Friday, 02 November 2018 17:11

ChicGeek Comment Tours De Force

Fashion factory tours Private White ManchesterCharlie Bucket spent his last coin on a chocolate bar in the hope that it would contain a golden ticket and gain entry behind the guarded gates of Wonka’s magical factory. If Roald Dahl were to write the story, today, Veruca Salt, the spoilt brat with the "I want it NOW, daddy!!!" attitude, would probably want to see behind the walls of Louis Vuitton or Chanel rather than Cadbury’s or Nestlé.

Her wishes were granted, last month, when LVMH expanded the fourth edition of its ‘Les Journées Particulières’ open days event. Seventy six venues across four continents held 'open days', with 38 never having been open to the public previously.

The event saw 56 fashion houses, including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Tag Heuer and Nicholas Kirkwood, taking part. New experiences included the opening of the Les Fontaines Parfumées in Grasse, the perfume creation workshop shared by Parfums Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, the Louis Vuitton prototype workshop in the centre of Paris and the Louis Vuitton workshop in Ducey, Normandy. It was also possible to reserve an exclusive tour of La Colle Noire, Christian Dior’s last residence in Montauroux.

Left - Inside Private White V.C. in Manchester

‘Les Journées Particulières' launched in 2011 and is a LVMH marketing exercise in harnessing the desire and interest from people to see the inner workings of brands they admire and respect. It’s this element of being able to see things you feel aren’t usually on display, demystifying the processes and laying bare the inner workings of these brands that gets people to make the effort to visit.

Watchmaker, Vacheron Constantin, recently tapped into this enthusiasm by auctioning the ultimate watchmaking experience by putting two VIP tours of its workshop in Switzerland up for sale. The brand hired Sotheby’s to auction the experiences, which comprise two separate lots that it claims represent a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to witness its work up close. Each involves a behind-the-scenes tour through the Vacheron Constantin Maison, accompanied by style and heritage director Christian Selmoni.

It’s this ‘magic’ that people want to see and the attraction and interest in seeing how things are made and a celebration our industrial history is expanding as more brands open up their factories to the public. It gives products a halo effect of ‘special’ and really cements the brands into people’s minds and memories in a positive way.

I always say, when you go to a factory, it’s a bit like going to a friend’s house for the first time: you really get a fully rounded and immersive experience and a lasting memory. It’s a familiarity you can’t get in a shop or by simply wearing the product.

Fashion factory tours

Solovair produce their shoes in Northampton under their parental badge of The Northamptonshire Productive Society (NPS) founded in 1881 by five men in Wollaston, Northamptonshire. Ashleigh Liversage, Online Marketing Manager, NPS Shoes Ltd. says, “As more and more brands move their manufacturing outside of the UK it is important to us that our customers can come see for themselves how their footwear is made by our skilled workers in our factory in Wollaston, Northamptonshire.

Right - Exterior of the Private White V.C. factory in Manchester

“Our Managing Director takes the group on a tour through the factory offering an exciting insight into all areas of shoe production,” says Liversage. “The NPS Factory tour follows specific content-related criteria, giving guests access to all shoe production technologies: the ‘Clicking’ or cutting Room, Closing room, Levelling / Making Room, Shoe Room, while machines have made production more efficient, the fundamental process has remained the same at our factory for over a century,” she says.

“The feedback from our customers is why we continue to offer the tour, they love to see how and where their footwear is made and hear about the history and heritage of NPS Shoes,” says Liversage. “Even those with no particular interest in footwear have commented how interesting the tour is. We have people come from all over the UK to attend our tours and even had visitors from Canada once!” she says.

Over in Manchester, Private White V.C., has the last remaining clothing factory in the world’s first industrial city. Mike Stoll, Factory MD, says the reason they have a factory tour is, “To raise awareness: we actually are real and make our special garments near Manchester City centre.”

“Most people that make the tour either make a purchase or send someone who does. It spreads the word,” says Stoll, but, “It only works if you have something to see. This building is unusual and the way we currently manufacture is unique.”

