New British fragrance brand klaxon. Founded by Michael Donovan and named after the ancient, Central London parish of St Giles - it’s that bit just near Tottenham Court Road station, where the coloured Renzo Piano buildings are - where he was born, this new collection of five fragrances is based on different characters.
Michael has worked in the fragrance business for many years with some of the biggest names and noses. Here, he has teamed up with perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour, and spent the last three years creating the five scents: The Tycoon, The Writer, The Stylist, The Actress and The Mechanic.
TheChicGeek says, “It’s always great to see new British fragrance brands. Especially from somebody with over 20 year’s experience in the business. Michael sent me the three most masculine fragrances to try - The Tycoon, The Writer and The Mechanic.
There’s a lot going on, but it works. I actually found it difficult to choose one standout. I liked all three and underlining it all is quality.
The Tycoon is a classic chypre with notes of patchouli, labdanum and oakmoss augmented with a castoreum.
The Writer opens with fresh ginger, rosemary absolute and the focusing sparkle of aldehydes with castoreum absolute plus sandalwood, cedarwood and driftwood.
The Mechanic has a base of hot rubber, musk, oakmoss and a balsamic, cracked styrax with an earthy geranium and patchouli opening.
The Mechanic is the most interesting as it doesn’t fit in as easily with the other character names. The market for niche fragrances continues to grow and this is definitely a collection worth seeking out. I just wish the branding and labelling had more personality and fully represented the fragrances’ depth of character.”
St Giles Collection - 100ml - £130
Exclusive to Selfridges
There was an American brand - Brashy Studio - who got a lot of online flak, recently, for selling safety glasses as a fashion accessory and charging $25 for the privilege. They cost £1.42 at B&Q BTW.
But, they were definitely onto something as clear frames and light lenses are the way to go this summer. I saw this pair from Korean brand Gentle Monster, who are set to open a store in London shortly, and there’s something one part chemistry teacher and one part Gucci catwalk that I love about them.
While they have that safety glasses vibe they’re far cooler than that and the lenses have full UV protection. Experiment!
Left & Below - Gentle Monster - Afix 02 - $310
More SS18 eyewear inspo? Try The Hamburglar Sunglasses here
Snaffle loafers are one of the rare fashion items that can, legitimately, be called ‘timeless’. They bob along on the waves of shoe trends and come in and out when the time suits. They’re definitely something you should never throw away.
The most famous are Gucci, obvs, but it’s actually cooler and less basic to sniff out a cheaper alternative. Read more here
Russell & Bromley has this pair called ‘Mercury’. I really like the brown, orange and beige webbing underneath the snaffle. It gives them a vintage/70s edge. Made from calf leather in Tuscany, these aren’t the cheapest, but they’ll certainly authentically Italian.
You can wear these with anything, just don’t smother the shoe with trouser. Keep your ankles visible both socked and unsocked.
Left & Below - Russell & Bromley - Mercury - £235
Your shirt should be like fashion, this season - one minute you're in, and one minute you're out. Or, you could just compromise, like seen on the Marni catwalk, and wear it half-in and half-out.
It's like messy business attire. The walk of shame, the morning-from-the-night-before chic. Try it.
Credits - Jacket - Scotch & Soda, Shirt - Scotch & Soda, Trousers - Moss Bros, Shoes - Base London , Bag - ST Dupont
Left - Both Marni SS18
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
When I started in this business summer shoe options consisted of cheap flimsy flip-flops or jelly-sandals for those pebbled British beaches. There was little or no choice and there certainly wasn’t any style - even though jelly sandals are kind of bad cool ATM FYI!
Anyway, let me introduce ‘CASABLANCA 1942’ who are making some of the nicest and most beautifully crafted hot weather shoes I’ve seen. Started in May 2014 by Gabriela Ligenza, and inspired by the classic film and the year it was released, the shtick is raffia.
Left - Cesare
The uppers are made from breathable natural raffia woven in Mogador, Morocco, and then construction takes place in Italy using the finest sustainable leather from French and Italian tanneries.
