Is the fashion documentary replacing the book Alexander McQueen film

When I saw an article advertising a new fashion documentary on André Leon Talley I knew we’d reached 'peak fashion documentary' territory. The larger-than-life (in-life?) American Vogue editor-at-large has a film called “The Gospel According To André” coming out in May. 

Left - The new Alexander McQueen documentary by Embankment Films

It charts his humble beginnings growing up in North Carolina to being one of America’s most well known fashion characters.

He just adds to the many designers, brands and egos who have released documentaries over the last few years. We all know how the treatment goes: a new designer diarising their first ‘crucial’ collection, a celebration of an eccentric fashion ‘icon’ or a big opening or event and the drama surrounding it. It’s all played out in the 90 minutes or so of devoted film. Done.

It’s all very watchable content, even for those who wouldn’t know their Simone Rocha from their Ferrero Rocher. Most recently we’ve had Westwood, Blahnik and Noten get the fash-doc once over, and with a new McQueen one on it’s way, the output shows no signs of slowing down. 

"Fashion has become something of an entertainment industry, and the fashion doco' is an effective way of educating an audience keen on learning about the fashion industry's players, its big brands and the myths that surround them. Expect a lot more,” says Jamie Huckbody, European Editor for Harper's BAZAAR Australia.

Netflix and the like needs content and fashion is a truly visual medium with many can’t-make-them-up type characters perfectly cast in their Devil Wears Prada roles. 

I wanted to write something about the rise of the fash-doc and its growth for while, but it was a visit to the London Book Fair that got me thinking about the reason why we’ve hit peak fashion documentary.

It’s basically replaced the fashion book for the younger generation.

Is the fashion documentary replacing the book Andre Leon Talley Film

There are definitely less fashion monographs being produced on brands and designers ATM. Large, definitive books just don’t seem as cool anymore, and feel almost dead in comparison to the documentary.

There’s also been a generational shift. Under the elegant expanse of Olympia, I looked at all these books and I thought, who is buying them? It’s the older, wealthier generations. The ones who have the luxury of time, money and space.

Right - The Gospel According To André, coming out in May

‘Generation Rent’ - younger people - aren’t buying these books anymore. Even if they could afford them, they’ve got nowhere to store them and they certainly don’t want the additional baggage of cart shelves of expensive books around every time they move. They often don’t even have enough room for the coffee table, let alone the door stopper books to go on it.

Why buy a weighty and expensive Taschen or Assouline when you can watch the documentary? You’re only going to look at the book once, anyway, most probably. You can stream a video anytime you like, plus we are all so used to consuming content in this way.

Huckbody disagrees, saying “"Over the past three years, I've been working very closely with the millennial generation as a university lecturer, and there is still a huge appetite for books; especially books that offer an insight into 'other worlds'. This might be anything from the black and white photography of Karlheinz Weinberger to the books that are published alongside fashion exhibitions such as the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty book. For a lot of 'Generation Rent', the book offers a different experience to a picture glanced momentarily on social media." 

I agree that social media is a very quick, disposable and, sometimes, unsatisfactory medium for fashion history and I’m not going to go to the extreme and pronounce the book dead, (just yet!), I’m just saying the fashion documentary has proven massively popular and it’s a modern case of you've bought the designer T-shirt now watch the documentary on it.

Traditional forms of consuming information are changing and adapting and the fashion book was always ripe to be replaced by film. Film can illustrate movement, show catwalks, people and really gives consumers a feel for what they are seeing. Add the music of the time, interviews and you get a 360 view, albeit one the brand or designer wants you to see, but then, hey, books can be just as commissioned or narcissistic.

Not all films meet with the subject’s approval. We recently saw Westwood fall out with the makers of her documentary and encourage people not to see it. It had the opposite effect, gave it more exposure and we all know that it’s good for her anarchic image.

Some of these documentaries won’t do its subjects justice, others will surprise you with how interesting they actually are.  

What is great is, by replacing the book, fashion has got a much larger audience. It would have been a select, passionate few buying these books originally, but now everybody has access to give the documentary the first 10 mins and see if it piques their interest enough to watch it until the end.

