It doesn’t take a genius to note that now is not the ideal time to launch a new fashion business. If you are launching your new business, this season, you probably started way before this disaster of a virus appeared and it was too late not to see it through. Too much time and money has been invested to pull out. You’re not a quitter.
Left - In September, MATCHESFASHION launched its The Innovators Programme to help support young designers
It’s a bit like all those cranes on the skyline and builders finishing off their dense blocks of luxury flats. It’s too late to down tools, not finish them and get them on the market. But, fast forward six months and how many spades will still be in or breaking new ground?
There will a gaping hole of projects starting and the fashion business will have one of the largest.
The V shaped, bounce-back recession is ideal because it conserves this economic momentum and it just becomes a blip. Sadly, it’s not looking that way. There is still momentum in the market, but the longer Covid disrupts everything, momentum lessens, and the more time and energy it will take to get it all moving again. This will also make this gap even larger.
Fashion has a time lag. The time between starting and producing samples, to then show, get orders, make and then sell, and then get the revenues, is usually a long timeline. It’s a risk and nobody knows what the state of the market will be when you launch, even at the best of times. Today, many of those thinking about striking out alone and setting up their own thing will choose to put off starting well into next year when they can feel more confident about the economic landscape.
Without trade shows and fashion weeks - a vehicle to showcase to buyers - many stores and websites will reorder previous years’ product, with tweaks, from existing brands. This will only really start to show when SS21 hits the stores after Christmas and consumers will start to notice.
Fashion’s reason to be is newness, or the perception of newness, and a never ending supply of new brands and designers kept the whole industry feeling fresh and new, while established brands and giant luxury groups took most of the sales and profits.
Luxury multi-brand websites and department stores need newness to give vitality to its entire offer. It’s news, it’s buzz, it’s hype and they had it all without the financial risk. This veneer or gap needs to be filled and retailers and luxury groups are now realising that they will have to start supporting it or it won’t be there.
MATCHESFASHION has launched its year-long ‘The Innovators Programme’ designed to champion young design talent. It was built upon an existing womenswear project to include menswear and is a robust package of practical support including mentorship, preferential business terms and £1.8 million in marketing.
The programme was developed as the MATCHESFASHION team collaborated closely with designers during the Covid-19 pandemic. It became clear that many of the designers were unsure how their brands could thrive through 2020 and that practical support and ongoing commitment was required. The 12 designers are: Art School, Ahluwalia, Chopova Lowena, Stefan Cooke, Germanier, Halpern, Harris Reed, Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY, Thebe Magugu, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Bianca Saunders and Wales Bonner. Eleven of these designers were already partner brands and each designer was chosen "for having a unique and powerful DNA which is intrinsic".
“I am delighted that we have formalised our support for emerging talent, developing The Innovators into a programme that actually helps futureproof their businesses in what has been a tough year for the creative industry. I have worked with many of these designers for a long time and I am so happy that we are committing to their visionary collections in a practical, material way.” said Natalie Kingham, Buying Director at MATCHESFASHION. This group of designers will only contribute marginally to MATCHESFASHION’s group revenues, £372 million ended 31st January 2019, but they add far more to its brand as a destination for people who love fashion and a place to discover newness and the hottest design talent. This desire is insatiable and companies need this veneer of young designers and brands. A small financial outlay is worth the newness halo effect
In 2019, Liberty launched its ‘Liberty Discovers’ platform for up-and-coming talent. It supported designers by offering mentorship from the Liberty buying team and exposure opportunities via the brand’s communication platforms and access to Liberty’s two in-house product and fabric design studios, located within its Central London store.
Right - The LVMH Prize fund of €300,000 was split amongst the 8 2020 nominees
As for all the designer prizes, many decided to split the prize monies amongst the nominees due to the pandemic. The LVMH Prize finalists, Ahluwalia, Casablanca, Chopova Lowena, Nicholas Daley, Peter Do, Sindiso Khumalo, Supriya Lele and Tomo Koizumi all shared the €300,000 prize money equally. LVMH also pledged to support previous winners of the prize with a new fund, an undisclosed amount, and the six previous winners of the LVMH Karl Lagerfeld Prize.
In America, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund was renamed ‘A Common Thread’. A Common Thread has raised over $5 million of which over $2.13 million was granted to 44 businesses in the first round of funding, $2.015 million granted to 37 businesses in the second round of funding and $500,000 granted to 47 NYC-based manufacturing businesses in the third round of funding for a total of 128 recipients across the three rounds.
Fashion’s tight production timetable and traditional cashflow model makes it very difficult for small designers and brands to survive. While the giant brands and retailers want to dominate, they also want a veneer of choice and newness. Expect to see many more funds, support and ‘prizes’ to appear from the large luxury groups and retailers.
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Hawaii is the spiritual home of the tropical floral shirt, so, say ‘Aloha’ to Reyn Spooner.
