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.
With collaborations as common as the cold it’s become hard to generate the excitement that those previous big reveals had. Swedish mega-retailer, H&M, has just announced, much later than usual BTW, their collaboration with British-based, Canadian designer, Erdem.
This is a coup for Erdem, as, apart from amongst fashion circles, few know the label and hardly any men, as they don’t do menswear. Known for long Valentino like dresses in intricate florals, it ticks the box nicely for H&M to do something Gucci-like and is a switch up from the previous year’s Kenzo collection.
This will clearly be riding the Gucci maximalist wave, but I’m hoping it’s more Laura Ashley/Liberty of London/House of Hackney men’s than a straight copy of Gucci. The patterned silk pyjama set seen in the video - below - looks very Gucci, but let’s hope there’s some freshness in the other pieces.
Erdem’s full name is Erdem Moralioglu and he's never designed menswear before. Here’s what he said about designing men’s, “I found it a real joy,” says Erdem. “It’s really about looking at a wardrobe of pieces, and focusing on the exact design details. There has to be an easiness to menswear, and a sense of reality. I’m so happy with it, and I think so many women are going to love the men’s collection too.”
The ideas behind the collection sounds like an eccentric, British mixed bag of references. “The collection reinterprets some of the codes that have defined my work over the past decade”, shares the designer. “It’s also inspired by much of my youth, from the English films, 90’s TV shows and music videos I grew up watching to memories of the style that defined members of my family. Taking from these inspirations I imagined a group of characters and friends off to the English countryside for the weekend. There’s a real play in the collection between something decidedly dressed-up and equally effortless”, he says.
I think this collection will have a niche market and maybe they won’t make the volumes or have the number of stores stocking it like in previous years. But, I’m actually excited about this one as this feels to be catering for the lovers of fashion rather than labels. Hits stores November 2nd.
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
In last week’s Evening Standard, Hatton Garden jeweller, Sam Hunter, brother of director, Sophie Hunter, wife of Benedict Cumberbatch, said, “People are bored of the little blue boxes, extortionate prices and minimal design that is now completely characterless,” he went on “It’s the name you’re paying for and nothing else… It’s fine if the piece is exquisite, but they’re producing less and less of those!”
He was, of course, talking about the American jeweller, Tiffany & Co., but he could have easily have been describing the majority of modern luxury brands.
There was a time when you wanted everybody to know your brand. There was a time when success was built on brand awareness. There was a time when consumers wanted you to know the brand they were wearing in order to convey status, but times change and this awareness and ultimately saturation has breed predictability and boredom.
For example, I was recently in Berlin. I walked past their fanciest department store, KaDeWe, and in the windows were great looking clothes. I always like to try and guess the designers and then, like a museum piece, look at the labels on the glass. I didn’t recognise a single one of them. In the past you would dismiss this as being a second rate store or inferior because the ‘big labels' weren’t there, but instead it was far more interesting and refreshing.
Inside was another story. The usual luxury shop-in-shops: Bottega Veneta, Valentino, Gucci, acres of marble and the same look, the world over, but the element of the unknown is what will get people off their sofas and into stores.
It’s much more exciting, today, to not recognise a label and go purely on quality and design. It’s a sign of good taste and a good eye rather than blindly buying a ‘name’. It's also a sign of confidence. But, it’s hard to stay unknown forever and why shouldn’t brands that are good be celebrated, but it’s the level to which they are exposed and rely solely on the name or label that I have a problem with.
A good example would be the Italian brand, Slowear, soon to open another store on London’s Marylebone High Street, they are understated and their multiple labels - Incotex, Montedoro, Zanone - aren’t household names and don't seem to want to be. Slowear, while not cheap, offers better quality, fit and value than clothes at twice the price. This isn't about being a contrarian and always different and obscure. It's about brands that have a humility, aren't a vehicle for a designer's ego and are understated with a ‘we’re too busy making great clothes-to-focus-solely-on-the-label’ attitude which makes it very democratic and far more interesting.
Go seek out the unknown. I've never heard of them. Tell me more.
You walk into the new Coach store on Regent Street and the first thing to confront you is Rexy, Coach’s T-Rex dinosaur. This isn’t the replacement for Dippy the Diplodocus, the Natural History Museum’s famous dinosaur, which is going on a regional tour, but it’s just as magnetic.
Left - Putting the sexy into Rexy!
The new store is impressive. It feels like a one-off. Coach has always been a perfectly acceptable, mid-market and luxury with a small l, brand.
Right - The handbags move around the Heath Robinson-type contraption
But, with this new store they’ve really stepped it up a gear. It shows a Creative Director - Stuart Vevers - putting himself into the brand and being allowed to do so. What they’ve done is thought about injecting personality and identity rather than focus solely on ‘luxury’.
So many brands get fixated on luxury and forget about identity and personality. For some, it’s all about the Carrara marble and shiny finishes and they’ve started to look soulless, empty and, ultimately, boring.
