On a chilly January Florentine night besides the swollen river Arno, the modernist Palazzo della Borsa played host to the first ever K-Way catwalk show. Known for it colourful and affordable rainwear and its signature yellow-orange-blue striped taping, this was K-Way’s way of celebrating the revamp of the brand and a sort of anniversary for them. (The brand was founded in 1965)
Left - The Classic pac-a-mac - K-Way's first catwalk show - Pitti Uomo 97 Jan. 2020
While many think of Pitti Uomo as a place for peacocks to pose by the curved pebbled concrete and classic made-in-Italy tailoring, the real money is being made by brands that offer mass appeal and big margins. This is aspirational, usually, made-in-China fashion, that has multiple variations on the same product. The consumer feels like and is happy that they have a lot of choice, while the brand’s core is simplified and strengthens the idea of ‘owning’ a category. Customers are clear on what they do, yet want to know what the new variations or collaborations are for each season. They are happy to have multiples of the same styles and shapes and have the same things as everybody else. It’s like joining a club.
It was founder Leon Claude Duhamel’s decision to brand the lightweight, nylon pac-a-mac that gave birth to K-Way after seeing people struggling in the rain through the streets of 1960s Paris.
At the Florence show, both Duhamel, and the Italian Boglione family, which now owns it, were present after a collection featuring youthful and fashion-lead rainwear. Italian influencers in Coyote-lined K-Ways watched as every variable of a K-Way was sent down the catwalk. These weren’t the pac-a-mac types of old, though it will sell plenty of those, but more the limited runs of fashion product with the K-Way DNA centre stage, even if it was taped prominently to the models’ flies.
The Bogliones - who also own Petersham Nurseries in Richmond - own K-Way as part of their BasicNet business. This Italian sportswear group owns Kappa, Robe di Kappa, Superga, and, recently bought Sebago from Wolverine. The group produced consolidated revenue growth of 14.7% in the 2018 financial year. In the first three months, Q1 2019, revenue was €74.6 million, a 38.9% increase driven by the recent acquisition of Sport Finance, the group’s distributor in France, UK and Spain.
Right - More directional K-Way for AW20
BasicNet saw strong 2018 growth globally; USA revenue increased by 36%, Europe 13.4%, Asia-Oceania 17.1% and Middle East and Africa 56.3%.
The founder of BasicNet, Marco Boglione, was only 20 when he was invited to join the company Maglificio Calzificio Torinese (MCT). MCT specialised in hosiery and underwear until seeing the potential of designer jeans during the 1970s boom and came up with ‘Jesus Jeans’.
Marco applied himself to the sportswear side of the company and was part of the nascent industry of sponsoring athletes with branded product. Under the Kappa brand they sponsored American Carl Lewis as well as football teams such as Juventus, AC Milan and Barcelona.
Marco left MCT to start a company making football merchandise, but when MCT started to struggle he, along with his brothers, bought it out of receivership and created BasicNet in 1995. Since then it has been acquiring brands with K-Way having been acquired in 2004.
K-Way’s signature ‘Le Vrai Claude 3.0’ jacket is £75. Made in China of a simple, lightweight pac-a-mac material, the margins must be huge. Success breeds success and dominance in this sector of mid-priced branded sportswear. You can sell huge volumes and retailers like the ease of brands being clear on what they do. It’s also a fun and colourful product. The same could be said for brands such Crocs, Eastpak, Herschel and Sebago. Lots of colours and finishes in the same consistent, known and liked styles.
While many new fashion brands aim for ‘luxury’, it is too dominated by the three main groups - LVMH, Kering, Richemont - who will only increase their muscle and monopolies. The volumes are too small to grow quickly and too much money is tied up in less product. The ideal is to scale quickly and this is what BasicNet has cleverly done with its brands. It’s tapped into the desire for brands at a price people are happy to pay while making good profits.
While without the overt branding, a newish brand trying this idea of lots of colours with simplicity in styles is Colorful Standard. Made in Portugal, it recently opened a store with Oi Polloi in London. Founded by Danish entrepreneur, Tue Deleuran, in 2017, it is now sold by 500 retailers across Europe with stores in Paris and Zurich.
Colorful Standard organic T-shirts retail at €30 and the sweatshirts are between €60 and €80 in a rainbow of colours. Made in Portugal in a factory Deleuran bought in 2008, he also produces private label for many luxury brands.
