Britain recently lost one of its retail and design kings, Sir Terence Conran, who was famed for his love of cobalt blue. From his shirts to his socks, this knight loved his French blue workwear or 'bleu de travail’. He actually has his own blue called Pantone 072 C, aka Conran Blue.
It help you celebrate this giant of British style, Drake’s has a thick suede ‘Chore’ jacket in this striking blue primary. Made in Italy with horn buttons, it also has a touch of the Hockney’s about it, which I’m sure Terence would have appreciated even more. Wearing this will never be a chore.
Left & Below - Drake’s - Chore Jacket - £1195
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Firmly established as London’s main menswear trade show, Jacket Required offers a chance, midway through the main buying season, to gauge the health of wholesale. While noticeably quiet on the first day - it could be the heatwave - brands were reporting a case of quality over quantity when it came to visitors and buyers. Here’s what caught the eye at Jacket Required for SS20:
Introducing menswear for the first time, Collectif, is a specialist in new vintage. Established over 19 years ago, with its origins in Camden, and now with 3 shops in London and 1 in Brighton, Collectif is offering authentic rockabilly menswear looks inspired by the 60s and 70s. Mod style knits and rocker leather jackets come in affordable price points like polo shirts for £39 and a checked wide collar shacket for £50.
While the name doesn’t mean anything specifically, UPDFG is based in Milan and is a made in Italy skate-wear label.
Founder Adam Boita was doing some research into his family name and found that Boita comes from Piedmont in the northern Italy. The ‘boita’ is a kind of box used in agriculture to spray the vines and orchards in Italy. Inspired by this, the product comes in eco-conscious ‘vegan friendly’ leather, made in China, will full provenance, retailing for £249.
After a soft launch, last year, YSC - Your Sample Collective - is a new British menswear brand of British Caribbean origins reflecting the everyman with a quality that would comfortable sit in a luxury department store, but without the price tag. New for SS20 is Portuguese seersucker and an easy to wear hybrid bomber with contrasting back panel all made in London.
Never under estimate novelty in today’s fashion landscape. Aviation 88 takes the classic flight jacket and turns it into a generous back pack for £150. Top Gun!
Atlanta Mocassin is a Portuguese-based footwear label established in 1987 specialising in moccasin type slip-ons. Hoping to push their men’s styles into the UK market for the first time, these are locally handmade in the north of Portugal use the finest materials in car shoe and casual loafer styles. Prices around £130.
With CBD being the flavour of the month in nutrition and beauty, it was inevitable that hemp would start to become more common as a resource for clothing. Australian label, Afends, says “no tree or plant species on earth has the commercial, economic, and environmental potential of hemp.” They want you to join their ‘Hemp Revolution’ in their loose basic styles, all proudly displaying their hemp origins.
R.M. WILLIAMS x MARC NEWSON
Australian made Chelsea boot specialist, R.M. Williams has teamed up with product designer, Marc Newson, on a pair of contemporary boots in a full range of colours. Retailing for an entry price of £275, they have the back tug ingeniously knitted into the side elastic.
A Sheffield based footwear manufacturer has launched its own brand of luxury trainers under the family name, Goral. Handmade with 200 manufacturing steps, the standout is the ‘Boulsover’ in Dunlop green.
FROM THE FIRST
Based around the fashion Chelsea boot, From The First, is a British brand making in Italy. Built on the concept of combining classic Italian traditions, whilst celebrating the authentic, laid back feel of early American rock ‘n’ roll culture, these boots could easily be double the price with a designer name attached. Retailing for around £400.
After a 12 year hiatus, Mephisto relaunches the ‘Jumper’ in a wide rainbow of colours. All made by hand with natural materials in that solid Mephisto way.
With Italy tip-toeing in and out of recession, Pitti Uomo felt a little skittish on confidence. It had an atmosphere of brands holding on by their finger nails, with many hoping for a strong SS20 season to help pull them through.
Sadly, it’s the quality makers who seem most susceptible to failure. Their high costs, lower margins and small quantities make it a difficult balancing act to continue to stay strong and produce quality product in Italy. These are the brands who are barely known yet sing through the quality on the hanger and all at a fair price. Today, you rarely get this kind of care and attention with a designer name. Here are five made-in-Italy menswear makers we should all be supporting:
Left - Pitti Uomo 96 soaking up the sunshine
Founded in 1957 by current creative director Guido Biondi’s grandfather as ‘7 Bell S.p.A’, a Tuscan atelier, it was the very first producer of Italian denim. Today, they make colourful and contemporary menswear instilled with the best made-in-Italy production.
