Another California based and made basics brands? Sound familiar? Read about The Death of American Apparel here
This time it’s different. Driven by Founder and Creative Director, Adam Vanunu, Cotton Citizen is about experimenting with colour and mastering the art of garment dying. A curated palette of super saturated, eye-catching coluors are released every season, created exclusively with their exclusive dye house’s capabilities.
Inspired by destinations around the world, Cotton Citizen is designed and produced in Los Angeles. Each Cotton Citizen piece is as unique as the person who wears it.
An off-shoot of his family’s American Dye House business, which he took over when he was 20, Cotton Citizen launched with a T-shirt line in 2012, sold exclusively at Fred Segal.
Adam still develops all the dye colours and washes the mens and womenswear collections by hand. He picks the fabric and launders it before he cuts and sews it, just so all the shrinkage gets out.
When Cotton Citizen dye, they provide a colour fascinator to the washes so that the colour doesn't bleed or fade and it stays as rich as the first day you got the shirt.
Everything is made in the U.S. from 100% cotton.
TheChicGeek says, "I really like the vivid oranges and greens with coloured flecks for SS18 and while it is relatively expensive you are paying for the individual attention to each garment."
Left & Right - Cotton Citizen - Sweatshirt - £170, Jogging Trousers - £170 Available at Harvey Nichols
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
We’ve all heard about the revival in vinyl over the last few years. The hipster’s music medium of choice, vinyl records are now everywhere from Sainsbury’s to Tesco. Well, the revival continues, but into our wardrobes this time.
Think shiny, think black, think vinyl. There’s something slightly pervy and sexual about it. It is one part Berlin of the 1920s - have you seen Babylon Berlin? it’s very good - one part grungy/graffiti New York of the 80s. It adds a frisson of excitement to your wardrobe and shows your daring side. A walking oil slick, team with coloured lensed sunglasses and flared jeans.
Left - ASOS - Oversized Vinyl Trench Coat - £70
Left - Calvin Klein SS18
Below - 66 North - £670 www.66north.com
Left - Balenciaga - Wobble Leather Jacket - £1795 from matches fashion.com
Left - Topshop - Vinyl Bucket Hat - £16
Below - Moncler - Mancora - £900
TheChicGeek says, “If you’re worried Bic is going to send you one of their famous orange-plastic, disposable razors, which literally scrapes the hair off your face, don’t worry, their new refillable blades are so much better. So good, in fact, it makes you wonder why they haven’t sold these before? Or, if they do, why didn’t I know about it.
This new subscription service enters a market that is quickly hotting up. We’ve had Harry’s launch this year and I don’t think it’ll be long before Unilever’s Dollar Shave Club makes an entry into the UK market, plus a few other, smaller European subscription services such as Boldking and Grüum.
Men are notoriously tight, so the razor market is very price sensitive. They are also lazy and adding convenience will increase razor use and grow the market.
This seems to be offering great value. Still French, family-owned, the Bic Shave Club is a monthly or bi-monthly subscription service offering 3 or 5 blade refillable razors. I tried the 5 blades razor and it arrived with the razor handle and four blades.
I’m told the regular price for this is £8, which is much cheaper than Gillette and with more blades, but they are offering it at a special introducing offer of £2.95, and you can cancel at any time.
The razor was easy to use, with plenty of lubricating strip. It’s a standard razor, but Bic do know how to make blades and have plenty of experience in this area. They’ve designed the razor head to be less proud, so it is easier to getting into a smaller, slimmer box and therefore through your door or into your mailbox.
This service seems really simple, easy to understand and offers good value. I think we will see the established players - Gillette, Wilkinson Sword - offer better value and compete in these new “Razor Wars” and the winner will be, you, the consumer.
Disclosure - I’ve worked as a consultant on the launch of Bic Shave Club - see video below - but, they never asked/paid me to use or review the service and product.
Starting with sports and diet - which is a good idea, these days - Proverb skincare says it takes the understanding and efficacy of elite sports nutrition and applies it to your skin. Proverb is a “lifefuelled” training program comprising of skincare, supplements, and expert advice.
Founders, Kirstie and Luke Sherriff, met at Oxford University from where Luke signed a professional rugby contract for Harlequins RFC and played in the Premiership and in top flight rugby for 11 years including the England and Great Britain 7s, and Barbarians squads. Understandably he developed a dedication to elite health, diet and wellbeing. In 2009, he joined Kirstie to launch their first natural spa range for women.
