I love Scottish knitwear, especially the folky kind, such as fair isle from the likes of Jamieson’s of Shetland, but there’s another label to know. Eribé, eponymously founded by Rosemary Eribé 33 years ago, is a knitwear design house and manufacturer based in Melrose, in the Scottish Borders. They’ve recently taken over the old Burberry mill and opened a new showroom on Tweedbank before Christmas.
Left - Eribé's knitwear is all proudly made in Scotland and its signature is the multi coloured and pattern yokes
I first saw Eribé at the Premium trade show in Berlin a few years ago, and loved their fair isle berets - which I can’t find on their website - and I had a reminder, this year, at Pitti Uomo, where their colourful knits oozed authenticity and quality.
Their designers are specialists in their field, especially in the heritage knitting technique, Fairisle (Fair Isle) all crafted from quality, natural yarns spun in Britain from lambswool and merino.
Proudly all made in Scotland, Eribé exports to 20 countries, and Rosemary continually pushes for innovation in her knitwear, together with her team.
Her vast knowledge has been garnered from working with premium knitwear factories in Scotland and beyond, leading knitting machine companies and consulting with global designer brands.
Below - Eribé -Clootie Yoke Sweater Mirage - £399 - Hand knitted in 100% Superfine Lambswool
BUY TheChicGeek's new book - FASHIONWANKERS - HERE
When China sneezes, the world catches a cold. So, when China caught the new coronavirus, or COVID-19 virus, there was going to be major economic repercussions. With the world’s second largest economy on virtual lockdown, its effect on both domestic and international sales for fashion companies will be seismic.
While there is no way to predict how long it will take to runs its course, companies have already started to make tentative statements about how it is affecting their bottom line. Those companies heavily reliant on the Chinese market and high spending Chinese tourists will be particularly affected and be crossing their fingers that this is over quickly.
While it is hard to predict the length of the outbreak and its impact, we can look back at the last major virus outbreak, SARS, which originated in China in 2002. It's thought that this strain of the coronavirus usually only found in small mammals mutated, enabling it to infect humans in the same way as COVID-19 has. By the end of the nine-month long SARS outbreak, the virus had spread to several other Asian countries as well as the UK and Canada, killing 775 and infecting more than 8,000 people.
The current stats for COVID-19 are 71,499 confirmed cases and 1,776 deaths, that’s a 1 in 40 death rate compared to over 1 in 10 for SARS. In terms of stats it looks less serious, with many people being carriers and displaying no symptoms. The under reporting of Chinese authorities has been questioned and how they are trying to minimise the severity of the outbreak, but they seem to be taking swift action to prevent contagion.
The world in 2020 is very different from 2002. The Chinese are travelling much more and have become some of the world’s highest spending tourists. In 2005, there were 95,000 Chinese visitors to the UK, in 2018 that number had reached 391,000 and was continuing to grow. Chinese tourists make up the largest share of visitors to the UK (32%) and they have one of the highest average spends of any national group. In 2018, the latest set of statistics, the average spend of a Chinese tourist in the UK amounted to £1,373. They were only surpassed by visitors from Qatar and UAE.
In London’s West End, accounting for a quarter of all non-EU tax-free spend in 2018, on average, Chinese customers spent £1,630 per shopping trip, making them 59% more valuable than other international shoppers.
Hong Kong-based airline, Cathay Pacific, has already cut 90% of its capacity into mainland China and announced that overall capacity would be slashed by 30% as a result of falling demand related to the outbreak. British Airways announced that it would temporarily suspend its flights to mainland China, following the UK Foreign Office’s advice against all but essential travel to the country.
The most visited country in Europe was France with 2.2 million Chinese nationals visiting in 2018. Paris was already having to contend with transport strikes and gilet jaunes protests and now one of its most valuable visitors is staying away. The same could be said about Hong Kong; months of riots now followed by COVID-19 will have taken its toll on this important luxury retail location. The majority of the world’s major cities will be affected by the lack of Chinese tourists.
For British luxury giant, Burberry, Chinese consumers account for 40 per cent of revenues worldwide. Burberry Group plc released a statement at the beginning of February saying, “The outbreak of the coronavirus in Mainland China is having a material negative effect on luxury demand. While we cannot currently predict how long this situation will last, we remain confident in our strategy.” said Marco Gobbetti, Chief Executive Officer.
Currently 24 of Burberry’s 64 stores in Mainland China are closed with remaining stores operating with reduced hours and seeing significant footfall declines. This is impacting retail sales in both Mainland China and Hong Kong “The spending patterns of Chinese customers in Europe and other tourist destinations have been less impacted to date but given widening travel restrictions, we anticipate these to worsen over the coming weeks.” the statement said. Burberry was planning to hold a fashion show in Shanghai in March but that has been put on indefinite hold, while Chanel has cancelled its May Métiers d’Art show scheduled for Beijing.
Estée Lauder gave a recent update to the markets saying it it expects adjusted earnings of $5.60 to $5.70 per share in 2020, down from a previous estimate of $5.85 to $5.93 citing the coronavirus. Fabrizo Freda, Estee Lauder president and chief executive, said: “The global situation will also affect our financial results in the near term, so we are updating our fiscal year outlook. We will be ready to return to our growth momentum as the global coronavirus is resolved.”
Other brands who have focussed on growth in China will feel the effects. Luxury outerwear brand, Moncler, warned that footfall at its stores in China had plunged 80% since the coronavirus outbreak and it earns 43% of its total revenues from Asia. Michael Kors and Versace owner Capri Holdings saying it would take a $100m hit from coronavirus in China, where it was forced to close more than 150 stores.