Right - President's - For the SS20 season, there were bold minimal orange jackets, tie-dyed shirting and hand sketched T-shirts
Based in Venice, Barena, the Italian for ‘mudflat’, has been steadily making inroads into the UK with its stylish and original menswear. Inspired by the Venetian lagoon, Barena says it mimics the qualities of traditional workwear with a modern aesthetic. Loose shapes, quiet precise tailoring, exquisite fabrics, attention to detail and confident versatility are the pillars of their design philosophy.
The menswear designer is Massimo Pigozzo who has been with the Barena family for over twenty years. Trained as a tailor, for Pigozzo it is important to create designs that are simple, understated and easy to wear. Deep fabric research, pattern work and soft tailoring are key to his approach and he says it is not about reproductions or constant alterations.
Left - Barena - For the SS20 season, it was all about contrast with playful tailoring and short sleeved shirts with contrasting collars
Meaning double A in Italian and named after two friends, Alain and Albert, Doppiaa is designed for the whole family, for all ages and all occasions. Based in Milan, Doppiaa has two essential cornerstones: 100% Italian manufacturing, and the painstakingly executed pinpointing and selecting of the highest quality fabrics.
Right - Doppiaa - For the SS20 season, it was brightly coloured towelling tops, pyjama style piped printed shirts and strikingly striped trousers
This is everything the more famous Missoni should be; colourful, stylish and contemporary. Designed by Simonetta Bocelli and Franco Santarini and based in Florence, Sunhouse is a specialist in Italian made knitwear in a rainbow of colours in classic menswear shapes.
Sunhouse is one of the few companies in the world to use traditional 720-yarn looms to 'reinvent' the culture of knitwear. The production is carried out in their workshops in Montecosaro, in the Marche Region. Each individual jacket is cut and sewn by hand.
Left - Sunhouse - For the SS20 season, it was about bold colour stories in signature zig-zagged blazers and delicate polo shirts
BOB is an Italian sportswear brand created by two young Italian guys, Alessio Bonaiuti and Tommaso Bellini. They started their adventure 11 years ago in Prato, with the idea developing from going around vintage warehouses where huge quantities of second hand clothes were divided by colours and then recycled. Going through these warehouses was like being absorbed in a spectacular coloured market that resembled a field of flowers they thought and it was this image was the starting idea to develop a new concept of eclectic and colourful menswear.
Right - BOB - For the SS20 season, it was all about bold, pattern blazers and colourful separates
These are simply beautiful clothes made with care from great ingredients. While you are paying a premium, you are, in fact, getting great value when you consider the expertise and pedigree of these makers. These are the kind of clothes that are a joy to wear and will last you a very long time.
Good knitwear is catnip to any stylish man and quality, fine knitwear is the most versatile in your wardrobe: taking you from winter through to the beginning of summer and back again.
A new brand on TheChicGeek’s radar is MG Rivers. Set up by Juliette Sherwood, who has a background in design and fashion, her mission was to shake-up men's knitwear. She pulled in her good friend Natasha Whitelock, who has a background in events and fashion wholesale and previously worked at Holland Cooper, to launch this new men's brand. The brand name is a conflation of names and initials important to them and was chosen because it conjures up a vision of a traditional British man.
The brand has launched with a selection of brightly hued extrafine merino and silk blend V-necks inspired by the classic cricket jumper. Cuffs, necks and waistbands are embellished with distinctive signature merino and silk ribbon trims, inspired by the ribbons of military decorations and each mixing one bright tone with two heritage colours to distinctive effect. The jumpers are made from the very highest quality Italian yarn and made in Europe.
Tank-tops and bomber-jacket style cardigans are in the pipeline from the brand.
