I’m not sure whether I’m early or late writing this. One of the highlights of Pitti Uomo 93 in January, and the entire menswear season, was the AW18 Undercover show. I wanted to write something about it at the time, but I’ve been playing catch-up ever since.
Far Left - A still from the film, Left - Undercover AW18
The Leopolda Station in Florence was transformed into an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a timeless inspiration for pretty much everybody, but I’d never seen it done this literally before.
The scene in which the astronauts wear their coloured suits was the finale of the collection and looked as though they had just stepped out of the film.
The 1968 science fiction film, produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, is now 50 years old and is still a masterpiece of sci-fi cinema.
I hadn’t seen an Undercover show before and I didn’t know that much about the label. Founded in 1993 by Jun Takahashi, it began showing in Paris in 2002. For this season, it was a guest of Pitti Uomo in Florence.
Left - Both Undercover AW18
That naughty computer HAL 9000 was up to his tricks and played a prominent part in the collection in the form of bags and accessorises. There were full fleece suits, a simple idea, but not seen before, and something I will mention again later in the season. Stills from the film covered outerwear, but it is the final group of figures, in full, colour-coordinating outfits, that you should emulate.
So, when shopping for you next cold weather outfit, buy everything in the same primary colour. From parka to padded trousers to matching hat and gloves.
Z Zegna, the sporty side of Zegna, did something similar and it’s easy to find Space Odyssey inspiration in interiors and architecture. Happy birthday, Space Odyssey.
Left - Z Zegna AW18
Below - Achille Salvagni - Spider White Chandelier
Nothing like an arctic blast to test your style mettle. TheChicGeek decided to face the 'Beast From The East', face-on, in a Nobis 'Heritage' parka. Nothing will stop TheChicGeek on his style quest to make the world of menswear a better and more refined place.
The primary red of the parka contrasts well against the white, wintry backdrop, and, like a style beacon, shines bright when teamed with other primary sportswear and accessorises. Add a pair of chic hiking boots and this beast has been well and truly beaten!
In a post-Brexit world we’re going to have to make more than leather shoes and Scottish cashmere sweaters. UK Plc needs to turn our world class creativity into a German style industry: manufacturing in volume and of the highest quality.
From small acorns mighty English oaks grow, so, when I heard The Shackleton Company was manufacturing their parkas in the UK, I wanted to find out more and see what we are paying for. The majority of the world's down parkas are made in Italy, France, Canada or China, so a UK-made is rather special. I’ve dissected their new “Discovery Jacket” to show you all the different components and design details, so when the temperature drops we can keep the Union Flag flying high!
Entirely handmade in Cheshire. The majority of the materials are made in Britain with the odd exception, i.e. zips and zip pullers. The outer shell is Ventile, designed in the UK. The densely woven, 100% cotton uses the world's finest, long staple fibre. Ventile is not coated or laminated and the combination of the dense weave and swelling properties of the fibres, when wet, provides excellent weatherproofing. It's an entirely natural product - windproof, breathable, durable and quiet.
Filled with 100% of the finest, pure European goose down, it provides an unsurpassed warmth to weight ratio. It is a by-product of the food industry, in fact, a waste product, if not used for insulation. The highest quality of down, which The Shackleton Company uses, comes from the oldest, free-range birds. Each individual pocket of down is hand filled & stitched. No machinery is used.
The adjustable hood design enables the wearer to create a wrap-around tunnel to protect against extreme cold. The coyote fur hood trim is removable. Tested in Antarctica to minus 20 Degrees centigrade, the coyote is shot as part of a cull program to control popuations in Alaska. The Shackleton Company do not use any farmed or trapped coyote.
Large rubber zip pullers are designed with pimples on the reverse for ease of use with cold hands or whilst wearing gloves.
Four outer pockets - two chest (zipped) and two fleece-lined, hand-warmer pockets have press stud fastenings for quick access. Four large internal, zipped pockets - two close to body core for extra warmth for storing phone & batteries in extreme cold environments. Internal waist draw cord for a tighter fit - minimising cold air flow, providing extra insulation. Lower draw cord for a tighter fit and extra protection in stormy conditions.
Extendable storm wrist cuffs.
Internal patch - “I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize”. Poet, Robert Browning, quote, engraved on Shackleton’s gravestone in South Georgia.
