As London’s men’s fashion week gets ever smaller it becomes even harder for designers to make an impact. The four day event is really only two days with a mix of established brands and young designers trying to pad out the schedule. Like a Summer pond retreating, due to lack of rain (funding), with LFWM's decreasing pull the audiences are smaller and less important. Under this handicap, designers have a few short minutes to grab people's attention and resonate further outside of the room. When you look at the expense, you do wonder why anybody is crazy enough to do it, but that’s what makes you love the ‘art’ of fashion even more. LFWM is as much about getting together and looking at each other as it is about trends and looking forward. It’s not really even about selling clothes anymore, it’s like a social event or festival.
Left - RCA Graduates Gráinne Walley, Right - Clara Chu
On London Fashion Week Men’s opening night, the Royal College of Art graduates held a show called ‘All at Once’. The 50 MA graduates each had one look each which gradually rotated around the room. Held at a new retail development on Cork Street in Mayfair, this new way of showing ever increasing volumes of students makes it increasingly hard to see a story in people’s ideas or only gives them one chance to grab your attention. They were saying it was a reflection of the cost it takes for students to produce these collections and, possibly, a reflection of the times of not making huge amounts of stuff with one student offering ‘Extinction Rebellion’ as a reason for not producing anything physical at all.
It’s a tough task to show this amount of students in a realistic amount of time, but it might be better to possibly break them up and give them 5 looks to show in differing categories. Unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the more stuff you produce, the more opportunity you have to mentally sell something to somebody. Desire triggers people sharing and buying things. Noted highlights were Irish graduate Gráinne Walley’s Game of Thrones type armour and Clara Chu’s food inspired accessories.
For the remainder of the fashion week, the front rows were still sprinkled with Burberry check and Balenciaga Triple S trainers, all seen this time last year, and a sign of the lack of hit replacements even though fashion giants continue to churn out incredible amounts of product and ideas.
Here are some brief highlights of LFWM SS20:
This South Korean label, established in 2013, and with creative direction by Hyun-Min Han, made its London catwalk debut. An alumni of Wooyoungmi, Han showed a sophisticated collection mixing pinstripe tailoring and sportswear with flourishes of ruching and ruffles with a finale of models all wearing branded Münn suit bags.
Following her first collection as part of Fashion East, last season, the Dublin-born returned with more of her stylish normcore. This time it was summer towelling mixed with traditional Irish knits and sports fabrics in her mono-coloured looks which are fast becoming her signature.
Nicholas Daley gave LFWM a tribal jazz happening in a 18th century church in the City of London. The ‘Sons Of Kemet’ band dressed in a warm, bold checks made from British fabrics created a crescendo of music and that quickly fell into a party atmosphere with looks referencing his Jamaican heritage.
McQueen came back to London town with its usual exquisite tailoring and its fashion as art raison d’être. As well as the all ultra smart evening wear, there was watercolour symmetry prints and bold fuchsia pink florals in the charming surroundings of the C1348 Charterhouse in Farringdon. I just wish McQueen’s accessorises were as elegant as the clothes. Those chunky trainers and boots just don’t sit right and aren’t the best of their type.
Hussein Chalayan celebrated 25 years with a walk on the street near his store in Mayfair. Lucky with the weather, and with the backdrop of a textured stone wall clean striped shirting - something that continues to look fresh - in simple shapes and a minimal palette was a reminder of this experienced technician of a designer.
For the past few seasons Lou Dalton’s collections have been dominated by her collaborations with British fine knit manufacturer, John Smedley. This season, she returned to a fuller offer with outerwear, shirting, tailoring and, of course, knitwear, but this time in fine rugby shapes, in a collection of easy and stylish clothes which don’t scream ‘designer’. A return to beautiful things?
Flaming June made her appearance as Jermyn Street was transformed into a blazing celebration of men’s style. The festival spirit took over the Mayfair thoroughfare as the usual hum of traffic was replaced by the buzz of a catwalk space and a handpicked selection of British food and drink vendors.
The third open air catwalk show from St James’s London showcased the best of the current season from retailers within the St James’s area. Key pieces from contemporary brands Paul & Shark and Norwegian Rain were mixed with heritage favourites such as New & Lingwood and Turnbull & Asser. Styled by Grace Gilfeather, Fashion Editor at GQ, it ran the full wardrobe gamut from formal to holiday.
I took my place on the front row and saw the updating of timeless British style using knitwear from JohnSmedley, luxury basics from Sunspel and key outerwear styles. Reimagined for the 21st century gentleman, while rooted in the foundations of St James’s which has drawn men’s shoppers for centuries, this showcase was a timely reminder how very relevant and important this part of London is to the British menswear industry.