Reynolds (Reyn) McCullough returned home to Catalina Island, California after serving in WWII. He was inspired to explore his natural connection to that easygoing Cali style, at first as a shop clerk at the local men’s shop, then as the owner of Reyn’s Men’s Wear, soon running six popular stores across the state.
Meanwhile, in 1956, Ruth Spooner had opened Spooner's of Waikiki and quickly built a reputation in Hawaii for manufacturing quality surf trunks working with just one sewing machine.
When Reyn opened his first shop in Honolulu, he didn’t sell Aloha shirts. The shirts being produced at the time just didn’t meet Reyn and Ruth’s standards for style and construction, and it wasn’t until after a local surfer showed Reyn an inside-out sewing method championed by locals, that the dream took shape.
Left - Deep Sea Jive Tailored Buttonfront - Black Onyx - £130
In 1962, McCullough teamed up with Ruth Spooner to ensure consistent quality and decided to merge the two company names to create Reyn Spooner in Honolulu. He then set up four sewing machines in the basement of his Ala Moana store to create ‘Aloha Apparel’.
Developed by founder, Reyn McCullough, Spooner KlothTM is a unique woven cloth made of cotton and spun poly that’s amazingly durable, wrinkly-free and breathable.
Reyn Spooner is now owned by ‘Aloha Brands’, representing a group of investors, led by Charlie Baxter and Dave Abrams.
The brand is available at Liberty of London and The Hip Store.
Right - Kainapu Rayon Camp Shirt - Crocodile - £160
London, Tolworth, Gypsy Hill; not exactly a roll call of the world’s fashion capitals, but a glimpse into a brand’s proud roots. ‘Stain Shade’ is leading the charge of tie-dye returning to our wardrobes. Also know as, James Brackenbury, 31, Stain Shade was mobbed at the recent CIFF AW20 fashion trade show in Copenhagen with people who couldn’t get enough of his hand tie-dyed T-shirts and hoodies. I thought I’d find out more from the UK's new king of tie-dye. Will the real Stain Shade please stand up?:
:eft - James from Stain Shade at CIFF, Copenhagen, 2020
CG: Where are you based? From originally?
SS: I live with my wife in Gipsy Hill, but I grew up in Surbiton/Tolworth in South West London. This is where my mum still lives and her house is the base of the Stain Shade operations.
CG: What is your background?
SS:I studied contemporary art in Leeds then moved to London and worked for Vivienne Westwood on the wholesale side of things. I continued to work in the fashion wholesale world after that, and continue to do so, along side running Stain Shade.
CG: Are you doing this full time?
SS: Yes, amongst other things, some consultancy etc.
CG: Tell me more about Stain Shade. Where is the name from? When did it all start?
SS: I was always interested in hand dyeing, tie dyeing and was always on the lookout for good vintage tie dye stuff. One day I ordered a kid’s tie dye kit off amazon and did a few bits, some tees and a pair of jeans if I remember correctly. I posted a picture of the tee on my personal Instagram and a few people were asking me where it was from.
This lead to discussions with the guys at LN-CC and the subsequent launch of Stain Shade. We did a few tees and some hoodies for them. I didn't have a name for it and basically tried to think of synonyms for 'dye' or 'dyeing' and Stain Shade was the result. I drew the logo and then got some woven neck labels ordered, set up an Instagram etc and we were good to go.
Left - James' mum's house in Tolwroth is the production centre
CG: Where does Tolworth come into all this?
SS: Like I mentioned before, this where everything gets dyed, in my mum’s back garden in Tolworth. It's where I grew up, and, fortunately, my mum has a space there which I can use, she's involved as well and helps me on all the dyeing side of things.
CG: Where are the base clothing items from?
SS: It varies, depends on what the store/brand/client wants really. I can do organic ethically sourced blanks or can do more price sensitive mass produced options.
CG: Where can you buy it? What type of pieces do you produce?
SS: We have worked with retailers like Selfridges, Browns, LN-CC, Liberty, Bloomingdales, Lantiki etc. There are plans to work with all of these guys again some sooner than others. Some retailers do still have Stain Shade in stock but you can always contact us directly for custom items.
CG: How can you tell the difference between good and bad tie-dye?
SS: I think it's down to personal taste. One thing you do see a lot of though is printed tie dye, where the manufacturer was just printed the pattern all over the item and not dyed it. You can normally tell if this is the case if the reverse of the garment is still the original colour.
Right - Stain Shade in Selfridges
CG: Why do you think tie-dye has/is becoming such a big trend atm?
SS: I think its always bubbling in the background and I think that good tie dye/hand dyeing will always have a place in popular fashion. It just so happens that it's having a moment these past few seasons and I think there will be at least another summer where it's at the forefront.
Left - The Stain Shade production line
CG: What are your future plans?