Left & Above - The Shackleton Company - Discovery Jacket - £1575
The relationship with your winter coat is a long - okay, well, a good few months, - and close one. Your sartorial significant other, choosing and committing to a style isn’t something to be taken lightly. So, lucky then, Superdry has a Tinder-like amount of choice, this season.
From lightweight bombers to full on “Everest” parkas, Superdry has the full range of jackets to suit every situation and climate.
Left - Superdry - Sport Power Down Hooded Jacket - £114.99
Traditional denim jackets have been given a modern twist with Superdry varsity badges, and “Sherpa” linings. For something more formal, they have a smart double breasted wool coat, while “Rookie” styles have the addition of military-style fastenings and adjusters, plus practical pockets, to add functionality. With offerings across a palette including “duty green" and “bullet grey”, the fleece-lined styles and detachable faux-fur trimmed hoods will ensure they keep you warm.
Right - Superdry - Limited Edition Flight Bomber Jacket - £99.99
Parkas, from heavy duty to cocoon puffa, camo print to glacier, will cope with the most intense of winter extremities, plus the addition of a luxury, high performance premium down option for the very first time.
Superdry’s signature wind-cheater jackets have been rebranded for AW17. Options include totally fleece-lined arctic styles, colour pop zip jackets with triple layer fastenings and microfibre wind-bombers with faux-fur detailing. These essential and easy-to-wear outdoor jackets come in a rainbow of colours to fit your personal style.
It's now time to make your outerwear mind-up. Decisions, decisions!
See the full collection here https://www.superdry.com/mens/jackets
Left - Superdry - Faux Fur Trimmed Everest Coat - £129.99
Right - Superdry - Remastered Rogue Trenchcoat - £124.99
*Sponsored by Superdry
In an age of increasing competition and saturation, anonymity is the death of any brand. People like to know the person or people behind the things they are buying. Ultimately, at all price levels, we are buying somebody’s taste, so, call it nosy, if you will, but we want to know who is making the decisions.
At the recent Marks & Spencer menswear fashion show previewing their AW17 collection, and by chance, I met their Head of Design, Menswear, James Doidge. Impressed by his relaxed and honest approach, I wanted to find out more, so I sent him a few ChicGeek questions:
Left - Marks & Spencer, Head of Design, Menswear, James Doidge
CG: Where are you from originally?
JD: I’m from Aldridge, a small town in the Midlands
CG: How old are you?
CG: You studied at Central St Martin’s, what did you study & when?
JD: I studied Menswear on the BA course, at Central St Martin's from 1997-2000. Before that I completed a Foundation Course at Chelsea College of Art & Design
CG: You’ve previously worked at Paul Smith, Versace, Asprey & Calvin Klein, what was your favourite brand and why?
JD: Each brand was exciting to work for as they have their own strong aesthetic. Versace and Calvin Klein may seem quite opposite – gold baroque to minimalist, pure simplicity, however, a designer can help to evolve the brand and create a product that is relevant to their customer.
CG: You spent over 11 years at Calvin Klein, what was that like? What do you think about what Raf Simons is doing there now?
JD: When I started at CK, Calvin was still working there and it was great to understand how he worked – to learn from him and understand his founding principles. He taught the world how to advertise in a modern, aspirational way – how to make clothing desirable and sexy - even a pair of jeans or white T-shirt.
I love what Raf is doing and am really excited to see the next few collections and understand his complete vision, and I’ve been a lifelong fan of his own label.
Right - My favourite image from Marks & Spencer's forthcoming AW17 season
CG: How have you seen menswear change over your career?
JD: Menswear has become a much bigger market over the past few years and continues to grow. Men want to have fun with clothes and enjoy what they are wearing, they want to express themselves, in subtle ways, through the clothes they wear – no matter where they are shopping.
CG: Was it an adjustment going to M&S from Calvin Klein?
JD: Both are huge and very distinct brands, with their own heritage and handwriting. A big focus for me has always been fabric and quality, which is extremely important for both brands.
CG: What are the strengths of M&S menswear?
JD: The quality of the clothing is key when designing for M&S, we have a rigorous testing and trialling process.
We travel the world for seasonal style inspiration and edit those findings down into concise stories that deliver a broad choice of colour and fit that works for everyone.
CG: What made you want to take the job?