What do you think? Tell me on social media @thechicgeekcouk

Talking of fashion documentaries, TheChicGeek just reviewed Antonio Lopez: Sex, Fashion & Disco 

Men's side stripe trousers hot list spring 2018 Burton

Trousers with a go-faster stripe aren’t even fashionable anymore. What???! What I mean is, they’ve become a standard trouser style and they still look good. 

It’s a simple and sporty touch to a classic pair of trousers. For work or smarter attire, they just say you know what you’re doing and you can add fashion into a professional and conservative environment.

I noticed this pair in Burton's SS18 collection, they've also got some other really nice bits this season - I wasn't paid to say this! - but, this pair with a delicate red stripe with a zip pocket is what stuck in my memory and at a great price.

I would team them with a plain camp collar shirt and loafers or sandals. 

Left & Below - Burton - Side Stripped Trouser - £30

Burton trousers black menswear side stripe

Monday, 23 April 2018 12:04

#OOTD 113 Prom 2018

Prom ideas Moss Bros

The 'Snazzy Jacket' might be something your dad would say, but it perfectly sums up this year's Prom Season. The idea is keep it simple, but with a flamboyantl flourish.

This jacket, made from patterned jacquard fabric with metallic touches, is dressed down with a simple black T-shirt and grey wool trousers. Add shades and your best dance moves and you'll be the most stylish geek at the ball!

Credits - Jacket - Moss Boss, T-Shirt - Whistles, Trousers - Moss Bros, Socks - Pringle of Scotland, Shoes - Base London

Prom ideas menswear 2018 Moss Bros

Friday, 20 April 2018 16:25

Tried & Tested MARRAM Co Shaving

Marram Co Shaving Cream review

Launched in 2017, MARRAM Co offers a luxury, personalised natural shave with the finest of essential oiled infused foams and chrome hardware kits. Hoping to transform shaving into a pleasurable ritual, MARRAM Co believe that the preparation behind the shave is key and have created shaving creams to match your mood, all manufactured in the UK. 

Left - MARRAM Co - "Power Up" - Metal tubes and quality fragrances makes this shaving to remember

Using organic essential oils sourced from 212 organic farms all over the world, the creams are therapeutic even for the man with the most sensitive of skin. Choose from “Wake Up Call”, “You’ve Got This”, “It’s Cold”, “Power Up”, “Night Out”, "The Morning After”, “Time Out” and “You Might Get Lucky”.

TheChicGeek says, “When you think about shaving products it’s interesting how, for something we literally put under our noses, quality fragrance hasn’t played a more dominant role.

Marram Co Shaving Cream review brush made in ukNamed after the grey-green tufts of Marram grass found on British coastal sand dunes, MARRAM, also a palindrome - the same forwards as backwards - is a collection of shaving creams offering distinctive and quality scents. 

The brand centres on the traditional barbering routine of cream, bowl and brush. Most guys won’t be bothered with this faff on a daily basis, but it’s definitely for a time when you can enjoy the ritual.

The brushes, razor handle and bowls are really top quality and are priced to match. The razor takes a Gillette head and everything, including the shaving creams, is made in the UK. 

Right - MARRAM Co - Brush & Bowl Set - £250

While the hardware is expensive, I like the way they’ve made the shaving cream realistic in pricing - in two sizes, £8 for 20ml and £20 for 100ml - it also means you can play with the fragrances and try a few. 

There are 9 different scents, all with fun names, 7 are permanent and a couple are limited-editions. It’s light and foams up nicely and easy to apply with your hands.

I think people are willing to pay more for products with quality scents. I feel £20 is good for 100ml, here, and those essentials oils are the things that transport you, for a few seconds at least, to another place and makes shaving less of a chore and more of a pleasure. The heat and steam of shaving is ideal for these essential oils to really do their best work.

This reminds me of the shaving cream from Buly that smells like marzipan that I like - read more here - and my favourite is “Wake Up Call” with its earthy vetiver fragrance.

I think MARRAM & Co are onto something here. I like the branding, I like the metal tubes and I like the fragrances. I just need to shave more!”