Fashionistos, clear your diary! As we stand on the eve of the new SS18 men’s show season be part of the excitement of London Fashion Week Men’s - LFWM - thanks to St James’s. Join TheChicGeek on Saturday, June 10th, as Jermyn Street is transformed into an al fresco catwalk.
The centre for London’s menswear for centuries, the St James’s area is steeped in history while still being one of the best contemporary men’s shopping areas in the world. Combine an afternoon of shopping with an inspirational see-now-buy-now catwalk show featuring some of the best British brands including Turnbull & Asser, John Smedley, Lock & Co and John Lobb as well as contemporary, newly arrived names including Paul & Shark, Jigsaw, Sunspel and Barbour International.
The two shows are at 1.30pm and 3.00pm and the tickets are free. You just need to register - here What are you waiting for? See you there!
Nearest Tube - Piccadilly Circus
Left & Right - Previous St James's presentations featuring the men's retailers within this prestigious area of Mayfair
If you can’t make either of the shows visitors will be able to drop into the shops of St James’s for a variety of special in-store activities such as a shirt cutting demonstration from a Master Shirt Cutter at Harvie & Hudson and complementary wet shaves at world renowned perfumery Floris. Jermyn Street will also play host to some of London’s best street food retailers all offering a bespoke St James’s menu, making sure the day will be a feast for all the senses.
If you’re not overly familiar with the name ‘Miansai’, you’ve probably seen one of their most famous designs without knowing it. A coloured nautical cord bracelet with a metallic fish hook or anchor detailing was, a few years ago, as ubiquitous as Stan Smiths and skinny jeans.
It was one of the few jewellery designs and brands that managed to cut through to the mainstream while still being desirable for guys to wear on their wrists. It was a sweet spot of pricing and branding that made it something that wasn’t throwaway, yet was affordable enough to be worn carefree.
Left - Michael Saiger Founder & Creative Director of Miansai, TheChicGeek wears Harrington Jacket - Grenfell, Cardigan - Pretty Green X John Smedley, T-Shirt - Vintage Helmut Lang, Tracksuit Trousers - adidas from ASOS, Trainers - Diadora Made in Italy
I caught up with the founder, Michael Saiger, in London, to find out how he achieved something that is so difficult, today, and see what’s next for Miansai:
Originally from New York, Michael Andrew Saiger - it’s the MI-AN-SAI of his name that gives the brand its name, “All the domains were taken until I circled these parts of my name. Everybody thought it was asian, but it’s not”, he says, is dressed in a simple sweater and chinos and surrounded by the salon style hanging of the Berners Tavern restaurant.
Michael’s attention to detail can be seen by his perfectly manicured beard and not a hair out of place on his head. “I put my handprint on everything I do. I’m OCD, I’m obsessive”, he says.
How did he get started and where did his eye come from? “My mum has an antique store, she’s an interior decorator and I grew up around estate sales my whole life. So, then when I went to the University of Miami and I started making some bracelets. This was 2007,” says Michael.
“I was looking for a bracelet and there was nothing out there. So, I started making bracelets for myself and then I would take these World War II pendants and medallions that I would find at estate sales and make them into necklaces. All my friends really loved it and wanted them.
“I took them to the concept store, Base, in Miami. They were like, ‘oh yeah, we love this stuff’. This was right before I went on holiday for the summer, and when I went back after, they said they’d sold out in like a week or two,”
Right - This bracelet design has done the difficult thing of being common while still looking fresh and has become something of a men's classic - Miansai - Anchor Cord Silver-Plated Wrap Bracelet - £55 from MRPORTER
The company started officially in 2008 and, then, the product that catapulted Miansai onto the wrists of men worldwide was born. “I took all that money and bought various machines, equipment, everything, so, then me and one of my best friends had a 300 sq ft work studio and we started making everything and selling to some of the best boutiques around the US.
“After that and I graduated - the degree was in marketing - we were bursting out, so we found a 10,000 sq ft warehouse, and built it out and set up our whole manufacturing operation. Then, I started taking our nautical rope and, at the time, nobody used nautical rope for anything unless you went to a summer camp and had a little tie-on bracelet.
“We launched in 2009, in Barney’s & Bergdorf’s ,and then GQ featured one of our rope bracelets. I started using the rope in 2008, but the hook and anchor came in 2009. I didn't want to launch it until I knew I had manufacturing, as I knew it would be very popular. I didn't want to come out with a product and not be able to deliver it.
“We were the first to do anything like this with price points between $55 to $500. It had to be for a 15 year old, it had to be for a 70 year old, it had to be for a 20 year old: anyone and everyone.