Right - Off-White - Logo Print Face Mask - £65 from Farfetch
Kering makes 34% of its sales in Asia Pacific, excluding Japan. Kering’s chief executive officer, François-Henri Pinault, said - on the 12th February - the group - Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta - had experienced a strong drop in sales over the past 10 days. Many of the group’s stores in China are closed or running reduced hours. The company said it will halt advertising spend and postpone new openings in China in the near-term in a bid to limit the damage caused by the virus. Pinault said that planned product launches might also be reconsidered and is also shifting inventory to other regions to make sure stocks don't pile up in China. Without giving an estimate for any impact from the virus on earnings, he said online shopping was not really making up for the decline in store footfall. "The warehouses are shut. People can place orders but there are no deliveries," he said.
While being strong in China and in the Chinese market has been a boon for many years, this outbreak shows the danger of having all your eggs in the Chinese basket. Once a high growth area, this is a double whammy for brands; you have the domestic market closed and the free spending tourists are no longer shopping.
China’s growth was already slowing, but it was just about to come out of the trade wars with America. Even if this outbreak is over in a relatively short window of time, it’s the momentum it has lost that will take the longest time to get back. Getting those Chinese tourists to rebook their flights and travel plans, brands reworking expansion plans and product and consumers getting that feel good factor to spend will take months to correct. Many brands are downplaying the current impact to protect their share price. Hopefully, the epidemic will be over shortly, but the repercussions of COVID-19 will be felt by the fashion industry well into 2020.
BUY TheChicGeek's new book - FASHIONWANKERS - HERE
As we end the decade, it’s time to look back at the highs (& low) of its final year and acknowledge those doing great things in men’s grooming and fashion. Hype is still just as important and the mega brands just keep getting bigger, but the great thing about fashion, and the reason I love it, is good ideas can come from anywhere.
Here’s to 2020 being the year of the Fashion Wanker - BUY TheChicGeek's new book - FASHIONWANKERS - HERE and owning it. Remember, it takes one to know one!
Best Label of 2019 Bottega Veneta
Just as Gucci starts to slow, Kering has Bottega Veneta creating all the hype thanks to it’s new British designer Daniel Lee. A graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art, he has worked at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga and Donna Karan. Prior to joining Bottega Veneta, Lee was Director of Ready-to-Wear Design at Céline and he’s created a strict yet sexy reinterpretation of the Bottega Veneta signatures such as their basket weave leather.
It cools yet strict, minimal yet interesting and its influence is now everywhere.
Left - Bottega Veneta SS20
Best New Label of 2019 Carne Bollente
Carne Bollente is an independent Paris-based brand established in 2014 by Hijiri Endo,
Théodore Famery and Agoston Palinko. They focus on the relationship between sex and positivity, to allow people to embrace their own sexuality and kinks through their clothes. By pairing straightforward streetwear staples with scenic sex illustrations, which manage to cover a wide scope of sexual taboos without verging on the problematic, Carne Bollente inject irreverence and provocation into no-frills basics.
Left - Carne Bollente - Bimbo Unchained 2 Blue Denim Jacket - €230
Best High Street of 2019 Jaded London
The High-Street became something of a dirty word this year. It’s tough out there and menswear has been hit harder than most. While some brands ditched menswear entirely, others have taken the plunge and really gone for it.
Fun and affordable, Jaded London gets on all the big trends without the price tags. The made for Insta clothes are by brother and sister team, Grant and Jade Goulden, who launched in 2013. Dior Saddle bag for £40, anyone?
Best Grooming Product 2019 GilletteLabs
This year we were introduced to the first heated razor and its good. Part of the new ‘GilletteLabs’ stable, the stainless steel warming bar has adjustable temperature levels and a wireless magnetic charging dock to make this a revolutionary shaving sensation. Much higher than the usual Gillette price tag, it will be interesting to see how popular this has been.
Left - GilletteLabs - Heated Razor - £199
Best Grooming Brand 2019 Baxter of California
It’s getting increasing difficult to stand out in the crowded men’s grooming market and with everybody jumping on the unisex band wagon anyway, where does it leave it? Baxter of California now has the expertise of L’Oréal behind it and is a reliable mid-priced grooming brand. Based on its Californian surf heritage since 1965, it was one of the first in men’s grooming. For an everyday easy product I swear by the Oil Free Moisturiser.
Below - Baxter of California - Oil Free Moisturiser - £24
Fragrance of the Year 2019 - Ostens Impression Patchouli Heart No.1
Ostens was a new fragrance brand this year and completely won me over to patchouli.
This scent by Domitille Michalon-Bertier includes rosemary, lavandin, lavender absolute, immortelle absolute LMR, ciste labdanum absolute and is gorgeous. Easily my favourite of the year.
Left - Ostens Impression Patchouli Heart IFF-LMR No. 1 - 50ml - £85
Most Stylish Programme 2019 - Chernobyl
Possibly not the most stylish, but definitely the most memorable and impactful. Chernobyl took us on a jaw-dropping adventure in 1980s Ukraine charting the meltdown of the nuclear reactor. The wardrobe of drab Soviet suiting and military garments seemed to bookend the current trend of vintage dress down.
Best Menswear Collaboration 2019 - Moncler Genius
Moncler did the clever thing for our short attention span times and commissioned a new designer to do a new collection every few weeks and keep dropping throughout the season. Designers have included Craig Green, Simone Rocha, Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, Richard Quinn, 1017 Alyx 9SM and Palm Angels, along with two of the brand’s own labels, 1952 and Grenoble.