Above & Right - MG Rivers - Extrafine Merino V Neck Jumpers - £185 -www.mgrivers.com
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
I first saw The Silted Company over a year ago at the SS18 SEEK trade show in Berlin. I was taken with the striped 'Cali' shirt for SS18 - pictured - and the liked the idea of a relaxed, surfer brand yet with the slick manufacturing of Italy. Time flew by and I didn’t get a chance to feature them. When I saw them again at this year’s Pitti Uomo in Florence it reminded me what a good, young brand this is. Especially for summer.
Left - SS18 Cali Shirt
The brand is strongly inspired and influenced by the culture of surfing. Their collective is made up of surfers, designers, musicians, photographers and innovative directors, "embracing the curious side of the way of thinking and positive changes in the world”.
Right - SS18 Alar Jacket - €195
"Perceiving Endless" is their motto, it contains the past, present and future.
Born in Emilia Romagna in Northeast Italy, The Silted Company did not immediately taste the world of surfing, but it was their admiration towards the sport and the culture that brought them to "feel the sea inside”. This label feels young, contemporary and sporty while retaining the quality, which I love, from made in Italy.
Left - Preview of SS19
One of the things I love about Pitti Uomo, the menswear trade show held in Florence twice a year, is the exceptional quality from brands you’ve never heard of. I almost wish I had a shop to sell all these brands, but, disappointingly, you need a very tasteful and trusting customer to make it work, because many consumers are hooked on known brands.
It’s comforting to know that high-quality still exists and is to be found in small and, often, new companies.
Left - The Silk Shirt Company - White Luxury Silk Shirt - £800
One such company is The Silk Shirt Company. Doing exactly what it says on the label, it was incorporated in January 2016 in London ‘with the intention to produce the finest luxury silk shirts and to establish itself as a top tier luxury clothing brand’.
Left - Feel like a casino owner - Sam Rothstein, Robert De Niro’s character in Casino
You’ll probably already know about my obsession with silk shirts ATM - Read Trend The Return of 'The Sexy Shirt’ and these really do look the business.
Established by Ajay Valecha, of Indian decent and born and raised in Accra, Ghana, who moved to London in April 2014. The Silk Shirt Company’s shirts are made in Italy with the finest silk from Como.
There range is currently mostly block colours with a few patterned varieties. They had some beautiful baby blue and pink shorted sleeved shirts for the new SS19 season which are giving me pure Sam Rothstein, Robert De Niro’s character in Casino. They are expensive, but they look it.
Right - The Silk Shirt Company - Luxury Silk Shirt - £800
Snaffle loafers are one of the rare fashion items that can, legitimately, be called ‘timeless’. They bob along on the waves of shoe trends and come in and out when the time suits. They’re definitely something you should never throw away.
The most famous are Gucci, obvs, but it’s actually cooler and less basic to sniff out a cheaper alternative. Read more here
Russell & Bromley has this pair called ‘Mercury’. I really like the brown, orange and beige webbing underneath the snaffle. It gives them a vintage/70s edge. Made from calf leather in Tuscany, these aren’t the cheapest, but they’ll certainly authentically Italian.
You can wear these with anything, just don’t smother the shoe with trouser. Keep your ankles visible both socked and unsocked.
Left & Below - Russell & Bromley - Mercury - £235
When I started in this business summer shoe options consisted of cheap flimsy flip-flops or jelly-sandals for those pebbled British beaches. There was little or no choice and there certainly wasn’t any style - even though jelly sandals are kind of bad cool ATM FYI!
Anyway, let me introduce ‘CASABLANCA 1942’ who are making some of the nicest and most beautifully crafted hot weather shoes I’ve seen. Started in May 2014 by Gabriela Ligenza, and inspired by the classic film and the year it was released, the shtick is raffia.
Left - Cesare
The uppers are made from breathable natural raffia woven in Mogador, Morocco, and then construction takes place in Italy using the finest sustainable leather from French and Italian tanneries.
Right - The raffia comes from the raffia palm tree in Madagascar
The raffia fiber is obtained from the raffia palm tree, commonly found in Madagascar. The leaves of this little tree are cut into parallel lines resulting in the long fibers used in the weaving of the shoes. Unlike straw, raffia is stronger, hard-wearing and will mould to the feet when worn.