Right - The raffia comes from the raffia palm tree in Madagascar
The raffia fiber is obtained from the raffia palm tree, commonly found in Madagascar. The leaves of this little tree are cut into parallel lines resulting in the long fibers used in the weaving of the shoes. Unlike straw, raffia is stronger, hard-wearing and will mould to the feet when worn.
Polish-born Gabriela trained as an architect and interior designer at Fine Art Academy in Warsaw. She also designed hats before this venture. Based between London and her design studio south of Florence, Italy, she travels extensively for her inspirations and research. Gabriela has collaborated for the last 20 years with leading accessories and shoe designers for global brands like Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Martin Margiela, Missoni, Paul Smith and Stella McCartney to develop hand woven raffia shoes produced using entirely traditional hand weaving techniques, but combining the craft with Italian know how and quality materials.
The idea for Casablanca 1942 was conceived whilst sitting on a beach under the stars watching the film, Casablanca, with the background sound of the Atlantic and thinking “what would Rick wear in this intense and sweltering city?”
Each pair takes at least a day to make so the shoes are made in limited editions. After all, "true luxury should be not about the price, but in the uniqueness of the product," she says.
Left - Lace Up Trainers £260
Gabriela believes that helping local cooperatives to incorporate external developments and training improves the marketability of the local skills and products, respecting its identity, distinctiveness and preserving sustainability on a grass roots level.
Gabriela says the shoe styles are inspired by “trying to design the perfect summer shoe for my husband so he can get inspired to go on holidays more!”
There are a few thing to know to get the best out of your pair. You may find that the shoes are a bit tight when you wear them the first time, but they will soon give as they moulds to your feet. You might want to wear them with socks for the first time for your own comfort, but they are designed to be worn bare foot in very hot weather.
Right - Woven Loafers - £228
If you feel that it rubs a bit too much on a certain area, it is recommended that you apply a wet cloth on this part of the shoe while it is on your foot, in order for the raffia to mould to your foot more quickly.
Raffia, being a natural fiber, will feel very comfortable without socks as the fiber will keep your feet fresh and naturally ventilated. As they become yours, “they are even more special even when they start wearing in and fraying a bit,” says Gabriela.
These are really elegant and artisanal summer shoes and I don't think the photographs do them enough justice after seeing them in person at the recent Pitti Uomo show in Florence.
Available at Harrods in the UK
Shopping centres are morphing to survive. Opening cinemas, restaurants and other attractions to get people out of the house and their tenants happy with more footfall, they are trying to move away from being a one trick shopping pony. This is old news.
But, it’s all so chainy and sanitised; the antithesis of what is cool today. It’s basic.
Left - St George’s Market - Belfast
What’s cool today is start-ups, seasonal produce, artisans, craftspeople, farmer’s markets, Boxparks, ethnic food and passionate and motivated people seeing the whites of their customer’s eyes.
Shopping centres need to harness this energy and support it.
I’ve often been jealous of the historical, covered markets they have in many Northern towns. This isn’t poncey, Daylesford Organic type markets, but real markets for everybody, offering quality and affordability. Lots of fresh produce and home made products. I know, if I had one closer, I would use it.
I visited Belfast 18 months ago and fell upon St George’s Market. It was a mid-week wednesday in October and the whole place was buzzing. Built between 1890 and 1896, and supported by The National Lottery, the restoration preserved its Victorian heritage, from the authentic stone bricks to its Bangor Blue roof slates and replicas of original Victorian shops.
As well as restoring an important historical building, the project created a modern market place providing a space to trade and grow for over 170 small local businesses, and supports around 400 jobs each week.
Since its renovation in 1999, St George’s Market has gone from strength to strength, trebling the number of days it trades from one day a week to three. The huge variety and quality of products on offer helps to attract over 600,000 visitors each year. St George’s Market was named the UK's Best Large Indoor Market 2014 by the National Association of British Market Authorities.
There were signs on the doors saying there was a wait-list for stalls. It was a mix of food, arts and crafts, vintage artefacts and unique gifts. Of course, not everything was to the highest taste, but that’s the point of a market, it’s an excitement of discovery and unpredictablity. The opposite of a modern and bland shopping centre. It was thriving and it had an energy that I wanted to spend time in.