JD: I’ve always wanted to work at M&S, as it’s such an iconic British brand, so when the opportunity arose I moved back to London to take on the role. It's like the BBC of the clothing world, an incredible British institution – everyone in the UK has grown up with M&S and has a point of view of what it means to them. M&S has a unique place both on the High Street and in our customers’ lives.
CG: What were the first things you did there?
JD: Visited the incredible archives in Leeds, which has a huge selection of clothes, packaging, advertising and photographs from the 133 year history of M&S.
CG: What is your favourite piece from the new AW17 collection?
CG: How does M&S compete in the 21st century?
JD: Firstly and most importantly, we listen to our customers - 18,000 per week (to be precise!), which informs how we design, create and displayed our collections. We create quality essentials that fit into our customers’ lifestyles and act as staples to shape our customers’ wardrobes.
Left - Limited Edition Parka Jacket - £129
CG: Are there any other men’s brands/designers/retailers you look to or admire?
JD: I love Tokyo Hands, in Tokyo, it has the best stationary selection in the world and things that you could only find in Japan, and Virgil Normal in Los Angeles has a great mix of brands.
CG: Where do you find your inspiration?
JD: As part of our inspiration at M&S, we visit various global cities to understand the different markets and trends to see how, globally, people’s lives are changing and evolving – what they are wearing, eating, experiencing and watching all contribute to our research process. We usually visit Tokyo, Seoul, NY and LA. Also Stockholm, Munich, Cape Town, Sydney and Rio are also fascinating cities for inspiration.
CG: Where do you see M&S menswear in 5 years’ time?
JD: Still as the UK’s number 1 retailer.
CG: What book are you currently reading?
JD: Eduardo Paolozzi by Hal Foster. He’s one of my favourite British artists who produced amazing work from the 50s through to the 90s
Right - Marks & Spencer - Autograph - Navy Leather Trainers - £39.50
CG: The last film you watched?
JD: The Genius and The Opera Singer – an amazing documentary about a mother/daughter relationship that also features a chihuahua called Angelina Jolie!
CG: The last piece of menswear you bought?
JD: Autograph navy trainers - here
CG: Favourite city, and why?
JD: London, it has the perfect mix – people, culture, museums, music, art, restaurants, parks and great shops.
It's always this side of winter that the parka comes into its own. The default sub-zero style, the parka has become the trusted companion to many a fashionisto. But, there's a new way to wear it:
Go big and don't go home! There’s oversized and then there’s oversized and the designers, this season, have really blown-up the parka. Wear it big, wear it slouchy and if anybody asks, say "Demna made it for me!".
If you can't afford a Raf Simons, buy a generously filled high-street version a couple of sizes bigger. You can thank me later.
Left - Raf Simons - Men’s Oversized Down Quilted Jacket In Black & Yellow From LN-CC
Right - Balenciaga FW16
Left - Parka London - ‘Lever’ Oversized Fishtail Parka
Left - Vetements - Red Canada Goose Edition Down Parka From SSense
We’ve all fallen in love with arctic parkas over the last few years and their popularity sees no sign of waning especially when the temperatures really drop. I wanted to introduce ParaJumpers, an American sportswear brand based in the Italian province of Treviso.
Left - Parajumpers - Harris - £942
A meeting with a serving member of the 210th Rescue Squadron in a bar in Anchorage, Alaska provided inspiration for designer Massimo Rossetti to create Parajumpers.
The men of the 210th Rescue Squadron are highly trained for extreme rescues and recoveries in the wildest, most remote and hostile corner of the globe. They are the PJs or Parajumpers. They are better trained than any other military corps.
The result is an extremely innovative outerwear collection, designed to be functional with highly technological components.
Left - Parajumpers Logo
The jackets are made of hardwearing nylon and come with a removable feather-padded lining and a fur-trimmed hood. The collar fastens with a hook used in parachuting. On the front is a large, zippable multi-cargo pocket containing a further three pockets designed for carrying accessories, such as iPods, GPS devices, mobile phones, etc.
The inspiration behind this season's AW15 collection comes from various sources: the extreme, cold landscapes of Canada and Alaska, traditional English woollen garments and Japanese metallic and technological trends.
Left - Parajumpers - Musher - £1158
The Parajumpers motto is “that others may live”.