Asked how many he thinks he’s sold of his signature product, we quickly discredit the hundreds of thousands and move into the millions. Next came his own retail outlets. “In 2012, we started a mobile retail unit, an old vintage airstream. In 2013, we opened a store in New York, Soho, and we've just opened another store in Venice Beach in LA".
Michael understands the future of retail and that traditional bricks and mortar US retail is suffering. “Retailers are hurting, especially in the US, with everybody shopping online. We have our food delivered, we, literally, don't got to the store, at all. The industry is changing”.
How do you see your stores then? “It’s more about experiential retail. I built our two stores to be galleries. I didn’t want jewellery fixtures, I designed furniture to house jewellery. It feels like a furniture store inside. That’s the future of retail,”.
Left - Miansai - Harbour Rucksack Tobacco Leather - £506.35 This was the bag Michael was carrying in London. He says the bags are made in the same factories as Prada, using the same leather as Louis Vuitton
He cites Aesop as a brand he admires. He’s coy about naming anybody that touches on his accessorises world, but he’s clearly an admire of good design.
He knows that he needs to go to where the consumers are, so he’s launching 5 more mobile units of classically restored Airstreams, Piaggio's and a Fiat at various locations such as JFK, LAX, Soho House Malibu and Newport, Rhode Island. He says it’s all about, “High traffic in an authentic way without selling out,”.
The brand has just expanded into leather bags and fine jewellery. “We launched leather bags: Italian leather, all cut and sewn in Turkey. We use some of the same factories as Prada and the some of the same leather as Louis Vuitton. I always collected bags from my estate sale days and knew what I wanted in a bag”.
As for the fine jewellery. It’s not currently available in the UK, but how does that fit in? “It’s marketed to women, but anyone can wear it,” he says, “For first 5 year’s of the brand, I never said whether it was men’s or women’s,". Is it made by your? "We do make some of the solid gold jewellery ourselves and some of the fine jewellery with the Pavé diamonds, we also work with a very high end factory in Thailand”.
Right - Arduin Cuff Bracelet, 14K Gold/Pave - £2978.54
What advice can he give to men with regards to wearing jewellery? “Keep it simple. Keep it to two pieces, unless you have a thin bracelet. For me, personally, I never wear more that two bracelets and a watch”.
So, what’s next for Miansai? “I definitely want to stay in the accessories realm, I don't want to go into ready-to-wear. We have a very good niche and I’d like to stay there”.
Michael currently has 55 employees, he doesn’t disclose his turnover, but if he’s shifting £60 bracelets by the million, then it’s going to be pretty high. He obviously knows his market and exactly how to expose his brand without it feeling like it is everywear, devaluing it and worst of all, millennials I'm looking at you here, boredom kicks in.
To sell millions of the same bracelet yet retain its desirability is a skill many retailers or brands would love to know. I don’t think it’ll be long before we see a converted vintage van - how about a Morris Traveller? That’s very British - at Wilderness or one of those more monied festivals emblazoned with ‘Miansai’ on the side.
We’re going to take our warm weather inspiration from Michael Fassbender, today. This is how you want your polo shirt to look this summer. Of course, it helps if you have the body, but a knitted polo shirt with stretch will compliment most body types.
You want it to cling in the right places, so the chest and arms, so go for something fitted, but not too tight. The high-street are doing some great knitted polos at affordable prices or opt for something pricier in a bold colour. Go for a fine knit wool, even in summer, or a silk mix.
Left - Michael Fassbender at SXSW showing us how something so simple can look so good
Here are TheChicGeek’s favourites of the season:
Left - William Lockie for L+M Ecru Fine Knit Cotton Polo - £43 from Trouva
Left - Pretty Green - Stone Fortrose Knitted Polo - £65
Left - Prada - Slim-Fit Jacquard-Knit Wool Polo Shirt - £545 from MRPORTER.COM
Below - Reiss 'Manor' Merino Wool Polo Shirt - £75
Left - Fred Perry - Tipped Knitted Shirt - £70
Left - ASOS - Knitted Short Sleeve Textured Polo In Muscle Fit - £20
Below - River Island - Ecru Knitted Polo Shirt - £20
Left - Pretty Green X John Smedley - Chartham - £135
Left - H&M - Silk-Blend Polo Shirt - £24.99
Below - Peter Werth - SS17
Maybe it’s in homage to the latest Oasis documentary, but the roll-with-it thin-knit roll neck is the default easy menswear knitwear trend of the season. (That was quite a mouthful, or in this case, a neck full).