Left - Colorful Standard for quality organic basics in lots of colours
Expanding, new Colourful Standard categories for AW20 include boxer briefs, socks and Oxford shirts. By having the illusion of lots of choice it entices the consumer to be happy to add to their 'collection'. It also becomes a go-to when the product is good and people are satisfied. Asking people to pay 4 times the prices of Uniqlo with feel good extras of organic cotton and charitable associations seems to be working. It looks Helvetica familiar and fills the American Apparel gap or that once held by the likes of GAP.
What these two examples illustrate is the opportunities in this mid-priced market. Healthy margins in large volumes is the dream for any fashion business. Despite the naysayers, people will still pay for product they like, it just needs to be good. Oh, and colourful!
The Berlin trade shows are a decent barometer of Northern Europe’s fashion direction. While not known for being particularly experimental or distinctive markets, it’s a good point to see what is selling in more mainstream menswear, post Pitti Uomo, from larger and smaller brands alike. Here are the menswear trends, brands and collabs. to take note of for SS20 from Berlin:
The Branded Utility Sandal
Lead by Teva, with touches of the Japanese, Suicoke, the activity, utility or trekking sandal - take your pick - is replacing the slide as the cool summer men’s footwear of choice. This geeky style was championed by many brands including Hunter, Slydes and Hi-Tec; all showing their own versions of these sandals which require some serious foot game in the pedicure/foot maintenance department.
Far Left - Hunter
Left - Slydes
Right - Hi-Tec
This was a trend first seen at Pitti Uomo. Transparent ripstop nylon used in the main body of the shoe allowing see-through and visible sections throughout. Not sure whether you’re supposed to wear with or without socks?
Right - D.A.T.E.
The Ukrainian capital, Kiev, is fast becoming a hot spot of creativity. Brands such as ‘Deep Naked Denim’ with their hoodies with additional arms to tie around the waist and revealing jeans and ‘Keep’, an accessorise brand using paper-like materials which you can self graffiti and customise are drawing attention to this part of Eastern Europe.
Left - Deep Naked Denim
Right - Keep
Baggy Trousers (Jeans)
We’ve been waiting with baited breath for a new style of jean that will resonate with the mass men’s audience. Enter the baggy 90s jean last seen on Marky Mark.
Lead by Pelle Pelle, an american brand founded in 1978 and now being designed and handled in Denmark, who prides themselves with having been the first urban brand to intentionally design and release the baggy denim pant worn by the stars of 90s hip-hop.
Unfeigned, a Spanish menswear brand, featured higher waisted denim with deep side pockets following this looser aesthetic.
Left - Pelle Pelle
Right - Unfeigned
You’ve got to give this Korean brand credit - pardon the pun! - APRVD says it “secures a wearable aesthetic that combines the utilitarian energy of street style with an artistic spirit upholding the highly qualified production experiences over the decades.” No, me neither, but its play on credit card design is priceless! Soz.
Following on from the Paris Trade Shows - see more here the linen shirt continues to segue itself back into fashion. These colourful shirts, some with matching scarves, are made in Italy by Destin and retail for around €90.
A private label manufacturer and a Portuguese take on a helvetica shoe brand, Perks’ parent company Evereste is 75 years old. This family business is branching out with this, their own label, showcasing their quality sports shoes and smarter leather shoes all proudly made in Portugal.
A young Danish menswear label, ISNURH is a Copenhagen-based menswear brand with a detail-driven approach. The founders, Kasper and Oliver, have created not only a ready-to-wear label collections, but also collaborations with different artists, and bespoke garments made in a tunnel located in Silkegade, Copenhagen.
This Swiss skiwear brand returns with its luxe and loud take on 80s style. Originally founded in St. Moritz in 1969, and now under the creative direction of Michael Michalsky, JET SET’s new logo is comprised of letters in a dynamic contemporary font set against an angular orange-and-black placard and references the label’s Swiss-German heritage in a bold and confident colourway.
LION BRAND SPORTSWEAR
Move over preppy Polo Bear, the abbreviated LBSW, founded in the USA in 1954 by Antonio Rosenbaum, is inspired by ‘Ivy League’ sporting competitions. The original LionBrandSportsWear supplied not only casual wear but also sports equipment for these Ivy League athletes.
After more than 65 years, and now owned by Bastiaan Roessen and based in the Netherlands, LBSW is being relaunched by introducing “'The 1954 Polo Shirt’. This authentic slim fitted polo shirt from 1954 is made from 100% piqué cotton and signed with their embroidered Lion logo.
LEE 101 X TIMBERLAND
While both originally part of the giant VF Corporation group of brands, though Lee has been spun out with its other denim cousin, Wrangler, into the Kontoor Brands group, it doesn’t mean they still can’t work together. Timberland’s outdoor, active and environmental credentials has been mixed with Lee’s denim heritage. The result is something fit for the American Frontier both visually and practically.