I recently visited Centre:MK in Milton Keynes. It’s a busy, 1970s listed shopping centre at the heart of the city. I had a walk around and noticed, huddled under a flyover type structure, was an outside market: little stalls selling vegetables and other types of street market products.
Shopping centres need to bring this inside, polish it up a bit and expand it. But not sanitise it. These types of markets were often looked down upon, much like Primark was - Read more here - but things change and we need a return to a type of frequent shopping that we’ve been doing for thousands of years.
Right - Kirkgate Market - Leeds
This is the modern version of an ancient market. Somewhere I can get great bread, home-made chocolates for presents and authentic products from all the nationalities who have made their home in the UK.
I live in Croydon. They opened a Boxpark over a year ago. It’s fantastic. It’s a large food court which feels like you’re trying something new and getting passion in every mouthful. It’s just food and you congregate on large communal tables in the centre after visiting what feels like an unlimited choice of cuisines.
People are just as tired of chain restaurants as they are of chain stores. It’s time for independents. These shopping centres could support whole armies of people itching to start their own enterprise. There are so many people wanting to follow their dreams and try something new without the prohibitive cost of opening a shop or starting a website. These brands are very active on social media and offer newness and a point of difference.
Large towns and highly populated areas could easily sustain a thriving market type concept. The shopping centre needs to be an umbrella rather than a controller. The other shops would benefit from more frequent visitors and the buzz of the shopping centre. This is also how future brands will start.
Remember Marks & Spencer started on a market stall in Leeds after all.
There’s something very millennial, and also sexy, about pink pants. We’ve not had a pair of desirable hipster Y-fronts since American Apparel closed its doors.
Left & Below Left - Boy Smells Men’s Blush Brief - $25
Boy Smells from LA, known for their candles, has expanded with intimate apparel called ‘Unmentionables’. All styles are made in Peru out of premium Pima cotton. For colour, Boy Smells has chosen to further expand the brand’s signature pink with other neo-naturalistic tones: bone, buff, bare, and blush.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Ron Dorff, the Franco/Swedish basics brand, has a pair of pink Y-fronts that will make everybody wink. Think pink for that underwear drawer refresh.
Below Right & Bottom - Ron Dorff - Y-Front Briefs - £28
With the Russian World Cup coming, or should that be looming?! We're going to get all nostalgic for Panini stickers and short-short football kits. Retro sportswear shows no sign of slowing down in fashion circles and anything branded, or with brand's old logos, is as popular as ever.
Credits - Loafers - Base London, Jeans - Raey, Top - Vintage
I’m kinda enjoying it. Meat free for Lent has made me think about what I put in my mouth. There was one slip-up, at a fashion party, when a prawn canapé managed to find its way into my mouth without me thinking. Oops. But, apart from that, it’s not been as difficult as I thought. Which probably shows I don’t eat huge amounts of meat anyway.
I’ve made a couple of recipes - veg curry, jackfruit wraps (as recommended by Twitter) - but not as many as I wanted to. It’s quite nice to make my vegetarianism somebody else’s problem, which means eating out or getting other people to cook for you. (Sorry, Mum!).
Left - The Vegetabull - A 1950s poster from a recent exhibition at the Jewish Museum
Here are a few things I’ve learnt from my time as a #MeatFreeGeek
- You use more bowls than plates.
- Less sauces - tomato sauce and mayonnaise, but more salt and pepper.
- Cheese becomes your meat.
- I’m less hungry.
- You save money.
- You avoid cheap, processed foods.
- Bad things go with bad things. So it’s a double win when you stay away from them.
- I’m eating more carbs - bread, pasta. This has actually made me put a little bit of weight on, just slightly.
- Sugar is a problem. I feel like I’m eating more sweets and chocolate. It feels like a pleasure.
- Some vegetables seem to last forever no matter how much you think you’re eating. I’m looking at you greens.
- Cauliflower steaks for the win.
- Soya is like brown chicken meat.
- Chips don't go with anything.
- Sandwiches aren't as exciting.