It has kept it fresh, reliable and is producing some of the best outerwear to suit every fashion wanker’s taste.
Left - Craig Green Moncler Genius
Special ChicGeek Award 2019 - Drake’s
Charting its own preppy course, Drake’s has stealthy positioned itself as the bastion of contemporary classic British menswear. The new store on Savile Row shows they’re continued success and with Michael Hill’s tasteful eye over everything, it’s the most colourful quality menswear you’re going to find anywhere. Expanded far beyond its original silk ties and accessorises, it’s now a full men’s outfitters and the type of British label the Japanese and Koreans go crazy for.
Right - Drake's new Savile Row store
Most Stylish Man of 2019 Timothée Chalamet
A best dressed person is somebody you can’t wait to see what they put on next. Anybody who leaves you guessing and then smashing it out of the park is always the most interesting and therefore crowned best dressed.
This year I recognise Timothée Chalamet who famously said he doesn’t have a stylist. “I don’t want to work with a stylist or anything. I’ve been following designers like Raf, Haider Ackermann, Hedi Slimane—these guys are like rock stars. They’re artists.” he told Frank Ocean in a Q&A for VMan magazine in 2018.
Hi skinny frame and romantic locks have made him a youthful menswear pin-up who isn’t afraid to try something new.
Turkey of 2019 - Burberry
I just don’t get it. Riccardo Tisci has stripped all the personality out of Burberry. Rather than building on Christopher Bailey’s legacy and momentum, he seems intent on doing the opposite. Prices have gone up and the original ideas have gone down. It all just looks like it’s trying too hard and doesn’t have any identity.
It’s seems intent on ignoring the hero product of the trench and opting for gimmicks. If the Chinese stop buying, they’re going to need to change things quickly. It will be interesting to see whether sales are sustained at a label that has lost its kudos amongst the fashion crowd.
Burberry - Large Logo and Kingdom Detail Nevis Backpack - £1090
A large bulk of the fashion industry is feeling pretty smug with itself. The just-gone G7 summit in Biarritz, France, a meeting of the world’s largest economies, saw French President Emmanuel Macron, accompanied by Economy and Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Labour, Muriel Pénicaud, and Deputy Minister of Ecological and Solidary Transition, Brune Poirson, launch the ‘Fashion Pact’. An initiative to minimise the environmental impact of the fashion industry, the Fashion Pact, signed by various fashion companies and brands, made numerous commitments regarding sustainability, renewable energy and biodiversity.
Left - Tall glass of Pinault?! The 'Fashion Pact' launch at the recent G7 summit
Making plenty of noise, and, while anything in the right direction, particularly while the Amazon rainforest is burning, is welcome, it’s worth looking at some of the detail.
Thirty two companies representing around 150 brands and roughly 30% of the fashion industry committed to:
“100% renewable energy across own operations with the ambition to incentivise implementation of renewables in all high impact manufacturing processes along the entire supply chain by 2030.”
“Protect the oceans: by reducing the fashion industry’s negative impact on the world’s oceans through practical initiatives, such as gradually removing the usage of single-use plastics.”
“Restore biodiversity: by achieving objectives that use Science-Based Targets to restore natural ecosystems and protect species.”
“Stop global warming: by creating and deploying an action plan for achieving the objective of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in order to keep global warming below a 1.5°C pathway between now and 2100.”
These all feel like the least they can do. Words like ‘gradually’ and ‘ambition’ make most of this wishful thinking. But, waiting until 2050 to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions is laughable. Most of the signatories will be dead by then. It’s 31 years away!!! Who’s to say any of these companies will still be in business?
We live in a very stressful and confusing time. Environmental paralysis is understandable amongst consumers not sure exactly what they can do to combat climate change. But, waiting until 2050 to ‘possibly’ make that new handbag zero carbon emissions ain’t one of them. Green lip service is becoming increasingly frustrating and brands are going to have to give definite and distinct decisions while updating consumers on progress and fact based information much faster than this. People want to see something.
The brands involved include adidas, Bestseller, Burberry, Capri Holding Limited, Carrefour, Chanel, Ermenegildo Zegna, Everybody & Everyone, Fashion3, Fung Group, Galeries Lafayette, Gap Inc, Giorgio Armani, H&M Group, Hermès, Inditex, Karl Lagerfeld, Kering, La Redoute, matchesfashion.com, Moncler, Nike, Nordstrom, Prada Group, Puma, PVH Corp., Ralph Lauren, Ruyi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Selfridges Group, Stella McCartney and Tapestry.
In April 2019, ahead of the G7 meeting, Emmanuel Macron gave François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Kering, a mission to bring together the leading players in fashion and textile, with the aim of setting practical objectives for reducing the environmental impact of their industry. And the Fashion Pact was born.
This goes someway to explain the most noticable luxury absentee from the list, the LVMH group. LVMH, Kering's main luxury competition, announced in May that it was partnering with Unesco on a five-year deal, allowing the fashion houses in the group access to “a network of experts at the regional level and in different disciplines to drive the development and success of their initiatives to protect biodiversity” and secure transparent supply chains. They’ve also recently cemented a tie-up with British designer Stella McCartney to lead their charge in sustainable luxury.
