When Gucci sacked their former Creative Director, Frida Giannini, Alessandro Michele, the new Creative Director, had only a few weeks to turn around a completely new men’s collection to be shown in Milan that January.
What materialised, Men’s AW15, was a Wes Anderson like fantasy of quirky accessories, vintage looking furs and pussy bow blouses for men. A radical and welcome departure from Giannini’s Gucci look, it took a while to digest and fully appreciate.
Now the dust has settled, it feels fresh while heavily referencing the past. It’s like the most beautiful and eccentric dress up box and all part of the new unisex vision many brands are pushing. (Doubles your market!)
For a bit of background, Alessandro Michele, 42, studied at Accademia di Costume e di Moda in Rome and joined Fendi as Senior Accessories Designer.
He moved to Gucci’s Design Office in 2002, so he worked under Tom Ford, assuming growing responsibilities within the creative department until he was promoted to the role of Associate to the Creative Director Frida Giannini in May 2011.
In September 2014, he took on the additional responsibility as Creative Director of Richard Ginori, the renowned Italian fine porcelain brand that Gucci acquired in June 2013.
Gucci has realised that in order for people to buy designer clothes they need to offer something that you can’t find anywhere else. We can get choice and fit on the high-street, so luxury brands need to offer difference and craftsmanship that reeks of quality and distinctiveness in order to pay their increasingly ridiculous prices.
There is a lot in the new Gucci men’s collection that would make TheChicGeek's AW15 Hot List. The astrakhan coats look too expensive to be listed online so I’ve gone for one of the bowed sleeveless shirts. This eccentric Gucci collection has even got me wanting one of the new antiqued GG logo belts.
Choosing the equestrian discipline of dressage as its focal sport, Acqua di Parma’s new Colonia Club has the signature Acqua di Parma top notes of citrus - bergamot, lemon, petitgrain and mandarin, immediately followed by an unexpected olfactory note.
The freshness of mint – combined with neroli oil – is blended with aromatic geranium and lavender notes with equally elegant freshness of galbanum.
The dry and woody accents of Haiti vetiver, combined with precious musk notes and a rich grey amber accord, make up the perfect base, stressing the masculine, dynamic, sophisticated tones of the fragrance.
There is an Eau de Cologne spray, Hair and Shower Gel, Deodorant Stick and Spray, Shampoo and Shower Gel within the Colonia Club range.
Left - Acqua di Parma Colonia Club - 100ml - £81
TheChicGeek says, “Billed as Acqua di Parma’s ‘Sports’ fragrance, Colonia Club is a classic men’s fougeré (lavender) unpinned with fresh mint. This a classic type of men’s fragrance, thus being very wearable, in a very popular men’s family of fragrances. The mint remains warm thanks to the amber.
The only negatives are - it has that initial stickiness that you get with a lot of men’s fragrances, you could put that down to the amount of green notes in the fragrance and it also doesn’t last very long. BUT, it is an Eau De Cologne which in their nature are light and should be sprayed liberally and often.
The rich racing green colour suits the classic deco flacon and visualises this green and fresh fragrance. This is the sort of fragrance that works well across a range of products, especially the types of gym products, like shower gel, in this range."
When did Margate become the epicentre of cool? This once unloved seaside town has seen a renaissance, not only with its minimal Turner Gallery and reopened and vintage inspired Dreamland theme park, but its collection of quirky retro and vintage shops.
Left - Eau De Parfum/GPS 23’34”N - 100ml - £160
Well, it was only a matter of time before Margate would spawn a collection of local brands. The first to catch my eye is Haeckels. Kent’s answer to Aesop, Haeckels is a premium, natural fragrance and skin care brand.
Using local ingredients, most prominently the ‘hand harvested’ seaweed, all Haeckels’ products are formulated in their cliff top lab in Margate where they only use and distill locally growing botanicals, offering the very best anti-oxidant properties.
They hold one of only two licenses in England to harvest seaweed from the English coast. (Margate’s coast is genuinely unique: built on a giant 14 mile long Jurassic chalk reef which makes up 20% of the UK chalk reefs which means its able to nourish families of seaweed not found anywhere else in the world).
The local seaweed forms the base ingredient of the skincare range based on the tradition of 'Thalassotherapy' derived from the Greek word meaning ‘sea’ or ‘ocean’. Thalassotherapy treatments use ocean water, seaweed, ocean mud and marine minerals to treat ailments and enable the body to replenish, remineralise and revitalise to enhance good health for body and mind.