Below - MARRAM Co - Shaving Cream - 20ml - £8 100ml - £20

Exclusive to MRPORTER.COM

Marram Co Shaving Cream review

Online shopping is allowing luxury brands to get away with lower quality

It’s subjective, I know, but if you’ve bought something from a ‘luxury’ brand, recently, you will probably notice the quality isn’t quite what it once was. On the unstoppable growth trajectory of higher prices and sales, the quality hasn’t stayed consistent: no doubt increasing already inflated margins.

I’m not naive, I understand you pay a premium for a designer name or brand, but there was always a minimum quality to the product, leaving you, the customer, satisfied and at least without the feeling of being ripped off.

I’ll give you an example. I bought one of those new GG buckle Gucci belts online, 18 months ago. I hadn’t felt it, or seen it, I just ordered it online. It was a simple black belt after all. You think you know what will arrive.

What turned up felt like a free pleather school belt. I’m not being facetious, but there was no quality there. When you’re charging £250 and you can’t even offer a decent strip of leather to take the strain of holding your trousers up, there’s clearly something wrong.

Why didn’t I send it back? When it arrived at home, in insolation, seduced by the packaging, and Gucci was so-hot-right-now, you just shrug your shoulders and think, "okay, so it’s not the best, but it’s what I wanted and it’s cool ATM". (Damn you hype!)

It’s when I look back, and think about that belt, I feel, that if I’d handled and seen it in the shop, I probably wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. I would have felt the quality and moved on.

And, so to my theory - the growth of online is allowing mainstream luxury brands to get away with lower quality products. Consumers are more accepting in their own homes, they have nothing to compare it to at the time and the thought and hassle of sending something back is making people keep things they wouldn’t have necessarily bought in a physical store.

“Shopping is very much a human multi-sensory experience so it follows that we want to use as many of our senses. Emotion plays the dominant role in our buying decisions so the in-store experience will always be far superior to the online experience. As Boxpark MD Roger Wade put it ‘Shopping online is like watching fireworks on TV’ says Andrew Busby, Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections.

There’s no doubt online has contributed to the massive growth of these brands, whether on their own websites or third parties. Last year Gucci’s online sales posted triple-digit growth on their branded website and that’s without all the other online retailers. Gucci didn’t hit €6.2 billion turnover in 2017 on physical stores alone.

“This all depends on your definition of ‘Mainstream Luxury’. The word ‘Luxury’ is banded around all too often. True luxury is confined, generally, to bricks and mortar shopping, hence the resistance of major houses to enter the online market. When I consider ‘Luxury’ I think of brands such as LV, Chanel, Loewe etc,” says Darren Skey, Founder/Director of Nieuway Limited, and former Head of Menswear at Harvey Nichols.

“I wouldn’t class brands such as Off White, Amiri, Vetements as ‘Luxury’.  What we are seeing is the luxury brands such as Loewe and LV seeing the growth potential of hype products and as such are designing products with this in mind.  This leads to more quantity produced and a lower quality, compared to their main ranges,  Fashion details are hard to produce on a large scale.  Unfortunately, there is no correlation in price reductions, as you would expect with economies of scale,” says Skey.

It’s hard to prove this point, but it’s an interesting factor to think about. Net-a-Porter group recently introduced a new service  for their “Extremely Important People”, where the delivery person waits to see whether you want the item or not, after they deliver it. It’s an instant reaction to the item(s) and it would be interesting to know whether this has increased or decreased returns. Obviously, they want the latter.

Quality is subjective and brands vary. But I think we’re seeing an overarching trend towards higher margins and lower quality from brands trying to still offer ‘luxury’ and compete with other brands’ stratospheric growth in turnovers.

There’s also a generational shift to think about. Since 2016, the global luxury market has grown by 5%, with 85% of this growth generated by Millennials according to a report by A LINE, a global branding & design studio. These younger consumers don't have as much experience and product to compare the quality to and brands are taking advantage of this.

“The expectation of the younger consumer is also changing and I think this is an interesting observation. For the younger consumers it is more important to have the latest hype piece regardless of the quality.  And, as we know, the majority of the Millennials shop online,” says Skey.

Brands have made it easier to return products, but unless it’s the wrong size or nothing like pictured, I think people are more accepting in terms of quality.

“I don't think that shoppers are unwilling to send things back once purchased online. Fashion is not cheap and I don't believe we are in an economy where this can be an option. I also think retailers are making the process of sending product back easier,” says Skey.