I'm not sure whether Liam or Noel would do a louche jewel-coloured rollneck with contrasting velvet jacket, but I'm sure they'll agree that it looks pretty good. Go for something fine, maybe a Merino wool or cashmere silk mix, if your budget allows for it. Look for golds, reds, pinks or oatmeal and team with a contrasting jacket like in Tom Ford's latest advertising campaign. This is easy, but cool dressing. Trust me, between now and next summer, you'll reach for the reliable rollneck and it'll leave you feeling supersonic!
Left - Tom Ford - Classic Cashmere Turtleneck - $1290
Left - John Smedley - Connell Deep Claret - £145
Below - Hymn - Maximum Roll Neck Burgundy - £50 From John Lewis
Left - Gucci - Cashmere Turtleneck - £485
Left - River Island - Light Brown Ribbed Roll Neck Jumper - £25
Left - Topman Premium - Pink Roll Neck Jumper - £35
Nothing says ‘London’ or ‘Business’ quite like pinstripes. This classic tailoring material is having a renaissance, right now, in new slimmer shapes and contemporary cuts.
On my daily pilgrimage to ChicGeek Towers, every sartorial i is dotted and t crossed before I leave the house. Today, I've opted for a bespoke grey Loro Piana made bespoke by Kingdom and teamed this with a pop of brightly coloured merino knitwear. The rest is classic London - bowler hat, monk strap shoes and briefcase. And, TheChicGeek's blogging day begin...
Credits – Suit – Kingdom, Suit Pin – Alice Made This, Knitted Polo – John Smedley, Watch – Omega 'De Ville Prestige Power Reserve', Bowler Hat – Hackett, Shoes – Russell & Bromley, Umbrella – Aramis, Pocket Square – Atelier Scotch, Socks – Ede & Ravenscroft, Briefcase – Swaine Adeney Brigg at MR PORTER.COM
Shot by Robin Forster
With thanks to Rocket Gallery
John Smedley shows us how to care for your knitwear.
Quality comes at a certain price, but does not necessarily need to be preciously treated. With a degree of care and attention all John Smedley (Look at the care instructions on other knitwear brands)garments can be machine washed and will continue to look good and last well for many years to come.Top tips for John Smedley's merino wool knitwear:
1.Remove surface soiling by gentle brushing, this will help the stain later on.
Treat stains immediately with cold water, blot dry with a clean cloth - never paper.
3. Air wool after wearing by laying the garment flat , as this helps to get rid of odours.
4. Always try to store lightweight wool folded and allow breathing space.
5. Clean your garments before storing, the dreaded moths, seemingly love top quality fibres, but they are actually feeding off the body oils and dirt, not the actual fibre. Use natural remedies to combat moth attack- the old ones are the best and smell the best- cloves, lavender, rosemary and thyme, orange peel and cedar, can all help deter the munchers. Never put these in direct contact with the knitwear, tie them in a gauze bag and hang in your cupboard or wardrobe. It is worth noting that as we have ditched our carpets in favour of floor boards, the moths no longer have carpets to attack, so are more inclined towards your clothes.
6. Try to rest your wool garment between wearing, (if you can bear to!), 24 hours allows the natural fibres to spring back and preserve its natural resilience.
7. Turn the garment inside out to protect the outer surface.
8. 30 degrees C is all you need on a reduced cycle. Merino wool has natural self cleaning properties, so you don't have to wash so often and all of this in turn helps the environment.
9. Use a mild, non-biological detergent. Biological enzymes eat away the natural fibres, causing long term damage.
10. Dry flat, or I prefer a good line dry on a windy day, the fibre almost returns to its natural habitat!
11. Gentle, warm iron with steam should just return the shape- though again straight from the washing line no ironing is necessary.
John Smedley's Sea Island Cotton needs less precautions. A beautiful, long fibre staple length, with a luxurious handle can be machine washed.
As we dye all of our colours at the mill in Derbyshire, the colours stay true and fixed. Still wash dark and lights separately, keep the temperatures low and never hang black and dark colours on the washing line in bright sunshine. Natural sunshine is the best natural bleaching agent- so perfect to keep your whites white!
For stain s and soiling, cold soak prior to washing. This loosens the dirt and prevents it fixing permanently with hot water.
A British Insititution, John Smedley has been manufacturing the finest knitwear since 1784. Still proudly Made in England at their factory at Lea Mills in Matlock, Derbyshire, the family owned company today, exports to over 35 countries worldwide.
The body panels and sleeves of the wool and cotton garments are linked together by hand, stitch for stitch, to create the impeccable neat seams which remain one of the hallmarks of real luxury knitwear.
After knitting, the garments are scoured or washed using water from John Smedley's three springs - this is a crucial stage in the manufacturing process giving the garments their characteristic 'soft handle'. Additional processes render the garments shrink resistant and machine washable, a unique feature considering such delicate techniques are applied.