SS: I am looking at different ways of working that don't necessarily exist in the conventional fashion wholesale environment. I am trying to do more collaborations and special project work on shorter lead times rather than the traditional order it and receive it 6 months later system. As a set up, we are designed to be very reactive and can get stuff done quickly so we can be more responsive to customer or retailer needs.
CG: What would you say to those who think tie-dye is just for hippies or ravers?
SS: I’d say if there isn't a part of you that is a bit 'hippie' or 'raver' then something is wrong.
See TheChicGeek's picks of SS20 menswear tie-dye - HERE
BUY TheChicGeek's new book - FASHIONWANKERS - HERE
Between the ‘loungewear’ emails and the ‘we-give-a-shit-please-buy-something’ emails, some brands have been hoping to offset some of the losses of physical retail with online. Online has the potential to be many brands’ life support machines; keeping some form of cash flow ticking over and the lights on.
Left - Net-a-Porter has closed its American website & warehouse
Dixons Carphone has said sales surged by more than 70% as Britons rushed to buy laptops, games consoles and freezers to cope with the coronavirus outbreak. Online sales in the UK and Ireland surged 72% in the three weeks to 21 March.
“There will be some recovery through online operations but overall the loss of sales will adversely impact our full-year profitability and cash position,” it said. The group said as a result it would still miss out on about £400m of sales between now and the end of its financial year in April.
Fashion has a lot less ‘need’ and as such will be harder hit. Fashion brands have huge amounts of stock sitting in stores, not going anywhere anytime soon. These shops have now become in-town warehouses, but they still need manning and this has become a problem for some brands. Many consumers seem to think that online and offline is separated, robotically picked and magically appears on their doorstep.
The family owned department store chain, Fenwicks said in a statement: "Our people, both employees and customers alike, are at the heart of our business... Therefore, we have taken the decision to temporarily close our website as well as our stores, to ensure the safety of our teams and customers.” Fenwicks only went online in 2017 and pick the items from in-store stock.
Schuh, the footwear retailer, too has closed its website. Chief executive Colin Temple said: “At this point in time, the UK government guidelines include that online retail should ‘still open’ and ‘is encouraged’ along with advice that if staff cannot reasonably work from home, they should continue to go into work.
“However, with the Schuh head office and DC operations based in Scotland and Scottish Government advice conflicting with UK government advice, Schuh management have made the decision to close their website, in addition to their stores that already closed from the evening of Sunday 22 March.”
He added: “A number of DC staff continue to indicate that they want to work within the warehouse to support the Schuh online business, along with other departmental employees offering their support also. However, Schuh management have confirmed that the website and stores will remain closed until there is updated UK and Scottish government advice.”
No doubt demand has fallen overall with many people tightening their expenditure and only buying what they need. But, what about the exclusively online retailers? Most surprising is Net-a-Porter/Mr Porter has closed its American business. Customers visiting the US site are now met with a message that reads: “In line with local government guidelines, and for the health and safety of our community, we have temporarily closed our warehouse. We hope you are all staying safe and look forward to welcoming you back soon.”
This is a nightmare for fashion brands selling products with a shelf life. The discounts have already started, and they’re big, Liberty of London went straight in with 50% off. Some retailers are doing okay at online, but even the best figures won’t replace physical retail, representing a 20/80 split between online and offline. To shift all this stock they will need to discount heavy, eating into profit margins, and consumers, used to a never-ending supply of ‘Just In’ will have to adjust to a new shopping landscape with less choice.
Update - Next, River Island & Moss Bros have announced their websites will close.
BUY TheChicGeek's new book - FASHIONWANKERS - HERE
I saw these this time last year at the Revolver Trade Show in Copenhagen, and I made a desired mental note to watch out for them. I clearly forgot… So again, I saw the same shirts just last week, at the same fair, and they still look just as good. It turns out they’re a best seller having already sold out in Liberty.
These thick towelling summer shirts are almost a shacket and perfect for straight out of the water. The OAS brand is named after the Swedish founder, Oliver Adam Sebastian, and was born as a result of his numerous trips to the family’s summer house in Barcelona.
These are currently sold out, but Oliver informs me they’re going to be delivered in October and you can register on the website to be notified.
It looks like we’re already planning summer 2020 or a maybe perfect excuse for a winter sun break?
Left - OAS - Banana Leaf Terry Shirt - €99.90
Below - OAS - Palmy Terry Shirt - €99.90
Whenever I see film of the Beatles, it’s the latter years and their last performance on the top of their offices on Savile Row that really inspires me sartorially.
Ringo in his red PVC coat, drumming away, is a sight for sore eyes. This colourful, playful and experimental period of menswear is back for those of us brave enough. I still dream after this Tom Ford psychedelic shirt - here
Available now, this “Prospect Road” print from Liberty of London dates from 1968, just one year before that final Beatles rooftop gig. It’s bold, but shows a confidence and a Lucy-In-The-Sky dreamlike quality.