Haeckels was founded in 2012 by film maker, volunteer beach warden and coastal enthusiast Dom Bridges. When Haeckels was starting out Dom would collect seaweed and local botanicals along the Margate coast and bring them bring back to his family kitchen to experiment. Dom’s wife, Jo, soon said it was time to get a proper lab and turn a passion into a business as every saucepan in the kitchen was starting to smell like a skin care product. Taking his wife’s advice he acquired the 'Lab on Cliff Terrace' in 2013 where more product formulas were developed to complete the range.
Right - Chalk Room Diffuser - 100ml - £100
The company has now grown: taking on members of staff whilst still playing an active part in the local community by organising beach cleans and taking part in marine conservation surveys.
Haeckels currently has two stores: one in Margate, the other in Shoreditch and has just gone into Selfridges. They are planning the world's first Victorian sea bathing sauna on Margate beach. Watch this space.
Burberry always know when to drop items to suit the weather. This lightweight, quilted jacket is beautiful both inside and out. Perfect as an outer layer now and then as a mid layer - pictured - for when the cold weather kicks in.
The biggest problem I had with Converse was how could something so simple be so uncomfortable. I remember buying a pair of special John Varvatos Converse and within a few hours I was hobbling home, never to be worn again.
Left - The four colour ways of the new Chuck II
Anyway, Converse, now owned by Nike, has released the Chuck II: a brand new style that boasts the same exterior of the iconic Chuck Taylor All Star – including the easily recognisable rubber toe cap, white foxing detail and statement All Star patch – whilst incorporating features and benefits to deliver a comfortable, versatile and premium sneaker, "as informed by the consumer" - so it wasn’t just me who found them to be uncomfortable!
The Chuck II is available in black, white, red and navy colour ways – £55 for low tops and £60 for high tops.
Below - The trainer interior for comfort
Marks & Spencer has asked TheChicGeek for his top tips when it comes to looking for and buying a new suit.
1. Fit is the most important thing when buying a suit. Find items in your size first, then decide on the style and material. Pay particular attention to the shoulders, cuffs and hems of the trousers.
2. Jacket sleeves should stop at the base of the thumb and trousers should gently break on the shoe.
3. The length of the jacket should be in proportion to your height. If you are taller, then opt for a longer jacket.
4. Never button up the bottom button of the jacket (if more than a one button). This is traditional suit etiquette.
5. Buy a second pair of trousers as these will wear faster then the jacket.
6. A well fitted suit will give you better posture and more confidence.
7. Steam your suit, rather than iron, to stop it going shiny.
Credits - All Marks & Spencer - Suit - Limited, Knitted Polo - Autograph, Socks - M&S, Monk Strap Shoes - Best of British
Youth, beautiful youth, seems to sum up the scene at Zalando HQ. Everywhere you look, young people: sitting outside in the sun on bench tables chatting, inside large, open-plan offices developing new product and organising deliveries and logistics and vast teams styling and producing the content for the website in cavernous studio spaces.
Left - One of Zalando's many buildings based around East Berlin
Zalando feels like a microcosm of hipster Berlin: the youth of Europe drawn together over the passion of creativity, fashion and design in a mix of tattoos, coloured hair and piercings. But, these young people aren’t restricted to simply the creation side of the business, they run all the way through to senior management and is a reflection of the company’s age having only started in 2008.
In the space of 7 years Zalando has gone from speculative start-up to a billion dollar business. The biggest fashion e-tailer that nobody, well, those of us in the UK anyway, has heard of, it has grown to be the biggest fashion platform in Europe with sales of over €2.2 billion, last year. Just to give it some context, ASOS turned over £975 million in 2014.
While British brands such as ASOS and Topshop looked towards America, Australia and China for growth, Zalando was quietly focusing itself and expanding into 15 European countries and tailoring its offering accordingly.
Right - For the recent Berlin Fashion Week, Zalando opened a 'Fashion House' to showcase product, hold talks and celebrate Berlin as a fashion centre
Based in Berlin, business is conducted in English, so as to unify all 15 markets, making Zalando feel more like a international business based in Berlin rather than a German fashion company. It now sells over 1500 brands with a staggering 150,000 products in markets ranging from Austria to the UK.
Selling luxury diffusion lines, high-street brands and now, a whole collection of own labels, developed for specific customer categories, Zalando is aiming to have everything covered.