With over 20 years' of skin expertise, Kirstie developed organic spa products, beauty schools and trains therapists at spas including Āman Global Resorts, Cowley Manor and at John Lewis’ first concept beauty spas.
Ben Burch, the third founder, is a former Great Britain rower. While, officially, he is the IT expert and completes the Proverb trio of skin, body and mindset.
Left - Proverb - Hydration Pro Moisturiser - £55, Cleanse & Shave Nutrient Mud - £30
TheChicGeek says, “I like the rounded approach to this. Diet, exercise - it even mentions water!!!! - has an effect on your skin. I was sent two products to try: "Hydration Pro Moisturiser" and "Cleanse & Shave Nutrient Mud".
My initial impression was the packaging seemed really cheap: the sort of generic packaging and labelling a product manufacture offers a start up brand, which is surprising considering the experience above.
There are six launch products in total including a “Skin Resistance Training Supplement”.
The moisturiser contains hyaluronic acid, which always keeps your skin nice and plump and moisturised. More interesting is the dual cleanse and shave product. I used it for both.
"Glycoproteins with omega fatty acids from acai and avocado help calm and repair environmental skin damage. Nutrient clay minerals cleanse deeply, while lycoprotenetm complex from tomato and egg white help reduce skin stress, providing powerful anti-oxidants", it says.
I found this almost waxy. It was almost a bit too dry. It worked well as a shave product, but could easily be looser. It washed off okay and I do like the idea of combining products.
It you had asked me to guess the pricing I would have said cheaper than what they are asking, which is probably down to the packaging and labelling. The products are fine, but these prices are premium and they just don’t have the feel and bathroom shelf appeal of others in this category.
Adding supplements to a grooming range is a great idea - £45 - and pushing grooming into overall health and wellbeing is definitely the direction it is going in.”
At a recent press day, previewing the new SS18 collection from the Swiss brand, Bally, I got thinking about how you can slip between the gap. Bally has followed the Gucci model of Wes Anderson statement pieces in bold colours and look-at-me graphics and slogans. But, Bally’s problem is, it isn’t Gucci, and just doesn’t have the attraction as a “name”- I actually like it more for this reason. Therefore they can’t charge the prices Gucci ask and sell in the volumes too. They also have another issue, well, it’s actually a good thing, they are offering a quality made product.
Left - Gucci Cruise 18
I’m going to call it out. Gucci isn’t good quality. I like Gucci’s ideas, I just don’t think it’s executed to reflect the prices they charge. I’m not naive, I know luxury goods have huge margins, but there’s margins and then there’s margins. No wonder Gucci’s profits are through the roof, they are making products that aren’t as good as they should be in that price category.
There’s enough Gucci out there, now, to hear of plenty of quality control issues: shoes than run in the rain, tiger patches on jeans repeatedly fixed, leather belts that feel like a free school belt. It’s not just Gucci doing this, but they’re the label flying high and drawing in the masses. They are also creating complicated product that requires time and a level of expertise to make it well and quickly shows its quality.
The article said “Balenciaga has stolen Gucci’s crown to become the hottest brand in fashion. According to the latest data analysed by BoF in partnership with search platform Lyst — which tracks 4.5 million data points per hour from over 65 million annual consumers, five million products and 12,000 brands — the Demna Gvasalia-designed brand climbed two places to top the hottest brand ranking in the third quarter of 2017.”
Right - Bally SS18
The feedback on Twitter, from many passionate people, was that they wanted Gucci and couldn’t understand this. It must be wrong. Clearly, Gucci is still in demand and they need to maximise this while they can, but this quality issue will speed up their “hot” lifecycle. People will question what they are paying for and many will feel cheated. The fashion crowd are already over Gucci.
A friend recently had a scarf, retailing, probably, for around £400, and it was so thin, it was clearly nowhere near the best quality scarf of that type. It’s almost laughable, and while people have “Brand Blindness” it’s okay, but you free-fall quickly after without quality. Quality makes people return to a brand.
And, this takes me back to Bally. Currently looking for a new owner, they need to decide whether to offer quality and an acceptable price or chase the higher margins, slash quality and see what happens. They’ll never be a Gucci, but they can clearly maximise sales, but increasing margins like many of its competitors. It'll be interesting to see who the new owner is and which direction they decide to take.
Who said toothpaste had to be boring? The two French founders of LEBON, Stephanie, an art historian and professional photographer and her husband Richard, a pharmacist MD and dermatologist - cosmetics certified, are both sea and nature lovers.