North of the border, Johnstons of Elgin produce some of the world's finest knitwear and blankets. George McNeil, Johnstons of Elgin, Retail Managing Director, says, “Rarely does the public get an insight into how their products are made, and the entire craft behind the process, and so this is a chance to see quality in the making and also to understand our rich and unique history.”

Visitors get to see “Everything!” says McNeil. “Our cashmere goes from raw fibre, through dying, teasing, carding, spinning and hand finishing by the latest generation of craftsmen, all in our Elgin mill.”

“If a brand has the personal touch to each and every product, like ours, it is hugely beneficial to educate the consumer,” says McNeil. “We are in fact the last remaining vertical mill in Scotland to take raw fibre to finished product – from goat to garment – making this traditional process unique in current times. As consumers continue to prioritise where their belongings come from, and become more curious about the work that goes into them, they will demand to know more and brands will answer.” he says.

Not all brands can offer this openness though. Brands often produce for other people, called ‘Private Label’, and many brands like to keep their producers and suppliers out of the public domain.

Fashion factory tours Johnstons of Elgin

“As a manufacturer for over 160 different brands, we actually don't allow factory visits because of the issues they can cause,” says Rob Williams, Founder & Chief Financial Officer, Hawthorn International, who produce apparel for various brands. “Many fashion brands prefer for their manufacturer to keep their identity private, so that their costs cannot be revealed and so that their designs can't be shared between brands who all use the same manufacturer,” says Williams.

“Because privacy and confidentiality is so important to our clients, we found that it caused a huge logistical problem to organise factory visits without the visitor seeing any intellectual property of our other clients,” he says.

Left - Johnstons of Elgin's mill in Elgin, Scotland

Factory tours work because of a growing niche of people’s fascination with being educated about the things they buy. It works for brands who want to tell their story and, often, explain why you are paying a premium for the products. Admittedly, you get shown what they want you to see, but, it's this openness and sharing that creates an atmosphere people want to buy into.

This is the National Trust for the fashion geeks amongst us and it’s growing in popularity. Johnstons of Elgin has tea shops and restaurants attached to their mills which can also be a revenue maker for the company.

The tour makes the product come alive, you can picture what you’re buying being made and this really is the ultimate souvenir. People love a factory tour with a final stop at the factory shop for a bargain. Who needs a stately home when you can have a Victorian shoe factory?

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Review Clinique For Men Super Energizer Anti-Fatigue Hydrating Concentrate SPF 40 men's grooming expertA new daily hydrator that instantly combats fatigue, visibly corrects first signs of ageing, and defends against modern aggressors for a more youthful appearance. Reveals a more youthful appearance with anti-oxidants and a potent “pollution shield” to help defend against pollution/PM2.5, dust, and pollen that can also lead to signs of aging.

Multi-layered defense technology – including sunscreens, repair enzymes, and a unique "Superfood Blend” – fight modern aggressors like UVA/UVB, Infrared (IR), Blue Light, pollution, pollen and dust that can tire skin and accelerate aging.

TheChicGeek says, “This is the direction men's grooming is going in: higher and higher lightweight SPF protection. I was really hoping this would be in a gel format, like - Tried & Tested Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly - but it’s a standard white moisturiser. 

It’s slightly tacky on the skin, but feels really light and goes on easily. This is a really high SPF for a regular moisturiser and, finally, men are realising that sun protection should be taken seriously and worn all year around. I'd happily use this everyday. It’s slightly toppy in the pricing for 48ml - what a strange amount? - but if you do want something cheaper, Clinique For Men do a daily moisturiser with SPF 21.”

Left - Clinique For Men - Super Energizer Anti-Fatigue Hydrating Concentrate SPF 40  48ml - £40 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018 16:02

Label To Know Oliver Cabell

Oliver Cabell sneakers trainers menswear label to knowOne certainty is the trainer/sneaker/casual shoe juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down. Young men are now the biggest purchasers of footwear - Read more #ChicGeekComment The Mass Male Sneakerheads - and trainers are driving this addiction.

