Flannels Oxford Street First Look Mike Ashley Sports DirectAs nearly as delayed as the Elizabeth Line, well, not quite, the new Flannels on the eastern side of Oxford Street has been the most anticipated addition to London’s busiest retail thoroughfare this year.

Sandwiched between Marks & Spencer’s Pantheon store and Matalan, this four storey, 18,000 sq ft store, selling designer clothes and accessorises, has been 3 years in the making. The entire building was purchased for £108 million in 2016 by a Sports Direct subsidiary and doubles as office space for its parent group. Part of Mike Ashley’s growing empire, it is the debut of Flannels in Central London.

Left - Veja display inside the new Oxford Street Flannels

This is Flannels' 44th store in the UK, after a lightning expansion, with a further 15 stores coming this year alone. In 2012, sportswear giant Sports Direct bought a majority 51% stake in Flannels and in September 2017 they acquired the brand in full and began investing in and opening stores. 

It is worth noting Sports Direct also own other premium fashion chains such as USC, Cruise and Van Mildert, but, it is Flannels which has been chosen to lead the designer crusade to “elevate” the company. Sports Direct currently has an obsession with moving from discounted sports to full price branded.

Mike Ashley said at a recent shareholder meeting regarding Flannels, “I think they are better than any other stores in the market. Now, I might have rose-tinted glasses but one of the reasons is because I have absolutely nothing to do with it. I just sign off the money. It has nothing to do with Mike Ashley.

“It’s not just a few show stores. When you have a pipeline it takes time. I’m telling you – this is for real. The reality is, I’m telling you it is real and the proof of the pudding will be when they start to roll out. It’s happening, it’s coming. It’s just not as fast as I would like it.

“I’m going to do the same with House of Fraser and get around to elevating. The modern-day consumer – that’s what they want. It could be Stone Island, it could be Nike and Adidas – it’s all about the branded world.

“Maybe I was late to the party, I accept that. Maybe my son-in-law should’ve gone out with my daughter when she was 12, but now we’re on it, nothing’s going to get us off it.”

Flannels Oxford Street First Look Mike Ashley Sports DirectOxford Street is their new flagship and is a physical testament to their ambitious intentions of becoming “the biggest global luxury retailer,”. This is what Sports Direct Group’s head of elevation, Mike Murray, Mike Ashley’s daughter’s boyfriend, told Drapers in March. He went on, “We’re in the early stages, but we have a clear vision for Flannels, we have ambition and we are willing to invest,”.

Right - Art on the second floor

The £10 million new store has been designed by Italian studio P con P, and you can see the Gucci influence in the rugs, over blown William Morris type screens, 1970s brass changing rooms and waiting areas and contrasting use of materials.

The store is split into women’s accessorises on ground, womenswear in the basement, men’s designer on first and men’s accessorise and sportswear on the second, though there wasn’t much difference between the latter two. The second-floor will also house the first ever UK retail space for US footwear brand Flight Club and the store offers services such as Click & Collect and personal styling.

One notable difference was the huge amount of staff, all dressed in black. I was told 50 members of staff currently work there. I visited on a late Tuesday afternoon and the only people seriously buying were a group of Asian tourists in the Gucci men’s section. They’d probably never heard of Flannels before.

I expected to see the usual chav labels such as Off-White and Burberry, which were there, but, interestingly, there were also brands such as Barena, Brioni, Alanui and JW Anderson. There was even a diamond necklace for nearly £60,000. I did ask how many they’d sold that week?!

Flannels Oxford Street First Look Mike Ashley Sports DirectCire Trudon candles, Acqua Di Parma fragrances and Ganni dresses were also spied, and while nothing particularly revolutionary, it is difficult to pick holes in.

“His whole plan for 100 Flannels stores is bonkers. Knock a nought off, mate!” says Eric Musgrave, former editor of Drapers and fashion industry consultant. “It will be a ghost town for 5 or 6 days a week. Wrong location. Too big. Offering nothing you can't get in the West End or Knightsbridge already.” he says.

“My guess is that they will leave it as it is for two or three years, then reorganise it, making the Flannels area smaller and bringing in USC and SD. But, I believe Ashley owns the building, so he can run it as a vanity project.” says Musgrave.