YMC X FARAH
YMC has worked their usually quirky aesthetic into Farah’s reliable menswear to celebrate the latter's centenary. Lots of colour and things like appliqué stars play with Farah’s American roots. Founded in 1920 in El Paso, Texas, they originally produced chambray work shirts for the cost of 35 cents. Inflation allowing, these fun pieces will still be at Farah’s successfully affordable price points.
See Paris Menswear Trade Shows SS20 - Here
With Italy tip-toeing in and out of recession, Pitti Uomo felt a little skittish on confidence. It had an atmosphere of brands holding on by their finger nails, with many hoping for a strong SS20 season to help pull them through.
Sadly, it’s the quality makers who seem most susceptible to failure. Their high costs, lower margins and small quantities make it a difficult balancing act to continue to stay strong and produce quality product in Italy. These are the brands who are barely known yet sing through the quality on the hanger and all at a fair price. Today, you rarely get this kind of care and attention with a designer name. Here are five made-in-Italy menswear makers we should all be supporting:
Left - Pitti Uomo 96 soaking up the sunshine
Founded in 1957 by current creative director Guido Biondi’s grandfather as ‘7 Bell S.p.A’, a Tuscan atelier, it was the very first producer of Italian denim. Today, they make colourful and contemporary menswear instilled with the best made-in-Italy production.
Right - President's - For the SS20 season, there were bold minimal orange jackets, tie-dyed shirting and hand sketched T-shirts
Based in Venice, Barena, the Italian for ‘mudflat’, has been steadily making inroads into the UK with its stylish and original menswear. Inspired by the Venetian lagoon, Barena says it mimics the qualities of traditional workwear with a modern aesthetic. Loose shapes, quiet precise tailoring, exquisite fabrics, attention to detail and confident versatility are the pillars of their design philosophy.
The menswear designer is Massimo Pigozzo who has been with the Barena family for over twenty years. Trained as a tailor, for Pigozzo it is important to create designs that are simple, understated and easy to wear. Deep fabric research, pattern work and soft tailoring are key to his approach and he says it is not about reproductions or constant alterations.
Left - Barena - For the SS20 season, it was all about contrast with playful tailoring and short sleeved shirts with contrasting collars
Meaning double A in Italian and named after two friends, Alain and Albert, Doppiaa is designed for the whole family, for all ages and all occasions. Based in Milan, Doppiaa has two essential cornerstones: 100% Italian manufacturing, and the painstakingly executed pinpointing and selecting of the highest quality fabrics.
Right - Doppiaa - For the SS20 season, it was brightly coloured towelling tops, pyjama style piped printed shirts and strikingly striped trousers
This is everything the more famous Missoni should be; colourful, stylish and contemporary. Designed by Simonetta Bocelli and Franco Santarini and based in Florence, Sunhouse is a specialist in Italian made knitwear in a rainbow of colours in classic menswear shapes.
Sunhouse is one of the few companies in the world to use traditional 720-yarn looms to 'reinvent' the culture of knitwear. The production is carried out in their workshops in Montecosaro, in the Marche Region. Each individual jacket is cut and sewn by hand.
Left - Sunhouse - For the SS20 season, it was about bold colour stories in signature zig-zagged blazers and delicate polo shirts
BOB is an Italian sportswear brand created by two young Italian guys, Alessio Bonaiuti and Tommaso Bellini. They started their adventure 11 years ago in Prato, with the idea developing from going around vintage warehouses where huge quantities of second hand clothes were divided by colours and then recycled. Going through these warehouses was like being absorbed in a spectacular coloured market that resembled a field of flowers they thought and it was this image was the starting idea to develop a new concept of eclectic and colourful menswear.
Right - BOB - For the SS20 season, it was all about bold, pattern blazers and colourful separates
These are simply beautiful clothes made with care from great ingredients. While you are paying a premium, you are, in fact, getting great value when you consider the expertise and pedigree of these makers. These are the kind of clothes that are a joy to wear and will last you a very long time.
These were some of my favourite pieces from the SS19 trade shows. First seen at Pitti in Florence and then later in Copenhagen on the Barena, the Venice-based fashion brand, stand, they hadn’t disappeared out of my head and I was itching for them to drop.
Featuring a stunning print of Venice, one of the most beautiful and individual cities in the world, they are stylish, oversized linen garments which you could wear separately or all together for that complete Peggy Guggenheim look.