A new trainer label to know is Oliver Cabell. Founded in England, but now based in the US, Oliver Cabell was started in 2016 by Scott Gabrielson, who left his job at a non-profit and moved to England to start a business. With no fashion, retail, or start-up experience, Scott relied on his passion for balanced design and quality products to launch Oliver Cabell. 

Left - Oliver Cabell - Ash - £145

In 2015 Gabrielson came across a news story from the 1970s highlighting a heavy night out for actors Oliver Reed and Steve McQueen. He had long been inspired by the rebellious duo, who spurred a generation to take the road less travelled. In the 1960s Reed and McQueen played the characters Oliver Twist and Martin Cabell, and he combined the two and came up with "Oliver Cabell". 

Oliver Cabell sneakers trainers menswear label to knowAs for the night out? It turns out even the “King of Cool”, Steve McQueen, proved no match for the Oliver Reed life force. The story goes that McQueen flew to London to discuss a project. Putting business aside, for a bit, the duo went on a marathon pub crawl, which resulted in Reed losing his lunch on McQueen. The project was never finished.

Right - Oliver Cabell - Amazon - £145

All Oliver Cabell footwear is made in Spain using Italian materials, and for every piece they create, they reveal their costs and tell the story of the people behind it. (This is part of the new trend of brand “Pricing Transparency” - Read more about it here ChicGeekComment Pricing Transparency)

Oliver Cabell sneakers trainers menswear label to know

Doing the intelligent thing of releasing new styles gradually, Oliver Cabell are launching, in two new colourways, Amazon and Ash, in their Rennes retro looking trainer. Made with 3oz suede, full-grain leather, and rubber shore A outsoles, all are sourced directly from the Tuscan region of Italy.

Menswear product of the week Pretty Green silver spaceman jacketWith an entire space raft of films and TV series relating to space travel arriving on our screens, this season, there’s something always cool about dressing for the Space Race. With Ryan Gosling in ‘First Man’, where he plays the first man to land on the moon, Neil Armstrong, and Sean Penn off to Mars in ‘The First’, it feels like the appetite is strong for leaving this planet. 

Pretty Green, a brand always offering something interesting and surprising, has this silver overhead jacket which is one part end of the marathon, one part 90s raver and a whole lot of fun. 

It’s interesting how you can become stylishly invisible wearing something so reflective and distinctive. Geekspeed!

Left & Below - Pretty Green - Overhead Jacket - £200

Menswear product of the week Pretty Green silver spaceman jacket

Review Christophe Robin Thickening Paste Shampoo men's grooming expertFrench colourist, Christophe Robin, has worked with Kylie Minoque, Tilda Swinton, Catherine Deneuve and, historically, the 90s Supermodels’ hair colour. This is his men’s product. It’s a shampoo with rassoul clay - draws out impurities a bit like a face mask - and Tahitian algae, which is very nutrient-rich, so great for strengthening and thickening hair.

Left - Christophe Robin - Thickening Paste Shampoo - 250ml - £42.50 from Harrods

TheChicGeek says, “This is a real treat. While the colour and texture looks a little disconcerting - you’ll know what I mean when you see it - it’s very thick and brown. It’s like a nutty chocolate spread. 

It quickly foams up into a shampoo. With 95% natural-origin ingredients, it is concentrated with pure rassoul clay. Rich in minerals, it is said to gently absorb impurities that suffocate the scalp and immediately brings fullness and body to the roots.

Forget Christophe Robin, I felt more like Pooh Bear dipping my hand in the honey pot using this. It’s a jar, so needs a juggling act in the shower, but this feels expensive and rich. You don’t need much, maybe a large pea size and it states there are around 30 applications in the jar, so is expensive. 