Left - Display in collaboration with artist, Alec Monopoly

The simile I would use is, it’s like an Essex nightclub, which, if playing the right music, you’d have a good time in. And that’s what the clothes and buy is, the music.

Flannels Oxford Street First Look Mike Ashley Sports Direct(The security guards do look a bit like bouncers though, and one made me delete a picture I took on my phone of the new store *eyeroll*). 

There’s nothing to fault in the design and money spent, it feels premium and everything is nicely presented, but Flannels has a problem with the snobby stigma London has towards Mike Ashley. He needs to distance himself like he says above. 

People will need persuading to part with their cash here, unless it is product they can’t get anywhere else. Flannels needs to change perceptions so people are happy to be seen swinging a Flannels bag when they leave. It’s just not cool right now. They need to turn into leaders rather than just flogging the same old mega brands to punters. 

Right - That £60,000 necklace

They own the building here, so are here for the long haul, but it will be interesting to see how it develops and how long they stick to this initial format. Flannels recorded sales of £173.9 million in its latest financial year, up 12 per cent from 2018. It’s growing because it is rapidly expanding, it obviously wants to get to the point where is it more powerful than the brands, rather than the other way around currently. I can imagine many luxury brands, currently, being cautious about choosing them as a stockist, but watch this space as they grow.

Flannels Oxford Street First Look Mike Ashley Sports DirectFlannels will also struggle with some of the quality of the product, and disappointed consumers. Read Gucci Quality Is Rubbish - here - which isn’t their fault.

Left - Flannels Oxford Street exterior. Sports Direct own the entire building

Sports Direct want more elevation than the Wright brothers, but it’s going to be expensive and I can't help think that 100 stores is too many, especially when you’re trying to sell £900 Gucci hoodies. Even though this is on Oxford Street, it needs to become a destination. It feels like the kind of store going against the retail tide, but I certainly admire the ambition.

Below - Interior shot of the new Flannels Oxford Street store

 

 

 

 

Flannels Oxford Street First Look Mike Ashley Sports Direct

Tuesday, 10 September 2019 10:08

Book Drag: The Complete Story By Simon Doonan

Drag review shokcing life Simon Doonan bookDrag: The Complete Story, by Simon Doonan, published by Laurence King, is a cultural history of drag throughout the ages, from Rome to the Renaissance, through the reign of Ru Paul and up to the present day. The book is grouped into thematic chapters from Glamour Drag to Radical Drag. 

TheChicGeek says, “When we look back at this moment in time, it’s probable we’ve reached ‘Peak Drag’. The rise and popularity of Ru Paul’s Drag Race and every club night having an appearance of some sort, Drag has mirrored the new gender fluid maximalism we’ve seen in fashion.

This is book of love, and you can tell Doonan is a huge drag fan. The images are great and the history of drag and the raft of historical characters is really interesting. ‘Drag’ is a bit like the ‘Camp’ theme we saw at the last Met Gala; when you start looking, you start to see it everywhere; those McQueen lips or the majesty of Galliano’s Dior. This book gives drag is cultural relevance and importance."

Left & Below - Drag: The Complete Story By Simon Doonan - Hardback - £30.00 - The author’s proceeds for this book will be donated to the Ali Forney Center to protect LGBTQ youth from the harms of homelessness

Love fashion and style? Have a sense of humour?! Buy TheChicGeek’s latest book - Fashion Wankers, It Takes One To Know One - here 

Drag review shokcing life Simon Doonan book

Friday, 06 September 2019 11:00

Label To Know GROUNDTRUTH

Groundtruth recycled bags menswear label to knowGROUNDTRUTH is a new premium bag brand made from a bespoke PET fabric which was developed using post-consumer plastic extracted from the environment. Even the thread is recycled.

Left - RIKR RANGE 24L BACKPACK - £ 256

GROUNDTRUTH was founded by Sophia, Georgia and Nina Scott, three sisters who have experienced a lifetime of intercontinental, and sometimes extreme, travel. Together, Georgia and Sophia have spent over a decade working and living in communities around the world while filming documentaries for their company, Groundtruth Productions, while Nina has spent her career in product development and artisan textiles, pioneering sustainable products and innovative fabrics. 

In addition to reducing plastic pollution, GROUNDTRUTH prioritises ethical production methods by partnering with manufacturers who are approved by bluesignâ, an organisation which provides safer and more sustainable working conditions to change the environmental impact of the textile and fashion industries. 