The majority of these brands don’t know what the eco-future looks like, but they know they need to start making the right noises yet want to continue to generate billions of dollars in yearly turnovers. Signing up to things like the ‘Fashion Pact’ focuses minds, but the time frame makes it a case of we’ll start tomorrow, which goes against the current urgent 'Climate Emergency' feeling felt within the wider population.
Kering issued a statement saying, “Private companies, working alongside nation states, have an essential role to play in protecting the planet. With the Fashion Pact, some leading players in the fashion and textile sector are joining forces for the first time to launch an unprecedented movement. A collective endeavour by its nature, the Fashion Pact is open to any company that wants to help to fundamentally transform the practices of the fashion and textile industry, and to meet the environmental challenges of our century.”
If these luxury companies worked as quickly as they did when chucking money at Notre-Dame, after its fire, then we’d really be getting somewhere. Pinault found €100m (£90m) down the back of the sofa and the Arnault family stumped up €200m within hours of the flames being put out.
Governments will need to bring in legislation much sooner to force these companies to do more. We’re going to look back at this period of history and wonder how we got through it sanely, but what we know is, we have to start today.
Arguably the finest looking retail street in London, Regent Street’s sweeping thoroughfare is home to the world’s largest Burberry store. The former theatre and cinema is a huge, cavernous stage for the only domestic luxury mega-brand the UK has. What you’ll notice recently, as you walk past, there is never anybody in it. Worryingly, the store always looks empty of customers, and, as is often the case in fashion, you don’t need to see financials or figures to see whether something is instinctively selling or not.
After two distinctly underwhelming, but vast collections under new Creative Director Riccardo Tisci, the first results are in and it doesn’t bode well. Sales are flat in a market that has seen stellar performances from Kering and LVMH. Burberry’s sales grew by just 2% to £2.7B over the year to March 2019 with an adjusted operating profit of £438m. According to Bain & Company, the luxury goods and experiences market grew by 5% in 2018 and to put this into further context, LVMH was up 10% and Kering was up an incredible 26.3% over the same period.
Left - Gigi Hadid in Burberry's latest campaign. The collection could easily be confused with Fendi
After Burberry’s huge growth under previous Creative Director, Christopher Bailey, the brand’s new strategy is to take the brand more upmarket and completely change the feeling and identity of the brand. Marco Gobbetti, Chief Executive Officer, who hired Tisci, puts a positive spin on it in the brand’s latest financial release, “We made excellent progress in the first year of our plan to transform Burberry, while at the same time delivering financial performance in line with expectations. Riccardo Tisci’s first collections arrived in stores at the end of February and the initial reaction from customers is very encouraging. The implementation of our plan is on track, we are energised by the early results and we confirm our outlook for FY 2020.”
The two stores Burberry had in Knightsbridge have closed and are now a trashy souvenir shop and while they said they are taking a new store above the Tube station, it is a long way off from opening with only the facade currently standing.
The only hope is that they are still selling in China. There was a report in Jing Daily, the leading digital publication on luxury consumer trends in China, in April, that said Burberry had shut down four retail stores in Shanghai since August 2018, with the latest closure occurring on March 31, when the brand ceased the operation of its flagship store at the city’s L’Avenue, which it opened in 2013. The article said “the company had been laying off Chinese staff in preparation for the closure until only seven of them remained”. The publication also said the permanent closure of the L’Avenue store represented a “landmark event” in Burberry’s perceived exit from Shanghai.
According to the results, in Asia, it’s seen low single digit growth in Asia Pacific, Korea and China, stable in Hong Kong and declining in Japan. Which is worrying. Burberry is also cutting costs to shore up the balance sheet.
The company is pinning all its hopes on the new Tisci product. The statement said “The first deliveries of Riccardo Tisci’s products arrived in stores at the end of February. Although it is currently a small portion of our offer, the initial reaction from customers has been very positive with sales of the new collections delivering strong double-digit percentage growth.” It’s not clear what the growth is in comparison to.
The company says it is currently on a multi-year journey to transform and reposition Burberry. “FY 2019 and FY 2020 are foundational years where we will re-energise the brand, rationalise and invest in our distribution and manage through the creative transition, after which we will accelerate and grow.”
In retail, they say they are focused on refreshing flagship stores, with over 80 retail doors expected to be “aligned” by the end of FY 2020. "To ensure we are focusing our resources on the most impactful locations, we will also be closing 38 smaller, non-strategic retail stores in secondary locations. In wholesale, we stepped up our wholesale rationalisation in the second half of the year, phasing out non-luxury doors.” says the financial statement. In total, Burberry closed a net 18 stores (seven mainline, nine concessions and two outlets) in the year and new openings included the relocation and expansion of the Dubai flagship and openings in Shin Kong Place, Xian (China). Fourteen retail stores had been aligned to the new aesthetic by the end of the period.
Tisci’s first collection ‘Kingdom’ hit stores in February, but it didn’t create the much needed desire within the fashion community which ripples out to consumers. In that period, we’ve seen Givenchy fly, Gucci continue to power on and Bottega Veneta get a new designer and start to make waves. Unless you make positive gains from the energy around a new star creative designer, the energy quickly falls flat and the new Burberry seems to have been striped of identity during its rebrand.
Riccardo Tisci’s and Christoper Bailey’s Burberrys were always going to be very different. One was incredibly successful and turned the company into a global, billion dollar player, the other, was a fresh start, hoping to equal the growth and appeal of its predecessor but with a new, more street-like aesthetic while trying to elevate the brand.