Left & Below - Barena - BERMUDA (Shorts) AGRO SCHIAVON UNICO - €195, CAMICIA (Shirt) SOLANA MARTINO UNICO - €235
My first visit to this beautiful city’s fashion week; its new remit of hosting international talent, and nearly half of the shows dedicated to menswear, makes this a place to watch for nascent menswear brands. Here are TheChicGeek’s highlights:
Mans Concept & Menswear
One of Barcelona’s emerging menswear stars, Mans Concept & Menswear - it's a mouthful - is designer, Jaime Álvarez’s brand. Born in Seville, he studied fashion at IED Madrid and graduated in 2017. This was a journey to India featuring florals, exaggerated lapels and knitted tank tops. An Indian colour palette of fuschia, marigold yellow and green gave this a summery feel with the highlights being delicate leaf cutouts in soft tailoring.
Both Left - Mans Concept & Menswear took a trip to India
Invited Turkish designer, Benan, looked to religion as a leveller of people: once their shoes are taken off in the mosque everybody is equal. He launched his eponymous line in 2009 and won the 1st edition of Who’s on Next/Uomo contest the year after at Pitti Uomo. This collection featured long trench coats to the floor, even coming in reflective gold, thuggish looking bleached corduroy and knitted under-looking clothes. Tailoring was prominent with evening wear and overcoats and quilted jackets and trousers injected the AW19 protective element.
Right - Umit Benan
Javier Girón studied at the Instituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Barcelona and upon graduating he moved to Los Angeles to work alongside Jeremy Scott, Creative Director at Moschino. He returned to Barcelona in 2016, to establish his high-end menswear brand. This was a slick sportswear collection featuring collegiate lettering in a monochrome palette. It’s hard to get this kind of aesthetic to look high-end, but here it looked considered, stylish and well fabricated.
Left - Jnorig AW19
Pablo Erroz founded his ready-to-wear fashion brand for men and women in 2010. Entirely made in Spain, this was a collection with a touch of the Gallaghers with the 90s round coloured lensed glasses. Stripes and the Spanish leather work was there in a light, wearable collection with nautical ropes, florals and sequins.
Right - Liam or Noel?! All made in Spain, Pablo Erroz
Spain’s own youthful and unashamed take on Versace hyped fashion, the Rubén Galarreta brand launched in 2014. Featuring the perfect balance between haute couture and sportswear, the vibrant prints, transparent fabrics, hand-embroidered pieces and unique accessories aren’t for those who want to blend into the crowd. Elasticated side cut outs on trousers, the Chinese Lucky Cat waving motif and transparent underwear makes for a sexualised and provocative male for AW19. This is underwear as outerwear.
Left - Strapped in for AW19 - Rubén Galarreta
Disclosure - TheChicGeek travelled to Barcelona thanks to 080 Barcelona Fashion Week
It was most likely those wrinkly Ugg boots, looking like an oversized Shar-Pei, that garnered Y/Project its recent and biggest amount of attention. The Paris based label, headed by Belgian designer, Glenn Martens, has been lumped in with that Off-White/Balenciaga cool wave of recent years. Martens, 35, has been at Y/Project for the past 5 years, taking over from founder, Yohan Serfaty, when he died in 2013. His first assistant, Martens, was an Interior Architecture graduate and an alumni from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
Left - Y/Project's signature waders
This season’s guest designer at Florence’s Pitti Uomo, this was the label’s AW19 show of men’s and womenswear, bringing forward their usual date from Paris.
Forget the museum, it was a night at Florence’s famous Santa Maria Novella monastery, next to the central station and known for its smellies. Guests were given torches as they entered the huge, darkened church and we followed the hundreds of mini flashlights into the cloistered quadrant where the catwalk ran around the four sides with the models ending up like chess pieces in the middle.
Divine despite the cold, the columns and erect cypresses were silhouetted onto the shaded honey walls as the models took a turn on what has to be one of the longest catwalks ever. One model was hobbling in her lemon yellow stilettos before she’d reached the fourth side and on into the soil centre.
What we saw was a delight of design. Yes, a designer actually trying to design something and, the majority of times, pulling it off. There’s such a difference between a designer, here, and an editor, the majority of brands, who just reconfigure and fine tune things. The word here was reconstruction. Your eye followed seams and there was an itching want to open it all up and look inside: seeing where things were going to and how they worked. This is the kind of stuff that interests us fashion geeks and isn’t something Zara can easily replicate, and, as such, makes you crave the original.