They selected ethical and natural ingredients combined with delicious and exclusive perfume notes from Grasse to produce their range of toothpaste. They all contain Certified Organic aloe vera and green tea to naturally help protect gums and prevent tooth decay. LEBON toothpastes are vegan and naturally sweetened with stevia rebaudiana. They also have a non-ending 'free of' list: cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulfates, fluoride and titanium dioxide
TheChicGeek says, “I’ve never seen a more glamourous toothpaste than this. The glitzy packaging and shiny tube gives you that Caribbean holiday feel, especially the pineapple one that I tried. Toothpastes, as grooming products, are becoming quite a thing: I love Buly and their interesting flavours and Beverly Hills Formula Black Pearl Toothpaste is a firm favourite.
There are 6 LEBON flavours in total. I opted for the pineapple mixed with rooibos and mint, so it saved me rinsing my mouth out with Malibu every morning - jokes.
I didn’t realise it was organic until I looked on the website, as it doesn’t scream it on the packaging, and I’ve never really thought about organic toothpaste before. It turns out the mouth is highly porous and any chemicals in it can quickly become absorbed by the body so probably best to avoid any nasties. It is missing fluoride, though, so I would ask your dentist whether this is affecting your teeth the next time you see them.
The fragrance is quite synthetic as you bring it towards your nose, but the taste is pleasant. This is toothpaste for the Instagram age and it's easy to be seduced by the packaging. While, relatively, pricey, it’ll transport your twice-daily, 2 minutes of brushing to a totally tropical island every time.”
Left - LEBON Organic Toothpaste - £17.99
Good things coming to those who wait goes against everything modern retail has taught us. To test this theory, Patria is a new website crowdfunding made in the UK products in aid of Armed Forces Charities. All employees of Patria are veterans and 10% of profits go to the brand’s chosen charities which include The Royal Navy Charity, The Soldiers Charity and the RAFBF.
"Patria is a uniquely British company. We were founded by veterans, employ only veterans and 10% of our profits go to the main armed forces charities. All of our luxury pieces are 100% British made. We wanted a name that ties this together. Patria is derived from the Latin 'Pro Patria' or 'for one's country'," says Founder, Richard Thackray.
Left - Patria’s Cordwainer or shoemaker has been hand-making the finest footwear in Northamptonshire for over 130 years - £275 (Takes 12 weeks)
Launching on Remembrance Day, Patria hopes to deliver the best price in the market and have zero waste. Patria only makes onshore in Great Britain using the best materials and works with leading UK artisanal manufactures - leading to less impact on the environment and a better value product.
Patria prides itself in being a non-seasonal brand. Not about trend led pieces, but staple quality and timeless garments that are built to last. The brand even offers mending services to their customers.
Right - Patria ‘Jack’ Sweatshirt - £120
Oxford Street is the main artery linking west and central London. Everything goes through it: either sucked or pushed out the other side. You can spend hours on the bus thinking you’re on a magical mystery tour rather than a straight road bookended by two Primarks.
Well, “radical” plans are afoot, there are plans to pedestrian Oxford Street from December 2018. Admittedly, only half of it, at first, but this is going to be the retail equivalent of the smoking ban. You think it’s never going to happen, then, all of a sudden, it’s happening and everybody is on board and it’s the best thing that ever happened. The End!
Left - The "Posh" end gets the first pedestrianisation treatment in December 2018
No doubt this has been speeded up by the ridiculously poor air quality along Oxford Street and the need to separate people and vehicles due to terrorism, but this is really exciting, nonetheless.
The section of Europe’s busiest shopping street between Oxford Circus and Orchard Street - that’s the corner of Marble Arch M&S & Selfridges - would be the first to become "predominantly traffic-free". However, north and south routes across Oxford Street will be retained after businesses and locals raised concerns about gridlock on nearby side-streets.
The plans would also see cyclists being forced to dismount on the pedestrianised stretch. The plans are designed to address concerns about rising numbers of traffic collisions, pollution and overcrowding. The proposals for the traffic-free Western section include new seating areas and raising the existing street to pavement level to make it more accessible. An 800 metre-long work of public art, acting as a centrepiece along the entire length of the pedestrianised section, could be commissioned. There will also be new public spaces, cycle lanes, improved pedestrian crossings, wider pavements and extra taxi ranks across the wider West End.