Burberry feels like a brand going into reverse and unless new collections start to create some form of excitement people won’t be willing to pay more. The momentum it has built up over the past decade will disappear and it will be a tough job to get that back. This feels like a brand to ‘sell’ before the evidence of the failure of this new strategy becomes even clearer.
Nobody came as a row of tents or Christmas, but the ‘Camp’ theme, to go along with the New York museum’s new exhibition, isn’t exactly new to the Met Gala. The Met Gala is Fashion Christmas and is definitely not for those who don’t want to stand out.
The more you think about camp, the most confusing and harder it is to define. But, we’ll probably all agree, it’s about colour, print and bigger-is-best outlandishness and there was plenty of competition for the craziest and most attention seeking outfits. Here are TheChicGeek takeaways from the men on the pink carpet:
The Boy With The Pearl Earring
With Gucci the main sponsor, their poster boy, Harry Styles, was the Co-Chair along with their Creative Director, Alessandro Michele. Harry’s become known for his bold Gucci looks and this didn’t really take it up a notch on the night. It was pretty standard Gucci uniform. But, it was the drop pearl earring that left a lasting impression. Vermeer in his ear, Harry’s pearly earring is a romantic renaissance addition to your jewellery box.
Left - Harry Styles in Gucci
For those a little nervous to embrace the full Liberace campness, it was all down to the shoes. Go for something striking in glitter, studs or sequins.
Right - Ezra Miller in Burberry, Far Right - Rami Malek in Saint Laurent
Still Obsessed With Pink
Pink has become the beige of our era, but it still looks fun and fresh. Especially when it perfectly matches the carpet.
Left - Anderson Paak in Gucci
This idea is straight from the Gucci catwalk, but to have your own version of a Madame Tussauds head tucked under your arm is really something. Jared Leto going out for a pint of milk is pretty camp, at the best of the times, but this stepped it up and added some Adams Family spookiness.
Right - Jared Leto in Gucci
The Mind Fuck
This make-up reminds me of the creepy Chemical Brothers video, Let Forever Be. While the outfit is meh, the artistry of this is full face look is technically brilliant. Look into my eyes…
Left - Ezra Miller in Burberry
All camp roads lead to Gucci and the king is Alessandro Michele, but this feels more sloppy Studio 54 reject than emperor of camp.
Right - Alessandro Michele in Gucci
The Party Poopers
Move over Normcore, this is Bore-core. I’m sure if you sliced these two in half they’d be a rainbow inside.
From Left - Frank Ocean in Prada, Kanye West in Dickies
Some of Britain’s best known, mid-sized fashion brands are up for sale. French Connection, Pretty Green and Anya Hindmarch are all rumoured to be looking for new owners. Put LK Bennett into the mix, which recently when into administration, closing five stores and making 55 redundancies, and you have a slew of established British brands trying to forge the next chapter of their existence.
While Anya Hindmarch is more in the luxury pricing category, the others are all premium high-street; asking consumers to stump up more cash for their products in a mid-market squeezed between fast-fashion and ‘luxury’ brands. This is an area that has suffered the most over recent years. Hooked on sales and discounts, many of these brands operate an unsustainable retail network, flabby business model and have suffered due to the demise of the traditional department store.
Putting themselves up for sale is timely. If you’re a foreign investor, British companies have never been so cheap, due to the weakness in the pound and Brexit, but there’s also a watch and wait attitude for most of the retail market at the moment, with many companies, particular private equity, being burnt, over the last few years, and only investing in strong, bankable billion dollar brands.
Left - Anya Hindmarch bag with her quirky sticker designs, but does the brand need to make more conservative product?
French Connection has been on the block for a while now. A brand that reached its zenith in the late 90s, thanks to their provocative and attention seeking FCUK slogan, it had lost its way. It recently went into the black, thanks to an ambitious store closure programme. Recently reported, French Connection made a slim profit of £100,000 for the year to January 31, 2018, compared with a £2.1million loss the year before. Revenues edged up 0.2% to £135.3million but its same-store sales fell 6.8%. French Connection said it will continue to close stores, having shut down more than half of its sites in the past five years. Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has a 26% stake in the business with founder Stephen Marks, who is also chairman and chief executive, owning almost 40% of it and they say talks were “ongoing” with several potential buyers.
French Connection has done the correct and drastic decision to close the majority of it stores and department store concessions. Truly international, it is not wholly reliant on the UK market, but needs to remind people of their USP and make people feel good about paying more. It needs to decide what the sustainable size of the business is.
Liam Gallagher’s menswear brand Pretty Green, which is named after a song by The Jam, has called in Moorfields Advisory to help look at options for the company. Founded in 2009, Pretty Green channels British Mod culture into branded basics, linking the brand to music heroes and a strong Made-in-England feeling for its more premium ranges. The company said that it was “not immune to the challenges currently facing the UK high street as customers migrate from purchasing in store to online.”
It currently has 14 standalone UK stores and numerous concessions within House of Fraser department stores. The brand lost £500,000 when House of Fraser feel into administration in August 2018. “The growing overall demand for the brand, coupled with a strong online customer base, position the company well to navigate these changes and we are therefore considering all options,” they said with regards to a sale. In the 16 months to January 2018, turnover at Pretty Green rose to £38.2 million and pre-tax losses narrowed to £1.5 million following a £5.6 million loss the year before. Private equity company, Rockpool, invested £11m into Pretty Green in 2017 for a minority stake.