Right - Y/Project AW19 - First men's bag and shoe collection
This was the debut of the brand’s men’s footwear and bag line, both hand-crafted in Italy.
The signature waders were there, but in rigid, shiny plastic, almost like creased trousers with the shoes attached. There was plenty for the tailoring revivalists. A new tuxedo jacket appeared where the satin label was pulled out to create a 3D effect with the button. This is difficult stuff to get looking right. Fringed scarves resembling Turkish carpets added to accessorises, plus pinstripes and this season’s pattern du jour, tartan.
This was contemporary cool, bit not aching or gimmicky. You could see different age groups in these clothes and wearers enjoying the newness and the details. It felt like the direction we’re headed in. From the deconstructed and harsh reality of recent years, back to a glamour of construction and playing with new ideas while still keeping it real.
This feels like the last of this type of designer we’ll see at Pitti Uomo, as I predict a return to more tailoring and Italian industry brands, but, Martens, lead us into temptation and away from the sportswear grunge to a higher sophistication. Could Martens become the Y/Prophet?
You probably saw my obsession with Space Odyssey 2001 after the Undercover AW18 show at Pitti Uomo in January. See more here Well, I haven’t been able to get Z Zegna’s interpretation of those Kubrick space suits out of my head and this bright yellow one from Topman just jogged my memory.
So, this winter make like a bold Michelin Man in vibrant primary colours. Yellow is the colour of choice and the matching hat, trousers, gloves, boots, are all purely optional!
Left - Topman - Yellow Puffer Jacket - £70
Right - Z Zegna - £1090
I first saw The Silted Company over a year ago at the SS18 SEEK trade show in Berlin. I was taken with the striped 'Cali' shirt for SS18 - pictured - and the liked the idea of a relaxed, surfer brand yet with the slick manufacturing of Italy. Time flew by and I didn’t get a chance to feature them. When I saw them again at this year’s Pitti Uomo in Florence it reminded me what a good, young brand this is. Especially for summer.
Left - SS18 Cali Shirt
The brand is strongly inspired and influenced by the culture of surfing. Their collective is made up of surfers, designers, musicians, photographers and innovative directors, "embracing the curious side of the way of thinking and positive changes in the world”.
Right - SS18 Alar Jacket - €195
"Perceiving Endless" is their motto, it contains the past, present and future.
Born in Emilia Romagna in Northeast Italy, The Silted Company did not immediately taste the world of surfing, but it was their admiration towards the sport and the culture that brought them to "feel the sea inside”. This label feels young, contemporary and sporty while retaining the quality, which I love, from made in Italy.
Left - Preview of SS19
The French give good summer shoe and one of my favourite brands is Rivieras. Specialising in espadrille-type slip-ons, they have a standout modernity, quality and playfulness with their colours and finishes.
Seeing the full stand at the recent Pitti Uomo show was a reminder how nice these shoes are. It’s only when it finally gets hot that you can picture yourself wearing these shoes. I particularly like this ‘Napoles Pablo’ style with its delicate woven mesh and tricolour effect. The quality Spanish construction includes Terrycloth lining and sheepskin inner sole. Wear with chinos and a camp collar shirt.
Left & Below - Rivieras - Napoles Pablo - €110
One of the things I love about Pitti Uomo, the menswear trade show held in Florence twice a year, is the exceptional quality from brands you’ve never heard of. I almost wish I had a shop to sell all these brands, but, disappointingly, you need a very tasteful and trusting customer to make it work, because many consumers are hooked on known brands.
It’s comforting to know that high-quality still exists and is to be found in small and, often, new companies.
Left - The Silk Shirt Company - White Luxury Silk Shirt - £800
One such company is The Silk Shirt Company. Doing exactly what it says on the label, it was incorporated in January 2016 in London ‘with the intention to produce the finest luxury silk shirts and to establish itself as a top tier luxury clothing brand’.
Left - Feel like a casino owner - Sam Rothstein, Robert De Niro’s character in Casino
You’ll probably already know about my obsession with silk shirts ATM - Read Trend The Return of 'The Sexy Shirt’ and these really do look the business.
Established by Ajay Valecha, of Indian decent and born and raised in Accra, Ghana, who moved to London in April 2014. The Silk Shirt Company’s shirts are made in Italy with the finest silk from Como.
There range is currently mostly block colours with a few patterned varieties. They had some beautiful baby blue and pink shorted sleeved shirts for the new SS19 season which are giving me pure Sam Rothstein, Robert De Niro’s character in Casino. They are expensive, but they look it.
Right - The Silk Shirt Company - Luxury Silk Shirt - £800