The first pedestrianised section will coincide with the launch of Elizabeth line services - and increased visitor numbers - through central London in December 2018.
Let’s be honest, the current Oxford Street isn’t a place you hang about in. You get in and get out. It’s not somewhere you can wax lyrical to tourists about either as it's slightly embarrassing and a busy mess. These plans can transform it from not only the busiest but the most attractive streets in the world. They need to have a contemporary concept and a "vision" - maybe ask Thomas Heatherwick? Or a competition to showcase the best of British architecture and design? - and really think differently rather than a simple repaving and adding extra benches. Let’s make this the centre of British fashion and style. Let’s celebrate our leadership in these areas. Fashion week outside Selfridges? Shopable shows on the retailers' doorsteps? The greenest street in the world? Cafés all along? Street theatres? Christmas markets? A street that comes alive after the shops close? This has so much potential and could be just over a year away. Exciting times.
When wholesaling multiple brands you’re as strong as the market. You can’t sell what isn’t available. Obvs. Often there is a demand from your customers with nobody fulfilling the supply.
I’ve spoken to buyers at large designer websites, in the past, who have said that many brands have forgotten about the basics and instead only offer key, statement pieces of the season. Tiger, anybody?!
Left - RAEY - AW17
They’ve picked up lesser known brands to fill these gaps - sometimes a guy just wants a plain white shirt without a snake on it - but, ultimately, they know what they need and often the only way to find it is to create your own “house” label.
Matchesfashion.com launched “Raey” a few years ago and, Mr Porter is launching a “Mr P” own label, today. Own labels used to be looked down upon as the lower/entry end of the retailer’s offering, but, now, they are offering something you can’t get from the other brands or give the retailers some consistency and reliability, whether that be black trousers, simple grey v-necks, or something more directional like Sta-press denim.
There’s obviously a demand. Since its inception, in 2015, Raey, matchesfashion.com's in-house brand, has seen 85% growth year-on-year with strong growth across knits and jersey, in particular. A standalone store opened in April 2017 in Notting Hill, in a former franchise store owned by matchesfashion.com.
According to the blurb, the creation of MR PORTER’s “MR P.” brand has been informed by seven years' of customer insight - more than 600,000 shoppers to date - and the invaluable feedback and shopping patterns they’ve observed since launching in February 2011.
The MR P. launch collection has 53 items across ready-to-wear, including 24 “Essential" styles, available year-round, and 29 seasonal styles within the debut capsule. The majority of the collection is made in Italy, with select items made in Portugal, and the denim in Japan. Pricing ranges from £55 for the core T-shirts, through to £875 for the capsule’s leather aviator jacket.
Right - MR P. - the new own label by MRPORTER
The chosen muse for this launch capsule is 20th-century British painter and portraitist Lucian Freud, during his prime in 1950s London.
“At MR PORTER, we are – first and foremost – product people. This passion for quality, uniqueness, style and versatility has been the backbone to developing our business for the past seven years. The launch of MR P. has therefore been quite organic for us; we felt there was a space in our mix of 400-plus brands for something that could present a unique take on wardrobe classics and also present regular capsules of more trend- and seasonal-driven pieces throughout the year. We like to think we have an unparalleled view of the male wardrobe, garnering the combined knowledge of our buyers and editors, and MR P. is ultimately the result of that: smart details, easy pieces and enduring style.” says Toby Bateman, Managing Director, MR PORTER.
The second limited-edition MR P. capsule will launch in February, followed by a third in April. MR P. will introduce shoes and accessories for AW18.
This is a case of these retailers trying to fill the gaps and offer pieces that are consistently available. As these businesses get bigger and bigger then can afford to offer more and also a point of difference that makes them a destination rather than just another retail site selling the same designers.
It’s also important to note that wholesale is so difficult, now, that many brands are moving away from it or closing altogether. Smaller brands can’t afford to tie all their money up in stock, which they won’t get money from until the end of the season or, could, at worst, be sent back to them. This cashflow problem is what has killed off many small brands and also deters many from the wholesale model.
Plus, many people are happy with affordable basics so look to designers for something different or recognisable which has driven designers to only offer these styles. Matchesfashion.com and MRPORTER are so big now they can offer these own-label collections. What they have to remember is, these “Essentials” are the workhorses of a man’s wardrobe and as such need to be good quality in order to satisfy the customer.
Left - Unbranded "Essentials" mixed with a few capsule pieces is part of the new MR P. ethos