Pretty Green has a very distinctive British look, and, while it has its core Mod audience, it needs to develop and reintroduce itself into the larger men’s market. It has to define what it sells and make men more aware of this. Its small retail network will probably be trimmed further and it’s good they are starting to narrow their losses, but they need to tap into that rich vein of cult British style that Fred Perry and Dr Martens do so well. This cool also translates internationally. Any investor would probably want Liam Gallagher to have a more prominent role at the brand and increase his visibility in it.
Right - Liam Gallagher in Pretty Green
The British luxury goods brand, Anya Hindmarch, has been put up for sale. Mayhoola, the Qatari royal family’s investment fund, which also owns Pal Zileri, Balmain and Valentino, has decided to sell the brand it started buying into in 2012. The fund has grown its stake from 39.9% in 2012 – Mayhoola bought a controlling stake in the company for £27million - to at least 75% by the middle of last year.
Founded in 1987, Anya Hindmarch has become known for her quirky and colourful designs. The brand lost £28.2 million and reported a 10 percent decline in revenue to £37.2 million for the year in 2017, the latest year for publicly available accounts. The selling decision is said to be “mutual”.
Anya Hindmarch has plenty of fun ideas, but, they, as a brand, just need to establish who the customer is. It has a lot of potential, but, unusually for a leather goods company, it needs to focus on more conservative product. Sometimes it’s hard to find a plain, elegant black bag, which means they are missing out on a huge amount of sales. The prices are premium, so the high-fashion, seasonal and quirky fashion product has a limited audience, while more classic and trans-seasonal product would sell well too.
Their £40 stickers were a surprise hit, but, as an example, their candle range has a strange disconnect between customers. I don’t think many of the older women carrying the bags want cartoon eyes and rainbow decorated candles on their coffee tables. It needs to balance the fun with the sophisticated.
This brand would sit well with Burberry - there are rumours they are looking to buy something - or maybe a Mulberry, and drill down into that affordable luxury market more. I think they will have plenty of interest, possibly from the Americans - Tapestry, Capri Holdings - growing their brand portfolios.
If retailers can survive 2019, there is a strong chance they’ll be okay. Investors will want to see that losses are stabilising, or reducing, and there is a clear strategy for the future. Skeleton retail networks, offering enough brand awareness while pushing people online with good product will be the future for these brands. Being less reliant on the department store model and taking your quality product direct to consumers will be the only way to make these brands profitable. You need a point of difference to make people pay more and a feeling they can’t get what you offer anywhere else. The days of chucking huge amounts of money at growing brands is over and private equity will opt for more realistic, tidy returns rather than huge growth.
These brands have that problem of being too big to be nimble and streamlined, while not big or glamourous enough to catch the eye of the big investors to take it somewhere big. Mike Ashley can’t buy everything. Or can he?!
Read more of TheChicGeek's expert comment here
London Fashion Week Men’s - LFWM - was stripped back in more ways than one, this season. While the bones of the skeleton schedule were showing through, it was the lack of themes on the catwalks that really raised questions. What we were given was a genderless, season-less and sex less display of menswear: a casstratrated men’s fashion week. The rumour mill was flying that LFWM will soon be merged with the women’s London Fashion Week. It’s worth noting, there were as many female models as men, so, if gender is becoming less of a differentiation, then London Fashion Week will become just that, and the two separate halves could make a whole.
Left - Alex Mullins AW19 - Girls for Boys?
If the men do return to the women, it needs to be as equals and not just a day tagged on at the end. Menswear is outgrowing womenswear, and is always seen as the less established and important sibling from brands who see ii as an add-on and not a priority. It’ll be interesting to see which brands are brave enough to give menswear equal billing.
Men’s fashion needs stereotypes to challenge, it needs boundaries to push and lines to blur, if all the lines have been erased, aren’t you just floating into nothingness? And that’s what it felt like a bit here. Menswear collections entirely shown on females models - Alex Mullins produced an entire men's show featuring only female models - more non-binary club kids dressing up in dated womenswear or six pack revealing T-shirts for the coldest months of the year: it was the male minimised.
As for gender, the whole big reveal of a chick-with-a-dick is no longer shocking, nor interesting, nor original. Art School showed a collection that didn’t look good on either gender and, Charles Jeffrey, the Uri Geller of the London scene, continued with more theatrics, but, in his defence, when the feathers stopped flying and the smoke and mirrors were turned off, the collection looked more accomplished and could hold its own alongside any other designer in-store.
This lack of focus made for a schizoid season, and it was brands like E. Tautz, which didn’t do anything particularly new, that created a pull and yearning for collections featuring something beautiful again. Bored with sports, bored with fugly, the next men’s movement will be a return to something you want to enjoy and cherish rather than Instagram and discard.
That most British thing of all, the weather, was totally missing during LFWM. It’s all about “drops”, and “Autumn/Winter” is delivered in the middle of the summer, but, before, many brands and designers would start with this idea of “Winter” or, rain, which made Burberry. That probably had something to do with bigger budgets and fancier staging. Larger and more established brands used to like to ram home the cold weather feel, already visualising the windows, and while this idea is dated, at this LFWM, many of the clothes could have been for any month, anywhere, at anytime. So, what makes it 2019?
Sex was missing too. Even the hyper masculine muscle boys at Astrid Andersen were covered up for a luxury pyjama party. It was as though men were getting ready to go into hibernation until all this woke madness blows over. Though, Per Götesson, showed T-shirts pulled up to reveal the stomach, perfect for those social media body fascists. “It’s about equal parts vanity and fragility.” he says. “Each piece is designed three dimensionally around the body. We are applying techniques perhaps more common in womenswear and couture where lines and proportions in movement are taken into consideration. The jersey pieces are developed using this process, it is about finding a balance between strength and fragility.” And, there was me just thinking it was about likes on Instagram. Back to creating a male pecking order, As soon as one thing disappears, a new line or goal is revealed to differentiate the masses: that unattainable 8-pack separating the men from the boys.
