection of British food and drink vendors.
The third open air catwalk show from St James’s London showcased the best of the current season from retailers within the St James’s area. Key pieces from contemporary brands Paul & Shark and Norwegian Rain were mixed with heritage favourites such as New & Lingwood and Turnbull & Asser. Styled by Grace Gilfeather, Fashion Editor at GQ, it ran the full wardrobe gamut from formal to holiday.
I took my place on the front row and saw the updating of timeless British style using knitwear from JohnSmedley, luxury basics from Sunspel and key outerwear styles. Reimagined for the 21st century gentleman, while rooted in the foundations of St James’s which has drawn men’s shoppers for centuries, this showcase was a timely reminder how very relevant and important this part of London is to the British menswear industry.
We’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.
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.
Fashionistos, clear your diary! As we stand on the eve of the new SS18 men’s show season be part of the excitement of London Fashion Week Men’s - LFWM - thanks to St James’s. Join TheChicGeek on Saturday, June 10th, as Jermyn Street is transformed into an al fresco catwalk.
The centre for London’s menswear for centuries, the St James’s area is steeped in history while still being one of the best contemporary men’s shopping areas in the world. Combine an afternoon of shopping with an inspirational see-now-buy-now catwalk show featuring some of the best British brands including Turnbull & Asser, John Smedley, Lock & Co and John Lobb as well as contemporary, newly arrived names including Paul & Shark, Jigsaw, Sunspel and Barbour International.
The two shows are at 1.30pm and 3.00pm and the tickets are free. You just need to register - here What are you waiting for? See you there!
Nearest Tube - Piccadilly Circus
Left & Right - Previous St James's presentations featuring the men's retailers within this prestigious area of Mayfair
If you can’t make either of the shows visitors will be able to drop into the shops of St James’s for a variety of special in-store activities such as a shirt cutting demonstration from a Master Shirt Cutter at Harvie & Hudson and complementary wet shaves at world renowned perfumery Floris. Jermyn Street will also play host to some of London’s best street food retailers all offering a bespoke St James’s menu, making sure the day will be a feast for all the senses.