I’m here, during Berlin Fashion Week, to see inside the company and how it has developed. I first experienced Zalando’s website a few years ago, and it felt, at the time, like just another European website selling third party brands in not a particularly inspiring way. Fast forward a few years and, now, Zalando is the one of the most important European customers to some of Britain's best and biggest brands and the entry to markets many don’t have retail outlets in or websites directed to.
Dressed, today, in American Apparel T-shirt, Element cuffed trousers and Nike trainers, Florian Jodl, VP Menswear, is in charge of the menswear side of Zalando.
“When I joined - 3 years ago - Zalando was making the transition from start-up to large company. We’re, now, the largest fashion platform in Europe and we cover pretty much the whole of Europe”.
Left - Florian Jodl, VP Menswear, Zalando
What’s made Zalando so successful in what is a tough market to crack?
“Our founding team believed in the e-commerce trend at the right point in time. The drivers of the company that made it successful was the marketing, the logistics proposition - free and easy returns, we have more than 20 different payment methods, large assortment and strong relationships with some of the best brands in the world”. he says.
“How those things came together allowed the company to grow so fast. We focused on the fashion market and invested in our fashion proposition from a content perspective. The main part of the business is being a fashion retailer, but we are adding more and more additional services to the consumer and to the brands we work with. For example, we recently launched, ‘Zalon’, which is a curated shopping service: a stylist picks a selection, then you get a package and keep what you like. We don’t run it in-house, we’ve created a platform where stylists can log on to and work independently on a commission basis.”
Where many international retailers have found appealing to so many different markets difficult, and have often come unstuck, Zalando seems to have flourished.
“We have a very strong localisation mindset. For example, in Italy you have to have cash on delivery payments, in Germany, you have to allow for invoice payments. We have been successful in all these different markets by tweaking our brand marketing and efficient end structures, but, if you over emphasise it you have an extremely complex system”, says Jodl.
The most popular men’s brands are currently Nike, adidas, Converse, Reebok and Levi’s.
“Some men are still very focussed on brands, and there is a group of consumers that just want to be inspired. So, outfits work quite well, for us, particularly for men. We have a function, now, where you can buy everything the model is wearing.
“We see the men’s business accelerating even faster than the rest. When you think of buying fashion, online, it is an attractive proposition for the stereotypical, average guy. You don’t have to go downtown, be in a crowded store, you can order a nice selection of stuff and what you like, you keep. It just took men longer to take the step and try and, now, they’ve tried it, you can see it really picking up,” says Jodl.
Right - Each individual item is shot and physically moved along the creative line to be retouched, described and uploaded onto the Zalando site
I’m taken inside an old factory building in East Berlin that houses the studio where Zalando shoots all the images for the website. Not allowed to take pictures, it is the modern e-tailer factory: a conveyor belt of styling, shooting, retouching, describing and uploading.
Zalando has recently developed its own range of labels seeing gaps in the market and also higher margins. Menswear features in labels such ‘Kiomi', ‘Your Turn’, ‘Pier One’, ‘Brooklyn’s Own’ and unisex shoe brand called ‘Zign'. The own brands are currently expanding as a percentage of the business with many collections, now, running into hundreds of pieces.
Zalando, while having shipped to the UK for many years, is now turning its attention to us, and particularly menswear, seeing a fashion hungry and lucrative market.
“One key thing we need to do is build a more focussed assortment as the UK is a very developed and strong fashion market, in the past we probably missed some of the key local brands”, he says.
For Berlin Fashion Week, Zalando curated a ‘Fashion House’ in the centre of Berlin to not only display their product but to inspire and put the flag in the ground for Berlin as a fashion capital and authority. (Zalando recently bought the fashion trade show Bread & Butter, which up until a few seasons ago was one of the biggest street and casual wear trade shows in the world).
Left - Inside Zalando's 'Fashion House', a pop-up in Mitte during the recent Berlin Fashion Week
They understand that they have to make Berlin relevant in order for them to be taken seriously as a fashion authority. The key to Zalando’s success is its expertise in the markets it operates in. While not only appealing to its customers, it also appeals to other retailers and brands that want the ‘in’ to these potentially lucrative European markets.
As different parts of Europe come out of recession, Zalando will only increase its dominance and it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t snapped up by somebody like Amazon, or anybody who wants a large and developed slice of the European fashion market.