This feels really thick and indulgent, there’s not a particularly strong smell, though it does say a blend of woody notes and amber.

I didn’t find it particularly thickening, but then my hair is really thinning. I think you need that bouncy, curly, French boy hair like Timothée Chalamet - here to make it work!"

Coal Drops Yard Kings Cross Review VisitEasily the most anticipated retail destination - we can’t use ‘shopping centre’ anymore, can we?! - of the year, and the final piece of the huge Kings Cross jigsaw, Coal Drops Yard mirrors the life of the entire area. From industrial power to warehouse parties to sanitised private/public spaces, this could be a micro model of London as a whole over the last 100 years.

Now reimagined by Thomas Heatherwick, who has joined the two ‘Kit-Kat’ pieces with a sweeping roof which lightly touches across the divide. This was the kiss Kings Cross/St Pancras was waiting for and not that cringeworthy sculpture greeting you as you disembark off the Eurostar. 

Opening today, with over 50 new stores, it’s currently only about 50% open, and the most stunning aspect, the Samsung store inside the roof, is far from finished. 

Firstly, the architecture is great. What could have been clunky, the roof is elegant and sweeping. Reslated in the original Welsh tiles, Heatherwick works his magic and creates something modern yet respectful to the original. This is the human scaled, brick built industrial Britain that is a joy to bring back to life.

Situated just down from Granary Square and up from the main stations, Coal Drops Yard opens out into a generous V shape with two main levels of shops and restaurants. This feels like the type of retail space you want to give yourself time to explore.

There’s also another space on the other side of the main block called Lower Stable Street that is for smaller and start-up businesses. It has touches of the Southbank with the concrete.

Coal Drops Yard Kings Cross Review Visit

There are a few restaurants - Barafina, Casa Pastor and wine bar The Drop, but it feels the mix is too heavy on the retail, today, especially with the need to drive traffic. People don’t need to go shopping anymore, but they do need to eat. You could easily use the space in the middle for market type concepts.

They’ve made an effort to have a mix of brands - COS, Paul Smith, Tom Dixon, Cubitts, Universal Works, Rains, Aesop, Maya Magal, Miller Harris and Le Chocolat and there are a few that are new to me. 

You want to explore, but there’s no element of surprise. The retail mix is dry. It’s from the Monocle school of aching design, devoid of personality. This feels like stylish retail from 10 years ago. We’re in the age of Gucci, of bonkers, of wanting-to-get-my-phone-out-and-take-a-picture-mental, not a single one of the finished shop fits was worthy of an Instagram. Even Paul Smith has produced one of the most conservative shop fits I’ve ever seen from him. You’d think he would have tapped into the rave culture history of the site, especially when you consider so many of his more casual clothes would have been worn there.

This is for one type of design customer and I don’t think that’s as aspirational as they think. It’s also needs a destination store. There was lots of talk from the lease manager about going to Paris for inspiration. When didn’t they resurrect Colette here or try a Dover Street Market type concept. It needs a pilgrimage store, or whatever that is in 2018, to get people up from the stations. 

Coal Drops Yard Kings Cross Review Visit

I really think Coal Drops Yard has missed a trick by not tapping into the nostalgia for the area. Those clubbers are now in their 40s with money to spend and families to bring. There are exhibitions regarding the history in the Visitors Centre, back in Granary Square, but I would have done more on site to remind people of their happy times spent at The Cross or Bagley’s nightclubs.

As I said, it’s not fully finished and all these things will evolve. When listening to Thomas Heatherwick give his welcoming talk I thought about the reinvention of Covent Garden, which he then mentioned, and was a huge success, and then I thought about the early 90s, when they tried to turn a similar concept, Tobacco Dock, into a similar retail destination. It was the wrong location at the wrong time. This is in a better position, but like I said, they need enough people to know about it to want to walk up from the stations.

I think we’ll see more food outlets eventually and also they need something like a vintage market, similar to Spitalfields, to raise the element of discovery and keep you coming back.

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