Right - Art School AW19
Fashion is about selling change and, as a designer or brand, you need to create desire for that change into what you are presenting at that moment in time. Genderless, season-less, sexless, can equal nothingness. Just please don’t make men redundant.
At the end of a tumultuous year for traditional retail, and at the start of another, which doesn’t appear to offer much respite, there’s been a distinct trend in rebranding for both luxury and high-street brands. While you’d expect them to want to stand out, it seems as though they all want to blend into one another. This homogenisation is a case of an expensive “reblanding” exercise. Rebranding means creating a different identity for a brand, from its competitors, in the market, which, in fashion, is even more important especially when you're trying to flog luxury goods and the idea of difference and individuality. This feels like the opposite.
The recent rebland list is long: Belstaff, Celine, Calvin Klein, John Lewis, Burberry, Berluti and Balmain have all gone for simple and bolded logos without any of the details and distinct serifs. Playing it safe, what these new logos and fonts say is a lack of confidence and often change for change’s sake.
Left - The recent logo "reblands"
In August, Burberry unveiled its new logo. Replacing the Burberry Equestrian Knight logo with its bespoke Bodoni font, which had been used by the clothing company since 1901, the new logo is the work of celebrated British graphic designer, Peter Saville. It’s also worth noting he rebranded Calvin Klein with a similar font when Raf Simons took over and wanted to refresh.
"The new logotype is a complete step-change, an identity that taps into the heritage of the company in a way that suggests the twenty-first-century cultural coordinates of what Burberry could be," Saville exclusively told Dezeen. Somewhat cryptic and full of marketing speak, he describes what he and Riccardo Tisci, the new Burberry Creative Director, settled on as “modern utility,” adding, “It looks like it’s been there forever, but it’s still contemporary.”
Right - Hedi's masterstroke?!
Tisci said on Instagram ‘Peter is one of our generation’s greatest design geniuses. I’m so happy to have collaborated together to reimagine the new visual language for the house.’
Burberry are in the throes of changing everything way before the new Creative Director’s impact has been proven. As his first collection hits stores to a rather muted response by the fashion press, it’ll be interesting to see how it sells, especially the items with this new logo on.
Seb Law, Fashion Copywriter & Journalist, says, “I really hate that they’ve added’ ENGLAND’ to the Burberry logo after London. As if it’s London, Texas or something.”
It “Seems like an attempt to look ‘international’ and more premium, but also it’s now becoming an established way of a new designer starting at a different house to mark the start of their chapter. Does the general consumer care about this, or is it dive behaviour? Also rebrands cause plenty of chatter in fashion circles and build publicity – see Hedi’s previous rebrand of SLP. All press is good press, apparently.” says Law.
Hedi Slimane is a designer who likes to put his mark onto a brand and in September it was announced that the French house, Celine would be, controversially, losing its accent. Law and others have been defacing the brand’s posters by returning the accent to the first e.
“For me, it’s a matter of good use of language. As a copywriter and journalist (with a degree in French), diacritics aren’t just a pretty typographic tool to be played around with at the will of a designer, they’re an integral part of the word.” says Law. “‘Celine’ and ‘Céline’ are different words, pronounced differently (‘sell-een’ and ‘say-lean’, respectively). he says.
“It’s a continuation of the cult of personality over brand, in both cases. Causing a splash, in whatever way possible, seems to be the aim of the game. With Burberry, I’m disappointed that the logo doesn’t have a more uniquely British feeling, which the old one did IMO – I do love the interlocking TB print though.” says Law. “With Céline, it’s a classic case of Hedi doing whatever he wants. Brands should be aiming to exercise their unique personalities; this uniqueness is what attracts customers and maintains a brand’s personality. Homogenisation might attract sales, at least initially, and while change is obviously necessary, and often good, these two rebrand exercises feel like they’re a bit half-arsed. They’ve succeeded at building publicity, but is that what a logo redesign should do?” he says.
Left - The new logos are all very similar
On the high-street, John Lewis, in September, rebranded as John Lewis & Partners at a reported cost of £10m. Its first rebrand in 18 years and inspired by the company's 1960s "diamond pattern" motif, John Lewis managed to not only complicate its name but also lose its trademark dark green. Opting for safe black, it was yet another example of this reblanding trend.
In an age when these brands should really be trying to expressive confidence in themselves, these boring logos show a striving for safety and an anti-criticism blandness. It’s hard to be critical and negative about something so simple, yet they aren’t memorable or standing out. These aren't utility companies. Fashion’s current love of the sans-serif is definitely missing something.
While the dust continues to settle on the hoo-ha regarding Burberry burning product - who have, miraculously, stopped burning product, BTW - the whole thing is a reminder of how brands deal with waste and what they should do with it.
Brands don’t want waste. Waste costs money. It also takes time and energy to get rid of it. Waste is a sign of over ordering, and being left with a mountain of stock to dispose of. This is basically what sales are: the motivation to shift unsold stock, shoving it all out the door hoping to make some form of profit, or, at worst, cover its costs.
In an ideal world, they’d be zero waste. What if brands only made exactly what they needed? No more sales, no more outlets, no more burning. Welcome to the future.