Online retailers understand that its their own product which will offer a USP and also better returns. It will be interesting to see whether Zalando's own menswear brands will be picked up by the British male in what is a very competitive and price sensitive market. Watch this space.
H&M has opened a pop-up store, today, 23rd July. in the Old Truman Brewery, on Dray Walk, Brick Lane to celebrate their Divided collection. Open for six weeks and stocking the latest fashion trends from H&M’s men's Divided collection.
"We always strive to excite and surprise our customers, and by launching a pop-up shop in East London we have the opportunity to offer H&M’s Divided collection to such a diverse range of shoppers and fashion-lovers in an innovative and fun way. East London has a very different vibe to any of our other locations throughout the UK, which makes this pop-up launch so exciting and in the perfect location to present the collection” says Carlos Duarte, Country Manager H&M UK and Ireland.
Over the six weeks there will be numerous events and activities inside the pop-up for customers to enjoy. Whether it’s catching DJ sets from the latest turn-table talents, late night lock-ins, innovation workshops or checking out hotly tipped artists and playlists in the music pods.
The pop-up is 1100 square feet in size and the 'design-lead' interior includes neon and linear lighting, an indoor wall mural, raw concrete features and scaffold elements.
Opening hours 11am-7pm, Monday-Sunday
For the last couple of summers men's footwear has been about plastic pool sliders and Birkenstock type buckled sandals. Well, on my recent visit to Pitti Uomo in Florence I spied a new cross between the two. Could we possibly label it the 'slandal' or 'sander'?!!
Left & Below - Moses - £35 (You can e-mail the website to see which men's sizes and colours they have available)
Called Moses, they are one complete plastic unit in a rainbow of colours. They are made from a breed of plastic called PCU, a superior grade of sustainable eco friendly plastic injected with air, creating a unique combination that creates a durable and ultra comfortable new feeling when you walk.
Behind the brand is Sarah Gurt, originally from Paris. She acquired her professional education as a shoe designer in 1999 at Cordwainers College and Central St Martins and has since worked as a shoe designer for companies in Europe and the US such as Thierry Mugler, Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta.
After 14 years, Sarah decided it was time to come back to her adopted home of Israel and start a brand that related to her local lifestyle and that could resonate with people around the world: a brand that embodied the aesthetics and vibes of her city, Tel Aviv.
The sandals are washable and smell of milk and honey, quite literally, thanks to the combination of PCU plastic and natural oils and perfume injected into moulds which are placed on rotary injection machines. They come in a rainbow of colours and I expect see these next to every pool next summer.
It appears your skin is as ‘fatigued’ as you are by the end of the day. To rectify one of these, Kiehl’s has launched the new Daily Reviving Concentrate. A lightweight facial oil that promises to awaken, revitalise and energise the look of fatigued skin. While skin is dedicated to healing at night, during the day it is hard at work defending itself from attack by environmental aggressors and oxidative stress. After a full day of battling to protect itself from damage, our skin shows signs of fatigue, which causes it to look older including the more prominent appearance of lines as well as dull, dehydrated, rough and tired-looking skin.
Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate features a specifically selected, highly concentrated blend of naturally derived ingredients including ginger root essential oils, tamanu and sunflower seed botanical oils.
“Free radicals that come from pollution, UVA/UVB radiation and poor air quality assault our skin the most during the day and have the potential to damage our lipids, proteins, and DNA,” states Dr. Adam Geyer, Kiehl’s Consulting Dermatologist. “In addition, as we age, barrier function diminishes and the antioxidant content in the skin is reduced, making the skin more susceptible to free radical damage and accelerated ageing.”
Testers reported a 12.4% improvement in skin fatigue (dull, dehydrated, rough and tired-looking skin) in as little as 8 hours.
Left - Kiehl’s - Daily Revival Concentrate - 30ml - £36
Nationwide September 2015
TheChicGeek says, “The oil trend seemed to pass me by and this is the first facial oil I’ve actually tried. I’ve always been a bit wary of oils, as I imagined they could make an oily skin - men’s - even oilier.
Well, this I was pleasantly surprised by. A few drops from the pipette dispenser, it will take a few applications to get used this, and it blends leaving your skin feeling nourished and oiled - in a good way.
Your skin has a subtle oiled glow that doesn’t feel greasy and you’re not conscious of. It gets absorbed easily and I would say you could also use this as a beard oil, if you so wished. It has a nice orange aroma and you apply your daily moisturiser over the top. If only this worked on body and brain fatigue!”