Left - Coach Regent Street's giant Rexy is going to be auctioned off
The new Coach store has a mechanical track with bags running along it, a giant pink neon dinosaur in the window and special product, downstairs, designed with British tourist badges and travel souvenir symbols. It’s fun without being gimmicky. It feels like somebody has thought about it rather than simply rolling out a format the world over. Yawn.
In contrast, I popped into the new handbag hall in Selfridges. The biggest in the world, when finished, it has all the usual suspects: Valentino, Celine, Balenciaga, Chanel, Burberry, all with their signature shop-fits. It all feels so predictable and formulaic. The only one of interest was Gucci with a mosaic floor featuring their, now, signature wasps.
Luxury needs personality. It needs a strong individual to lead with instinct and intuition. Brands need to create newness and not just consistency. Coach seems to not only made Rexy sexy, but also fun. It's approachable and welcoming. If brands are going to get us off our sofas, offline and outside, there needs to be something worthy of going out for.
Paris is always the most serious of fashion capitals. Never one for irony or a sense of humour, when Paris does something, it does it with a serious face. That aside, thanks to a few international designers, a few glimmers of fun poked through.
Call of the Wild
Safari, wild beasts, dodos?! Which animal would play you in the fashion Jungle Book?
Left - Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Walter van Beirendonck, Louis Vuitton
No need to shrug those shoulders as your neck disappeared seasons ago.
Putting the gay into 'Gay Paris', Joseph has nothing on this technicolour.
Left - Paul Smith, Lanvin, Balmain, Thom Browne
A new way to do prints. Thinking natural dyes and historical influences.
Left - Dries van Noten
Big Trouser Bulge
Pack everything in.
Left - Givenchy
There is something about this wash which is so wrong yet so right at the same time. Think Dynasty/Dallas denim.
Left - Balmain
If life gives you lemons, then wear yellow?!
From Left - Paul Smith, Hermes
From Left - Off White, Haider Ackermann
Those tails are wagging for this new cropped evening style.
Left - Balmain
(See more from Milan - here)
Christopher Fisher - Head Buyer at oki-ni
“This suede trucker jacket from Maison Margiela has a beautiful rich texture to it. Demonstrating a workwear-inspired aesthetic whilst nodding to the easy chic of the 70s, it works perfectly with jeans, a classic white T-shirt and a fresh pair of sneakers in the summer and can also be dressed up with one of the season’s printed shirts and tailored trousers for an effortless evening look”.
“Marni's irreverent floral print buzzes with energy and after so many seasons of black and muted tones, this statement style adds a welcome injection of colour to any wardrobe”.
Left - Maison Margiela - Suede Jacket - £1750
Below - Marni - Floral Printed Cotton Shirt - £309
“OAMC draw inspiration from a wide spectrum of sources each season – for SS16, the brand looks to Africa and safari adventuring following a stand-out visit Luke Meier paid to Tanzania in recent years. Technical suiting with breathable perforations and taping is not only practical for temperature regulation but also understatedly stylish”.
Left - OAMC - Jacket - £742
“Souvenir Jackets are a statement piece for SS16 and this one from Valentino is a perfect example. This particular piece has intricate detailed eagle embroidery to the back that can also be seen across other pieces in the collection”.
Left - Valentino - Souvenir Jacket - £1635
“These Stone Island tech swim shorts are woven with a red weft in the fabric which creates an iridescence when caught in the light. Perfect for the beach, home or away”.
Left - Stone Island - Shorts - £95
Okay, okay, for you discerning fashion gents out there this does have something of the Neil Barrett's about it, albeit with more colour. (He's moved onto lightning strikes anyway!)
Valentino are knocking it out of the park at the moment. They've lucked out on their Creative Directors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, who are creating both commercial and beautiful items while keep all the different layers of fashion consumers happy.
If you're a ChicGeek reader then you're obviously part of the most sophisticated layer and nothing gets more sophisticated than this. Definitely a 'fashion' piece, it still has legs to become something of a timeless classic. The design is said to draw inspiration from the work of Australian artist Esther Stewart. A detectable blue sheepskin collar allows it to venture into deeper winter territory and despite keeping you warm, nothing looks cooler.
Left & Below - Valentino - Panelled Bomber Jacket With Shearling Collar - £1715
The last of the cities to show, Paris puts the full stop on the SS16 menswear season. Here is TheChicGeek's lowdown on the trends from Paris:
If these are the souvenirs then we'd love to see the gift shop! Think Ryan Gosling in Drive.
From Left - Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Dries van Noten
Short sleeved shirts and T-shirts from the softest of skins.
From Left - Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Hermès
You won't be able to afford to dropout if you buy one of these, but at least people will think you're rich enough to!
From Left - Valentino, Saint Laurent
The Jacket Coat
Too big to be a jacket, too small to be a coat... introducing the jacket coat.
From Left - Paul Smith, Raf Simons, Dior Homme
Denim gains its place on the catwalk and Paris follows Milan with the commercial trend in anything designer denim.
From Left - Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Valentino, Valentino, Berluti
The 'Green Man' always heralded spring and 2016 is no different.
From Left - Berluti, Hermès, Berluti