TheChicGeek says, “I would wear with a dark suit and plain knitted tie.”
The Venice-based Barena is one of those brands that wasn’t made for the internet. It doesn’t shout ‘look at me’ and it’s hard to get across, online, the quality and tactile nature of the garments. This is true made-in-Italy quality and design without paying extortionate prices for the name.
Faux fur, fun fur, sheepskins and and generally anything furry or shaggy is very fashionable in both men’s and womenswear at the moment. I noticed this jacket the other day in Liberty, but couldn’t find it on their website. It’s really cute and the perfect length of shagpile. This, being in a cropped jacket shape, feels different and is perfect for this transition period of cool mornings and evenings. Add a rollneck and it’ll take you all the way into winter.
Left & Below - Barena - Lightweight Teddy Jacket - £338 from Farfetch
With collaborations as common as the cold it’s become hard to generate the excitement that those previous big reveals had. Swedish mega-retailer, H&M, has just announced, much later than usual BTW, their collaboration with British-based, Canadian designer, Erdem.
This is a coup for Erdem, as, apart from amongst fashion circles, few know the label and hardly any men, as they don’t do menswear. Known for long Valentino like dresses in intricate florals, it ticks the box nicely for H&M to do something Gucci-like and is a switch up from the previous year’s Kenzo collection.
This will clearly be riding the Gucci maximalist wave, but I’m hoping it’s more Laura Ashley/Liberty of London/House of Hackney men’s than a straight copy of Gucci. The patterned silk pyjama set seen in the video - below - looks very Gucci, but let’s hope there’s some freshness in the other pieces.
Erdem’s full name is Erdem Moralioglu and he's never designed menswear before. Here’s what he said about designing men’s, “I found it a real joy,” says Erdem. “It’s really about looking at a wardrobe of pieces, and focusing on the exact design details. There has to be an easiness to menswear, and a sense of reality. I’m so happy with it, and I think so many women are going to love the men’s collection too.”
The ideas behind the collection sounds like an eccentric, British mixed bag of references. “The collection reinterprets some of the codes that have defined my work over the past decade”, shares the designer. “It’s also inspired by much of my youth, from the English films, 90’s TV shows and music videos I grew up watching to memories of the style that defined members of my family. Taking from these inspirations I imagined a group of characters and friends off to the English countryside for the weekend. There’s a real play in the collection between something decidedly dressed-up and equally effortless”, he says.
I think this collection will have a niche market and maybe they won’t make the volumes or have the number of stores stocking it like in previous years. But, I’m actually excited about this one as this feels to be catering for the lovers of fashion rather than labels. Hits stores November 2nd.
Beirut based, IDEO Parfumeurs, takes inspiration from 1930s Morocco and Egypt with their new fragrance, Tarbouch Afandi. The name refers to a traditional gentleman's hat - the 'Tarbouch' - while 'Afandi' means both mandarin - a central note in the fragrance - but also the respectful 'Sir'!
Notes include green mandarin, pine, peppermint, honeyed tobacco and Lebanese cedarwood.
TheChicGeek says, ”I’d not heard of IDEO before, but if this is anything to go by then they are using the best ingredients in an interesting way. What makes this stand out is the animalic notes. Parfumeurs often stay clear of these musky and sexual ingredients as they can often have that primitive reaction of warning you off.
What hits you first is wet violet leaves which quickly dries to form a warm animalic scent. It's a bit like smelling a fresh fur coat, you can smell the fur and the heat from the body of the animal, but with a freshness. the mandarin, that stops it from being too much. This goes as far as many want to go with this fragrance family, but if you want more and you're a fan of a sweaty arse crack then you’ll probably love this - here
It is perfect for this time of year: it stays with you, but doesn't become annoying or dirty. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the packaging. It’s a bit generic for something as interesting as this.”
Left - IDEO Parfumeurs - Tarbouch Afandi - 100ml - £140 Exclusive to Liberty of London
One part David Bowie, one part Alessandro Michele's Gucci, Peacock Geek is the new expression in menswear. Exotic, flamboyant, colourful: it's a whole geek world of adjectives.
It references the past while looking boldly to the future. Be brave, more is definitely more.
It's time to experiment. Get involved #PeacockGeek
Credits - Jacket - Moss Bros, Earring (Used as brooch) - River Island, Shirt - Moss Bros, T-Shirt - ASOS, Bomber Jacket - Scotch & Soda, Watch - Maurice Lacroix, Socks - Item m6, Sandals - Jones Bootmaker, Sunglasses - Sunday Somewhere, Cummerbund - Liberty of London fabric, Beard Balm - The Great British Grooming Co., MAX LS Power V Lifting Lotion - Lab Series
More images below