Polish-born Gabriela trained as an architect and interior designer at Fine Art Academy in Warsaw. She also designed hats before this venture. Based between London and her design studio south of Florence, Italy, she travels extensively for her inspirations and research. Gabriela has collaborated for the last 20 years with leading accessories and shoe designers for global brands like Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Martin Margiela, Missoni, Paul Smith and Stella McCartney to develop hand woven raffia shoes produced using entirely traditional hand weaving techniques, but combining the craft with Italian know how and quality materials.
The idea for Casablanca 1942 was conceived whilst sitting on a beach under the stars watching the film, Casablanca, with the background sound of the Atlantic and thinking “what would Rick wear in this intense and sweltering city?”
Each pair takes at least a day to make so the shoes are made in limited editions. After all, "true luxury should be not about the price, but in the uniqueness of the product," she says.
Left - Lace Up Trainers £260
Gabriela believes that helping local cooperatives to incorporate external developments and training improves the marketability of the local skills and products, respecting its identity, distinctiveness and preserving sustainability on a grass roots level.
Gabriela says the shoe styles are inspired by “trying to design the perfect summer shoe for my husband so he can get inspired to go on holidays more!”
There are a few thing to know to get the best out of your pair. You may find that the shoes are a bit tight when you wear them the first time, but they will soon give as they moulds to your feet. You might want to wear them with socks for the first time for your own comfort, but they are designed to be worn bare foot in very hot weather.
Right - Woven Loafers - £228
If you feel that it rubs a bit too much on a certain area, it is recommended that you apply a wet cloth on this part of the shoe while it is on your foot, in order for the raffia to mould to your foot more quickly.
Raffia, being a natural fiber, will feel very comfortable without socks as the fiber will keep your feet fresh and naturally ventilated. As they become yours, “they are even more special even when they start wearing in and fraying a bit,” says Gabriela.
These are really elegant and artisanal summer shoes and I don't think the photographs do them enough justice after seeing them in person at the recent Pitti Uomo show in Florence.
Available at Harrods in the UK
Value and price are related, obviously. A high price can offer great value, and vice versa, but many designer brands are very far from this. See more here - Greedy Margins & Brand Blindness
We’re in an age where the arrogance of brands has caused many to push their prices up while lowering their quality. It’s not good enough. So, it was a nice surprise to go into the new Fiorucci store on London’s Brewer Street and see quality product at reasonable prices.
Left - Tired of shopping? Have a lie down
I’d been meaning to take a look since it opened in September. Now owned by Janie and Stephen Schaffer, who had founded the high street chain Knickerbox together in 1986, Fiorucci was one of the coolest fashion names of the 1970s. This is the first store in its rebirth.
Right - The spiral staircase up to the 1st floor in the Fiorucci store on London's Brewer Street
Founded by Elio Fiorucci in 1967, after being inspired by London’s Carnaby Street and King’s Road, the first Fiorucci store opened in Milan’s Galleria Passarella. More stores followed. In 1974, a second location in Milan, a year later in London. Then, in 1976, East 59th Street in New York. The Manhattan store becomes known as “the daytime Studio 54”. It laid down the blueprints for the concept store as we know it today.
Until recently it was just a name check in Sister Sledge’s “He’s The Greatest Dancer” song. But with Halston gone, Gucci overloaded, it’s, now, all about Fiorucci.
We’ve seen many brands from the 1970s try, and, generally, fail to make a comeback. Ossie Clark never quite made it and Biba stuttered and became an in-house brand at House of Fraser. Many brands make the mistake of trying to carbon copy what was then rather than taking the best bits and thinking about a contemporary shop or experience.
The new owners of Fiorruci have done this really well. The shop has that disco, playground feeling yet still feels sophisticated and the product all seemed to be Made in Italy of decent weighted fabric and excellently priced - £80 for a T-shirt and £140 for a sweatshirt.
Left & Right - More images of the first Fiorucci store as part of the brand's rebirth
While £80 is a lot for a T-shirt to many, when you compare it to £250 for a Gucci one that is so thin you can see your hand through it, it seems great value. I’m not sure who is doing their manufacturing, but it looked like the reason why you buy Italian-made clothes.
At these prices it’s something you can get involved and have fun with. Young consumers will be able to afford it or at least save up to it. They are positioning the brand for the long term, looking for repeat custom and offering their consumers something decent for their money. I know if I see a guy in a Fiorucci T-shirt I’ll want to go over and speak to him. It’s cool.
Go check it out next time you’re in Soho.