Groundtruth recycled bags menswear label to know Scott sisters

The brand’s first range is called ‘RIKR’, with a backpack being the hero product. Made from 120 plastic bottles, it provides the reliability any traveller might need without sacrificing the wellbeing of the environment for its production. It is 100% recycled.

Right - Founders, Sophia, Georgia and Nina Scott

To celebrate their launch there is a pop-up shop at Protein Studios, Shoreditch until Wednesday 11th September. 

TheChicGeek says, "I'm banning the word 'sustainable' until further notice, but this bag is really making advances by being 100% recycled. I do wonder what we're going to do when we run out of plastic bottles?! The reason the bag is black is because this is the easiest colour with the least processes, and there has been a lot of thought and care gone into this new brand and product."

 

Review 
Merchant of venice fragrance Imperial Emerald best rated tried testedCreated by perfumer Jordi Fernandez, ‘Imperial Emerald’ layers iris, Egyptian jasmine and lily of the valley over a subtle base of white musk.

The perfume was inspired by the beauty and majesty of the peacock. Native to India and Sri Lanka, for centuries the peacock has been interpreted by different cultures as a symbol of immortality and regality.

TheChicGeek says, “This looks beautiful with its real feather detail, and you know how much I love Venice. The fragrance is very white florals. There’s a lot going on here with top notes of bergamot, mandarin, pink peppercorn, carnation and iris. Heart notes of orange flowers, ylang ylang, peony, egyptian jasmine, lily of the valley and a base composed of white amber, benzoin and white musk, so it’s definitely not for the wallflowers of fragrance.

It smells old-fashioned, but not in a bad way. It’s probably too blousy for me, but would suit some of those other strutting male peacocks I know..."

Left - Merchant Of Venice - Imperial Emerald Eau de Parfum Concentrée - 100ml - £250 Available exclusively from Harrods

Disclosure - A sample product was gifted by Merchant of Venice to review

Tuesday, 03 September 2019 15:19

Menswear Product Of The Week The Oversized Hat

fashion menswear product of the week Marrakshi Life oversized hatPeople say I’m shady, and I just reply, “I’m ginger!”. You probably saw it was silly hat season all over social media this summer, and it was the bigger the better - I’m looking at you, Jacquemus - but the large hat has its practicalities.

This ‘Pamela Hat’ is rag woven from fabric remnants in an array of colours by Moroccan-made brand, Marrakshi Life. The Pamela Hat has a 40cm brim, so you don't have to worry about forgetting to put sun protection on the back of your neck (and shoulders!).

Left & Below - Marrakshi Life - Pamela Hat - $212

Read more about Marrakshi Life - here

fashion menswear product of the week Marrakshi Life oversized hat

Tuesday, 03 September 2019 14:18

Label To Know Marrakshi Life

Marrakshi life Randall Bachner menswear label to knowSeptember is a month when you want to squeeze out the last rays of sunshine. Whether that’s a late holiday, or the hope of an Indian Summer, we’re not quite ready yet to pack away all our warm weather gear.

Left - Marrakshi Life - Pinstriped Cotton-Blend Shirt - £260 from matchesfashion.com

One brand which specialises in a floaty, 40 degree fantasy of Summer is Marrakshi Life. They were invited to the recent Barcelona Fashion Week and the use of colour and oversized shapes piqued my interest.

Marrakshi life Randall Bachner menswear label to knowLaunched in 2013 by New York photographer Randall Bachner, Marrakshi Life uses the local skills of Moroccans to give us that romantic Getty fantasy of North Africa.

The brand says they are “using the skill of traditional Morrocan weaving practices and a desire to take this sartorial heritage forward, Marrakshi Life uses ancient techniques to create clothing that is authentic yet with a fashion-forward urban twist.” 

Bachner is committed to supporting responsible manufacturing via sustainable, low impact production methods. He describes his atelier in Marrakech as a community rather than a factory. Visitors to Marrakshi Life can experience the family feel whilst viewing the whole process from textile creation to finished design. 

Right - Marrakshi Life - French X-Long Cuff Shirt - $323

Always wanted to visit Marrakech? See what happened when TheChicGeek visited the YSL museum there - here

 


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