Janice Wang, Founder & CEO of Alvanon, a fashion tech business specialising in helping brands with fit and reducing returns, says, “Our industry is blighted by oversupply. Some 60 percent of the garments we supply are sold at discount, which means we are making too much of the wrong thing.”
Left - The Sewbots are coming
Sales and discounts are hurting retailers. Not only does it negatively affect profits and margins, it also has created an environment where consumers are hooked on discounts and never want to pay full price. It’s a race to the bottom for many retailers and this is putting many out of business. At the beginning of this year, H&M announced it had a $4.3 billion pile of unsold stock. What do you do with it?
“Sales are bad for brands and retailers because they reduce margin and damage a brand's credibility. It makes people question whether products are worth the price they have paid for them.” says Petah Marian, Senior Editor, WGSN INSIGHT.
Fashion retailers are always pushing for efficiencies, but there’s a disconnect, currently, between the speed of ordering and the making to order window which many consumers will not tolerate.
“To become competitive, fashion retailers and brands need to embrace new production strategies and technologies, such as data and intelligence, robotics and digitalisation, to use customer data to provide tailored, on-demand items.” says Wang.
“A responsive supply chain enables brands to react quickly to consumer demands and changing trends. The vision is to reduce lead times from months to weeks to days or hours.” says Wang. “Consumers today live in a constantly changing world. This shapes their behaviour and expectations. They demand newness and immediacy without compromise.” she says.
Marian says, “It means less wastage of resources and also the possibility of personalising items for an individual consumer. Less wastage means a more sustainable supply chain, and people value things more when they have participated in their creation.”
Fashion is currently stuck in the past. Buyers have to guess what people will buy and in which sizes, many months in advance. It’s guesswork, and, while they have got faster and more efficient, there is huge margins for error and then you’re left dealing with your mistakes. On the other hand, you could also not make enough of something popular: missing out on full-price sales and leaving disappointed customers.
Right - The type of robots soon to be making your clothes
“Regional and localised sourcing allows retailers to be more responsive to actual customer buying behaviour.” says Wang. “Styles can even be adapted in-season and delivered to stores while consumers still want to buy them. And, at the end of the day, smaller runs of garments that sell at full-price are better than cheaper cost volume runs of garments that have to be sold at discount.” she says.
How many retailers blame the weather for having the wrong product at the wrong time when publishing their financial results? It’s also really bad for the environment.
“Eventually technology will allow us to go from producing things by the millions to producing them by the ones. Everyone is talking about customisation and there’s no doubt that will eventually happen.” says Wang. “It’s the most efficient and sustainable way of manufacturing.” she says.
“You used to go to the tailor and they would make one item for you.” says Wang. “I can visualise that you will customise one unit to order. Bespoke, customised, perfectly fitting items made just for you and only when you order them – it sounds just like a Savile Row offering, only this time it will be purchased from your smartphone.”
Fashion businesses are looking at making items ‘on-demand’, but to make these cost effective and fast we’re going to need automation. Amazon has just patented an ‘on demand’ system: making the clothes once an order has been placed, not before.
It will be robots or ‘Sewbots’, situated closer to home, which will, eventually, be making our clothes. SoftWear Automation, based in Atlanta, introduced ‘Lowry’ in 2015, a sewing robot that uses machine vision to spot and adjust to distortions in the fabric. Though initially only able to make simple products, such as bath mats, the technology is now advanced enough to make whole T-shirts and much of a pair of jeans. According to the company, it also does it far faster than a human sewing line.
SoftWear Automation’s big selling point is that one of its robotic sewing lines can replace a conventional line of 10 workers and produce about 1,142 T-shirts in an eight-hour period, compared to just 669 for the human sewing line. The robot, working under the guidance of a single human handler, can make as many shirts per hour as about 17 humans.
“Retailers will push for this when it becomes cheaper to manufacture products using robots than using offshore labour.” says Marian.
Retailers, factory owners and brands will make huge savings. It will also mean things can be made closer to home so left time and expense in travel. They’ll be no more sweatshops and the robots can run 24/7.
Currently, brands are starting to explore this new idea, but it’s still quite niche and can be more expensive. Under Armour has its new Lighthouse Project, Nike has a new partnership with Apollo Global Management and Adidas' Speed factory.
Adidas currently has a ‘Speedfactory’ in both Germany and Atlanta. The factory is completely automated, and designed to be able to speedily produce limited runs of customisable product or replenish the hottest product selling quickly during the same season. Adidas said it can get shoes to market three times faster in a Speedfactory than with traditional means and hopes the two factories can produce one million pairs of shoes a year by 2020. Adidas will continue to experiment with the Speedfactories, adding new technology and more automated processes to get to a goal of 50% of shoes made by with 'speedier' methods.
This is the future. The future will be shops as showrooms, where you order the item in your specific size and then an automated robot, closer to home, will be able to manufacturer it within an acceptable window of time. Just imagine, something will never sell out. They’ll always have your size. Your better size even. You’ll be able to order something to fit perfectly.
The brands or shops that will thrive will be those with the best ideas or styles. Consumers will be able to customise, within reason, and brands will no longer have to hold vast inventory which ties up capital and kills cashflow. Sales will be a thing of the past and the waste and environmental pollution will be reduced hugely. Clothes could also become cheaper as the labour costs are reduced.
This fashion automation is part of the forthcoming ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. It will revolutionise what we buy and how we look. The machines are definitely coming because the industry wants it.
Read more ChicGeek Comment pieces here