‘I am predicting a backlash to the returns culture we are currently witnessing - both from retailers and environmentalists. The average returned purchase in the UK passes through seven pairs of hands before it is listed for resale. According to Iain Prince, supply chain director at KPMG, "It can cost double the amount for a product to be returned into the supply chain as it does to deliver it”.’ says Busby.

What brands have to remember: when you’re not cool or hot anymore, the thing that will keep consumers returning is quality. This lowering of quality is short-termism and greedy and will ultimately be a big factor is diminishing future sales and brand loyalty. 

I’ve also written about brands which offer great value, like Fiorucci. here

Thursday, 19 April 2018 09:22

Exhibition Fashioned From Nature

Fashioned From Nature Victoria Albert Museum Review Exhibition

We know what our clothes are made from, you only have to look at the label, but do we know which materials are the least and most damaging to the environment? Probably not.

Fashioned From Nature Victoria Albert Museum Review ExhibitionThe new fashion exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Fashioned From Nature, gets serious about the impact fashion is having on the world. It starts off fairly simply, looking at the raw and natural materials used in clothing and decoration from the 17th century onwards, and quickly charts the growing appetite for the rare and exotic to decorate the wealthy’s clothes.

Left - Historical dress inspired by nature and new discoveries

Right - Fashion protesting against itself

It’s interesting how our love of nature and the beauty we see in it has made people want to wear it and at the same time destroy it. It's very difficult to strike a balance.

This isn’t your standard fluffy fashion exhibition or one dominated by big names, it’s a thought provoking look about what things are, where they come from and their impact on the environment. But, it’s done in a way that isn’t preaching or has a strong agenda.

Lace barkIt’s sponsored by the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp, but I feel they could have done more to highlight the benefits of wearing flax. (I didn't see hemp mentioned at all). Most commonly made into linen, flax is one of the easiest and least damaging forms of materials to grow and is definitely something we should be wearing more of. It would have been nice to see more with regards to how you can use it, different finishes and something more than being the material of a few seasonal summer shirts and suits. There’s a wall you can touch at the very beginning made of flax. It feels like really dry horse hair.

Left - Lace Bark grown from a tree

Right - Toxic Evening Coat, Madame Grès, 1936

Madame Gres toxic dressThings I learnt from this exhibition: I’d never heard of ‘Vegetable Ivory’ or ‘Lace-Bark’ before. I didn’t know the bones used in corsetry are called ‘Baleen’, after the type of whale.

Upstairs there is a lot going on. Some pieces are simply inspired by nature while others show new materials made from by-products or waste. ‘Vegea’ uses grape waste from the wine industry to form a leather-substitute and their ‘Grape’ gown is on show, as well as a Ferragamo piece made from ‘Orange Fiber’ derived from waste from the Italian citrus industry and an H&M Conscious dress made from recycled shoreline plastic.

I think educating people - cotton uses ridiculous amounts of pesticides and water - about what they are wearing is important and it would have been good to have seen different materials: wool, flax, cotton compared with one another. These are the main choices people have when shopping.

Fashion in its nature is wasteful and destructive. There’s no logic to moving on from perfectly wearable clothes and buying new ones  other than to stay ‘fashionable’. But, that’s how it works and it’s also a huge business employing many people.

Vegetable IvoryWe need to be realistic, the odd dress made from recycled plastic bottles isn’t even scratching the surface. We need to look at clothing like other recyclables. Take the components and raw materials apart and reuse into new garments. This would require less fresh materials and would also close the loop on the fashion industry.

Left - Vegetable Ivory

Right - The flax wall

Flax fibreI think it’s naive to ask people to buy less. We need to improve environmental practises, push less destructive options and reuse and recycle more.

Fashion is dictated to by money. The minute it becomes more cost effective to do something, then it will happen. Let’s just hope that's sooner rather than later.

Fashioned from Nature - Victoria & Albert Museum - Fashion, Gallery - 21 April 2018 – 27 Jan 2019 #FashionedFromNature - £12

Below - The 'GuppyFriend' which stops micro particles being released from your washing machine into the environment

Guppyfriend Washing Bag

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